I had a hunch, but that's all it was. Could I catch a bass on a fly in November? Fall weather had been fairly typical with cold spells interrupted by warmer temperatures, but it was a sunny afternoon.
I'd fished the Boise River in the morning, and you can read a story about that in Thursday's (Nov. 13) Idaho Outdoors. Fishing was good on the river, and after lunch, I wasn't ready to call it a day.
I hit a neighborhood pond wondering if the bass might still bite. I figured maybe they were taking advantage of the last few warm days to feed before winter. The water didn't feel frigid, and if nothing else, I was just curious and felt like fishing.
I fished deep and slow, and waited. The bluegill that normally peck at a fly that's almost as big as they are were absent, which was a mixed blessing. I didn't have all the false-alarm strikes they create, but it also made me second guess whether I was too late and the water was too cold for these warmwater fish.
I stuck with it. I felt a slight tap on my fly and set the hook, and sure enough, I felt the heft of a bass. I was excited. It wasn't a big bass, but it proved my theory correct. Bass would take a fly in November.
I kept fishing. The afternoon was waning, but I was on point. If there was one, surely there was another. I cast and let my sink-tip line with a big streamer descend. I let the slight breeze push my boat wherever it wanted to go and focused on my rod tip. I visualized my fly floating just above the deep weed beds, and I gave the line an occasional pull like a weakened fish trying to escape.
The rod tip twitched, and I set the hook not knowing if it was a fish or a piece of weed. It pulled back, another bass, and larger this time.
It was exciting. These bass are typically pretty fickle, even during summer when they're active. Catching a pair of them within an hour is good fishing. Part of me wanted to call it a day and be happy with a pair of fish, but the overriding part of me wanted to keep trying.
If I could catch two, why not three? Such is the mind of an angler. I glanced at the sun starting to dip toward the tree tops. I knew the shot clock was ticking, as I cast and let the line settle. My angling reflexes were in hyperdrive, and even a tiny bump felt like an electric jolt.
After several false alarms, my rod bowed, and the adrenaline started pumping; this one felt big. I didn't let it run. I fish heavy leader so I am not constantly losing flies to snags, and if a big fish gets into the weed beds, it's usually game over. Doing my bass-master best, I yarded the fish to the surface and saw a broad, dark back.
About three out of four of the largemouths I lose are when they break the surface and do that infamous open-mouthed head shake. But I was ready for it, and I lowered the rod so it was parallel to the water and made the fish fight the rod.
I pulled it toward me and slid the net beneath it. It was about 18-inches and in the 3-pound range. It was one of the largest bass I've taken out of this pond.
I can't claim any special bass fishing skills, except one: I had a hunch and acted on it, and it paid off with a big fish that reset my gauges about what constitutes bass fishing season.
If I can catch them November, what about December? We shall see.