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 Post subject: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:40 am • # 1 
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Bass and Bream

I was twelve when I got my first fly rod, a red colored glass rod with a simple click reel...all in all a rod for starting out with. With all the experience and wisdom of a twelve year old who had zero time with a fly rod, any fly rod, yet self filled with opinions I had no business having, I believed the rod was a great performer. I can't remember the line rating of the rod nor even the length of it...I'm guessing 7 or 8 foot for a 6wt but it accomplished everything I asked of it.

The farm I grew up on had a couple of irrigation ponds on it. I moved there with my family when my Dad took a management position there. The few hundred acres there became my own personal hunting and fishing preserve. I hunted ducks, geese and pheasants, hoarding it for only myself and some closest family members and friends. I was quite stingy, I remember but hey, I was a teenager. I recall a pheasant hunt where some family members came to hunt. My friend and I was quite nervous given our low 'seniority' inside the family tree, that the chance at the field we wanted to hunt, all to ourselves would be, stripped from us by what I thought at the time were greedy, dominating uncles and their buddies. Good thing, my dad was on our side and hauled the lot of them to another field....one where I knew there probably was a pheasant or two, definitely not in numbers I knew and had seen on recent scouting trips in this field. Soon, I mean within minutes my old dog, Trix, (Trix was one of a kind as a bird dog, and as a pet. Sixteen years she hunted for me, now she points pheasants for God), was onto birds and before the sun was bright, high and warm, the game vests were full of dead roosters for the pot.

The ponds I speak of were not large ponds (I say 'were' as it has come to my knowledge, the ponds, the farm, the cows, the grain and hay fields and I fear the ducks and pheasants are gone....replaced by cookie cutter neighborhoods), but they provided good aquatic habitat for whatever fish species I could catch elsewhere and illegally dump here......Bass, Bluegills, Crappie, Sunfish and two kinds of catfish, not to mention some carp. I had big conservation plans for my own sportsman’s paradise.

I sure put the integrity of the old red glass fly rod to all kinds of tests, catching some pretty big carp on flies I called my 'cottonwood seed' fly.....a bait hook wrapped with white – anything white I guess.....at first fur pulled from the cat, later when I had real fly tying equipment and materials, four turns of white chenille. I had to learn that some flies just don't float very well and you have to use materials that add buoyancy....like a length of broken match stick underneath the chenille wraps. Some modern day midge patterns are equally simple, but they caught carp. The rod worked just fine and had ample power for carp and finesse (didn't understand the term at the time) for sunfish and bluegills. I really can't recall what happened to that old red glass rod, lost or possible broke but I often think of the old beast. A few years ago, I found a rod from a member of an internet fly fishing forum, recognized it as the same or close and bought it. It is a beast of a rod. I have fished it a few times....hmmm, finesse huh? I couldn't get the rod to cast any line with finesse and only a WF 7 line would add enough weight to keep the rod tip from bouncing badly. I guess kids are more adaptable than adults.

Any fish that rises to a dry fly makes for a sweet time with a fly rod, be they wild trout, grayling or sunfish. Along the back side of the pond, away from where we fed cows, a bank of willows lined the shore. Water fell away rather sharply so wading was a tad treacherous....but doable if one worked right along the willows. Summer evenings brought on a hatch of some insect or another – at the time I would not have been able to tell a mayfly from a caddis, other than I know bugs were hatching out of the pond and sunfish were eating them. I remember reading a fishing article in a fishing magazine that stated the Renegade was the best fly of all (in some applications, including many warmwater species, is still true). I tied them up and feeding sunfish ate them, as they eat most fly patterns placed before them...their innocence making them so fun. So, often on Summer evenings after reluctantly finishing my chores, I would be found, wet wading along that far shore, casting the big red fly rod for miniscule sunfish with great fascination. I was so drawn to the tying vice and the fly rod....I wonder how come I veered away from them in later years.



Opportunities to expand the family business, my new bride, Jami and I migrated to Western Nebraska. The business was a bit of a complicated mess, consisting of several hundred thousand dollars worth of used harvesting equipment – combines, tractors, grain carts and trucks, all got moved from our house in Idaho not to mention additions to the equipment line up once we got there. There is an old saying among custom harvesters (likely the same saying applies to many small business) – “You don't have to be crazy to be a custom harvester, but it helps”. Anyway, the goal was to expand a business my dad had started up in Idaho which had gotten too big for it's britches, and take the show on the road.....and Nebraska was smack in the middle and was prime habitat for fall crops – corn, sunflowers and milo which added a couple months to business opportunities....badly needed ones. To make a long story short, business suffered along for several years and in the wake of drought, one year, floods the next year and me, an addict of buying things such as fishing rods and guns, pretty well did it all in and forced us to close the show down....my dad's half of the business one year, and my half the next. What Nebraska did end up offering my wife and I was an incredible experience of getting to know new friends and learning new country. Mark Twain once wrote something to the effect “traveling to new places is fatal to a bigoted mind” The moment I read that line in his book – Innocents Abroad, it stuck with me. Jami and I really gained quite the education those years in Nebraska. That is one decade I do not have any regrets over, even with all the mistakes and failings.

