Fred took me to his secret spot, a series of ponds in North Jersey, which for a few years yielded many bass for him, including some in the three-pound range. We fished Senko-type worms until dusk, when we switched to topwaters, fishing a final pond he hadn't tried yet, getting no hits. We caught lots of bass on the worms, although all of these fish were peculiarly small.
Fred thought the most about the situation, since he had been successful in the past. He said that a killer winter like the one we still seem to have just got through sometimes produces fish die-off in shallow ponds, a reality I'm familiar with going way back. Who knows. Maybe all the larger bass are gone and only dinks managed to survive.
In any case, I began fishing after a very stressful day at work, my head sort of swimming in conflicts, while I managed, no less, to converse and get along just fine, no need of disclosing my discomfort. When I began catching bass, my mood began to loosen up and I felt enjoyment begin to replace dread. Not that this wasn't expected. I knew, back at work, that once I got out fishing, I would move into a much better place, but it did take a couple of fish to put me there, not that Fred's company didn't help. The funny thing about fishing is that catching some really makes a difference.
We got to the second pond and pop, bang--each of us caught bass on our first casts. I felt interested, and I walked swiftly all the way around and across to the other side, expectant of the shadows. Nothing. Neither of us got another hit.
At the third pond, we caught plenty. I realized I wasn't being quite active enough. Fred switched to a fat eight-inch worm and rigged it with a big inset hook. With this, he reached the big scum mats far out in the shallow pond's center. That's where a big bass would be. He caught a nine-inch bass on a worm that must have weighed a large percentage in comparison to the fish's weight. I got up and walked on around and towards a far corner, dodging sticks and fallen tree trunks, really getting into the sport of pitching and casting accuracy among scum mats, fishing a Wacky rig, hook exposed. I wasn't really lazy, though I could have rigged inset. What was the use with algae? It gets all over the hook anyhow. My fun involved pitching perfectly into pockets. I caught some bass. Then I lost the worm to a snag before I quite reached the corner.
I had just enough stepping in and around the pond in the woodland to feel young again, as if I were 17. I think that getting outdoors and doing maneuvers that require some effort is very healthy. Since it brings out youth in you--you feel this--it rejuvenates the body in turn. The youth you feel is not an illusion.
We had great conversation riding home. We spoke about past jobs we've had and adventures on them. I was the one who brought up Scottsdale, AZ, huge banquet dinners, all the beer and wine we wanted, and hauling six packs back to our rooms and private parties. This during the mid-90's boom. That was interesting--to say the least--and I can remember compelling conversations during those private parties, but I thought of the weight I've lost recently, and thought of the health the outdoors doesn't only inspire, but actually produces, and while I'm not ashamed of my employment adventures, I think too much of an economic boom would kill everyone involved by the degrees of its decadence, at least with the set of values in vogue during the 90's.
None of our bass were much larger than this.
The magic hour