It was like the lady said, “the only people able to fish mid-week are college students and millionaires.”
I lacked the nerve to tell her that a third option existed. One that ensured her lake was fished by more pedestrian types, but as she’d afforded me a glimpse of the doings of “one-percenters,” and while my social position was closer to “wait-staff on holiday”, I couldn’t help but aspire to the manor-borne.
… and as she grilled me on whose boat it was I was in, its lack of CF number and absence of parcel markings, how my orange “guest” ribbon was smothered by the fishing vest I wore, I wasn’t so sure the manor was something to be desired … now that “Mrs. Havisham” had given me a glimpse of the lake and her daily inquisition.
She relented somewhat when I admitted to being a guest, and thankfully I remembered the name of my host (whom I’d just met through an intermediary), and she allowed as how I could fish the lake after-all, now that my pedigree had been established.
I now shared the same trepidation as Pip felt when he relinquished the grip of Joe Gargery and the gate of the Havisham household clanged shut behind him.
It was true, I was in the grip of Great Expectations given the history of the venture and the stories of the fish that lived there.
It had been a Christian enclave or camp sometime during the 1950’s, and as the visitors became fewer the camp had shuttered its doors, but not before stocking the lake with Florida strain Largemouth Bass imported by the Pensacola Fish Company. Back in that day the average fish size had been nearly three pounds, and the owners of the facility had kept close tabs on the health of the lake to ensure its population remained vibrant and viable.
Now that the lake had changed from private enclave to a small neighborhood of bankside parcels, each homeowner was charged with ensuring guests adhered to neighborhood regulations and the community conservation ethic.
It was a bit of refreshing change knowing the community was intent on preserving both lake and the fishery.
I was equipped with a large badge that had to remain visible at all times, I was required to release all fish caught, and made responsible for all the gear I had to portage into the area, to make sure the environment remained clean and litter free.
Naturally the badge clattering on my waistcoat drew every errant coil of fly line like a magnet, and it took me awhile before I could find a plainly visible locale that wasn’t in the path of a double-haul.
The same clipped-to-the collar locale “Mrs. Havisham” took umbrage to earlier …
The lake was quite pretty. Banks dotted with the occasional canoe or rowboat (no powered craft allowed), a shallow impoundment whose deepest area was no more than twenty feet. Mid-August is not the best time for reconnoitering a new bass lake, as fishing is limited to a brief bite in the morning and similar in the evening. Its location in the Sierra foothills meant daytime temps were only in the mid-Nineties, versus 100° and greater in the valley below.
“Fish greater than 10 pounds are common,” is what my host told me. He mentioned his son having landed one recently whose mouth was large enough to contain both his clenched fists …
… and while I did the customary mental translation, dividing by two and subtracting a couple of pounds, that still represented a good sized fish.
I was hoping my earlier suffering had paid my way to great fortune, despite the inhospitable mid-summer temperatures and unfamiliarity of my surroundings.
I sculled about the lake exploring while listening to the throaty growl of Mrs. Havisham’s inquisition of another boatful of anglers out of sight near the center island. One fellow having the audacity to protest he was neither student nor wealthy, but was on sabbatical from Starbucks and his pal worked the late shift at the local hardware conglomerate.
This seemed to satisfy the “Lake Police” and she returned to her deck and the company of a decaying wedding cake and a brace of mean-spirited hounds.
I couldn’t help think she was far more fearsome than the Fish & Game could ever be, and with both dogs in tow – could board and sink any interloper.
Here’s proof of the fishing, a small specimen framed by the contents of my “large fly” box. Rubber legs and earth tones proved to be more effective than my typical cast of red crayfish with their lemon-yellow and orange-orange highlights.
.. and something a bit bigger. Which gave a good accounting of itself wrestling me in the timber lining the bank, and I lost plenty of flies getting the cast back into those welcome shadows. August is like that, fish unwilling to chase, but willing to eat if it’s dropped on their doorstep.
Note the near-absence of the customary black marled lateral line. These fish were nearly all dark olive, with only the light belly to break up their camouflage.
Fishing private waters should always be accompanied by a small token of esteem for your host. Of late I’ve been fortunate to secure local access to a number of small impoundments, and most get a double batch of Peanut Butter Arkansas Traveller’s, and a second bag of Oatmeal Raisin, it’s a culinary one-two punch that few can resist.
Rumor has it my return visit is now assured.
… and if he was napping his wife said she’d let me fish so long as I had an armful of baked goods. I’m thinking I might be able to lure the Lake Police with a similar offering, knowing how even dogs change to a more reasonable disposition when tempted with a cookie …
I may attempt this again in mid-May … lots of cruising fish visible and the Spring top water bite looks to be something special here.