The other week I had this brilliant idea of starting a bi-monthly recurring themed post on the site centered around my reflections of a specific word in the alphabet. The premise was I would randomly open the dictionary to a page within a specific letter and then arbitrarily select a word from the page to write about. The very first entry was Z for zoology and it was pretty fun to write about.
The new word is yanquapin and the dictionary definition is “a water lily of eastern North America having pale yellow blossoms and edible globular nutlike seeds.” Sometimes it is referred to as the Yellow American Lotus and is quite common throughout my area, particularly at lakes I frequently fish at. This reminded me of some of my favorite fishing tales. Here are three memorable ones among the many, many I have that are centered around lilies, one of my favorite plants overall.
A few years back I was fishing one of my favorite lakes in North Jersey at a spot I’d recently found earlier in the season. It’s at the top end of a large cove where a rock face drops off into the water. Immediately to the left the cove opens up into a larger part of the lake with a steep drop off, and hooking around the point is a large patch of lilies. To the right are several submerged rock formations jutting away that on the far side of have another field of lilies stretching between 2 and 10 feet or so from shore them continuing around to the far side of the cove. Of course, this provides habitats for a number of fish species including large mouth bass which are one of my favorite targets in the lake. This time of year the lilies themselves were bursting in bright yellow blooms from the green pads along the water’s surface. I use a number of techniques to negotiate the lily pad line and that day after pulling a few smaller fish from the pads on the left while managing to keep the flowers intact, I placed a nice cast along the right side line and pulled up a lunker of a large mouth. It took me completely by surprise as it fought me throughout and keeping it’s retreat out of the lilies was certainly a challenge. When I finally landed it, it was by far the largest fish I had pulled out of any of those local lakes, and even if it isn’t the biggest one I’d ever caught it was an amazing looking specimen. Once documented, I returned it to the lake and sat back and enjoyed the moment taking in the image of the cove laid out in front of me.
Another place I love fishing is in the spillway of a large dam at the end of a lake in central Jersey. The spillway is actually like a large pond that has another small dam on the other end that dumps into a stream. In the center there are two small islands between which the water is very shallow and covered in a dense field of lily pads. The flowers seem to go out of bloom pretty quick and the seed pods end up floating on the water top when they come off the stems. The islands and lilies attract a large number of birds and there’s always something to distract you when the different species arrive. Typically, casting directly at the pad line produces good results especially with french and in-line spinners. This time around as I tossed a high arching gold blade at the edge of the lilies and as it sailed through the air the water crested near the spot it was headed toward. A large tail broke the surface at the very edge of the lily line and then submerged below the ripples as the lure plopped into the water. The next thing I knew the falling lure produced an initial heavy jerking motion against the line and then drew it out in a motion like a slow moving freight train. The fish immediately went for the weedy bottom and you could see the lilies straining against the fish trying to evacuate itself into them. Eventually the fish turned and I was able to coax it across the water to the shore. When it finally was visible it was an enormous catfish ready to continue dictating the fight as it attempted to circumvent my attempt at bringing it in for documentation. It took both myself and my fishing partner to lift the beast over the rocks and onto shore as it was too big for even the net we’d brought. It was a stunning catch against a really pretty backdrop.
My final lilies story from a fishing trip comes from yet another lake in Jersey. This particular lake provides large swaths of lilies throughout it. When in full bloom the surface of the lake almost appear almost completely yellow, white and pink from the different flowers. On the far side of the lake from the boat launches there are a particular group of lilies that back up to another weed line that then ends in cat tails against the shore line. The drop off near the lilies is pretty sharp and the line itself is anything but uniform. It would seem to be a perfect spot in some ways, yet most trips it hardly ever seemed to produce even a passive hit. This particular day was slightly overcast and the lilies were closed tightly displaying mostly a holey green mat of leaves, so I tossed one of my “weedless” lures into one of the openings and popped it in and out through the pads and then shifting the rod tip to turn it to run along the contour of the line back toward the boat. As it initially broke the lily line and made the subtle turn into open water it triggered a feisty hit in a thrashing motion that sent the lily pads shuddering around it. The rod strained from the reaction and the surface continued to display the fish’s struggle with the lure as it pulsed its body refusing to remit to the fight. Thankfully, it wasn’t far in the water to travel and when it finally came to the boats edge what we say starring back up at us from the water was the long, fat body of a very large, very upset chain pickerel. Boating the fish was interesting but worthwhile as it trumped my next largest pickerel by more than six inches when measured and went back in the water with the same attitude it came out with. It also set the tone for a very successful rest of the day out on the lake overall, which are always the best trips.