Flies and Lies

Not long ago, a friend of mine asked me to fish in a bass tournament that the local bass club was hosting. Having never done that, I jumped at the chance.

After accepting the invitation, I let my friend know I would be using my fly rod. I was assured no one would laugh at me; I just needed to fish a bass tournament-legal fly rod. A tournament-legal fly rod is a rod no longer than 8 feet. That was no problem. Being a well-equipped fly-fishermen, I thought I had more equipment than anyone in the area. Was I ever wrong.

I started to remember how bass fishing was when I was a kid. That was a really long time ago. Back then, you went fishing with a casting rod and maybe a spinning rod, a tackle box made out of something other than plastic and holding maybe a dozen lures. You got into an 18-foot aluminum boat powered with an 18-horsepower motor. You caught bass, put them on a stringer, cleaned them, then cooked and ate them.

My, how times have changed.

I was told – a day before we were to fish, so I wouldn’t back out – that we would meet at 4:45 a.m., then drive an hour to the lake to meet all the other fishermen and one dog. We met the others at sunup, and that’s when I began to notice things had really changed since I was a kid.

All the boats were 20 feet long, would hold only two people, and looked like rocket ships. They all were powered with motors having at least 200 horsepower and had trolling motors big enough to pull a water skier. All of this was towed by a three-quarter-ton diesel pickup.

To get everyone out of the marina in an orderly fashion, numbers were drawn for a starting position. You would have thought it was an Indycar race. When the go signal was given, everyone blasted off in an orderly fashion. Then it was a race to get to your favorite spot before someone else. The boat I was in was going so fast that my jowls, once cute baby fat, now were flapping in the wind.

Once at our first spot, the boat captain manned his platform, grabbed one of the six rods lashed to the deck and started fishing. I took my one fly rod, tied on a fly and began to make my picture-perfect casts.

My first cast came after my boatmate had made 50 casts and changed rods twice. Not only did he have six prerigged rods on the deck, he had six more stowed in the rod locker and a dozen plastic boxes full of lures in the tackle-box locker. I had one rod and two fly boxes containing 50 flies; that was the sum total of my equipment.

Even with such a paltry array of equipment, I caught a fair number of bass. I used three flies: a popper, a clouser and something that looked like a small guppy. Now, I didn’t win, but I didn’t finish last. Best of all, I had a great time.

If you want to start bass fishing, in tournaments or just for yourself, I suggest you take the following items: a bass-legal rod plus an 8- or 9-weight rod and a floating line with a 15-pound leader attached to it. Bass are not particularly leader sensitive, so a 7-foot leader will be just fine. For flies, use streamers, hoppers, poppers or anything that a bass would eat. Bass will eat anything.

Also, if you can get a rocket ship that doubles as a boat, bass fishing will take on a whole new dimension.

Reach Don Oliver at durango_fishing@frontier.net.