Friday, July 29, 2011

Grass Carp? Catfish!

My friend Ben and I ventured out this evening to try chumming bread at a local pond for Grass Carp...then we would toss flies to them.  The first pond we tried is reported to have gotten a "mother lode" of grass carp stocked into it last year.  To the tune of 60 grass carp in a pond that covers 4.26 acres.  After about 1.5 hours, we didn't raise a single grass carp on the bread.  I caught a few bluegills while I was waiting for grass carp to show, and Ben caught a decent bass that put up an excellent fight.

Next, we decided to try this same tactic at another nearby pond where I have seen (and caught on fly gear) grass carp.  At first it was sunfish hitting the bread, but then some bigger fish showed up.  We were excited!

I tied on a "bread fly" that was mainly white marabou with a little tan marabou, tied similar to a Gartside Softhackle Streamer.  I got the first hook-up into a good fish.  It started dragging my line through the algae mats, so I had to wade out into the water to free my line up from this heavy "gunk".
Fortunately, by the time I cleared my line, the fish was still on!

Check out the bend in the rod below!

It was a good fish....but not "grass carp"-sized.
Turned out to be a channel catfish with a huge belly....and it was hooked in the side!

 Anyway, we kept baiting the area, and had some more larger fish hitting the bread.  As the sky darkened, I got another take.  FISH ON!  I had to wade back out into the muck again to land this fish.  It was another fat-bellied channel catfish, and this one was hooked in the mouth. 

Ben switched to a floating bread fly pattern he had tied, and started catching bluegills on it, despite the large hook.
It was fun fishing, and exciting to see the big fish boiling on the floating bread.  Were ANY of those boils made by our target species, Grass Carp?  Until we catch one, we just don't know.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Smallmouth Bass, 7-27-2011

After our carp adventure this morning, Ben had plans to meet a friend and fly-fish for gar.  I was very tempted to join them, since I had tied up some modified patterns I wanted to try out for the gar.  Gar are a very interesting fish, and a fun challenge to sight-fish for them.
But with the heat we've been having, I thought wading a river for smallmouth bass might be a bit cooler and more relaxing.  Its something else I've been wanting to do.  So, I went wading and fly-fishing for smallmouth bass.
I had selected a stretch of river I had never fished before, on a river I hadn't really fished since about 1990!  I got there, and the road was closed and construction work was being done on the bridge where I was going to start wading from.  So, I crossed that spot off my plans.  I could go downstream to the stretch I fished back in my college days...or I could head further upstream.  I went upstream.
The area upstream I had actually heard of before, but never knew where it was.  It was Soper's Mill on the Skunk River north of Ames, Iowa.  Its a popular canoe launch location.
I was surprised how small, narrow, and low the river was.  Oh well, I'm here and I'm ready to give it a try.

Just below the round-boulder "dam", I tried a number of fly patterns. I had a couple hits on a Foxee Red Clouser, but didn't hook up. I tried some nymphs with no hits. I tried a Clouser Deep Minnow and a largish "microjig". Nothing. I can't remember what else I tried, but I went back to a Clouser. I got a hit and hooked up! It was a 13-incher.




See the Clouser Deep Minnow?
I also caught a second Smallmouth on the Clouser, but it wasn't very big.

I waded downstream a bit and decided to try a balsa popper I had bought somewhere.  I cast it out and before I could even twitch it, a fish hit!

 With THAT kind of action, I decided to keep fishing with the popper.  I had cast to a tree branch that was hanging into the water, twitched the popper a couple times, and a nice fish pounced on it!  I thought it was a big smallie, but it cut the line immediately...I barely felt any pressure from the fish.  Its the kind of think a pike or musky will do.  So what was it?  I still think it was a bass.  Anyway, my popper floated up right away, so I waded downstream and intercepted it.  I tied it back on and headed on downstream.
There wasn't a lot of places worth casting to...I could see the sandy or muddy bottom in many places, and there was no structure that would hold a bass.  I was letting the popper drag in the water behind me as I waded through some of these featureless areas...and caught this bluegill!

My biggest fish of the trip was this 16" Smallmouth Bass:

 The sun was getting low, I was hot and had a long trudge back upstream to my car, so this was the last fish of the trip, another nice 13-inch fish.

Fly Rod Carp, 7-27-2011

Hopefully you've read the previous blog entry.  After yesterday morning's success, we tried it again this morning.  Carp are smart, and perhaps they've learned our strategy already.  We had very few carp show up today, and when they did, they would take one or two pieces of our bread "chum" and then disappear again.  It was frustrating.
I started fishing for bluegills.  There were some good-looking fish in the 7.5" - 9" range.

