Posts Tagged largemouth bass

Football Helmets and Fall Fishes

Football Helmets and Fall Fishes . . .

The Reach of Tenkara (photo taken 09 2014)

The Reach of Tenkara
(photo taken 09 2014)

The night game of summer has moved on to new rules played in the daylight. Rain may pass through, and the reopening of the sky brings good time to go outside and fish. When the dark does descend, quickly and almost cold, home calls as the nostalgia door opens to college year memories or past seasons, some of national championship caliber.

Part of my own continued education in life experience has been set amidst a geography where home waters caress manes of watercress. There trout abound. Other neighbors on the stream, offered perhaps a polite wave from a fly fishing undergraduate, have included names of Harvey, Humphreys, and Meck and a Gordon, too, among many others; my constant sense of the eastern provincial in America stays connected, centered on a Pennsylvania county as well as five boroughs of New York City.

Neighbors of the urban angle abound also and some distant shores have been or shall be explored alone and together with even more others. Before such diversions, the sharpened focus on a single bass, any bass, remains first in line.

Largemouth Bass (photo taken 09 16 2014)

Largemouth Bass
(photo taken 09 16 2014)

Bass season is again back in session.

Temperatures drop to fifties and sixties Fahrenheit. Sunlight remains bright, often unfiltered, but days of rippled gray skies do pass. Rain remains brief unless it’s a hurricane trailing through for four to five days. Ponds again begin to clear and darken. A frosting of bright duckweed foots cattails and pickerel weed. Slow presentation with a long horizontal reach, a natural fishing problem for tenkara to tackle and bring to quick resolve, can take a kebari to the bass level (a multifaceted pun too compelling not to intend).

The largemouth and smallmouth bass alike, after striking your pattern in a singular fashion near the water column’s bottom, bring fast reactions to the top. This athleticism has had a portion of its antecedence come from the fish’s own daily hunting. Black and blue damselflies, measured in inches, still pass time in the air. Nymphs that resemble such varieties in various stages of development swim and crawl throughout a still water. Bluegill fry swim in small schools, too. Bass can be lured when these larger naturals are mimicked by an equal kebari tied to a generous tippet matched with a Level Line or a Traditional Tapered.

A largemouth, hooked on such a kebari of size 8 or 10, may jump three times and roll on each leap skyward. Size varies by location. Any fish that is perhaps best sized to a September zucchini may be noteworthy to big fish fans.

Smaller fish – dill pickle bass and slab bluegill – still insist on being counted. Vigorous takes by a quarter pound fish inhales the pattern deep in the mouth, doubles the perceived strength of pull during breaking sprints, which brings added utility to the longer tippet with its greater capability for stretch.

Be mindful to bring clamps with a few inches of reach. To release a bluegill hooked so deeply, first fold the fish’s spiny dorsal fin down with the inside of your wet fingers, grip the fly with the teeth of the clamp, twist as far as necessary as a slight downward push on the pattern is made. This most often dislodges the hook with minimal penetration of the fish’s interior. Most small fish will thrust voluntarily from hands placed low over the water and depart with a resounding and reassuring splash.

A net facilitates the unhooking of an autumn bright bluegill. (photo taken 09 16 2014)

A net facilitates the unhooking of an autumn bright bluegill.
(photo taken 09 16 2014)

Orange Jewelweed and pale purple clusters of New York Ironweed border many New York stillwaters by late September. The green of leaves has acquired a more yellow cast. Some bluegills exhibit similar rusted or buttered bellies below strong barred sides. The bass remain silvered and green with a distinct black lateral band. Colored patterns all that would fit on a football helmet with ease.

The Football Helmet Bass (photo taken 09 2014)

The Football Helmet Bass
(photo taken 09 2014)

– rps 09 24 2014

Postscript: Read more about the damselfly and dragonfly at Backyard and Beyond here: http://matthewwills.com/2013/08/07/lilypad-forktail/

And here: http://matthewwills.com/2013/05/31/dragonfly-pond-watch/

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Gray and Green

Gray and Green . . .

Bluegill and Ebisu (photo taken 05 15 2014)

Bluegill and Ebisu (photo taken 05 15 2014)

Weather patterns vary by season and region. One consistent to spring in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania is a stretch of about three weeks between late April and the middle of May. I call these the gray and green days when the trees bear pastel leaves and flowers under an overcast gray sky that gives forth a fine mist or scattered light showers. This is a time dominated by water, cool temperatures, clean air, and the palpable smell of earth.

