Ode to odonatans and the hungry bass that love them-an ongoing trip report

Joey Bagels

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As a boy growing up in Wyoming, I always looked forward to the damselfly hatches on the plains lakes outside of Laramie. Big rainbows and browns cruised the weed beds and reed lines, gorging on nymphs and slashing at adults. This usually started in late May and lasted until July and the action could be fast and furious. Here in Texas, the damsel and dragonfly hatches began a week or two back and are in full swing now. And the bass are behaving just like the trout in those lakes of my youth.

It was another fine day for a tubing expedition with the 3 weight. The water in my local pond is low, but the weeds are growing in and a dizzying array of damsels and dragons are hatching in all shades of green, blue, tan, and red. The bass are taking notice. Big time. I decided to experiment today after catching my first bass on the new dragonfly pattern and another on a bugger.

Bugger bass was healthy and ate it solidly. She was 19” and I figured she’d be the big fish of the day. I figured wrong. Considering the amount of surface action, I rigged a small, blue damsel patterns as a trailer on the dragon to see what would happen.

In a word, chaos. For the next several hours it was almost nonstop action on both flies.

Grandpa George’s net got a workout today.

Most were average, 14-17” fish. No complaints from me! They’re a blast on the 3 weight. I was sight casting to most of them. I’d see a boil or a splash, cast the tandem rig, twitch it a couple of times, and almost every time, a bass would inhale one of the patterns. Again, the dragon attacks were savage, while the damsel almost always just disappeared or was taken with a gentle roll. Very interesting contrast.

A couple showed up at the parking area and set up with lawn chairs and bobbers. They were quiet but with the still weather I could occasionally hear them chatting clearly. After about an hour they left. Bass had been splashing into my net the whole time.

The weedy flat was where it was at today. Up against the shore, I saw a big splash and headed over to check it out. My first cast had a small bass attack the damsel. I set the hook too quickly and both flies flew behind me. Reflexively I brought my arm forward again and the flies touched down in exactly the same place. This time, the water exploded.

A beautiful 20” bass pulled like a freight train and jumped a couple of times before coming to take a selfie.

A real blast on the 3 weight. This time I was using 8# tippet for just such a possibility. After sending her back to her business, I returned to catching average sized bass.

More fish ate the damsel than the dragon, but bigger fish ate the dragon.




A scissor tailed fly catcher was swooping over the water’s surface, grabbing damsels as it went. A barred owl called out its “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you allll?” cry from the surrounding trees. I thought about having been laid off in February and retired in my late 40’s. I looked around, listened, and began kicking back to shore. My wife had texted to let me know she’d gotten hungry and was going to eat, but told me to stay out as long as I wanted to. I’d already started making plans for my next trip to the pond in my tube.

If you’re on bass water and you can’t buy a bite, give some damsels a try. Bass really like the blue ones. So do I.
 
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Ard

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I'm thinking that 14 - 17 inch fish can move your tube a little while you're reeling them in but I'm pretty sure the big one towed you around a little. The only thing I ever did with a bass that large was to have them come loose before I could say I actually caught one. Seemed like I had the 14 to 17 thing down pat but not the big ones. Well done!

I just came back from the cabin, still cold out in the interior. Plenty of sun highs of 28 to 32 and lows -4 to -7 while I was there. Very quiet and zero surface activity on the lake. My track made coming in even drifted over so that when I looked out the lakeside windows there was no trace I had arrived after a day or two. Early this morning I did see a Swan flying toward the south end of the lake where there is a patch of open water where the lake outflows and forms the creek. The warmer water coming from the depths almost always leaves a patch of open water unless it gets seriously cold.

Probably not headed to an early breakup this year. Last year set a record with ice out on April 25 but I don't see that happening this year. Matter of fact I may drive back out this weekend. You remember the distance right? 75 miles each way by snowmachine, there's some pretty flat snow right now and the trip is almost enjoyable. It's not as nice as a boat ride there because you have to keep the eyes peeled for unexpected berms and hazards in the snow or holes in the ice. Your lakes look good right now man.
 

ifitswims

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Love your respect for Ron and Al. Sad to have lost a legend in fishing. Ron was a kind and gentle man with wicked fishing prowess, his brother has long been one of the best teachers fishing has ever known.

thanks for the effort JB! Kudos to another great time on the water sir. Twin Buttes surely misses you and I know we miss those fat bobos at ice off.
 

danmarino

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That's a great fishing trip. I need to get out in my kayak and give it a go at a few of our local ponds/lakes.
 

