Monday, July 30, 2012

Evening Flyfishing Report, 7-29-2012

Excuses, excuses...I didn't get out fishing until really late last night (after 8:30pm)...not much light left, the sun had already set.  And then for the past few months I've been spending a LOT of largely fruitless time chasing after catfish and grass carp with the fly rod.  So, my catch rates and fish totals have severly plummeted.  Average size is up, however.  Definitely a trade-off.

Last night I tried some white bunny leeches and caught just 3 fish, one Bluegill, one Crappie, and one 17" Largemouth Bass:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday Evening Fly-Fishing, 7-26-2012

I had about 45 minutes to kill while waiting for my son's activity to finish, so I stopped by a public pond in Urbandale, Iowa.  Surprise!  The City had rip-rapped the entire shoreline, and also did some minor grading work.  I couldn't tell for sure if they had also dug out some of the shallow areas along the shoreline or not, since the water was rather murky.
I tried a microjig under an indicator.  Had some strikes, but nothing hooked.  Switched to a mohair leech with a tiny beadhead.  Caught 2 bass and 1 bluegill on that.

After we got home, I went flyfishing at a public pond not far from my house.  It had rained 3/4" the previous night...the first decent rain we've had in nearly 2 months!  I wanted to see how much the fish activity had picked up.  I found a small group of large fish working the shallows.  I assume they were grass carp, but could have been catfish...or both.

You could tell where the fish were from the surface disturbances, but could only see the fish if they stuck a fin above water.  For some reason, they seem to be able to see me MUCH better than I can see them!  I stayed about 30'+ away, and made long casts to these fish.

Bill Trussel at "Fishing Through Life" (blog entry here: ) recently posted about using fish attractants for flyfishing.  I wanted to see if adding scent to the fly would make any difference in my success on either Grass Carp or Channel Catfish.  I had 2 old bottles of fish was Chompers G garlic-scented attractant that I had bought years ago.  I have a buddy that has excellent success using Chompers plastics for Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass.  Not sure if there is a shelf life on this stuff?  The other bottle was just called "Bass", and supposedly had pheromones in it.  One of my Sisters-in-Law had bought this for me a number of years ago for my birthday.  Never tried it before.  I put a little of each in separate small spray bottles that our optometrist gives us eyeglass cleaner in.  These were compact and fit nicely in my fanny pack along with all the usual stuff I carry with me when flyfishing in the evenings.

I started out with a deer hair pellet fly.  I had some good takes, but didn't set the hook on any of them.  I couldn't tell WHAT was taking the fly.  The fish were around, but it was starting to get dark.  I chummed with some bread (the good, healthy multi-grain stuff!) to get the fish to feed near me.  Several nice fish eventually worked the bread.  I switched to a large white woolly bugger and swam it through the area.  I caught one nice WIDE-BODIED 23" Channel Catfish on that (pictures below), and lost 2 more really nice fish that hit.  Also caught 3 Bluegills and a Crappie.

I couldn't reach across this fish's back to lift it from the water.  I had to use 2 hands!  It seemed oddly short for its width....or oddly wide for its length.  Healthy fish!!

It was a really strange fight with this catfish.  It went on a couple very good runs, but then always came back to the surface.  It didn't seem to want to stay deep.  Very unusual.  Normally its a big struggle to get them to come up!

My preliminary assessment of using scent/fish attractant while flyfishing for catfish and grass carp is this:  It bothers the "purist" in me.  I don't enjoy using bait or live bait for fishing.  In this situtation, I'm using artificial flies that I have personally tied, but they have a taste or smell to them.  The distinctions are certainly debatable, but debating is not my goal here.  I've caught catfish and grass carp on flies without using scent.  I've seen what appears to be fish shunning my fly after getting close to it.  What is putting the fish off?  Could be my scent, so it is smart to try and conceal or cover that scent.

When I catch a grass carp or catfish from this pond, it is nearly always just ONE large specimen on a given evening.  From the one evening's experience using scent/attractant, I'm not sure there is a lot of difference in my success.  I landed one and had 2 others on the line, which would seem to be a bit of an improvement.  I'll probably try it again and see what happens.

Friday, July 20, 2012

7-19-2012 Evening Report

Fly-fished a local public pond last night.  The temperatures have been in the mid 90's to mid 100s (that is Fahrenheit of course, for my international visitors).  Today, the wind changed to out of the North, and the high air temps cooled into the low 90's.

The past few trips to this pond didn't yield any Crappies at all.  I figured the tepid water would have driven the crappies deeper in search of cooler water.  So, I set a Springbrook Wunder microjig about 4.5' under an indicator and tossed that out beyond the shoreline dropoff.  I had to work this very slowly with lots of pauses to keep the microjig almost vertical beneath the indicator.

