Wednesday, July 2, 2014


It's been way too long since I've taken the time to sit down and write on this blog, and I feel bad for neglecting it. I have occasionally updated the blog's Facebook page with outdoor happenings, but this little corner of the Internet has sat quiet since December. There's several things I plan to write about in the next few weeks, and I hope you will indulge me by letting me look back over the last six months or so and catch things up around here. To start with, I wanted to write about a trip my wife and I made last week, and the frustrations (and rewards) of fishing a new spot.

Lake Ruth Ann, Small Country Campground, Louisa, VA
Last week the 2nd anniversary of this blog came and went without a mention on here, mainly because I was on a family vacation trip in Louisa, Virginia. My wife and I were staying with her extended family at the Small Country Campground, and visiting with people we only get to see a few times a year since the majority of her family live in Pennsylvania. We actually stayed in what was called the Manor House, which was built around a pre-Civil War era log cabin. What had me excited about the trip was finding out that the campground sat on the edge of a 25 acre private lake, and that it was open for fishing by anyone staying in the campground. After hitting the Internet to do a little research, I found out that it was called Lake Ruth Ann, and that it contained largemouth bass, bluegill, black and white crappie, and catfish. I was a little apprehensive about my chances of catching anything, because I had no idea if the lake was heavily fished or even fished out, but I decided to throw lots of fishing gear in the car for the trip.

Small Bluegill With Lily Pads in the Background
I packed my 8 wt flyrod along with my vest and fly boxes with the intentions of doing a good bit of flyfishing for both bass and panfish, and I also packed a baitcaster and spinning rod for bass, and an ultralight spinning rod for the panfish in the lake. I considered taking along some catfish gear, but decided that I already had enough fishing equipment to keep up with and find a place for in the car. I wanted to be prepared for almost anything because although flyfishing was my intention, I really wanted to be able to catch a few fish if the flyrod didn't work out. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, I grabbed the ultralight and a few spinners and headed down to the lake to check things out. What caught me off guard about this lake were all the small lily pads lining the shore and going almost unbroken all the way around the lake. These lily pads extended from the shore out about 20 - 30 feet depending on the area of the lake. There were some spots of open water around the banks, but the majority of the edges were completely covered.

Crappie from the first day
I picked one of the relatively open areas along the bank and made a few casts with a black and gold Rooster Tail spinner, and managed a nice black crappie and a small bluegill. I figured that this was a good sign, especially since I only had a few minutes of fishing time between unpacking and dark. The biggest challenge that I could see to flyfishing this lake was going to be finding enough open water to work a popper or streamer without tangling in the lily pads. I decided that since I had a week to figure it out I wouldn't worry too much about it on the first day. With a few fish caught, I headed back to the house for the night with a head full of plans about the week to come. I figured the next day I would get serious about trying to catch a few bass, especially since talking to a few other fishermen around the lake revealed that people were catching bass on a fairly regular basis, and one young fisherman told me he had caught a nice bass the day before we arrived. I had a vest full of flies and a large tackle box full of all kinds of bass lures, and I thought I had the situation well in hand. Unfortunately I would find reality to be an entirely different situation.

The next day found me down at the lake with a spinning rod in hand rigged up with a plastic frog imitation rigged weedless. I figured that with the challenge of fishing the lily pads and the amount of bullfrogs I had heard the evening before, a weedless frog would be just the thing to catch a few bass with. I fished this particular lure for a couple hours at a time over a two or three day period, without much success. It worked wonderfully for fishing through the thick cover of the lily pads, and I had a missed strike or two, but I couldn't seem to hook up. At one point I switched to a wacky rigged soft plastic jerkbait (Senko-style lure), and manged to hook a nice bass that broke the line as I got it in close to the bank. I'll chalk this one up to fisherman's error, because the line actually broke at the knot and I was fishing 14lb test that was brand new. All I can figure is that I must not have tied the knot correctly for it to break that way.

Solo Flyrod Fish of the Trip
 Then came the most exciting and heartbreaking moment of the trip. I was fishing the frog and had casted out past the lilies to some deeper water, when I felt the thump and saw my line moving. I set the hook and the rod doubled over, and then one of the biggest largemouth bass I've hooked in quite a while jumped out of the water and threw the hook with a violent head shake. I hesitate to try to guess the size of a fish that got away, but this time I'm going to try anyway. I know losing a fish always makes it seem bigger, but my best estimate was that this fish was in the 5 - 6 lb range (and maybe larger). Regardless of its size, it was tough losing that fish after several futile attempts at catching a bass. I felt encouraged that I might be on the right track, but I wasn't getting very many strikes on the frog and decided to switch things up.

