|Let's play Paper-Rock-Scissors-Bear!|
That a stump is a bear is a boulder.
Your eyes can still see shapes, but cannot relay enough data to your brain quickly enough for you to make a good decision about what you see - and what you should do as a result.
While I am often in the woods or marsh at that moment, I rarely acknowledge that feeling because I'm either pre-occupied with my task at hand, or - quite often - I'm frustrated with something that's going wrong because it's getting dark and I can't see, and I haven't made the time to fish my headlamp out of my blind bag, tackle bag, or wherever.
Tonight was different - I was having a relaxing hike back up a fire road and then this moment hit. It was intense, but quickly remedied by my headlamp (note to self: change batteries).
This night's fishing adventure was epically unplanned. A kayak fishing trip to a hot quasi-public spot was cancelled by my fishing buddy, and then my wife and I debated taking Hank down to the Gunpowder River for the second time that day and letting me practice my flycasting at the ridiculous number of 6" bluegills there. That plan was foiled when Hank, tired from his first trip to the river that day, let his nap drag on until 5pm. Finally I got the OK to "just go," and so I did. With a blaring sun and 95 degree air temps at 5pm, I knew I had to get north and upslope.
|The sun wasn't bright at all (as retinas burn behind $120 polarized sunglasses)|
I chose Prettyboy Reservoir, a water supply impoundment of the Gunpowder River near the Maryland-Penna border. I have a few spots I like to fish at Prettyboy, but my last trip there revealed that people are/were fishing one of them with canned corn (cue: wonk wonnnnnnnnk). So I quickly gauged the distance of the hard road from the waterfront throughout the watershed and made a mental map. I pulled over at a fire road I had never even seen before and thought, "OK, let's try this." It was 6pm already, but my travels 500 feet upslope and 30 miles north had bought me about 10 degree cooler air temperatures.
I chose to work a snag-filled cove with a spring running into it. There was a small area of bass beds, and tons of baitfish hugging the shoreline - usually a great sign that something bigger lurks immediately offshore. I started by throwing a variety of small plastics in chartreuse and had some epic hookups with impressively sized sunfish:
My lone bass of the evening came on a floating balsa minnow and was a monster strike. The fish ran out the drag, got airborne twice, and tried to run under every piece of cover between us. I released him tired but healthy. Great adrenalin rush! Ironically, I made this trip to catch smallmouth, but this fish was a largemouth in every way.
In my haste to pick a spot to fish, I ended up in a situation where working out of the cove either meant staring right into the setting sun. It was brutal! Both points at the head of the cove had amazing rock structure but despite my best efforts, I did not see a smallmouth over 8" long. There was no one fishing this entire section of the reservoir, and despite that fact, I saw very few large fish surface feeding at dusk.
Even in the middle of the summer, if you start fishing at 615pm, eventually you will have to deal with the sunset and the darkness (hopefully not the band The Darkness, because that would be even worse). Dusk eventually came on, but only made me more focused on fishing rock dropoffs for smallmouth. I had absolutely no luck. I am still learning the zen of evening fishing for big fish - that the time is just not right until suddenly it is - and then you'd better be ready! Right as the sun hit the treetops, I hung several lures in trees and on stumps, birdsnested my baitcaster, and a bunch of other errors one after the other.
And suddenly, the sun went fully behind the trees on the opposite shoreline, and it was like someone had turned on the night. It was then obvious that the owls and tree frogs and bats and forest birds had also been waiting for the sun to relent, and couldn't hold back their enthusiasm now that it was gone. While I had missed a potential opportunity to get some big smallmouth right at sunset, I had hammered over a dozen good, strong fish in a little over two hours, and on a lot of hot summer days in past years, I would have paid for luck like that.