|Wednesday morning Marge and I headed for the cabin in the Ocala
National Forest . We arrived a little after
noon and just past the "fork in the middle of the road" (can't
help but think about the Muppets every time we turn there) saw a deer
run across the road.
we found the key, unpacked the car and, after the trip to Winn Dixie, settled in.
As we were unpacking and opening up the cabin, we noticed these two birds behind the cabin. I'd never seen water birds that looked quite like they did. The head coloration was something new to me. I later found out they were Sand Hill Cranes. They were hanging around and really didn't want to move. I'd walk out of the cabin, to the water and they'd start squawking complaints.
Eventually they'd get frustrated and take off.
As soon as I could, I grabbed a rod, paddle and my boat bag and launched a canoe.
The boat and canoes are almost as old as the cabin. All of them leak. I've tried to stop the leak in the yellow canoe without success for years. There's a crack in the keel (Do canoes have keels?) that seems to be the problem. I always forget to bring up the Bondo when I come.
As I launched the canoe I couldn't help but notice the different sets of tracks at the waters edge. They included a large Dog or a wolf, a deer, a smaller deer (or maybe the goat?) and those of a a water birds. I've seen deer, wild turkey, owls, coral snakes, house cats and a hand full of other critters around. There are bears within 15 miles but I've never seen one.
The wind was up and out of the west. The cabin's on the southeast side of the lake, so it was a long paddle to the other end. I tied a woolly booger on the end of my tippet and began prospecting. It wasn't long until this fellow came to hand. He was around 8 or 9 inches long. But he was a start!
They got better. By the way, that rod is a Dave Lewis graphite rod. It's very fast and will handle a sink tip line very well.
I caught fish all weekend, except for Sunday when I was blown out by what Texans call a "blue" northern, a dry cold front. Not as bad as the ones that come roaring down from Canada across the great planes, but enough to put whitecaps on the water.
Here are a few of the other fish
The last bass I caught before quiting, Saturday evening.
Two of probably 20 bream I caught over the four days.
|The best bass of the trip. just over 15
inches from the split of his tail to the tip of that bulldog lower
jaw. He put up a good fight and was still PO'ed when
I got him to the boat. (I don't fight fight fish very long. I
lose some that way, but then I don't have a lot of them turning belly
up on me. I work at getting them back into shape before I release them.) I put
this guy back in the water and he was tired so I pulled him around by
my finger for several minutes until he finally swam away.
There are bigger bass in this lake, I've seen them. But I've only had them on for short periods of time. The closest I ever got to one was a 4 to 4 1/2lb. bass that I got to the side of the canoe. He was looking up at me, saying, "You get in the water and we'll see who's the boss!" As I reached over the side he left me.
The Oklawaha river was to be part of that environmental disaster waiting to happen, the Cross Florida Barge Canal, that was finally killed by Nixon. However, much of the work that had already been done is still in place. At Moss Bluff, the Corps of Engineers built a Dam and locks and named the dam after a local politician. The KIRKPATRICK DAM. I'm not related. The dam is to come down as soon as they get around to it.
The upside to all this is the parks and boat ramps built both above and below the dam. And to service the fishermen who come there, there's a Florida style bait shop, complete with hound dog on the porch and on the other side of the river, a diner.
|Marge and I have driven by that diner for 15
years and never tried the food. This time we decided
to. Friday evening we tried out their dinner selection. The
place was so packed we had to wait for seating.
The food was good, but not so good I'd wait for it again. I'm
sure the fishers launching at the dam are what keeps them in
business. Not owning a horse, we didn't go into the tack shop.
I always take a bunch of rods with me when I got up to the cabin. In the early days they were fiberglass and graphite, but more and more they're bamboo. I guess I'm lazy. Bamboo seems to lend itself to a relaxed style of casting that graphite just doesn't have. I think it has to do with the mass of the bamboo. Of course any rod that's longer than about 7ft starts getting heavy after a days fishing.
Here's a picture of three of the rods I fished while I was in Ocala. From left to right: a 3p 8ft 6wt, a 2p 6ft 2wt and a 7 1/2ft. 2p 5wt.
From the very beginning one of the nice things about making my own rods has been that I don't have to worry about them. If I beat them to hell, who cares? If I break them I'll just repair or rebuild whatever is broken. I bought a Blank from Dave Lewis and eventually used the tip as a door jam. It didn't work. I returned the blank to the maker and the company sent me a new blank. I still have the rod but don't fish it as much, now that I build my own bamboo rods.
I'd suggest anyone who likes to work with their hands build at least one rod.
|Sunday came and the wind was blowing and I
didn't feel like fighting it. I was just to lazy to even try going out. I took down the rods, put all the
gear in the car and helped Marge pack and clean the cabin. Every
time we get ready to leave I've got mixed feelings. If we stay
more than four days I know it's time to get back. If it's been
too cold I've spent to much time chopping wood. If it's been to
warm, we've fought bugs the whole time.
|But I also know, each time we leave could be the last time we come to this place where there is no cable, no Internet, very little TV, and very spotty cell phone service. A part of the earth set aside.|