I stopped into a neat little spot on what is really the border between southern Maryland and the Washington DC metro area. Sun wasn't even up. One of the summer's last hot days. Fog. Just. Fog. It burned off on the walk to the water, and the clock was running - work in two hours. I'm slowly growing to resent fishing and hunting on a clock, but I reckon that's the nature of being 38, having a family, and being employed.
The bad part? The water lilies, spatterdock and other aquatics were thick across the water, with the bass right under them. The good part? Algae and hot water was killing off the underwater grasses, dumping it down to about 3' below the surface, so I could actually see the fish moving. But this is a fickle place.
I've fished here, in the floodplain of the Patuxent, several times in the last few years. Don't think I've been skunked yet. But it's always tough. I mean, absolutely always. This place has the most spoiled damn fish I have ever seen. And as you're watching lure after lure (or even flies) get rejected, don't go thinking, "Well, let's just catch a few little ones really quick," because they're finicky too. The poachers, whom I've blogged about before, don't make the fishing here at this regulated catch and release spot any better.
Finally, right after the sun broke the treeline, a fish in hand.
A young, slender bass at about 9-10", I thought that maybe the fish were just biting later. Instead, I spent the next hour watching the clock and casting furiously around all kinds of ridiculous structure and vegetation. I mean, look at the ridiculous cover in that photo.
And then, a big miss. A 7+ pound fish slinked below heavy cover. I saw his shadow, hunting. He turned, and then I saw him again. A tight cast, four feet in front of him. He rushed. He bit. He ran. I set the hook. Too slow. The lure sank. The fish ran for cover. Three minutes later, I tried again. Another lip set. I set the hook, but wasn't convinced. The drag ran...hard. The fish threw the lure. It sank.
I've caught a few bass that were "about 5 pounds," but this was a big, mean, old fish. And I missed him. Truth be told, I was fishing a St. Croix Ultralight rod (hence the weak hook set) with 4lb line, so it's not a given that I would have been able to land that fish anyway. It's literally been haunting me since then.
The other thing that's odd is that it's my second outing that scored just one bass. Now, one bass is a whole heck of a lot better than none at all. But Fall's almost here. Just a few more chances to get it right before hunting season kicks in.....