Just one last cast…

We’ve all thought, said, or murmured the phrase a million times: “just one more cast”. This mantra of anglers comes at the eleventh hour of a day on the water when we know we have to get back home for myriad reasons and the fishing has not been great, but we can still feel some luck out there. So we make that last cast and most times the results are no different than the 100 casts before, but every once in a while we are pleasantly surprised…

Such was the case for me this past Sunday evening. I only had time for 2 hours for fishing, so I hit a local favorite pool on the Susquehanna River for smallmouth bass. I rigged up with a sink-tip line and 1X leader and tied on a Murray’s Dying Minnow streamer. Casting at the tail of the pool and then across the riffle adjacent to it produced 2 decent bass and some fallfish, but with the cool water and tons of baitfish about, I was hoping for the type of action I’d recently enjoyed on the Chenango River.

I experimented with different patterns of streamers and fished some other sections of the river to no avail. Before hiking back to the car I returned to the pool tail-out for one last cast and was rewarded with a solid thump – the kind that catches you off-guard and puts a “yeah!” in the air. After setting the hook, a bass thrashed to the surface. At first it felt like a smallish fish. It dove and held briefly in the current but then about-faced downstream with supercharged vigor for a fish its size. I put the fish on the reel, thinking I might have underestimated this bass. With fly rod bowed nicely, I thought, “maybe this was one of those bass that suddenly grows in size when it feels the hook?”

I applied some drag, put the brakes to the downstream charge, and steered the fish with sideways pressure out of the riffle and into a patch of slower water, but even out of the current this “bass” was acting, well, very “un-bassy”. Missing were the acrobatics, the darting and diving, and the bulldogging for deeper water. The fight was plain old “down and dirty” – almost walleye-like – and I started second-guessing what might be at the end of my line. More pressure to raise the fish met more throbbing resistance. Finally, a very long green form emerged, like a submarine surfacing for air…

Musky bait on the fly...

The fish came up, porpoised and dove again, and as it did I saw the telltale markings of a musky, and that put a “holy crap” in the air, stirred renewed enthusiasm in my heart and put prayers on my lips of “dear Jesus, if only he’ll hold”. Alas, just as fast as I thought and prayed he was gone, the heavy bend to the rod lightened, and a very tired and limp smallmouth of about 12 inches came to hand. This poor guy had taken my fly with gusto, only to be taken himself with tooth and fang. Talk about a bad day: caught on both ends, no less! I took a quick picture but the pic does not do justice to what the jaws of our local underwater version of cujo can do to scaled and muscled flesh. Barely visible in the pic is a slash mark behind the pectoral fin that sliced open the bass halfway up his side. Other tooth marks were there as well – like bullet holes in the side of Bonnie and Clyde’s getaway car. This poor guy looked like he’d been dipped into a garbage disposal.

Remarkably, the bass was still alive, so I tried to revive him in the current a good while. Before long he was shaking his head and I let him swim off, a piscatorial version of Rocky back for another round. Friends of PETA might chide me for my act of mercy, but I thought any bass that could survive such an attack deserves a chance. Of course if he did not fully regain strength, there was that musky waiting back in the pool and a bald eagle and osprey that regularly patrolled the river.

After that last cast I left the river with a new-found longing for a fly box arsenal of long leggy-looking musky flies…

This is no wooly bugger...

I thought about that new 9 foot 8 weight JP Ross rod I’ve been reserving for the upcoming Finger Lake trib runs, the heavy mono I have for a tooth-proof leader and a long-handled boat net I use in the salt. Then the lyrics of the Jimi Hendrix song, “Foxy Lady”, blasted away in my head…

“I’m coming to get you….”

Tight lines…

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3 Responses to “Just one last cast…”

  1. Bob Stanton Says:

    Nice story, stff. I’ve never had it happen to me personally, but have heard many stories of the same happening here on the musky and pike infested waters of the Allegheny. Nice to see you back,too. I follow the blog with great interest, since I fish roughly the same latitude here in NW “Pennsyltucky”, and the waters and prey are pretty much the same. I also enjoy the reflective tone of the blog. One of the many things I love about fly fishing is that it spurs us to think, and perhaps consider life from another vantage point. I know it has taught me (some) patientce!

  2. Good story Bob. I think it’s rare to have that happen where you were fishing. That’s a neat experience! You never know what you may get into when fishing that river…

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