Friday, April 20, 2018

First part of April

The first part of April 2018 was unusually and unseasonably cold.  We had snows, some ponds even partially iced over as late as April 17th!  The pond ice had initially melted off the ponds back just prior to March 3rd!  Lots of days with highs in the 30's and low 40's.  Water temps have been hovering around the upper 30's to low 40's F...compared to last year's water temps of 58 degrees by this time.  So....we've had about 6 weeks of NOT SPRING-LIKE WEATHER!

Now, as of April 19, the extended forecast is filled entirely with hi temps in the upper 50's to mid 60's F.  FINALLY...SPRING!!!!!

But, if there's open water and temperatures above freezing, I am likely to go flyfishing.  As the previous blog entry showed, some decent fish have been caught.  The rest of the fishing highlights from this prolonged cold spell are shown below:

Crappies have usually been hitting well.
13" Crappie...this is the biggest of the year so far.

Some nice bluegills have been caught, although I usually catch so many bluegills I almost never take pictures of them anymore.
This one might be the biggest so far, at 9.25"...I know that might not sound big, but around my area from public waters...anything over 8" is a nice bluegill.

Since my last blog entry, I've only caught one Pumpkinseed Sunfish:
And one Hybrid Sunfish:

I've caught some bass.  No recent ones over 18", but a close one at 17.75":
I don't recall if I measured this one:
These two measured 16" and 16.5", and were caught when it was 37 degrees, drizzling, with an 18mph wind:

The 33" Common Carp in the previous blog entry was my first carp of the year.  Since then, I've landed 3 more....all 3 from a pond where I've NEVER caught carp before, even though I've known they were in there, and I've tried for them.  So far this year, all 4 carp were caught while flyfishing for crappies and bluegills...I wasn't actually targeting the carp, and in fact I didn't even see them before they hit.  So....that's kinda like getting hit by lightning 4 times within a month!  Crazy!
After the 33-incher (from the previous blog entry), the next one (from a different pond) measured 31":
And the next one measured just 25.5" but had an 18.5" I used the "length x girth x girth / 800" formula to come up with a weight of 10.9 lbs on this one below:
And the next one was really cool too...certainly not because it was big...but because it was a MIRROR CARP!  I think this is my first Mirror Carp on a fly:
(this picture is just two pictures combined of the same fish, of course)
Mirror Carp on a fly, this cute little guy measured just @17". has been mostly decent, despite this long, cold early season.  Its about to heat up...probably rather quickly.  I look forward to seeing how that affects the fishing.

Iowa DNR Master Angler Gold Award

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR or DNR) started a new "Master Angler" program in 2011.  There is a list of 40+ fish species and a minimum length requirement.  If you catch a fish that meets or exceeds that minimum length, you can submit it for a Master Angler award.  You get a certificate and a decal.

Once you catch Master Angler-sized fish of 5 different species, you earn a "Silver Award"...they send you a silver-ish medallion along with that Master Angler certificate (which also says Master Angler Silver on it).

Once you catch Master Angler-sized fish of 10 different species, you earn a "Gold Award"...they send you a gold-ish (or brass-ish or bronze-ish) medallion with that Master Angler certificate (which also says Master Angler Gold on it).

I had 9 different species by the end of last year, so naturally one of my goals this year was to catch a 10th species of a Master Angler qualifying size, in order to earn the Gold Award.  As I showed in my previous blog entry, I caught that fish, and it was a 33" Common Carp!

So, now I've received my "Gold Award".  Here it is, along with the Silver Award I'd previously earned.
Twenty anglers preceded me in earning the Gold Award....I am No. 21.  I checked some of the other anglers, because I know at least one or two do some flyfishing.  From what I could tell, I am the first person to catch 10 Species of Master Angler size entirely by flyfishing.
Boom.  That just happened.  :)

All were caught out of public waters, and 7 of the 10 were caught within city limits of the town I live in!  How awesome is that??

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Iowa Flyfishing - March 2018

Wow, what a month!  Weather ups-and-downs...mostly downs.  I've been flyfishing when time/family/work/weather allows.
Bass fishing has been very hot and cold.  Mostly cold.
But when its good, its good!
Biggest ones have been this 18.25-incher:
..and this 17.25-incher that hit on the very next cast:

Bluegills have sometimes hit well, other times not at all.

Crappies have been good in some ponds, especially on the windier days when they seem to congregate on the downwind side of ponds.

Never catch enough of these beautiful Pumpkinseed Sunfish!

