Fly Fishing For Catfish

In conversation with the head of my fan club the other day, who just happens to be a Fly Tying Fiend. It was suggested that I needed to do a page or two herein for the Fly Fishing gurus out there. I advised my experience with Fly Fishing was pretty limited so the page was going to have to be as well.

I do own a couple of fly rods folks, and even own four fly reels. Three of those reels, and one rod are however, of antique vintage and are mostly for decorating the wall. The other, well..... let's just say it has decorated the wall a great deal too! It's not that I don't enjoy it, it's that I simply haven't got around to finding any catfish ponds here in ND, and thus I lack the acquired knowledge to catch many fish with it, as the only fish I've ever had much luck catching with a fly rod were pond raised catfish. Now I'm sure there are a number of fly fishing purists that are turning in their graves about here, but let me tell you folks, it's only because they've never landed a 9 pound channel cat on a 2 pound tippet. I'm sure there are those that are wondering how one catches a catfish, predominantly a bottom feeder on a Fly Rod, predominantly known for surface water fishing. But, fate threw the two together in my case.

You see, my dad has long been a commercial beekeeper, and when one raises new hives of bees, or replaces the Queen bee in old hives, they come packaged in a little wood and screen cage. Said cage has a hole about 5/16th of an inch in diameter drilled in each end which are closed with small bits of cork roughly a quarter inch thick. There's a generous amount of candy placed in one end of the cage and upon introducing the queen to the hive the cork is removed from the candy filled end, and the bees must eat through the candy, allowing the hive time to adjust to the new queen bee. (Yeah again, here he goes with the stories... I know! But, the above information is critical to the story!)

Dad, who lives in north Florida, also decided he should have a fish pond like everyone who owns more than a quarter acre in North Florida does. I expect by now half the state has been hauled off to some far away place, as there's got to be a a fish pond in about every back yard in the state by now. Likewise there is little doubt in my mind that there is a redneck down there somewhere that owns a lot that isn't more than 10 feet longer or wider than the mobile home he has mounted on stilts, over his fish pond, and he parks his truck in the road ditch, and sits in the shade of the trailer house whilst drinking beer and harassing catfish; but anyway, I'm getting off track here again!!!

The key to successfully raising very large fish in a very small pond, lies in feeding them regularly, and most folks enjoy watching them feed, so they feed floating fish food. Unless you've ever experienced it, it's hard to imagine folks. You throw a handful of the pelletized food out, and it no sooner hits the water than the fish start hitting it! The assorted pan-fish and smaller cats will strike the food with much gusto, and create quite the commotion when feeding, however as the catfish get larger, one sees a tendency for them to cruise the surface, mouths agape, literally inhaling mouths full of food at a pass.

When one puts the above scenario, a twenty-one year old fishing fanatic, tales of matching the hatch, an old dusty fly rod, and them little bitty corks together that oddly enough are just about identical in size and shape to floating catfish food, you've got to expect something to happen sooner or later folks! And, it of course did.

My dad had been an avid fisherman in his younger days, and the old fly rod was his. I have no clue for what he fished with it, don't recall ever asking. I vaguely seem to recall his casting in the cove along the St. Johns River at my grandparents place as a child, for what I would now assume bluegill and bass, bedding in the shallow flats at the base of the cove. The old fly rod had long been on the shelf however, when I first elected to try my hand at it. I read up on fly fishing a little bit, and watched a few Saturday morning fishing shows. I dug the old fiberglass rod, and Shakespere Automatic Reel out, cleaned them both up nicely, then went to town and bought a new floating fly line. Tippets weren't a popular thing about town back then, so I settled for a spool of two pound mono instead, I picked out a suitcase full of flies guaranteed to catch brim, found a few additional fly fishing necessities, and headed home. I put it all together one Sunday afternoon, then took the stroll to the pond that we so often enjoyed for a nice quiet afternoon of fishing.

