Find A Needle In A Hay Stack?… That’s the same odds as finding a trophy fish in the largest natural freshwater lake in California, 68-square-mile Clear Lake. But it was the challenge Stan Press and I gave our guide, Bob Myskey, last Wednesday at 6:15 a.m. with the sun just beginning to color up the eastern rim of the lake.

Bob said “Let’s motor south to try some top water angling – it’s a long run.” Just 30 minutes later, I had hooked and subdued a 10.1-pound Clear Lake largemouth bass off some submerged shallow rocks in mid-lake.

Once again, that finely-tuned Rico popper did the trick, spitting water but staying in the strike zone. Gotta pay attention now. Be sure the hook is in that bony mouth. Keep your rod tip up and bent so it acts as a shock absorber when the fish pulls and runs, then runs right back at you trying to get some loose line that he can use to go free.

Watch that line like a hawk: When it flattens out, you know that moose is coming up to the surface to jump out of the water where he hopes to spit out the lure, so plunge your rod tip way down straight in the water to turn him back down. As you wind him in and the line gets shorter, lots more things can go wrong. The short line has less flex and stretch, so it could break and break your heart.

Now it’s the dance of the duo: Bob with the net and me with a wild-ass fish that is mightily upset. Careful as he wants to go under the boat to rub the line on a rivet and break it off. Try to keep max upward pressure on his head – it’s the best way to tire out a big fish. Be ready to step back when Bob is ready to net – you don’t want to be using a 7-foot rod to keep pushing the fish away from the net – and, GOT IT.

Here are some box car numbers to position this particular fish in my memory book:

1. It tied my previous best biggest bass at 10.1 pounds. That one was also caught fishing with Bob, a few Aprils ago up Adobe Creek on a live minnow.

2. I have caught and released four 10-pound bass in my lifetime, all in Clear Lake.

3. Since June of this year, we have had superb top-water action on the Rico. Eleven on Wednesday and another eight or 10 since June. Bob customizes his with some sharpie squiggles on the underside. No, you know I cannot show you those.

And Then Stan Took Over… catching a 6.1-pound bass on his Rico setup – not 20 yards from my catch. He led the way as we caught nine more on that same ridge. Whatta way to start the day. We caught and released 46 largemouth bass in our 12 hours spanning two days. Drop shotted plastics took over when the sun got on the water and shut down the popper bite. By the way, we had one more natural element in our favor. The top water bite is always best when the water temperature is 80 degrees. Guess what it was last Wednesday? Want to try some of this action? Call Bob Myskey at 340-4460; tell him Ryan and Press sent you.

Is There More… to fishing Clear Lake? Mother Nature will often provide some wildlife dividends, so keep your eyes open. She makes sure to have some dead tree limbs high up and water-side, where we saw bald eagles and ospreys surveying the fish action. They are the best anglers in the world.

I give the edge to the osprey and its waterproof wings, letting it dive right down into the water to grab a fish for breakfast. The eagle can’t do that – he’d get waterlogged under water – so he has learned to swoop in at high speeds, flair his huge talons, and snatch that fish right off of the surface. And, last but not least, to celebrate your catch, go have supper at the Saw Shop Restaurant and Galley in Kelseyville. Try to leave room for the bread pudding for dessert.

And Now Bass Fishing On A Fly?… Yes, the ace fly guy at Sweeney’s, Jose “J.R.” Rubio, is fly fishing for big bass using popper flies on top water. You all know I’m the klutz of the year when it comes to fly fishing, but I have great admiration for you who love it – right from tying your on flies to finding your fish in a quiet cove where you know that popper fly will work.

J.R sent this photo of the Size 6 Chartreuse foam Popper tied by the team at DeltaBassBugs. He also recommends a foam popper called the “Hornet” for smaller waters, and says the “Black Bee” works best at Lake Hennessey. Stop in at Sweeney’s on Imola to say “HI” to J.R. Tell him you are ready to bass fish with your fly gear.

And, While We Are In The Fly Mode… listen to these bits from Don Muelrath’s recent permit fly fishing trip to Belize. Local anglers Art Hinckley and Billy Taylor were with him in – outfitted from a floating lodge, The Rising Tide – a 58-foot Hatteras. It give them max flex to move to locations inside the Belize barrier reef, to cover the best permit flats in the world. Using crab imitation flies, they have five fish over 20 pounds. Don remarked that those are truly big permit, not usually seen. Check out more of this Belize trip at flyfishbelize.com.

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Email Bill Ryan at acorn_3@comcast.net.