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Nebraska is a sportsman's paradise and the fishing and hunting side of me misses it greatly. The hunting there will have to be talked about in another chapter but the fishing experiences there, even if most were not with a fly rod, I must speak about. My new wife and I pretty much started out living on love and whatever business I could scrape up or fish and game I could bag. The first weeks, we caught smallmouth bass from nearby Lake McConaughy and legal fish were reduced to fried fish fillets....hunger and need, don't lend themselves to catch and release. With spinning and casting gear, Jami and I put bass, bluegill, walleye and catfish on the table. My fly tying vice saw more jig hooks than dry fly hooks and fine tying thread, CDC, hackle and comparadun hair saw basically no use....whereas bucktail and heavy monocord got used a lot. If a jig wasn't used, I chucked both soft and hard baits on heavy fishing line, casting reels, with rods that had slightly more finesse than a pool stick.

Those year, the angling that stirred my soul was quite burdensome compared to the simple way I fly fish now, though it was still quite simple and inexpensive if your compared my equipment to that of bass fishermen you might read about in magazines or perhaps on the television with their sleek boats powered by big black outboards, tackle boxes the size of suit cases, not to mention a stack of fishing sticks to cover all conditions. I did have a boat....two of them. Lets see: there was the homemade kayak and the plastic paddle boat my wife and I bought to fish out of on the many local ponds that prohibited anything with motors at least motors that went zoom! But it served us well and we caught lots of fish out of them, including some pretty big bass and catfish. My fly fishing passion has made for the urge to upgrade to a proper platform to cast from on mild rivers, ponds and lakes, so now I have added a fishing boat with an outboard...I always wanted a good bass boat and now I have one.....it is nine feet long and has two pontoons, a swivel seat and oars. The outboard is a 36lb thrust electric job.....finally a bass boat. I told Jami I thought about sticking fishing endorsement stickers all over it like the pros do. Her response - “your such a redneck”! Anyway we spent a lot of quality time together, had a lot of fun and caught a lot of fish....many of them ending up on the table.

1993 was a year in the middle of our custom harvesting business attempts and it would just not stop raining. It would pour rain for a week, dry out for a couple days, we would try cutting wheat in muddy fields, then it would start raining all over again.....but the fishing was good and we fished some good private ponds belonging to customers. Even with the small size of some of those ponds, we sure pulled some big bass out of them. Jim, my best friend from our Jr. High School years till now, made the trip across Wyoming to help me harvest one year. He almost made the huge mistake of taking my advice and buying one of my combines and buying into the business. In all likelihood, we remain good friends because he had the foresight and good sense to turn me down. Some years later, I asked him once what he thought of his custom harvesting experience that July, his response said it had to be one of the most expensive fishing trips he had ever participated in. True. I think fishing is mostly what we did...and all of it in the rain.

My time in Nebraska was rewarded in the making of some good friends and meeting some really good people. Everybody waves to you, not only to people they know, but ones they don't know, regardless the state name on the license plate. Shane became a good friend and remains so, though many years have passed. He ranches and farms in the western part of the state opening up some good hunting and fishing opportunity. Even after my return to Idaho, I did a fair bit of truck driving back across the US...through Nebraska most of the time. When there was time enough, I would exit the interstate and head out through the country side to his ranch. There was ample room to park a big rig for a short period of time...maybe do some target shooting, perhaps some hunting and now and then, fishing. Once, when he happened to be busy (he, being a farmer/rancher, I am amazed he found time to do anything else), his boy and I grabbed a couple of fishing rods and headed down to a local pond. I remember the day well as it was there I was introduced to the art of fishing for bullfrogs. To shorten the story up some, basically, you hear (the easy part) and stalk (hard part) a frog candidate, and get the hook/lure/fly (it doesn't matter) within inches of it's nose and it will always (I mean always) take it. You set the hook and out the frog comes, unless you fail to haul it clear away from the water, then down it goes, deep under the moss. Now, instead of lifting a one pound bullfrog up and out of the pond, you have 10 pounds of moss too...which can really put a bend in a fishing rod. If you can manage to lift the frog cleanly out of the pond with little moss and onto the ground, that is where the battle begins....off it goes, hopping for cover. Your only hope is to drop the rod and tackle the frog before it reaches nasty snags. I have never warmed up to fixed line fly rods...you know the real long ones, but I can imagine they really shine as a frog rod. Incidentally, frog legs are delicious.

