Friday, December 9, 2011

GreenFish Photo Prompt 4

This is my photo submission for the GreenFish and Outdoor Blogger Network Photo Contest.

The subject of this "photo prompt" is to illustrate my view on sustainable fishing. I have 4 categories I'd like to address, each in a separate entry.

The fourth category illustrating sustainable fishing is GETTING KIDS INVOLVED WITH FISHING.

Kids are the future stewards of our natural resources.  If kids don't learn to appreciate and enjoy fishing (and the outdoors in general), they will have little desire to protect and care for these resources as adults.

We all need to get kids involved with the Outdoors as much as possible.

I have been involved with "Take A Kid Fishing", and have taken kids fishing that had not fished in several years, if ever.

I have been involved in "Learn-a-Palooza", where our Central Iowa Anglers fishing club has been invited to give "casting instruction" to kids.  This was alwasy the most popular display/activity at the event!

I've been involved with Kids Fishing Day at a local city pond.  Here, again, we set up casting stations, and this was very popular with the kids.

Along with Central Iowa Anglers, I have participated in an annual Big Brothers/Big Sisters fishing event, where our Members take "Big" and "Little" pairs out in our boats on a local lake and let them catch fish for an afternoon.  Most of these kids have never had an opportunity to go out fishing in a boat.  Everybody loves this event!
We've done a similar annual event with the "Lakewood Association", where we take residents of a development centered around a private lake out in our boats for a "fishing tournament".  The kids have a ball, and get more excited each year we do this!
Here's some pictures of some of the casting events:

Here's some pictures from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters events...these are the pairs I took out fishing.  We always caught fish!

Take kids fishing!!  :)

Greenfish Photo Prompt 3

This is my photo submission for the GreenFish and Outdoor Blogger Network Photo Contest
The subject of this "photo prompt" is to illustrate my view on sustainable fishing. I have 4 categories I'd like to address, each in a separate entry.

The third category illustrating sustainable fishing is Shoreline Cleanup.

Picking up trash is important in maintaining a beautiful and clean natural setting.  People won't want to spend time in the outdoors if all the public places are littered with trash!

I have participated in the River Run Garbage Grab along the Des Moines River in Polk County, Iowa.  Each year this event collects and disposes of a HUGE amount of garbage from along the shorelines of the river.

Central Iowa Anglers, which I am a member of, tries to do at least one shoreline cleanup at a local lake or river each year.  We have worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on their lakes, and have worked in conjuction with the Recycled Fish organization to do shoreline cleanups during some of their events.

The following picture is from one of the Clean-Ups we did for Recycled Fish.  In 4 hours, we picked up 2 pickup truckloads of garbage from the shorelines of a local lake!

Greenfish Photo Prompt 2

This is my photo submission for the GreenFish and Outdoor Blogger Network Photo Contest.
The subject of this "photo prompt" is to illustrate my view on sustainable fishing.  I have 4 categories I'd like to address, each in a separate entry.
The second category illustrating sustainable fishing is Habitat Improvement.

In central Iowa, many of the public lakes are man-made.  Many were made for flood-control or erosion control (trapping sediments), and not for fishing.  So, most of the lakes have very little in the way of natural cover or structure to attract fish, just flat featureless lake bottoms.

Most species of Iowa gamefish like to associate with some sort of structure.  Structure serves as a substrate for algae to grow, and aquatic nymphs, snails and young fish feed on this.  Those in turn serve as food for larger fish.  Larger fish also use structure not only as an ambush spot and "feeding station", but also for shelter.  So structure is very important to fish.  More structure = more food= more fish.  From a fishing standpoint, knowing the location of suitable structure is often the key to locating and catching fish.

I'm a Member of Central Iowa Anglers (CIA).  I spent 2 years serving as elected President of the organization, and am in my 2nd term serving on its Board of Directors.  One of the goals of CIA is to improve fish habitat in local waters.  We work in close association with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), City of West Des Moines, and others.

