Sometimes Paula and I don’t have a major adventure on the horizon, one that involves plenty of planning and preparation and has us bursting with excitement and anticipation. This seems to be one of those times, although I still hold out hope that Canada will loosen its border restrictions soon, which would trigger some frantic activity ahead of a northern Ontario bush plane flight into a remote lake, an outing I’d pretty much written off for the second straight year.
But really, adventure awaits out our – and your – back door. You don’t have to trek to the Yukon, Wyoming, British Columbia, Alaska, or Kansas. Over the years we’ve made incredible memories on Barclay Mountain, the Chemung and Susquehanna rivers, Schrader Creek, state game land tracts, a laundry list of farm ponds, and even Round Top Park.
So when I did a quick grab and go with my fishing gear a couple weeks ago, with Paula off camping at Hills Creek State Park and bonding with our Lab pup Riley, my boyish enthusiasm kicked in, knowing full well something special could happen.
This time, it was on the Susquehanna River, where over the years my encounters have involved not only smallmouth bass, walleye and the occasional muskie, but deer, bald eagles, otters, beavers, and even black bears.
Unlike now when the river is running high and chocolaty, conditions were ideal, although low humidity had me wondering whether the smallmouths would be feeding.
I didn’t have to wonder for long. My second cast of a Chug Bug topwater lure yielded the explosive strike I was looking for, and although the bronzeback barely reached 10 inches, his dogged determination was appreciated as I quickly released him for another day.
It was only the beginning. Hit the river, any river, often enough and you’ll have nights like this, when it seems every bass is feeding and you make a cast and quickly try to close your reel’s bail ahead of the impending assault. In rapid-fire succession the fish came; nothing huge, but several above the legal 12 inches, although I can’t remember when I last kept a smallmouth. Probably when I was a kid cooking it on stick and proclaiming it the best shore lunch ever.
On this night, there was no second-guessing lure choice or color. My first presentation worked. Things were so good I texted a friend who was unable to join me and apologized for my solo success. I reminded myself to bring along a fly rod next time in the event things are equally red hot; stripping streamers or topwater options with a 6-weight is simply a blast on nights like these.
It was a fast and furious couple hours, but just like that, as can happen on any river, it was over. My night was so enjoyable I didn’t even attempt to change offerings, perfectly content to head home a little early and boil up some pierogies. Our other Lab, Finn, welcomed me as she always does, and appreciated a pierogie as we watched the Pirates lose another game.
It wasn’t the Northwest Territories or Montana, but on this night it was enough.