After work I hopped on my bike and pedaled. My sling pack was bulging full of fly boxes and my 4-piece 6 weight, broken down so it would fit. The tips of the sections stuck out like a bundle of sticks. I figured I’d do some recon, check out some local spots, and maybe even fish.
Unsurprisingly, all moving water nearby is totally flooded. Even the tiny feeder creeks are way past their banks. Sidewalks closed. Piles of debris and brush everywhere, the high water mark.
My last stop was a small pond at an office building. I made that the last stop because the security guard has yelled at me during business hours. Also because I knew there were plenty of fish there, and I’d caught some the night before.
I parked my bike, quietly walked to the edge of the pond and sat down on the rocks. It was nice to sit after my long ride. I pulled my fly rod pieces out of my pack and assembled them, slowly, carefully, watching the water as I worked. Eventually I started casting- I stayed sitting on the rocks. It was a little difficult to cast from that position, but I’d been sitting there for about five minutes and didn’t want to spook the fish by suddenly getting up. I think that’s what Ray Bergman would have done.
Immediately I started catching fish.
At first, just little ones. About two seconds after my fly – a #12 dog fur scud– hit the water, it would be attacked by many small fish. If I was fast enough, I could hook one of them every cast.
Although I enjoy catching fish no matter the size, terrorizing tiny fish loses its appeal after a while. I cut off my scud fly, tied on a clouser minnow, and tied the scud back on behind the clouser on a two-fly rig. I usually fish with just one fly, but apparently in the old days it was common to fish with three or more flies at one time. They called them teams of flies. I like the sound of that. Like all the flies are working together.
I thought the weighted clouser would get deeper, but I quickly discovered I tied it with too much bucktail, and it took a very long time to sink. I did catch a few fish on the trailing scud though.
It seemed there were a lot of fish concentrated near the top of the water. I cut off the clouser/scud team and replaced it with a elk hair caddis/scud team. The EHC would float on the surface, and the scud would sink about a foot below that. I think that’s called a dropper rig.
I kept catching fish- most of them hit the scud, but a few grabbed the elk hair caddis dry fly. They were clearly more interested in the scud. I didn’t know if it was the color, or where it was in the water column, or the size… I have occasionally seen tiny maggot-like creatures on weeds I’ve pulled up from local ponds, and they look almost identical to the scuds I’ve been tying. Did I happen to match the hatch? I usually think panfish will hit anything presented to them, but given the choice, they almost exclusively choosing the scud.
I got a knot in my leader, so I took my rod half apart to fix it. I left my team of flies in the water as I smoothed out the line and checked my knots- and then there was a fish on! A bigger fish!
I quickly reassembled my rod and fought the fish, and giddily pulled in the biggest fish of the evening (still a fairly small fish). This gave me an idea.
I noticed by now the elk hair caddis was waterlogged and was sinking in spite of the foam body I’d added to it. This fish took the scud, but he took it much deeper than I’d been fishing. He also took the scud when it was motionless.
Now I cast my team of flies into deeper water and let them slowly sink. It was painfully slow. The pair sunk about an inch a second, but that seemed to be just right for the fish. A few casts later I felt and saw some nibbles on my line, but missed the hook set. I had a feeling that fish would be back if I let the flies sit. I was right- a few seconds later he came back, and I was ready. I set the hook by pulling my rod slightly away from the fish, and the fight was on!
Now this was some serious fun on a fly rod. I couldn’t see the fish, but on my diminutive gear it felt like a giant. Certainly bigger than the other fish I’d been catching. It refused to come in nicely; it swam one way, then the other, it went up and it went down. My bent over rod throbbed with every head shake of the fish, the fly line telgraphed every little movement to my fingers.
Finally, after what seemed like a minute, I brought in my catch.
Not a monster by anybody’s standards, but a larger-than-average fish for this pond. And it had a full belly.
Suddenly I noticed a man walking towards me, but he wasn’t there to tell me to leave; he was driving by and saw me fishing and wanted to know if I was catching. I showed him my prize, and we talked about fishing for a while. He told me he worked nearby, and gave me a bunch of tips on fishing spots. A few I had already explored, but there were some I hadn’t. I thanked him for his tips, and he headed back to his car. He said he’d be back sometime with his own rod.
I continued to catch fish. By this point I’d lost count- my score was definitely more than 10, probably more than 15. I need one of those clickers that bouncers at bars have to count the patrons who come in. I never needed one of those until I started fly fishing.
Looking at the fish I was catching, especially the bigger ones, I wondered if these were green sunfish or some other species entirely. I thought I knew what greenies looked like, but the bigger fish had different patterns. Could these be pumpkinseeds? They fought differently too, but it could have been from their size and advanced years. Even after scouring the internet I’m still not sure. All I know is they were all very pretty.
And then, after letting my team of flies sink, I felt another series of taps. Again I waited for what I knew was a bigger fish to return. Again it returned, and I was ready. I set the hook and the fish started taking line!
This fish was all over the pond, swimming in all directions at once. It took all the slack out of my line and I fought it on the reel. Did I hook a bass? Something else? It didn’t jump, but it went everywhere else.
I played the fish, defending its runs by moving my rod in the opposite direction, tiring it out. After a minute or two, the fish was played out and ready to come in. I finally saw it in the water and I giggled loudly. This was definitely the biggest fish I’d taken from this pond, and the most fun I’d had on a fly rod in some time.
It was a beefy fish! Very tall, but also wide- especially in the belly. It felt like all muscle. Its mouth was tiny in comparison to its body, but tough and muscular with tiny needle-like teeth. This fish could have eaten many of the fish I’d been catching.
Across the field a dog barked, and I took it as congratulations. I was elated. I didn’t know if this was a green sunfish or something else. What I did know is I’d caught a large fish for this water, and I considered it a trophy. Upon inspection of my flies, I found that it ignored the larger elk hair caddis and ate the tiny scud. The fly was so small in the big mouth. I know that bigger fish will sometimes eat small things, and the more I fish with small flies the more I find that to be the case.
I carried the fish back to the water, revived it, and it suddenly took off like a missile, back to the deeper water. I tried to add up all the fish I’d caught, and I settled on somewhere between 15 and 20 in about an hour.
I broke down my rod, stuffed it in my pack, and hopped on my bike.