Over the past several years, we have added fish habitat structure to a number of lakes.  We've constructed and placed "PVC Trees", cedar trees, catfish nesting tubes, trash can reefs, and wood pallet "teepees".  In many cases, fish use of these structures begins within a single day!

Here's some pictures of CIA doing some of our Habitat Improvement projects:

GreenFish Photo Prompt 1

This is my photo submission for the GreenFish and Outdoor Blogger Network Photo Contest.

The subject of this "photo prompt" is to illustrate my view on sustainable fishing.  I actually have 4 separate categories for this, and I will share them all separately.  The other kicker is that each category is difficult to capture with just ONE photo, so I may post more than one per category.

The first category illustrating sustainable fishing is Catch & Release or CPR (Catch-Photo-Release).  This is supremely important!

I've been keeping electronic fishing logs of my fishing "outings" since about mid-2005.  Given the average yearly number of fish caught, I realize I could put a BIG hurt on a number of the smaller bodies of water I frequently fish.  These are public waters.  I can't control how many fish other anglers may or may not keep.  I choose to release over 99% of the fish I catch.  I'm not against folks keeping some fish occasionally.  I generally will keep fish once/year.

At the back of my mind is kids.  Kids need to catch fish when they go fishing.  If I release my fish, nearly all will survive to possibly be hooked by a kid, who will then fall in love with fishing.

Another reason it is important to release fish is...If I release a fish, there is a chance I will catch that fish again later when it has grown even larger. If I keep a fish, that fish will NOT grow larger, and I will NEVER catch that fish again.

Here is the largest fish I've caught so far on a fly rod...a 36.5", 25 lb Grass Carp (White Amur).  I was targeting grass carp when I caught it, and I was very excited to finally catch one.  I got some pictures of it, then released it.  Incidentally, it was also caught on a BARBLESS HOOK.  Given the length and nature of the battle, I'm still amazed I was able to land this fish.
Here are the pictures of the resuscitation and RELEASE.

What an awesome feeling!

Another Fishing-Related News Article

I'm mentioned in a fishing-related article on the Des Moines Register website:

Hoping to lure a new generation, Iowa restocks it fishing holes

Click the link above. The author, Perry Beeman, called me yesterday and interviewed me. He got the story online FAST! I’m also in the background of 3 of the pictures…I was fly-fishing on the dock that day. I blend in well...I’m wearing a dark blue hooded jacket, and I’m just to the left of the angler's head in picture number 1.

Friday, December 2, 2011

End of Open Water Season, 2011

I think its official.  A major warm spell  could turn this around, but at this time of year in central Iowa, you just aren't going to avoid the inevitable for long.


On the way to work this morning, every pond I passed appeared to be 100% ice-covered, and our temperatures in the 10-day forecast appear to be those that will build MORE ice, rather than melt it away.  So...I believe I will call this the END of my open-water fishing for the year, and will now wait for the ice to get thick enough to safely stand on (3"-4"+), so the ice-fishing season can begin.

I will have more to say about my 2011 fishing season in a future blog entry.

For now...I will tie up some fly-fishing patterns that I feel will be useful in my pursuit of next year's fish.

Below are some examples of what I've been tying over the past week or two.

Flashback Scud/Sowbug:

Deer Hair Popper...I tied this for Smallmouth Bass, but it could see some use for other species as well:

Below is a size 14 Shad Fry I created to imitate that phase of a shad's life when nearly every other fish finds it to be an EASY meal.  Not much as nutrition, but they can't swim very fast at this size, so even fish like Common Carp will hound these pods of tiny fish.  The color of this artificial is nearly identical to the shad fry I've seen.  I always thought to myself, "If only I had something that was tiny enough and looked like these shad fry!"  Now I do:

This next pattern is my first attempt in YEARS at tying a Muddler Minnow.  It isn't perfect...the proportions aren't the best, the head could be a bit larger...but I think it'll catch some fish:

Rick Zieger recently sent me, at my request, some of his Goldie Jr wet flies.  There have been some notable instances this year when a super-flashy patterns caught fish while more subdued offerings were being ignored.
I tried to tie some of them myself.  I tied one with gold Flashabou, one with gold Krystal Flash, and one with some pearl Flashabou that was mixed with the gold Flashabou hank I have.  They turned out well, I thought, and I look forward to trying them out in the coming year:

I've always liked the look of the Thunder Creek Minnows.  Here's one I tied with Craft Fur, and coated the head with Clear Cure Goo (a UV-cured epoxy alternative), then added eyes with fingernail polish.

