Monday, December 20, 2010

Ice Fishing 12-18-2010

This was the first chance I'd had to ice-fish this season.  The ice has been 4"+ for a couple of weeks now, and was probably 7" or so at both ponds my buddy Jay and I fished this day.
We fished 2 city public ponds.  The first one we had never ice-fished before, and rarely fished during open water.  We drilled holes and soon each of us had fish.  It soon slowed down, and we tried drilling more holes to find fish, but never really did.  So, we gave up and headed to the next pond.  But before that, we both landed some Bluegills and Green Sunfish, and I added a couple Crappies and Largemouth Bass.

The 2nd pond we fished is one I fished frequently this summer, and was often surprised with fewer fish than expected to show for it.  Crappies were tough to come by, although it has/had a good population the previous year.
I drilled a hole in a relatively random location, and was surprised to see fish on the flasher right away.  I fished this spot while my buddy Jay chose a spot of his own.  The fish were aggressive, and I was laughing out loud at their willingness to play.  I caught around 20 bluegills from this spot, plus 1 crappie and 1 green sunfish.  I decided to see if there were more crappies elsewhere, so I drilled a 2nd hole closer to Jay.  There were fish there, too!  I experimented with vertical-oriented jigs, jigging spoons, waxies vs maggots for bait.  Everything worked, except I had a tough time hooking them with a Chubby Darter.  I ended up with around 10 crappies and 5 more bluegills from that spot before we called it a day.  The fish were present and active the entire time we were there!  Very fun!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fishing Trout-Stocking Days in Central Iowa

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has an "Urban Trout" program that entails stocking trout into warmwater ponds during the cold months, to provide a seasonal trout-fishing opportunity near some of the larger cities throughout Iowa.   This program does slightly better than "break-even", by increasing sales of the Iowa Trout License, an optional add-on to the normal state fishing license.
I've been fishing these "stocking days" locally for several years.  I've learned that the fastest fishing is usually within the first couple hours after the fish are stocked.  The fish are usually still concentrated close to the spot where they have been released from the stocking truck.  Being able to cast to where the fish ARE is a major factor in any successful fishing trip.  A second major factor is figuring out what the fish will be willing to hit.

Some folks like to use live bait or commercially prepared scented baits such as Berkley Powerbait.  While these methods will catch fish, when the fish are bunched up and excited like they are immediately after being stocked, artificial lures and flies will usually outfish the "bait" by a very wide margin.

After a day or two, its usually a MAJOR struggle just to locate the fish, and I have the highest regard for anyone who can catch them, regardless of tactics.

The IDNR stocks these fish as a "put-and-take" fishery.  They want anglers to fish for and keep what they want (within the legal limits) to eat.  The trout will survive until the lake water reaches 70 degrees F the next summer, and then they will die.  The DNR would prefer the fish were enjoyed by anglers before they died.

Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010.  2pm-4:30pm.  DMACC Pond, Ankeny, Iowa.
There's a large pond within sight-distance the office building where I work. During the warm months, it is a difficult lake to fish due to the expansive shallows choked with algae mats. So, most people don't bother. Ice-fishing is another story altogether, and it is quite a popular local fishing destination during the hard-water season.  This is the 2nd year that the DNR has picked this pond as one of the Urban Trout lakes.

I got to the pond around 2pm, since I was working until a bit after noon, then ran home to eat lunch and change into warmer clothes.  There were still a LOT of anglers fishing, and it was pretty crowded near the location where the fish were stocked into the pond.  I wanted to do some fly-fishing, and wanted plenty of room around me, so I chose a spot a very good distance from the other anglers.  Folks were still catching a few fish, but it was obvious the fastest action had already passed by.

I fly-fished close to shore, and used spinning gear to toss small blade baits out to the middle of the pond.  I ended up catching 5 rainbow trout on fly gear, and 6 on the spinning gear.  The fly I used was a 1/80oz Springbrook Wunder:

I released all the trout, but took a couple pics.  This one was probably the smallest trout I landed, I really have no idea what possessed me to pick this one to take a picture of!
This one was a better fish:

Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. 12:15pm-3:00pm. Ada Hayden Lake, Ames, Iowa.
This was the first time trout have ever been stocked in to this lake.  I was hopeful since there was a stocking the previous day, closer to Des Moines metro area, that fewer people would make the drive up to Ames.  I think I was correct.  There were a lot of people, but it seemed a good 1/2 of them were observers only, not anglers.

I'd never fished this lake before.  Its an old quarry pit, and drops off to 30-40' near shore.  A good chunk of the shoreline is rip-rapped, and there is a paved boat ramp, a floating dock, and a fishing pier.  Of course most of today's fishing was focused around the boat ramp where the trout were stocked.

