Friday, June 29, 2012

24" Catfish on Fly Rod, 6-28-2012

I didn't get out fishing until pretty late last night.  Left the house at 8:45pm!  Since it was fast getting dark, I just visited a nearby public pond.  It was mostly overcast and had lightly rained earlier in the evening.  Almost no wind when I arrived at the pond, but then the wind kicked up to about 10mph, and then slowly settled down again as darkness deepened.  Air temp was low 90's...pretty hot for so late in the evening, especially since that followed and afternoon of clouds and rain.

When I arrived at the waters edge, it was obvious the City had been here recently to chemically kill the aquatic weeds that had been growing thickly along the entire shoreline.  The weeds hadn't been completely knocked back yet, but were mostly dead/dying.  I think this is fascinating, because it changes the dynamics of the pond.  What are the Grass Carp going to eat now? of my flies!! :)

I briefly tried a Bass Gurgler, had one strike.  It was getting dark, FAST.  No time to waste.

I walked around the pond to where I would have the wind at my back, and tossed some bread in to the water.  Yep.  I will "chum" for Grass Carp and Catfish.  Hasn't really worked for the Grass Carp yet, but it has worked for catfish at least 1/2 the time.  I tied a white woolly bugger on my line.  I'm tossing an artificial, so I'm still "fooling" the fish rather than feeding them.  Its no different really than tossing a baitfish imitation near a school of baitfish that are being worked by gamefish, or tossing a dry fly during a "hatch".  I am, however, artificially creating a situation that (hopefully) brings the fish to me.  Doesn't always work, but it improves my chances.  Even when it draws in bigger fish, they don't always go for my artificial fly pattern.  At least when the bigger fish show up, its exciting to watch.

It had gotten so dark I couldn't see my line well.  So, I was fishing by "feel" at this point.  And believe me, you will FEEL a catfish!  I was slowly retrieving.  It tightened my line, I set the hook, and it jumped CLEAR out of the water!  Nice fish, back-and-forth give-and-take battle for awhile, then it just wanted to stay deep. Finally got it back up to the surface of the pond and in to shore.  24" Channel Catfish, estimated weight 6.3 pounds.

Chucked out the last pieces of my remaining two slices of bread.  A couple big fish were still around out farther from shore, but I wasn't able to entice them into striking.  Probably those DARN Grass Carp!

I did catch a couple small bluegills, and also a 10.5" Bullhead....only the second one I've ever caught on a fly rod.

Lots of fish activity on the surface, I'm sure I could have caught a lot more fish on a topwater pattern.  But sticking with the white Woolly Bugger had paid its dividend for the evening.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

After the Storm, 6-21-2012

I think I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog about "before the storm", that the spot we were fishing was loaded with large 3"-6" shad.  When I tried using a spinner on spinning gear, the lure was hitting shad almost continuously so that the blade had a hard time spinning.

Today I fished another area on the same lake that had clearer water.  Finally got to fish some "clearer" water!  Still not very clear, but at least the fish have an opportunity to see a fly in this water!  I actually went hoping to target white bass again, but as soon as I arrived I spotted carp.  I can't rationally explain why I would then choose to fly-fish for carp instead of white bass, but that is what I did.

I caught 5 carp today in about 3.5 hours of flyfishing, and also caught 2 small bass on flies.  I tried chucking lures briefly, but it just didn't seem the white bass were in the area at all, and I didn't really see any shad where I expected to find LOTS of them.  Very strange.

Most of the carp were caught by just casting near groups of fish and slowly working it through them.  The fly disappeared almost as soon as it hit the water, so it wasn't a good opportunity to "watch the take".  And the wind was blowing my line around pretty badly, which also made strike detection difficult.  I didn't measure all the carp, but did measure one that went 27".  Not really sure if it was the biggest one or not.  All of them were at least 24".

I caught a couple on a Hexagenia Nymph, one on a modified Whitlock Near'Nuff Crayfish, one on a beadhead nymph with a hackle collar.  Here's some pics:

The nost exciting take was when I moved to a different spot and tried targeting some carp that were schooled in open water.  I couldn't get any of them, but did see a pair swim by in front of me along the shoreline.  They didn't spook.  I took a couple casts at them without any takes.  The circled around and came by again.  I had tied on an uweighted black woolly bugger, and put a good cast ahead of the lead fish as they were swimming away from me, but it passed by without striking.  The trailing fish was headed right for it....the line tightened and BOOM!