Below is a trio of rather generic Beadhead Nymphs I tied up:

Below is a Morrish Anato-May Peacock I varied slightly by adding a flashback, and used brown goose biots for the tail instead of 3 feather fibers.  Its a great-looking pattern:

Below is a group of my "Somethings" and variants I've tied up, which trout especially have fallen for:

And lastly (for now), here are some "Booby" style patterns in an Electric Chicken color scheme.  My thought was that these might do well on White Bass in the Spring.  White Bass seem to really like this color combination.  With a sinking line or sink-tip fly line and a short leader, I should be able to fish these close to the bottom in the river next Spring, without getting snagged up too much (since the foam "eyes" will keep the pattern from sinking to the bottom).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ada Hayden Lake, Ames, Iowa- Trout Stocking Day Nov. 2011

I've gotten horribly lazy about taking fishing pictures lately.  Case in point....
I fly-fished the Trout Stocking Day at Ada Hayden Lake, just north of Ames, Iowa, on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011.
I landed 26 Rainbow Trout, and didn't bother taking a single picture!  There were a couple really nice-sized fish, a few "colorful" ones, and one especially that REALLY had a lot of red in its lateral stripe and on its gill cover.  But no pictures!  I should slap me.

I also got a firsthand report from a guy that said he caught a Rainbow Trout from the lake in September...this is exciting news, as it means at least SOME trout survived the entire summer in the lake! was a VERY windy day, which especially made fly-casting extremely difficult, although I noticed even spin-fishermen were having issues with the wind.

Ben arrived about an hour after the stocking trucks left. We started off tossing nymphs under indicators to some visible fish.  It was somewhat productive, but not the most exciting way to fish.  We spotted a good number of fish along the face of the boat ramp...the wind seemed to be blowing them into the shoreline there.  Ben tried it first, and caught a few fish before I planted myself next to him.  We had a spin-fisherman near the base of the dock to contend with, as he was casting across that same area.  Since Ben and I were casting INTO the wind, we couldn't cast out very far...typically 15', and about 8' left of where we were aiming.

We caught more fish here.  I took off the indicator and tried a Woolly Bugger and another bizarre pattern I've tried when trout get picky.  I have decided it is time to call this pattern something...give it a name.  And so, being outrageously creative, I've bestowed the name "FishnDave's Something".  I assume it is the flash from the mylar tubing in this pattern that the trout find so alluring.  I get a lot more follows and hits from trout when I use this than anything else I've tried.  Not to say I haven't caught more trout on other patterns...but when they don't show much interest in other stuff, this one hasn't yet failed to get their attention.  Its ugly, but here it is:

Here then is the recipe for FishnDave's SOMETHING, such that it is:
-Nymph or Streamer Hook of your choice (I've used #10 and #8 sizes effectively)
-Tail of marabou or rabbit fur (your choice of color, so far a darker color such as brown, black or olive has worked well for me)
-body of mylar tubing (again, your choice of has been my top producer, silver has caught trout as well)
-a few turns of black ostrich herl at the head (or peacock herl, hackle, or even yarn).
Trout teeth wreak havoc on flies...much more so than bluegills or crappies do. So, you can give the mylar tubing a coating of epoxy, epoxy alternative (I like Clear Cure Goo products), or Sally Hansens' Hard as Nails to increase the mylar body's durability.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tough to Create Fly-Fishing Converts

I've taken the exerpt below from a post I made on our local fishing club's website.  Its a multi-species fishing club in Central Iowa.  There are a fair number of anglers in the club who have admitted to OWNING fly-fishing gear already...but they don't use it.

