Saturday, November 7, 2009

Closing My Haw Bass Season

It was with a twinge of sadness that I worked my way down the trail to my favorite stretch of Haw River water. Night temperatures have begun to fall into the 30s and tonight we have our first freeze warning for the year, usually the closing bell for catching largemouth bass on the river. This might well be 2009's last trip to my home waters and I was feeling sort of bummed about it.

I haven't fished the Haw as much as I would have liked recently as a chunk of prime season was taken with my ankle injury, but, according to my fishing log, this was still my 22nd pursuit of shoals largemouth on this pretty stretch of Piedmont water this year. I suspected the bass were hunkering down for the season, but I had to be sure, both for myself and because I owed a trip to these waters to a couple of good friends. I wanted to be certain the fishing year was truly done before I put them off until spring.

The hike was a bit more challenging than normal as my felt soled wading boots, grippy as glue on the wet rocks of the river, were banana peel slippers in the dry, fallen leaves that carpeted the trail. The half-mile hike was a skate, but spiders no longer draped the path with their fine webs, so keeping my head down, focused on the footing, was not a problem. I began to rethink the layers I had donned as the effort, and the thin sun streaming through the bare branches, began to bring a sweat, but knew that once I stepped into the cool water, things would chill quickly and I would appreciate the extra comfort.

I was surprised to find the river still running somewhat high and fairly dirty, remnants of rains from early in the week that I thought would have made their way into Lake Jordan by now. No matter, I had planned to fish deep and with dark colors anyway, so the conditions didn't alter my thinking significantly. I skipped by a quarter mile of my favorite skinny water, certain that the topwater bite was long gone, and proceeded upstream to the wider, slower, deeper stretches where, if they were to be caught, the bass would be waiting.

And the strategy seemed to be solid as, shortly after slipping into the river below a large pool, I hooked a good fish deep along an undercut island, only to have my hookset lose its purchase after a brief, frenetic tussle. The fish, once loose, went along his way, having provided what would prove to be my lone encounter with a finned creature for the day. I spent the next couple of hours bumping a black Murray's Maruder along the rocky bottom and swinging dark streamers through the slower, deeper sections of the river, with no results beyond the simple joy of doing so.

And that simple joy, along with being out in the cool autumn day and appreciating the final flash of fall colors, more than made the day what a good fishing day should be. With a smile on my face, I strode back up the trail to the truck, knowing that the year was done, but already looking forward to next spring when, God willing, I will return to this small piece to personal nirvana and start things up all over again.

In the meantime, trout like it cold....

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