I was going to be in Kansas City for a week of
business meetings, so of course I brought the
fishing gear along. Time was going to be tight,
but it looked like I'd have a couple of hours
here and there to make it worthwhile. A last
minute schedule change opened up a large block
of time on my next to last day. A few emails
and phone calls later, and the plans were in place.
I'd drive up to Iowa to meet up with Rick Zieger,
(who also writes for the FAOL Panfish section),
and Elmer Meiler, who was driving over from Nebraska,
and we'd hit a local farm pond for some fishing.
As I sat in the Philadelphia Airport terminal,
waiting for my flight, the news was dominated with
stories of all the tornadoes to tear through Kansas
and Missouri the day before. Great...just what I
want to fly into. The flight was relatively
uneventful, however, and I soon found myself
in Missouri, headed to my home away from home
for the next few days.
The weather reports seemed to be changing each day,
so Elmer, Rick and I all kept our eyes and ears on
the Weather Channel. Phone calls back and forth
kept us in touch and on the same game plan.
"As long as the lightning's not dropping, we'll be fishing."
The final forecast on Wednesday night was for
drizzles in the morning, with thunderstorms
starting in the early afternoon. Good enough
for me, since I needed to be headed back to KC
around noon, anyway.
It was early Thursday morning when I got headed
up I-35 towards Iowa. An hour and a half on the
road put me at the gas station where Rick had
suggested we meet at, so I went in and grabbed
some breakfast and gave Rick a call. A few minutes
later I was following his truck down the road toward
We pulled in and began loading the canoe on the top
of Rick's truck, when Elmer's pickup rolled into the
drive. The weather had dropped about 10-15 degrees
since I had left Missouri, and I was regretting
leaving the long sleeve shirt at the hotel. Rick
generously offered me a windbreaker and we headed
ff down the road.
A couple of turns got us headed down the main road,
and we cruised along for a few minutes before turning
up a dirt road. We drove past some prime looking
ponds as we journeyed forward, and I was salivating
on the dash of the rental car. We turned down another
dirt road, and soon Rick's truck pulled off into a
field. I made a silent offering to the Gods of
Vehicular Clearance Height and lunged the rental
car into the field, onto the slightly worn tracks
that we were following. A couple of mud puddles
avoided, a couple of gates passed, and we pulled
up onto a flat overlooking a nice pond of a few acres.
I admired the "fishiness" of the pond, far bigger than
the farm ponds I ply the waters of at home in SE
Pennsylvania. Rick already had the canoe off the
truck and down towards the water by the time I got
out of the car and extracted my fishing gear from
the back seat. Rick and I helped with, well supervised,
the assembly of Elmer's pontoon boat, and as he was
finishing up, Rick headed down to the water. I
watched him LDR a couple of fish and couldn't stand
it anymore. Elmer was left to his own devices as
I tied on a small, black, bunny strip leech. My
first cast got smacked, and by the color of the fish
as it disappeared it looked to be a solid 'gill.
"Jason," Rick smiled over at me, "You're not supposed
to be learning from me. Land one of 'em."
We got a good chuckle out of the comment when my fly
got ambushed again. This time, I got the hook set
solidly, with a couple of extra tugs for good measure.
The fish zipped along the top of the water, cutting a
wake in the surface. A few lunges and splashes later,
a thick crappie, pushing 12", came to hand. I could
definitely get used to this.
Thunder rumbled over head and 3 sets of eyes tuned to
the sky. Elmer had realized that there were fish to
catch and time was about to become a premium. He
stowed the pontoon boat, and headed down to the
water. The lightning flashed several miles to the
south of us, and the sky overhead was gray and
drizzly, but lacked the big thunderheads that
drifted to the north and south.
I missed another strike, and I stripped the line
in quickly to recast. As I lifted the fly from
the water, the surface boiled and broke beneath it.
"Nice crappie, there," I thought to myself. I
dropped the leech back in the water and danced
it once, twice. Whack. Set the hook and the
line zipped off down the shore, quickly on the
reel and dancing away.
"Really nice crappie," I mumbled as I headed down
the muddy shore. A few laps back and forth told
me this fish wasn't tiring out quite as quickly as
a crappie. Sure enough, when finally in the shallows
my big crappie turned into a chunk largemouth around
a pound and a half or so. An absolute blast on my
4wt, I quickly unhooked the chunky fish and slid it
back into the water.
"Figure the rain's going to give us about another
half hour before it opens up on us," said Elmer as
he walked past me down the shoreline. He flipped
the fly out over the water and began fishing it
We spent the next half hour or so in the drizzle,
eyes turning to the sky with each clap of thunder.
We all caught fish, and more than our fair share.
There were chunky, orange bluegill in the 8" and
better range, feisty crappie up to 12" and
largemouth bass of varying sizes. Each cast
became a game of "what do you want to catch?"
Bass? Cast out near any weedy structure and
strip in fast, high in the water column. Crappie?
Fish the mid-water with quick, sporadic strips.
Bluegill? Go deep, bounce along the bottom, and
hold on. By the time the rain began to fall heavy
on us, it was unanimously decided that Rick is either
blessed, spoiled, or more likely some combination
Concerned more for our ability to extract our vehicles
than our own safety (the lightning never got within 5
or 6 miles), we headed off the water, getting Rick's
canoe back on the truck, and getting ready to head out.
Elmer got a quick lesson in the carrying capacity of
the downhill end of a canoe in a rainfall as the loading
took place. We headed back to Rick's house and sat
down to talk fishing, fish, flies, and the world in
general in the shared comforts of a warm house, an
attentive dog, and an amiable feline. The hours slipped
by quickly, and as the Weather Channel began to warn
of incoming heavy T-storms, it was time to head out.
A few flies were swapped, and invitations were extended
to return the favor should we ever find ourselves in
each other's respective neck of the woods.
Good fishing and good company makes a long drive easy,
and well worthwhile. ~ Jason