To the mild (I hope) annoyance of several people with whom I have fished, I have a hard time calling it quits. When I was a boy and fishing at the lake with Dad there would at some point come the inevitable announcement “come on Allan its time to go home.” I always followed this by the equally inevitable “just a few more casts.” Quitting time was seldom abrupt and consisted of a fair amount of negotiation, okay, begging, on my part. If Dad wasn’t too tired and there wasn’t a Pirates game being broadcast that night, I could sometimes get as much as an extra half-hour of fishing in after it was “time to go home.” Whether I got an extra two minutes or that glorious half hour, every fishing outing with Dad would eventually come down to “one last cast.” All the hopes and dreams of youth were put into that cast. The bait or lure was cast as far as a twelve year old with a six-foot medium action spinning rod could cast it. The retrieve was likely to have all the speed of a glacier sliding slowly to the sea. Anticipation was high. I figured if I caught a good one Dad just might come to the conclusion that the big ones were starting to feed and decide to take a few more casts himself. I think this worked – once. More often despite all my efforts to stall there would come the moment when the hook was tucked into the rod guide and we would begin our walk to the car. I don’t think I ever left without being absolutely certain that if I could just have got in one more cast I would have caught the “big one.”
The “big ones” do usually begin to get more active about the time that most folks are starting to think of all the things they need to do the next day and heading back to their SUVs for the drive home. Truly large trout and bass are mostly nocturnal and during the summer months the activity level of many aquatic insects really picks up as darkness increases and water temperatures fall. As the insects become more active, they also become more available as food for baitfish, crayfish, and small to medium sized trout and bass, which in turn become more active and available as food for the larger fish. The increased insect activity also brings the Little Brown Bats* swooping and diving low over the surface of the water in their amazing display of aerial acrobatics.
The bats tend to start feeding about a half hour before dark, and by a quarter till Bev is usually ready to clear out of their air space and leave them to it. I, on the other hand, like to fish until dark thirty or dark forty five and figure that pretty soon it will be dark enough that you can’t even see them so they should be easy to ignore. I’ve never gotten anywhere with this argument. Apparently knowing that they’re out there and you can’t see them is actually worse. It doesn’t help that Bev knows that it is possible to catch a bat on a fly rod. She knows this because I’ve told her. I know it because I’ve done it. It is rare (I think I’ve caught four in all the time I’ve fished – two of those in a period of about ten minutes one evening last summer) but sometimes a bat will mistake the fly for food or just as likely be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get hooked. Admittedly there are more pleasant activities than releasing a foul hooked bat from your line and if you ever have to do it you will be real glad you have a pair of surgical forceps (normally used for removing flies from the mouth of a fish) clipped to your vest. I use the forceps to grab the little guy by the scruff of the neck so he can’t bite me – he’s not happy about this either – and then carefully untangle him and release the barbless hook from his body. I’ve never seen one hooked in the mouth and don’t expect to since a bat doesn’t catch insects in its mouth but rather traps them against its body and sort of scoops them up to its mouth with its wings. The fact that it does this while flying at high speed and avoiding countless obstacles including other bats is something to think about.
I am now sitting at the keyboard feeling very much like Snoopy at his typewriter. I’ve arrived at the point where I should pull everything together and make some sense of my rambling – My eyebrows wiggle as I grin at you sheepishly. Since I can’t seem to pull it together, I’ll just wish for you to catch more “trout” than “bats” this year and hope that at least once or twice you get a few more casts in, after it’s “time to go home.”
* This piece was written well before the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans was accidentally introduced into caves where the bats overwinter. The resulting fungal infection, "White Nose Syndrome" has caused bat populations to crash. Sadly, we now rarely see bats swooping over our streams on summer evenings.
All images and text on this page are protected content and may not be copied, or distributed without permission.
© Allan Sutley 2015