Success!  I ended up landing at least 10 Crappies, along with 6 Bluegills, 4 Largemouth Bass, and a 10" Yellow Bullhead.

Most of the bass and about 1/2 of the bluegills hit a deer hair pellet fly that was on/near the surface.  I also had a nice fish hit that fly, and broke my line when I set the hook.  It was fresh 9 lb tippet I had tied on earlier that evening!  I suspect it was a nice bass, but it could have been a catfish or grass carp.  I hate not knowing!


I continue to have line problems.  The previous evening to this report, I went fishing with Jay again.  We fished Saylorville Lake from shore.  Part of the time, I was pursuing carp with the fly rod.  Had one carp strike an egg pattern, and once again I broke my line on the hookset!  I wondered if maybe my hooksets with the 8wt rod I was using were just too strong for the 9 or 10 lb tippet I was using?

Last night I was using a 5wt rod, and had tied on a fresh length of tippet for the evening.  Still broke the line when I set the hook on the nice fish that hit the deer hair fly.  Since I leave my rods strung up in my car ready to go all the time, it is easy to believe that the sun and heat deteriorate line that has been on the rod a few days.  But that was fresh tippet!  I also leave my fanny pack in my car all day, which carries my spools of tippet.  Sun damage is out of the question, but HEAT damage could be the culprit?  That line is easily a year old, and possible several years old.  Maybe I just need to toss all my old tippet and replace with new?  The line LOOKS good and feels strong, and the knots all seem really good (I use the Trilene knot, which I feel is a very strong knot since the line passes through the hook eyelet TWICE).  It really seems like the line should NOT be breaking like it has been...and spooled tippet being deteriorated by heat and time is the only explanation I can come up with at this time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Fly Rod "First":...the Smallmouth Buffalo!

I decided to head back to the little backwater area along the Des Moines River below Saylorville Lake...just downstream of the Cottonwood fishing pier.  The river is so low, there is a huge sandbar that separates a narrow water-filled channel near shore from the main river channel that is flowing near the opposite shoreline.    This narrow channel is pretty much "cut off" from the rest of the river right now.

During my last trip here this past weekend, I saw plenty of Carp, and suspected I was hearing Freshwater Drum.  I wanted to target both species, with special emphasis on the Drum since I haven't yet caught one on fly gear.  I read that black leech patterns, crayfish patterns, and white minnow patterns all catch Freshwater Drum, especially if you can keep them on/near the bottom.

I got on the sandbar near its downstream end, and started walking upstream along this stagnant channel.  I wasn't hearing the "drum" sound I'd heard last time.  Bummer.  I saw some Carp working the shallows.  I tossed an egg pattern to one.  It took the egg, I set the hook, and the line broke.  This was new line!  For some reason, I've been breaking a lot of the egg patterns off on carp during the hookset.

Next, I tied on a Mr. P's Carp Carrot and started working the deeper water of the channel, blind casting for Drum or whatever would hit.  I did get some strikes, but nothing hooked up.

Then I saw a small carp in the shallows working its way towards me, nosing into the bottom.  A dozen bad casts, and a couple good ones...I finally got the strike.  I set the hook, and had a good battle for a few minutes.  I discovered this was not a carp, but a Black (?) Buffalo (edit:  I've since learned that these are SMALLMOUTH BUFFALO)!  This is a new flyrod species for me, which is...AWESOME!  This one, 19.5" long, was caught on the Carp Carrot.

There were some Carp (or maybe Bigmouth Buffalo?) mouthing near the surface, so I switched my fly to a Blind Squirrel.  Eventually spotted another fish in the shallows and numerous casts finally got the fly where I wanted it.  The fish took it.  This was another Black (?) Buffalo (edit: SMALLMOUTH BUFFALO).  22.5" long.

I also caught a Bluegill on the egg pattern, a Hybrid Sunfish on the Carp Carrot, and 6 Green Sunfish on the Blind Squirrel.

Now... I need help figuring this out.  When I caught them, I assumed these two Buffalo were Smallmouth Buffalo.  But they really might be Black Buffalo.  I looked them both up online, studied descriptions and pictures...and I'm still not sure.  Lateral line scale counts and the habitat where these were feeding were slightly more suggestive of Black Buffalo.  But there is overlap on the scale counts between the two species.  Without a side-by-side comparison, I can't definitively tell by the other descriptive characteristics.  The Black Buffalo is typically darker in coloration, often with a bluish color on the sides.  Well, as you can tell from the first two pics, these certainly had some bluish tinting on the sides above their bellies, which was even more noticeable in person. The Smallmouth Buffalo has a larger eye, and is supposed to have lighter coloration (but this can depend on the waters where it is found, and they get darker during the breeding season...but that was several months ago).  There is a difference in mouth placement...and some have suggested the Black Buffalo has thicker lips.

