Bluegills By Mark Usyk

A new fishing kayak can be a big investment. But as JP likes to say, in purchases such as fly rods and fishing vessels, these purchases aren’t investments in money, but in happiness. The initial purchase requires money. Each time you use the item purchased from that point forward, you’re banking experiences that make you smile during the doing and again in the memories. He wasn’t selling me the kayak, but he was one hell of a salesman if I needed the push. I didn’t, because my own father had already convinced me, but it was reassuring anyhow to hear that bit of wisdom from a good friend.

So a couple weeks later when JP told me he “just needed to catch some fish, any fish” I knew this would be the first serious fishing outing with the new kayak. And by serious, what I knew I meant was not serious. Or more accurately, seriously fun. We weren’t going to target some extremely picky or wary trout, we weren’t going to low crawl and then attempt lighter than air sixty foot casts to spooky carp, we weren’t going to drive for three days and then paddle a river for three more.  He wanted to go bluegill fishing, just catch some bluegills. Just feel a fish put a bend in his fly rod. As he put it the week before, he just wanted to know that “I can still catch a fish” “I need to know.” That’s about as serious as any reason that I’ve ever heard.

The drive to the lake took about forty minutes. We could’ve found bluegills in just about any waters closer to home, but when the trip is as serious a trip such as just needing to know you can still catch a fish, then such things should take place in only the most precise places. They need to be just far enough from home to not be completely convenient yet close enough to spend more of your time fishing and less of it driving. It also helps to sometimes have fond memories of actually catching fish on that water in the past, which JP did. And so I followed JP’s Jeep with the green canoe strapped to the roof for forty minutes to both help a friend prove that he could indeed still catch fish and at the same time break in my new Hobie fishing kayak properly. That of course being catching fish on a lake I’d never been on all in the name of supporting a good friend in his time of need. What are friends for after all? 

The lake wasn’t at all what I would normally drive to find. Usually I’m driving towards smaller populations that fade out into no populations by the time I get where I’m going. This particular lake was in a large, what I would refer to as an “upscale” town, and it’s shores were completely privately owned and covered with beautiful homes and manicured lawns. But that also meant boat docks, which means cover for fish. Thankfully, a park at one end of the lake gives kayakers and canoers access to it.

It took no time at all to get into bluegill. It actually took way longer to unload our boats and get everything rigged up than it did to find fish and for JP to have a bend in his fly rod. He was smiling instantly. “Ok. I can still do it. It’s been a tough year so far. But I can still do it.” I didn’t say it out loud, but I wondered if he was talking about catching fish or smiling a genuine smile. Either one is something everyone needs to remember how to do from time to time I suppose.

We spent the entire morning cruising the lake shore, searching the crystal clear water for the white patches on the bottom, and sight fishing to hungry hand sized pan fish that probably would’ve taken a pebble tied to a hook if we’d tried it. We cracked jokes about the fish and how they’d eat anything they could fit in their mouths and even stuff they couldn’t. We saw bass swim along beneath us in water so clear it was almost like watching fish swim by at an aquarium. But most importantly, JP found out he still knew how to catch fish.

As for my first dedicated use of a day off from work to take the new kayak out I learned a couple things too. I lost three tiny poppers in my first three casts to bad knots. You read that right. My first three casts all ended with a fish taking the popper on that cast and leaving me with an empty leader. I tried to picture three goofy looking sunfish with trucker hats and buckteeth that just couldn’t help but snip the line with their comical but hideous hillbilly dental features, but I knew that I just couldn’t tie a knot when it came down to it. I took extra care the rest of the day and managed to keep the rest of my flies.

I have a new lake to fish, and one I’m sure I’d have never driven to if I hadn’t followed JP there. It was in the wrong direction. I always go north, and this one was south. I always look for nothing but trees, and this one was surrounded by houses. And with the sun beating down, the temperature climbing into the high 80s, the clear water and the beautiful homes right on it, it reminded me of fishing in Florida. It made me realize that, hey, maybe because of this new Hobie, I need to take a road trip back down to my old stomping grounds and do some saltwater fishing from it.

And speaking of the Hobie, I was on it for so long that day that when I laid down at night to go to sleep, I could still feel it moving on the water under me. I could still feel the sun and the breeze on my face, and I liked it. And I think I decided that I’d make a good pirate too. Just change the swords on the Jolly Roger flag to fly rods and set me loose. I mean, I sleep on a couch. So why couldn’t I live on a kayak? It makes perfect sense in my head. Arrrrrrg… A pirates life fer me.

Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod and Carp Are Jerks, both books full of stories about life where fishing happens. If you enjoy his short blog tales, then you’ll enjoy reading his books. They’re available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, online at Target, and signed copies are ready for purchase on this website…



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