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One Tap

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

I went out on a Saturday morning for my usual fishing, soul reviving, excursion. I did not get to the pond until later in the morning. Two reasons for this to happen. First the sun is not coming up until about 8:00 am. The second is that it gets a little warmer after the sun is up and that seems to help the fish turn on a little.

I went to a pond that I have not fished for about two years. There have been cattle on at least one of the two fields that need to be crossed. I am not wild about going into fields with Brahmas in it. But the cattle were gone and I had permission to fish it.

I know that this pond has crappie, bluegills, bass and a few channel cats in it. It is about the size and shape of a football field. It is oriented north-south, with the dam at the south end. The deepest water is about 12 feet deep near the center of the dam. The pond is fenced off so the cattle do not get into the water. The pond is used to water the cattle though.

I tied on a streamer nymph on the 5 wt. and a black leech on the 3 wt. This way I could try for gills and crappie by just changing rods. I got the canoe out onto the pond and decided to fish the west shore first as the sun was shining on it a little. I started with the black leech and cast it near the shore. I was slowly retrieving it out from the shore when I felt a tap. I waited for a second and nothing more happened. I thought that I might have hit a weed and continued to slowly retrieve the fly. I got two more taps on the fly, but they were one time hits with no follow up.

I cast to a few more spots along the shore and had about the same results. I changed to the other rod, thinking that it might be crappie and they were just not hitting the fly very hard. The same thing happened again. By now I am beginning to realize that I might have to be very quick on the trigger to hook the fish. I have had a few other times when the fish would tap the fly once and that was it.

I moved the canoe a little way along the shore. I cast again and watched very carefully to see where the fish hit while I was retrieving the fly. I found that the fish were hitting about three feet from the shore the first time. The second tap came when the fly was about eight feet from the shore. A third tap might happen any time after that.

I cast out again and when the fly had moved about three feet I did a hook set. I had my first success as I had a decent size gill on the line. This fish was barely lip hooked so I landed it in the net. The next cast I dropped about 8 feet offshore and moved it toward me. After about 2 feet of movement I did a hook set. I did this about every two feet and caught a fish on about every other cast. I did have fish tap the fly in between this but could not react fast enough to hook them. You can keep your comments about being old and slow to yourselves. My wife used them all up when I got home.

I started fan casting around the canoe doing this all the time. I caught a fish for about every six or seven that tapped the fly. Not great odds but it was better that not catching any of them. I could cast back through the same area and many times if I was careful to set the hook near where the fish had hit before I would have a fish on the line. I lost several of these as they were barely lip hooked and it came out during the fight.

I did manage to catch few crappie when I got around to the dam. It was not a very fast morning, but I still caught some fish.

I changed the black leech to a white one. This was easier for me to see in the water and my curiosity had the better of me. I made a cast and kept the fly up in the water column. I had moved the fly a short distance when I saw it disappear, but felt nothing on the rod or line. I did feel a tap when the fly reappeared. I did repeat this a few more times to see if it was a pattern or not. I then set the hook a few times when the fly disappeared and had fish on.

It seems the fish were swimming with the fly. When they realized that it was not food then they spit it out - that is what I felt. By doing the blind hook sets I was getting them before they spit it out. Not as much fun as having the fish smash the fly, but I am glad I figured out what to do.

I did get enough fish to feed a few folks and have a mess of crappie fillets at home.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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