Saturday, September 24, 2005

Fly Fish with Mel: Cracking the Peacock Bass Code

Branchu Turn On

After a 2 week hiatus, I woke up today with one thought. It's time to go fishing.

Shaking the remnant Z-monsters tugging at my eyelids, I took a hot shower that brought relaxation to a body tensed with anticipation.

As I stood beneath the constant flow of steaming water, my mind wrestled with the choice of bringing my 4-wt Coho rod teamed with a Scientific Anglers intermediate Stillwater line or my Sage SPL 0-wt, with a floating 1-wt line. As I mentally ran through the contents of my fly box, a single fly kept popping up. The Branchu. It had always raised me a fish regardless of how difficult the fishing was. Thus the decision was made.

I also enjoyed driving early in the morning. Being one of only a few vehicles on the road gives you a sense of solitude that is sorely missed in the hustle and bustle of city living.

Michael had already started fishing as I pulled alongside his parked car. I disrobed my rod and started assembling it while walking to the water's edge. Years of fishing on the run has honed our skills at rigging up while on the move. With only an hour or so to fish before we had to leave, we had to be rigged and ready to fish when we get to the water.

"G'morning! Anything so far?", I inquired.

"Nope.", came a short and sweet reply.

Michael was using a small popper as was Tan, whom, I could only make out his silhouette in the distance.

When I opened my fly box, a heavenly glow centered on the Branchu(Only for visual effect. The real Branchu fly does not glow). Tying it on with loop knot, the fly already looked a winner without having caught a fish.

Where do I cast?

The water was clear; devoid of weed. They must have just cleared out the weeds. Not a good sign. Along the banks, not a sign of movement betrayed the presence of fish.

Tossing the fly into the water, I started my casting stroke, remembering the personal training I had from Michael. "slow down your cast. Keep the rod moving in the same plane. Imagine yourself using a hammer." The words continued to ring in my mind as I tried my best to overwrite the bad habits I'd picked up in the past.

Though comfortable with casting, I wanted to bring my casting to the next level. I wanted to milk out another 20 feet and I wanted to improve my presentation of the fly. The conflicting instructions fired from my brains to my arms caused the fly line to trace wild loops in the air and then crashed ignominiously into the water. Numerous failed attempts finally led to me finding the correct rhythm to send the fly line and the Branchu out 50 feet.

The initial 5 minutes was disheartening, with not a single follow or take on my fly. Then, as the intensity of the morning light increased, I noticed a black shadow in the water not 10 feet from me. As the shadow turned, it materialized into a pair of Peacock Bass. I retrieved the line and with a gentle roll cast, placed the Branchu directly behind the pair. I waited for the fly to flutter down the water column and then with long, fast strips, worked the fly between the pair. The larger of two, lethargically moved out of the way. Seeing this, I lifted the rod to re-cast the fly.

As the fly sped up to leave the water, the other Peacock Bass, surged forward but missed the fly. One false cast and I relaid the fly behind the pair. This time, I changed the rhythm of the strip to a short but quick erratic retrieve. It wasn't long before I came up tight to a supercharged Cichla Monoculus.

This feisty little critter walked me all about for a good 5 minutes. Though it was no match for my 4wt outfit, it still did not give in easily. With a solid bend in the rod, absorbing each dash and headshake, I whittled away the raw power of the bass. It was no lunker but it sure gave a good account of itself.

By sheer luck, a long cast out got caught in a enormous bed of algae and weed. Snagged deep within it, I thought that I'd lost my fly. but slow and steady pressure saw to the return of my fly. The movement also revealed the edges of the weed bed.

So I sent the Branchu out again but this time on the periphery of the weeds. Waiting for the fly to sink, a PB burst out beneath a bulge and went airborne. If you've seen footage of the launch of a Polaris or Trident missile, you'll be able to picture this scene. The fish had taken the fly on the drop and catapulted itself entirely out of the water. Thankfully, the fish was not big and the shock of re-entry was handled by the 2X tippet. Having lost an enormous amount of energy in the jump, the fish did not take long to be subdued and released.

There were a few instances too when the takes were so ferocious that the PBs missed the fly but got fouled on it instead. There was the one that go hooked in the eye but while lifting the fish to release it, the hook popped out. I was worried at first but after a few tensed minutes, the PB swam away with such gusto that I am sure it will survive.

Another small 6" peacock got fouled in its pectoral fin. My line had been flowing with the wind and when the fish took off, I thought I had hooked a bonefish. The rooster tail created by the line cutting through the water was so similar to that of any saltwater fish taking off in skinny water. The initial shock gave the fish time to find cover and I was soon fighting both fish and a long trail of weed and algae. Again, slow pressure managed to detach the weed from the bed and the fish was dragged unceremoniously back to shore with a wig of green hair.

This morning, the Branchu accounted for at least 8 pieces of peacock bass. Have I cracked the Peacock Bass Code? I will have to come back and try it again a few more times to know for sure.


ernesto esteves said...

Have a good day.

Chris said...

Hi there Mel!!

Love this post, omg I miss fishing in S`pore!
How are you all doing?

take care my good friend..

Chris <;))><