Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Carp on Fly Rod, 5-25-2011

I fly-fished Saylorville Spillway during my lunch hour today.  A couple of different friends had noticed the carp sort of "schooling" in the eddies and along the foam lines at the edge of the current.  They are somewhat frustrating, because the fish appear to be sucking the foam off the surface, and seem very reluctant to take crayfish patterns near the bottom.

I've had an idea for awhile about using a nymph fly pattern set 12" or less beneath a strike indicator.
And this is exactly what I tried today.  I was also breaking in a new rod & reel...a Lamson Konic reel and an Echo Ion 8wt rod.  Both worked great!

Anyway....I'd drift the nymph/indicator rig through the eddy near the visible pods of surfacing carp.  Occasionally I'd get hits and the indicator would jiggle or get pulled underwater, and I'd set the hook.

The first strike I was so excited to land the carp that I put too much pressure on the leader/tippet and broke it.  Lost the fly and the indictor...bummer!

Re-rigged and repeated the drift.  Strike 2 broke the line almost immediately after I set the hook.  Lost the fly and indicator again!  UGH!

Re-rigged and repeated.  Strike 3, fish on...fought...and ...LANDED!  Not an easy task amongst the rocks with no landing net.  Released the fish.

Repeated the drift.  Strike 4, and soon another carp was landed.  Took pictures of this one and released this fish too.

I had to be patient...but this technique definitely worked!  I was setting my nymph at 12" or less beneath the indicator.  I don't know that there is anything magical about that, its just what I was doing because I wanted the fly close to where the visible carp were feeding on the surface.  Maybe you'd get bigger carp at 18" or more?

My gear is in the background of this picture.  I didn't notice the plastic bottle in the rocks there....lots of trash in this area!

 Mouth shot with the fly pattern visible...this one was a #6 Hexagenia Nymph pattern.  I tried 2 other patterns, that were different from this one, and both worked, so I think any nymph will work, but its a good idea to stick with #6 or #8 sizes with a reasonably stout hook.
If you see carp performing this behavior in your local streams, give this technique a try.

Evening Report, 5-24-2011

I fly-fished a local public pond last night from around 8pm-9:30pm.

I fished a short section of shoreline I had never fished before, and a section where I had caught some decent male bluegills a few days ago. The section I had fished before produced only a few scattered fish.

The new section produced a variety of sizes of bluegills...from about 3" to a couple really nice fish that were probably in the 8"-8.5" range...males & females. Mostly is was small fish, though.

That area also produced a 10.5" crappie. Not a BIG crappie, but noticeably bigger than all the other ones I have caught from this particular pond this year.

I also caught a beautiful Hybrid Sunfish (unless somebody can tell me its a Pumpkinseed?). The pictures on this fish just don't do it justice.

I also caught a new "fly rod first" for me. I have to admit it put up a very interesting fight! may not be able to tell from the picture, but...its a BASEBALL!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Fly-Fishing Report, 5/20/2011 and 5/22/2011

I fished Friday (5-20-2011) after work in the drizzle at a public pond not far from my house. The male crappies are guarding nests in the shallows.

I also saw some good bass on nests. Tried for them. Had 3 solid hook-ups. Two on a largish Clouser Deep Minnow, one on a different minnow pattern I had tied up. 2 threw the hook, and the last one I had sort of “beached”, and tried hoisting it up onto the grass by pulling my line up. The line broke, the fish swam off with my sweet sweet fly! They were probably 3-4 pounders. Males!

Also saw grass carp in this pond for the first time. Previously, I’ve only seen swirls and such (and caught one grass carp when blind casting at night)…but I could actually SEE the fish this time. I was within casting range on a few of them, and fired away with whatever flies I thought might work...although they weren't ideal. Caught a crappie instead of the grass carp.
Saw some fair-sized bull-gills, but couldn’t catch the ones from the first group I saw. Caught some smaller ones later.