Although I'm truly unsure (which is strange...I'm generally quite good with fish identification), I think for now I will go with Black Buffalo on these.  If there's anyone that has more experience with both of these species and thinks they can accurately tell which species this is based on my pictures, I'd LOVE to know!

Addendum:  I changed the title to this post to accurately reflect the new information I received regarding the species identification.  I had posed the question and pictures to my friend Ben, who is a Fisheries Biologist with the IDNR for our area.  Here is his response:
"It’s always tough when you are trying to ID from a photo, rather than having the fish in your hand.  These two species are tough to tell apart, so don’t feel bad! 

However, I believe that you caught 2 smallmouth buffalo.  There are some body measurement ratios that the professionals use to separate these two species.  I analyzed these ratios from your photos and both fish fall out as smallmouth buffs.  In addition, and this is probably the best method, the smallmouth buff will have a keel in front of their dorsal fin.  Unfortunately, I don’t have top-down photos to tell.

Hope that helps Dave and congrats on the catch!"

That is good enough for me!  These shall henceforth be known as Smallmouth Buffalo, and in the future I will check for the presence of the keel in front of the dorsal fin.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fishin' with Jay, 7-16-2012

After I got off work, I called Jay, and we went fishing at Saylorville Lake.  I took a couple spinning rods and one fly rod.
It was pretty slow, not many carp along the shoreline (but there was SOME), and almost NO surface activity that would suggest gamefish attacking shad.

On the spinning gear, I caught a few smallish Largemouth Bass, and at least a 1/2 dozen White Bass on Reef Runner Cicadas and Pop-R's.  Biggest White Bass was maybe 12".  Most were 10-inchers.  And then there was this one, which may be the smallest I've ever caught.  I didn't measure it, but I'm guessing it was about 2.5" long.  It was hooked in the mouth.  In the picture I had already unhooked it and then it flopped around some in the sand before I could get the camera out.

With the fly gear I was targeting carp.  I used an egg pattern under an indicator in the shallows.  I landed one smaller carp that measured 20", and had a much bigger carp on that took off on a blazing run straight away from me down the shoreline and then broke my line.  Unfortunately I didn't realize it had broken my line until I was done fishing...(I just thought the fish threw the hook...hey, it was getting pretty dark, and my indicator somehow managed to stay on the line so I never bothered to check further) I fished the last 20+ minutes with no fly on my line.  The 20-incher was a good-looking fish, unfortunately it also managed to roll in the sand while I was getting my camera ready.

I also caught a nice bluegill on the egg pattern.

Jay caught White Bass, Largemouth Bass, and Channel Catfish.  One bass hit a swimbait and got off near shore after a great fight.  I got a good look at it...I would say it was at least 4 lbs, and probably closer to 5.  Really nice fish!
The Catfish hit a Mepps spinner and also fought really well:

It was a nice warm evening, boat traffic wasn't horrible, but there were still plenty of big wakes when they did go by.  There was also a really LOUD noisy airboat that went by a couple times...unusual to see those around here.
A beaver swam by about 40' in front of me as the sky started getting dark.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Evening River Fishing, 7-14-2012

Fished the Des Moines River near Cottonwood Saturday evening.  Crowded...could see at least a dozen anglers in the area. I'm sure there were more I could not see.

I fished a large shallow area almost cut off from the main river.  It was marginal habitat, but I could see carp feeding.  I started with the spinning rod with a Cicada blade bait.  Caught a small crappie.  Switched to the fly rod for carp.  First, a dad and son walked along and threw rocks at the visible carp.  The fish disappeared until they left, then started feeding on the surface.  I was casting to these when another kid with his dog walked along the shoreline and put the fish down again.  I was standing at the base of the steep shoreline and had a tough time casting without snagging brush at the top of the drop off.  Lost some line and flies and indicators.  Hooked into a nice carp that immediately broke my line.

Switched back to spinning gear for a few casts before I left and caught a small walleye.

Saw deer, had an owl fly right over my head from across the river, and had a mink slink right up to my shoes before changing direction.

Also could hear what sounded like distant rocks tapping together.  Is this what Freshwater Drum sound like underwater?  It sounded like it was coming from the water all around me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Flyfishing Report, Evening of 7-10-2012

Got out to flyfish a nearby public pond rather late again.  Seems to be the status quo, not getting out to fish before 8pm!

