My earliest and fondest memories of fishing revolve around ponds.

One pond in particular stands out in my mind. It was located in south central Iowa on my grandfathers farm. It owed its existence to the thirst of grandpa’s dairy herd.Ever the thrifty Scot, grandpa saw no reason the pond should not do double duty, providing piscatorial recreation when chores were through.

Crawford Farm

Crawford Farm

I was given free rein on the farm, and normally I could be found on the bank with a fishing rod. I was clearly visible from grandma’s kitchen window, which in retrospect is probably why I was afforded that freedom.

It was on this same pond that I first used a fly rod. Dad had been given the rod as a going away present from some co-workers when he changed jobs. It was almost twice as long as I was tall, made of fiberglass and had an automatic reel.

I didn’t know anything about leaders or tippets. I simply tied an overhand knot in the end of the fly line. I liberated some mono-filament from dad’s tackle box and double knotted it above the knot in the fly line to prevent it from slipping off. I prescribed to the adage “if you don’t know how to tie a knot be sure to tie a lot.”

Dad had some bluegill poppers, so I tied one on (again with overhead knots). Learning how to cast was pretty simple, taken right from the playbook of Hank Patterson. When I asked dad how to cast, he told me to take the rod back and pop it like a whip, which I dutifully did. For a long time I assumed those flies were called poppers because that’s how you had to cast them.

Given my short casting reach, I decided to fish the shallow end of the pond, which was providentially blessed with a stand of cattails. I plucked bluegill after bluegill from that spot, only stopping after there was little left of my popper save a bit of cork and paint. That single evening planted the seed of a fly fisherman that would not sprout for many more years, but sprout it did.

Grandpa and grandma have been gone many years now.  The old farmhouse was torn down, finally succumbing to the ravages of Midwestern weather.  The barn had been damaged years earlier by a tornado, it too was now gone.

A few things remain. The pond is still there, though smaller due to silting in. The old gravel road has not changed except that the county no longer sprays it with used motor oil to keep the dust down in the summer. My love for bluegill fishing farm ponds with flies endures.

In the corner of my office is a bookshelf. Upon it rests a jar of topsoil form the farm.  Next to it in the corner stands a fiberglass fly rod with an automatic reel.

Yes – that one.


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