Last night (5-22-2011) I fly-fished a different local public pond. First four fish were: Largemouth Bass, Green Sunfish, Bluegill, and Crappie. So, I had variety going for me. Caught a few more crappies, but not nearly as many as the last time there. I did find a stretch of shoreline where there were some decent bluegills apparently on nests….I didn’t see the nests, but I caught a bunch from a fairly small area….and most were fair-sized males with good colors. Most of the bluegills were caught on an unweighted "Rubberlegs", and then I switched to a foam topwater like a Chernobyl Ant/Hopper, and caught quite a few on that as well.
I THINK there were grass carp working in a certain area. I tried for them with flies only (ran out of bananas earlier in the week). No hook-ups. Frustrating creatures.
I took pictures of some of the bluegills I caught, because there were some interesting color variations:
This one had a lot of orange all along its sides

While this one had predominantly silvery blue:

And this one had a lot of metallic green on its flanks:

Friday, May 20, 2011

I tried the banana peel on a fly again last night on a different pond for Grass Carp ( I just realized I didn't blog about the first time, but suffice it to say no Grass Carp were caught then). Once again no takers. The main problem seems to be that the water is really clear, and I haven't been able to cast the rig very far (have to be very careful when casting, otherwise the banana peel falls its more like "lobbing" than casting), and it ends up drifting back into shore. And those Grass Carp are WARY, SKITTISH creatures. Oh well.

I had a good evening anyway. I was casting around again to pass the time while the grassies went about their business of ignoring my offers to "come and play".

I was excited to FINALLY find a handful of NICE male Bluegills in this pond. I caught the one below on a black microjig. Then I caught one on a brown craft fur Clouser with blue beadchain eyes. Then I caught at least a half-dozen Bluegills (males and females) on foam topwaters at dusk. After dark, I switched to a brown & orange boa yarn leech and caught at least another half-dozen on that.
The males were mainly on shallow flats on nests, and the females were out over deeper water, but apparently near the surface (or at least they would rise to take the topwaters or unweighted boa yarn leech). The females are getting big bellies. Most of the males were 8"-8.5", and the biggest female I measured was a solid 9-incher.

I caught a couple Largemouth Bass on flies, too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lunchtime Report, 5/19/2011

Rain is in the forecast, but it didn't look like it would get here until after lunch.  So...I went fly-fishing during lunch!

I visited a local public pond at Westside Park, one I rarely fish and even more rarely is it worth the time invested (for me).  Meaning, I don't catch much, or they are really tiny Green Sunfish.  After ice-fishing there once this past Winter, I discovered there were some decent bluegills, green sunfish, and crappies.  Nothing HUGE, mind you, but certainly worth catching.  Some fish would be near shore, guarding nests, but I felt some of the better fish would be out in the middle and a bit deeper than I had fished the pond previously.  In past years, I fished mainly topwater or unweighted subsurface patterns.  Since then I've been using microjigs more often, and small beadchain-eye Clousers, which fish deeper.  I've been doing well with these.

So, I get there and tie on a dark-colored microjig thinking it will look more natural since the water here is very clear.  I put a Thingamabobber strike indicator about 4' up the line.  I'd cast out, let it sit...retrieve a foot or so, let it sit 5-10 seconds, retrieve some get the idea.  I actually had some pretty good strikes at the indicator!

I saw some big tadpoles, an adult bullfrog, some green sunfish, a handful of crappies, and a decent bass.

I caught 8 Green Sunfish up to 8", 4 Bluegills also up to 8", and an 8.5" naturally-occurring Hybrid Sunfish.  I had 2 crappies hooked (one was pretty nice!) but both got off.  I messed around with 2 other crappies I could see guarding nests.  One just swam away.  The other one I coaxed into tasting my microjig a couple times, but it didn't take it in far enough for me to set the hook.  I really wanted to catch at least one of the crappies, so I guess that gives me a good excuse to fish this pond again soon.

