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The Streamside Guide - Panfish on the Fly

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This week's column comes from one of the readers of The Streamside Guide, Dave Gover. Dave writes great letters, but last week he sent in an opus that really deserves to be shared as its own feature. I hope you all enjoy it as much as do. - Peter Cammann 

I haven't sent any letters for a while because I was chagrined by the local striped bass. I said I was going to let you know when I caught the big one I was searching for. Well, I'll be really daring and tell you the date for that catch will be sometime in 2009. I got so excited about learning the basics of fly-fishing, which, as you know, I just took up this year, that I stayed in my local lake, the identity of which must still remain classified. I have had an easy baptism as a fly fisherman.

My friend Tony Duggins (a dyed in the wool carp fisherman from Liverpool, England) and I have caught bluegill (Tony's new love; he says if this fish grew to be five pounds no one would fish for anything else.... Not bad from someone who used to think carp were...exciting). He and I have brought in bluegill, white perch, yellow perch, pickerel, largemouth bass and really lovely black crappie from this one lake, and basically from about two hundred yards of its shoreline in such numbers that to describe them would sound like we were looking for star status. The last two times out we fished tandem flies and caught two fish at a time three times. Two weeks ago I caught a bluegill that was A FOOT LONG! Of course, there's more to the story...

I put this jewel on a rope-type stringer so I could show it to Tony, who was fishing about a hundred yards further along the shoreline. About four minutes later I caught a very nice crappie, so I got the idea I might just give my mother the fresh fish dinner she has been asking for all year (we had released every fish up to that point), and I started putting it on the stringer, too, noticing it was much lighter in weight than the boss bluegill I had just caught.

Well, it might have been lighter, but it was no passive acceptor of fate; it gave a violent twist and made it out of my hands, taking stringer and bluegill off into the lake. Now there is no witness to the foot-long bluegill, but my memory doesn't care; what a beautiful sight it was. I have caught two bluegill in the past that were over two pounds, and both of them were a little pale in color...not this beauty. This guy was brilliantly colored, certainly one of the prettiest fish I have ever caught. I have him clearly in my mind, so if there are skeptics, well they are unlikely to be as lovely, so let them rant.

I guess the gist of all this is that a slow, and even late start is okay as long as it does start. I honestly never thought I would enjoy fly-fishing, but after many more years than I am about to admit to, it was well worth the wait. It's different from the bait casting style I always preferred, and it is a more effective stress reliever

You have to concentrate on each cast to get it right, so while you are doing that you can't think about anything else I am a psychologist, and one of the things I have learned about the mind is that no one's mind can focus on more than one thought at a time, so if you are absorbed in the business of making a good cast and playing the fly (or, as I prefer, flies) you are immune to the workings of stress from any of the other 10,000 thoughts your mind like to torture you with. A couple of hours of fly-fishing are easily equivalent to the best session of psychotherapy you might ever have. I can't prove that; I can just urge all to give it a try. What a joy it has been, and it has converted a potentially stodgy English carp fisherman to the American way of fishing.

That's always good.

Well, that's it for now...not too exciting, but pleasantly routine for the active fly fisherman. My next endeavor is going to be finding out if I can stay in the water long enough in my neoprene waders to see if these lovely finny devils bite in the cold months. I'm still not up for a try at ice fishing. I'm from Arkansas, for heaven's sake!!!! The only thing we do with ice is put it into drinks.

Copyright 2008 by Dave Gover

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