Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bass Going Strong on Topwater!

I flyfished last night for an hour at a public pond in a nearby town.  This pond has been getting POUNDED this year by bass anglers.

The water level is up from the recent rains, and off-colored.  There was a good current flowing in through the storm inlets into the pond.  The wind was down, though, which made topwaters a good option, fished parallel to the shorelines.

I only landed 2, but they were decent fish for public ponds around here.  Also lost/missed at least 3-4 others, including one DANDY that jumped several times before throwing the hook.  Maybe I was overestimating...but the thought that went through my mind when that fish was jumping was "6-pounder!".  In reality..probably somewhere in the 4-6lb range.

For the last few minutes of the fishing trip, I switched to one of Dale S's red & chartreuse microjigs, and caught 4-5 Bluegills and 1 Crappie.

Fun evening...those bass are STRONG!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lunchtime Fly Fishing Report, 5-29-2013

Well, lunchtime fishing was fun today.  The wind had the north shoreline stirred up a bit on the pond I often fish during lunch.  I had a foam bass topwater pattern (the one I started tying last summer) on the line already, so I tossed that out.  I caught at least 5 bass up to @ 18”, lost/missed maybe twice that many more, then switched to one of Dale S.'s red/chartreuse microjigs and caught a bunch of fat bluegills, and lost a crappie.  Fun!!

The biggest bass I landed…I had it laying on the ground while I was getting my camera/tape measure out.  It flopped, I grabbed the line, the line broke, the fish landed in the water under the algae, and took off with my popper still in its mouth!  Rats!  No picture of that fish.   I think I got the same fish to strike once more, but it only swirled on the 2nd popper.

Grass Carp Nemesis

"Nemesis"...defined by Mirriam-Webster dictionary as "a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent".  That describes Grass Carp perfectly!

I landed 3 on flies a few years back.  I thought I was pretty cool!  Since then, I've been totally blanked.  I've hooked I don't know how many since then, and landed NONE.  Plus all the others I've seen and cast to and just could not get them to eat the fly!  A frustrating fish for me.  But the personal reward in landing each one is HUGE.  The take, the hookset, the fight...the big ol' fish landed!

I get continued inspiration from guys like the authors of blogs like:

Last year I had a nice Grass Carp take a topwater deer hair "pellet" fly I had tied in the style.  That was cool!  My line snapped just after the hookset when the fish threw its head to the side.

John and Jeff (from the 2nd and 3rd blog link above, respectively) have had success using the Grand Hopper  pattern for Grass Carp.  I've tried it during my last two flyfishing trips to local ponds, where I knew Grass Carp were in the area.  They certainly seem attracted and interested in the "splat" the fly makes when hitting the water.  They turn and swirl and swim around the fly, checking it out.  But so far, no strikes.  The fish don't seem to be feeding when I am casting to them, so maybe that is the difference?  Patience....I know this can work!

Here's a picture of me from fishing last night (photo courtesy of Dale Sanders).  The water was fairly calm, but part of the sky was sunny, and part was nasty black storm clouds!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Late Spring Musings, 2013

I've been catching fish lately, but nothing really blog-worthy.  (Dave, NONE of your previous report were blog-worthy either!).  Touche.  Well, stop reading right now, then....because this post will likely only be interesting to me.  Consider yourself warned.  :)

As I've written numerous times, I keep an electronic Fishing Log each year.  Each year I have a personal goal of catching 1,000 fish.  Since I started flyfishing, that goal has gotten much easier to reach.  In fact I've not yet FAILED to reach it since starting to flyfish.

This past Sunday (May 19, 2013), I beat the 1,000 fish mark for the year.  I checked my previous fishing logs to see if this was the fastest I've reached 1,000 fish.  Nope.  That honor goes to last year, when I reached 1,000 fish on May 9, 2012...10 days earlier.

Well, comparing years is interesting to me.  You see, in 2012 we had a very early and very warm Spring.  I ice-fished into late February, and then within 6 days of my last ice-fishing trip, I was flyfishing open water on February 25.  In February and March combined, I fished 52 times!

2013 has been very different from that.  A very cool Spring with bad ice that stayed on the lakes much longer than last year.  We had a good snowfall in May!  In fact, I only fished a total of 5 times total in February and March, and between my last ice-fishing trip in early February, I didn't fish at all for 51 days.  I finally got to flyfish open water on March 27...over a month later than last year!  So, only being behind last year's fish-caught numbers by 10 days seems pretty good to me.  :)

And so far this year I've caught 13 different fish species (12 on fly gear), including 2 new species on fly gear (for me)...Pumpkinseed Sunfish and Bigmouth Buffalo.