The really bizarre thing was as I was fighting this fish, the other carp came back and was swimming around with this fish!  As I finally led the hooked fish into the rocks so I could land it, the other fish tried to swim right up next to it!  It finally backed off and swam away as I reached down to grab the hooked fish.  Now...I've seen schooling largemouth bass and white bass chase a hooked fish around, trying to steal whatever it "caught"...but this is the first time I've seen carp do this!

The carp today were all excellent fighters.  None took me to my backing, but a few put a good effort into trying to get there, even though I was putting a lot of pressure on them with the 8wt rod.  And they definitely were bull-doggers...kept trying to dive and stay deep when I wanted to bring them to the surface.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Saylorville Before the Storm, 6-20-2012

A big storm had been forecast and was well on its way.   Jay and I decided to squeeze whatever fishing time we could out of the evening.  We went to Saylorville Lake, fished from shore.

As I've mentioned before, I bring flyfishing gear AND spinning gear when I fish this lake.  Sometimes the spinning gear is just the better tool for the white bass.

I spent much of the time flyfishing for some carp.  I knew where they were.  But the water was extremely muddy...visibility maybe 6".  I tried a number of flies and a couple techniques I thought might do the trick...but no takers.  Frustrating!  So then I put on some streamers to try for some other species, like catfish or white bass or wipers.  I had one nice fish on, got it near shore, and BROKE my tippet.  DANG IT!  It was not going well for me.

Meanwhile, Jay had caught a couple white bass, a nice catfish, a good-size freshwater drum, and some nice largemouth bass...all on spinning gear/lures.

I tried a couple other streamers, and managed to spend a good deal of my time trying to rip my flies out of the tall weeds that were behind me.  More frustration.

I tied on a Murdich Minnow, and finally got a nice 14" White Bass to hammer it.

I made some more casts, but didn't get any more fish on the fly gear.  I switched to the spinning gear and caught about a dozen more really nice white bass, mostly in the 13"-15" range, using a Mepps spinner.
This is one of the 15-inchers:
Excellent fighters!

I had my back to the approaching storm, while Jay was fishing looking towards the storm.  The second time he said, "There's lightning!", we took off for the car...FAST!  We had just finished putting our gear in the car and were closing the tailgate when the first drops started to fall.  By the time we left the parking lot, it was coming down pretty good!  Talk about perfect timing!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Evening at Saylorville, 6-18-2012

I took the day off work, and as luck would have it, the wind was blowing 25-30mph all day.  It seemed to taper of to something more 15mph or 7pm-ish, so my buddy Jay called and we headed out to Saylorville Lake.

As usual on trips to this lake, I took both spinning gear and a fly rod.  With the fly rod, I was hoping to target  carp.  Even though the water was riled up from pounding waves all day, plus the big waves from the non-stop pleasure-boat traffic, I saw evidence of plenty of carp.  Couldn't really see them unless their backs were out of the water next to shore, or I'd see their swirls as they'd get spooked.  They like the rockier areas, and while they are easy to spot when they are in such shallow water that their backs are sticking up out of the water, the rocks make it pretty impossible to present a fly to them without getting hung up.  Maybe an unweighted fly with a weedguard?  Hmmmm, might have to work something up like that.

But, I haven't got anything like that ready yet, so I was tossing a Whitlock Neer'Nuff Crayfish (my version, no claws) about 6"-12" under an indicator, depending on the water depth I was fishing.

Long story short, I didn't catch any carp.  Set the hook on what I thought were strikes and managed to spook some fish.  Were they "on" it?  Dunno.

I did manage to catch two fish on this set-up, though.
First was a 10" Crappie.

Later on, I finally hooked into a nice fish near some carp...and I thought it WAS a carp...until I landed it.  Turned out to be a 21" Channel Catfish.

Jay caught a couple 10"-12" range White Bass on spinning gear.  I didn't spend a lot of time casting a topwater with the spinning gear, but I did manage two Largemouth Bass on it.  Below is the larger of the two bass.  Jay guessed it at 14.5", while I was guessing it at 15".  I had a tape measure with me, but didn't feel like digging it out for the bass.

