Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hybrid Sunfish, 8-28-2012

I drove the carpool last night to West Des Moines (2-year temporary home of U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas)  for some Iowa Youth Chorus singers, and had some time to fish while they rehearsed.  I visited a public pond I had first fished earlier this Spring, but had not visited at all this Summer.

I had the entire pond to myself for almost the entire evening.  Despite the abundant signage declaring the pond CATCH AND RELEASE ONLY, the only other angler I saw stopped by briefly to harvest some bluegills that I assume he intended to take catfishing elsewhere.  Must be the only place around that has bluegills.  Not.

I had a good time. I was hoping to see some Grass Carp.  There were possible Grassies in the area.  What I DID see was a couple of Common Carp.  At one point I had cast into an area where I thought there might be a Carp/Grass Carp.  Thought I might have gotten a strike.  I set the hook and spooked a big fish, as a small branch flew out of the water with my hook stuck to it.  Poop.

Other than that, I just caught 3 Largemouth Bass to about 13", at least a dozen Bluegills, and 7 Hybrid Sunfish.  Those Hybrid Sunfish are so colorful...I love catching them!  So I took a few pics.

This was the first one of the evening, it had some interesting vertical markings..."tiger stripes":

The Hybrid Sunfish in this next picture had a lot of iridescent blue was absolutely beautiful.  The picture just can't adequately capture the colors:

As it got dark, fish were popping some large Hexagenia limbata mayfly adults off the surface of the water.  I had one nicer fish on that may have been either a bass or a really nice crappie.  It shook free, unfortunately.

This last Hybrid Sunfish had some really colorful pinkish-orange edges to its fins.  They don't show up well in  the picture, but I tried.  I had to use a flash because it was pretty dark out by this time.

Several different fly patterns caught fish.  The best 3 patterns were a foam topwater pattern, an unweighted black Woolly Bugger, and a beadhead Woolly Bugger.  Bringing the fly up and tickling the surface with it during a slow retrieve elicited the best/most strikes.

I look forward to fishing this pond again...hopefully I can get some clear shots at definite Grass Carp at some point.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Praying Mantises, 8-22-2012

Saw this Praying Mantis on our garbage bin on 8/21, its the first fully winged adult (female) I've seen this year.

Before I went fishing on 8/22, I checked one bush in the backyard to see if any mantises were around.  I immediately spotted this one, which had just caught a small butterfly (it was still wiggling) and was starting to eat it:

Here, he stopped long enough to look at me:

And then I spotted this brown one on the same bush about 3 feet away:

A bit further on, was this one hanging underneath a flower pod:

I walked around to the far side of the bush, and saw this pair of grasshoppers:

About 15 inches away, they were being watched by this one:
...which turned his head when he saw my foot move:
Yep....its cool how these guys are watch you and are AWARE of you!

Chasing Bubbles, 8-22-2012

I went back to the same pond I fly-fished the previous evening.  It was later than I'd hoped to get there, but you take what you can get when it comes to fishing.  The wind had shifted almost 180 degrees and I thought maybe the downwind side of the lake might be the best place to start looking for Grass Carp, so I started walking towards the far end of the pond from where I had fished the previous evening.

I got 2/3 of the way there, and spotted a man and his daughter goofing around along the shoreline.  I thought maybe they were fishing, but then heard and saw them talking to their dog that was swimming around in the water.  I figured this commotion would put the fish down for a bit, so I decided to head back towards the far end of the pond where I had contacted Grassies the prior evening.

As I stopped to turn around, I spotted this mink munching what appeared to be a dried fish on the shoreline.

I fished a few spots along the way, casting near "bubble areas".  I caught a half-dozen decent bluegills while I was at it, on the black Woolly Bugger.

I proceeded to an area that looked especially promising, and switched to a tri-color Backstabber.  I "bumped" and spooked a large fish, which proved there were probably Grass Carp in the area.

I cast out beyond some bubbles, and brought the fly into the area of the bubbles, then let it drop and sit.  My line twitched, so I set the hook.  FISH ON!  It made a bee-line for a distant shoreline, spooking a couple other large fish along the way.  I didn't seem able to gain line, so I followed the fish down the shoreline, reeling up slack line as I went.  The fish seemed to have dived into some submerged weeds, and there was a large clump of the weeds wrapped on my line.  I slowly backed the fish out of the weeds, and was soon able to land it.

