Written by: Jon Hall
“Yeah, that’s right: largemouth” came the reply from the passenger seat. We were making our way through the Paris rush hour en route to make a promotional film for a carp fishery owner in central France. Apparently, the owner had stocked half a dozen bass in an effort to keep the crayfish numbers down, but they had never bred. As we thundered along “le autoroute” in some horrendous weather, I wracked my brains trying to remember if I had packed any baitfish patterns. As it turned out, I hadn’t. All I could muster was a handful of shrimpy jobs that I had tied a few years previous for a trip to Andros.
We were filming two groups of anglers fishing the lake; one group finished Saturday morning at 10a.m., and the other started Saturday afternoon at 2p.m. If I was to do battle with one of these black beauties, then I had four hours to find six fish in seven acres of water.
Changeover day came, and with the blessing of the owner, I rigged up the 6-weight, tied on the nearest thing I had to a crayfish, and set off around the lake. With the rising water levels, a lot of baitfish had gathered around the inlet pipe, and the occasional predator was scything its way through the shoal. I crept over, and on closer inspection, could see various shadows beneath the bait—including the unmistakable outline of a black bass hanging under a weeping willow.
Out went the Clouser with a bow and arrow cast, and it was seized almost immediately by a cracking perch of a couple of pounds. Same again on the next cast, only this time a small zander was the culprit. With all the commotion, the bass had melted away into the depths, so I decided to give it a rest for an hour and go for a look elsewhere.
On my return to the inlet, I could clearly see two bass, one with its head completely up the inlet pipe, the other nosing around in the rocks beneath. I flicked the fly in again, and the fish in the rocks disappeared. The other fish, however, came out of the pipe and started nosing around the rocks like his mate. I gave the fly a little strip, and all his fins stood on end like he’d been plugged in to the mains. One more strip, and with a lightning fast extension of that cavernous mouth, he hoovered that little clouser up without a second thought.
The battle that ensued was by no means epic, and I’m not sure who was more surprised when I took hold of his lip. He was a wizened old character, battered and scarred and blind in one eye, all of perhaps four pounds. I doubt he had ever been fished to, let alone caught.
As I slipped him back into his lake full of 40- and 50-pound carp, I wondered if he would ever make a mistake like that again. But unless he gets a liking for boilies I doubt it very much!