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Educated Fish?
By Richard Zieger, Iowa


Publisher's Note:
Rick's fishing season is over until the ice melts, but we have a nice stash of articles he has written in the past as ideas or events occured to him. We hope this will explain apparent 'out of season' articles.


I went out the lake over my lunch hour again. As you know by now this is my normal mode of operation. This is going to be the warmest day we have had in about two weeks. The temperature was in the mid 70's at noon. I thought the fish might be a little more active today.

When I got out the lake, I saw there was a slight breeze. Just enough to ripple the water. I tried a popping bug that did not elicit any response. While getting ready to change from the popping bug to another fly, I turned my back to the slight breeze that was blowing. This is a habit I have as the wind blows harder than this most of the time. I saw two little gills come up and take something under the water in the weeds along the shore.

I thought this might mean there was some sort of hatch going on and the fish were taking the emergers under the surface. To check I looked to the north side of the pond where the water was flat. I could see some small rings there. I did not see any fish actually come to the surface. I decided to try an unweighted fly first. This way I could keep it just under the surface and move it very slowly. I tied on a size 12 Pheasant Tail Nymph (PTN) and a size 10 olive bug(olive marabou tail, olive chenille body and 3 short yellow rubber legs at the front).

I cast the olive bug first. This fly had just hit the water and started to drop when I saw the line twitch and I set the hook. I was into a nice bass that was 15 inches long. Several more casts did not produce any more action. I decided to try the PTN and cast it out. I had moved it two or three times when I saw the line twitch and I was into a fairly nice bluegill. I thought this might be the fly. Several more casts were used for practice.

I decided to switch flies again. I had a stone fly pattern from a swap, and I tied on a PTN that has red ostrich herl for the thorax. The third cast with the stone fly finally landed where I wanted it to be on the other two. I was about two feet out from the weeds along the shore and about 30 feet to my left. I twitched the fly the first time and the water bulged as the bass took the fly. I quickly realized this was a bigger fish and worked to get it away from the weeds. I had the rod way above my head to keep the line out of the weeds. Finally the bass headed for open water.

I now had an audience as two cars stopped to see what I had on. I worked the fish some by letting it swim back and forth about 40 feet out in the pond. The fish would come up near the surface and then go deeper into the water column. I could finally begin to gain some line and lead the bass into where I was at. I got her head up as she was near the shore and brought her into where I could lip her. She measured 20 inches and was a round as a football. Over some protest, I released her back into the pond.

I decided to cast down the other shore with the PTN to see what it might entice to hit it. The fly had just hit the water when a gill headed for the east coast. This fish was hooked before I knew what was going on. This was a bright male that worked very hard not to come in. This fish stayed broadside to me the whole way. I cast several times with each fly and no success.

Time to change flies again. I tied on a red chenille-bodied bug with yellow hackle legs at the front and back. I tied on a PTN that I had tied out of feathers I had dyed. This was a yellow bug with yellow ostrich herl for the thorax. Each of these flies caught a gill on the first cast and then did not work again. I think I am beginning to see a pattern here. I switch flies again to the first two I grab out of the box. I catch a gill and a bass in just a few minutes. Several more casts are just for practice. I change the flies after this every time I catch a fish. I catch a fish on every fly that I try.

I was even surprised to get an 18-inch bass on a black marabou tail and blue krystal chenille body fly. Nothing more than that but it worked.

I am not sure why each fly only caught one fish, but that is the way that it happened today. It might be that the fish are getting educated and won't hit a fly that has caught a fish. I hope that is not true as it would not be a nice thing for me. My brain is supposed to be bigger than theirs, so I should be able to think of a way to catch them. Also they should not learn to ignore a fly after one fish is caught on it. It was a little bit of a strange day.

I hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick Zieger

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