“Ahhhhh, I really don’t wanna go, Urban.” said Urban’s best friend and saltwater flyfishing affectionado AP. “Don’t take offense, but catching freshwater fish just doesn’t put a bend in the rod, ya’ know? Not like my kind of fishing.””Is that so?” responded the Angler, fiddling with his vise and getting his fly-tying materials read for a tying session.
“Well, yeah …… at least here in Florida. I mean, I haven’t caught Steelhead or Atlantic Salmon, so I can’t be 100% about all this, but for us here in the Deep South, yeah, I’d have to say freshwater fish pull ……. crappie” AP said with a laugh, pleased at his own pun.
“Tell you what, AP, just come back by the house and pick me up tomorrow morning around 8am — I’ll leave QuickSilver in the garage for this trip — and we’ll take a ride and see …… I’ll even spring for breakfast”.
“Damn, that makes it tempting now …. OK, I’ll come by to get ‘cha. What are we fishing for? Don’t want to hurt these fish — do I bring a 1wt?” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t even own something that light”.
“Bring a 5wt with a sink-tip because of the depth and current, and I’ll tie us up the flies we need tonight. Wear clothes you won’t mind getting a bit muddy and wet” said Urban, secretly pleased at the now-puzzled expression on AP’s face when he mentioned the fishing conditions.
AP nodded and gathered up his coat and keys and departed from the Angler’s home. Urban settled back down at the vice and begun tying a dozen or so flies like this ….
Shortly after 8:00am Urban and AP were sitting at their breakfast table enjoying some scrabled eggs, ham, sausage patties and pancakes with syrup. “Gotta say, Urban, I’m usually on the water over an hour ago so I always miss breakfast like this … sure is good. Even better with you paying!” he said with a laugh. “But where are we going and what are we fishing for?”
“Don’t worry about the details, AP, I’ll direct you ….. and you’ll have to wait and see what we’ll be catching. ”
After finishing up and paying their bill, they got into AP’s truck and Urban directed AP to drive east for a bit. After a while, they crossed a bridge over big water, and Urban then had AP turn down a side road that seemed to parallel the water they just crossed. On and on went the road, finally pavement ending and turning into crushed limestone. After a couple of miles, Urban said “turn in here to the right” and they followed a small trail that finally made it’s way out of the woods and to wide open country. Not a tree in site — in fact this was pasture land — and in the distance AP saw water. “Just head that way until you can’t any more” said Urban, and a minute later they were parked next to the banks of the river. The bank was only a few feet above the water, and AP could see how the river wound back and forth through the land here, creating oxbow turns and corkscrew twists.
“Let’s go ahead and get rigged up; we have to walk about a half mile down to one of the better spots”. Urban tossed AP one of the flies, and AP let out a groan.
“Mighty small fly there, Urban. I know big fish eat peanuts, but sheesh!”
Urban ignored the last comment, assembled his fly rod and tied on his fly. “Let’s go — this way” and he started walking down the banks of the river.
After just a couple of steps, he now knew why Urban had talked about “getting muddy” the night before. The thick, black soil was covered in a thin layer green grass, but just beneath it was soaked with water, and it was hard to tell what exactly was dry land and what was a bog ready to suck the shoe right off your foot.
“A little help, Urban” said AP after a partiularly nasty bog sank his right leg to mid-calf. “Is it much further? — I’m a mess”.
“Right at this bend” said Urban after extracating AP from the muck.
Together they stood at a bend in the river system. Water flowed west and then north agan around this bend, with the far shoreline about two cast-lengths away. You could see current, and felt that the waters ran deep here as well.
“OK, just cast out parallel to the current as far out as you can, and let the fly sweep around …… Start your retrieve three-quarters of the way downstream. Just give short little jerks ……… and we’ll see what happens”.
AP and Urban spread out and began to cast. “Well, one nice thing about this place” thought AP “is you sure don’t have to worry abut your backcast!”. He dropped the fly into the water and let it swing with the current …… and felt a little tap. Not sure if he had a strike, he raised up the rod tip, and sure enough he felt weight at the end of his line. Stripping it in, he saw a small, green-and-black speckled fish attached.
“First fish” called out AP “and I’m not sure I can land him — I need help” he added dryly. “Urban, this guy barely bent the rod. Is this what we are after?”
“Just keep casting” said Urban, frowning a little.
AP unhooked the speck and released him back into the current. He made a few more casts … nothing …….. and was about to say something to AP about dead water and blind-casting when he felt a sold “thwack” on the flyline. Instinctively he set the hook, and he was fast to a powerful fish! “Urban, I got something good here!!”
The fish pulled hard, running upcurrent but AP did not want to give the fish any line. Moments later, he felt the line go slack. “Damn, rat bastard got off.” Urban called over, “Gotta be a bit more gentle — tender mouths”.
AP was going to call back to ask what kind of fish has tender mouths that pull that hard, but intead cast out again. At the end of the drift, as he started to strip back in he felt a “ka-pow” on his line as he was fast to another fish!! “Another one!” he cried, and this time remembering to give a little line when the fish pulled hard. “Wow, nice fight in this fish – look at my rod” thought AP. After several back-and-forth runs, AP was able to see the fish in the tannic water. Pulling it close and then scooping it up, he held it up to to show Urban. “I got ’em, Urban. She’s about 3 lbs, but what a fight!! Is this what I think it is?”
“Yeah” shouted Urban, who’s rod was also bent over in a cresent. “Alosa Sapidissima … American Shad. There’s a winter run of these fish up the St. Johns. You never know exactly if the run is going to go off, but when it does ……….”
AP was already casting, and the second cast produced another strong strike. This time the fish came to the surface and jumped clear of the water “Oh my Gawd, he thinks he’s a tarpon” shouted AP ” …… and he fights as hard as one too” he thought to himself.
Over the next two hours, Urban and AP caught fish until they quit counting. AP was amazed at the strength of these fish. “They slam a fly like a snook, pull like a redfish, and jump like a tarpon” he thought quietly to himself. “Man this is more fun than …….” as another fish slammed the fly, went aerobatic, and began pulling again against his rod ………………………………..
On the drive home, AP drove with a satisfied look on his face and his mind was replaying the day.
“Take it back” said Urban quietly with a smile.
“Uhh — what’d ya say?” said AP, shaken out of his reviere.
“Take back what you said about freshwater fish yesterday” said Urban with even a bigger grin.
AP smilled and nodded. “You got me Urban. I take it back. I can’t tell you the last time I had so much fun catching fish. Those guys pull HARD! And they jump like tarpon! Boy, that was great!!”
A little later, AP was still thinking about the day and the shad when he shouted “Wait!! I take it back again!!!”
“What?” said Urban. “Youre taking it back again that freshwater fish can’t fight like saltwater fish?”
“You’re a sneaky one, Urban, but I know that the American Shad spends most of it’s life in the ocean before coming into fresh water to spawn. So technically this is a salt walter fish” AP said pointing at Urban. “So I was correct the first time”.
“No, no, no” said Urban. “We caught him in fresh water. So technically, it’s a freshwater catch and fish”. And with that Urban turned and looked straight into AP’s eyes. “So you have to take it back again!”
It was quiet for a few moments ……………
Then both AP and Urban began to laugh together …………………………