Just this past year, I had an opportunity to cast for bass and bream in Nebraska waters and do it with a fly rod. Temporarily displaced between two careers, I spent this summer driving truck pulling a refrigerated trailer loaded with, big surprise, potatoes (Idaho Tater Taxi) bound for areas of the midwest and passing twice each week through Nebraska. I bought a non resident license and wherever I could find a place along I 80 to park a truck close to a fishing pond, I fished, even when delivery schedules were tight, I fished...get my head screwed back on straight, even for an hour here and there....to hell with them (the trucking company and the buyer back east), I often told myself, I want to stop and fish. I packed a 3wt fly rod in the truck along with a hip pack with enough fly tackle for whatever I might catch in those ponds.

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The fun thing about bluegills is their innocence...though they can be crafty devils at times. They likely as not, swim up to a sunken nymph pattern, suck it in and spit it out so fast, no angler could hook them and they accomplished it without disturbing any fish around them or themselves. They just swim off in search of something that tastes better. You see the fat toad of a fish still sitting there, you change out the fly for something else, cast it to it and witness the whole song and dance again....and again. Their innocence aside, they can be as maddening as a Henry's Fork Rainbow. When the hook up is successful, oh, the fun. A hand sized gill can really bend a 2 or 3wt rod in two, and zoom back and forth, never yielding until they are in your hand. You unhook it and put it back. Off it goes like nothing happened....bluegills really do lend themselves to C&R. Now, the pickiness I speak of with bluegills taking and refusing sunken flies goes away if you can entice them to the surface for a small popper or dry fly. Then they flip flop their eating habits and inhale what they eat and zoom back towards the bottom. No words can describe how fun this kind of fly fishing can be. The fly patterns themselves are straight forward....just wet down enough flies until you find the one they want. The next trip might very well be different. I always try top water first as with most fly fishing, it is the funnest and paints the surest memories in your mind. If they insist on feeding beneath the surface, try a beadhead, for instance a pheasant tail or hares ear or even a midge pattern. Remember as kids, catching bluegills on bare hooks and we pondered the 'stupidity' of the species? Well, look close at a midge pupae...it is hardly more decorated than a bare hook....so, the bluegills were not dumb after all...they were merely eating what they believed were midge pupae, rising to hatch.

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The internet really is a superhighway of information. I have made many friends in forums and had my fishing knowledge increased, ten fold. I friend (whom I only know via phone and internet) mailed me a few mini jigs made from one inch plastic twister tails along with some instruction and guarantee of success catching fish with them. Well, I thought to myself, I can get this with nearly all fishing equipment purchases I make anywhere....but as I found out this past summer, it was all true. I caught all kinds of bream along with bass on these micro jigs. The takes from gills were solid, none of that usual bluegill refusal nonsense. The next time I had a chance to sit down at the vice, I went bananas tying up a dozen color combinations...many of them working proving once again the innocence of bluegills. What surprised me was though the offering was small, I caught some amazingly large bass on them. I called my friend thanking him and we spent the next several phone conversations bouncing success stories of each others ear drums. The only thing I did is swap out the 1/80th oz jig head for plain old eighth inch brass beads of miscellaneous colors...which is less expensive and more appealing to my frugality.

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I was westbound in a big rig and it just so happened my log book as telling me I would be out of time for the day, somewhere close to North Platte, Nebraska. The whole day, since beginning my drive in Illinois, I knew I would likely run out of hours, in that vicinity. Not far from there, is a good fishing pond where there was ample space to park a semi-truck for the night. I pushed myself right along to get there leaving enough time for an hour of evening fishing (hey, they way I look at it, I push myself right along all the time....all in the name of delivering potatoes....this time I was on a far more important mission).

This was mid Summer and the pond, which I had stopped and fished no less than ten times, was now becoming mossed up a bit. I can live with that as moss means good top water action and the start of some good terrestrial action. I careened into the rest area next to the pond in an almost reckless manner....whipped the truck into a parking stall, set the brake and killed the motor.....like I said, almost reckless. I put my 8 foot 3wt fly rod together......at almost a sprint. The 3 wt is a good bluegill rod, with enough poop to handle your average pond bass (except some ponds I have known).

