For the last several summers, we’ve been carefully watching the retention pond next to our Area 542 Funny Feelings LLC (FFJ publisher) headquarters, as mergansers, herons and other fisher birds occassionally gulped down small fish. Unsure as to the species, or even if they were surviving each year, I would load up the three weight and cast out small bugs, terrestrials, little poppers and each summer, there were no takers.
Like Charlie Brown to the football, I was drawn again this summer to amble down the pond, displacing bullfrogs and red-wing blackbirds, and make a few more ritual casts. Again, after several good looking attempts, nothing would come to the surface. Switching to a slowly stripped nymph, I unloaded the proverbial last cast when a small form shot out from under the pads and snatched the bead-head. A few minutes later, I had a beautiful little bluegill to hand and found as much immediate joy with this palm-sized aggressor as I had with pretty much any fish in the last several years. Pulling in a few more over the next ten minutes, I confirmed it was, in fact, a small, sustaining population.
Switching up to a panfish popper, I threw out to the pond’s center, and within a couple quick pops, had a big swirl come up behind, take and moments later break me off. Anguishing for a second, I quickly noticed the popper float to the surface and before I could c0nsider what manner of run-off may, or may not have made it’s way into the drink, I went after it. This was no ordinary popper. Given to me as part of a selection of panfish poppers by FFJ Photo Editor Tim Romano, hand-lathed and crafted by the legendary Gaines outfit in PA, I had to have it back.
Standing on the bank, watching the silt clouds begin to clear, I thought: “Fish aren’t that smart,” tied the thing back on and began wipping towards the lily pads again. Within a couple pops, he took it again. Figuring it was a bass, I was waiting for lift off but it simply made several strong runs towards the reeds. A few minutes later, I released the biggest bluegill I’d ever caught. Easy 1.5 lbs, no BS. And of course I had no camera, no cell phone, no nothing.
A couple days later, I dragged FFJ Editorial Director Colin Wiseman down to the pond so he could get in on the action and document the company campus. Though the ‘gills we caught were no doubt solid, Brutus Bluegill would not be fooled that quickly again.
Having just returned from my first bonefishing expedition, I wondered how the spiny rays and summer trout tribs would feel in comparison. Staring at a small pond filled with small fish, vibrating with stoke, it was clear that adventures can be had accross the parking lot, as easily as accross the ocean.
PS before you go Mapquesting, charging down here and salivating over our bluegills, note the pond is gated… and I have the key.