Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thank You, 2014!

Fishing has temporarily wrapped up in my area while I wait for the ice to get thick enough to fish on/through.
Time to celebrate and muse over what kind of year 2014 was (for fishing).

First, let me try to generalize 2014's seasonal weather patterns that we experienced here in Iowa.
2014 was characterized by a quick warm-up in the Spring.  I was icefishing through 14"+ of ice one day, went on Spring Break for a week, and came back to start fishing open water!
Spring was followed by a comfortably warm summer that never quite reached its typical hot furnace demeanor.  Actually, you could say it was unusually cool, and this would be substantiated by most of the U.S. having a cooler-than-average summer while the rest of the world was much warmer than average.
Summer in turn was followed by a long, drawn-out Fall.  Temps seemed to hover in the 60's for much of September, October, and first 1/2 of November.
We had the earliest safe-ice (4") for icefishing BEFORE THANKSGIVING (extremely rare), and then several ice-off / ice-on cycles, resulting in some VERY LATE-season open-water fishing...even for a day or two AFTER Christmas (also EXTREMELY rare)!  Crazy!
The white bass Fall run was ok, but would have been better with warmer stable weather.  It didn't seem to last as long as it should have, and was rather spotty.

Now on to the fishing statistics from my yearly Fishing Log.
I decided that rather than typing up a big long text description, I will just post the summary page from my Fishing Log here as images.

This summary page of my Fishing Log, I copy over and add onto each subsequent year, so I can directly compare each of the last 9 years (so far) that I've kept this electronic log.

I will say that 2014 missed tying my 2nd best (most fish in a year) year by 8 fish!  Dang...I should have stayed longer on my last trip!!!  :)

Other than that, 2014 was not my best in any category...but 2nd best in a couple.  I did catch more Largemouth Bass this year than in any of the previous 8 years.

Some notable catches this year:
I caught my first Dorado (Mahi Mahi) this year, and my first Goldfish(es) on a fly rod.  I also caught Personal Best FLY ROD fish of the following species:
-Smallmouth Bass (17")
-Hybrid Sunfish (9.25")
-White Bass (16")
-Rainbow Trout (14.5")
-Smallmouth Buffalo (24.5")
-Pumpkinseed Sunfish (8.5")
-Goldfish (6")

-I had previously caught pike on flies in Canada, and this year I finally landed one on a fly in Iowa!

I caught 18 species on the fly rod this year.

Some highlights were the Dorado:
The Goldfish:
Some 13" Crappies:
A 20" Largemouth Bass I managed to catch 3 times on flies this year:
And a 30" Common Carp:

2014 was a pretty decent year for fishing, all things considered.
I'm looking forward to what 2015 will have to offer!

Good luck to all of you, and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, December 29, 2014

LAST Open Water Flyfishing for 2014

I flyfished a local public pond on December after Christmas.  Still had open water.  As I write this today, December 29, the local ponds are once again (4th time this season?) covered in ice, and it appears they will remain that way until Spring.

I flyfished for 3 hours in 33 degree F weather, used a chartreuse microjig under a strike indicator.  Caught 45 small crappies.
That should do it for fishing this year.  :)
I'll post a separate blog entry detailing my year, and giving all the year-end statistics. :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Open Water Flyfishing Report, 12-14-2014

I'm reiterating some of this, as I find this season's weather so far very interesting.

As I may have mentioned in my previous blog entry,  central Iowa had fishable ice abnormally early in the season.  I fished through 4" of ice on November 22.  This was the EARLIEST in the season I have ice-fished, as far as I can remember.

Then, the ice melted COMPLETELY, and we had open-water once again.  It soon re-froze, and I fished through 4"+ of ice on Dec. 6.

By the following weekend, the ice turn sour again. By Sunday afternoon, some local ponds had at least SOME open water, and a couple were 100% ice-free.  I went ice-fishing.  This was the LATEST in the season I flyfished open water.  Of course streams and rivers can stay open year-round, but for pond fishing in Iowa, this is extremely unusual.