Turned out to be a really nice evening.  Saw a deer near the trees as we were pulling out of the parking lot at the lake, then saw a fox standing on a sidewalk as we got into our town.

Lake Keomah - Father's Day 2012

I fished Lake Keomah a couple years ago for the first time.  My friend (State Fisheries Biologist) Ben and I had gone there to target Redear Sunfish.  We had hoped to hit the beginning of the spawning season and find loads of nice fish in the shallows on nests.  Turns out we were probably a week or two early.  We saw a few fish on nests, but they were bluegills.  Ben did catch a Redear that day, but I couldn't manage one.  Instead I settled for bluegills up to 9.75" and some small (12" or less) largemouth bass.

Fast forward 2+ years.  I've since caught a couple Redear Sunfish on flyfishing gear.  They may have been females or bluegill/redear hybrids.  In any case, they didn't have the awesome bright red edge to their gill opercle that the spawning males have.  So, my goal in heading back to Lake Keomah was to pursue those Redear Sunfish once again.  Reports from lakes reasonably close to Keomah was that the Redears were in the shallows...but those reports were 1-2 weeks their was some doubt that they would still  be in the shallows on this day.

This day....Father's Day 2012.  A time when families get together and kids gush and smother their patriarch with well-deserved affection.  I'm sure that would have happened at my house...but my (almost) 15 year-old daughter is performing/touring Italy with the Iowa Youth Chorus.  And my wife decided that would be a good time to take my son on a week-long vacation to Seattle...and she invited her parents along on that trip. Actually I think my wife had some work-related conference or something to attend while there.  I could have gone along, but in their absence it was an excellent opportunity for me to actually have a full day on a weekend to fish a lake I normally don't have the time to visit.  And take the kayak!

So this is what I did.  I took my time getting there.  I fished from 10:30am-5pm.  Weather was mostly sunny, high of 86 F, wind from the south at 7-10 mph.  Water clarity was about 1.5' - 2'.

Here's some shots of the lake from one location.  From here you can't see up either of the two arms of the lake.  You can't see it from these pictures, but one side of the east arm has houses with yards that back up to the water.  How that happened at a State Park, I'll never know.  The lack of shoreline cover there allowed me to quickly dismiss that area as a good fishing area.

In that last picture, you can see the concrete walls of the outlet structure on the end of the dam, and about in the middle of the picture you can sort of see a boat ramp and floating dock.  Although I spent most of my time at this end of the lake, I had launched my kayak at a boat ramp on the far end of the lake, up in the end of the east arm.

There was shoreline fishing access along almost another entire shoreline, and since there were a lot of people out enjoying the Holiday with their families, I also avoided those areas.  And then my choices were further pared back when I discovered a nice shoreline north of the beach had a lot of suspended sand in the water and the weedbeds had been pretty well smothered by these drifting particles.

Redear Sunfish are also called Shellcrackers.  This is because they have a definite fondness for eating snails.  So... fish where there will be snails, and the Redears should be there.  Right?  Now, where would you find snails?  Snails like scouring algae off aquatic weeds and submerged rocks and logs.  I tried a couple weedy areas at first, but only managed a couple of Largemouth Bass.  I had also heard that maybe Redears might prefer shady areas over sunny areas.

So, I found an area with overhanging trees and caught a few bluegills, then some crappies.  I decided to anchor up and work the area more thoroughly.  I was using a dark-colored microjig under an indicator to help keep it up out of the weeds.  I finally had a good strike followed by a blistering strong run that went in several directions before I could start to gain a little line.  Then I saw the fish flash near the surface and saw the bright red spot that gives the Redear its name.  I was so excited I started talking out loud to myself.  Doesn't matter what I was saying.  I even grabbed the landing net because I was afraid of losing the fish before I could get some pictures!  All went well and the fish was landed.  At 9.5", this was a nice Redear, but they can definitely get into the 11"-13" range in Iowa, which as it happens is pretty much at the north edge of their range.  They have been introduced into the southern 1/3 of Iowa.
Check it out!

