When one sets out for a fishing weekend, one always has expectations. Big ones or small ones, but nonetheless expectations. Unchecked, these can get out of hand, like the memory of a large fish that keeps growing in your mind.
Heading out to Clanwilliam Dam, (a venue with clanwilliam yellowfish, largemouth bass, vlei kurper, smallmouth bass and bluegill sunfish) my expectations where gearing up. Would I be able to catch one of each species, especially the clanwilliam yellow? In my mind it seemed easy, but on the water it was a different matter.
A combination of excess expectations and a lack of strategy on unfamiliar water was sure to disappoint. (Note to self: 'Tone down expectations). When confused, the shotgun (desperation) approach is popular. Which fly will appeal to five fish?
The woolly bugger of course! But temptation was short lived an a medium size gurgler thrown at the margins. It was attacked relentlessly by small sunfish, which at best could only hold onto the tail for a bit of a wild ride. No bass of any description.
In a fit of capitulation a small white flipper was tied on, and, as I observed Sean Mills, cast it out, twitched it and waited. Attack, attack, attack and finally a hook-up, the great-grandson of a minuscule sunfish was on the line. Wishing I had a magnifying glass to see it, it was released. Lots of small sunfish came in and every now an then a school of bigger ones were encountered, but nothing that wouldn't fit in a pocket.
The dam was scoured for largemouth habitat and each spot carefully and thoroughly fished, but nothing.
The tally at the end of the day was more than a hundred sunfish between the fisherman, and no bass. Well that is partially true as the lone fisherwoman (Denise Hills) had caught two bass right in front of her camp. No boat, no float tube, but two bass.
Fresh and early the next morning while the wind was still and the water like glass, I searched the margins looking for those elusive bass, eventually finding them by applying grey matter. A small channel around a point looked like a cruising lane or concentration point (see previous newsletter about Lakenvlei) so I sat there waiting. It wasn't long before my fly was ignored by a pair of smallmouth bass and later three largemouth bass.
With the temperature was heading towards 40 and with me turning bright red, it was time for breakfast and some sun lotion.
Returning to the spot with one rod rigged with a nice popper and the other with a sinking line and large woolly something, I waited until two largemouth appeared. The smaller of the two had a go at the popper, but got off pretty quickly.
Quickly tossing the popper out again, it was one pop, two pop, Smash! The bigger bass exploded out of the water and had the popper well into in its mouth. After a quick run, and some heart rendering head shaking jumps, we were both pumped full of adrenaline. I was beyond excited. Gaining some line on the fish, it headed around the boat, over the anchor line, then changed its mind and headed back under the anchor line, then headed straight out. Excitement gave way to trepidation, as I was now fighting a fish and an anchor in a three way split.
The leader was threatening to split and so was my heart, but somehow I got the fish in the net.
It seems that the camera too must have had a dose of adrenaline as it was shaking as badly as I was. The best option was to put the fish in the (straining) net and back into the water while the camera regained its exposure, and me my composure.