All that fly fishing stuff looked pretty easy on TV you simply work it back and forth, feeding it a little line as you go. But folks, believe me, it just ain't that simple! First off I snagged one of them brand new flies in the grass behind me and spent 15 minutes searching for the dad-blamed thing, before giving up! I figured out I had to be a little more fluid in my movements, and keep that line in the air or this was going to be an on-going problem. So I stepped my cadence up a little and got her whipping back and forth pretty good, and trying to time this whole process so as to attain maximum velocity and get the most distance absolutely possible out of the event, I gave her a little extra oomph about midways through back-cast, and really wound her up on the fore-cast! Now those of you that fly fish, know that ain't the thing to do! The accelerated back-cast and sudden change of direction incurred in the intensified fore-cast sorta made the line scream at the back end of my loop, and as you that are knowledgeable know, she cracked like a whip and launched fly #2 somewhere into never never land! Fly fishing lesson #1 - you can't force it!

Believe me, I was getting pretty good at tying flies on by the time I finally landed one in the water! Only wish they'd have found that before finding me, but that wasn't to be the case either. Along about attempted cast number four I think it was, I snagged my cap as the line passed mid-cast. At about five or six I snagged the back of my shirt, along about eight I stuck it in the back of my ear, and shortly thereafter I stuck that fly squarely in the right cheek of my ass! But..... I was determined, and I did after a short while, and half a bottle of topical antiseptic dabbed on all the holes in my hide and a box of band-aids to cover them, manage to hit the pond with it. Almost immediately a little blue gill picked it up, and the battle was on. I was hooked (in more ways than one), and as time passed I got a great deal better at it.

I usually waited until I was done fishing to feed the fish, however I ran into a rather sultry afternoon that nothing wanted to bite, period. And, having exhausted options in my selection of the 2 - 3 flies that were left out of the suitcase, after the few trips I'd made to the pond, I tossed a little food and instigated a feeding frenzy. After a few fish, I decided you know this would be easier yet if I threw the fly out there, and then tossed the food at it. And so, the plan progressed. I had driven the pickup down that afternoon, and the beekeeping goodies were still in the back, and when I reached for the food, I noticed the comparative size of the corks in the box next to the can of fish food, it was blatantly obvious! I had to try it since I had a pretty much in-exhaustible supply of these corks at my disposal, and buying flies was appearing to be a wee bit spendy at the rate I was losing them. So I tied a plain old little bitty hook on and impaled a cork on it. I whipped her back and forth a time or two, and tossed out a handful of food! It took all of about 30 seconds, for the fish to hit, and it worked that way every time. Cast out, toss the food, bang, you'd have a fish on. Every time!!

This went on for hours, because with a 2 lb. tippet you were hard pressed to horse anything in, and I was beginning to tire a little of the fun and games. I launched her out there one last time and tossed the remainder of the can of food, at which the big boys rose to the surface and started their belly bulging ballet. Sure enough it didn't take long; the line tightened, there was a sudden splash, and all hell broke loose!

I'll tell you right here folks, the only thing that saved that moment for this story was the size of the pond, because being inexperienced I hadn't put any backing on the reel. As you can I'm sure, well imagine, with a two pound tippet on an automatic reel, you just sort of sit back and ride it out when you get a big fish on; problem is without backing it ain't a very long ride folks! The pond was however fairly narrow and boot shaped, and as such there was only about one place that fish could possibly get too far away from me, and I managed to steer her clear of there on each of about 87 passes! No that number is not exaggerated in the least, in fact it might have been more times than that, as the battle raged on for 47 minutes before I got the beast in, averaging about 2 - 3 laps around the pond a minute!

Although I still do drag the fly rod out on occasion, nothing has ever surpassed the battle of that 9 pound Channel Cat. And, should any of you fly fishing purists happen to be wandering around north Florida, and spy some feller sittin under his trailer house, fly fishing, with a pocket full of cork queen cage stoppers, don't worry guys, he's as pure as the rest of you, he's just matching the hatch!



Index Page  |  Homepage  |  Dakota SEO & Design  |  Recipe Book  |  Links