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Only the Edge

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa
It is the first Saturday in October. It should be cool, but it is warm out. It is still shirt sleeve weather. It is cloudy and there is not very much moon showing to shed light on the situation. I get out to the pond just a little before seven in the morning. This way I can see to get into the pond without getting stuck in any of the puddles left by the rain in the middle of the week.

I get to the pond and see that it is mirror flat. This does not happen very often here in Iowa. I see that there is a hatch going on, but no fish taking anything on the surface. I watch, but I still don't see any activity. I get the canoe off the pickup and all the important equipment loaded into the canoe.

I move slowly and quietly to the edge of the pond. This pond is the size of a football field. It does have a few small bays off the east side of it. The deepest water is at the southeast side near the dam. The rest of the water goes from about 9 feet deep, about 30 feet from the dam, to about 3 feet deep at the west end of the pond. There are assorted water weeds around the edge of the pond. The weeds extend out from the shore about a foot to about 10 feet depending on the depth of the water near the shore.

I started casting with a popper/midge combo to let it just set and see what might happen.

I went with a black boa yarn leech on the other rod. This has been a very good fly for me for the past few months. I cast this fly out so it was coming parallel to the shore and about 6 inches out from the weeds. I was checking to see if the fish might be tucked against the weed edges as they were not taking the hatch in the middle of the pond.

I made my first cast of about 15 feet. I had the fly coming by a small depression in the weeds when it got hammered. It was a nice gill that cut several didos before I got it in. I decided to try this routine again to see what would happen. I had moved the fly about three feet when another gill hammered it.

This fish jumped two times before I got it landed.

I decided that this might be a pattern. I cast a little farther along the shore and slowly retrieved the fly. I had moved it twice when it was hit by a freight train. The fish was hooked before I could do anything. This fish went deep and stayed there. I could not really gain any line and did not want to pressure the fish to much. I had 5X tippet going to the fly. All I could do was lead the fish in a sort of semi circle out in the pond. It took about 10 minutes before I could gain any line against this fish. I slowly gained it and then was very surprised. I had a channel cat on the fly. I had managed to see the hook, it was in the lip where the tippet would not rub. I finally got this fish up and it measured about 24 inches long. A big surprise in about 6 feet of water and very near the shore.

I moved about 30 feet then as I figured the water was disturbed near where I had fought the catfish. I made a short cast along the weed edge and had another gill smack the fly.

In fact every time I cast along the shore and moved the fly past a point or little depression I had a fish hit the fly.

Being a curious person, I put a white boa yarn leech on the other rod and cast it along the weeds. I was wondering if there might be any crappie around and if white would be better than black. I always have to try for crappie.

I alternated with the black and white flies as I moved along the shore line. I was getting gills and bass to hit, but had not found any crappie. The gills and bass were hitting both flies. I would only catch one fish at each place, but the next fish was only 3 to 5 feet away.

I moved around the pond and was headed south on the west side of the pond when I caught the first crappie. There was one place in the weed edge that had about a 10-foot opening. I had cast to one edge of this and had a crappie take the fly as it was dropping. I cast to another place in this depression and had another crappie hit the fly.

I decided to try casting to the point at one side of the opening.

This fly had just hit the water when there was a big swirl. I thought it was a bass the way it stayed deep and was trying to go to the center of the pond. I was surprised and happy to find a large crappie on the line. This fish I netted. If one side works then try the other side of the opening. This time I saw the crappie come up and roll on the fly. I waited for a second and then set the hook. This fish came to the surface and I saw the fly in the side of her mouth. After a few seconds it came out, but I know this fish was several inches larger than the crappie I had just caught(14 inches when I measured at home). I will return looking for this fish.

I moved down the shore line getting several more fish in the process. I caught two fish on the popper/midge combo, The fish were just not feeding away from the weed edge, in any manner that I could discover. I had tried casting to the center of the pond, but I never got a strike from a fish.

It had been great fun, but I decided to head home. It was getting warmer and I knew that I had several fish to fillet. I got the canoe out of the pond and all my equipment put back into the pickup. I was just pulling out onto the road when I got stopped. I had been reported as trespassing on this land. Fortunately I had my agreement (to fish the pond) with me and the key that would unlock the gate. With all of this the officer said that I was okay. Nobody else says that about me.

I got home and unloaded everything and then got started on the fish. I spent about an hour getting them filleted and then washed off and put away. I had just finished everything when the landowner showed up. I had not left the key at the landowners home as the person who complained about my being on the land was following me. I did not want them to know where the key went. The land owner showed up to get his key. I explained why I had not left the key and why I had called and left a message on his answering machine. He was happy about this. I did offer him some fish and he turned me down, he does not like fish. He did tell me that he would get me copies of the keys to the gates where ponds are. This way we would not have trouble with getting the key back to him.

It was a fun morning, with a lot of fish. Most came on one pattern. I did destroy three flies during the mornings fishing. But getting, gills, crappie, bass, green sunfish and a catfish on one pattern in the same morning was fun. I am not sure why the fish were tucked so close the edge, but as long as I could catch them I was happy.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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