One of the joys of living in Atlanta is being strategically located to enjoy 4 distinct seasons, but mostly mild winters. Even though this year I am hoping for at least two weeks of really cold weather to kill the bugs, I can expect to fish right through the late fall and winter months. I have plenty of firewood ready, southern cornbread, and thick hot homemade soup for warming up after fishing those frosty days. Best of all, the fishing will be good! For those of us willing to venture out, there will be a world of fish to greet, and release.

As I slipped my boat onto a favorite lake late morning recently, I couldn't help reflecting on the beauty of this fall season. There was a tree that had turned 40% red, and another converting to a yellow/gold color. They were right on the water, so it wasn't the drought. It was FALL colors beginning. I felt a light breeze stirring from the SSE, mountains of clouds billowing high above me, a clear lake with an abundance of hungry fish, and me with my Orvis 8 foot Trident TLS 1 weight with a #14 black rubber water spider tied on! All was right with my world.

I readied myself: put on my dark glasses, pulled my lanyard with nippers and forceps over my head, slipped on my stripping finger cover, tucked in my fish towel over my belt, and put on my hat. "Bring 'em on", I thought, and on they came! I caught a fiesty gill on my first cast.

I know when I catch a fish on my first cast in this spot it is going to be a good day. The statistics don't lie. I broke out in a grin. Anticipation of a big day is great!

As I unhooked my first cast gill, I said "hey, you're gonna be famous, and you aren't even going to break a record". I quickly returned him to the water, and slipped another cast into the area where he and some brothers lurked, looking for a snack.

I know this guy wasn't a one pound gill, but I've learned to use THE LIGHTEST tackle so I can enjoy all sizes of fish. It works for me.

My go to fly was and is my first #14 rubber water spider pattern. That pattern has caught so many fish for me that you wouldn't believe me if I told you. I always probe water with black first to determine the fish's reaction. Again today, they were happy to see my water spider on the menu.

After about 35 minutes of catching gills, I hooked a particularly animated bluegill and as I played him back to my boat had that pulse exploding, adrenaline shooting experience. Half way to my boat, a big bass exploded on my poor bluegill! (SEE IMAGE LEFT) Immediately I went into my big bass drill. Actually I grabbed my new camera and started shooting image after image as I played the big bass.

(RIGHT) This is what an Orvis 8 foot 1 weight Trident TLS mid flex rod looks like with a big bass charging off to the depths at warp 2 speed. Meanwhile I switched to 4th speed and I'm trying to keep up with him on my trolling motor. The bass was taking my fly line home. He got all the way into my backing.

At a moment like this it is wise to keep a taught line, manage your drag tension, keep a low angle on your rod, and keep light pressure on the fish. After chasing him around for about 5 minutes, changing direction of pressure, and going lighter and lighter on my drag -- guess what? He got tired of messing with me and surfaced. The image below left was shot from 15 feet with a standard lens.

This was a tense moment. One mistake and this guy was gone. I held my breath until I could slip my Boga grip over his jaw and get a grip. One false move and the frayed 4 pound tippet could pop. The size 14 fly could fall out. So many things could go wrong. I told myself "OK, ease the boat to him carefully. Gently slip the boga grip into his mouth. Let the grip retractor go. GOT HIM!"

As many times as I've been privileged to run through my "big bass drill" I never tire of it. The adrenaline always flows. After I secure the bass, shoot images, ease him back into the water, and gently release him, I sit down, sip some cold water and replay the experience in my mind. When things go well, nobody loses. I like it when that happens.

The bass had swallowed my spider along with the bluegill, so I quickly cut the 4 pound tippet as short as possible for release. The bass won by getting his meal, and I had another great experience. The little water spider hook dissolved within a few minutes in the bass' stomach, and the gill filled him up.

I gently stretched the bass out on my wetted carpet for a quick shot. According to my boga grip he weighed 4 pounds, and given the season I'm betting he was feeding up for winter.

The largest bass I have ever hooked and played on ultralight tackle was hooked on an Orvis Superfine 7 1/2 foot 1 weight with four pound tippet and a black #14 water spider. I estimated his weight at 13 pounds. He escaped my grasp when the tiny water spider that had hooked him fell from his lower jaw teeth just eight feet from my outstretched hand. To this day, he remains "the biggest one that got away!" As long as I have memory, I'll remember that giant fish, and that haunting ultralight experience.

I set aside my memories and focused on the day at hand. My wonderful trip wasn't over, by a long cast. There were many more fat fish to catch, and release so I tied on a new size 14 black water spider.

I catch many species of fish and I don't tire of meeting them. I'm an equal opportunity hooker. If it has fins, I'm interested.

My hope is that you will enjoy a day like this one on your favorite water very soon. It is good for the soul, teaches us to enjoy life's surprises, and helps keep everyday life in perspective. -- Bill Byrd.


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