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Out of Practice

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

The weather has warmed some and the rains have slowed down. That means I can go out to a lake over my lunch hour and have a better chance of something happening, besides getting some good casting practice in.

Usually by this time you can see some fish or the activity of fish. That has not happened this year. The water is till muddy and the wind is still blowing some, as it almost always does in Iowa. That means that the water is not clearing very fast.

I went out Tuesday and had the lake to myself. I guess there is not anyone else dumb enough to be out every chance they get. If the fish are biting then I want to be there.

I had tied on two flies before I even went out. I know there is a lot written about using dark flies (lures) in muddy water. So I did have one dark brown fly, Hares Ears sort of thing, on the one rod. The other was a sliver Goldie Jr., as I wanted as much light reflected off as I could get. I think that flies that are doing this might be more visible to fish over longer distances. Since I am fishing in a lot of water that is less than eight feet deep, this might be more important than in deeper water.

I cast each fly out and bring it back in slowly. I want the fish to have a lot of time to see the fly in the water and not have to chase it down. I do have a few fish take the fly, but they do it so gently that I don't realize that it has happened. The only way I know a fish is on the line is when I start to lift the rod to make the next cast.

I am OUT OF PRACTICE! I am not used to feeling those subtle takes. I have lost some of the feel that I had last summer. I need to really pay attention to what is happening. I do get a few fish out of the muddy water.

Thursday I go out to the lake and it is much warmer. The wind is not blowing as hard as it has been. There are a few more folks at the lake. I am still doing the settling pond, as it will warm up faster. I have just got the first line shaken out enough to cast, when I hear a voice telling me "to catch some fish, it has been a long winter." It is one of the old geezers out again. We exchange some banter as we catch up on what has happened over the winter.

I cast the line out and start a slow retrieve again. The fly has moved about 5 feet when I feel some resistance and set the hook. I have a nice crappie on the line. I get it in and put it in the bucket. I am thinking this just might be a nice, fun filled day. One cast and one fish. The average went to pot very quickly. It took me about another 10 minutes to catch another fish. In fact it took about 10 minutes between each of the fish that I caught.

Just as I was getting ready to head back to the office another car stopped. This guy had a "Fishing Buddy" that he put in the water. We could see some fish on it but they were very scattered. I guess the water has just not warmed up enough yet.

Friday morning it was raining. I was not sure that I would get out to the lake, but it cleared off by mid morning. That made it easier to go to the lake, when I don't have to worry about getting soaked.

There is one problem with catching fish as people drive by. Today when I get out to the lake there are two folks fishing where I had been yesterday. Now this is rude, crude and abrasive. Don't they know that certain places at the lake are reserved for me? Actually it is just the way things go. I decide to fish the flat by the far jetty on the main lake.

The wind is from the south and is pushing water up against the bank. I wonder if some fish might not be coming in to feed under these conditions. I cast out and let the fly drop.

I know there is a breakline out about 25 to 30 feet from the shore. Fish might be along there and they may be up on the flat. The water is only about 5 feet deep in this area so the chances of the fish seeing the fly are pretty good.

I don't feel a thing, but the end of the fly line begins to move west. I set the hook and have a fish on. I am amazed; I have a small walleye on the line. I get this fish back in the water. A few more casts and I have another fish take the fly about the same way. This turns out to be a small carp. A few casts after that I get a crappie to take the fly.

All of the fish take the fly so gently that I do not feel it, but I see the line move. The line is always going to the west when it moves. The fish must be swimming in a counterclockwise pattern. That also suggests that they may be new fish in the area all of the time.

It turns out to be great fun. I get 5 crappie, 2 walleye, and two carp fishing in this area. The fish were all on the flat, but near the breakline. Maybe the crappie are getting ready to come in and spawn.

It was fun and the most successful week I have had this spring. With a little more fishing maybe I won't be so out of practice.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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