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Good Start

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa
The weather turned very mild in the middle of February and the ice went off the ponds. It did help that the wind was blowing some and that makes the ice really disappear. We had some cool nights that caused a scum of ice to form over the ponds but then the temperature would get high enough to melt it off. I had fished from the shore a couple of times, but had no luck.

Here in Iowa, March 5 and 6 were very warm days with many high temperature records set. That meant that the itch to get out had to be scratched. I put the rack back on the pickup and loaded the canoe. I got everything loaded by 10:00 am and then some things that needed to be done around the house and in the garden.

I headed off for a pond. I knew that it would be dry enough to get in on the road. I got everything into the canoe and launched out into the pond. I had brought a thermometer with me and checked the water temperature. I did this at three different depths. I was getting a reading of 41 degrees.

I knew the fish would be lethargic, but it was a beautiful day and time to be out. I decided to go with a couple of the flies that I have foam on. I do this so the fly will suspend more and I can move it very, very slowly. I did this last fall in the water just before it froze up and it worked for me then.

I also had a new fly I decided to try. I tied it on a size 8 hook. I used a white marabou tail, a white chenille body, and a wing with pearl Krystal flash and some white luminescent yarn I have. I also had tied a strip of foam onto the hook shank. I am playing with the amount of foam to use to make these neutrally buoyant at different depths.

I cast this fly out and let it drop for a while and then very slowly retrieved it. I would move it an inch or two and then let it set for at least a minute. I also had a streamer nymph tied with form that I had cast out, so I was watching two rods at the same time. I was not having any luck as I moved slowly around the pond.

I got to the east side of the pond where I know there is a drop off about 8 feet out from the edge that is fairly sharp and drops about four feet. I thought there might be a fish or two swimming along that break line. I cast both flies out and let them sit and barely moved them. I had let the white one sit and was just starting to move it when I felt some weight on the line. I set the hook and was into a nice crappie. What a way to start the year! I cast it out again and went through the same routine. I almost had it back to the canoe when the line twitched. I was into a nice bluegill.

I decided to stay at this spot and work it a while longer to see what might happen. As the streamer nymph was not producing anything, I changed that over to another of the white fly. I would cast it up near the shore, about 30 to 35 feet away and then slowly move the fly. It would take a long time to get it back to the canoe if no fish hit it. I had fish hit the fly almost every time I cast it out and got it back near the break line. Casting to the break line did not work. The fly had to come from the shallower water.

About every five minutes or so I would hook a fish. Several of these I lost as they were barely lip hooked, but it was still fun.

I did notice that the crappie were hitting very lightly and there would be some weight/resistence on the line. That was the only way I knew they were on the line. The bluegill would hit hard enough to make the line twitch. That way I knew what was on the line when they hit.

One other thing I need to explain is that I hold a rod in each hand as I do this. I am holding it at the top of the cork grip, with the fly line between my thumb and forefinger. This way I can move the line with those two fingers. If I can feel the resistance of a crappie I can set the hook and put the other rod down. If the line twitches, I can set the hook and put the other rod down.

I do keep the rod tips pointed straight at the line and very close to the water. This is a little awkward to describe, but works well for me. It is much easier than trying to pick up the rod to set the hook.

I got home with 13 male gills and 10 female crappie. I know this because I looked at the stomach contents and the sex organs are right there. I wanted to see what the fish might be eating. I did not find very much of anything that I could identify in their stomachs. In fact there was not much in their stomachs.

I did share some the fillets with others folks and we thought of all you that still have frozen water. But those fillets sure were good eating.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick ziegeria@grm.net

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