Although my first fish was a stalked rainbow trout, the bulk of my childhood fishing involved bass. It all started when I lived across from a handful of percolation ponds in San Jose. For about six years through elementary and middle school I'd spend my Sunday mornings watching Bill Dance, Roland Martin, and Bass Masters shows on TV. After I was sufficiently fired up and a few bowls of cereal deep, I'd throw together my little spinning outfit, tie on a rubber jig, and drag my brother out for a few hours of fishing. With every fish, I'd mimic my idol (Bill Dance) and say, "Ohhh, Son!" or "See yaa" with my best southern drawl.
A few years later, I moved to the south and my drawl only got thicker. I spent my high school years jumping fences to fish the farm ponds of northern Texas. These were the ponds dreams are made of. Bass, bluegill, and green sunfish abound. Although most of my fishing was done with a rubber worm, Zara Spook, or some other large piece of plastic clad in treble hooks, Texas is where I began fly fishing in earnest. I'd stand on hay bales casting to feisty nesting pan fish all afternoon instead of doing my biology homework. Or I'd spend the weekend with a buddy hiding between bulrushes throwing poppers up against downed trees. Of course one of us always had an eye peeled for a rancher with a shot gun!
In college, it was more of the same. My buddy and I would sneak onto one of those ponds they put in the middle of new housing complexes and catch bass until the sun set. Since moving away from college (that was over a decade ago) I've done very little fishing for bass. During this season of my life, the trout of Northern California and the Sierra are the object of my affection.
So...when my friend Aaron asked if I wanted to sneak away from city life for a 1/2 day to take a stab at some bass fishing, I didn't think twice. We were out the door and over the Golden Gate bridge by 6:00 a.m.! I have to admit, my expectations were low. I don't know if it was because the coffee hadn't kicked in, or that my experiences fishing for bass on the fly in California have yielded uninspiring results over the years. We drove up a dusty road to the main lake, opened a gate that we probably shouldn't have and there it was. It looked fishy enough but I was still hesitant. I was happy enough to be out of the house and on the water. Fish were only going to be a bonus.
About fifteen minutes into casting poppers off the grassy shoreline, I had a tiny little bass sip my popper from the surface. The 6/7wt rod barely bent, but the skunk was off my back! Soon after that, we came around a point into the main lake. There was a nice little grassy shallow section followed by a deeper drop off. Low and behold, that's exactly where Aaron had a nice one crash his popper. As the morning went on, I switched to a brown wooly bugger (you can't go wrong with a bugger, right?) and let it sink deep before slowly retrieving back up the drop offs. Sure enough, the tecnique worked wonders!
The rest of the morning Aaron and I kept our streamers deep and slow. The bass fought hard, looked healthy, and were plentiful. To make things even better, we had the lake to ourselves. A perfect morning of solitude just minutes from our homes in the middle of San Francisco. As we walked back to the car, I couldn't help reminisce about the bass ponds of my youth. There's no doubt I'll be back here for more!