Fish Rap: Fishing is about learning as much as catching fish

The bass was still as a statue near the shore, but easy to see with polarized glasses. I stood back from the water, stripped line off the reel and cast parallel into the grass to get the right amount of line out. I lifted the fly out of the grass and dropped it perfectly in front of the bass — perfect to me, at least.

The bass was less impressed. It barely reacted to the fly sinking about 2 feet in front of it. I waited until the fly was at eye level and then gave it a gentle pull. The bass cruised toward it, but it wouldn’t commit. It stayed about 8 inches behind the fly. I felt like the trap was set. One sharp jerk and the 50 cent piece-sized bluegill pattern would dart away and trigger a strike from the bass.

That’s how it played out in my mind. Reality differed. Upon jerking the fly, the bass turned and swam off as nonchalantly as it had approached the fly.

It wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but it was a fun learning experience. I got to watch a fish’s reaction to my offering. It also made me rethink my strategy. I figured because bluegill prey on bass eggs, and bluegill are also bass prey, dropping a fake one near a big fish would be a slam dunk.

I stalked the shoreline for another target. The bass again ignored the fly, or followed it without striking. Then as one followed, another rose from the invisible depths and snatched it. I set the hook.

This was about more than hooking a fish. The real thrill was witnessing how fish reacted to a fly and how I adjusted my strategy. So often, we’re casting blind and using theory and experience to guide us, but this was seeing and learning.

Learning keeps fishing fascinating for me. I’ve caught thousands of fish, and it might seem like it would become rote and boring, but it’s the opposite.

After all these years, I am still curious why fish do what they do, and that’s why it never gets boring.