Its frustrating. What are you gonna do? Have you ever tried OVER AND OVER to convince other anglers of something that catches fish really well, but they just won't listen? They just keep doing what they've always done, with the same results? Kind of like Doug Stange of In-Fisherman experience with touting large swimbaits for big walleyes and muskies...

I wasn't ALWAYS a fly-fisherman. I'm still fairly new to it. I'm trying to completely get away from using live bait...but otherwise I will do whatever is most effective at catching lots of fish and have the most fun doing it. Believe me...if fly-fishing wasn't so effective and fun, I wouldn't be doing it.

You'll never convince everybody, but I figured after 5 years, > 7,300 fish caught, and 23 different species on fly gear, more of our local fishing club's progressive anglers would start to take note and at least give it a serious try. At least to be prepared to have it as an additional fish-catching tool and technique to add to your arsenal. Its like sporting the attitude that "Spinnerbaits, plastic worms, plastic frogs, and crankbaits catch lots of bass, but I'm never going to learn to use THOSE." Or that "Vertical jigging is a great way to catch walleyes on the Mississippi River, but I'm just going to troll." Really?

Kudos to those who HAVE tried it. And for those few sitting on the fence who still need a little nudge...just ask the questions and you'll get the answers.

Weekend of Fly Tying, 11/2011

I didn't get out fishing this weekend, so instead of a REPORT, I will post some fly-fishing fly patterns I tied up over the weekend.

 Above is a #10 or #12 Black & Olive Woolly Bugger, with a glass bead head.  This thing definitely catches trout, and I imagine bluegills will find it worth a bite as well.

 Above is a couple of Mylar/Epoxy Minnows.  I tied these larger than usual...on #4 streamer hooks.  The top one has a body of medium-sized silver mylar tubing, while the bottom one has a body of medium-sized pearl mylar tubing (over a base of chartreuse yarn).  Both are then coated with Clear Cure Goo epoxy-alternative.

 The above nymph looks like a real fish-getter!  It is Ian James' "The Muncher" nymph.

Below is a series of shad/minnow imitator streamers I plan to use on the local river during the colder months.  Last Friday I caught a small walleye and a crappie there on Clousers, but lost a handful of the Clousers to the underwater rocks/snags.
Lefty's Deceiver

Gray-over-White Clouser Deep Minnow

Clouser with a wool overwing.

Just something easy I threw together that looked like it'll catch fish in the river...

Above is a streamer with a calftail belly and a white fox fur overwing.

 Above is a Furled Tail Mohair Leech tied on a 1/80th oz microjig.  Bluegills especially, and maybe trout, should go NUTS over this!

 Above is a pair of Chironomid patterns using olive (above) and red Larva Lace.  I tied these on a #10 Scud hook.  I tried them once last year, and had a nice carp take a red one, then it broke my line.

I don't really know what to call the pattern above...its a marabou tail, gold mylar tubing body, and dark ostrich herl head.  It isn't the prettiest thing, but I've done really well with it on trout on several occasions when they seemed otherwise very finicky.  This was the only thing that REALLY get their attention and drew strikes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Late October Lightning Storm, 2011

I shot some video of a lightning storm with my little point & shoot digital camera.  Since there were LONG periods of no lightning, I save frames from the video as separate pictures, then made a .GIF image out of it.
I want to see how it turns out here, since I don't think I've tried loading this file type into this blog. goes: it turns out, in order to see the .GIF animation, you have to click the picture above to see the full-size image.  Even then, however, the quality of each "frame" isn't nearly what the originals were, but you can at least get a good idea of what was going on.  The file size is MUCH smaller than trying to load a video!

Below is a couple of the better individual frames (click each one to see the slightly larger original frame)...they still aren't that great, but it works.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lake Petocka Fly-Fishing Report, 11-7-2011

I took the day off yesterday (Monday) and did some fly-fishing for the trout at Lake Petocka. When I requested the day off work, the forecast was for 10 degrees warmer than what it turned out to be, and low temps almost 20 degrees warmer than it turned out to be.

Still, it was a nice, sunny morning and early afternoon, with reasonably low winds.