So, all in all, its been a pretty decent year for fishing so far.

What's a blog post without pictures??
In the past week, we had 2 consecutive evenings with Tornado WARNINGS in our town.  So, in honor of's a picture I took on each of those days while fishing:

But....this IS a (mainly) Fishing Blog, so here's a couple fish from late last week...a big 9" Green Sunfish, and a 12" Black Crappie sporting spawning colors:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fly Fishing with Dale and Rick, 5-14-2013

Rick Z lives in southern Iowa, just a few miles north of the Missouri border.  Rick is an avid fly fisherman, creative fly tyer, and manages the fishery for approximately 60 ponds in his area.

Rick's method of fish management on these ponds revolves around harvesting bluegills under 10", all crappies, and bass only if at least 3 bluegills are also removed for each bass.  Something like that.  If I  have misquoted the numbers or ratios incorrectly, the error is completely mine.  Contact Rick if you want the full explanation.  He has also added one or more Flathead Catfish to certain ponds that had an overabundance of stunted panfish.  The results?  He says that in about 5 years, you will have much bigger crappies and bluegills, because the population is kept thinned enough that the remaining fish have plenty of food available to allow them to grow.  Some of these ponds now have bluegills up to 12", and Crappies up to 20"!

My assessment after visiting a couple of these ponds is's working!

I made arrangements for my friend Dale S and I to go flyfish with Rick on a couple of his favorite ponds.

The first pond we visited looked great...nice size one size lined with timber.  The problem we noticed right away was the water clarity.  Rick said normally the pond is fairly clear.  But within the past week they had a downpour that dumped 6" of rain in a short amount of time, followed by several days of strong winds that kept the sediment suspended.  My guesstimate was that you could see into the water only about 1.5"!  Certainly that made it hard to gauge what depth the water was that we were fishing, and also made it very difficult for the fish to spot our flies.  We fished the pond for about 2 hours anyway.

Rick and Dale both noted they each had one or two bites, but no fish.  Worse, Rick broke his fly rod!  I caught 14 bluegills up to 9" long, 2 bass that were twins at @ 13"each, and a crappie that was @ 10".  I used 2 patterns that Rick had tied and given us, and caught fish on both.  One was a black Boa Yarn Leech with red plastic eyes.  I caught a couple bluegills on that before I lost it.  Another was a gold sparkle eyelash yarn leech pattern. It seemed big, the the bluegills loved it, as did the crappie.  I lost that fly to a tree overhanging the water.  I caught the bass and a few smaller bluegills on a gold microjig with a black tail.

Dale S took this picture of Rick at the first pond.  I'm WAY in the background..on the front of Rick's hat.
Apparently there is a thriving Amish population in the area.  We saw a few road signs that said "BEWARE OF HORSE DRAWN TRAFFIC".  And we saw such traffic.

After lunch, Rick led us to a 2nd pond.  Here the water was still stained, but it was a bit clearer than the first pond.  We were all into fish soon.  We each caught bluegills and crappies.  I also caught a bass.  The crappies weren't too big, but the bluegills were BEASTS!  I measured a good number of 9-inchers, and they were freakishly deep-bodied fish.  Very healthy indeed!  Rick said he had caught 12" bluegills from both ponds we had fished, and I can believe it!

We kept the bluegills and crappies we caught for Rick to clean for a few meals.
Photo courtesy of Dale S.  Rick and I with a basket of fish!
Oh....and while fishing the second pond, Rick broke his rod!  So between the 3 of us, we had 2 broken rods on the day!  What are the chances of that ever happening?

Blue Heron Lake, 5-10-2013

On Friday I had the day off work again, so I went fly fishing at Blue Heron Lake in West Des Moines.  I wanted to target short nose gar.  Mark D had tipped me off about gar spawning there a week or two before when we had a very warm day...right before some really cold weather that then shut the fishing down.

Anyway, I got to the lake around 11:30am.  I put on the hip waders I had gotten for Christmas, put on my waist gear bag (big glorified fanny pack), grabbed my fly rod and headed down the trail to the lake.  I hadn't gotten far when I saw a fellow with a fly rod walking towards me.  What would the chances be?  "Mark?" I said.  "Yeah."

I had corresponded with Mark for several years, but we had never before met in person.  This made my whole day!  Mark didn't have to leave right away, so he very kindly offered to walk back to the lake with me and show me some spots where he had been seeing fish lately.  The first spot held plenty of gar, he assured me, but the fish weren't showing themselves yet.  We moved to a second area.  Mark said there were carp spawning there around some shallow flooded weeds.  There wasn't much action there at first, but as we stood and talked, the action picked up.