My buddy Jay and I flyfished a couple ponds yesterday (3/28).  We caught bluegills and crappies at both, and I also caught 2 or 3 bass at the first one.
Biggest crappie I measured was 11.5".

Jay went home, I tried another SKUNKED.
Went by 2 other ponds that already had anglers fishing, so I kept driving.  Tried one more pond (did I mention the town I live in has over 20 public ponds?).  Fished for crappies/bluegills, but was blocked by this:
(I couldn't decide which pic I liked better...dorsal fin up or back a bit... so I put them together in one photo's the same fish, obviously.)
Carp on Fly
33"... I just achieved one of my goals for the year by catching a 10th Iowa Master Angler species on the fly rod. Gold Award! The current DNR Master Angler program was started in 2011. You achieve the Silver Award once you catch Master Angler-sized fish of 5 different species, and the Gold Award once you catch Master Angler-sized fish of 10 different species. So far there are only 20 people in Iowa that have achieved the Gold Award distinction...I'll be #21. I suspect I may be the first one who has done it entirely with a fly rod!  How cool is that?

Based on length and approximate girth measurements and plugging those into a formula....I calculated the weight of this carp to be @ 18.5 lbs. For the first several minutes it was sluggish like it didn't know it was hooked. Then it took off! Long battle, probably around 20 minutes or so. Was so happy (and worn out) to finally land it! Beautiful fish!

Monday, March 5, 2018

First Open Water Fish for 2018

Much anticipated.  My last open water fish were caught on December 1, 2017.  Then the local waters became covered with ice, and so the icefishing season progressed.  About 3 months from the last open water fish, my first open water fish for 2018 were caught on March 3.

The ice disappeared VERY fast this past week.  We had high temps in the upper 40s (F) and into the 50's this week.  Couple that with the warmer-than-ice water under the ice, the ice eroded from both sides.  I was fishing on 6.5" of decent ice last the previous Sunday. 6 days later, these same waters (local public ponds) are wide open.  CRAZY!  Usually a warm rain will help the ice disappear faster, but we didn't even need that help this year.  Hopefully the weather and ponds don't experience a relapse and freeze over again.

So, I flyfished 2 local ponds, from @ 11am-3pm.  At the first pond, I caught bluegills and small crappies.  I used a microjig under a strike indicator.  I was fun to watch that indicator go down and feel a fish on the fly rod again!  I tried a larger jig under a bigger indicator...the same setup that worked for bass at the end of last season...but did not get any fish....I did have a couple strikes, but they were feeble, so I assume they were bluegills or crappies messing with it.

I try to take a picture of the first open water fish of the year, but it flipped out of my hand and back into the water while I was trying to get my phone out of my pocket.'s bluegill #2.

And the first small crappie of the day:

At pond #2, I continued trying for bass for awhile with the larger jig & indicator.  Caught totally inhaled the jig!  I didn't measure it, but it was probably a 14"-15" range bass:
I had no more strikes on that, so I switched back to the smaller microjig and indicator to try for bluegills.  Actually ended up catching at least 5 more (smaller) bass on that, along with a mixture of sizes of bluegills.  This was a really nice one:

A very successful start for the season!  The fish were reasonably aggressive, considering the water temperature is still very cold.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Icefishing February17,2018

Jay and I formulated flexible icefishing plans for Saturday.  We didn't know where we might find safe & accessible ice, so we had a series of "contingencies". 

Fortunately(?) the first place we tried was accessible.  The ice looked "iffy"....lotsa bubbles trapped in the ice, surface cracks....but not really honeycombed.  6.5" of ice.  We fished here most of the day, before hitting another place for the last couple hours.

Fishing alternated between very good, to zero throughout the day for each of us....usually only one of us was having success at any one time.  And then the fish would completely disappear for both of us.  Very bizarre.

Despite not catching much for hours at a time....we had fun and we did catch some decent fish!
We caught some crazy-aggressive chunky Hybrid Sunfish:
Hybrid Sunfish (presumably a Bluegill / Green Sunfish cross)

Even the Pumpkinseeds seemed more aggressive than the bluegills:
Pumpkinseed Sunfish

(BTW...the bottom right fish in the picture above is a Pumpkinseed hybrid.)

We didn't catch any crappies, and just a few bass.  This was the biggest of the day at a chunky 20" (see picture at the top of this post.)

I was looking down the hole when that one showed up and hit!

