Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rivers and Pits, 10-2-2012

Weather was forecast to reach the mid-70's.  Little wind.  Fortunately, I had requested the day off from work.  I call my buddy Jay, and we went fishing.

We went somewhere on the Des Moines River we'd never fished together before, and neither of us had visited it in at least 22 years.  The river is still at/near record low levels, but water was flowing over the top of the entire width of the dam.

I spent a good amount of time flyfishing the east end of the dam.  It was tough!  I could feel plenty of taps and even see fish hitting the fly on the way in, but they were small and were spitting the fly before I could set the hook.  My first fish of the day was this miniscule Smallmouth Bass, which hit a weedless Black Ops fly.

On other patterns (and I tried plenty!), I finally managed to also land a couple small White Bass.
Jay headed across the river and downstream.

I headed upstream from the dam, stalking the shoreline.

I spotted one Common Carp feeding in the crook of the fork of a large branch that was in the water right next to shore.  Time for stealth mode!  I covered the lower half of my face with my Buff headwear. I slowly and carefully navigated the rip-rap and tall nasty weeds overhanging the shoreline to get within a fly-rod's length of the fish.  I dropped the weedless Black Ops fly down into the area where the carp was.  It was tight quarters for fish, and it couldn't reach the fly where I first placed it.  I brought in more line until there was only about 4' of leader hanging out of the last rod guide.  I placed the fly this time where the fish would reach it.  I lost sight of the fly, but saw the Carp's mouth open and close.  I set the hook, and the fish charged for open water!  Fish on!  I was probably just lucky to set the hook at the right time...before the fish spit it out...but all-in-all I was thinking that THAT was just too easy!  I think the hard part was getting into position without the fish seeing me.  Normally, I'm on a shoreline that is much more open and exposed, and the fish can easily spot me before I can get that close.  Anyway, I was HAPPY!  After an excellent fight with many strong runs, I landed the fish.  It sure looked a lot bigger on shore than it did in the water!  I didn't put a tape measure on it, but judging from the handle of the fly rod (which is about 12" long, from the front of the cork to the butt end), I'd estimate this fish was maybe right around 27" long.

I had hoped to try and flyfish for Freshwater Drum.  I wanted to fish downstream to the fish, and slowly bring the fly back upstream.  But, since I was walking upstream...carefully, but not as quietly as I would have liked, I figured I probably spooked the fish before I could ever get into position along the rockier areas, so I didn't really even try very hard.  Should have...but didn't.

Downstream of the dam, Jay was using spinning gear, and managed to catch a few Largemouth Bass, a Crappie, a few nice White Bass, a Freshwater Drum, and a Walleye.

I saw a flock of American White Pelicans soar overhead.
We eventually met back at the dam, and decided to head to another river.

So, next we hit the Skunk River.  At one point on the drive to the river, we drove over a bridge crossing the river several miles downstream of where we were going to fish.  It looked completely BONE-DRY!

I knew there'd be pools where we were going to fish.  Jay had not fished this section before, and I had only fished part of it once before, a couple weeks back.  We found pools.  Most were fairly choked with floating algae, and many had some more stringy algae coating the bottoms of the pools.  Lots of frogs!  I don't think we saw any water deeper than maybe 24"-30", tops.  Jay caught some Smallies on his spinning gear, and I caught plenty (at least a dozen) on my fly gear.  None were big.  Biggest were maybe 10"-11".  They had excellent colors and most were pretty fat and chunky.  I also caught one or two chunky-but-short Largemouth Bass.

Jay shared my concern that without some good rains before Winter, many of these fish will NOT survive.

Heading downstream to the next pool, I heard some rustling in the tall grass beneath the tree canopy at the edge of the river.  It was a Redtailed Hawk!  I don't know if he had just flown down for a drink or missed a rabbit, or had just finished eating...but he clumsily ambled through the tall grass to the edge of the water and prepared to get a drink.  I managed to get a picture:

I tried to get a second picture, but the hawk flew across the river to a nearby tree, so I had to settle for trying to get a picture of the hawk in flight:

We came to the point where the Skunk River is connected to the east Peterson Pit.  The connecting channel is, at this point, about 36" wide, and looks to have been dug out a it is maybe 12"-18" deep.  We decided to fish the pit rather than continue fishing the river.  I took one shoreline, Jay took the other, and we met at the far end of the pit.

We saw at least a couple Osprey, fishing and carrying fish.

Jay caught a Crappie and a couple Largemouth Bass.

I caught at least 20 Crappies, 4 Green Sunfish, 3 Largemouth Bass, 5 Bluegills, 2 Hybrid Sunfish, and one Smallmouth Bass.

We had to call it a day around 4pm, so I could get back and watch my son's first Cross Country run.

It had been a pretty good day of fishing!


  1. What you said about the hard part being getting into position for a good presentation to carp is spot on. The fly is secondary in importance, though the Black Ops was a good choice ... I catch quite a few fish on Chris's fly. Being as stealthy as possible will pay big dividends.

  2. Way cool on that carp! I've done that and thought the same thing also, probably just as well that easy does not define most carp fishing. I still have not used or tied the black ops, silly me. Still love the species you have available. Also, as I stated some time ago, I do think the ospreys here have left.