Sunday, November 20, 2011

Big Mona

[I was digging around in the archives, where we keep the good Scotch, and I came across this post from the summer. It never made it up because, at the time, I was convinced I'd have part II to tell in just a matter of time. Well, winter's upon us, and part II never happened. I mean, hasn't happened, yet.]

The almost endless rain has put a damper on my carp fishing, and my stream smallmouthing as well, so I've been fishing some ponds for largemouth bass. One of these ponds is a heavily-fished public pond, so I'm not surprised that I've yet to pull out (or even see) any large bass. The other pond would appear on the face of it to be perfect: it's sort of private, being part of a residential community (and said residents do not fish it much, for reasons that I cannot divulge, lest I clue you into its location), and it is virtually impossible for anybody to fish it effectively (for reasons that I cannot divulge, for the same reason). I say "virtually impossible" because I, in fact, can fish it very effectively, not because I am skilled but for other reasons...that I cannot divulge. Let's just say that no laws are being broken, and we'll leave it at that.

The problem is that in two trips, I'd managed only some moderately respectable bluegills and some very small bass. I can be pretty happy fishing water that will give up the occasional fourteen to sixteen inch bass; at that size, they will put a pleasing bend into even my stout six weight bass rod. But this pond failed to do so on my first trip, with the fly . On my second, I left the fly rod at home and worked every likely bit of shoreline cover with some spinner-baits. This, I reasoned, would reveal what sort of potential this pond had. Well, again I failed to catch anything of any size. So I decided I needed some new ponds. I spent an afternoon poring over aerial photographs of my area, and marked about 30 different ponds on the map. That afternoon I also bought a new cap bearing the insignia of the local university where I work, reasoning that this might get my foot in a few doors. Also, according to my wife, my regular fishing cap is vile.

The following day, I took a shower, shaved, put on a clean shirt and my new cap, grabbed my map, and went to it. A few ponds, upon close inspection, were too small or weed-infested to be of interest. Eventually, I came to a farmhouse and was surprised to see "Lepomis" on the license plate of one of the trucks in the drive. Lepomis is the Latin name of the genus that contains the sunfishes. This could be really good, I thought! Eager, I knocked. When a woman answered, I explained that I was new to the area, looking for some fishing, and that from what I could tell from the maps, they had a pond. She grinned and said "Yes, we do have a pond. Two, in fact. And they're full of very, very large fish. We have a lot of five-pound bass, and some bluegills that are pushing two pounds." I tried to act cool. "But," she continued, "my husband is really into those fish and doesn't allow anybody else to fish them." I told her I understood, thanked her for her time, glanced around quickly to see if they had any motion-detecting cameras and/or large-bore firearms, and headed for my car. "I'm trying to think if there are any other ponds in the area..." she said as I'd turned to leave. This was a good sign. She was engaging me in conversation! We chatted a while longer, I turned to leave again, and she said "Do you have a card?". Why, yes I do...and I handed her the small slip of paper containing my name, phone number, and email address. Again I prepared to leave, but now her husband was coming up over the hill on his tractor. She said "Here comes the boss. I can't promise you he'll say yes." Well, the three of us chatted a long while, but in the end, he would not relent (or, at least he has not yet...I left my contact information with them and eagerly await a call...).

What is the point of this story you are now probably asking yourself. Well, I told you that story so that I could then tell you this story:

So here I was, faced with the prospect of more high-water carping, or heading back to one of my regular ponds and the micro-bass they contained. My seven-year-old son asked me if we could go fishing in the morning, something in which he has only shown moderate interest so far. I decided that maybe a pond full of little bass and bluegills might be just about right for a day of Fishing with The Boy, so I agreed. In the morning, we would take some worms and small spinners, and see if we couldn't get him a fish or two. Dawn found us loading the car, and soon we were on the water. It wasn't long before he got his first fish, and soon after a few more. Between the two of us, we managed a few respectable bluegills and several bass...small ones, of course. The Boy admitted to getting bored, so I agreed that we'd fish just a little while longer. Now I must digress here, just briefly. One important part of this story concerns my tackle. Because almost all of my fishing is done with a fly rod, my "conventional" gear leaves something to be desired. The Boy was using one of my nicer, but very old bass rods, fitted with a little spincast reel. I elected to take along a little spinning rod a neighbor gave me years ago. According the writing on the side, this rod is four and one-half feet long, best fitted with 4-8 pound test line, and designed to throw lures up to about one-billionth of an ounce. During the course of the morning, I missed several solid strikes from miniature bass because upon hookset, the rod would double-over and still not drive the hook home. It probably didn't help that I was throwing a small Panther-Martin spinner with dull, rusty, barbless hooks that, I am certain, has been in my tackle box since about 1983.