I did well...flyfished for 90 minutes around dusk, caught 33 Crappies, 1 Largemouth Bass, and 1 Hybrid Sunfish on a chartreuse microjig under an indicator.

The local ponds eventually lost ALL of their ice, again.  And as expected, the weather has again turned cold, and the lakes are freezing over once again, for the third time this season!

Monday, December 8, 2014

IceFishing Report, 12-6-2014

I got out icefishing locally on November 22, which is pretty early for this area!  We had  safe 4" of ice for a couple of days.   I didn't have any live bait, so I just tried a variety of icejigs and small spoons tipped with plastics (some were scented, such as various Gulp! products).  I caught bass, bluegills and crappies, but it warmed up that afternoon, and I felt unsafe with the ice cracking under me, so I left.  Within a couple days after that, the ice deteriorated and completely disappeared again.

Fast forward to this week.  Ice started appearing again last weekend and got better over the course of the week.
I ice-fished a public pond in town on Saturday from 9:15am-1pm.  I would have like to have stayed longer, but I had other stuff to do.  The ice was 4" or better everywhere.  It was still in good shape when I left, but once again there are some warmer days in this week's forecast.  Not sure if the ice will stay good or not.

I was using a 1/16th oz Lindee Frostee spoon the entire time, tipped with a waxworm.  The waxworms made a big difference in getting the bluegills to commit, compared to tipping with plastics.

I ended up catching 35+ bluegills, 4 bass (to 13"), 3 crappies (11", 11", 10"), and 1 green sunfish.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Most Effective Fly Patterns of 2014

The title of this makes me chuckle.  Ask 10 fly anglers what their favorite fly patterns were this past year, and you will more than likely get 10 different answers.  Everyone has favorite patterns, ones that work well for them.  Sometimes they work well for others too, sometimes not.

And that's OK!  Some of my favorites from several years ago no longer get fished as often, and have dropped lower on my favorites list.  Are those "old favorites" still effective?  In most cases yes.  When they no longer perform up to my expectations, sometimes I can explain it away that my local fish have LEARNED not to hit that pattern as much over the years.  True or not, it makes me feel better.

In other situatons, I have a much more difficult time explaining why something works less well this year than in past years.  Stocked trout are a good example.  They haven't had time to get caught and learn to avoid something.

I'm going to list my favorites by species, but I will only touch on species where I actually HAVE a new favorite, or at least a solid presentation.  Maybe some of these will work for you, too.

This isn't new to me this year, but is the best crappie presentation I've seen the past couple of years.  It is a 1/80th oz microjig, usually set @ 18" beneath an indicator.  If crappies are around, they will hit this.  Best color can vary, but usually chartreuse is a color they can't seem to leave alone.  Other good colors are red body/chartreuse tail, or gold or silver metallic chenille bodied microjigs (a version also called a Springbrook Wunder).   I'm sure lots of other colors would work, so try your favorite crappie colors.

Largemouth Bass & Smallmouth Bass:
Topwaters are definitely my favorite way to fish for Largemouth Bass.  I mainly tried 2 types this year.  I think I talked about each of them in detail in earlier blogs this year.

The first type is a sort of smallish (by bass standards) pre-formed foam head popper:
This caught a very good number of both Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass this year, and is reasonably easy to cast.

The second type is a "blockhead popper", made from cut pieces of foam flip-flops.
These are odd-looking natural bass food items have such sharp angles.  With the light weight and large flat face, these take a bit more effort to cast.  Totally worth it, these things catch BASS!  Like the popper style above, I caught both river Smallmouth Bass and pond/lake Largemouth Bass on them.  These REALLY push a lot of water, and seemed to excite large bass in the waters I fished.  These Blockheads are my new favorite bass poppers!

