Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fresh Perspective Needed in the Production of Fly-Fishing Shows?

A number of fly anglers have voiced their irritation over the way cable-network fly-fishing shows are done. They are put off by the overly-exotic locations and wild, loud background music tracks during the fish-fighting sequences.  I can't really comment on specifics, as I don't spend much time watching anything on TV.

But...what could be done better in these fishing shows?

Makes me smile to think about filming a show called something like "Fly-Fishing YOU Can Do!", to show folks how to enjoy whatever fishing they have locally. Who would sponsor that? Lots of company's SHOULD, but probably wouldn't. It isn't as "flashy" as filming one of the handful of people that gets to fly-fish for permit around Cuba. But what this sort of show MIGHT do is encourage non-anglers or casual anglers to pick up a rod more often, and spend some time at those places that don't take much money or effort to visit. Show them how easy it CAN be. Folks get better and more knowledgeable when the do a certain activity more often, and this is true with fishing.

Fishing doesn't have to take up a lot of a person's time, since time is especially important to that large demographic that has kids living at home. Guys in our local fishing club seem amazed that someone can catch plenty of fish during their lunch hours (or less) of the work week. You don't have to wait for a weekend! Or... fish in the evenings when the family is settled and reading or watching (educational?) TV/videos. SHOW people how to fish locally, not which guide service or resort they need to book with.

Fishing doesn't have to take up a lot of a person's finances, either. Show people what the minimum requirements could be. Not everyone needs to own a boat to enjoy fishing. If there are tree-lined lakes in your area, start with a float tube or kayak. Streams? You can get by with inexpensive waders until you decide you ENJOY wading streams. Then you can upgrade to waders that provide better fit/comfort/durability.

A person who fishes their local waters is much more likely to eventually book fishing trips to those exotic locations that offer "fishing experiences of a lifetime" because they are aware of their local waters' limitations in size/species and they desire to broaden their experience. So...those upscale places would benefit indirectly from sponsoring local-based shows. Wouldn't they?

The industry needs to widen it's base...build up sales on their "lower end" products, because a percentage of those with such gear will then eventually wish to upgrade to more (profitable for the company) "higher end" products. They shouldn't just expect somebody to see a flashy show and suddenly want to buy the most expensive stuff they can find! I'm sure it happens, but not often.

What advice would YOU give fly-fishing programs to make them better…to be something you’d want to watch more often?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ice-Out Warmwater Fly Fishing

I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet a few fly anglers from Canada and western U.S. states who have moved to central Iowa. They have been very experienced at fly-fishing cold streams and rivers for trout. Warmwater fly-fishing is a new frontier for them. These anglers have been very excited by the variety of fish they could target in these warmer waters, such as crappies, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegills, and green sunfish. Those fish are the more common targets, but they have also been thrilled by encounters with catfish, as well as opportunities to chase white bass and even carp with fly-fishing gear.

Summer fishing was good, Fall fishing was excellent, and then they were able to enjoy ice-fishing when the lakes and ponds froze over in Winter. As Winter waned, the excitement and anticipation of open-water fishing would build again in these transplanted anglers, and they would start asking questions about these warmwater fish. When will bass start getting active? How soon after the ice melts will the bluegills start hitting flies? Which species get active first? Will the fish be shallow or deep before their spawning seasons?

These are all excellent questions, and some answers may be surprising.

In the northerly portion of the U.S., some guys LIVE for ice-fishing. For others, it is a way to keep fishing year-round, but they’d rather be fishing open water. Ice fishing provides some very interesting insight. I used to think our warmwater fish became nearly comatose during the Winter months, eating only when absolutely necessary, and otherwise not moving much. By using electronic “flasher” units such as Vexilar, and underwater video cameras such as AquaView while ice-fishing, one can see firsthand just how active these fish remain during the Winter months…even under the ice. Bass, bluegills, crappies, and even channel catfish catfish can be seen swimming around as if the cold water didn’t bother them at all. Walleyes, yellow perch, northern pike, muskies? ACTIVE! I’m guessing carp stay somewhat active, as I did catch one while ice-fishing once, and was ice-fishing with a friend when he hooked into one.

