May 27, 2012
Once again I hoped to get down to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire’s Back Bay area fishing early this morning with one of my cousins, particularly my cousin Jon. However, once again Jon and the rest all opted to sleep in. So my brother-in-law Don and I set off in the green canoe promptly at 5 AM.
Lake Winnipesaukee is a spectacular place at 5 AM. This stunning lake is almost always placid at sunrise. There are no other boats. It’s truly like it must have been a hundred years ago. Quite frankly, I’m brutally exhausted from the week. The latest I’ve gotten up is 6 AM and the earliest I’ve made it to bed is 12:30 AM. But I’m not missing fishing at this time of day. No matter how tired I am.
I paddled Don strategically along the shoreline all the way to Back Bay so he could cast for smallmouth bass. Don’s had some trouble keeping them buttoned on all week. Sure enough he hooked and lost a decent one. I was surprised he didn’t get more than one shot but the smallie fishing has slowed tremendously since my first couple of days here.
When we slipped under the little bridge into Back Bay ten minutes before 6 I saw fishing was going to be even tougher. There were already two bass boats working ahead of us. On the plus side however, these bass dudes all throw the same baits. I haven’t seen one other fly fisher this week other than myself and whoever is with me. Therefore our flies are something these fish don’t see often.
Despite my positive look on things, fishing was slow. We caught a couple of rock bass and a tiny chain pickerel. As far as good action and a quality fish, it wasn’t happening. But, the day was spectacular. Back Bay was crisp and the fog was lifting from the surface ahead of Don.
After I maneuvered Don into all my hotspots with poor results, I took us into the middle of Back Bay. The middle looks hopeless at a glance as far as popper fishing goes. It appears like deep black water with nothing more than the occasional breaching microwave sized common snapping turtle. But upon a closer look, down about 8 feet are the tops of some weeds. This is where back in the day; I pulled out the larger pickerel and largemouth bass. It was a long shot, but I told Don to keep casting.
Don's a quiet guy. When it happened, the canoe rocked and all I heard was his feet move. Then he grunted so I looked just in time to see a hefty largemouth get airborne. He had a good one. Like I’ve mentioned already, Don’s hooked a lot of good bass this week, but they just keep spitting the hook. I held my breath as he battled. Moments later his trophy was flopping at canoe side.
The bucket-mouth was tired and ready to be landed. Don wasn’t sure how to get him in the boat. He fumbled with lipping the bass then the grabbed for the tail. Neither attempt worked so then he stared at the flopping bass. “The lower lip Don! Grab it like you mean it!” I shouted. He did. And in one meaningful sweep Don lipped and lifted his prize. One fish can make a day!
For the afternoon fishing session, Becky and I went over to Alton, New Hampshire and met up with my good friend Dan Swift. Dan’s a long time pal who lives in New Jersey. As most of my friends, Dan worked for me in the fly shop in Jackson, Wyoming about 20 years ago. He has a family and a busy job and we haven’t fished together in about four years.
We fished a small gorgeous lake called Hills Pond. The weedy lake is crawling with chain pickerel, largemouth bass, bluegill and likely other species as well. Dan and his family are staying on the lake with their good friend Dave Davenport. We only had two hours to fish but we took advantage of it. Dave generously guided the three of us and we landed about a dozen pickerel (Dan caught most), two chunky bluegill, two largemouth and I caught a yellow perch on the popper.
Tonight we took the kids fishing in the boatyard and they had a ball. Five year old Sierra caught one of the largest rock bass I’ve seen since my days in Wisconsin. Then we all went for a night boat ride in my cousin Marks new boat. Whenever something is new, you always take all the precautions. We checked all Marks running lights and we counted lifejackets. Of course, we did this a half mile from camp. We had eleven of us on board and realized we were short one lifejacket. That’s when Jon piped up, “It’s okay Mark. That boat cushion passes as a floatation device. We’re all set”. We went for it. What are the chances of being pulled over anyhow?
It’s Murphy’s Law. Two hours later near the end of our boat ride the blue lights were flashing and a police pulled us over. Mark had his docking lights on and they were too bright for oncoming boats. The marine officer was very cool and said he’d issue only a warning as long as we passed a full safety check. Guess what - the seat cushion did not count as a lifejacket.
Jon walked to the bow with his head hung low. Mark was bummed. The good news however was the officer was still only going to issue a written warning. Then he’d loan us a lifejacket and escort us home – just to cover his own butt. After exactly eight minutes he came back to us. His pen wasn’t working in order to give Mark the documented written warning. So technically now there was no warning. Even better, the officer found a lifejacket floating in the lake earlier in the day. He gave it to Mark and said, “Here’s a present for your new boat”. A free lifejacket, no warning and have nice night. It’s a wonder he didn’t give us a six pack that he confiscated from teenagers earlier!
Another fantastic day in New Hampshire has passed. Tomorrow is my last day. The plan is to smallie fish early in the main lake with cousin Jon and then to Back Bay one last time. I love that place.