I began casting one of my micro hopper patterns, that I commonly use on small streams here in the Rockies. The fly looks a lot like a small Madam X, but with a foam mohawk. For close to half an hour, I circled the five acre pond, hooked and played several dozen bluegills and had a great time...and got my head screwed on properly so I could face the next day, and freight delivery in Salt Lake City. One really needs his/her head screwed on properly, when one is headed to Salt Lake City....it can exhaust one's sanity, driving in that city.....and I have been to almost all major cities in the Lower 48. An evening of fly casting for bluegills and bass the day before, really helps.

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Just before dark, I switched out the micro hopper for a small olive and chartreuse bugger I tie for Smallmouth Bass here in Idaho. I tie it on a #10 streamer hook, no weight other than some light chartreuse beads at the front for eyes (or tail in this case as the olive died hen hackles I use as 'claws' is at the rear of the fly). I use a sinking tip line with the fly for smallies as it sinks so slow but on this pond, it is a good pattern for patrolling bass in the evening. I even hooked a few large bluegills on the pattern, which I find actually put up more fight than most twelve inch largemouth bass (smallmouth bass being different).

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We fishermen always like to say “one more cast”....and usually end up saying it for the last twenty casts of the day. I worked around to an opening in the reeds where I had caught some gills earlier that day to see of a bass was feeding in there. The sun was all but down, the last rays streaking through the trees at a sharp angle. I snuck in the last ten or so steps, stripped some line out on the ground at my feet and false cast a bit, feeding some line out as I did so, until I could feel the rod loaded up nicely. The fuzzy bugger landed with a light, settling plop (3wt lines are nice for stealthy presentations) and the water exploded like the fly had landed on a landmine (or water mine?). Whatever it was that had swallowed the fly, turned over and over, like I had snagged the Tasmanian Devil by his butt, then finding he could not shake whatever it was that had a hold of him, he lit out for the deep....'zzziiinnggg' went the old click reel.

“S###” I said out loud.

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I thought I was going wet wading to keep it under some kind of control as it came down to - I was not playing the fish, it was playing me. Actually, the battle lasted hardly longer than average length as I decided the fish wore itself out. I dragged the fish into the shallows and stared down at a nice fat channel catfish, the first I ever caught on a fly rod. Not a huge catfish, but I really decent specimen for a 3wt fly rod. The fly I was using was getting rather worn prior to the catfish and Mr. Whiskers finished it off, I could see the chartreuse dyed grizzly hackle, undone at one end and hanging loose, but no matter, I have a whole saddle of that very hackle back home. I would be spending time at the vice, tying olive/chartreuse buggers, while anticipating my next trip through Nebraska...hurried or not, the 3wt is always in the sleeper on the truck and I planned on using it.


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:47 am • # 2 
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Location: southern Ohio
I really enjoyed reading your story! :applause

If you ever figure out how to hook those channel cats consistently I want to know! I've caught a few over the years and there's no other fish I know of that puts up a fight to compare with them. I like to think of them as an aquatic bulldog (or should I say bulldozer). They don't make spectacularly fast runs, but they don't give much ground, either.


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:56 pm • # 3 
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Joined: 11/17/08
Posts: 4827
Great article Dave, I really enjoyed reading it.


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:16 pm • # 4 
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Joined: 01/14/13
Posts: 424
Location: Bassville Park Florida
Great read I truly enjoyed it!


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:24 pm • # 5 
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Location: Chicopee, MA
Thanks for sharing.


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:52 pm • # 6 
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Location: Georgia
Good read!


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:51 am • # 7 
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Posts: 10
Hi, newbie here, really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks. Brings back memories of bass landed and getting away. In south Africa we have the Barbel or Sharptooth catfish. Landed one on a light bass rod. What. A fight. Was about 6kg, but did it pull. Thinking of trying for them this summer. They can grow to over 30 kg, that's over 60 pounds.


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:26 am • # 8 
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Nice to hear other folks with gear in their vehicle for that moment when you see water that looks fishy. Enjoyable read.


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 3:43 pm • # 9 
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Joined: 01/16/14
Posts: 7
Great post (and pics), wasn't expecting that today. Thx!


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 4:45 pm • # 10 
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Location: Webb City, MO
Like the story


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:33 am • # 11 
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Joined: 06/09/13
Posts: 204
Location: Stroudsburg, PA
Thanks. I also enjoyed the post.
Those small roadside ponds are full of surprises.


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 Post subject: Re: Bass and Bream
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2018 1:10 am • # 12 
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Joined: 06/28/18
Posts: 123
Location: Cornelius, NC
Thanks for sharing this with us, especially with the pictures.


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