I got a good position on the dock next to the boat ramp that allowed me to flycast without worrying about hooking people or shoreline behind me.  Within a couple minutes of trout getting into the water, I had a fish hit, but it shook loose before I landed it.  A cast or two later, I landed the first trout of the day amongst all the anglers!
I was using the Springbrook Wunder microjig again, and it was working very well for me.  A fly-angler next to me from Missouri was struggling a bit, so I gave him a spare fly, and he started catching fish too.  After he lost it to a fish, I gave him another.  After awhile the fish were still there, but weren't hitting my pattern as well.  So, a fellow next to me gave me one of HIS flies to try.  It worked really well, and I was back in business!  This is my version of what he gave me, since the hackle on the one I was using eventually unravelled.
This gentleman then offered me another fly, so of course I took it!  It had a glass beadhead and sank a little faster than the previous pattern, but it caught fish just as well.   Here's my version of that one:
 Eventually the fish seemed to get wise to this pattern too.  I switched back to the Springbrook Wunder, and caught more fish.  I tallied 36 rainbow trout with my fly-fishing gear.

Finally, before I left, I dropped a 1/8 oz gold Reef Runner Cicada on spinning gear straight down into the water in front of me and vertically jigged it.  I got quite a few hits, but was having a tough time hooking them.  I did finally land one, and then decided to call it a day.  I had 5 trout on my stringer (these are the first fish I've kept for a meal in 2010!), and wanted to get home and prepare them for supper.  I must have prepared them properly this time...they were delicious!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lunchtime Fly Fishing Report 11-17-2010

I fly-fished during lunch once again today at a local public pond. Weather is cloudy, 42 degrees, 11mph wind. COLD when you are dressed in office attire with no gloves or long underwear! At least I had a zip-up hooded Carhartt jacket to put on over my fleece jacket.

I used a blue-n-chartreuse microjig. Didn't bother with an indicator. Action was...ok.  I landed 11 crappies in 1/2 hour.

I took a couple pics this time, since although I've been catching fish lately, I hadn't taken any pictures.
This one...this is again why they are nicknamed "Papermouths". You can see individual marabou strands THROUGH the skin!

It was cloudy, but the colors of a crappie are still beautiful, if somewhat subtle.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lunch Fly-Fishing, 11-2-2010

'Tis the season, I guess, for Crappies here. I apologize in advance for more crappie pictures...but you get to see some of what I've been catching.

Today I got a late start on lunch, but still took the hour allotted to me. That gives me 1/2 hour to fish when you cut out the driving time...more or less.

So, I hit the "HP" pond again. (This isn't really a code word, just an abbreviation. If it was a code, somebody slap me for being uncreative! :) I'd tell you exactly where it is...but most of you will never visit this area. And those who live here...well, you probably know where it is already. If not, shoot me a PM.)

The fishing (catching) started of pretty good, I caught 4 crappies (a couple in the 10"-11" range) from the first spot. With all the ducks that get fed around this pond, I always wonder exactly what the crappies think as the ducks race around over their heads...either racing towards somebody throwing stale bread...or racing away from somebody they realize ISN'T GONNA FEED THEM (me). The crappies still bite, so all is well. They are obviously very used to all the commotion.

I tried a couple other spots, and they were slower. I ended up with just 2 more crappies, but had at least one other nice one shake loose. I probably could have caught another one or two, but I was forced to waste time trying to unsuccessfully get not one but TWO flies out of a large tree behind me. Ended up having to break my line both times, and the second time I decided I should just give up for time being.
The first one I had to fish outta the tree, some folks were walking by on the sidewalk. I said,"I just caught a tree. DON'T TELL ANYBODY!" The woman smiled and said she once hooked her husband in the back of the head. I chuckled as they went on their way.

All the fish were caught on a Springbrook Wunder microjig (without the red thread for "gills").

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crappie Fly Patterns

I've tried a good number of fly patterns on the crappies around here.  Almost everything will catch fish at times, but there are a handful of patterns that have REALLY stood out as being VERY effective for crappies.

Crappies everywhere have a ritual of moving both higher in the water column AND closer to shore in the evenings.  During the day they often hang in deeper water, and are more difficult to target with a floating fly line.  But in the evenings they can often be caught fairly easily if you find the right areas.

Also be aware that although crappies often like to hang near some sort of structure (preferably woody structure, like a fallen tree or flooded brushpile), they often also school suspended in open water.  Fishing can be quite good if you can keep near a school of crappies!

Another thing to keep in mind is that crappies prefer to feed UP.  Depending on the water clarity, they will move up a fair distance to take a fly.  I've seen this behavior even in cold water, when ice-fishing.  I've seen crappies move up from 5' to even 10' below the fly to chase it upwards before hitting it.  And that was in water of questionable clarity!

