Hairy Popper and the Chamber of Sunfish
We headed to Clare county on Saturday to visit B's parents, take our new puppydog swimming and fish a small gravel-pit lake that is owned entirely by her family. Dylan enjoys the water quite a bit, but is still reluctant to wade deep enough to warrant paddling - even for a magic tennis ball. This is a lake that has spoiled us for warmwater fishing - it receives only a low to moderate fishing pressure and most fish are caught and released. It has some very nice pike and crappie, but we mainly target the larger-than-typical largemouth bass and bluegills. The big bluegills are a lot of fun on a flyrod. Because of their wide flat body and their tendency to turn sideways and run in big arcs when they're hooked, they are tough little fish to land. Last year we had a phenomenal day of bluegill fishing here. I can't even guess how many we caught. That day, the largest was 11", the smallest was 9" and all the rest were in between.
We didn't have quite that level of super hot fishing on Saturday, but we're not complaining. We started fishing at about 5PM and fished until about 10:30 with a short respite for dinner. A light rain fell the whole time but was never enough to drive us inside. I used my 9' 6wt Lamiglas 'stick' and B chose her big 9'6" 7 wt Scott to enable chucking big flies. I tied on a black Gartside Gurgler and had immediate success finding bass up against the cattails bordering the lake. Earlier this summer, B had been noticing that, due to the hot weather and warm water, both the bass and bluegills were mostly found in the deeper areas of this lake. I was surprised to find bass up in the shallows now. B was using a deer hair popper and enjoyed some interest early on, but declining action later, so she switched to the Gurgler too. Because of the way our row boat tended to drift, B ended up casting out into deeper water for most of the evening and I targeted the shallow water near the bank. B caught only big bluegills out in the deep and I caught big bass in shallow with maybe only one or two bluegills.
The bluegills that B caught were really nice - colorful and healthy and ranged from 9" to 11" again. The littler ones were too small to hook on the large Gurgler fly, though a few tried. I caught bass ranging from probably 11" to 17". The big one showed evidence of a rough life - he had a very raggedy dorsal fin and tail. We measured and photographed a few of the biggest fish. There's another bluegill picture in my Flickr photostream. I have to say, these fish were a fun challenge even on stiff 6- and 7-weight rods. The bass doubled my rod right over heading for the safety of the bottom and the big bluegills put a serious bend in B's 7-weight.
Doggy swimming teacher grade: C-
Angling satisfaction (on a scale of 1 to 10): 10
Review of Repel lemon eucalyptus mosquito repellent: Thumbs up
Did I get to use a spey rod? Negative
Enjoyment grade for the day: A. Big fish, family & a tired soggy dog
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