Until last week, I had never tried to catch a bass on a fly rod. As a kid, I used to fish for bass on a Zebco rod with a red and white bobber and night crawlers on three pronged hooks. However, in 1994 that I saw A River Runs Through It. This amazing film introduced me a whole other world of fishing, where you did not stand on the shore but in the water, and you did not plop a worm covered hook in a lake, but rather gracefully cast a small dry fly lightly on the stream. I decided that I would leave behind the bait fishing of my youth and graduate to the higher form of casting a dry fly.
Last week, I realized that I had become a fishing snob and it had not served me well. I took a trip to a river in northern Connecticut that was located in a nature preserve. Walking from the car towards the stream, I went by a small two-acre lake. I glanced into the water from shore and saw a number of tiny bass swimming gleefully towards me. With my nose held high, I walked past the lake and to the stream, a beautiful, wide and fast flowing piece of water.
I spent the next three hours casting and walking up and down that stream and I did not find a single trout. There were signs posted at many points on the river indicating that this was fly fishing only water. Someone had even created a small flat metal cutout of a trout and put it on a tree, as a marker of appreciation for this good fishing spot. Yet here I was in the heart of spring on a cold-water stream and not a single trout was to be found. Finally, I gave up and started walking back to the car.
Passing the small lake once again, I saw the bass swimming eagerly. I stopped and thought to myself: “Why not?” Replacing the red copper john nymph with a brown elk hair caddis fly, I began to cast on the surface of the lake. I quickly discovered that bass are not the most intelligent of fish. One after another, these tiny fish would hit the fly after a few seconds on the surface.
After pulling in a half dozen small ones near the shore and releasing them, I decided to cast out a bit further. The elk hair caddis landed 40 or so feet from the bank, and I gave the fly a little twitch to attract a fish. The fly went down, and I expected to reel in another tiny fish, but this time it was different. The rod bent and the line was tense. I started to reel in and a good size bass leaped out of the water. The fish fought well but finally I held him in my hands. I had caught a two-pound smallmouth bass.
Picture: The bass in hand.
The bass was not a pretty as a trout. It lacked the pink shine of a rainbow or the beautiful dark spots of a brown trout. But as I stood there for a moment with the good size fish in my hand, I felt that same sense of excitement, joy and appreciation for the beauty of nature as with any trout. Then I released the fish back into the lake and walked back to the car feeling content.
On my drive home from the lake, it occurred to me that my fish snobbery had prevented me from a fine pastime, casting a fly rod for bass. Especially in the summer, when water temperatures rise too high for trout, I will now search out a good bass lake. I also discovered that being a snob makes sense when drinking fine wine or eating French cheese. When it comes to fishing however, any time that we are able to spend in a river, lake or ocean, fishing for trout, bass or any kind of fish, is time well spent.