So, an older gentleman (Bill) comes into my workshop one day asking about having some furniture repair done and notices the small collection of vintage fly rods on the wall and my “L.L. Bean Fly Fishing” hat (it’s my favorite hat because it was free for filling out a credit card application) (apparently, if you list your income as $0.00, you need to pay in cash) and starts talking fishing. Bill’s eyes started welling up as he went on about the excitement of taking a big bucket-mouth on a top-water hair popper. Well, after a while, the man let on about how he could no longer launch his 14’ Sylvan by himself. Turns out that he gave the boat away to a young, landlocked bass fisherman who, apparently, had no time to take the old man out fishing once in a while (hint, hint). I took the bait and offered an invitation. On my way to pick Bill up, I had visions of having to load a massive amount of gear but, when I got to his house, he was at the end of the driveway with his only gear being a beefy 10’ fly rod, a sparsely equipped vest, and an empty milk jug.
Once on the lake, Bill and I were the same age; we were two twelve-year old boys on an adventure, grinning ear to ear. We were both regulars to this lake and had the same routine; fish the lily pads at the launch, hit the mouth of an inlet, catch a bucketful of smallies off a particular rock pile, slam a few floats and docks, then head to where the big boys were (or so we had heard). The folklore, of the area, claimed that in one particular spot, there were largemouth bass so big that it would take two people to boat one and, there was one fish (The General) that would make the others look like bait. The General, according to the man who owned the camp where the legendary monster lived, was so smart and wily, that he had never even been close to being hooked. Bill and I decided to drop anchor and stay until one of us hooked-up with The General (as a bonus, the camp owner’s sister was sun bathing on the dock). By this time, I was over being in awe of Bill’s accuracy with placing his fly so, when he tied on the biggest hair bug he had and cast thirty feet into the wind to put his offering under the dock, I was not surprised. Bill tucked his fly rod under his leg, lit a smoke, popped open a cool beverage, and sat back like he was sipping martinis on a pleasure cruise. I tossed my “Basstermator” up against the banking, gave a tug so the fly plopped into the water, followed Bill’s lead, and just sat back. After what I thought seemed like a lifetime, I started to think it was time for a twitch of the fly but, bill caught me in mid thought an said, “Not yet”. All of a sudden, there was a huge splash and it appeared, to me, that Bill’s hair bug had a big customer. Bill didn’t move a muscle; he just sat, watched, and started counting backward from ten. When Bill hit one, he gave his fly just the slightest of movement and the water exploded. The monster tried every trick in the Largemouth Handbook to get away but, the combination of Bill’s heavy duty tackle, and his years of experience, won the fight at the dock and one more skirmish when the bass saw the boat. Here is the conversation that took place while Bill was trying to boat The General;
Me, “Get the net, get the net”
Bill, “Its o.k. I’ve got him”
The General, “Snap!”
Just as soon as Bill Tried to power rod him into the boat, the beast gave a head shake and set himself free.
Bill said, “Its o.k. We’ll give it fifteen minutes and try again. We have the recipe. Why don’t you move the boat down aways and we’ll drift back into position”. I moved the boat upwind, cut the motor, and Bill peed in his milk jug (while commenting about how many fishermen, usually drunk drown each year from trying to pee over the side of the boat), lit another smoke and took a few pulls off his beverage. We eventually drifted back into casting position and Bill laid his hair bug in exactly the same spot as before. This time the big boy didn’t try to stun his prey; he inhaled and Bill was fully prepared with a sweeping strip set. A short battle ensued with Bill, again, getting the upper hand. Here’s the conversation;
Me, “Bill, get the net, get the net!”
Bill, “It’s o.k., I’m gonna get him upside the boat and lip him.”
Me, “Bill, I’m just sayin.”
Bill got his adversary upside the boat and I think both of them freaked. Bill had never seen a bass that size before, and the fish had never come face to face with a human. As soon as Bill touched the bass’s mouth, the bass again shook his head so powerfully that Bill couldn’t hang on.
Bill said something like this, “*&^%$#@^%$&double####!”
After Bill calmed down, he said, “Its o.k. we’ll give it fifteen minutes and try again. We have the recipe and oh, by the way, can you man the net next time?”
Upwind we go. Downwind we drift. Bill repeats his cast perfectly. I grab the net. The bass inhales the hair bug and about half way to the boat, The General has apparently had enough and snaps the fifteen pound test leader like a dry twig. This was the only conversation for the rest of the day;
Me, “Well Bill, you’re the only person to ever hook The General”
Bill, “ All I did was smarten him up a little more.”