Unfortunately, it was NOT a Grass Carp, but it was still cool because it was a Common Carp.  I'd only ever seen evidence of one or two of these in the pond, but apparently there may be more.  Illegal "Bucket-stocking", I would guess.  To be able to catch one of these from this pond was ALMOST as cool catching a Grass Carp.  It was my first Common Carp out of one of the local public ponds.

I tried hitting a couple other "bubble spots" with no other results.  I did see some large fish stirring up mud clouds as (I presume) they darted out of the shallows.  Also saw some large fish darting around just under the surface, which is an evening food-seeking behavior I attribute to Channel Catfish.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Evening Flyfishing, 8/21/2012

Happy 19th Wedding Anniversary, Mrs. FishnDave!  :)

After getting a car tire repaired on the way home from work, and then making dinner for our kids, I went fly fishing at a local public pond.

It already seems like it is starting to get dark much too early in the evenings.  Know what I mean?

Anyway, this is a pond I haven't visited recently.  It has some decent bluegills, mostly, but they can sometimes be difficult to locate.  I found them to be rather scattered, yet managed to land at least 15 on a black Woolly Bugger.  They were fun, and I am satisfied with that.

But there was something even better.  This is a pond that has some nice Grass Carp in it.  It is also a pond where I've rarely been able to get within casting distance of the Grass Carp.  They nearly always see me (and bolt!) long before I see them.  I have to admit I was hoping to see some tonight, but it wasn't looking promising.  As I was fishing my way along the shoreline catching bluegills, I came to an area I knew to be fairly shallow.  There were bubbles coming up in several areas.  I thought that was odd.  I cast in and around those areas.  Caught a bluegill or two, and very briefly had one or two fish on that felt a little better than the bluegills.  I moved down the shoreline to another area that had areas of rising bubbles.  I cast my fly near one bubbling spot and let it sink.  When I began the retrieve, there was weight, so I set the hook.  Grass Carp!  It ran to the far shoreline of the pond.  There was only 2 turns of fly line left on my reel...the backing was staring back at me.  I considered taking a picture of this, as well as the big bend in my rod.

After several solid minutes of battle, my hook pulled free.  Bummer!  Because of the way it fought, I strongly suspect this fish was foul-hooked, probably near the tail.  Still, I would have liked to have landed it!

I moved down the shore a few paces more and cast towards more bubbles.  Within just a cast or two, I hooked up with another Grass Carp.  For this one, I had cast to the bubbles and just let it sink while watching my line.  When thw line started to move, I set the hook, and saw the back and tail of the Grassie as it darted away from shore.  I could tell this fish was definitely hooked in (or near) the mouth.  The fish was easier to control, but was still overpowering my 5 wt fly rod.  I wasn't in a hurry, but after a couple minutes of this excitement, I decided to try putting more pressure on the fish to tire it and bring it to shore.  Once again, the hook pulled out.  This time I was even more Bummed out!  I thought I HAD that one!  

Oh well...having two Grass Carp on the line in one night is exceptional for me, and I feel I might be on to something in casting to those bubbles.  I hope I can find that situation again soon to continue experimenting.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I Hope You Didn't Just Eat...

We've all read and/or posted fishing blog entries showing amazing postcard-like pictures of the beautiful fish or beautiful environment around some of our favorite fishing spots.

THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE POSTS!  In fact, if you just ate, you might want to view the rest of this blog post AFTER you've had a chance to digest that food.