In the evenings, crappies can sometimes be caught on topwater flies, but I don't believe this is the BEST option.

I do a lot of my crappie fishing in the late evenings...from just before dusk to well after dark.  The fly that has worked best for me when fishing at night over several years, is the Boa Yarn Leech.  Silver or white can be good, but bright yellow has worked the best for me.  This pattern has excellent movement in the water, and can be fished shallow and slow.  Slow is key.  I tie Boa Yarn Leeches unweighted on a #8 3XL Streamer Hook.  If the fish won't come up to within 5' of the surface, you can add a beadhead to get the fly down a bit deeper.

Another unweighted pattern that can be good is a charteuse-and-white Thunder Creek Minnow pattern.  The key is to have the right size fly.  I sometimes go as big as a size 6, but usually size 8 and 10's will get more hits.  And this is interesting...I've caught good numbers of 12"+ crappies using spinning gear and 3" long twister-tail jigs...but when fly-fishing, I've had better luck going SMALLER!
The top fly below is a Thunder Creek Minnow.  The other hairwings sure look good, and I have caught fish on them, but just not nearly as many.

For weighted patterns, I've got 3-4 good ones in my arsenal.  First is what I call a Microjig.  These have marabou tail and chenille or yarn bodies.  The best colors for me are pink-and-white, and chartreuse.  I tie these on 1/80 oz and 1/100th oz jigheads, and sometimes larger/heavier if needing to fish deeper or get a faster sink rate.
A very similar pattern is the Springbrook Wunder.  These are usually tied in more natural colors, starting with grizzly chickabou tail, and a silver or gold sparkle chenille body:
Here's the actual one that caught a lot of the nice crappies in the previous blog:

The next pattern is a Kraft Fur Clouser...which is tied like a Clouser Deep Minnow.   Because I tie these in sizes 8 and 10...and sometimes even 12...I find Kraft Fur works a lot better than bucktail on patterns this small.  1"-2" sizes work very well.  I've caught crappies on all the colors below.  Chartreuse and/or white is always a safe way to go, size seems most important.  Choose the barbell, hourglass, or beadchain eye size/weight to suit the hook size and the sink rate you desire.  Also, you can somewhat affect sink rate by how thick you tie on the Kraft Fur.  Too much can hamper hooksets, though.
Red sandwiched between white has been a good color scheme for me, too.
Somewhat similar to the Clouser, and also very effective, is the Crappie Candy.  Again, pink-and-white or chartruese-and-white are usually good colors to start with.

One last pattern to consider, especially in dingy water is a minnow pattern tied with silver or opalescent mylar tubing, and your choice of tail material.  You can use lead tape or lead-substitute wire under the mylar tubing to achieve the sink rate you desire.

If you feel comfortable with Woolly Buggers, weighted and unwieghted versions can work in a pinch.

Of the ones I've listed above, my top 3 would be Boa Yarn Leech for the shallowest presentations, and I really really like both the Microjigs/Springbrook Wunder, and the Kraft Fur Clousers.  All three of these are very quick and easy to tie, which is a plus.  If you are fishing around brush, you definitely might lose some flies!

You can use a strike indicator and fish somewhat vertically. In this case, the Microjigs are most likely to sit horizontally in the water, and so look like the most natural presentation.  Wind/wave action on the indicator will provide movement to the microjig.  If not using an indicator, I usually cast out, let the fly sink to an appropriate depth, then start a slow, jerky retrieve.  For some reason, Crappies LOVE a jerky retrieve!  Sometimes this can be better achieved by sort of shaking your rod while slowly retrieving, but often just doing very short, abrupt movements while stripping in the line works well.

As for strike detection, crappies often just suck the fly in.  You'll really need to watch your line.  At any indication that some extra weight is on the line, or your line begins to move backward while you are doing your slow retrieve, SET THE HOOK.  A quick hook-set is more important than a STRONG hookset.  Just tightening your line, or doing a medium side-sweep with your rod is usually sufficient to bury the hook.  Don't horse the fish too much during the fight.  The skin around their mouths is paper-thin, and you can rip the hook right out of their mouth with too much pressure.

Crappies on fly gear are a lot of fun!  Good luck!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, 10-24-2010 - Fly-Fished an Urban Public Lake in Des Moines

I drove my daughter and 4 other girls to their choir rehearsal in downtown Des Moines on Sunday, and had some time to kill before it was time to pick them up. I visited a good-sized urban public lake I hadn't fished since Spring. I recall catching some decent bluegills and small bass there.

Well, there were lots of people walking or biking on the paved path around the lake, but only one other guy was fishing when I arrived, and he left after I caught 2 small fish right away. I'm not suggesting that is WHY he left. But I'm glad I didn't have to listen to the copper bell on the end of his rod any longer.