 The one above is a male bluegill, the one below is a female bluegill.  You can tell by the size difference of the black "opercle" on their gill plate.
 The fish below is a naturally-occuring Hybrid Sunfish.  Very colorful and feisty.  I suspect it is a Green Sunfish x Bluegill cross.  I've seen others around the docks, but this is the first one I recall catching from Saylorville Lake.
 With the last of our bread supply, we chummed one more time.  A couple carp showed up!  Ben spotted one cruising along one dock and landed a perfect cast just in front of the fish.  It grabbed it, and the battle was ON!  At first it charged around not far below the surface, but then it dove straight down and peeled line off Ben's reel.  He worked it back up, and after a lengthy battle, we landed it.  This one weighed 9lbs 11 oz.
I had a good carp on, but it swam under my kayak and headed back under the docks.  I had the rod tip down in the water, but it was an awkward position.  The fish eventually broke my line.
Another good day on the water.

Fly-Rod Carping, 7-26-2011

Catching carp on fly-fishing gear is FUN!!!
For at least the past year, my friend Ben (his blog site is located at http://bent-rod.blogspot.com/ ) and I have been talking about trying to coax the carp at the marina of a local reservoir into hitting bread flies.  There is a restaurant at this marina, and kids and adults occasionally toss bread into the water to see the big carp come up to feed on it.  Its pretty exciting seeing those big fish in a wild feeding frenzy.  Without bread in the water, the fish disappear.
So...our plan was to "chum" with some actual bread.  We hoped this would get the carp to show up and start feeding.  We'd toss our bread flies and....catch fish!  Sounds easy, and it sort of is.  Cheating, maybe.
We've had a few weeks of blazing hot temperatures.  The fish seem to be deeper, or hiding under the docks or something.  We got some fish to show up today, but not as many as I'd hoped.  Still, we caught fish, and had an absolute BALL fighting these powerful fish on fly gear.  And several times, the carp beat us.

I've caught carp on flies before, but this was to be Ben's first time.  Ben is an experienced fly-fisher, for sure.  His casting is spot on.
Ben fished from his float tube, and I fished from my kayak.
We selected our location near the marina restaurant docks, and tossed some chunks of hot dog buns.  After about 10 minutes, a couple of carp showed up.  Ben hooked up first.  We had been concerned that the fish would get tangled in the cables under the docks that secure them in place.  Fortunately, his fish soon headed for open water.
video

With an audience of a mom with her two kids, the battle was on.  And right after I stopped taking the video above, my line took off and I was hooked up as well.  My fish darted under the docks, then turned and headed straight for Ben's fish.  It was taking me on a "sleigh ride" in my kayak!  It circled Ben's float tube.  Ben threw my line over his head to avoid getting wrapped up, and somehow our fish didn't tangle the lines together.  We were able to land Ben's fish first.

His first fish measured 24"+ and over 7lbs.  After pictures and measurements, he helped me land my fish.  Mine was 25"+ and @ 8.5 lbs.  These were both CHUNKY fish!

As I recall, Ben landed another carp in the 8.5 lb range, then caught this 27", 12 lb jumbo in the picture below.  It was the biggest fish of the day!


 I had a BIG carp that I'd just hooked drag me towards the dock, then turned and dragged me sideways, slamming into the dock to my right side!  GEESH, STRONG FISH!  I couldn't turn it, and eventually I could feel that it had wrapped around a cable.  I could still feel the fish on.  Ben pulled my kayak away from the dock, while I worked at trying to free the fish from the cable.  My line eventually broke.  That was a nice fish!  I did catch another.  My biggest carp of the day was this 9 lb 11oz fish.

 If you can change your thinking, they ARE kind of pretty!

Ben had at least two other fish on that broke his line.  I think we did land the one he's fighting in the picture below, however.
We weighed most of the carp we caught.  They ranged from 7lbs to 12 lbs, with the average being around 8.5 lbs.  Lengths were tough to get accurately since neither of us had a long enough flat area on which to lay them.  As best we could manage, the fish were at least 24" to 27" (and possibly up to an inch or two longer).
Oh...and I also caught an 8" bluegill.

The carp battles were epic, the shortest probably being 10 minutes.  We had a blast!

Praying Mantis

Saw this little gal in the backyard last weekend.  Why do I say "gal"?  The female praying mantis has a broader abdomen than the male. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm still fishing....just no pictures.

I've fly-fished a few times this week, but haven't really caught much picture-worthy.  Plus, I've been fishing around dusk, so the pictures tend to not turn out well anyway.  I've been fishing a local public pond, and catching mostly Bluegills (and an occasional Bass) on Chernobyl Ant/Hoppers, and some Crappies on Boa Yarn Leeches.

So, instead of fishing pictures....I've got some more "backyard" pictures.  And I'm kicking myself for missing the chance to take a picture of a 3/4" long juvenile Praying Mantis I found there a couple days ago.
Anyway...here's a pair of Japanese Beetles...doing what Japanese Beetle pairs do:

Another fly...but this time on some tiny red flowers: 

 I think its interesting how the natural creases on some of the orange Hummingbird Vine flowers form a 5-pointed star.  Cool, right?

Clematis Vines are in full bloom now:

We have these growing up in a few small patches beneath some bushes:

Rose-of-Sharon...these are my favorite bushes since their flowers look like tropical Hibiscus flowers.

 These next two are 2 colors of Monarda (Bee Balm) flowers.  They remind me of fireworks.


And speaking of fireworks, we could watch them from our back yard this year: