Peninsula Fly Fishers

How to Fish the Kistler Ponds in May

by Igor Doncov

April 2008

Tom Kilfoil hoist a Kistler Bass
Tom Kilfoil Hoists a Kistler Bass

May is a great time to fish poppers at Kistler Ranch. This is a time of year when damsel flies have hatched and adults can be seen flying about, ovipositing, and resting on the reeds that line the shoreline of the ponds. As a result poppers work very well and I use them exclusively. Catching bass on the surface is the most enjoyable way to catch these fish and is the reason that this fishout is usually scheduled at this time of year..

The Ponds: Kistler Ranch contains 3 ponds. The first pond you encounter as you drive from the ranch house on the left is one of the best. It has a good bluegill population along the shoreline in the deep area by the dam and bass close to shore along the entire lake, especially in the shallows opposite the dam. The second pond is directly east of the gate. It is the largest and deepest pond. This pond lacks the bluegill numbers of the first pond but has crappies instead. This pond lacks the reeds of the first pond but has weeds growing along the edges. The best fishing is along the outside edges of these weeds. Looking out towards the pond from the dam the best water to fish is the left shoreline all the way to the opposite shore with action improving as you get closer to the opposite bank. The deep center of the pond should be avoided as it fishes poorly with poppers. If you do manage to hook a crappie it will be in this section of the pond. I am not familiar with the third pond and will not try to describe it.

Terminal Tackle:  I recommend using a Sneaky Pete in a size 8 at Kistler Ranch. The color doesn’t matter. Anglers usually prefer a larger bass for bass, but a #8 will catch both bluegill and bass. The largest bluegill can handle this size and it’s large enough to interest bass also. This popper can be purchased at many local flyshops and also ordered through Cabelas. It’s a diving popper and will submerge after every pull and float to the surface when at rest.

Equipment and Tackle: A float tube is mandatory at Kistler as the shoreline is overgrown with weeds extending a fair distance from shore. Breathable waders are better in May as it can get warm. Many flyfishermen prefer an 8wt rod for bass fishing. The reason is that bass poppers are heavy, bulky, with a lot of wind resistance. The small Sneaky Pete’s are not like that. I would recommend a 6wt rod with floating line and a 7 � leader. An 8lb or 10lb is perfect for the terminal end. A lighter tippet will often part during the strike and a heavier tippet will not give the popper the correct action.

Presentation: These poppers will be used to imitate either small frogs or downed adult damsels. The presentation requires a loud initial delivery on the surface followed by stillness. Bring the popper down with a splat in an area you think may contain fish. Then wait at least 30 seconds without any movement. During this time the rubber legs will be slowly unfolding on the surface, which the bass find very arousing. Be alert for a strike at this time as this is the most likely time to occur. After 30 seconds make a slow single draw on the line towards the angler. It should be long enough to submerge the popper but should not be abrupt enough to cause a pop. This is a second critical time. A strike will often at the very start of the pull. If no strike has occurred wait another 10-15 seconds. If a strike still has not occurred then retrieve the popper with strips and pauses all the way back to the float tube in a searching manner. The above described presentation is for bass that you’ve either located or are in an area suspected of having fish. It is also good when fishing for fish that are concentrated in an area. It’s not well suited for searching for fish in open water.

Time of Day: These poppers are best suited for fishing in dead calm waters. They are most attractive when their parts move gently – not in agitated water. The prime time to fish is early morning and late evening when conditions are optimal. The earlier you start fishing at Kistler the more success you will have. A small breeze starts to blow across the ponds about 2 PM and the fishing gets markedly worse after that. The popper is tossed around, losing it’s effectiveness. This is a good time for a lunch break or to socialize. The wind will continue in this manner until about 6:30PM at which time it will start to diminish. The fishing starts to pick up and continues to improve steadily until dark. If you can stay until dark you will be rewarded with as many fish as most of the day.

A Winning Formula: Most of the largemouth are found within a few feet of dry ground. These fish are looking for frogs that have fallen in or damsel flies. As you fish along the banks you will observe blue damsels flitting about or attached to the reeds. The bass see them also. Periodically you will either see or hear a fish leap out of the water with a loud splash. These are attempts to knock down an insect from the reed. If you see the fish jump make a mental note of it’s location. If you hear the fish jump, turn your float tube in the direction of the sound and look for the center of the spreading ring. Once you have decided upon the exact spot of the leap DO NOT take your eyes off it. With your eyes steadily and continually on that spot kick your float tube towards it until you are about 30 feet from it. Cast directly to the exact spot where the fish jumped and then  proceed with the directions listed under the heading ‘presentation’ until the fish takes your popper. If done right this method is almost guaranteed to elicit a strike and a hookup from a fish.
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