I had originally come with the intentions of doing a good bit of flyfishing, and I decided that it was time to change things around for an evening and get the flyrod out. I picked one of the few spots that had enough open water to fish, and started off throwing a streamer with the hopes of hooking up with a bass or possibly a crappie. After several minutes of unhooking lily pads and fighting underwater tangles, I decided maybe a popper would be easier to fish. Once again going with the frog idea, I tied on a green popping bug and began working the open areas between the lily pads. I never got any bass to strike the popper but I did manage to hook a nice bluegill, and I decided to call it a day shortly after.

First Largemouth
 The next couple days of the trip saw more of the same, with me fishing almost exclusively for bass. At this point it had become a personal goal to catch at least one largemouth out of this lake before the week was over. I must admit I was getting a little frustrated, however that just made me more determined to figure out something that would work. I switched lures around and tried buzzbaits early in the morning and late in the evening, along with a lipless crankbait and Texas rigged worms, all without any luck. However, I stuck with the frog the majority of the time, mainly because I was getting a few strikes and also because of the ease that I could fish it through the lilies. Finally a small largemouth decided it wanted a bullfrog lunch, and the first bass of the trip was in hand. As excited as I was to finally catch a bass, I couldn't help but think about the big one that had got away a few days before. I also knew that our week in Virgina was quickly coming to a close and that if I wanted to catch a big bass from this lake I would have to do it soon.
Last Day Bass

Friday evening came and I knew that this was my last chance of the trip to fish, since we would be packing up and leaving the next morning. Other than a few bluegill on spinners, I hadn't had any more luck since catching the small bass on a frog. It was time to get serious about catching a few bass, and I decided that maybe a change was in order. Working off of a hunch, I rigged up with a blue soft plastic jerkbait, fished wacky style, that used to be one of my go-to lures for summer bass fishing in ponds before I started chasing fish with the flyrod in rivers the majority of the time. After a short time fishing this lure, I hooked up with what felt like a good bass. Once again, this fish jumped but this time I remembered to lower the rod tip and managed to keep the fish hooked. After a good fight, and a wrestling match through the lily pads, I finally had a nice sized largemouth in had. It wasn't as big as the one that got away, (they never are), but it was the type of quality bass that I am happy to catch anywhere.

Last Fish of the Trip
 After a quick picture or two, I released her and kept fishing. I felt like I was finally onto something, and of course it took until the last day to figure these fish out. As time was running out, I did manage to hook up with another nice largemouth that wasn't quite as big as the first. Either way, these two bass were the highlight of the trip, as far as the fishing goes, and there were lots of great times and great memories made with family as well. It had been a while since I had done much bass fishing with non-fly tackle, and I forgot just how much of a challenge summertime bass in a lake can be. I think the challenge is what made these fish stick in my memory, it wasn't necessarily the size, or the numbers since I only caught 3 in a week, but the fact that I finally was able to catch a few fish by persevering and trying new techniques. I've often said that fishing has a lot of life lessons to teach, whether we as fishermen realize it or not. I'd like to think that this trip was one of those lessons, and the lessons I took from this trip were don't give up, and keep on trying until you get it right. Sooner or later, the big one will make a mistake and if you're lucky, it won't get away.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph


  1. Thanks for sharing this great experience with us. And I'm glad you're back on the blogging trail. I feared that you had given it up!

    1. Thank you Walt! Hopefully I'll do a little bit better about keeping things updated on here. I really enjoy writing this blog, but it seems like sometimes life gets busy and I don't take the time to sit down and write.

  2. Well, Joseph, I don't know where I have been for the last two years. Today is my first visit to your blog, and, I just wanted to leave a comment and let you know how much I enjoyed reading this post and some of the others. You do a great job with your blog. I am adding your link to my BlogBuddy Blogroll over on my blog and hope to share some readers with you. Stop over and say hello on my blog if you get the time. Would love to have you on board!

    1. Thank you Pond Stalker! Sorry for the late reply, for some reason Google wouldn't let me log into Blogger on my phone over the weekend and I was out of town and didn't have a computer. I will definately stop by and say hello on your blog, and I've added it to my blog roll as well. I'm glad you stopped by!

  3. Love to see that you wacky rig fish. It is one of my favorite styles as well, when I am not fly fishing. In fact I may give it a go today. Thanks for sharing and welcome back.

    1. Thanks Atlas! If I'm not fly fishing for bass I'm usually using a wacky rig or a lipless crankbait. If I can't get one or the other of those to work, I'm left scratching my head and taking a wild guess as to what to do. Good luck if you get a chance to fish today!


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