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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Fly Fish with Mel: Bass of Three - Part 1

Hors D'œuvre



T'was another of those mornings where you open your eyes and immediately, your brain and your body starts debating whether to get up and go or to continue drifting in dreamland. Fortunately, my brain held out and kick-started what was to be a great day fishing.




I knew that the other fly anglers were heading for 7 Tree which would leave White House empty. I guess I was in the mood for a little solitude so to White House I went.

As the morning light chased away the darkness of the night, wisps of mist danced merrily above the glassy lake as if to greet the return of Day. And, as if to greet me, swirls and splashes erupted as I made the last few steps to the water's edge.

But the edge was no longer where it used to be. The water had crept forward, engulfing all the land a foot from where it was before. Ah, but this was only too good. For, now the fish seemed to drop all caution into the wind and feed with disregard. Not a frenzy but a little more co-operation.

After my two previous successes, I had tied a bigger brother of my Red Quill. A #13(TMC 102Y) to be exact. As I drew the Orvis Knot tight upon the eye, I reached into my pouch only to find my bottle of floatant missing.

Well, nothing, absolutely nothing was going to spoil my morning.

At my favourite corner, I half-crouched as I worked up my rhythm, building up the line speed to send the fly into infinity and beyond.

The line rolled onto the surface of the water ending with the fly fluttering softly onto the water. The stiff hackle fibers forming the tail and collar of the fly kept it afloat but only barely. Without any floatant, it was only a matter of time before my floundering fly succumbed to the merciless pull of the surface tension of the water.

When calm had returned to the surface, my fly came to life in a series of skips and pauses. Like a drowning swimmer, it bobbed up and down the surface as I pulled it back towards me. On the surface, it left a 'V' that stretched back till it vanished; melding back into the calm waters. Beneath the surface, it raised a bulge that pushed ahead menacingly.


Despite a few close follows, the PB was not ready to take the fly. Deciding to cast once more at this stubborn quarry before moving along, I let the fly touch the surface and then proceeded to skim it across the surface with an arcing swing of my rod. The rapid movement of the fly was just the turn on needed to induce the fish to strike.


In one explosive moment that broke the peaceful silence, the fish nailed the Red Quill. I'm not sure if the raised water level had also raised the level of tenacity of the fish but this fish felt different from the usual. It's stamina rivaled that of a marathon runner yet had the burst of sprinter. Between the dashes, it presented me its broadside and never once allowed me line without putting up a fight.




What a fish to start the morning! Our engagement lasted a good five minutes before I managed to lead the PB to beach on the grass. Not a trophy fish but from it's fight, you'd never know. A couple of 'release' photos later, with a swipe of it's tail, the fish was home again.







Walking along the bank, I was able to tease up quite a few fish with this 'skimming fly' method but not all the fish fell for it.










2 hookups and an 'injured' fly later, it was time to go for the deeper-lurking fish.








Switching to a Branchu, I cast out into one of the 'holes'. Since I was using a Sage Quiet Taper 1wt DT Floating line, the fly descended slowly into the hole's murky depths. Unlike using a sinking or intermediate line, retrieving the fly resulted in a 'jigging' motion, with the fly darting up diagonally and then drifting down vertically.


Varying between short rapid strips and long slow jerks with pauses in-between, I worked the fly over the hole in front of me.


After a few casts, I was finally able to draw a few fish out of the hole but they were 'short-striking', missing the hook completely. Slowing and shortening my darting retrieve, I started to connect to solid hookups. Each fish landed contributed to my collection of 'release' shots that had been requested for.



Having landed me a few fish, I sent the Branchu even deeper into the hole to seek out any Leviathans hiding in it. Over-zealous, I caused the demise of this faithful servant. It's foot trapped in the rocks, I tried desperately to free it by tugging on the safety line but the 6 lbs tippet snapped only to leave my Branchu to be lost forever in it's watery grave.

Since the fish were responding well to my 'jigging' style, and clearly ignoring my fellow angler's lures, I chose another 'heavy'; a white, bead-head Woolly Bugger. Tied on #4 Mustad Streamer hook, it took only seconds for it to plunge into the deep waters.

With it's long, white, fluttering tail of marabou feathers, it resembled a sexy diver with her long hair trailing behind her (that's in our visual language, not the fish's).









Whatever it was, the fly was a hit with the boys.














And sure enough, a pair of Leviathans came up to inspect the Woolly Bugger at the end of one of my retrieves. The next cast, I chanced to let the fly go deeper and I shortened my retrieves to half-inch ones with longer pauses in-between.



"Strip, strip, pause...strip, strip, strip, pause...strip, STRIKE!" The following flash in the water confirmed the feel I had at the end of the rod. It was a big one. A tingling feeling shot through the my spine. A mixed emotion of joy, fear, anxiety and what have you gripped me. This was no light-footed boxer but a true heavyweight. Slow but determined. I could only lift when it allowed me to and had to bow to it if it decided to dive. The bottom was relatively free of snag but there was a sharp corner of a concrete wall in front of me and it wasn't exactly 4x tippet friendly.

Curves are what men's eye crave and what a beautiful curve it was on my baby. The Sage SPL's action was so graceful as it bowed to the fish's every whim and fancy. When the fish broke surface, it was the beginning of the end of the battle. Sadly, there was no screaming reel but my opponent was still a worthy fighter. Crouching as low as I could to reach into the water, my breath held as long as it took for me to place my thumb and finger onto the lower lip of the fish. With both hands lifting the Leviathan out of the water, only then did I breathe that great sigh of relief and joy.




My lure-casting neighbour, Felix, kindly took pictures of my piscatorial adversary and me but I think the best picutre is that of the fish being put back into the water, safely.




Though I certainly would've continued to hook and land more fish, I thanked God for this fantastic fish to end a great session. It was time to go for choir practice and get ready for Mass.

To be continued...