Monday, August 8, 2011

Stellar Catfish Day!

My buddy Jay and I had planned to meet up at a local reservoir on Saturday to fish from shore.  We target whatever we can catch, and from past recent experience it seemed likely we would be catching some Largemouth Bass and small (<12") White Bass.  We were primarily going to be using spinning gear, since long casts are often required to reach fish from shore at the spot we had selected.

But I always love catching fish on fly-fishing gear.  The previous night, I had tied up some streamers that approximated the size of baitfish we had seen here on our last fishing trip earlier in the week, and I wanted to try them out on the white bass and largemouth bass we had caught.

The spot we had planned to fish can be pretty good when the wind is blowing, making waves across the shallow flats.  Without wind, it is generally poor fishing.  At least it was overcast, which can sometimes help keep the fish in the shallows.  My expectations weren't high as I was driving to the lake, but we'll never know if was good or not.  We never made it there.

As I was driving to this spot, I was on a high road overlooking the Marina on one side, and a huge stormwater holding pond on the other side.  There is a pumping tower on the Marina side, and when the holding pond water level reaches a certain level, the water gets pumped into the reservoir.  When the pumps are running, it creates a large boil near the tower, and the current attracts shad (the main baitfish in the lake) and other fish come to feed on the shad.  Because the pumping is cyclical, fish aren't always in the area.  You never really know what you might find, if anything.  Since no cars were coming towards me, nor behind me, I swerved over into the other lane of the road so I could get a look down at the base of the tower as I was driving by.  There was a bunch of activity on the surface...large fish putting the smackdown on the shad!  THAT'S what I wanted to see!  I pulled a quick U-Turn to head towards a parking area, and called Jay on his cell phone to notify him of a change in our plans.  He was probably 5 minutes behind me and would meet me at the Tower.

I was excited to see that fish activity, and I couldn't get there fast enough!  I parked my car and quickly walked down the long trail to the spot.  The fish were still working the shad on the surface.  I could see the backs of some of the fish come up out of the water in the "boil" area.  Scattered around the general area, some fish were leaping out of the water.  Other than the shad, the only fish I could positively identify were Channel Catfish.  For probably 3 of the 4 hours we fished, the catfish were doing this jumping, many of them completely clearing the water!  And they were NICE-SIZED FISH!  For maybe 2.5 of the hours, at least some of the catfish were working the shad on the surface of the "boil" area.  The pumps stopped pumping around then.  A bit later, it was carp that were working those fish, and then finally the surface activity away from shore ceased.  But there were still thousands of shad streaming along the shoreline rocks right at our feet, and fish were charging them.  These turned out to be Carp too.  With the combination of shad and current that were present while the pumps were running, it was VERY strange that we neither saw nor caught any White Bass here.

I started with my fly rod, casting a #4 Black-nosed Dace streamer I had tied up.  I was hooked up into my first catfish of the day when I saw Jay walking down the trail.  What a fight!
 Jay may have caught a nice catfish next.  When I say "nice"...they were ALL really nice catfish!  We measured lengths on some, but didn't weigh any.  The smallest ones were probably 22"+.  My biggest 4 went 25", 26", 26", and 27".  Jay's biggest 3 went 30.5", 31" and 31.5"!!!  According to one source ( ), my biggest fish may have weighed around 9 pounds, and Jays biggest could have been over 15 pounds!  And we caught more than what is pictured here.  I landed 9 catfish (and got broke off by 3 or 4 others), and I think Jay said he landed 8 Channel Cats.  We released everything as usual.
Anyway, my next fish was this 26-incher on the fly rod.
 Jay then caught this monster, the biggest of the day, the 31.5-incher. 

 There's plenty of room left in its mouth, even with Jays hand in there!  He caught this jumbo on a 4" Big Hammer swimbait.
 Jay's next nice fish was this 30.5-incher (below):
 They weren't hitting fast enough on the fly rod anymore, so this is when I switched to my spinning rod.
I caught catfish on #3 Mepps, TNT Slab Spoons, and various white plastic shad bodies on jigheads with stout hooks.  This one was either a 25" or 26" fish.
 Jay spotted some action off to his left, and caught several nice Largemouth Bass on his swimbaits.  I threw over there too, and had a bass attack my Pop-R surface bait, but it didn't get hooked up.  I did eventually catch 3 bass, but 2 of them were tiny.
Jay then caught this 31-inch Channel Catfish:
 The action was slowing considerably, and soon ground to a complete halt.  This 27-incher was my last catfish of the morning:

This is when the catfish turned off, and the carp activity picked up.  I grabbed my fly rod, and put on a #10 Gartside Sparrow.  I didn't have my carp fly box (left it in the car), so I had to make do with what I had with me.  I had caught carp on nymph patterns here in the past, but I was skeptical they would show any interest since they seemed to be totally focused on crashing the multitudes of shad that they were trying to trap against the rocks.  Seems they will stick to their omnivorous ways!  They will eat whatever presents itself.
 The fish above demolished the fly, so I switched to a Hex Nymph pattern.  Again, I dropped it down in areas where the carp were making repeated attacks on the shad, and soon had another carp take the fly:
I had also caught a very colorful naturally occurring Hybrid Sunfish on a nymph pattern, but it flopped out of my hand and back into the water before I could grab my camera. 


  1. Awesome catch on the fly, catfish on fly is a hoot not to mention the meal. Thanks for post the nice pics. Great Post.

  2. Incredible story Dave! I go to school with Ben and he sent me a link to your blog. I would love to go out with you guys on a Saylorville (or anywhere) trip one of these days. Keep up the good work!

  3. Sounds good, Blake! Ben's a great guy and an EXCELLENT fly angler! Someday maybe I'll be able to cast as well as he does.
    There's still at least a month....maybe two...of good fishing to be had at Saylorville before Winter.
    You never know what you'll find. Some days are good, some are not so good...and some are EPIC.

  4. That's a heck of a day of fishing there, those are some really nice catfish...especially on a flyrod! Those things had to be a battle on the flyrod I bet. Nice post...Jeff