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BUSINESS DAY FLYFISHING COLUMN - The Princess and the Bass

I'm a bit hazy at the moment as to who it was that kissed the frog and turned it into a marriageable prospect for ever and ever. A calculated gamble to pucker up it was, for, under the old folklore, it was quite possible to effect such miracle. Yesteryear's wisdom would have been to not judge a book by its cover Given current day technology, "What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get". Kiss a frog and you get warts.

The black bass is rather like that. It's own supporters allow that it is not high in the beauty stakes, but I think them a bit harsh, for while the largemouth is clad fairly sombrely, I clearly recall a most magnificent smallmouth that I latched on to in the big brown trout water of Steenbras reservoir in the late Seventies. Over the years I have enjoyed frequent meetings with bass on fly - some very respectable ones - mostly in trout-stocked waters.

Bass in trout dams are not universally appreciated. It's usually nothing personal for they put up a very respectable fight on the fly, take to the air with admittedly a little pre-emptive head shaking and are a very tasty aperitif, but some quirk of nature permits largemouths to breed fairly prolifically in, what is for them, relatively cool habitat. This can play havoc, not only with anglers' expectations, but with trout stocking densities.

Yet, if the status quo has been determined, it's in the heat of Summer that the bass play a trump card. Trout, at that time, are more often than not sullen and melt away into the deep water. A sustained period of hot weather will not only make them uncooperative, but they can lose of condition and even go back in weight. Trout, in short, do not like steaming Februaries.

One such dam I fish, a fairly extensive piece of water, holds a mixed population and has carried on regardless for close to two decades. The trout grow superbly, even though I have never, in eight or nine years, ever seen bass fry in stomach contents and the bass population seems to come and go as nature wills it. Only in Summer - in some years - if you go and look for them, will you find Micropterus and then invariably in the luke-warm shallows.

So when last week-end it was obvious the trout-pickings were slim, I thought "why not?"

A medium-sized Montana nymph was all it took on a floating line and long leader. A few seconds to allow it to drop in between the clumps of reeds and then a measured retrieve. The result some very handsome olive-green specimens and a very pleasurable session of angling.

It does, of course, depend on one's outlook. Since I am myself no Princess, I might only look a frog in the mouth, but a gift horse, never.

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