Maybe 10-15 minutes later, I caught another Redear of about the same size.  Again, a VERY strong fight on the 5wt fly rod.  I'm guessing the fish above is a male, and that the 2nd fish was a female.  It also had the bright red edge on its gill, but the red edge was a lot shorter...about 1/2 the length the fish above had.  So I didn't photograph it.  Now I wish I would have!

Anyway, I didn't get any more redears from that spot, but did catch one later in the day from a different spot.  In fact this last one had all the other markings of a redear, but the red marking on the gill was a light orange and not very prominent at all.  This 8.5-incher may also have been a female, or it may have been a bluegill/redear hybrid:

I ended up landed a total of 10 crappies that ranged from about 9" to slightly over 10".  Some of them put up a surprisingly good fight!  They weren't scared of the kayak at all.  I drifted over the top of one that was positioned over a large lone boulder.  It didn't spook, and then I cast to that boulder and caught 2-3 crappies from it.

I caught 17 Bluegills which came in all sizes, with the biggest ones measuring 8.5".
This is an 8.5" male bluegill:
And this is an 8.5" female bluegill:

Although I wasn't fishing for them, I caught 10 Largemouth Bass that ranged in sizes up to 15".  The battle of the 14" and 15" bass on the fly rod was unreal!  This one was 14" and had a really fat belly, which isn't as obvious in the pictures:

And one of the last fish of the day was this 13-inch bass:

One observation I made is that an 8.5" to 9.5" Redear Sunfish fights harder than a similarly sized Bluegill...and the fight is equal to that of a 13" Largemouth Bass...but not as hard as a 14-15" bass.  FYI.

It was a good trip to this lake.  I caught what I had hoped I would (Redear Sunfish), and caught plenty of bass and bluegills and even the surprise crappies to keep things interesting.
The Hobie Outback kayak worked perfectly.  I heard a number of people commenting on it throughout the day.  Lake Keomah is an "electric motor only" lake, and from what I could see, my kayak travelled a lot faster than the electric motor-powered boats, and faster that the other kayaks and canoes that were there.  You know they gotta hate that!  :) last observation.  As I was anchored up in one spot casting into the shaded area beneath overhanging trees, I started hearing some strange chirping/chattering noises.  I couldn't tell at first exactly where it was coming from.  Could have been some weird bird that I was unfamiliar with?  I started looking up into the trees, and then finally spotted the sound-generators back in beneath the branches along the shoreline.  There were at least 3 raccoons, two of which you can see here:

Saturday 6-16-2012

I visited a nearby public pond to ONCE AGAIN badger the grass carp.  The running record is overwhelmingly in the grass carps' favor.  I flyfished, made some casts into the vicinity of several grassies.(Ok, I can pretty much only see them when they are pretty much sitting with their backs out of the water, or when they leave a big swirl as they swim casting into a very general "vicinity" is about the best I can hope for.  Ask me how well this has paid off so far.  No...don't.)
This resulted in 6 bluegills landed, and one hookup with a grass carp.  After a short battle, I reeled in a large scale on the fly hook.  It wouldn't have counted.

Also...don't you just hate it when you start to feel crowded at your fishing spot?  There I was, minding my own business, enjoying some measure of solitude even though there were others fishing on the other side of the pond.
And then...The GANG arrived.  Down the shoreline they came, coming straight for me.  Their nefarious intentions were clear from the beginning...I was about to get MUGGED.  It was obvious they just wanted dough.  The problem is that if you give in and toss them the dough, they don't leave...they just want MORE.  Never satisfied.  Where's the police when you need them?  I didn't give them what they wanted, and eventually they moved on.  I managed to get a snapshot, in case the cops need help to I.D. the perps:
And for my fellow fly-tyers out there...some of these feathers sure look useful!

And then it started to rain, very gentle at first, and I thought I could keep fishing and outlast the rain.  But then it started raining more heavily.  That's when the lightning started striking close by.  So, I got chased off by the storm, and it got the best of me, since I was pretty well soaked by this time.
A few hours later, the sun was out once again.  I headed back to the same pond.  No grassies were visible anymore, so I started fishing for crappies and bluegills.  I ended up catching about (conservatively) 25 of each on a silver Springbrook Wunder microjig.