Not all fish will be so active, but most are. Flathead catfish, for example, have been videotaped during the winter gathered in groups and basically hibernating. They are unresponsive to any bait. Gar have been seen to be in groups slowly swimming around in circles, but also not striking lures or bait.

Muskies, pike, walleyes, and perch all spawn relatively soon after ice-out, so they are active and can be caught once the ice melts off the lakes. In fact, these are the fish most anglers target first following the ice-fishing season here. These species will usually be in shallow water for spawning, too, so can be reached fairly easily with fly-fishing gear even from shore.

Crappies, Largemouth Bass, and Bluegills may not spawn until 2-3 months after ice-out. But in general, within one week of the ice disappearing completely from a body of water, these fish can be caught on fly-fishing gear. In fact, in my experience the LARGER bass are more often caught on fly-gear during the first month after ice-out. They seem to “get active” quicker. After that, the smaller bass seem to kick it up a notch and its hard to get a fly-fishing pattern past them to reach the larger bass.

Remember the water IS still very cold following ice-out, so the fish aren’t likely to chase down a fast-moving presentation. Keep your retrieve S-L-O-W, but still moving, and you will catch fish. You can use a strike indicator to help you slow down even more, but this isn’t always necessary. Fish a bit deeper than you will later in the Spring…say 3’-5’ deep. The shallows warm first, drawing the fish in, but the safety of deeper water will pull them just off-shore. If there is a drop-off near shore or near a shallow flat that tops off in 3’-5’ of water, that will be a key spot to fish.

Topwaters can work if the water is fairly clear, but most of your fish will be caught on nymphs and streamers. Some patterns that have caught fish for me already this year (still within 1 month after ice-out), are #10 Craft Fur Clouser Deep Minnows, #10 and #12 Myakka Minnows, #12 Beadhead Prince Nymph, 1/80th oz and 1/100th oz microjigs. In past years, the SHWAPF has done very well for me at this time of year. I use a dark-colored chenille for the body, and various colors of Angel Hair flash for the tail/back/wing. Boa Yarn Leeches and Crappie Candy are two other excellent early-season patterns. These are just some suggestions to get you started, your local fish will tell you what they prefer.

So, if the end of Winter has you wondering how soon you can get out and start catching fish with your fly-gear, the answer is you can catch fish just as soon as the ice is gone! Best of luck to you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Break 2011

Spring Break 2011 didn't take us as far from home as did the previous few years.  This year, we went to Minnesota.

We snow-skied at Welch Village, which was very fun (I'm still sore).  We had great weather for that....temperatures were in the 50's!  Unfortunately, a skier died while we were there, he apparently collided with a guard post or chairlift pole.


We also stayed at the Radisson in Minneapolis across the street from the Mall of America.  The rooms were REALLY COOL!
That hotel houses America's largest indoor water park, which was really fun.  In addition to the "Lazy River" and wave pool, there are a bunch of "water slide" options, including one where your whole family can sit in a big raft and go down together.  Carson did the "FlowRider", and was really good at it.  He only finally crashed when he attempted a fancy "barrel roll" on the board.
At the Mall of America, Carson visited the LEGO store.  This cool "lego" artwork was on the wall outside the shop:

And we also visited "America's Largest Underground Aquarium" that is an attraction at the Mall of America.  I took a bunch of photos & videos there, but the low light and my ineptitude with a camera left me with mostly blurry pictures.  But I'll share some of them anyway.  Just know there are LOTS more!  :)

Imagine if THESE were the last thing you ever saw!

 This shark and turtle were headed right for each other, then both freaked and turned away.  I got it on video, but this is just a picture from AFTER the meeting.
 The saltwater tanks were COOL!

But I have a soft spot for the freshwater fish.  The North American fish are fun to see:
Alligator Gar

And the South American fish are every bit as impressive.
Especially the big Arapaima:

The hump-headed male "Red Devil"

 This may be a "Tiger Shovelnose" catfish?

Anyway, that's our Spring Break 2011 in a nutshell.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend Update, 3/18 and 3/20/2011

Friday after work, I fly-fished the upper end of DMACC Pond in Ankeny, Iowa. I hoped to find some trout up in that area, and did see a handful of fish hitting something(s) on the surface, but the water wasn't very clear, so I don't really know what the fish were. I WANT to believe it was trout....but all I caught was 4 bluegills on nymph patterns and gold metallic patterns.  The bluegills were fun.

