"We could stop at Wapanocca," I replied... and so we did.
This would be only our second visit to Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge- "a wildlife oasis in an agricultural sea." The first time was back in the fall of last year for the maiden voyage of the Emotion Glide Angler Kayak. We used the kayaks to fish the big lake on the refuge, but it was terribly windy and the water was very low. We never found any deep holes... and thus caught no fish. Even though we didn't have any fishing success, we did discover that Wapanocca N.W.R. contained some really nice cypress swamp and bottomland hardwood forest habitat.
Our second visit to Wapanocca turned out to be a bit different.
It seemed like it might be a great day for snakes to be out, but we didn't see very many, and only managed to catch this little guy.
|Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus)|
We saw another Ribbon Snake moving across the road and a few water snakes as well. Even though we didn't actually catch any, I could see and positively identify several Broad-banded Water Snakes (Nerodia fasciata confluens)... but there was one that I couldn't positively ID before it disappeared back into the swamp. From the brief glimpse I got, I'm pretty sure it was a Mississippi Green Water Snake (N. cyclopion)... a species I've never caught before. It wouldn't be at all surprising if it was. They're not rare or endangered... somehow I've just never been in a place where they are common. A biologist from the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science told me that there are catfish farms where Green Water Snakes are "thick as thieves"... but I've never been snake catching on a catfish farm in the Mississippi delta. I can tell you that even though they should be found around Memphis, I've never seen one in nearly twenty years of snaking. I've seen and caught hundreds of other water snakes, but never a Mississippi Green.
Oh well, one day I'll get my hands on a Mississippi Green... one day.
So, unlike our fishing trip to Hickahala Creek that became a snaking surprise, this adventure took the opposite path. Thinking we would stop to play with the snakes, we ended up spending more time fishing.
|Broad-banded Water Snake that appeared while we were fishing. Look closely.|
We decided to walk a levy that bordered a really nice looking cypress swamp.
Once we got about half way down the length of the levy we discovered a deep hole near an outlet channel (used to manage water level) that was full of fish. We saw a Largemouth Bass that was maybe three pounds, lots of gar, and some monstrous Bowfin (Amia calva). One of them was well over 24" and probably approaching ten pounds. A Bowfin is a primitive fish species that quite literally swam with the dinosaurs. They are common in southern swamps, but somehow I've never caught one of them either. I really wanted to try and catch one on the fly rod... so back to the car I went.
|Bowfin, a.k.a. "cypress trout," gulping air... not sipping mayflies.|
I got Kelly's big 10' 8 wt, and we went to work. The bass that had been cruising through the pool disappeared as soon as my first cast hit the water. The Bowfin also pretty much disappeared. There was the one really big one that I sight-casted to repeatedly when it reappeared... but alas all I caught was a single gar. Kelly got a video of a gar following the Bunny Butt Slider, and then the fight after I finally hooked one.
After I caught a fish it was Kelly's turn. She caught a nice
|Crappie like the Bunny Butt too.|
Kelly also got a look from a Bowfin... which is more than I can say. It came out from under the vegetation and studied the slider for a while, but probably decided it didn't smell like food. It was really cool to watch.
So, we didn't catch a Bowfin, but we tried... and now we know a good place to try, try again.