Here's a brief report from fishing over the weekend.  And a few CHOICE pictures, of course.
First...Saturday, August 18, 2012:
Fished a spot on Saylorville that sported a bit of current.  Shad were thick.  Its one of those situations where there are so many baitfish, you can't hardly work a lure through them without snagging them, and your lure doesn't have the right action because its bouncing off shad bodies all the time, and you can't hardly get a sinking lure to the bottom, even though it was only maybe 5' deep max.  And so many baitfish that the fish have little reason to attack an artificial.  The shoreline looks like the way, you have my permission if you want to use this as your new computer desktop screensaver!  :laughing7:

And then there's piles of "less fresh" carcasses, mixed with a healthy dose of mother nature's vacuum cleaners:

Speaking of maggots...I came upon this large mass of a favorite ICE-FISHING bait:

I vertical jigged with a slab spoon for a bit.   Jay (Flipper) joined me for awhile.  Switched to a 3" Berkley Ripple Shad on a 1/8oz jighead.  Vertical jigged that.  Caught 5 nice fair-hooked, 4 accidentally snagged.  The Ripple Shad was kind of torn up, so I pinched the head off and threaded it back on the hook.  I started casting it out parallel to one shoreline, and brought it slowly through the masses of baitfish.  Caught 3 fat White Bass that way, but they were only 11-inchers.  Also noticed some carp working certain areas near shore.  I'd cast out beyond those areas, swim the lure into the area, then let it drop and sit.  Maybe a twitch or hop occasionally.  I caught 3 more nice carp that way that ALL ate the jig!  Great fights!  I'd had enough and called it quits.

Next...Sunday, August 19, 2012:
Jay was headed out to chase fish with stripes, so I joined him.  Jay got there first.  Action died pretty much as soon as I showed up (sound familiar, Anderson?).  The Turkey Vultures were an indication of just how dead it was.

Actually, there were small busts around, and we both caught fish, but they were mostly the smaller white bass, and the occasional < 15" Wiper.  I did snag a nice carp, and also snagged one of the biggest shad I've seen this year.  It measured 13"!!

Didn't take any pictures of the Whites, Wipers or Carp that I caught this weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Backyard Critters, August 2012

I had only (finally) just recently spotted a single Praying Mantis in our backyard.  First Praying Mantis sighting of the year for me.  I had hoped to see some earlier in the season, because most of our flowering plants were getting POUNDED by an overabundance of Japanese Beetles.  The Japanese Beetles have become such a pest, I decided NOT to photograph them.  Take THAT!  :)

So, on a recent weekend day, I saw butterfly on one of the Butterfly Bushes, grabbed my camera and went out to take some "critter photos".  As has happened so many times in the past couple of years, I was holding the camera at chest level looking for a subject to capture, when a Hummingbird showed up about arms length in front and above me.  He (she?) just hovered there checking me out.  What a picture that could have been!  But any small movement from me would send the tiny bird quickly on its way.  So...again, no picture of the Hummingbird.

I did eventually spot at least 5 or 6 Praying Mantises in the backyard, and collected these photos of them and other "critters".

A Monarch Butterfly:

A huge Bumble Bee, with a Praying Mantis "on the side":

A couple more Bumble Bee pics....I feel safe when they are like this:

But they seem a little more scary when you see them "head-on":

One thing that NEVER seems scary are the various butterflies:

Some of the Dragonflies are pretty big.  It'd be fun to get a picture of one eating something it had caught.

Jumpy Jumpy Grasshopper:

The critters with the most interesting personalities has to be the Praying Mantises, though.  Something about the way they WATCH you:

...or how they like to hang around upside down:

The one was the only brown one I saw:

The rest were green:

The coolest thing is watching them HUNT.  Check out this series:
Butterfly lands on a flower stalk NEAR the Praying Mantis.  Mantis watches with wishful thoughts...

Butterfly lands on the same flower as the Praying Mantis.  See the Mantis??  He makes to stalk up the far side of the flower stalk:

Butterfly changes course.   Mantis re-evaluates situation:

Mantis makes a move..."Slow down, ya winged bag o' nectar!"

 No photos of the gory bloodbath of a successful kill this time. The butterfly flew off again to another flower stem, leaving the Mantis to reconsider its tactics.  "Phooey!"

I did watch another Mantis go after a wasp that landed on a flower.  The Mantis made the grab, but didn't have a good enough hold, and the wasp flew away, wondering about what it was that had just tried to grab it. 

Wipers and White Bass, 8-13-2012

After I got home from work, my buddy Jay called and said, "If you can get out, you've GOT to go fishing NOW!"  I knew where he was fishing.  I didn't know if I'd be able to get out, but after a call like that, my priorities quickly shifted and my son and I were soon headed out the door to meet up with Jay.

