PANFISH PARTY HEAT AT CANYON LAKE

1 May

Di, our dog, Chloe & I arrived at the Boulder Recreation Area of Canyon Lake early the morning of Friday, April 29th anticipating a morning of good fishing, enjoying the natural environment and a quiet day away from work. What we found was an phenomenon that I call “Panfish Party Heat”. The catches (and releases) of feisty, bluegill and crappie was so fulfilling they we were compelled to return on Saturday the 30th. Here is our story experiencing the Panfish Party Heat phenomenon at Canyon Lake.

Day One:

We arrived at Canyon Lake, Boulder Recreation Area around 7:30 in the morning. The plan was to target panfish and search for a few bass. With this in mind, I had taken along two of my oldest (and most treasured) fly rods from my youth. Both rods, purchased over thirty-five years ago, were Fenwick Ferrulite fly rods; one six foot, weighing 2 5/8 ounces I planned to use on the native bluegill and crappie population. The other, an eight foot rod I intended to use for largemouth bass when the opportunity presented itself. Di planned to use a variety of spinners and artificial bait. She also wanted to hone her fly casting skills a bit.

On the six foot fly rod I had tied a tandem of nymphs onto a 7X tippet. The combination of choice was a # 16 rainbow warrior tied behind a # 14 BH bloody mary.  On the eight foot rod I tied a # 14 ju-ju bee nymph tied behind a # 12 BH claret wooly bugger on a 5X tippet.

We began to walk the shoreline and cast to promising locations, rocky drop-offs, reed banks, and the like. Our casts were unanswered. As we walked we came upon the area adjacent to the fishing bridge. Along the shallow rocky ledges which sloped to deep water we immediately noticed several large bass on spawning beds. Coexisting with the bass were several panfish secreting themselves amongst the rocks. We stealthily approached and began to fish in earnest. Though the bass, preoccupied by nature’s urge to spawn, were not interested in my flies, the bluegill and crappie were more than happy to munch on my feathery offerings. These nice-sized panfish simply could not resist the flies. Seeing the urgency with which these panfish gobbled feathery hooks, Di thought it best to stop fishing with spinners and “practice” her fly casting. She was soon into the panfish as well.

          

We fished for about three more hours along the shoreline within thirty feet of the bridge with consistent results. Each cast produced a steady stream of smiles from Di and I and excited barks from Chloe as she “inspected” each catch before its release.

On a previous outing, Chloe inspects a fish

I was even able to hook-up with a big largemouth that took the claret woolly bugger. As Di was getting the video camera, the big ‘ole bucket-mouth pulled my line into a pile of reeds and submerged tree limbs and was gone. All that remained of my rod-bending, heart-thumping experience was a memory, smile and eight seconds of video – damn good if you are a PBR bull-rider, but not good enough for a fisherman.

On the way home, we mentally checked our schedules for the next day and concluded that, “Yes, there would be time to return again tomorrow morning.”

Day Two:

Knowing that the lake in general, and the area surrounding the fishing bridge in particular, would be more crowded on the weekend, we woke early Saturday morning and were on the lake by seven. We immediately went to the area that was so productive the day before, and looked again into the water. With large anticipatory eyes, we saw – nothing. The bass and panfish were no where to be found. Buoyed by the hope that as the sun continued to rise and warm the water, the fish would again come in to the shallows, we committed our flies to the choppy waters. After two hours and two panfish, we decided it was time for a change.

          

Like dejected wall flowers returning home from a high school prom, I returned yesterdays productive flies to their home and tied a # 14 BH rooks blueberry nymph behind a # 12 BH sparkle chartreuse wooly bugger on the eight foot rod. On the six foot rod, I tied on a # 14 BH red serendipity nymph behind a # 14 BH hare’s ear nymph. We donned our backpacks and decided to look for deep water. On the far shore across from the fishing bridge is an escarpment that cascades down to a rock ledge. From the ledge, the water plummets straight down to dark murky depths. We felt that in the depths of this cove must dwell our desired quarry; if only we could hike down. We walked up to the road and were able to locate a precarious path down to the rock ledge. We carefully picked our way to the ledge, and set down our packs. I cast the eight foot rod out so the brace of flies fell right next to the reeds and counted to ten so as to allow the beadheads to sink the flies down into the dark waters. Using a twitch and pause retrieve, I pulled the flies back. After no more than a half dozens twitches, the rod bent and a fish was on. But what was it? Surely there were bass in those depths and with the eight foot rod bent and the amount of resistance on the line, it could be a bass. After fighting the fish for a few minutes, slowly raising it from the depths so as not to break the 5X tippet, a palm-plus size crappie broke the surface of the water. The next hour and a half produced reliable catches of crappie and bluegill, all in a respectable size range.

         

We drove home sated from having partied with so many panfish, desires fulfilled, a few heart-stopping moments, pictures and video and somewhat hung-over from a great two day “Panfish Party” experience in a treasure of nature simply called Canyon Lake.

For your enjoyment, there is a brief companion video called: “Fly Fishing Dojo – Panfish Party At Canyon Lake on you tube. Here is a convenient link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Fi5JcuJVs

A few words of caution when thinking about hiking down the rocky escarpments of Canyon Lake are appropriate. First and foremost, make sure you are physically fit for the challenge and bear in mind that what looks easy hiking down is a lot harder to hike up. Second, be aware of “inglorious indigent interlopers” that can ruin a fishing trip, to wit: rattle snakes, scorpions, spiders, bees and fire ants to name a few. Lastly, remember the elements. The rock ledge we fished from was totally exposed to the sun (temperatures were “only” about 85, with a uv index of about 10). Make sure you have water,snack items, sun-block (we even wore uv protection clothing) and more water. Also, please clean-up after your visit; hike it in, hike it out.

Until the next cast, I remain,

Sensei John

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