Monday, June 6, 2016

lucky 13

Spring fishing was mostly done with the new-to-me Heddon #13 split cane rod. This model is known as '#13 Lucky Angler'. Mine is from either 1940 or 1941, as these were the only two years to use the orange wraps with black trim. The varnish had deteriorated, peeling and sticky, though everything else was in good nick. The first refurbisher had stripped the nasty old varnish already, so there wasn't much to do. A couple of fresh coats of spar varnish had it looking near-new again.

We have been out a number of times and I did not live up to it, getting skunked many times in many trips, on trout and bass then carp. The long winter of fishless discontent finally broke on a warm spring day, with the fish moving and feeding. First three little bluegills, tremendously handsome little fellows but rather overmatched by the rod.

Then a bass came roaring up from the deeps, hammered the streamer just below the surface, ran and jumped several times, a good start to the warmwater year.

A second bass, smaller but still a most welcome acquaintance.

The first bass plug I ever owned was a Heddon Tiny Lucky 13: "owned" rather than "bought" since at the time my brother and I were boys with no money. We fished the local pond for the vlei kurper, a small species of tilapia much like bluegill, and aspired to catch the monstrous great carp we saw. Those carp were well-educated though, and not easily fooled. One day I saw the plug hanging on a weeping willow some 30 feet out, swam out and retrieved it. This gave us the idea there might be bass there - turned out the pond had just been stocked. They were mostly small, but flinging home-tied bugs on spinning outfits with ultralight lines got enough distance to catch numbers. That's where my bass fishing started; Heddon Lucky 13 evokes a multitude of happy involuntary memories for me, a sort of fish-flavoured madeleine, as it were.
And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal.
Shortly after writing this I came across EM Forster's comment on Proust in the Moncrieff translation, which is a marvelous thing. 
A sentence begins quite simply, then it undulates and expands, parentheses intervene like quick-set hedges, the flowers of comparison bloom, and three fields off, like a wounded partridge, crouches the principal verb, making one wonder as one picks it up, poor little thing, whether after all it was worth such a tramp, so many guns, and such expensive dogs, and what, after all, is its relation to the main subject, potted so gaily half a page back, and proving finally to have been in the accusative case.
Returning to our muttons, I still have that plug, since I have swum out to retrieve it from trees or underwater stumps every time it snags or hangs up. At first it was out of necessity, having no way to replace it. Now it is out of sentiment alone. I'm a bit embarrassed about it actually, an old man swimming out to retrieve his lures is on the pathetic side. Maybe the next time it snags in an obvious place, I'll break it off and leave it there for the next boy to retrieve.

Earlier we had attempted trout, in a painfully clear and empty stream.

The only trout of  the year happened just before finishing the Heddon, so it was taken on the South Bend 359 instead. A sturdy strong rainbow, returned with thanks. In the picture I got the rocks beautifully sharp in focus, the fish not so much.

A long streak of skunks on the carp dropped me back to a graphite rod, just in case it could help change my luck. It was the warming weather rather than luck in the end.

He was caught in an urban pond with a walking trail nearby, on a Sunday afternoon. A large audience gathered. One little boy retreated in horror and took his mother's hand, when I lifted up the fish to show him. Clearly it was a fearsome great carp. A conversation earlier that day with a little boy on a scooter: him, excitedly, "oh ! a fishing rod !" sadly, "I had a kids fishing rod once, but it broke." cheerfully departing, "Good luck, I hope you catch something."

As a bonus that day, the crappie (no really that is the fish's name) had moved shallow, caught a number of them mostly by accident. They would grab the fly as it sank in front of a carp that was the real target. I didn't mind a bit, like to see these bright creatures. Never caught one there, before or since - suspect with a relatively large lake and no-boating regulations, the deeper water functions rather like a sort of marine reserve. Fish can feed and grow unbothered in the deeper water, where they are quite inaccessible. This makes for good fish but sporadic fishing.

The carp spawn started up at that pond, so abandoned it and tried at a larger cooler lake. I prefer not to bother the spawners - how would you like it, after all ?

Started at the inlet which was cold and carpless, 56deg water. Moved on to the flats, warmer and carpless, 62-3deg. There were lots of bass though, a few nice 12-14", so that was just fine. 

This was the first outing for this Browning reel, which is a re-badged Martin LM 78. It came off ebay pristine, with the original grease still sparkling clear. A good solid US-made reel, for less than $20. Really I cannot think of any reason to buy Chinese-made reels for hundreds of dollars.

The first fly was a Sculpiny Mcsculpinface intended for carp which worked well on the bass too, but broke it off stupidly on a backcast into the woods.

Not skunked today, not at all. It was in fact a perfect hour: cottonwoods alive with birdsong, clear green water and plenty of fish, flashing in and out of view in the sunny water. The only blot on the landscape was the imminent necessity of returning to work.

The state of the skunked is pitiful at best. As singlebarbed observes,
"I realized that “getting bit” was akin to Popeye’s Spinach, how without the ability to torture things smaller than me, I was a caricature of my former self."
Sad but ineluctable, as I noticed myself, in the last paragraph here.

Life involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that can't be solved by analysis.
- William Empson, note to the poem "Bacchus".