Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Witching Hour

1st Fish of July

The 1st of July found me standing waist deep in a small South Jersey lake as the sun began to sink into the western treeline. The 10 knot winds of the day had suddenly seemed to calm as the now glass-like water surrounding me began to take on a golden hue. I tied on a #2 deer hair was witching hour. 

OK, OK, OK....(cue "My cousin Vinny").....So, not exactly Your Honor.

Actually, I was standing in knee deep mud, thigh deep aquatic vegetation and 2 feet of water, that combined, did-in-fact come up to my waist. 

BUT....that slight change in setting does in no way take away from the fact that it was indeed "witching hour", and as the waters surface changed, the boils were beginning among the lilies. 
Normally, this lake is good for bringing up a few nice bass and towards dusk the largest of the bluegill begin to "look up" as well. Tonight would be different however. 

Taking it slow to avoid too much surface disruption I worked my way into a position where I was able to work several smaller clusters of lily pads. Then I settled back to watch for a few minutes to let things calm down and try to locate any obvious feeding fish. The struggle with my patience paid off with what looked like a decent fish in a cluster off to my left, so I began there. 

My first cast dropped  the popper about a foot shy of the pad edges and almost instantly a fish rolled it. On my end however, being wired-for-sound and in the moment I ungraciously decided that I did not want that fish to eat my fly just yet, and I'm pretty sure I ripped it away before Ol'bucketmouth could even close his lips. My next cast was to the right about 4 ft....and there was nothing. Irritated with myself already for missing that fish my next cast grabbed a small floating island of algae that I knew enough to avoid. Not helping my cause I grumbled at myself while cleaning pond scum from my deer hair offering. Another boil....same fish....all is not lost. Now stop shining, hitch up your knickers and catch him.  

But what ensued was like being in a Disney movie with my conscience on both shoulders.

On my left....Joe Pesci. "You're an idiot! You didn't even let him turn before setting the hook!  You moron! You blew it! AGGHH, why do I even bother?!"  

While on my right....Morgan Freeman.  "Just take a breath. You got this!  We've been here before....just give it back to him again, and when he takes, give the old One-Two-Set.

Too often I tend to get in an argument with my left shoulder. But I have my moments of clarity every now and again. So, giving a nod to Morgan, I calmed down and dropped my popper back on the edge of the lilies once more. As the rings settled....nothing. I twitched the popper once slightly just to give it life...and the water boiled. A quick mental count and on the end of two I set the hook to my first fish of July 2016. It wasn't a monster. But it was a healthy representation  of that waters average fish.

I had begun on the right foot for the night. Maybe it was a sign that all would go well and tonight would be the night of big fish and lifelong memories? Then on the next cast my popper was grabbed by a marauding chain pickerel of about 20 inches, which took me straight into the nearest lilies where it spun me around like a carnival ride, terminally tangling me.  Wading over I was hopeful that it would remain on the line, but what I found  after fighting my way to him and disturbing half the lake was a tangled mess of leader and lily stalks. And on the end...a chewed up tippet minus both fish and popper. 

My left shoulder snickered......"Nice.....reeeaaal nice...."

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