The recent heat wave thoroughly finished, temperatures remained somewhere in the 70's during the early afternoon, and I avidly pursued one of my favorite forms of fishing: pitching and placing slow-sinking worms in tight spots, casts involving inspiration more than conscious determination when I really get them right, though a lot of prior determination goes into those that just wing off the rod and get exactly where I want. Some of the time I have to throw a curve, getting the worm around a bush and in close to the bank, and a longer rod might work better than my 5 1/2-foot St. Croix, but though a longer rod casts further and would give me some edge around those bushes, it's not as accurate anyway, the tip further from the wrist. I guess anyone would want every cast to confirm him as an artist with a rod and supple braid, but I think I could fish this way every day each summer for the rest of my life and screw up enough to feel disappointed sometimes, worms plunking down two feet from the target, or hitting the water a little too hard. Perfection's episodic. If it happens often, you've achieved mastery by trying to get there, even though it always feels like a Hail Mary, even the little instances. Keep improving.
When I arrived here at my favorite North Jersey bass pond, I saw another car parked and I felt a little apprehensive about someone else fishing my spots. I didn't have time to adjust my attitude. More properly, if someone else is fishing, well, good for him. I saw him sitting at a picnic table with a rod resting on the bench and figured he had live bait out, probably worms, but I got to wondering how shiners would work for someone of that inclination.
"No. I haven't been here long. I'm just being lazy and fishing shiners."
"They might work."
But I didn't really think so, not under a bobber 30 feet from shore. I felt happy he was staying in place. Why adjust attitude when you have to?
I got warmed up pitching an overhanging bush and soon began my progression to the back of the pond. Five minutes later, I saw my fellow fisherman drive off.
Five or six spots yielded nothing. After the first two or three I had begun to doubt, though my persistence wasn't affected. By a large overhanging bush, I got a swift pickup, set the hook, felt solid weight, but the line parted. I had tied a bad knot last night connecting 15-pound test fluorocarbon leader to 15-pound test braid. I've told myself before: check knots. All I had to do--pull it hard!
So now I told myself at least I had a good bass on.
Minutes later, I caught a little nine-incher, and soon a 10-incher and another smaller, these second and third bass hitting well out from shore; open water I cast to on occasion, because some of the bass cruise in three or four feet of water or more near bottom, though most I catch relate to overhangs and timber in the water.
In the back, there's a nice fallen tree that's never produced for me during summers. Always May and October with spinnerbaits. Apparently, this is because it's on a shallow flat, but that's just my idea, an obvious thought. I fished choice spots on the way back for nothing, except for that first bush I began warming to with when I began. I thought of a big one that broke off here two years ago, getting my first pitch where it needed to go at the edge of leaves in the sort of pocket on my side, but yielding nothing. I pitched again, worm plopping down out in front of the overhang, and got a quick pickup from the 14-inch bass I photographed (below).
Cattails that have worked before didn't today, and I felt no expectation they would, but tried anyway. Nor did a corner with a large broken tree branch overhang, but a length of bank I've done well by fishing close to overhangs, a bank with the steepest drop-off of all of them, came alive. Breeze from the north northeast pushed a little water its way, which is never a bad thing to at least
imagine stimulating aquatic life, and besides, during the half hour or so I fished along this edge, sunfish splashed on the surface fairly often. Why disregard little fish actively up to something or other, when for all you know, this might mean larger respond positively? Who could know what really went on. Maybe the sunfish were active and the bass--aware of this--mirrored the action a little. Or maybe bass below were just as active as the sunnies. No way to tell, but fish activity of any kind is a sign of something going on. I saw some little water striders and wondered if the sunfish picked them off.
Close to the bushes, I caught three more bass and missed the hit from another, setting the hook too soon. I don't like to let bass take too long; I avoid gut hooking. The first two weighed about a pound; the last over 3 1/2, an 18 1/2-inch fish. This final bass typical of this pond, though 17 inches is really more like it, I've never enjoyed an outing here catching so many smallish bass but never felt any complaint. Especially nice was sitting on a large, mostly buried stone, and also on the raised concrete of the spillway, casting worms out deeper to let them descend to bottom before twitching them back. It's not usually a matter of twitching the worm, but loosely twitching the line. That much shake, just enough to vibrate the worm slightly, is sometimes enough, although today one of the bass hitting along this deeper bank took the worm when I jerked it pretty deliberately, giving it a few swimming strokes. More often than not I don't twitch the line or the worm at all; I just retrieve it back quickly after initial descent, an active process, but just letting time pass and absorbing the pond's immediate surroundings: watching for those sunfish, awaiting any take from a bass, observing the kids diving off the swimming area docks and swimming the lanes about 30 yards to my left, gave me that sense of being there best today.