Sunday, I fly-fished for about 1.5 hours at Copper Creek Lake. Passed a couple guys with fishing rods on my way in, they said they hadn't caught anything, the fish weren't biting. It was slow, I caught 1 small bass, 2 medium-sized bluegills, and a 10" crappie:

It was crazy what the fish were hitting on.  The bass took a nymph pattern.  The bluegill sucked in an entire black-over-gray Craft Fur Clouser Deep Minnow pattern, and the crappie took a Beadhead Prince Nymph!

Around 5:45pm, I hopped over to a local public pond to fly-fish. It was slow, too. A couple guys fished with spinning/baitcasting gear for awhile, and between the two of them they caught 1 bass.

I landed 8 crappies, 3 bluegills, 1 green sunfish, and 2 largemouth bass. The bigger bass was 15.5", and hit just at dark (cell phone pic):
I caught EVERYTHING on a chartreuse Craft Fur Clouser Deep Minnow pattern.

And Monday, 3/21/2011 lunch report (I know...it isn't really a "weekend update" if I include Monday lunch, but I don't want to make a new blog entry just for one picture)...

Fly-fished local public pond with buddy Ben. Caught 5+ crappies and 6+ green sunfish, including this one I didn't measure, but its one of the larger green sunfish I've caught recently:

I caught most of the fish on a Myakka Minnow pattern...metallic body (covered in Clear Cure Goo epoxy alternative) and chartreuse marabou tail.  Hopefully Ben is still out there reeling in fish-after-fish!

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Open-Water Fish of the Year

Over a period of a couple weeks in late February, early March, the local ponds and small lakes started to thaw out. Some got as close as 40% ice-free...and then we had a cold snap and most froze over completely once again. But they can't (and didn't) stay frozen over forever. Another week went by, and most ponds were 100% open at last!

I had fished one pond a few times during my lunch hours. While there was still some ice on it, I wasn't successful in catching anything. Once all the ice was gone, however, the fish were willing to bite.

I used a fly rod, a pink-n-white microjig, and a strike indicator during my lunch hour on May 11, 2011. I had one fish hooked, that shook free halfway to shore, and another strike that I missed completely. It was WINDY! But that one fish gave me confidence. I stopped by the pond after work, and eventually caught 12 crappies and 3 green sunfish.

Here is Open Water Fish #1 for 2011!...a smallish crappie:
And below is a chunky green sunfish:

We took the kids on Spring Break...and did a little snow-skiing in Minnesota.  When we got back, the weather had been in the 50's and low 60's for most of the week.  The fish were even more active!  I didn't need a strike indicator when I fly-fished during lunch today, March 18, 2011.

Chartreuse fly patterns worked really well today.  I caught 8 Green Sunfish and 6 Crappies, a few of each on 2 different subsurface patterns that I tried...a Craft Fur Clouser, and a Myakka Minnow (both chartreuse).

Some fish hit on the drop, some hit on the slow retrieve, so I had to watch my line.  It was a fun 35 minutes of fishing, and the weather was excellent!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Smaller Jointed Minnows

Last Summer/Fall, I had tied up some of Ward Bean's "Jointed Minnow" fly-fishing patterns.  You can search for the tying instructions on his website here:

I tied up some smaller Jointed Minnows this weekend. The ones I had tied previously, I used #2 streamer hooks. Those shad imitors looked great, and ended up 3.5"-4" long.

The ones I tied up this weekend used mainly #8 hooks front and back (back hooks cut off at the bend). I also tried #10 front and #12 for the rear hook. Regardless of hook sizes I used, overall length still came out to about 2", so for weight purposes on future ties I think I will stick with the #8 front, and maybe #10 for the rear hook. Also, I used the "small" size Wapsi Palmer Chenille on these small versions, instead of the "medium" used on the larger versions.

For size comparison, here's 2 of the smaller ones compared to the 4" version:

Then I tied up a couple in a chartreuse color. Here's one of them beneath the "pearl" colored ones:

UV light spectrum penetrates water better/further than other colors, so I wanted to see what the fish might see under water. Here's those same Jointed Minnows under UV light:

The Chartreuse really lights up!  How cool is that?? :)