It was really slow. I don't know this water very well, so it was a struggle. I finally had a good fish on. They stocked wiper fingerlings in the lake in the Spring of 2009, so I figure they should be about 10" long by now. I saw the fish on my line, and it was silver. I knew it was either one of the wipers, or a crappie. It got off as I put pressure on it to lift it from the water. DRAT!

A few casts later, I got a snag, and had to break my line. OOH, structure! I retied, and cast a few feet to either side of where I got the snag. Nothing! Must be a pretty small snag. I lost a few more flies to that snag before I left, but I discovered some bluegills and some really nice 12" crappies (both white and black crappies) were near that tiny piece of structure. I was THRILLED! I caught 7 nice crappies (plus the smaller bluegills) in a fairly short time. And that time was interspersed with me casting into the willow trees and brush behind me no less than 3 times, and I had to retrieve my fly from that mess.

Still...those were some HEALTHY crappies. I could have put together a pretty delicious meal if I'd been in a position to keep any of them.

These were caught on 1/100 oz Springbrook Wunder microjigs. I used natural grizzly chickabou for the tail, and some goldish sparkle chenille for the body.

Saturday 10-23-2010, Local Public Pond Fly-Fishing

Well, I hit that pond one more time on Saturday. It isn't often I get to fish during the day on Saturdays...but it worked out this time. I fished from about 9:30am to 2pm. I could have fished longer, the fish were still biting steady, but I was exhausted and hungry. So I went home.

I caught over 100 crappies, 2 small bass, 1 bluegill, and 7 green sunfish. The crappies probably averaged around 9". I measured one at 10", and another at 11", but didn't bother measuring any others.

I tried a variety of patterns, and the two top producers again were the microjig, and small Kraft Fur Clousers with beadchain eyes. White/red worked very well, but I can't really say I tried a color that DIDN'T work well. I caught a bunch on olive, too, as well as pink-n-white, and also chartreuse.

Oh, and at one point I could see a small school of crappies messing around near the surface, occasionally swirling.  I put on a foam topwater, and caught myself laughing out loud watching them actually leaping completely out of the water trying to hit this!  It was amazing seeing crappies being THIS aggressive!  I tried to get it on video, but I couldn't work the fly and hold the camera still, plus the fish seemed to have moved on by the time I got the camera ready.  I hooked a few of the fish, but all of them managed to throw the hook before I landed them.
Here's some fish pics.

I liked the stripes on this one:

This little guy was just too cute not to photograph:

I think this one was the one I measured at 11"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lunch Fishing 10-21 and 10-22-2010

I fly-fished a local public pond during lunch....same place as in my previous blog entry.  The weather continues to be very bright sunny, mild, and breezy.
Tried some other fly patterns.  I tried hairwing streamers, Kraft Fur minnows, etc.  Just about everything caught fish, but some patterns made it much quicker and easier.
Microjigs and Kraft Fur Clousers were the top 2 patterns.  Unweighted patterns just didn't get down close to the fish quickly enough even though the crappies would eventually come up to take them.  I only tried a blue Clouser...not a color I use often, but it worked very well.  I tried a variety of colors of microjigs, and all caught fish very well.
On 10/21, I caught at least 12 Crappies and 3 Green Sunfish.
On 10/22, I caught 21 Crappies and 3 Green Sunfish.
On both of these trips, I caught some black crappies along with the white crappies.
Heres some pics from these 2 days:
Green Sunfish

Black Crappie
 Blue Kraft Fur Clouser
 Kraft Fur Minnow
 White Crappie

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lunchtime Fishing Report, 10-20-2010

I fly-fished a local public pond during lunch today. Its a pond I drive by almost daily, but rarely ever fish. My gar fly-fishing buddy, Ben, had visited the pond this past weekend with his son, and had caught some fish. I figured it was time I checked it out personally.

I started out with a 1/100th oz microjig tied with white marabou tail and pink chenille body. I rigged up a strike indicator FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. I caught a couple fish with it, but it was kind of slow, and the way I rigged it up allowed it to slide up and down the line too easily. So, I removed the strike indicator. After that, I caught a fish on nearly ever cast. In the 30 minutes of fishing time, I landed 15 crappies and 4 chunky greeen sunfish. Most ponds in town that have crappies have Black Crappies. The pond I fished today is the oldest one in town, to my knowledge. All the crappies I caught today were White Crappies.
Here's some of the pics:

Very fun LUNCHTIME! I definitely plan to go back soon!

More Fly I've Tied Up Recently

Here's some fly-fishing fly patterns I've recently tied up.  I've included the names if I know them.

 Misc. microjigs (1/100th oz.)

Woolly Worm

Hardy Demon

 Blacknosed Dace Hairwing Streamer

Springbrook Wunder microjigs