frog fly bass pattern
Photo: Chad Shmukler

When I first came to the pond, I was probably four or five years old. A ball of bread on a large hook dangling from a bit of string tied to a branch allowed me to catch what the locals called Horned Pout, bullheads to the rest of you. I don't recall catching these ugly brown fish but I've seen faded black and whites of catfish swinging from a tentatively held stick.

Years later I returned to the pond as the indentured servant to a great uncle's fantastical home improvement projects. The one solace was the adventures that could be had with an old fishing pole, worms and a row boat. Most evenings I could get away and do some fishing though it was more for solitude than sport. It was my first introduction to trout and largemouth.

My great uncle's neighbor, Bob, sometimes took pity on me and took me out on his motorboat. It was an unremarkable dinghy with a fifteen horsepower motor that managed to get us around the hundred acre pond quickly and efficiently. Bob showed me the way through the rock garden on the western bank so that we could access water shaded from the late afternoon sun. Largemouth congregated in those shoals. Back across time I can recall seeing rising fish. Of course at the time those were just bullseyes for lures to hit. You could do well with a Rapala or a Mepps.

Bob died a few years back. Leukemia ate him up though he was active right up to that last summer; tough old man of a different generation. I wasn't fishing much back then but I did take the boat through that rock garden every now and then just to keep the muscle memory alive. I chuckled when I'd hear a prop beat on a rock from that corner of the pond. It's nice knowing something that smacks of being a secret. I suppose that's the key to a good mentor; it's sharing the knowledge that helps one avoid the obvious mistakes.

As my kids grew up I hoped to recreate some of the memories of my childhood. Unfortunately, we didn't visit the pond much when my children were young. The drive was long and during those years we never seemed to be able to gather the extended family without setting off some idiotic argument. Most of that was fueled by relatives who were too fond of the bottle and I preferred absence to agitation.

We did get up there for a few trips with just my immediate family. One winter weekend we spent ample amounts of time bruising our asses while teaching the kids how to skate. Apparently it's not like riding a bike. We also got out for a few weekends during the summer and the boys eagerly took to waterborne adventures. While most of our time was spent paddling about exploring a few small islands, I do recall a rainy summer afternoon when my oldest, all of six years old at the time, caught a six inch largemouth while trolling a Mepps. There was a lot of pride in his smile. Mine too.

We've been going up more often lately as we mostly have the place to ourselves. I've since traded in the rowboat for a kayak and wave nine feet of graphite instead of that short ultralight set-up. I no longer worry about the rock garden, even at low water, although I do need to suppress a shudder seeing those hazards slide below my keel.

I've experimented with all manner of fly on the pond. I spent the last few summers casting jig style flies with brightly colored zonker strips. Twitching those flies along weed bed edges and small channel drop offs have brought countless largemouth to hand. These jigs were so good I almost didn't try anything else.

Of course bass continued to torment me with their surface slurps though they were after something that my river trained mind could not discern. On a evening a month or so ago as I sat prying a yellow zonker from a tiny bass I saw another fish whack a damsel fly stuck in the surface film. It was one of those light bulb moments. Lacking a specific imitation I trimmed a large Adams Sparkle Dun to as sparse a sample as I could manage and did quite well. I did even better after it became water logged. This got me to thinking that a damsel nymph would do well. I was right.

Sam and I paddled out through the largemouth garden last weekend. We talked about the fishy spots along that rocky shore and how the southern section held more fish but that I had found larger ones in the weed beds to the north. While we didn't need Bob's guidance to protect our prop we relied upon his example none the less. Sam hasn't taken to largemouth yet, but if he does he'll know his way through the shoals, he'll have a hint of what to use, and, with time, a legacy to pass on down the line.