While there, a couple younger fellas came down with spinning gear to fish for bass.  They both caught at least one each.  One was big enough to cause major excitement on their part.  Unfortunately, it was bleeding heavily from a gill when they landed it.  They tried releasing it but it was floating belly-up.  One worked for a good 5 minutes or so at reviving it, and the bass did eventually swim away.  I fished for a couple hours after that, including the area where they released the bass.  It never floated back to the surface, so hopefully their efforts will allow that bass to heal and continue living.  If not...well, I hate seeing large bass harvested from these public ponds since they are about the only thing that keeps the bluegill populations somewhat regulated.  But then...turtles gotta eat too.

Towards the end of my outing, several kids (a couple of them recognized me from fishing at this pond before) and a mom came over and wanted me to catch some fish for them to see.  That would be a lot of pressure to put on someone, since the other folks fishing at the pond were struggling to catch anything at all.  But I was catching pretty steadily, so I showed them a couple crappies and a couple bluegills.  They thought I was pretty cool, and they enjoyed releasing the fish back to the water.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday Evening Fly-Fishing, 6-12-2012

First...some recent updates:

I got out Monday night to the Prairie Ridge South pond.  It was windy, and I’d hoped to see (and fish for) grass carp back in the east end of the pond, but there were several other people fishing back there, so I didn’t even go on that side of the bridge.  I ended up catching a couple bass and around 20 bluegills, with some nice ones up to at least 8.5”.

I fly-fished during lunch on Tuesday at the backwaters below Saylorville.  Tried for carp.  Might’ve had one take, but no hookups.  There were some visible carp feeding in the area, and I made casts to a handful of them.  Mostly tried an egg pattern, both with and without an indicator.  It was really shallow where I was fishing.

Last night I went to Georgetown Park pond.  It was pretty calm for a change.  Caught 15 crappies, 8 bluegills, 1 bass, and 1 catfish (25.5").

The catfish was awesome fun and extremely strong.  Since it wasn't 27", it isn't the same one I had caught at least 3 times before.  I caught the catfish and most of the crappies on an unweighted #8 white Woolly Bugger.

I also finally hooked another grass carp!  I had cast near the grass carp, and it looked like the grass carp moved towards the fly, then sunk out of sight.  Then my line started moving away so I set the hook.  I fought it for quite awhile...but every time I got it to the surface it was coming in TAIL I think it was snagged/foul-hooked.  I'll never know for sure because as I was trying to drag it over the top of the weeds/algae near shore, my line broke.  Pretty exciting while it was on, was making huge boils on the surface and peeling line!

Monday, June 4, 2012

FINALLY! Carp on Fly Rod for 2012

With all the carp I've been seeing and casting to lately, I really thought it would have happened before now...but at least I've finally got those first fly rod carp of 2012 in the books!

I had some time to fish this evening, so I called my buddy Jay.  He prefers to fish the BIG water of nearby Saylorville Lake, rather than fish the local public ponds I frequent.  My friend Dale had stopped by and was going to flyfish one of the ponds nearby that actually has some carp in it, too, so either choice would have been fine by me.  But we chose Saylorville.  I took a fly rod AND a spinning rod.

We walked the long walk to the water from the parking area.  We reached the water and started walking up the shoreline to a point.  Almost there, we spooked some carp from along the shoreline.  It was extremely murky water.  The fish were nearly right at the waters edge in the shallows, but you could only see them on occasion when waves from the oddly "super-high for a Monday night" boat traffic would recede and expose the fish.  As soon as the water would start to settle down to where sight fishing might be possible, another boat would go by.  This went on nearly the entire time we were there!

Anyway, I put on a Mr. P's Carp Carrot and tried to drop it near spots I suspected the carp to be.  I missed a fish or two before finally hooking up with one.  Landed...YES!  First fly rod carp of the year for me!  I was trying to get the camera ready for a photo when the fish thrashed, unhooked itself and made its way back to the water before I could grab it.  Dang.

I then put an indicator about 5" above the fly and worked the very shallow water near shore where the carp seemed to be.  It was some time later that I finally hooked a second carp and landed it.
These were not large carp by any stretch of the imagination, but still very fun.  I worked the area longer, but failed to hook up again.  I felt there were larger carp in the slightly deeper water, but couldn't get any takes there.
Jay hailed me to come down to where he was fishing.  He had located some white bass and had seen more carp in the shallows there.

