Monday, August 2, 2010

Poppers, Points, and Lily Pads

The cool, rainy summer Sunday morning was heaven sent, perfect for rolling over, pulling the sheets tighter to the chin, and listening to the soft sound of showers filtering through the tree cover. So, what was I doing waiting for the sun to come up, wading waist deep, seventy-five yards out on a reservoir point, huddled in my rain shell against a chilly downpour?

Fishin’ with the boys, of course.

Our local largemouths are not very happy with the recent heat wave and have been hard to coax out of the shallower waters of the local ponds and rivers. It stood to reason, then, that big water would be the place to scare some up. JimBob and Puddin’ had concocted a plan to wade some Harris Lake points at daybreak, find where the deep water began, and catch bucketmouths in transition. It sounded plausible, and fun.

Harris Lake is the source and outlet of cooling water for Progress Energy's Shearon Harris nuclear power plant and the warming effect of the plant’s heat exchange processes has created an environment that encourages the year-round growth of some big, big bass. Normally the domain of fast bass boats and deep water jigging, there's not much fly fishing going on there so I'd only been on the lake once before. But I jumped at the boy’s invitation, ready to find those big bucketmouths.

We dropped JimBob’s johnboat into Harris just before daybreak, though it was hard to recognize the time for the heavy cloud cover and intermittent rain showers. A quick trip across the lake put us on the points that JimBob and Puddin’ had carefully scouted via Google Earth – 300 yards of reedy shoreline and extended fingers of land. The points themselves were hard bottomed, but the transition between them, and the shoreline coves, were knee deep in hydrilla – beautiful, but challenging to wade. We walked in and waited for the sun, and the bass, to rise.

My fishing habits carried me into the coves while the others speculatively cast towards deeper waters. The bass were scarce in both areas, though we each found a few bream and small bass for our prospecting efforts. I did lose my obligatory big fish, a chunk that came out from under an old stump to smash my black, leggy popper, only to shake it as I pulled him to within ten feet – close enough to taunt me. Business as usual.

As the sun crept into the sky and began burning off the rainclouds, we switched course and headed towards the plant, to warmer waters and the shorelines of lily pads. We spent the next few hours wading the pads, dropping poppers into the gaps, looking for hidden bass.

JimBob managed to land the only decent bucketmouth of the day, while Puddin’ got the award for novelty, catching a surprisingly scrappy white catfish and a monstrous plastic lizard. Whoever lost the lizard had some seriously large lunkers in mind. The best two fish of the day weren't landed, the one I left in the cove and a bruiser that slipped away from JB when it straightened the hook of his small popper. Two words, JimBob... saltwater hardware.

As the heat of the day settled in, we finished in a small cove, taking turns pitching small poppers to bream from the johnboat. JimBob amazed the crowd by tying a tiny dry fly, a stimulator, onto his 9wt and making it work. He also livened the day by making “nuke plant” the standard response for anything that seemed the least bit weird. We said it a lot.

In the end, it was a fine way to whittle away a rainy morning, fish success or no. It was a truly novel angling experience, and one that I look forward to repeating as fall approaches and the pads come alive once again with bass. My thanks to the boys for a fine morning on the water...

... even though rolling over and pulling up the sheets would have been pretty darn good too.

Acknowledgement: The picture of the dapper Mr. JimBob is not my photo, but one taken by Puddin' with JB's camera. At the time, I was off trying to retrieve my right sandal from deep mud in three feet of water. Ahhh... Good times.


Feather Chucker said...

Great post. Sounds like it would be a good place to do some video of some poppers cruising by the pads.

Unknown said...

Love it! Those big pads have got to have a bass hiding under them in this recent heatwave. Also love the placing of the flybox. Great eye man!

Bill Trussell said...

Hi Mike
I have been using the poppers lately and having some success. The problem is the surface water temps at 90, which has cut down on the takes. Do you know what your water surface temps was when you were getting the hits? I really enjoyed the post. Great shot with the lilly pads, very original. I am one of your followers if you would like to join our group my blog link is