The action had slowed somewhat by the time we got there.  There were still occasional surface busts...small groups of fish attacking shad on the surface.  Some of these busts appeared to be LARGE fish!  My first 3 or 4 fish were all Wipers (Hybrids).  My biggest Wiper of the evening was maybe 15".  I also caught a few White Bass, with a couple of them measuring up to about 16.5".  NICE fish!

I caught fish on a Cicada blade bait, and on a TNT slab spoon.  Once again I brought both flyfishing gear and spinning gear.  And once again I didn't bother with the fly gear...the fish were just too far away.

The toughest part was waiting for fish to get within casting range.   Many of the bigger "busts" were in a certain area, and there were 4 to 8 guys fishing that area pretty hard.

Pretty exciting stuff though...When the wind is from the right direction, this shoreline can be VERY good fishing!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fishing Report and Ramblings, 8-8-2012

Flyfished for a couple hours late yesterday evening after the storms passed. Landed 1 bass and 15 bluegills. The bluegills are still going bonkers for topwaters. I tried a nymph with no takers. A Chernobyl Ant/Hopper got the best action on top. Did catch a few fish on a yellow Boa Yarn Leech closer to dark.

A young teenager arrived at the pond as it was getting dark, and prepared to do some catfishing. He came over to ask how I was doing. He told me all the big fish are on the bottom. And that he had recently caught a couple nice catfish using grass frogs for bait.

I wanted to explain to him that baitfishing isn't fun for me. I'd rather actively pursue fish with artificials than to sit and wait for a fish to wander by a stationary bait. Plus the whole advanced skill requirements when choosing the "fooling fish vs. feeding fish" thing. And how I'd caught EVERY species of fish in the pond (Largemouth Bass, Bluegills, Crappies, Hybrid Sunfish, Green Sunfish, Grass Carp, Channel Catfish, Bullheads) on flies, and all but one species had been caught at least once on topwater flies. And how I've caught a fair number of larger specimens on the fly gear (bass to 19", catfish to 27" (same fish multiple times even), crappies to 13", grass carp to 29".

But I didn't say ANY of that. I could have expounded on how he is likely fishing below the thermocline much of the time, and how most of the food in the pond will be in the shallows and along the weedline drop-off.

Instead, I decided that we were obviously both quite happy to be fishing and catching in our own ways. I just acted impressed and thankful for his information, and he left me to go chase down some more grass frogs to use for bait.

Would any of you have handled that situation differently? I keep thinking about it, but keep concluding it was best to hold my tongue because I probably would have come across as too serious, or a "know-it-all", or elitist, or preachy.  I may have missed an opportunity to share a lot of good information, but I strongly suspect this fellow wasn't ready to hear all that, and doubt he could conceive the of the massive amount of experience behind my observations.  In the end, these are just my opinions, and we all have the right to have our own.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Evening Fishing Report, 8-7-2012

I went to the Marina Tower.   I did a drive-by on the road above the spot first, to see if there was anybody else fishing.  I didn’t see anybody.  When I got to the Prairie Flower Campground parking lot, there were 3 cars there.  My heart sank.  I walked down the trail anyway…2 older guys and a woman were fishing.  They were sitting in chairs with their backs to the tower, which is why I didn’t see them when I drove by.  They were fishing for cats.  That had 2 stringers loaded with NICE cats!!  By loaded….I should say there were probably around 7 or 8 on each stringer. 

I had a fly rod and 2 spinning rods with me.  Uncharacteristically, I didn't use the fly gear at all this night.  Since those folks were fishing around the “boil” area, I stayed near the point on the south side of that area and fancast with a Cicada or Mepps.  Caught one nice 15” White Bass and a small Freshwater Drum.

Another fellow came down to catfish and set up just west of me.  Nice guy.

The first 3 picked up their stuff to leave, so I picked up my stuff to claim their spot.  The last guy moved in a bit, and I waved him over, told him I’d split the “boil” with him.  Shad were THICK, stuff what smacking them on the surface all night, but I couldn’t really say for sure WHAT was smacking them.

I cast around, fished high and low.  Nothing.   I lost 2 or 3 lures.

