07/26/13 — Outdoors column: Even the finickiest of fish will strike a fly

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Outdoors column: Even the finickiest of fish will strike a fly

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on July 26, 2013 1:47 PM

Rainy weather put a damper on the fishing lately, with runoff tainting all of the lakes, rivers and even the Atlantic. I had scheduled a trout trip to the mountains.

However, when I contacted my source, he said the place where I was going fishing, Muddy Creek, was living up to its name.

When I was a kid, I grew up fishing farm ponds and golf course ponds. I lived in Climax, south of Greensboro in the piedmont. When it rained, runoff from the clay soil stained the water the color of bricks. Despite the rain and the red water, the fish would bite although they could get finicky.

It took a day of fruitless fishing with bait, and watching bass and bluegills chase dragonflies and smaller flies hopping across the surface to tell me that perhaps a fly rod was the solution.

My first job, outside farm labor, was at the golf-bag storage locker of Forest Oaks Country Club. I bought a Garcia fly rod and Pflueger Medalist reel with my first paycheck. I fished golf course ponds at Forest Oaks and caught my biggest bass with that rod.

The battered old rod is retired, sitting in the rack as a memory jogger. I have others, including a 6-weight Redington. I paid $20 for the Garcia and $180 for the Redington four decades later, a price that included fly line and reel. Both outfits were bargain priced.

I've always wondered why so many anglers who want to learn to use fly rods never pick one up. Fly rods may seem mysterious, but they are actually simple to use. I learned the hard way, teaching myself, but today, books and videos show anyone how to cast.

I was tired of the rain and not going fishing. Other untoward tribulations made my mood dark as the water, so I badly needed a break. Fly-casting is like shooting a bow without sights. Both are instinctive art forms. The concentration required to hit the target, whether with an arrow or a fly, relaxes the mind.

Excessive rainfall also aggravates engineers and government planners. Dark waters are polluted waters and too much rain floods streets. Stormwater treatment ponds retain runoff and release it gradually, settling particles and pollutants adhered to them. While designed for different reasons, stormwater ponds are nothing more than re-purposed farm ponds and most of them hold fish.

There are several stormwater ponds not far from my house. Dozens of them dot developments throughout the coastal region and all it takes is getting permission to gain access for fishing. My favorite stormwater pond to fish is owned by the City of Wilmington and I headed there one morning to try to entice a fish with a fly.

I arrived before the sun rose as the latest round of rain spattered the windshield. Fitting the rod together, I tied a popping bug to the leader's 6-pound tippet.

When I was a kid, finding a farm pond with no one fishing was unusual. Now, I seldom see another angler, despite my favorite ponds being located smack dab in a city. My only companions were Canada geese, mallards, turtles and an alligator.

Casting was comforting as the fly reached beyond the algae and alligator weed. Retrieving a subsurface lure without fouling its hooks would have been impossible, but the fly line parachuted across the gobs of green. While the rain initially subdued the mood of the fish, they turned on when the sun finally peeked through the clouds.

I caught just four fish, but they were quality fish. One was a bluegill too broad to lock my fingers around and another was a 17-inch bass. I forgot everything else when the line came tight.

Car engines cranked to life around the lake as the city awakened. I released the big bluegill with my mind finally at ease. Like the bream, I was ready to fight another day.