The day’s quest seemed simple enough. First, we determined to catch a few largemouth from a very remote oxbow lake Mike had fished a few times in the remote past. The location of this particular lake is, in fact, so remote as to necessitate the use of a GPS. Mike’s internal GPS, typically amazingly reliable, seemed to uncharacteristically fade in and out, like an old television with rabbit ears. We struggled to force the GPS unit in his new vehicle into submission, and ultimately were rewarded by the sight of this hidden, fish filled angling nirvana. At least that is what we had anticipated.
We quickly let the small electric boat slip into the dark water and boarded, arranging our gear in anticipation of achieving our secondary goal for the day- catching one of the lake’s numerous gar. Regarded as undesirable, most anglers do not pursue these exceedingly common fish. The species is considered ancient, with fossils dating from the Cretaceous period. They, like tarpon, sport swim bladders that are able to function as primitive lungs, causing them to frequently rise to the surface and gulp air, especially in poorly oxygenated waters. They can grow to amazing size, with some sub-species reaching nearly ten feet and one hundred pounds. They are said to be strong fighters, sometimes leaping into the air while battling the angler. I hoped to see for myself and to add gar to my life list of species captured on a fly. My minnow imitation was affixed to the business end of a six weight fly rod lying at the ready in the bow of the boat. In my right hand was a light spinning rod armed with a plastic worm for unsuspecting bass.
Leaden skies seemed to inch slowly toward out little boat as we cast repeatedly around blowdowns and tree bases populating the lake’s edges. Bites were hard to get, so we made frequent lure changes. In the center of the lake, we observed many gar breaking the surface and submerging, creating telltale splashes and ringlets. “This overcast sky makes spotting the gar in time for a cast an almost impossibility” remarked Mike. “I had hoped that we would have good sun, and detect them from enough distance to be to make a cast with the fly rod.” As we worked along, searching out the occasional bass, I was startled by the simultaneous appearance and disappearance, of several gar right by my station on the bow. There was not enough time to grab the fly rod, much less to make a cast. I was tantalized by the large spotted tails as the fish thrust themselves towards the deeper water. Our fishing day was complicated by the occasional errant cast, resulting in a lure stuck in a tree branch. After successful retrieval of my lure on one such occasion, my baseball cap was suddenly snatched from my head by a limb. We scanned the area for it, knowing it would be floating, making recapture a simple task. To our surprise, it not on the water, or in the boat. Puzzled, we backed away from the bank, and then we saw it, suspended on a tree limb, just like my lure!
A freshening breeze and darkening skies prompted me to comment that I thought rain was inbound. Looking skyward, Mike agreed and within minutes we were being pelted by heavy raindrops. As neither of us had brought a raincoat, instead trusting the Weather Channel forecast, we made for a relatively protected spot under some low trees whose branches reached out over the water. This proved futile and we soon returned to our journey, now being forced to bail rainwater from our little craft. Our enthusiasm, unlike our clothing and skin, remained undampened and we slowly moved to the next spot, continuing to hold out hope for a fly caught gar, despite that now being extremely unlikely.
Angling Dedication on Display!
Though bass fishing remained unusually slow and gar fishing now impossible, we were treated to the sight of a number of nature’s creatures. Among the branches of a blown over tree, Mike spotted a Prothonotary Warbler, its bright yellow feathers resembling something straight out of a tropical rainforest. Dozens of medium sized alligators prowled the surface of the lake, eyes barley above the waterline. We continued to see quite a few gar, but poor light prevented me from presenting a fly to one of these swimming dinosaurs.
A tropical bird in the swamp?
Darkness was rapidly covering the lake and we made flank speed for the landing as the sun’s last rays petered out against the irregular treeline to our west. We will not require a GPS when next we visit this lake, neither will we neglect to bring raincoats!