116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A bountiful birthday fishing foray
Wild Side column: 17-inch smallmouth made wishes come true
Orlan Love - correspondent
Nov. 22, 2022 2:28 pm
Birthdays have never been a big deal to me, and my 74th on Halloween looked to be an even smaller deal than usual.
The morning was to be spent picking up leaves and piling them into my ever-expanding compost complex for use next spring in mulching my vegetable garden.
I don’t mind the task — its long-term benefits outweigh the short-term discomforts of the exertion — but it falls well short of fun.
The evening was to be spent handing out mini-candy bars to the costumed youth of Quasqueton and environs — an activity a little higher on the enjoyment scale than raking leaves, but still well short of actual fun.
In between I hoped to squeeze in a few hours of “me” time — wading the preternaturally clear waters of the Wapsipinicon on an autumn afternoon crowned with blue sky and golden sun.
By the end of October all the gaudy, loosely attached leaves had blown away, leaving only the russet foliage of the oaks still clinging to their branches. Their reflection in the calm waters of the Wapsi doubled their understated beauty.
A walk through Iowa’s highest expression of natural majesty, while certainly enjoyable, mightn’t itself rise to the level of fun unless the fish cooperated.
That seemed less than a sure thing in the wake of recent cold fronts that had blunted the fishes’ appetites. They still had to eat, but not all day every day as they had for most of September and October. If you could not be there all the time, you had to be there at the right time, which was impossible to predict.
My internal algorithms, based on decades of poorly stored scraps of mental data, suggested I should fish in the deepest, slowest water available and I should present my lure in a manner as close as possible to stationary.
Casting from midstream to rocky shorelines, I strained to maintain contact with my jig as it slowly descended from the bank toward the rock-sand transition in the deepest parts of the pools.
There I thought the fish must be, and there they were, betraying their presence by the feeblest of bites, which were barely distinguishable from the sensation conveyed when my tungsten jig grazed a stream-bed rock.
The smallmouth bass were scattered in groups along the bank so that long stretches of biteless retrieves were occasionally interrupted by periods of intense activity in which fish could be caught on several successive casts.
As I usually do, I kept track of them as a means to accumulate the data needed to improve my algorithm. My count stood at 20 — mostly sub-adults — when the descending sun warned I had better stop fishing or be late for the trick-or-treaters.
Like a sleep enthusiast who repeatedly hits the snooze button, I declared “last cast” several times, and on the one that proved to really be the last, I hooked the day’s only photo-worthy fish, a 17-inch smallmouth.
Though I did not get any actual birthday cards, many people wished me a happy day through Facebook and other electronic greetings. That fish made their wishes come true. Happy birthday to me.