I spotted at least one large fish (boil/swirl) almost immediately. I always assume it is a Grass Carp, but it might be a catfish, bass, or turtle.  Never know unless you get a good visual or CATCH the fish.  My hope is to do the latter.  Trying to get close enough for the good visual nearly always results in spooking the fish in this pond, so I don't bother.

I started out with a Boa Yarn Leech.  Caught a bluegill.  Switched to a "Blind Squirrel" (read about it here: ).   Here's a picture of the ones I had tied:

I had one or two hooksets that might have been on Grass Carp, but I either missed them completely or felt the hook pull out of a heavy fish without sticking.  I did catch at least on bluegill and a couple bass on that.  

It was getting pretty dark, and some large fish were in the shallow weedy junk, so I switched to a deer hair pellet fly that looked like this:

I hoped a Grass Carp would hit that, but instead had this 17.5" Largemouth Bass take it.  That was a nice surprise and a good fight.  Skinny fish though.

A bit later, I caught this 13" Yellow Bullhead on the same fly.  Its my largest bullhead on a fly so far.
This fish was more mottled than the previous two Yellow Bullheads I had caught from this pond, so I was thinking maybe this was a Brown Bullhead.  I checked into it, and discovered that Yellow Bullheads can ge the mottled coloration in some waters, and only Yellow Bullheads have white chin barbels.  Brown Bullheads and Black Bullheads have dark-colored chin barbels.
 I did catch a couple more bluegills on a different fly later on, but overall the action was extremely slow...and still no Grass Carp.  I was hoping the "Blind Squirrel" would find me a Grass Carp "acorn"!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Fishin', 7-8-2012

Took the family to Ada Hayden Lake yesterday just to get out of the house.  Took the kayak, didn’t bother bringing the fishfinder.  Took turns in the kayak.  Fished from the dock when it wasn’t my turn.  Caught a couple nice bluegills on flies from the dock.  Saw a bunch of little ones.  Also saw a small Drum, a couple decent bass, a carp or buffalo that took looks at my fly but didn’t eat it, and something else I couldn’t identify.  It had a brown back, looked sort of shaped like a trout or perch, but its hard to tell from above.  It was pretty good-sized. 
There was also a couple big “blow-ups” a long cast out from shore.  It just looked like big schooled fish like buffalo or carp spooking, rather than something eating.  At one point I could see a few “schools” of fish out there, and cast as well as I could.  I briefly had something on. 
When it was my turn in the kayak, I took my fly rod along, caught 2 smallish bass.

Last night I went to Georgetown Park hoping the cooler weather would get the fish more active.  There were large fish (grass carp I think) in the shallow end.  Presumably munching on vegetation.  Tossed a topwater deer (or elk) hair “pellet” fly for awhile.  Had one of those grass carp (?) on briefly, I set the hook (but apparently not hard enough to bury the barb) and it ran right at me, and managed to shake the fly loose.  DANG!
I tossed some bread out and had one or more nice-sized fish (catfish?) occasionally working it, but I wasn’t able to get any strikes this time.  I tossed back up the shallows where I suspected a grass carp was, got a good hit that headed for deep water.  Good fight that ended up just being a bluegill.  I think when it struck, it must have spooked a grass carp, because there was a big splash when it took off out of the shallows!

I’m getting SO CLOSE to catching another grass carp…I just can’t quite seal the deal or get a good visual strike.  Frustrating.  I spend so much time trying to get these bigger fish (and ignoring the bluegills, crappies and bass) that my fish/trip numbers have gotten horrendous.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Family Fishin', 7-2-2012

My son was hanging out with a friend's family, my wife suggested we take my daughter fishing.  It was pretty late in the evening already, but we could squeeze a bit of fishing in.  Kennedy is 15 and enjoys catching White Bass, so we headed to Saylorville Lake to fish from shore.

I erroneously assumed my wife would just sit and watch us fish, so I had only brought 2 spinning rods.  Fortunately, I had a couple fly rods in the car, and that is what I fished with most of the time.  I didn't catch anything on the fly gear, however.

My wife and daughter both used Mepps spinners.  Kennedy caught the most fish in the short time we were there...6 White Bass.  They were all smaller fish, around 10".

 My wife's first catch (which I had to help reel in) of the evening was a ROCK.
She did eventually catch at least one White Bass, which she said made fishing SO much more fun.
 No pictures of me, but I did briefly get to cast with one of the spinning rods, and caught 3 white bass, and foul-hooked a decent largemouth bass in the side.  Weird.  And speaking of foul-hooking, most of the white bass were hooked under the chin rather than in the mouth.  They were obviously going for the head and attacking the blade when they got hooked...but it really isn't that common to catch so many of these outside the mouth.  It did make unhooking much easier, though.

Ok...POSE ladies!