A cheap way to catch big fish....
During the winter, I was browsing Wal-Mart's sporting goods department, when my eye fell upon a pretty serious lot of 'crappie' poles. Ranging in length from 10 to 12 feet, and being made of either fiberglass or graphite, these rods have underslung line guides, and a lengthened butt section. They're obviously made for spinning reels, and I'm sure they do a good job in that use.
However, I proposed to see if I couldn't come up with a better idea, from my standpoint as a fly fisherman at any rate. I bought both a 11 foot fiberglass rod (37 dollars at Wal-Mart), and a 10 foot graphite rod (new, but just 25 bucks at a flea market). These rods differ from fly rods in what appears to be two or three main areas. 1) They come only in two pieces, and a 12 foot rod means two pieces six feet in length. And 2) They have that extended butt section, sometimes reaching nearly an extra foot in length. Finally, the rods are joined 'backwards'. That is, the lower section is the male end of the joint, while the upper section provides the female end.
So here's what I did. I started with cutting off the butt section ends with a dove-tail saw (just about anything would do), leaving about 4 to 5 inches of butt behind the reel seat, to help serve as a fighting butt. I looked around my shop and was able to locate plastic caps that fit the now shortened butts just dandily. All that was left was to fit a reel, string'er up, and go to the lake.
On yeah, the tightening ring for the reel seat screws UP from the back of the rod, instead of from the front. This is an advantage for me, in that the heel of my casting hand won't loosen the ring in use....something I've hated for years.
So, having bought a new Okuma STV 78 reel in Washington State last summer, I decided to use it as my test furniture for the two rods. The Okuma has a large arbor, and a wonderful, large drag on the left side (although you can change sides easily enough if desired), is built of very light and strong aluminum or titanium or some other such space age material and THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE REEL is open, allowing you to use the palm and heel of your casting hand to serve as your own intuitive drag system.
Of the two rods, my favorite is the 10 foot West Point all graphite Crappie rod, with telflon line guides. It casts a 7 or 8 weight line beautifully, and has actually increased my effective casting distance by 25 to 35 percent. Of course, I won't be wading small rivers with it, since it's length would be prohibitive. On the other hand, on ponds or waters open on one side, with lower brush behind you, the longer rod allows a high backcast, so there are some advantages found there.
Looking at my fishing log, I've been fishing four times in the last two weeks, at a 'pond' connected to Kentucky Lake, on the northwest side of Eggner's Ferry bridge, just as you start across the levy to the bridge itself from the west. This small body of water has historically produced some of the finest, and biggest bluegill and red ears I've ever encountered, bar none. Last summer however, the pond became overrun by algae and aquatic plants, so fishing was virtually impossible. This spring, so far, I've seen no algae, although aquatic plants are making inroads on the eastern side of the pond, just below the Kenlake State Park Campground.
Fishing in this pond, I've seen runs of as many as six or eight casts, with a fish (or two) on every cast. This happens just about 45 minutes prior to actual sundown, as the fish seem to go into a feeding, well, if not a feeding frenzy, at least a healthy increase in appetite.
I've managed to catch at least two new species for me (I release everything)....one is a perch-like fish, whitish grey on top and yellow on bottom, with a larger number of fins than I usually see. I've caught 4 of these and each one measures between 8 and 10 inches in length. They have a distinctly close scale-pattern, and are slimy to the touch. They possess a smallish, almost drum-like mouth. They fight only fair, and someday I expect to find a book with which to identify them.
And too, there was the large crappie, my first on a fly rod as well.
I fish with a tandem rig....a bream-sized popper on top, and 12 to 15 inches below that, I use whatever wet-fly I can find in my large selection of Wal-Mart premium flies (a buck seventy eight for six of them in a round plastic dispenser). So far, in four trips, I've never failed to catch at least one double, and on two trips, doubled up twice. Normally, this would be no big deal, but these fish are HUGE, and when they double up you can't lift them from the water with the rod, but must drag them onto the bank, with great care. I wonder if I shouldn't buy one of those net things you use to scoop up your fish....
Finally, last week, in this same pond, I caught the largest bass of my life, a 4 pounder (my previous biggest had been 3.5 pounds, although last summer I caught several Catfish in the 4.5 to 5 pound range, but that was a different pond). He actually ignored the popper, and took the small wet fly (nymph? I don't know one from the other, but I guess any guess is better'n no guess). A body sure appreciates the abbreviated fighting butt on the rod in cases like this....
So anyhow, just another chapter in my dull life, in which I've once again somehow managed to come up with ways to enlarge upon and improve my personal fishing experience.
Just thought I'd share it with you.