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Crappie in the Rain

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

I waited a while to go out Saturday morning. It was raining fairly hard, which was nice as we still need the moisture. In the far distance I could see the flash of lightening. I did not hear a rumble, but that is close enough to keep me off the water.

At 8:00 am the radar picture showed most of the rain to be past us. The big thing was that all of the storms with thunder and lightening seemed to be far away. Now it was just a matter of deciding where to go. Any pond that was in the middle of a field was out. Enough rain had fallen that I was sure that I would never get into or out of the fields around the pond. Or if I could I would have to leave ruts in the field and I refuse to do that when I am on someone else's property.

That meant the small lake where the city water comes from or driving about 12 to 15 miles to get to another pond where I can drive to the water's edge. I opted for the closest one. This lake just opened up again this year for the public to fish. It had been controlled by a Sportsman Association before. A walking path has been put around most of the lake and the City Fathers did not want folks hunting in this area any more.

The one thing I did before I took off was to pick up the 6 wt rod I have with a sinking fly line on it. I know that this is ancient stuff as the whole line sinks. But I have it and it has not worn out, so I still use it. Someday it will get replaced with a sinking tip line, but that is in the future.

It was still sprinkling when I got to the lake, but that does not phase the fish at all. I got the canoe set up and got out on the water. There is a pumping station about 60 feet out from the dam about one-quarter of the way down the dam from the east end. I had been told that there were always some crappie around this place as it has four round posts that hold the equipment up. There is one metal cable going down between the pilings and another that is about 5 feet out on the west side.

I slowly worked my way toward this as I wanted to see if there were any fish in that area. This was fishing new water to me. I got about 25 feet from the pumping station and put down an anchor. There was not much breeze, but I wanted to be stationary for a while. With the anchoring system Joe Hyde helped me with it is quick and easy to raise and lower the anchors.

I made a few casts with a 5 wt, letting the fly drop for a count of about 15, before starting the retrieve. I was moving it very slowly and letting it pause for a few seconds every foot or so.

I had done this three times when I felt the resistance on the line. I had an eight-inch crappie on the line. I did this three more times on the next three casts, with carbon copy crappie. Each of these had been hooked within five feet of the pilings.

Time to change flies to see if something would work. I had been using an unweighted yellow boa yarn leech. I went with the same flies, but with a bead head. I wanted to see if the fish would hit the fly on the drop. I also wondered if I got deeper if there might be some larger fish.

I cast the fly about 10 feet beyond the piling and let it drop. I was going to let it swing down until it was about 8 feet deep, the length of my leader. This would let me know what depth the fish were at. The fly had dropped for a while when I saw the line twitch and I did the hook set.

It was another carbon copy crappie. But it hit the fly on the drop. This told me that the bead head fly would work and get to the depth faster.

I picked up another dozen crappie around the pilings doing this. All of them hit at the same depth, by the countdown method. All of them were the same size. I had been told that there were larger crappie in this pond. I had to try for them.

Thief Fly I tied a Thief (see Ricks Favorite Crappie Flies in the archives) on the sinking line. Casting the sinking line is not my favorite thing to do, but it is the only way to get down 15 feet with the equipment that I have. I made a very ugly cast and got about 35 feet of line out. I let it drop for a long time and then started slowly retrieving the fly. I moved it about two inches, slowly and then let it set for a few seconds. I wanted it to look like a minnow moving along the bottom.

I had moved the fly about three feet doing this when the line did not move as easily as it had before. I did a hook set and had a fish on the line. When I got the fish up closer, I reached for the net as I did not want to take a chance of losing this fish. It was a huge crappie. It turned out to be 18 inches long.

By doing this same thing I was able to catch three more crappie, all about 13 inches long. Then it came to an end. There had been two other boats out on the lake, at the north end. When they saw me catching fish, they came down and set up right next to the pilings. They started dropping lines and that ended my casting at that place.

It was irritating to have this happen. I decided that this was probably a good time to move to another spot and see what I might catch. I moved about 60 feet away from these two boats and dropped the anchor again. I had caught three fish when one of the boats came by me and anchored about 10 feet away from me.

I picked everything up and got it organized to leave. When I headed out of the water, I wanted to be able just to load things and then go. I had a feeling these folks might follow me to see what I was using.

I got the canoe loaded and all the other stuff into the pickup in fairly quick time. I was just getting ready to leave when one of the boats came to the shore. They wanted me to stop so they could see what I had caught and what I had used.

I told them I had caught some fish and I had used some flies. I also told them I thought they were rude and that was all the information they would get from me. I got in the truck and drove away.

The day overall was fun and I got some good fish. It was fun to catch them. The rude folks can't take that away.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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