May has ended with blessed wet soil.
The Spring that Wasn’t has been good to me. It has given me more quality bass than I can count without scrolling through the cell phone album for date and time notations on the photographs that recur with monotonous sameness. Each bass was a thrill at the time that too soon blended with those before and after. I release them all but keep all in the camera where I can always look at them even if most I cannot specifically remember. But that phase of the year is winding down now, the ponds choke with weeds, and obligations nettle my conscience and remind me that there are other things I must do instead of fish.
Among the fish there was the turkey season as a stressful distraction that stretched beyond a fortnight and ended with tag out a month ago today. I am a full 71 now, a bit older but better in health than I was when my good ride of Spring 2018 had its early beginning while winter still ruled—dark days when I began a climb back into the light. Somehow in addition to the birds and the bass I accomplished a worthy bit of planting. There have been days that I longed for the gale-driven flurries over the lake at Washington as I watched my bobbers bounce in the chop like boats in a storm. Life was so much less complicated then. On a warm humid morning recently I stopped at the lake for the first time since early April to kill some time before going to a medical appointment. There were numerous people around walking and fishing, but to me it was like a glory time had passed. But springs and summers are as fleeting as other seasons and the glory time will return.
I am now enough satisfied with my spring and have the garden plots sufficiently full to feel the old pleasure of watching the daily growth changes. As time consumes us it also brings back around the recurrences that we crave. In only three weeks will arrive Solstice and the shortening of days, the loss of light, which tells hunters that our time is coming.
I have seen new walnuts forming in my grove and mowed around seedlings that need moving on the wet days upcoming. Blackberries are in bloom and old weather sayings claim a wet spell now will damage the crop. Raspberry canes along my trails already hold the promise of a pie. The fine mulberry at the back gate has produced another massive crop and birds are enjoying the season’s first fruit harvest. The spring squirrel season arrived May 19 but there is little interest in it among hunters. The home place grays are now both vocal and visible in defiance of their legal jeopardy.
Normally a soul that clings to zones of comfort and familiar procedures, I have had the urge to venture to new waters—though not far—and to try new things, such as fishing for bass using small live bluegills as bait. This requires a double faith—faith not only that the bass will bite them but that I can catch the bait before angling for the bass. This resulted in one of the greatest bass days the waters have ever given me: three fish 18, 19, and 20 inches respectively.
The ideal bluegill for this is one not much longer than two inches, which is about the minimum you can obtain by angling for them with red worms. If I were using chubs or shiners I would like larger baitfish, but the bluegill’s deep panfish body adds bulk with shorter lengths. As a boy and younger adult I usually baited with minnows and hooked them through both lips, so I adopted this same method with bluegills. I’ve been using a large red hook designed for plastic worms and it has been very effective at holding fish without hooking them deeply. This is important because I “keep” bass only in the phone camera and strive to release them in the best possible condition. I rig the bluegills under small weighted floats and add a split shot near the hook to restrict the bait’s movement somewhat.
This setup is not easy to cast for distance with baitcasting tackle but you don’t need to throw it very far. Most bass strikes in ponds and small lakes occur within a few yards the bank. If a bass takes a bluegill of this size it will be a good quality fish fully capable of swallowing the bait, but I keep the reel on free spool and let them run out plenty of line. My last catch, a 19-inch, took out forty yards of line and went airborne several times during the long distance fight.
This fishing pattern has numerous false alerts because the bait is able to pull the float under. I use the smallest float practical because I don’t like much clutter between the bait and rod tip. It’s when the float stays under too long and the line begins to peel from the reel that you need to grab the pole and get ready. I do several hook sets when I feel the fish’s weight.
The only aggravation I’ve had doing this has been from painted turtles that sometimes attack my bluegills and have twice chewed the tails off them.
May was kind to me but I welcome its passage because it marks significant attainment and introduces a laid-back period. Spring 2018 is history now and for me it has been good history that I can savor until another twelvemonth passes and I must try again at personal history-making if I am still a part of this visible strand of eternity. Time changes our individual worlds by additions and deletions of things we love and things we do not love—may kind fate balance these to our favor and may circumstances grant us some ability to manage our destiny.