When I reached the pond, I immediately saw a large swirl near the bank close to me. In my head I thought, "Well that couldn't have been a bass. Maybe a turtle or a catfish or something." To be honest, I don't know what that bog swirl was, but now I think it was probably one of the resident piglet bass with whom I have come to form a love-hate relationship. That day I saw multiple very large bass around the pond and I was in no way prepared for that.
Using the flies and gear I had with me, I did land a lot of healthy sunfish that day. However, even while I was catching these fish, I was already plotting a return with appropriate gear to try and tangle with one of these green beasts cruising the shorelines.
The return to the pond happened a week later on another stellar late September morning. I brought the same 3wt as the first trip...but also a 9' 7wt to throw serious meaty flies in hopes of hooking one of those bass. Remember how I said it was a wall of brush that had to be navigated to reach the water? Here's some pictorial evidence of just how overgrown the trek to this little body of water was that fall.
Starting off that morning, I fished a deer hair mouse and quickly found some willing rodent eaters. I landed a few smaller bass, then had a large shadow chase down my mouse only to refuse the meal at the last second. To say I was deflated would be a massive understatement. I could see the fish coming hard at the mouse, kept it moving, and was mentally prepared for the eat...only to have it not happen.
Later that morning I had switched from the mouse to a large single hook streamer in a sunfish color pattern. The morning was drawing to a close and my hopes of a big bite were fading when I saw a pair of shadows closing on my streamer from behind. I never felt a thing, I only saw the white insides of a mouth opening briefly and seeing my mostly yellow streamer disappear. I strip set and my 7wt buckled with the fish diving head first into a woody blow down. The fight was over quickly and I lost. The fish wrapped me around wood and broke me off in seconds. My ass was kicked.
In the spring of 2017 I returned and had some better luck on the resident bass of this little woodland pond. The only problem, I never hooked one of the really solid fish. As usual, the bigger fish were highly visible along the shores of the pond but I got refusal after refusal. I was starting to feel like I had missed my only chance to land one of the bruisers when that fish wrapped me in wood the fall before.
This winter and early spring has been particularly brutal for fishing in SE Ohio. Heavy rains, high winds, even intermittent snow has made the fishing and the water conditions very difficult. I made a couple of short trips back to the wilderness pond only to find skittish bass and willing redears. I managed a few bass, but they were all small. Sure, I spotted a few big bass, but they were so skittish that landing a weightless streamer within 5' of them from 40+ feet away spooked them off for deeper water.
During the past week, I finally had a feeling that water conditions were going to allow better fishing because the overnight low temperatures were steadily climbing. This had to make fish more active and aggressive, I hoped. I returned to the pond after work on Thursday night with hopes to turn my luck around here. The redears were again willing to eat a well-placed dry fly, but the bass were still not cooperating. Near dark, things changed dramatically. I had switched to an articulated streamer imitating a sunfish when I made a mid-length cast from a beaver lodge along some heavy cover near the shore. The take was violent, hard, and I strip-set hard. There was plenty of cover nearby for the bass to dive into, but I gave the fish no line and hoped the 12lb Trilene Big Game tippet would hold. The fight was actually short and I got my hand in its jaws when the fish was still pretty green, and it thrashed my thumb pretty hard. Finally, though, I had victory over one of the behemoths of this little secluded pond.
My personal best largemouth had been 21", a fish that I landed a little less than a year ago in a different public pond in the area. This fish went 22.5", eclipsing my personal best. Late last fall I had purchased a new streamer rod, a Moonshine Outcast 9' 6wt, and this was just the second fish I have landed on the new rig. The rod has performed great and had plenty of backbone to keep this fish from getting me into trouble. What a way to break in a new rod! I didn't even attempt another cast that night. I released the big girl back to her haunt and headed for the car satisfied. Until next time, Miss Piggy.