As far as subsurface patterns for bass, I didn't stumble onto any new great patterns for Largemouth Bass.  I did, however, have a pretty good day flyfishing for Smallmouth Bass using a Pearl Shiner:

I caught good numbers of Smallies from a local river that day, including a pair of 17-inchers, and lost a third one of around the same size.  Those are NICE fish around here!

Channel Catfish:
I didn't catch many catfish while flyfishing this year, like only 4 I think.  But 3 of them were caught on the same evening on the same I will share that here.  Its a fairly simple baitfish imitation tied with Craft Fur and some Flashabou, and eyes.  The catfish hit this in a reservoir where gizzard shad is the main forage.

Stocked Rainbow Trout:
For the past couple of years, I've done well using a copper-colored beadhead Woolly Bugger variant called a Chili Pepper.  For some reason, that pattern didn't produce well this Fall.  Instead, I caught a lot of fish on SimiSeal Leech / Mohair Leech style fly, with a glass beadhead.

White Bass:
I tried a variety of flies for White Bass this year.  I caught fish, but also a lot of missed strikes on some baitfish imitations.  The pattern that got a lot of strikes AND good hookup percentage was a small, 1.5" long chartreuse over white Marabou Clouser Deep Minnow.

Yes, GOLDFISH!  :)  I'd been wanting to catch Goldfish on a fly for years...and finally did it this year.  Found a pond FULL of 'em...And its been that way for many years.  I first caught goldfish there as a kid....probably around 35 years ago!  Still, I tried a few things and just wasn't getting much interest from the fish.  I finally tried a #14 Red Fox Squirrel Nymph variant, and the fish really liked it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fall 2014 Urban Trout

I flyfished Lake Petocka in Bondurant last Friday and the first 4 days of this workweek.
Weather conditions varied widely, from 70's to 50's, and wind from glassy calm to 30mph.

Success varied widely as well.  In order of the 5 days fished, trout landed were as follows:  27, 6, 4, 89, 17 (+1 perch).  So, one great day, and a couple of very disappointing days.

I tried a fair number of patterns.  I caught fish on many.  I would say my best-producer was probably a #10 or #8 nymph hook with an orange or dark-colored glass beadhead tied with a sand- or brown-grizzly marabou tail, Canadian olive or Canadian brown simiseal dubbing in a dubbing loop palmered up the hook shank.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The "Almost" Trophy Bass

As something of a surprise to me, a few bass still seem willing to hit topwater flies this late in the season.

After catching a 20-inch bass the previous week (see last blog entry), I caught a couple on a blockhead popper, then had a not-really-so-big bass break off (also on a blockhead popper) while flyfishing a local pond last week one evening last week.

And then last Friday I fished a pond during lunch and hooked THE BIG ONE on a blockhead popper.  I suspect this fish may be in the 6 lb range….21-22” long.  I caught bass of 18", 18.5", and 19" in this pond on topwater flies earlier this year, and this one really looked much bigger.  Plus, I've had some experiences that suggest there IS at least one even bigger bass in this pond.  I had talked to a couple guys there earlier in the Spring that said their friend had caught a 6 pound bass there (I assume it was released), and a winter or two previous while ice-fishing, I had a big bass on that I got a pretty good look at as it swam under the clear ice and right up to the hole before shaking loose.  At the time, I was thinking "6-pounder!".  In some states, that's not a huge fish.  In is.  My biggest Iowa Bass ever is a 24", 7lb 8oz fish I'd caught on spinning gear over 20 years ago.  It was a 1/2" longer than the State Record, but weighed less.  I don't think this one was THAT big...but if my estimate is correct, this would have been my biggest on flyfishing gear.