In other news....remember the ice rod that got ripped out of my hands and flew down the back in January?  Well...that pond's water is typically pretty stained all year.  But on Saturday I discovered it was strangely clear....I could see my lure tipped with a waxworm down to 8' +/-.   When we had arrived at the pond, Jay had initially drilled a couple holes to check ice thickness/quality.  Before we left that pond for the day, I decided to try and fish those holes since we couldn't find fish anywhere else.  I picked a hole that was over 6' of water.  I didn't mark any fish.  I dropped my lure/waxie to the bottom....then noticed something off to the side a bit.  Looked like my lost rod laying on the bottom!  I drilled 2 more holes before getting directly over the top of it.  I put on a rattle spoon and dropped it down.  Within a minute or two, I managed to hook THE CORK HANDLE (not the line or rod or eyelet like you would expect)....and reeled it up. I GOT MY LOST ROD BACK!!!  We decided the chances of finding it and retrieving it were astronomical.  CRAZY how everything worked out like that!  The uncharacteristically clear water was definitely the biggest factor.

Anyway....pretty cool stuff!  Oh....and no muskrats this time, but I did look down a hole once to see a ginormous bullhead slowly swimming just a couple feet under the ice.  I would have loved to catch it...I reeled up as quickly as I could, but it never turned or showed any interest and was quickly gone from view.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Icefishing in Iowa, January 28,2018

It just figures, right?  The past 2 Saturdays have been GREAT weather for icefishing.  The past 2 Sundays....not so much.  But Sundays are when I have time to do it, so we each take what we can get.

I ran to get some bait for my buddy Jay and I, and then scouted some local ponds to see if we could even get on them.  I drove by 2 ponds....looked pretty dangerous.  Third pond....MAYBE we could have gotten on, but would almost certainly have broken through with our first step on the ice.  Pond 4....Looked like there was one spot that we could have gotten on.  As I was walking back to my vehicle, a pickup truck pulled up, and one of the guys jumped out to talk to me.  They were looking for somewhere to fish too.  They had been on a small pond near Polk City earlier in the morning, and had broken through the ice.  The guy had plunged in thigh deep through the ice.  They went home and changed pants/socks/boots and were looking for safer ice.  I told them I thought they could get on in a certain spot at this pond, so they went out on the ice (successfully), and drilled some holes.  I checked some other ponds.
At pond 5, there was thin ice along the edges, but I thought I could see where we could probably step off shore and onto thicker ice.  At pond 6, it looked like it was accessible, and there was already a guy fishing there.  At pond 7, I thought maybe in a few select spots it may have been accessible, but other areas had thin ice around the edges.

I reported back to Jay, went home and suited up/loaded the vehicle and met Jay at the pond we decided to try first.
We got on the ice ok.  Holes were drilled, I measured 6" of ice.

Fishing wasn't super fast, but one side of the pond definitely had more fish activity than the other side.
I had a muskrat come up into my hole....3rd pond this has happened to me in just 3 days of icefishing this season.

Jay lost a big fish they took off on a blistering run, then either broke his line or cut it off on the ice.  He also caught the nicest Pumpkinseed of the day.
I had 2 nice fish that somehow took the Swedish Pimples off my line without even bending out the clip I had them attached to.  I'm puzzled about how that happens.
I did catch some bluegills, a couple pumpkinseeds, and two bass.  One bass measured 15", the second measured 19".

Monday, January 22, 2018

2nd Icefishing Outing of 2018

Jay and I went icefishing again on Sunday.

We fished 2 ponds we didn't fish last trip.  But this post isn't really about that.  Its about "the other stuff".

At each of the two ponds, I had muskrats pop up in the hole I was fishing.  At the 2nd pond, it almost looked like the little bugger was gonna start chewing on my transducer cable so I had to shoo him away!

And something else happened that I've never had happen before, and...yes, its rather embarrassing to have to admit it, but it was interesting all the same:
I set the hook on a fish... I could tell it was a nice fish. The rod was about forehead height and I was reaching up with my other hand to start reeling in some line.  The fish was apparently MUCH bigger than I thought and it TOOK OFF!  It ripped the rod from my hand and it harpooned right down the ice hole...didn't even touch the sides, I don't think.  I plunged my hand down the hole to grab the rod but missed.  LOST MY FRIGGIN' FAVORITE ICEFISHING ROD-N-REEL TO A FISH!  All I could do was shake my head and laugh about it.  The fish definitely won that round!

My son even came out and icefished for awhile.  He did well, catching at least a dozen fish.  He had fun, which is the best you can ever hope for.

We caught bass, bluegills, hybrid sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish and crappies.
Pumpkinseed Sunfish

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

First Fish(es) of 2018

After 2-3 weeks of subzero temperatures, the weather finally warmed up into the low 30's (F) here in central Iowa.
Time to icefish!
My buddy Jay and I visited 4 local public ponds on Sunday, January 7.  We fished from @ 9:15am-5pm.
I measured the ice thickness at 2 of the had 8" of good ice, one had 6.5" of good ice.