Joey Bagels

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Love your respect for Ron and Al. Sad to have lost a legend in fishing. Ron was a kind and gentle man with wicked fishing prowess, his brother has long been one of the best teachers fishing has ever known.

thanks for the effort JB! Kudos to another great time on the water sir. Twin Buttes surely misses you and I know we miss those fat bobos at ice off.
The Lindners were MAJOR influences, teachers, and virtual mentors to me and my friends as we navigated the pre-internet world of learning how to fish back in the 80’s and 90’s. I still have and reread all my old magazines and some dvds I still watch now and then. The information those guys and all their colleagues shared is still as good and entertaining as the day it was first published. I was actually really down this past winter after hearing about Ron’s passing. Glad to know I’m not the only one who still appreciates them!
 

Joey Bagels

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Despite it being a Friday, I decided to go out again this afternoon and bother some more bass. I figured I had at least a couple hours before the stand up paddle boarders and kayaker started showing up for the weekend. To my surprise and horror when I pulled up to the pond there was already a kayak bass angler and a guy in one of those little bass buster personal watercraft. *Groan* well there’s no going back now because I came to chase bass and chase bass I would. The wind was gusty and seemingly coming from multiple directions, making casting a challenge. but when I wasn’t untangling myself from my leader, I managed to fool a couple of little green fish.

Not long after I got there kayak gay and bass buster buddy landed their craft and proceeded to call it a day. At last I had the pond to myself! But wait! What’s this?! Another kayak guy was just showing up and he had outriggers and multiple rods and the whole bass master vibe. Double groan. I think the bass were feeling the weird vibe of the impending weekend today too, because the bigger ones were few and far between. Plenty of Oompa Loompas to keep me entertained though.

Even some of the little bass victims came to my tube to escape their doom and start a new, better, aerial life.

I did my best to dissuade the bass and help the little bugs out. I gave the tried and true woolly bugger a good effort thinking the bass might be more interested in subsurface offerings. Incredibly the bugger went unmolested. So back to the double dry rig for me.

The Oompa Loompas approved.


As the shadows grew longer and the purple martins started showing up to chase bugs and chortle their happiness with life, things started picking up in the bigger bass realm.

Of course this was now the perfect time for all the paddle boarding teenagers and college kids to show up.

Hey, I was young once too, so I decided to call it an evening and head back to the truck. I visited a couple of more Oompa Loompas on the way back just for fun though.

Direct quote from a couple of the paddle boarders:
Guy: “Look babe, he caught something.”
Girl: “No waaayyyyyyyah!”
I chuckled to myself and reeled in before kicking back to the shore.
As I was getting ready to load up a game warden stopped by to chat. Super nice young fella who, has it turns out I’ve been stationed in Golden, Colorado for a couple years. He had never seen a float tube in person and wanted to check mine out.

Being the obsessive compulsive nerd that I am I gave him the whole rundown of why the Wood River GlideRider is such a classic tube. We parted ways and I loaded my gear and started the drive home.

Another great day to be alive and free to fish whenever I want to. Incidentally, out of curiosity I started looking online to see if I could find a classic In-Fisherman hat like the one I’ve had for so many years. I was sort of thinking along the lines of a back up in case I lose mine. All I can say is HOLY COW!!!


I will be guarding mine with my life!!!
I hope you get a chance to go out and catch some bass or sunfish fish or trout or whatever makes you happy! Until next time this is Joey Bagels saying: “Quit messing around on the Internet and go catch some fish!”
 

Joey Bagels

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You still are young man!

Gonna be hard to beat the big boy on the OP but you had a good day anyway :)
True enough!
I think the last year just makes me feel like an old fogey! I’m sure plenty of other people feel like they lived a lifetime in 2020.
I’m thinking a trip to the coastal marsh to chase redfish is on the docket soon. Gotta keep things interesting!
 

