From strip setting to lifting your rod

Don Oliver | Special to the Drum

Back in January I thought it would be insightful on my part to plan a two-month sabbatical during Durango’s mud season. Since the Wild Bunch had recently moved to Tennessee, this seemed like the perfect location for SWMBO and me to relocate temporarily.

Needless to say, my thought process was flawed. We left behind a beautiful spring and set up house where the rivers and streams are overflowing, and the lakes, ponds, and sky are full of water. It has rained or been cloudy and cold for three straight weeks. Planning has never been one of my strong suits.

However, I have discovered the building boom around Nashville has provided a large number of ponds and small lakes in their new subdivisions. And, the streets and parking lots are close to the water. That way, when it starts to rain I can get dry and warm as my truck is parked close by. These ponds are home to huge numbers of panfish, a few bass and catfish. I also found that many of them are not posted to keep fly fishermen away. So, while I wasn’t fly fishing for the fabled bass population during the monsoon, I was able to practice a skill needed for them, a raised rod tip to set the hook.

I recently spent some time fly fishing in saltwater. To hook saltwater fish a strip set is needed. A strip set is accomplished by pulling your fly line straight back when a strike occurs. If a strip set is used for most freshwater fish the hook will be pulled away from the fish before it can eat the fly. Panfish have very small mouths and the only way to hook them is by raising your rod tip to set the hook. Once you get the timing down to hook panfish, hooking other fresh water fish with larger mouths will become easier. This is the type of hook set used on virtually all freshwater fish. It sounds easy, but if you spend a week or so strip setting, you will get out of practice lifting your rod tip. Or, at least I did.

It took two outings for me to get my freshwater hook setting techniques back to where they needed to be. I am a slow learner. Or maybe, I just enjoy being out and will look for any excuse to stay on the bank of a pond. Regardless, as the weather is now forecasted to get better, and fly fishing for bass will begin, I know that my freshly reestablished hook setting skills should put me ahead on the scoreboard. Yeah, right. Even if I don’t come out on top of the hooked-fish scoreboard, I will have had great fun trying to get the panfish to stay on the end of my line. I have also found some great ponds to take the Wild Bunch to for quality time spent with Grumps.

In closing I ask you to bear with me, as I head in another direction. Recently one of my best fly fishing, single-malt-drinking, cigar- smoking buddies, whose exploits were mentioned in past columns, died in an accident. I was crushed; still am. So, as I sat on the tailgate of my truck, after a day of fly fishing, drinking single malt from a blue metal coffee cup, smoking a really good cigar, the words to Taps, written during the Civil War, came to me.

The heartfelt words say, “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the skies. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.” Safely rest, Ken.

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