Now, with apologies to the authors (and, it occurs to me now, the readers) of the "Penthouse Forum", I say that I never thought this would happen to me. At some point during a very routine cast to a very routine spot (one we'd already fished, I think) my spinner stopped short, gave a little (as if hooked on a flexing branch), and then stopped again. I lifted the rod, thinking that perhaps I'd be able to get the lure loose. It was then that I noticed that my line was moving sideways, which was then followed, of course, by the realization that something alive was connected to the other end. In that brief moment I had enough time to wonder first if I'd hooked a large turtle; whatever it was, it was heavy, but also not very energetic. But some subtle shaking convinced me that I had a fish, so my second thought was that maybe I'd hooked a carp (though I had no reason to suspect they were in this pond). I commented, rather casually, to The Boy that I had a fish, and a good one at that. At this point, a large silver and green form materialized and at the same instant that I realized the fish was a largemouth bass, the fish came to the surface and jumped. No, it didn't jump. It wallowed. It opened its enormous maw, and wallowed. And then the spinner flew out of its mouth, and the great fish sank out of view. I made a few comments about the fish and its escape and then The Boy said "Daddy, what does #@&^#% and %&$^#% and #*&%@! mean? And why do you have that look on your face? Daddy, you're scaring me."

And so, when I say that I never thought this would happen to me, I didn't mean that I thought I'd never lose a fish. I didn't mean that I thought I'd never hook a bass that large (although it's true that I never expected that, either). What I mean is that I never thought I'd be that guy who casually tosses a junky lure on a junky rod and hooks a huge fish. Because I just don't fish that way. But I did, and it happened. And damn it, it was a really, really big bass. It was the biggest bass I have ever seen. I caught a bass on a live bluegill many years ago, as a kid, that was 22 inches long and weighed six pounds. Obviously, I can't say for sure how big this lost fish was, and my memory of the six pounder is clouded by years. But I've also caught a number of striped bass and carp exceeding ten pounds in the last few years, so I feel like I have a reasonably good "feel" for basic fish size. I think this bass, whom The Boy has taken to calling "Big Mona", was in the ball park of eight pounds.

Now, I'm faced with some real paternal/piscatorial conflicts. The Boy is now wildly enthusiastic about fishing. And he's damn near hell-bent on catching Big Mona. And I love to see this in him. But since I was the one who hooked and lost that fish, it's only right that I be the one to catch it, at least the first time, right? Right? My wife is disgusted with me. But it's because she doesn't understand, right? Right? The Boy isn't equipped to handle Big Mona. His casts still hang up in the trees, or splash down too hard. He'll scare her. If he does hook her, the reel will fail or the line will break, won't it? And if this happened, we'd all lose, right? Right?

What is the point of this story you are now probably asking yourself. Well, I told you this story so that when I do finally catch Big Mona, I can tell you that story.


  1. I look forward to the story about you catching big mona....or the story of you catching 2 pound gills.

  2. Ditto on what Clif said...

    PS-your son has a whole lifetime to catch big fish. Go get it :)

  3. Give the boy a mickey mouse rod and let him catch it. Kids will always out fish grown ups because they don't have thoughts of work creeping into their brains. Young kids are fishing machines.

    Talked to a local guy who's little kid brought in a 10lb bass. It got hooked in the eyeball and that paralyzed it enough for this little kid to bring it in on his own. Guy showed me a pic the bass was the size of the kid!

    Mad props for getting the boy into fishing. Some of my best memories as a kid were on the water.

  4. To be honest, you lost me when you decided not to shag the farmers wife. She could not have been more interested, yet you decided to pursue fishing.

  5. That fish is by rights yours! Go on an git it! The boy needs to learn a few hard lessons on life and no time like the present to begin learning them.

  6. Not everyone gets the pretty girl, the trophy, the big house on the by rights you should be the one to cath Big Mona...but if the boy is going to put more effort into it and succeeds..well in the win by all accounts....

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Damn Your Eyes!!!

  7. It's a sad, sad day indeed when anybody would come to a guy's fishing blog, and side with the fisherman's wife and against the fisherman. If you think I will forget your insubordination, you are sorely mistaken.

    Those of you who, instead, chose the right path, will also not be forgotten.

    And Sam Hall, I agree with your points. It is just unfortunate, for the boy, that unlike me, he cannot drive a car yet. It's a long walk to the pond, son.

  8. Stabone, I removed your comment because it was cheap and, well, just rubbish.

    Happy Thanksgiving.


  9. I didn't take it personally, since I'm not a steel header.

  10. i disagree about my post being cheap. i do agree that it was rubbish. i was under the impression that rubbish was welcomed here but i guess i was wrong. maybe i need to ask for snowshoes for x-mas. i am sorry if i offended anyone.

  11. I think part of your problem, Stabone, is your anonymity. Our standards for folks we don't know are higher (which isn't saying much).

    The fact that you know who we are, but we haven't yet figured out who you are, gives us a distinct advantage.

    In any case, I wasn't offended. I don't fish for steelhead anymore - just bass. My son is not allowed to fish for steelhead.

  12. I don't give a fuck if you disagree. Just one thing: if a fellow takes time to write a story, at least make a comment, positive or negative, that relates remotely to that story.

    Otherwise, please fuck off.


  13. I once knew a girl we called Big Mona, but only because she was really huge and her name was Mona. The things about this story that stick with me include 1) you showered, shaved, and put on a clean shirt to scout new fishing holes; 2) the adversity you overcame to even just hook Big Mona; and 3) the healthy competitiveness you feel against a child.

    You should choreograph a little dance to have ready, just in case you catch big Mona first.

  14. We called this fish Big Mona for the same reasons; that is, she was really huge, and her name is Mona.

    I've already got the dance ready. I've been humiliated by a lot of fishermen in my life, and I fully intend to turn the tables on my seven-year-old son, should I catch that fish first. As Zakur sort of said, life's a bitch.