I've fished ponds where the bluegills get a nice purple color during the spawn.  Others get a lot of orange.  The ones today had a pretty green cast to them (click images for larger version):

I also admire the pretty colors on spawning Green Sunfish:

And below is apparently what happens when Bluegills and Green Sunfish accidentally bump into each other on a dark night at this time of year:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Copper Creek Lake, 5-12-2011

I fly-fished Copper Creek Lake in Des Moines last night from about 6:35pm-7:30pm.

Quite a few other folks out fishing. I started with a 1/100th oz microjig. I changed colors a few times, most colors seemed to work. I caught 7 bluegills and 1 crappie on these patterns. Check out the dark coloration on the head of this nesting male crappie:

I saw a bass chase the microjig once, and then it just sort of seemed to be staying in the area. There was a small stump in the water that I thought I would catch some panfish near, but I wasn't catching any there...then it dawned on me...maybe the bass had staked a claim to that spot, and the panfish had cleared out? I put on a simple pattern consisting of a hook, a staple, and the rubber leg off a childs toy. The rubber leg looked sort of like a worm, the staple was tied to the hook shank to act as a "barb" to prevent the rubber from slipping down the hook shank. Anyway, I tossed it in, let it slowly sink, twitched it a few times. I watched my line, but didn't see any movement. I started lifting up on my line to cast again, but there was weight I set the hook. Fish on! After a nice little battle, I landed this 16" Largemouth.

After close to an hour, I had to leave. I hadn't seen anyone else around me catch anything.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Article in NACA Magazine

An article I wrote (a story about catching my first grass carp on a fly rod) was published in the Winter 2010/2011 issue of North American Carp Angler magazine. Cool!

Here's the cover and the pages from the mag:

Evening Report, 5-9-2011

Hatches.  As fly-anglers, we like to identify a hatch, and then match the hatch to catch fish.  Well, last night there was an EPIC hatch going on.  It was CRAZY!

I didn't get out until after sunset, but the sky was still light.  I think it was around 8:45pm when I started fishing, and I stayed until 11:30pm.

When I arrived, there were dimples on the surface of the were picking off emergers and adults.  I couldn't really see what that hatch was.  I used a Gurgler style foam topwater, and caught a crappie and a handful of bluegills.  I wanted more crappies, so I tried something else that didn't get much attention.  There were some bigger splashes occasionally, that looked like bass chasing sunfish near shore.

I started seeing what I initially thought was some large flying insect skittering over the surface of the water.  These would get harassed by fish, and occasionally disappear in a big explosive strike from below.  Well, I finally saw a few of these "bugs" swim over to shore.  And the realization finally dawned on me as I started looking around along the shorelines.

There was a HUGE hatch going on…of TOADS! Holy buckets, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many toads at one time. They were croaking, mating, swimming ALL OVER the pond! It was CRAZY!  I would turn my cap light on them, and they would be hopping all over each other, many puffing out their throat sac and filling the night with their loud music.  Sometimes it got so loud, I wanted to turn down the volume on that music.  Too bad there wasn't more light...I could have gotten some sweet videos of all this.  At times, I would walk down the shore 20 feet or so, turn around, and shine my light on the water...and see dozens of glowing eyes on the surface of the water following me!  The weren't scared at all.

Occasionally one out in open water would disappear in a BIG splash. I tossed a bass-sized popper for quite awhile, and had a couple half-hearted strikes, and caught a crappie on it (crappies LOVE toads!...right?).

With other patterns, I caught a grand total of 6 other crappies, 3 bass, 9 bluegills, and a 23.5” channel catfish. The battle with the catfish was a long give-and-take episode.  It was a nice fish, so I took pictures.

Also had a HUGE explosion on a bait right before I left. Several casts later, I realized my fly was gone…so whatever it was broke my line. I think it may have been a grass carp!  I headed for the car without tying on a new fly.

So…fishing was sort of slow despite all the "activity" going on, but it was really fun just being out there and seeing all those toads!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fly Rod Wiper (Hybrid) 5-3-2011

I had a tip from a fellow fly-angler yesterday that the white bass are starting to run in the local river. I LOVE catching white bass!! So, yesterday evening I gave it a try.