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Nice report. I haven’t fished dragonfly patterns much. Right now on the lake I’m on, there’s a major forest tent and tussock caterpillar hatch in progress. Wind blown caterpillars fall out of the overhanging oaks and it’s a sunfish feeding frenzy with an occasional bass in the mix. I tied up several hopeful patterns, my and the fish’s favorite is a tussock caterpillar tied like a woolly bugger with a tiny hackle tip tail and eva foam tufts for floatation in place of the venomous tufts that the tussock caterpillar has. It’s instant gratification fishing and big sunfish can bend the 2weight CGR pretty nicely.

I do have a big blue dragonfly to try. Most the bigger bass apparently have been out deeper after shad, cannot find any shallow right now except the small caterpillar eaters.

Good luck with your redfish hunt. I’m far overdue for one, but sort of got out of the habit.
 

Joey Bagels

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Surprisingly, most of the bass I’ve been chasing are in shallow water. Knee deep and less. The weedy flat varies between a few inches and 2-3 feet deep. In higher water years, the bass are up under shoreline shrubs and trees this time of year. But since that’s not an option this year, they’re hiding in the weeds. In a few more days, the open water will be much reduced because the weeds are growing FAST, so a change in tactics will be required. Unless more water somehow finds its way into the pond. Who knows?!

Edited to add: we don’t have the tussock caterpillars in any numbers where I am, but we have tons of inchworms and these:
 
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silver creek

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karstopo

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Truth be known, those forest tent caterpillars outnumber the tussock caterpillars by 100 to 1, but the tussock caterpillar gets under my shirt and raises up horrible welts so it’s more fun imagining them getting anhilated by the fish.
 

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Joey Bagels

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I like that pattern a lot! Maybe I need to wrap a few to keep for just such occasions. I’m thinking of expanding my selection of damsel and dragon patterns too. Lots of great colors to experiment with!
 

Joey Bagels

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Everything comes to an end. I figured with the dragonfly and damselfly bite probably only going to last for another couple more weeks, I’d better get out while I can. There wasn’t much surface activity when I got to the pond this afternoon, so I figured I’d hit the weed edges with a dragon dry and a woolly bugger dropper. As it happens, a #4, olive woolly bugger looks almost exactly like the local dragonfly nymphs.

A red shouldered hawk was chasing something on the shoreline, running like a clunky roadrunner. It was quite a sight. But my attention went back to the bass.

As afternoon wore on, some splashes deep in the weed bed signaled the start of surface feeding time
I replaced the bugger with a blue damsel.

Then it was alternating loud, slashing attacks on the dragon and quiet, slurping rolls and sips on the damsel.


I lost a really nice one right at the net after getting towed around a little bit. Rats!!

But plenty of others stayed pinned.

A couple of guys showed up and were casting from shore at the parking area. They were heaving huge soft plastics as far into the lake as they could. And the fish kept jumping a few feet from where they stood. Their voices carried as they marveled at that fact.

It amazes me how completely the bass inhale the dragon and damsel patterns. Compared to the same sized Fat Alberts I usually throw, there’s a lot more solid eats with these.

The pileated woodpecker flew along the open sky above the lake and the barred owl let out a couple of calls as the sun set, signaling it was time for me to head back.

My emergency repair on my swim fin had held up well all afternoon and evening. When I first launched and pulled on my fins, the ankle strap on one had broken. Rats again! Thinking about how I could salvage the day, I remembered I had the ratchet straps that I use to batten done the tube in the bed of my pickup. Some quick work with a knife and I had a replacement. Phew!
I’m thinking now about why I never used dry dragon patterns for trout and why I only rarely used damsels. Next time I’m on a stillwater trout fishery (in about a month), I’ll definitely give the tandem damsel dry and nymph rig a shot. I have a feeling it could be awesome.
Stay safe and be well!
 

Ard

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Ok, the line about losing a really nice one after it towed you around for awhile? Now I'm thinking way back to the beginning of this thread and the picture of that really big bass and then I'm thinking what the heck does he mean when he says 'really nice one'? Maybe that big or .......

Oh yeah, 50 here today with some sun :)
 
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