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Volume 15, Issue 20 ~ May 17 - May 23, 2007

A Lesson Learned — Once Again

When you’re fishing, you’re on the fish’s clock

I had just made a lovely cast, at least 65 feet, and skipped the bass bug back under the low overhanging trees by a good five feet. Quite pleased with myself, I leisurely stripped the line back in short irregular spasms, distractedly scanning the shoreline to choose the next challenging target.

My line abruptly stopped, and a churning vortex appeared where the lure had once been awkwardly swimming. Caught off guard, I strip-striked the beast with a hard, punching haul on the line, my rod tip pointed right at the fish.

The wicked hook-set stopped the largemouth in its tracks; then it rose up thrashing its head violently and giving me a good look at wildly flaring red gills and considerable girth. Startled, I let the line slip through my fingers to prevent a break-off.

The bass responded by charging back deep and heading toward a submerged tree about 25 feet away. Things were going to hell fast.

Fish Are Biting

Fishing has continued to be inconsistent, as big rockfish remain scattered throughout the Bay. The legal size for rockfish went to 18 inches on May 16, and two may be kept, though only one can be over 28 inches. Sportspeople are urged to put back roe-bearing females. Our cold spring has delayed their spawning run quite a bit, and many are still coming up the Bay.

Large croaker are still showing up at Matapeake, and perch are seemingly everywhere, though many are small.

Monkey Business

I hung that beauty quite by accident. When the bite had died off after a great day of bluegill fishing, I decided to practice a bit of accuracy-and-distance casting the remainder of the afternoon.

Putting a bass bug on was a casual afterthought. I didn’t expect any fish from the cover I had just thoroughly disturbed with my bluegill activities.

My backup fly rod was a very crisp, nine-foot, fast-action seven weight, which is a little heavy even for the big ’gills scrapping with me that day. But it was ideal for working on my long game. It was a high-line speed rod that throws a precise and narrow loop way out there — if your timing and casting stroke are good.

Mine were okay, but I knew they could use some work, and my distance-casting accuracy was virtually non-existent. All last year I had fished the Chesapeake, where throwing long is quite beneficial but with no demand for precise placement.

It is easy to delude yourself into thinking that the fly is going exactly where you intend when all you have to hit is the water.

Over time, you will gradually lose the hand-eye coordination essential to placing a fly within a small, defined area. As to getting the narrow loop necessary for placing the fly back under overhanging tree branches from out yonder — I quickly found that skill degraded as well.

It was almost an hour — and many trips with my skiff to the shoreline to untangle the bug and leader from bushes and trees I had tried to avoid — before I began to exert some control.

Means Business

Now with this fish burning me up, a favorite saying of mine was haunting the back of my mind: You can fish or you can practice casting, but you can’t do both of them at once. I was taken by surprise, and my initial reaction had left me with a rod pointed at the bass, unable to slow its run.

In the tight quarters this bass had chosen, I should have had the rod perpendicular to the fish immediately, so that its nine feet of energy-sapping flex would make the fish pay dearly for every inch of distance — while at the same time protecting the leader.

As the fish closed on its goal, I could only clamp the line against the grip with painful fingers, get what little rod I could into the fight and let the chips fall. With a loud pop of parting line, the fish announced that it had not only won the pot but taken my lure, a good chunk of tippet and not just a little of my dignity.

I wound the now-slack line solemnly back onto the reel. Its usually melodious click had a mocking undertone as I acknowledged that I had wasted an opportunity and lost a good fish because I was unfocused.

The deepening shadows indicated the end of the day. Dejectedly I secured the last of my line and stowed the rod.

The next few days would bring some lawn casting and the tying of a couple of new bass flies. I promised myself to be back here again, soon. This time I would be practiced and not practicing.

Remembering another of my favorite sayings, I finally allowed myself a smile. I can’t remember who first said it, but this one is also certainly true: Fortune favors the relentless.

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