Fishing was S-L-O-W. Very few "rings" from surfacing fish within casting distance of shore. No big groups of fish. In talking with some folks, there was some great fishing a week ago, and reports are that folks were keeping a lot more than their legal limits. I even talked to a couple guys out there who said they had caught their limits (a week ago Saturday), took them home, then came back. They left it to my imagination as to whether they kept any on their 2nd trips of the day. But anyway, all the harvesting (both legal and illegal) seems to have cut the trout population down considerably over the past 3.5 weeks. That's good from the DNR's point of view that the fish get "used" and enjoyed. It just makes fishing a lot more challenging.

Most folks I saw out there yesterday who were using lures or live bait didn't catch ANYTHING. The best I saw was one guy using minnows...he took home 4 trout.

Comparitively, I did well and caught 9 trout on flies....8 Rainbows and 1 Brookie. I stayed about an hour-and-a-half extra trying to catch "1 more fish to make it an even 10"....but it was dead, and it didn't happen.

I tried surface patterns as well as nymphs under an indicator, but didn't catch fish on them. I did best with streamers like beadhead woolly buggers and simple patterns using gold mylar tubing bodies with a marabou tail. Although fish were very rarely visible from shore, I caught almost all of my fish within 15' of shore.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

El Chupacabra!

Air temps at 67 degrees F, winds around 12 mph at Noon today (11-01-11).  Too nice to pass up, so I went fishing during lunch today.
I just went to a local pond I felt would be fairly easy to fish given the wind was blowing from the South.
I arrived at the pond, finished the few remaining mouthfuls of my healthy lunch, grabbed my fly rod and fanny pack of gear and headed for the water.

I noticed a fox walking along the nearest shoreline, and he was being paralleled by a group of ducks who were on the water quacking at the fox.

At first I thought the fox must have just gotten out of the water, as he was looking rather "thin".  But, after getting a better look, the fox had other health issues.  Possibly mange, possibly malnutrition or old age, it also didn't seem to want to open its eyes much...who knows.  He sort of "froze" when he became aware of my presence...I also froze, while I slowly reached around to my fanny pack to get my camera.  I snapped the two pictures you see in this blog.  I then gave the fox a wide berth, since it looked like it possibly could have been rabid.  I got beyond it and walked down to the water and began fishing, while the fox laid down in a dip along the shoreline and tried to look inconspicuous.

I missed a number of hits, and landed 4 bluegills.  The last one I caught as I was walking back towards the car, and was only maybe 40' away from the fox.  I felt sorry for looked hungry.  So, I tossed the bluegill towards the fox, and it landed about 10' away and uphill from the fox.  It flopped around a bit.

A City park maintenance employee stopped by to see the fox.  He said they had seen it around off and on for quite some time.  He didn't know what was wrong with it.  He said he called an expert to describe what he had seen...he didn't want a rabid animal around since so many kids use the athletic fields surrounding the entire area.  Apparently there are 2 types of rabies, the familiar one that makes animals very aggressive, and one that makes them lazy.  The "expert" didn't think this fox had either type of rabies.  The maintenance guy said they had gotten really close to the fox, but it had never attacked.  We watched it briefly, then we both went on our way.

When I got near my car, I turned back to look, and the fox had gotten to its feet, had located the bluegill I'd tossed near it, and it grabbed it and began trying to eat it.

I felt good about that.  Maybe that bluegill would stave off the foxes hunger for a little longer.  And then I thought... maybe fish spines or bones will get caught in its throat and it will choke and die!  All because of me! :o(

I can't control what happens, but at least the fox might be happy for a little while today.

My 2011 Fly-Rod "Firsts"

I caught Walleyes on fly-fishing gear in Iowa and Ontario, Canada this year.
This Northern Pike hit a Jointed Minnow pattern at Nungesser Lake, Ontario.
Every year since I started getting serious about fly-fishing, I've tried to add new species to the list of those that I have caught on fly-fishing gear.

The first year I ever tried fly-fishing, I caught Largemouth Bass, Crappies, Bluegills, Hybrid Sunfish, Smallmouth Bass, and Green Sunfish.

