Jim McGuire: Farm ponds

You’d think a pond in a field would be easy to find. Especially one whose location you’ve recently scrutinized via Google Maps’ satellite view.

However, a five-acre pond tucked away in the back third of a 300-acre field covered by a jungle of lush weeds, is like a speck of grit in your eye—you know it’s there, but it’s tricky to spot.

Not helping were morning temperatures already pushing 80 degrees, along with high humidity. I was half-blinded by sweat. Plus choked and coughing thanks to some dusty, miasmatic pollen. And I’d already stopped twice to pluck off creeping ticks—though who knew how many of their unseen legion had sequestered elsewhere upon my body?

What should have been a 20-minute amble turned into 45-minute ordeal. But obstinacy and self-inflicted masochism eventually paid off. I finally broke free of the weeds onto a grassy bank.

Before me lay a narrow oval of greenish water, fringed with scattered cattails. The pond’s surface shimmered in the sun—an unrevealing mirror. Redwings screeched like rusty gate-hinges, flashing scarlet epaulets as they bobbed on swaying stems.

I took a step closer to the edge. A trio of small frogs quonked at my approach and squirted into the water.

A metallic-blue dragonfly whirred busily on his predatory rounds.

The pond looked fishy.

A friend who makes her living reselling items she finds at thrift stores and yard sales, occasionally packs up and offers a “mystery box” on her website. Each carton is filled with an assemblage of related merchandise.

“Slow-moving or duplicate goods, mostly,” she explained. “Plus a few fun things to sweeten the pot.”

When I wondered aloud why anyone would gamble their money on a box of unknown articles, she grinned.

“Because of the thrill,” she said. “The surprise of opening the lid and seeing what’s inside.”

I thought about her reply as I looked over that pond.

For me, ponds are the fishing equivalent of a mystery box—angling grab-bags filled with piscatorial surprises. You never know what you’re going to latch onto in a new pond!

I unlimbered my ultralight spinning rod, tied on a diminutive plastic-tailed jig, and made an exploratory toss towards the middle of the tranquil surface.

Before I’d had time to crank the reel handle, a foot-long bass grabbed my lure and cartwheeled into the June sunshine, tossing droplets of water everywhere.

The torturous 40-hike from the road was immediately forgotten.

During the course of the next couple of hours, I landed and released more than a dozen similar-size largemouths. I also creeled a few larger bass—the biggest measuring perhaps 15 inches.

Not trophies, certainly. But fish filled with pizzazz and plenty of fun to catch.

In addition, I tolled up a stringer of jumbo bluegill. Big, thick-shouldered fellows; belligerent fighters, cloaked in shades of olive-black with streaks of purple. Gills worth any angler’s time and effort.

About noon, the air stilled and turned clammy. Sinister masses of ugly charcoal clouds began stalking in from the west, accompanied by an ominous sub-woofer growl.

For the longevity-inclined, wisdom says it’s a bad idea to stand in the middle of an open field and wave a stick during a thunderstorm.

I once knew an old man who, years earlier, had been struck by a bolt from the sky while picking huckleberries. He now had a bald patch on his head, a big scar down his neck, several missing teeth, and a wonky eye. Doctors called him a walking miracle.

“Son,” he once said to me, “you can’t dodge lightnin’!”

When the thunder began, I pulled up the stringer of fish I’d kept for supper and made a beeline for the SUV.

Like my friend’s mystery boxes, farm ponds are, indeed, pigs in a poke. You pays your money and takes your chances.

But they’re also great fun to ferret out and frequently furnish some truly phenomenal fishing—in spite of sweat, dust and ticks!

Just don’t try to dodge any lightning!