Volume XVII, Issue 22 # May 28 - June 3, 2009

If at First You Don’t Succeed …

I saw two friends pulling their boat from the water. “You might as well turn around and go home,” they said. But I didn’t.

Try another lake

My cast sent the small, black, bluegill popper a good six feet back under the drip-line of a group of trees. Their branches were thickly interwoven and hanging low and far out over the water. It was a difficult lie to fish, but that’s why I was there.

I figured that anything choosing this area to hang out would be safe from most anglers, and perhaps be bigger than other fish in the lake. After getting a bug up under those branches, I intended to let the feathered popper sit for a while before making another cast. My next attempt might not be so lucky.

At about the 30-second mark, a noisy, swirling strike tightened my line. I had barely set the hook before the fish shot out away from the shoreline, putting a dangerous amount of stress on my light tippet and pulling gobs of flyline through my fingers. This was definitely a good one.


It also marked a full turnabout from the way my day had started. Intending to fish this very lake, I had gotten an early start only to run into a traffic backup. Trucks and SUVs began to cross the high-grassed medium strip to head back in the other direction. Knowing that there was another lake not too distant, so did I.

But after two hours of working shorelines, lily pads and any other structure that looked like it would hold fish, I had one very small bass. Despondent, I realized it unlikely that things would improve. But I did have half the day left.

Pulling the boat and loading up, I set off for my original destination. Arriving at the lake with the sun high in the sky and my optimism restored, I ran into more disappointment when I saw two friends pulling their boat out of the water. They didn’t look happy.

You might as well turn around and go home, was their advice. They had been on the lake since early morning and had caught only three small fish. Doom now settled full on my shoulders.

Well, I thought, I’m already here, and even if I don’t catch anything I’m not going to leave without trying. Maybe the water just needs to warm up a bit.

But I didn’t hold out much hope.

The two friends helped me launch my small boat. I could see they felt sorry for me and what they knew I was about to endure.

But not 50 yards down the shoreline, with my friends barely out of sight, I hit the first fish: a nice bluegill about a half-inch short of citation size. I picked up more good fish as I moved down the lake. The day was getting better and better.

Perseverance Pays Off

At about the two-hour mark came the icing on the cake, the fish in the difficult lie. At first I thought it might be a largemouth bass. It was definitely a powerful fish. But it didn’t fight like a bass. A bass goes berserk just once; then it’s over.

This fish made run after run, each time taking back all the line that I had gained and more. Then for an instant I caught sight of a broad, dark profile as the fish flashed deep in the water. This was a monster bluegill.

I got cautious fast. Fighting the fish with my light fly rod, I was amazed again and again at how strong and relentless this guy was. It ran and ran again, taking line and using its broad side to its full advantage, never giving up and stressing my tackle and my nerves to their limits.

But my luck held. The fish finally tired, and I eased it into the net. It was a male red-ear sunfish, a bluegill, and the biggest I had ever taken in Maryland waters. Measuring 121⁄2 inches, the brawny devil was well over citation size and a beautiful fish.

I took its picture and eased it back over the side.

Fortune, I told myself, favors the persistent.

Fish Are Biting

Rockfishing with chum and bait has taken off in the mid-Bay, with fishers consistently taking their limits on fish 30 inches and over. The first blues of summer have been reported around the Bay Bridge, as have the first spot. The croaker are here but not eating well as yet. White perch are schooling but not in any numbers, nor any size. I have hope this will improve. Summer is here: Rejoice.

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