Ever since, I've been adding additional species to the list.

2011 was a "banner year", in that I was able to add 6 new species to this list.

This brings my total to 23 different species of freshwater fish I've caught on fly-fishing gear.  Although I've caught a lot more species on spinning gear, my Fly Rod list contains 6 species I've never caught on spinning gear!

Below is the entire list, with the top 6 being the ones I added this year.
1. Northern Pike
2. Walleye
3. Yellow Perch
4. Redear Sunfish
5. Brown Trout
6. Brook Trout
7. Largemouth Bass
8. Smallmouth Bass
9. Bluegill
10. Hybrid Sunfish
11. Green Sunfish
12. Crappie (both Black and White, but I lump them into 1 category)
13. Common Carp
14. Grass Carp
15. Channel Catfish
16. Shortnose Gar
17. Peacock Bass
18. Oscar
19. Tilapia
20. Mayan Cichlid
21. White Bass
22. Wiper (Hybrid)
23. Rainbow Trout

I'm really pretty satisfied with this list.  Where do I go from here?  What species should I add to my "fly-rod wish list" for next year?

Brook Trout from Lake Petocka, Bondurant, Iowa.

I've never caught Striped Bass.  Those could be a HOOT on fly gear.  There aren't any in Iowa, so I'd have to travel pretty far to find some.  I could try for Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, or Steelhead in the tributaries of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, maybe.  I've caught all those species on spinning gear, and they would definitely be fun to catch on fly gear...but again it would require a serious road trip.  I also haven't caught Freshwater Drum on fly-fishing gear yet.  Its just a matter of time I think, if I fish the DM River more often, with the right fly patterns.  Longnose Gar would be fun to add, but I'd probably have to find a good spot somewhere well south of Des Moines.  Flathead Catfish would also be awesome...but there population densities are low enough and they often are in water deep enough to make fly-fishing for them extremely difficult.  Not impossible, just unlikely.

18" Wiper (Hybrid) from the Des Moines River.

Honestly, what I'd like to do next year is catch even MORE of certain species that are already on my list...  especially Common Carp, Grass Carp, Channel Catfish, and Gar.  Hardly "glamour" species...but every one of those is very fun!
A Common Carp (above) and a Channel Catfish (below), both from Saylorville Lake, Iowa

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saylorville Lake Fishing Report, 10-25-2011

Because of the wind at the lake where I was fly-fishing for trout, I didn't hear/feel the cell phone in my pocket when my buddy Jay called.  Once I noticed it, I returned his call.  He answered and said, "I'll have to call you right back, I'm fighting a big fish right now!"

Ok, he had my attention!  He did call back a couple of minutes later and said he'd caught a really nice Wiper, and that he was catching White Bass and Wipers at Saylorville Lake on nearly every cast.  I told him how the trout-fishing action had long since slowed down, so I would meet him there after I stopped by my house to pick up some appropriate gear.

I was about 10 minutes away from meeting up with him when he called back.  I answered and said, "Let me guess, the hot action is over."  Yep.  The wind had died, changed directions, and the clouds covered the sun...and the fish activity had slowed immediately.  He was still catching some small ones, however.  Well, I was almost there, so I decided to meet up with him anyway.

I got there, he showed me where the fish HAD been hitting earlier. The wind had picked back up again.  I had a fly rod and a spinning rod with me.  I made one cast with the spinning rod, and caught a decent White Bass.  Then I set that rod down.  I tied a white Lefty's Deceiver streamer pattern on the fly rod, and cast it into the wind.  I was into a good White Bass almost immediately.  How fun!  I caught a couple more decent White Bass and a small but FAT Largemouth Bass, but it was work trying to cast into that wind!  So, I soon switched back to the spinning rod with the in-line spinner on it.

The wind came and went, and came again.  Fishing was very good!  I caught at least 30 White Bass up to 16.75", and at least 10 small Wipers (biggest was maybe 12").  The wind picked up even more, and the fishing slowed considerably, so we decided to call it quits for the day.
16 3/4" White Bass

Even little Wipers go absolutely BERSERK when hooked!!