We caught fish at each pond.
We hoped for crappies at the first pond, but only caught bluegills. We had the pond to ourselves until 3 other anglers showed up.
First fish of 2018!
At the 2nd pond, which we also had all to ourselves, we caught bass and a couple bluegills.  We didn't mark many fish.

At the 3rd pond, there were 2 shacks already on the ice when we arrived....and by the time we left there were at least 18 people on the pond (including us)!  Fish were the most active in this pond, and we caught bass, bluegills and crappies.

At the 4th pond, we had it to ourselves and marked plenty of fish the entire time.  Apparently they were all tiny....we caught tiny crappies 5" and smaller....and small Green Sunfish as well.  Near the end of our outing, we each caught a couple bluegills that were in the 5"-6" range.   Lots of fish in the pond, they are just really small!

It was good to catch fish again...the last fish I caught were from open water about a month ago!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Flies That Worked Best for Me in 2017

Does it seem like the most productive fly patterns change each year?  For me it does.  I definitely have my favorite patterns, and I do think that over time the fish get wise to them and learn to avoid them, especially in the waters I fish most often.  So, folks that fish often like I do need to keep trying new fly patterns to keep one step ahead of the fish...or at least just to show the fish something they haven't already seen a few times.

Here are some of the fly patterns(in no particular order) for various species that worked well for me in 2017.

Largemouth Bass:
-Blockhead Poppers
These are basically identical to Tim Holschlag's blockhead poppers.  I just draw eyes on the sides (and one on the bottom) with a Sharpie marker, rather than glue eyes one.  I do like using rubber legs on these, I think they work better, and both the smallmouth and largemouth bass like them.

-Gamechanger (and variants)....This Blayne Chocklett pattern works.  And I admit I was very skeptical.  But bass jumped all over these.  I tied my own, experimenting with various materials for the bodies.  There are still other materials I want to try....some of the Feather Gamechangers look really good.  Mine are ugly.  I know it.  Fish didn't care.  I'm sure I'll get better as I tie more of these.

One thing....they take a long time to tie.  I probably spend an hour each on the 4-5 segment versions.  So, I've tied some up with as few as 1 articulation (probably not a Gamechanger at that point?), and they still have great action when retrieved with an erratic jerk-pause type retrieve, and they still caught a bunch of bass.

-FC Shiner:

-Float-n-Fly jigs:
These are baisically the same as the microjigs/Springbrook Wunders I use for panfish, and bass like the small ones too. These are slightly bigger and heavier (these are 1/32oz) with a bit larger hook.  The idea is to keep these under 3"...and in fact I tied these to be @ 2".  With them, I caught some really nice bass when the water temperature dropped.

-DDH Leeches:
This is a Stu Thompson pattern that catches a lot of fish, and many species.  I caught some nice largemouth bass on them this year, and my buddy caught a bunch of smallmouth bass, and even some carp and white bass/hybrid striped bass on them (and maybe even a trout?). You can read his article and see his tying tutorial on his website:

 I also did well with a variety of shad imitations, but apparently didn't take good pictures of those specific patterns.  It seems like ones with flash, marabou and/or craft fur probably performed the best.

Smallmouth Bass:
I successfully used several of the same flies for Smallmouth as I did for Largemouth.  I won't repost the same pictures again...but these flies caught plenty of Smallmouth Bass for me:
-Blockhead Poppers
-FC Shiner
-DDH Leech

Common Carp:
I didn't readily locate my pictures of these flies, but you can find these patterns online.
-John Montana's Hybrid Carp Fly (along with color variations) caught most of my carp this year.
-Black Ops (by Chris at

Channel Catfish:
I caught catfish on a variety of patterns this year, from bass-sized zonkers, to blockhead poppers, to microjigs, etc.  But the following patterns caught multiple fish each this year:
-John Montana's Hybrid Carp Fly
-Black Ops
-small black Woolly buggers with a glass beadhead

-Chartreuse microjigs and silver microjigs/Springbrook Wunders
-Chartreuse mylar chenille buggers....these worked well after dark when the crappies were feeding near the surface out away from shore over deeper water.

These worked in NE Iowa trout streams as well as for stocker trout in some urban lakes.
-Gold microjigs/Springbrook Wunders
-beadhead gold Woolly Buggers. 

Did you have some fly patterns that worked especially well for you this year?