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Last Trip of 2006

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

Well, the ice was still off the ponds. But it had rained and the fields were muddy. That meant that I walked into a pond and fished from the shore. That is not bad for being out in the last Saturday in December, in Iowa.

I went in with two fly rods, a 5 wt and a 3 wt. I put two fly boxes in my fanny pack, grabbed the fish basket and hiked in. On the way in I jumped a nice buck that was laying in the grass near some trees. I also scared up a few turkeys that were feeding in the field that I was crossing.

I got to the pond and found that I needed to unzip the coat I was wearing. It was too warm to be wearing it and hiking at the same time. This is a pond that I fish a few times each year.

It lays east west and is pretty close to a football field in size. The deepest water is 14 feet near the dam and it is a fairly even slope up to about three feet deep at the shallow end. The man who built the pond was damming up a gully. He pushed dirt from the shallow end down to form the dam and make the pond wider. The edge of the pond has water about three feet deep, out for eight feet. It then drops off another 3 feet for the next eight feet out. That is two passes with the blade of the cat as he was moving the dirt around. The other thing he did was to push the trees that had to be removed out of the way. After the pond was formed he pushed the tree back into the pond to make some structure. The trees are all on the second shelf, so they are usually covered by water. Any branches that stuck up very high he cut off and moved to make more structure.

Having lost a fly or two to those trees, I know where they are located. I picked the north side of the pond to fish from. There are fewer trees on the bank there, making it easier to cast.

I tied on a Marabou Miss and a crow body feather leech. Both of these flies were on size 8 hooks. The reason is that everything in the pond would have to be good sized to still be living at this time. Any bait has had the whole summer and fall to grow. The two flies gave me a dark and a light fly to use. I was hoping to tie into some of the crappie that live in this pond.

I made the first cast out into the pond with the Marabou Miss. I was at the west end, dam end, of one of the trees that is in the pond. I let the fly drop a little and started to slowly retrieve it back. I hoped that the crappie might be relating to the tree and that the fly would come close enough to tempt them.

I love it when my reasoning seems to work. The fly had moved about a foot, when I saw the line twitch. I set the hook and had a fish on for about 20 seconds. I was sure that it was a crappie that had rolled on the fly. That means the hook is in that thin tissue on the side of the mouth. Not the best place to hook a fish.

I did this three more times, hook the fish, but loose it. That means it is time to change flies. I want to see if I can get something that will allow me to land a few of the fish. I change to a Skip Morris panfish fly tied on a size 8 Aberdeen hook. I tied the bead chain eyes on the side of the hook. I have a friend who melted some solder into each of the eyes on several sets of bead chain eyes for me. This lets the fly drop a little faster and a little deeper. It also tends to keep the hook point more horizontal than vertical.

Using this fly I have more success. I manage to hook a few fish in the floor of their mouth. This makes it much easier to land crappie. I am not catching every fish that I hook, but I am getting more of them.

The fishing ends when I hear the first gunshots on the other side of the hill. I am sure it is bird hunters, but not being able to see them or have them see me is the time to make sure that I don't get in the way.

It was a nice way to end the year. Fishing in December in ice free water, in Iowa, is not the normal thing.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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