Monday, June 7, 2010

Battle in the Not So Promised Land


I had been hoping to hit a private section of The Bear, and I had finally gotten the go ahead for Friday.  I had all sorts of images of giant prespawn smallmouth dancing through my head the night before I was to set foot on this glorious stretch of water.  I awoke to a beautiful sunny day, and I quickly loaded up my car.  After I arrived I loaded about 30lbs of gear into my vest and set out across the farmland and river bottoms.  I made my way down to the water, tanagers flitting through the trees as I walked, and popped out at a small offshoot from the river.  As I waded into the water, a rather perturbed crane came stumbling out of the bushes, cursing me all the way.  I still had a 1/4 ounce chartreuse and orange curly tail jig on my jigging rod from my adventures downstream a couple of days earlier.  I figured I'd toss it out and give it a try before re-tying.  I placed it at the head of a gentle riffle, ticking it along the rocks, when something thumped it.  I set the hook into a solid fish that bent my rod nicely.  The bass went airborne a couple of times before calming down so I could lip her.

I was pretty excited to have caught a nice bass so quickly.  I worked up to the main river and fished a likely run, but nothing happened.  About this time a wall of dark clouds appeared to the south, and the wind began to kick up.  I moved upstream to an area where I'd done well before, spotting an elusive wood duck along the way.  I threw an X-Rap for a while, but I only caught weeds.  By now it was completely cloudy and the wind was howling.  I moved up above a nice shelf and fished the area with the jig.  Still nothing, so I switched to a small tube.  I wasn't having any better success until I drifted the tube straight down and crawled it back up to the shelf.  A fish grabbed it but quickly pulled free.  I went back to the chartreuse curly tail and tried the same trick.  I quickly caught about a ten inch smallmouth.  I worked my way across the shelf, and eventually hooked into another decent fish.  It leaped clear of the water several times before I landed it.

I fished the area a while longer with no more fish.  It was beginning to sprinkle now, and I had a decision to make.  I could bag it, the water was still apparently on the cold side, or I could hike about a half mile upstream to a really nice looking run.  I ended up going with the latter, the rain intensifying as I traversed the river banks and barbed wire.  I arrived at my destination and worked my way across the river.  I began working my jig down a shelf when I noticed two giant carp holding just below me.  I presented my jig to them, and one appeared to go for it.  I set the hook, and that was the beginning of the battle of the year.  I stood there at the head of the run, watching my line retreat downstream.  When the mongrel had pulled out roughly 100 feet of line I felt that it was time I go chase her.  With my rod held high I labored back across The Mighty Bear until I hit some slack water on the opposite bank.  I began trying to take in line and hike downstream.  I would bring in five feet, and the fish would pull off ten.  After about five minutes we found ourselves in some waste deep, but sluggish water. I could see that I had actually foul hooked the fish in the side, giving an already strong fish more leverage.  I began putting a little more pressure on the carp, but whenever I grabbed my net, the fish would pull off ten or twenty feet of line and we'd start again.  My hand was beginning to cramp and I was afraid my rod was going to be shattered on a scungey old carpon.  After a good ten minutes I found myself about 100 yards downstream from where I'd started with a very heavy fish in my net.  I could barely lift the thing with the stubby little handle on my landing net.  I lay the beast down on the grass and taped it at 26 1/2".

I didn't get the girth, but it was substantial.  I decided that any fish that could make my hand hurt and take me that far downstream deserved my respect.  So I resisted the urge to have catfish bait for the rest of the year, and turned her loose.  It was a steady soaking rain now, but I fished on.  I snagged another carp, but it pulled loose after a mere moment of struggle.  I covered the run extensively , but no smallmouth ever showed themselves.  I hiked back downstream, visiting the areas where I'd caught bass previously, but to no avail.  I tromped back to my car feeling pretty disappointed.  A few smallmouth and a carp were not what I'd had in mind, but I guess Mother Nature just wasn't ready for summer yet. 

Final Tally:  3 Smallmouth Bass, 1 Carp

Year Tally:  266 Fish

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