This dragonfly took the topic of flyfishing too seriously, when it attempted to capture an artificial fly on the water.
Over the course of my career as a guide and angler, I have had numerous opportunities to witness some strange catches.
As can be expected, I’ve seen a fair number of old
boots and shoes, dragged up from the depths. I’ve also caught a wide assortment of other unexpected items, including a toaster, a transistor radio and leather wrapped, steering wheel.
I’ve caught a bat, or it caught me, while I was flyfishing at night. I even caught, and released, a dragonfly that had picked up my dry fly.
However, when a young guest recently caught a whopper of a tail, it topped my list of angling oddities.
It happened on a local pond, as we were about to quit after a long, slow day of bass fishing. In a last ditch effort; I decided to have the youngster troll a Hula Popper behind the canoe, on a long line.
He followed my instructions, and unspooled about 50 yards of line, and gleefully giggled every time he would chug the popper. He was content just to yank the line, and watch the splash and hear the pop of the plug. Fish or no fish, he was having fun!
But, as we neared the shore, his lure disappeared. There was no splash, no slash, no noise, or any other type of commotion. It appeared that the lure has simply sunk below the surface.
The youngster yanked on the rod, to set the hook, and nothing happened. His line was taunt, but it did not appear to be a bass.
I turned the canoe around, and paddled back to see what he had snagged on. However, as he reeled in line, there was no fish fighting to get free. In fact, it appeared he had snagged a sunken log.
As we got closer, I picked up his line, and gently pulled the catch to the boat. Hand over hand, as I gathered in his line; I could see the yellow Hula Popper coming up from the depths.
But, as it came to the surface, the catch became evident. It was a huge trophy, at least a twenty pounder. But all I could think of was, how to safely release this monster.
It was by far, one of the largest snapping turtles I had ever seen, with a long neck, a big beak, and a moss covered shell. It had chomped down on the Hula Popper, sideways, and I wasn’t about to stick my fingers anywhere near it.
Fortunately, just as I was about to reach out with a pair of needle nose pliers, the turtle opened it’s mouth, and spit out the mangled lure. Slowly, it turned and returned to the depths. We shared a good laugh, and we had a great tale to tell.
The episode reminded me of an incident that a fellow angler had once shared with me. The calamity had soured him on fishing for many years.
As a young angler, he often accompanied his grandfather on charter trips, to fish off the coast of Maine for cod. As always, they trolled live baitfish on long lines, behind the boat.
When he felt a tug, he reeled in the line and yanked hard to set the hook. To his dismay, his line did not connect to the sea. Rather, it was up in the air, where a big gull was floundering around, with a large hook embedded in its wing.
He described the scene as sheer mayhem, with the ship’s captain barking orders, as two mates worked hard to haul in a squawking, flapping, fighting mad bird.
“There were feathers, and blood, everywhere. The gull raised a ruckus.” he related, “And the mates were obviously quite annoyed having to deal with the mess. When it was all over, I never wanted to go fishing again. Although I offered a variety of excuses, I think Grandpa knew the real reason.”
“However,” he continued, “After decades of turning down Grandpa’s annual invitations, I finally accepted when he offered me a canoe trip to the far north of Canada.”
“We paddled and portaged through a number of small lakes, and as we walked along a carry trail, a flock of Canada geese came winging our way, right down the path, just barely over our heads. We could have swatted them with a paddle.
But Gramps, never missed a beat. He looked up at the big birds, and with a wide grin, exclaimed, “Damn, I wish I’d had my rod handy. We laughed long and hard, and I never missed out on another opportunity to go fishing with him.”