Then I started vertical jigging spoons, hair jigs, or 3” Ripple Shad jigs along the wall in front of me.  Lost the hair jig in a really big fish…catfish I’m pretty sure.  Broke the Nanofil line about 5 seconds into the fight.

Caught a 24” Mirror Carp…it swallowed the Ripple Shad.

Next, I hooked a big fish, but it was snagged just under the tail.  Long long fight, with me running along the shorelines trying to get back some of the line it had peeled out.  31.5” Carp.  2nd biggest one I’ve ever caught!  ½” away from a Master Angler fish…DANG!

It was getting dark, and there were lightning flashes.  I hooked another good fish that again sent me running along the shoreline trying to find a good spot to land it.  This one was a FAT 25” Channel Catfish.  Its head and body were so big, I was really thinking it would be close to 30” (Master Angler size)…but it wasn’t.

Although this fish was a good fighter, it was clear the fish that broke my line was MUCH bigger.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sunday Evening Fly-Fishing, 8-5-2012

Fly-fished a local public pond from about 7:45pm-10pm.
Some young kids were trying to terrorize the ducks when the ducks would climb onto the shore.  It seems poor sport to chase after such wild animals...but the ducks just hop in the water and swim away.  Small price to pay for the free bread snacks they often get fed.  Folks feeding ducks are doing them a disservice, as studies have shown these hand-fed ducks tend to hold off migrating much longer, and often get caught in early-season snow storms and don't survive as well in the wild away from their summer "vacation" ponds.  I'm sure I've mentioned all this before.  It is what it is.

A couple of the kids walked around the pond, and saw me catch a few fish on a small foam Gurgler I had made.  They ran over.  At first they were concerned, but apparently I looked harmless or friendly enough.  Their attending adults were within view, after all.  I talked to the kids, showed them the fish as I caught them, told them what speceis of fish they were, and tossed them in the grass for them to inspect before they released it back to them water.

HORRORS!  You wouldn't toss trout up in the grass if you weren't planning to keep them!  Fear not...these bluegills are stout creatures.  Every one of them swam off strongly once returned to the water.  Plus, this pond could use some "thinning out", so if some died it wouldn't be the end of the world.  This sounds horrible, coming from a guy that is very big on Catch & Release.  I know my local fish and harm done and it was worth it to see these kids (eventually there were at least 6 gathered around me, all clamoring to get to hold the next fish) enjoying a little nature close-up.

They were astounded at how fast I was catching fish.  So was I, to a degree, but I tried to act cool. :)
They asked me how I did it.  I told them I was just really lucky.  To my dismay, they didn't try to argue instead that I must be an extremely skilled and knowledgable angler.  They just agreed that I was indeed very lucky.  Ah, youth.

A group of 5 or 6 teenage boys came down to the pond and fished not far away (but far enough...they weren't crowding me by any means).  So impressive was my fish-after-fish-after-fish catching, the most hardcore angler of the group came over to inquire as to my method and lure (fly).

I wouldn't be truthful if I said I kept an accurate count of all the bluegills I caught, but I feel very confident in saying it was well in excess of 40 fish.

After it started getting darker, the younger group of kids left, and half of the teenagers left.  In addition to a couple more bluegills, I also caught a largemouth bass and 3 crappies.

Pressure waves.  Most anglers have seen these.  They often mark the presence (movement) of a large fish under the that doesn't break the water's surface.  Its the sort of thing that, even after all these years of fishing, still makes my eyes open wide and I can't help but exhale a stretched-out "WHOA!".  I saw quite a few of these last night once it got fairly dark.  The big fish were certainly around and within casting distance.  I tied on a #6 white Woolly Bugger, but didn't hook into any of these bigger fish.  Its the kind of thing that keeps me wanting to go fishing again and again.

I took no pictures this time.  Should have taken pictures of all the kids waiting for the next was rather endearing.  But, their accompanying adults, who did eventually walk over and chat for a bit, might have thought that it would be weird for a stranger to be taking their kids pictures.  This is the sorry age we live in, but then wariness of strangers is nothing new.

At least my entertaining the kids gave the ducks a welcome break.