Turns out it was Bigmouth Buffalo that I saw spawning, but there were a LOT of Common Carp around feeding behind the spawning buffalo, and also feeding in the shallow weeds.  Since gar didn't seem to be active yet, I decided to chase some carp.  They were quite serious about their feeding, and were fairly oblivious to my presence.  Some swam right up to my boots!  After catching a fish or two, I realized I  could just dangle the fly straight down under the rod tip to present to fish that were quite close to me.

I stayed until @ 2:15pm.  In that time I managed to catch 6 carp on flies.  I used a Mr. P's Carp Carrot pattern.  Here's a picture of me hooked up with the first carp of the day.  Mark snapped the picture right before he had to leave.

Here's some pictures of a couple carp I caught.  One measured 25", and the other measured 26".  I didn't measure the others, but one or two might have been a bit bigger.

You can see a large hook in the bottom of this one's gill plate.  I removed the hook before releasing the fish.

I ended up spotting 7 gar in the shallow weeds.  One ate the fly, one I snagged on the outside of the jaw.  Both jumped and threw the hook.  I could have caught more carp.  It was fun, but the wind was picking up, making line control more "work".

On the way out, I almost stepped on this Garter Snake!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fly Fishing Report - May 9, 2013

My new friend Robert R was in town.  Robert is a GREAT guy, who loves fishing as much as I do...which is saying something!

We went to Ada Hayden Lake in Ames, Iowa.  I hoped the recent cold weather would have the rainbow trout active along the shorelines.  The day started out breezy, cloudy, with just a bit of drizzle.  As soon as we arrived at the lake, we saw thousands and thousands of buffalo constantly streaming along the shorelines...EVERY shoreline.  I put on a nymph and tossed it out in front of some, and immediately had a Buffalo on.  I could see the fish had the fly in its mouth, and was close to shore.  My leader got wedged under a rock, and in the time it took for me to free the line, the fish freed itself.  Darn!  No other Buffalo had any interest in the fly.

I spotted one trout along the shore, and cast near it.  It turned and headed for the fly, but it didn't find it, and disappeared before I got another cast off.

I started casting out away from shore, and soon had a fish hit a Chili Pepper...twice.  It didn't get hooked either time, but I clearly saw the white flash.  It could have been a trout, but I thought it looked more like maybe a crappie.  I switched to a white beadhead Woolly Bugger, and soon had a Wiper on the end of my line!  I landed the fish, it was 15.5" long.  Not big as Wipers go, but definitely a fun fish on a fly rod!
I switched to a gray-over-white Clouser Deep Minnow.  Over the next 90 minutes or so, I landed a total of 9 Wipers.  They ranged from maybe 13" up to 16.5".

Very fun!  They seemed to be scattered around, rather than schooling together.  I had to keep moving to pick up a fish here and there.

Robert's fishing was interrupted by some long business-related conference calls, but he managed to catch a couple good crappies.

After a quick lunch we visited Peterson Pit East.  It is connected to the Skunk River, and the river was high and muddy.  The water in the pit was up into the brush and trees all around the lake.  There was no way to access the water and fish it from shore, so we headed back to Ada Hayden.  The wind had died some before lunch, and the Wipers bite had slowed.  So we decided to try some other areas of the lake for panfish.  We didn't find any.  I stopped at a culvert that had a bit of water flowing into the lake.  There were some Buffalo and a few small carp near it.  I thought maybe I could get the carp to strike, but could not.  One Buffalo swam towards shore near where I was standing. It was mouthing some flooded grass, looking like it was feeding.  Hey, if it was eating, why not try to feed it?  I dropped a nymph in front of its mouth, and it sucked it in.  I set the hook, and the hook lodged in the lip.  HOORAY!  My first Bigmouth Buffalo on a fly!  It barely fought, but it did slowly head away from shore, where it was instantly bombarded by 3 or 4 male Buffalo who were trying to mate with it.  They were pushing the fish away from me!  I thought they would knock my line loose from the fish's mouth, but everything held as intended.  I landed the fish, and she measured 28"!

Later in the afternoon, Robert and I flyfished a pond not far from my house.  We each caught Crappies, Bluegills, Hybrid Sunfish, and Pumpkinseeds.  Here's Robert with one of the beautiful Pumkinseeds:

I also managed to land a couple bass:

Fishing had been slow all day, but we caught fish and really had fun!