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Last Trip of 2008

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

It was one of those rare days, not that I was going fishing. It was rare because it was a warm day after several days of very cold, windy weather. It was also a day off from working and that means that it is time to hit the water.

I do have a little bit of a sore throat, but the need to be on the water and wetting a line overrides that. I get everything loaded and head out to find a pond that I can get into. We had also had some rain and that tends to limit the access to several ponds. The crops are out of several fields and cattle have been turned loose in them to feed on the crop residue. I just don't cross fields that have cattle in them.

I finally find a field that I can drive across to get to the pond. I get down to the pond and get everything loaded into the canoe. I have four rods with me today. A 5 wt. with a Marabou Miss on it. Another 5 wt. with a silver Goldie Jr. on it. A 6 wt. with a beaded headed yellow fly made of a sparkly yarn (like a fun fur/boa cross) that I got a leftover piece of. The last rod was an 8 wt. to throw a minnow variation that I have tied. The size and weight of this fly means that I need to use a heavier rod to cast it. This is more of an indication of the casting ability of the caster than anything else.

When I get on the water, it is murkier than I expected. I am not sure why, but you play with the hand that is dealt you. I grab the first rod and start casting. It happens to have the Goldie Jr. on it, only because it was the first rod I grabbed.

With the murky, cooler water, and the nice day we have, I am thinking that any fish in the eating mode will probably be along the break line. I have lost so many flies in this pond that I pretty well know where the break line is around the shore line. That is called the voice of experience. It is also part of the reason that I tie flies to save money. I think by the time I lose about another 500 flies I may be at the point where I am starting to break even between buying them and tying them. But if I did not tie then I would not have the fun of it and get some of the patterns that I want. So I tie to help what little bit of sanity that I have left.

I set the canoe up so I can cast toward the shore and bring the fly back over the break line. If this does not work then I will set up over the break line and retrieve the fly along the break line. You have to start somewhere. I bring the fly back very slowly. I want the fish to have a chance, not only to see it, but to be able to move to it before it disappears.

Several casts prove unproductive for fish. I change to the Marabou Miss and try that. It does not work any better. I start casting with the minnow pattern. I find out that I need to spend more time practicing with heavier flies. Not that my casting is very good to start with, but with a heavier fly it was dangerous for anything within a mile.

One more fly to try before I am tying new flies on all four rods. I pick up the rod with the yellow fly on it. This is a sparkly, long, thin fiber sort of stuff. It is fairly brightly colored. I cast it out and let the fly drop for a few seconds and then start a slow retrieve. The fly is almost back to the canoe when I feel some difference in the line and do a hook set. There is a fairly nice crappie on the line. This was a very subtle take. I am not sure when it happened. I cast out again and let the fly drop. In the late fall like this I find that the crappie are often in a school. That is why I cast in the same general area more at this time of year. I am starting to lift the fly out of the water when I see a fish flip off the fly. I must be getting numb as I did not notice any change.

A few more casts prove unproductive. I move the canoe about forty feet and anchor it again. I cast out with the yellow fly again and let it drop for a few seconds. Short slow strips with a pause between each strip. I am not sure if it was a weed, or a fish that caused the little tap, but I do a hook set. It was a weed. I continue to bring the fly in. On my third cast I get another little tap and set the hook. This time it is a fish. I have another crappie in the canoe. That is it for this area.

A slight breeze has come up and is moving waves to the shore opposite of where I am at.

I decide to move over to that side to fish. This part of the pond has a larger area of water that is the depth that I have been catching the fish in. Also, the wave action would be moving the food in that direction.

I continue with the yellow fly. Things pick up in this area. I get several fish to hit, but lose many of them after a short time on the line. I have several fish get off as they get near the canoe.

They come to the surface and flip off the hook as they are hooked in the lip. I do manage to land four more crappie. I will not tell you my success ratio for hookup to landing, but it was in the low double figures for a percentage.

The wind picked up some more. I felt the cold front come through. The temperature dropped about 15 degrees in just a few minutes. The fishing turned off and so did I. I headed off the pond and got all the stuff loaded in a few minutes.

It was a fun day. I caught a few fish, after I thought the season was over. I figured out where the fish would be in the pond. I did not catch all I hooked, but they will be bigger next year when I go back.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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