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?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Float-n-Fly for Late Season Bass

Here's something we can all use....whether you are using spinning/baitcasting gear or flyfishing gear:

The Float-n-Fly.

Historically for me, bass have stopped biting when the water gets cold, so I usually finish off my open-water flyfshing season targeting trout and crappies.  This year, bass held my attention later in the year than usual.  In September and October, I mainly went to using larger flies, some as big as 4-4.5", like Blayne Chocklett's Gamechanger, and my own variants of that pattern.   That works great for awhile.

But once the water dropped to 45 degrees F or less, the bass didn't seem to want to chase a bigger fly at all, no matter how slowly it was worked.  I switched to using 1/80th oz microjigs under a strike indicator first, and caught some good bass.  But I wanted a jig with a bit larger body, and a larger hook....because those little microjigs aren't really designed to hook and hold a fighting big bass.  They will hook and hold one, usually....but that small hook always worries me when a big fish is on.

I found some 1/32 oz South Bend jigheads that had a decent sized hook, and a head design that let a jig ride close to horizontal when suspended at rest.

I'd read an article that suggested using jigs SHORTER than 3" late in the year.  Most of the ones I tied were around 2" in length.

These are too heavy for my usual Fish Pimp medium-size strike indicator, so I floated one of these with a large size Fish Pimp Strike Indicator.  This rig is still somewhat heavy for a fly rod to cast....I managed it with an extra-fast 6wt Allen Azimuth fly rod overlined with an 8 wt SA Titan Taper fly line.

I was able to leave work around 2pm on Friday, December 1.  I flyfished from 2:45pm until around 5 pm....which is when it is getting dark in Central Iowa at this time of year.

Based on a very credible tip, I visited a pond I don't normally fish.  Fishing wasn't fast or particularly exciting...which is to be expected since the water temperature is so cold and....its DECEMBER in Iowa! :)
I ended up catching 5 bass and 4 crappies.  The bass were mostly pretty nice ones....with the 3 largest measuring 17.75", 18.5", and 20.5" (in that order in the picture below).

These are really nice bass for Iowa...I was THRILLED!

I may have gotten lucky(?)....I tried that pond again the following Sunday, and only managed 2 crappies an 1 bass (17").
I then went to a 2nd pond and managed to catch 4 bass there...with the biggest, again, being 17".
I went to a 3rd pond, and ended up getting skunked there.  I wasn't surprised.
This Float-n-Fly technique absolutely works on late season cold-water bass.  I'd read that folks typically fish this system in deeper 5-15' down.  I tried to fish it deeper in the deeper pats of the public ponds I was fishing....but I ended up catching all the bass closer from water @ 3' deep, with the jig set about 2' below the surface.  Experiment to see what is working for the waters you are fishing.  Give it a shot!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2017 Iowa Fly Fishing Summary

After keeping electronic Fishing Logs for 10 consecutive years, 2017 was the 2nd consecutive year of not keeping one.  I had planned to do one, but then fell behind early in the season on logging results from outings and had to give it up.  

So...there are many 2017 metrics that I don't have solid numbers for....such as total fish caught, how many days fished, how many of each species, etc.

But there are some metrics I do have a fairly good handle on.

I caught 20 species of fish this year, 19 of which were caught on flies. (I had at least 2 fair-hooked Grass Carp on, but did not manage to land any of them).

I caught 2 species I had not caught on flies before...a Black Bullhead and a Hornyhead Chub.

I caught new or tied flyrod personal bests for 4 species.

I caught at least 10 fish of 5 different species that qualified for an Iowa Master Angler Award.

Some notable fly-rod-caught fish from the year:
-21.25" Largemouth Bass
-15" Black Bullhead
-8.25" Rock Bass
-28" Bigmouth Buffalo
-28" Channel Catfish
-28" Common Carp

I caught 14 Largemouth Bass between 18" and 21.25".

I caught at least 25 Channel Catfish on flies this year.
I caught at least 20 Common Carp on flies this year.

Overall, it seemed like a pretty good year.  I don't have the hard numbers to back it up, but I feel like I caught a LOT of Largemouth Bass on flies this year, compared to previous years....and the numbers of 15"-18" fish was excellent!  Hopefully that translates into a lot more 18"+ bass in the next several years.

I didn't feel like I caught as many bluegills and crappies as in past years.  I fished for them less, but even when I targeted them, I didn't catch as many.  Maybe the booming bass populations have something to do with that?
15" Black Bullhead
16" Smallmouth Bass

13" Crappie
28" Bigmouth Buffalo
8.25" Rock Bass

Pumpkinseed Sunfish
Pumpkinseed Sunfish

Common Carp

21.25" Largemouth Bass caught on November 15
28" Channel Catfish

Add caption

Hornyhead Chub
20" Largemouth Bass caught on February 28

Technically the fishing season...and even the OPEN WATER fishing season isn't over.  Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  I drove by a pond on the way to work this morning that was 100% ice-covered.  We are supposed to have a bit of a warm-up, so I expect the ice will melt off, and isn't likely to start forming again until @ December 5th.  We shall see if  I'm able to squeeze in some more flyfishing this year.

If not....its been a VERY good year, and I really enjoyed the fishing!  Hope you did as well.
20.5" Largemouth Bass caught on December 1!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mid-November 2017

The weather continues to get colder and windier.  We had days that were forecast to be in the 50's, but then it never made it that warm.

For some reason, I've really struggled to catch bluegills and crappies, which are typically about the only thing reliably biting this late in the season.

As sort of a continuation to my previous post about fly size for bass, I went fishing for bluegills & crappies, and ended up only catching some decent largemouth bass.  The first two hit a microjig under an indicator, so I switched to a small shad fly and caught one more.

And by the way....on this particular day I fished 3 ponds....I got skunked at the first two.  The next time I fished the same 3 ponds, I caught fish at the first two, but got skunked at the third.  So....I guess the point might be "the fish are always biting somewhere"?

And they were hitting the larger flies again.

Unpredictable fishing seems to be the name of the game this month.  A couple weeks ago I caugth bunch of decent crappies from one pond.  So, one day I took the afternoon off work to flyfish for them again since the wind was strong from the same direction.  I hoped the crappies would be along that same windblown shoreline where they have been before.
Caught one.
But it was the only one.  I missed a few good strikes, and only managed to land one more fish....a bass.
So I headed to another pond to try and target bluegills.  I caught some:

As I was fighting one of the bigger bluegills, a BIG bass took a swipe at it right in front of me.  That was exciting!  I switched flies twice before I felt like I was using something that big bass might strike.  A couple casts later.... BAM!  That was pretty cool, and even better that I was able to fight and land it.
21.25"....the biggest bass I've caught all year!
I didn't weigh it, but some bass weight/length tables I found suggested a weight of 5.7 pounds....this is a very good bass for Iowa!  As far as I can recall, this bass probably ranks as the 5th largest bass I've caught in Iowa.

Just when I assumed I'd probably caught nearly every bass in this particular pond....This one shows up!  I was stunned by the unexpected.  After releasing the fish, the adrenaline gave me jelly legs for about 20 minutes....and I kept making these weird involuntary sounds of disbelief and even talked to myself a couple times.  This fish turned me into a crazy person!  Pretty fun!

I feel the open-water season drawing to a close.  The ponds WILL freeze over for the winter, as they typically do here in Iowa.  I'll fish the open water as long as I can and as the weather allows.  Whatever happens...this has been a pretty darn good year for flyfishing...and this bass was an exclamation point on the season!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, everyone.