Ponds become stage center for a community of living things during these salad green days. Cattails, phragmites, and pickerel grasses have reached halfway to maturity and stand about knee high. The yellow flag has not yet begun to bloom, although the dandelions on the surrounding lawns now blend golden blooms with pale gray spheres of seed. Wakes in the shallows could be a turtle surfacing for a breath, or bluegills and bass sprinting below, preparing to construct beds for spawning.

The overriding dampness will normally keep most people engaged in indoor activities. The angler, however, and this angler for certain, becomes compelled to go forth and fish as often as possible.

Tenkara equipment provides an ideal tool here and now. Between the edge of the flooded grass and the mats of pondweed starting to form at pond center often resides a strip of open water varying between five and thirty feet in width. Here fish can even be seen for sight casting chances at times. The long telescoping tenkara rod easily reaches over the shoreline vegetation and the limber nature of the pole allows accurate fly placement along the near and far edges of the plants where aggressive panfish and cruising bass swim in abundance.

Tenkara fishing along a pond edge. (photo taken 05 08 2014)

Tenkara fishing along a pond edge. (photo taken 05 08 2014)

Evenings tend to produce the best fishing. The stillness that often settles after the day allows for more accurate casting and also the opportunity for topwater action using dry fly patterns (Deer and Elk Hair Caddis) and panfish poppers (Foam Gurglers and Rubber Leg Spiders) . Two recent visits to my local waters have produced some good catches, including:

Bluegill

(photo taken 05 15 2014)

(photo taken 05 15 2014)

Green Sunfish

(photo taken 05 15 2014)

(photo taken 05 15 2014)

Largemouth Bass

(photo taken by Tony Panasiti 05 08 2014)

(photo taken by Tony Panasiti 05 08 2014)

The gray and green days have about another week or two left in them before brighter, warmer weather arrives. Go forth and fish if you have the time.

– rPs 05 16 2014

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The Luck of “The Spring”

The Luck of “The Spring” . . .

Harlem Meer Still White. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Harlem Meer Still White. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

I made myself meet the water a few days before this St. Patrick’s Day. I caught and released one fish.

There was a sky full of helicopters, a loose chain of ambulances at emergency, and deep rumbling rolling in from the Northeast. Air, not natural, had burst from the seams and taken down a piece of Manhattan.

My day off: fishing as this was occurring. An awareness of balance, rather than a feel of guilt, charged my exploration of “The Spring” in Winter. Harlem Meer, I would learn later, was a solid white floor surround by the yellow brown fields of March. Lucky Me: I chose first a greener ground of jade where “The Spring” offered water along one of three shorelines, most of the best spread out behind a bankside fence I chose lawfully not to cross.

Hemmed within seventy-five feet of width, fifteen feet of breadth, and a depth measuring less than a rod’s length, I fished a Deer Hair, Peacock Herl, and Thread nymph of my own design. Plenty of cool casting onto the ice opened up to me on a 3.5 Level Line. Thin ice is like an immense, monolithic lily pad. Audible slides along the ice with a tug off to the depths make for a great presentation when successful. What works at an even higher level across the fishing spectrum is the same matched with a larger pattern: next an Olive Deer Hair and Floss Bucktail tied in a manner akin to a Mickey Finn, or with a sparse beard like my Green Guarantee, first described on The Global FlyFisher in 2008.

Tenkara on thin ice. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Tenkara on thin ice. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Four extended periods of disaster noise sounded in the distance as I began to fish. The rumbles reminded my mind’s ear of the Baghdad air war thunder shown (and heard) on television during both Gulf War I and Gulf War II. The news through the fog of dust and information settled on eight dead, many injured and displaced. A gas leak? Investigation on site has not yet been engaged in full because of debris. There has been that much material mixed with potential survivors, so great care has been taken.

On the top of the hour of one, a better blast sounded on my side. Luck struck. A sudden take a foot below the ice edge began to move. No winter sluggish fish was this; I saw twice in profile a thick bass with a purpose. The silhouette was a rounded female rather than a thin pickle of a male. I feared my tippet might fray as three runs under the ice audibly shaved my line against the blade on the water’s top.

My Ebisu tenkara rod’s entire 5/5 flex was on arch display. I gripped the pine handle as if it were a solid body guitar. Grip locked in, I was able to lead the bass around a fallow pickerel weed garden to shore.