I fished with the spinning rod with a Pop-R topwater lure.  I caught 8 nice white bass up to 13", and 4 largemouth bass also to 13".

Jay caught the biggest white bass with a 15-incher.

I tied a Murdich Minnow on my flyfishing gear and tossed that out.  I had several good strikes, but the fish had been hitting the tail of the lure, and were probably hitting the tail of the Murdich Minnow...and unfortunately in this instance, the fly had its hook near the head.  But the attention it got gave me more confidence that this is going to be a good pattern to use for white bass & wipers later in the summer when the shad grow up a bit.

As it got dark, I moved to another spot where there were visible carp, but I couldn't get any hook-ups on the Carp Carrot/indicator rig.  It was so dark and the water so riled up, I don't think they could find the fly in the water well enough.  Thought about switching out the Carp Carrot for a yellow or chartreuse egg pattern that might be more visible to the fish, but I was too lazy to make the change.

It was a fun evening with some nice fish caught and... some fly rod carp IN THE BOOKS for this year!  :)

Lunchtime Fly-Fishing 6/4/2012...Nothing to Show

I had planned to try fly-fishing a certain public pond during lunch, but it was much windier than I wanted to enable good sight-fishing for carp.  Instead, I went to a different pond just to kill time with some bluegill fishing...but there were already 2 people there fishing, so I went to a third pond which was near the second pond, and is NOT a pond I like very much because of low numbers of fish and murky water.  I had several bluegills come unbuttoned before I got them in, then saw "bubble trails" and tried for carp.  Tried an indicator and egg pattern.  Had the indicator go down once, but missed the hookset, and then saw a big cloud of sediment get kicked I'd say that WAS a carp, and I missed it.  But I got a strike and that is a bonus.   Oh, and I had another strike before I had switched to the egg & indicator set-up.  It was on a black woolly bugger, and when I set the hook, it broke my line.  I feel confidenat that THAT was a carp too!

As my buddy Jay noted....."I'm getting closer!"

Sunday Evening Fly-Fishing, 6-3-2012

I fished last night at a nearby public pond.  The wind was supposed to lay down, but  it was pretty breezy on the downwind side of the pond!  I didn’t get out until about 8pm.   There were quite a few people fishing there.  I caught more than anyone, of course.  In fact, I probably caught more than the other folks combined, and they were using nightcrawlers.

I lost the two biggest fish of the evening.  I was using my new flyfishing favorite bass topwater (the Gurgler).  I had customized this particular one just a make it interesting and give it extra-powerful fishing MOJO (see picture below).  I cast out beyond the weedline, and something SIPPED it off the surface….no big splash, just took it under.  I set the hook and OH MAN!  It bulldogged, which was fine, I was putting a lot of pressure on it because I wanted to make sure the hook penetrated deeply.  There were a lot of weeds along the shore and out about 15’.  The fish was dogging just on the far side of the weeds.  And then I watched my line head for the surface.  OH CRAP!   The bass jumped clear of the water and threw my Gurgler back at me, then bombed back into the pond.  At least I got to see it!  It seriously looked 20”+.  It was a NICE FISH!

And then about 15 minutes later down the bank a bit, I had another good fish on.  Assuming it was a bass, I would guess it was probably more like a 17-incher…very nice, but not as big as that first fish.  But I never saw it.

Then I caught like 4 more bass on it (12”-14”) before I somehow managed to cast it off and lose it in the darkness.  
Now...check out that MOJO!  ;o)

Oh, and I saw a BIG ol’ bullfrog on the shoreline.  I crept within about 15’ of it and took its picture in the near-darkness.  Didn’t turn out very well.

It was in my way, since I wanted to work on down along the shoreline.  Since I was going to scare it anyway, I decided to drag my big ol’ Gurgler in front of it.  Like lightning it struck so fast, and managed to hook itself.  It was a crazy hopping, kicking battle for a minute has I tried to control it so I could get it off the hook.  But it managed to free itself and dove into the water.

After losing the Gurgler, I tied on a smaller chartreuse subsurface fly pattern and caught at 14 Crappies, and around 10 bluegills.