Friday, January 22, 2010

Bass Pond Apocalypse

In June of 2008, I drove to a friend’s apartment complex for a day of fly-fishing and classical music listening. This was the first time I had visited him in his new location, and I had heard talk of huge large-mouth bass and cooperative panfish in several ponds. I arrived armed with music disks, and a large duffle of tackle.

The day was as hot as the face of a griddle and sunny, and upon arrival, I noticed that my friend was already fishing. The apartment complex was enormous and sprawling. The land consisted of hills and valleys, and several small dams backed up a creek to form a series of weedy ponds. I greeted my friend and found that he and his roommate had already landed several panfish. I armed myself with a foam cylinder popper, and went to work. The first cast produced a ten-inch largemouth. This was going to be a blast!
I don’t necessarily believe in fate or karma, but I do notice that when success comes too easy and soon, disaster is likely to follow. These bass had had every lure in creation thrown at them. Local kids with snoopy rods and random tactics had turned the bass from willing players to extremely dour and spooky. I could see bass up to six pounds slowly swimming through the weeds. In four hours of fishing, all I had to show for it were two missed takes, one panfish and one small bass, muddy feet from stepping in a hidden hole (I am great at locating these), and a nasty sunburn. I also caught a lifetime supply of weeds. In fact, it seemed at times that I was doing a one-man job at weed reduction in the pond.
Then it began to rain: lightly at first, then steadily heavier. We had noticed ominous black clouds moving in from the west, so we retreated to the apartment.

My friend and I share an interest in weather in general and storms in particular. Soon the television was tuned to the local news broadcast. No matter which station we tuned in, the weather personalities were wide-eyed and visibly excited. It doesn’t take much to excite these guys anyway, but now they were hysterical. The radar showed the entire southern half of Wisconsin as one giant red blob. Sirens began to go off as I moved my car into the shelter of the underground garage. Just in time too. A massive storm front with evil rotating green-gray clouds and constant lightning began to dump hail that covered the ground like snow. The temperature dropped fifteen degrees in a minute, and more sirens declared the obvious. White wisps danced before a boiling wall-cloud and kissed the tops of the trees and roofs. I half expected the four horsemen of the apocalypse to ride out of the looming and churning storm.

Then it began to really rain like I have never experienced before. I almost thought I heard a deep voice saying “Noah, build an arc.”
All visibility was lost, as the entire air became water. The television proclaimed flood warnings, downed power lines, stranded motorists, tornados, hail damage, and the end of the world. When the downpour let up enough to see out the window, we witnessed strange fountains of water shooting twenty feet into the air. The hills of the subdivision were partially drained by a system of culverts. These culverts had gathered so much water that they became pressurized, shooting water in great arcs into the sky. A turtle emerged from the nearest pond, and crawled across the sidewalk to take refuge in some bushes. That’s when we noticed the water level in the ponds had risen by at least a foot. Weeds were no longer visible. Then all visibility was lost for the next two hours as the skies opened, and a truly biblical downpour began. Local storm and sewage systems were overwhelmed, and manhole covers shot into the air. Roads turned into raging rivers.
We alternated between music and the weather broadcast for the next few hours until hunger drove us to attempt to find an open restaurant. We made our way through a labyrinth of streets blocked by squad cars and filled with debris, and by a miracle, found a greasy hamburger joint. The food was wonderfully awful as it always is in these locally famous grease-pits. As we ate, the rain began to slow to a drizzle.

Back at the apartment, and sated with food, I suggested that we venture out and see how the bass were doing. We donned waders and rain gear and hit the pond. By now the water had fallen enough that the little footpath surrounding it was only submerged by a couple inches of water. I made my way to the inlet to the main pond, which was gushing forth a stream of dirty water through the cattails, and put my popper as close as I could to the incoming water. What followed can only be described as insane. Every bass in the pond was gathered at the inlet eating all the small fish, insects, and what ever else that had washed down to them. They liked the popper too. I missed more fish than I know in the darkness as they exploded on the fly. I had to set the hook by sound. We had found the secret to the dour bass. They were like sharks on a feeding frenzy, arbitrarily hitting everything and anything, even each other, in their mania for food.

That could have been the end of the adventure, but as they say, “When it rains, it pours.” After navigating flooded streets and hydroplaning on the freeway, I got within two miles of home and reached a dead-end. The main road was closed due to a flooded underpass. I drove through side streets filled with up to two feet of standing water for an hour before I found a way home.

I awoke in the morning in time for the parting shot. Another storm blew through and knocked down half the trees in the neighborhood.

All in all, six to ten inches of rain fell within an eighteen-hour period. Half of Wisconsin was a disaster area, and some communities were entirely isolated when rivers rose all around them and washed out bridges.

This was the day, of all days, that I picked to go bass fishing. We later learned that the tornado warning that was issued was due to the large rotating cloud that passed directly over us. Nice.

The moral of the story is simple. You choose the day to go fishing, not me. My track record is a bit tainted.


  1. No wonder why the wind blew so much last fall. Or the rains failed to come. Or it was super hot early. Or it was record cold.



  2. Sorry 'bout that...
    It just follows me.

  3. lol

    don't make me stop this car you two....


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