Saylorville Lake, Evening 8-3-2012

Jay and I fished Saylorville from shore Friday evening.  Fishing was poor (I caught a largemouth bass), until Jay spotted some surface activity.  He caught 5 before I could get over to where he was.  He'd already caught a nice White Bass and some 10-12-inchers.

Then he caught a big fat White Bass that fought really well.  I was sure it was going to be a 24" Wiper!  I think it was more like 15", but it was REALLY fat and sure looked a LOT bigger than that!  Didn't get a picture of that one, but did get a picture of a 16-incher he caught after that:

While he was fighting that one, I hooked a nice fish that turned out to be a 23" Channel Catfish:

It hit a slab spoon:

I also caught White Bass (no big ones, though) on both the slab spoon and a Pop-R topwater.
The White Bass seemed to be working down the shore away from us, so we walked down past them to intercept them and set up for them to arrive...but they never did.  I caught maybe 5 more small White Bass, but they were scattered.  In short, we left fish to find fish.  Earlier, though, it was pretty cool to see the fish blowing up on the could tell where the bigger fish were by the size/sound of the explosions!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Carp for Lunch....8-2-2012

No...its not what I ATE....its what I CAUGHT!

In order to diminish the chances of ruining a potentially good fishing spot by publicly NAMING it, lets just say I did my research and determined there would be current in a certain area, despite the very dry conditions we've had all summer.

I arrived during my lunch hour, air temp in the 90's, dressed in my casual dress slacks, casual dress shoes, and button-up short-sleeve casual dress shirt.  In short, a rather dapper fella, given the circumstances.  At least I threw on a ball cap before I left my car.  It was a fair 10-minute walk to get to the spot I wanted to fish.  When I finally got there, there was abundant evidence of schools of shad throughout the area.  In fact, it was pretty much PACKED with shad!  I could see backs of carp along the shoreline.  Big sucking, smacking sounds and splashes in one particular area.  Many large fish vacuuming up shad.  As I walked closer to that area, I could see many of them were nice catfish.  That would slowly rise mouth up beneath the schools of shad, then suck them in near the surface, before splashing and rolling on the surface to disappear back below the shad.  Looking back...I should have gotten that on was pretty cool to watch!

The shad were in at least 3 distinct sizes.  6"-7",  3"-4", and 2" +/-.

I had both spinning and fly rods with me.  One spinning rod had a topwater lure on it.  I made a few casts, but it wasn't what I wanted, and I didn't really give the fish a chance to chase it.

I switched to the fly rod and tied on a Ward Bean's Jointed Baitfish in a shad color that I had tied up.  I had two VERY LARGE fish  on it.  One got free before I saw it, the other broke my 12 lb test tippet.

Next I tied on a gray-over-white Clouser Deep Minnow.  I caught an 11" White Bass on that, and then lost the fly to a big fish.

I tied on a #6 White Woolly Bugger, and stuck it under an indicator.  I brought in a carp that was hooked in a pelvic fin.  Had another fish on I think may have been a large catfish.  It also broke my line.  DARN IT!

The catfish seemed to stop coming to the surface so obviously as they had been, but the carp were still there.    Even though the carp were clearly targeting shad, I replaced my tippet with fresh 12 lb mono, and tied on an egg pattern under the indicator.  There was some waiting involved, and probably a few subtle strikes I chose to ignore, but I was eventually rewarded with a 26.5" Carp.  After that, my fishing time was up and I had to hurry back to to the office!  It was tough to leave a feeding frenzy like that!

While I was there, I knew there were probably plenty of catfish deeper, plus a Freshwater Drum had recently beached itself and was still barely alive.  Who knows what else may have been prowling the bottom of the area looking for an easy meal.  Maybe I should have keep fishing with Clousers or other fast-sinking fly patterns, but I mostly chose to target the fish that were feeding on the shad near the surface.  My decision was based on several thoughts.  First, there was so many shad in the area, bumping into my line all the time, it would have been very difficult to get a sinking pattern down, and also difficult to detect strikes properly.  As it was, I was snagging a LOT of shad unintentionally, just in trying to move my fly pattern around.  Second, I just didn't have a lot of time to spend fishing today.  The driving and walking each way took up 2/3 of my lunch hour.  Third, its more fun and easy presenting the fly to/near visible fish.