I had to rush out of the house after a quick supper, to take my kids to some lessons (during which I went fishing), so I didn't get to grab the stouter gear I would have preferred to use. I just had to go with what was already in my car.

So, I used a 5wt rod, WFF line. I had at least 5 boxes of flies in the car, but not the flies I wanted for the river. I dug through and found a 3" chartreuse bunny-strip pattern with lead dumbell eyes. I fished that for awhile.

I missed one really good hit near shore. I saw the fish, but not well enough to identify it. I have a suspicion it may have been a medium-sized smallmouth bass. The bunny strip had wrapped around and was covering the hook point, which likely is why I missed the fish.

I continued casting around, and finally got another awesome strike! I tried to hold it, but it took line out of my hands and off my reel anyway. It was straining my gear, for sure. Fortunately, I was able to land the fish. It was a really nice 18" Wiper. I didn't get any more strikes after that.

Monday, May 2, 2011

NE Iowa "Driftless Region" Trout Fishing, 5-1-2011


Swiss Valley
Time Fished: 8am-11am
Weather: Sunny, @46 degrees F
Wind: I'm guessing it was a GOOD 20+mph wind and gusting!
Fish sought: Salmo trutta, and his buddies
Fish caught: 7 Rainbow Trout, 2 Brown Trout

I was excited to finally get to try fly-fishing for some stream trout in NE Iowa. I was pleased with the results!

I got there fairly early, there were only 3 other cars in the parking lot, and one of the guys was just taking pictures of the stream. I saw a couple other guys baitfishing, and a couple walking their dog.

There were no visible hatches at all, and no visible fish or surface activity of any kind. So, I tied on one of my largest nymph patterns. It is, very generally speaking, a "Rubberlegs". Its mainly designed to imitate good-sized stonefly nymphs. It has an underbody of non-lead wire for weight, and the legs have all sorts of great movement in the water.

As I walked my way (on shore...I left the waders at home since my whole family was along on this trip...although I fished alone) upstream, I hit a couple of ok-looking water. I could see the bottom in most places, and no fish were visible. This wasn't encouraging.

I eventually emerged from the woods into an area that was much more open along the creek bank, and found a constructed "bank hide", and drifted the nymph along that, with a small split shot above it for weight, and a strike indicator to help me deal with the combination of water depth, current speed, and strong winds I was dealing with.

Got a Rainbow Trout!! WOO HOO! I was ECSTATIC that I wasn't going to be "skunked" on this trip!

I caught another one from there:

Then I found this interesting fishy-looking pool:

After at least a half-dozen drifts through there, I got a strike, and landed my first Iowa Brown Trout!

That was pretty cool! But, that was the only fish I could coax from that pool, so I moved on.
I found another interesting deep pool, and caught a colorful Rainbow Trout:

I found another bank hide, and caught a couple more rainbows before moving on.

I found another long deep pool above some rapids, and fished there. I missed a handful of hits before landing this colorful Brown Trout...he was very strong and very colorful (LOVE the red spots! Click any photos to enlarge), but was only around 14" long. He was one of the bigger fish, as all the trout seemed to be in the 10"-14.5" range.

I had just a few more minutes to fish at this pool before walking back to the car, I caught one more decent Rainbow:
When I got back to my car, the parking lot was full, with other people out walking with families and dogs, and people baitfishing or using spinning gear. There was one fellow in the parking lot getting ready to fly-fish. He came over to ask if I'd done any good. He fishes there often, and was surprised I'd caught 2 Browns. He said 4 years ago, the DNR and a local fly-fishing club had built some bank hides up on one of the smaller tributaries to this stream. They had stocked some fingerling Brown Trout then, but had not stocked any since. So, the Brown Trout in the creek were basically wild, and there seemed to be some natural reproduction occurring.

I had been looking at the fins of each fish I had caught, and none had those rubbed-down "hatchery fins". So, I'm assuming all the trout I caught were carry-overs from at least the previous year. They were nice and healthy fish!