Blurry? Cold, wet hand and big, fast bass! (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Blurry? Cold, wet hand and big, fast bass! (photo taken 03 13 2014)

I rarely lay fish on any surface for a photo except sometimes wet grass on rainy days. Skies overcast, air still, the fish remained calm and stretched as most largemouth bass will as it endured a bragging shot on packed damp soil beside my laminated ruler and Tenkara USA Ebisu. Best Honest Estimate: 15 inches, 2 plus pounds, female largemouth bass.

Tenkara can (sometimes) tackle big bass. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Tenkara can (sometimes) tackle big bass. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

The Luck of “The Spring” . . . an ironic reward, when still in winter.

* *** * *** * ***

Angle 360

Doves dived
The depths of damp spring air.

The lake,
Biifurcated between water and ice,

Reflected,
Bare branches and brick towers.

In park,
Central to the whole reality,

One bass
Followed the ledge, following,

Up above,
Something crawling, scraping.

In went it,
Down into the wet water.

When tugged,
Wink, the line squared the circle:

The One and The Other
Spirited by connection.

.
* *** * *** * ***

My First Fish of 2014

– rPs 03 17 2014

Postscript: Read about the Green Guarantee at The Global FlyFisher by following this link:

http://globalflyfisher.com/writings/small-fry/pic.php?id=4614

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A Late Autumn Tenkara Trick

A Late Autumn Tenkara Trick . . .

Harlem Meer in November: The fish are there . . . but where? (photo taken 11 12 2012)

Fish do not disappear. They are always there, somewhere within the course of a flow or the confines of a stillwater. A pond fed by a spring, or a manmade impoundment unconnected to a river or stream, supports fish in a fixed area, but at various locations according to the season. Think of the water as a three-dimensional space akin to a house with multiple rooms, each of which becomes the kitchen at a different time of the day, or the year.

When the leaves are mostly down and the shoreline reeds go brown, bass and bluegill tend to bunch up near points and drop offs. This type of cover is static, unlike that afforded by the cyclical growth of vegetation. The plant matter does remain as litter on the bottom and stalks along the edges, which give fish something other than shelter. What earlier in the year provided shade or a hiding place for the predator has become a source of nutrition for the prey. The beneficiary is a major fish food source and subject for a subsequent set of fly patterns: the nymph.

Fallow vegetation along a point on the water’s edge attracts nymphs, and by extension, gamefish. (photo taken 11 12 2012)

Fished slowly along a pond’s leaf-littered bottom, the nymph may be the very best fly fishing (and tenkara) trick available to the autumn-season pond angler. One particular retrieve works very well with the long tenkara rod and level line. The tactic takes a tenkara limitation and transforms it into an asset. Since tenkara anglers cannot strip in a flyline, or inch in a flyline, through guides, the solution is a long, slow lift to simulate a nymph leaving the bottom. Pulses and other incremental retrieval motions are not necessary, and in fact would only interfere with the best presentation. What is needed is patience and resilient shoulder muscles. Once the cast is made, and time taken for the nymph to settle on or near the bottom, what follows is a very slow, very steady, vertical lift of the rod arm that takes into account the crawling pace of insect larvae. Reliable patterns include: Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, Prince, Zug Bug, even the Copper John, in sizes 10 through 14.

Evaluation day came when I met my coworker Jesse Valentin on a sunny November Monday off from the fly shop. We were lucky to enjoy a free day at Harlem Meer during one of the last periods of jacket and sweatshirt weather. The sun was gold, the sky pale blue, the surrounding trees brown, holding just a scattered few leaves that resembled little flags rippling in the damp breeze. He chose to work the edges with a spinning rod and jig pattern. I knotted on a size 14 Olive Hare’s Ear. Each of us worked our lure slowly, methodically. The Hare’s Ear scored first with the bluegill.

This bluegill pounced on an Olive Hare’s Ear nymph during the middle of November and in the middle of Manhattan. (photo taken 11 12 2012)

Jesse connected with a small largemouth shortly thereafter. We were both now on the board and eager to keep moving, working the banks. He pulled ahead, as I was putting my tenkara slow nymphing trick to a serious test. I scored a passing grade of sorts  when my own rod bent to the strong dives of a largemouth bass.

Largemouth bass like the slow nymph, too! (photo taken 11 12 2012)

While I cannot yet submit this tactic for inclusion into the tenkara canon, I do stand by late-autumn nymphing for stillwater bass and bluegill, and believe the tenkara rod to be the best vehicle. The only drawback to this type of slow fishing is the ironic quickness of a day’s passage at this time of year. Jesse and I had barely moved beyond the initial euphoria of our back-to-back bass when the sun dropped behind the trees, the wind increased, and the cold came out to tell us to head for home.

– rPs 11 28 2012

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