Anyway, I survived the battle through two spectacular jumps, then the behemoth dove into the weed/moss/algae crap on the bottom and got stuck.  I spent about 15 minutes working to free the fish from all that junk, straining my rod and my tippet to just shy of their maximum.  I wasn't gaining any ground at all for the longest time,,,but then I got the fish free!!  I managed then to pull it to within 6’ of shore, paused to take up some slack, then resumed pulling the rest of the way to shore.  It had some weeds still on it, which I felt was a GOOD thing, since it helped keep the fish calm and sedated.  But…unbelievingly (is that a word?)…that’s when my line decided to break!  The fish immediately darted out of the “weed jacket” it was wearing, and swam back to deeper water.  I don’t know if it left the popper in the weeds or if it was still in its mouth.
After all that…I was SO CLOSE TO LANDING IT!  During the battle I was making constant checks of the details…..where could I land the fish, did I have a camera, tape measure, etc….

Well, I’d accidentally left my cellphone (which is all I use for a camera these days) on my desk at work.  But I still could have measured the fish, had I landed it.  And OH, I REALLY wanted to land it!  SO DARNED CLOSE!!  J

I dreamt of that fish, that scene, as I was falling asleep that night.  I've caught a pretty good number of nice bass on flies this year.  Isn't it funny how the ones that get away demand so much airtime in our memories?

Well, what's a blog post without pictures?...the only recent good ones are of colorful Pumpkinseed Sunfish.  They have absolutely nothing to do with with the title of the blog entry....but here they are anyway:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lunchtime Lunkers, 10-8-2014

I flyfished during my lunch hour today. Beautiful sunny day, very slight breeze, temperature was @ 63 degrees F.

I caught some Bluegills and a small bass on a Birds Nest nymph, and a really nice Hybrid Sunfish and an 18.5" Largemouth Bass on a blockhead popper.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumkinseed Sunfish & Hybrid Sunfish

My buddy Jay met me out flyfishing Sunday evening.  At long last, this particular pond is pretty much free of its wide band of algae that typically clogs the entire shoreline all summer.  The geese and ducks have the shallows pretty muddied up right now.  I tried a topwater for bass, but did not get any along the stretch of shore I tried.  We fished for panfish instead, and caught plenty.  Mostly we caught Bluegills, with a few naturally-occuring Hybrid Sunfish.  I hoped for crappies, but did not catch any.  We tried a variety of fly patterns.  As long as it was chartreuse, it seemed to catch fish well.

In Iowa, the "Master Angler" qualifying size for Pumpkinseed Sunfish is 9".  We did  not catch any quite that big, but each caught Pumpkinseeds that measured 8.5", which was new personal bests for each of us. Such beautiful fish!!

I did catch one bass while fishing for the sunfish.  Most of the Hybrid Sunfish were moderate size, the 8.5-incher below was the largest, and also appears to have had a Pumpkinseed as one of the parents.
We left before it was completely dark, which unfortunately is only @ 7:15pm right now.  Too early!!!!  :)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bass on Topwater - October 2, 2014

I went flyfishing after work last night.  Weather was cloudy and windy.  The public pond I visited had a horrible 20' wide solid band of matted algae around the entire perimeter.

I really only fished one shoreline, and worked it one way with a chartreuse mylar bugger, hoping for crappies on the outside edge of the algae.  No crappies, but I did catch a couple bass a a few bluegills.

Still hoping for crappies, I worked the shoreline back to my starting point with a microjig under an indicator.  Not much action on that.

By this time, it was pretty dark, but I switched to a blockhead-style popper to try for bass.  It took me forever to actually get it on my line, because of the poor light conditions.  Within a couple casts, I caught a small bass on it.  Then I moved back down the shoreline to the next spot, and made a cast or two.  After a great strike, I had a nice fish on, and somehow managed to land it despite all the algae I had to bring it through.

It was a 20" Largemouth Bass, and one look verified that it was the same fish I had caught twice before this year on flies.  I was so happy to have caught it again....after releasing the fish, I just went home.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mixed Bag Flyfishing, 9-14-2014

I visited a local public pond on Sunday evening.  I flyfished from 5pm-8pm.  Hard to believe it is pretty much completely dark by 8pm!

There were hundreds of wild geese and ducks scattered all around the pond, and they had the shallow areas pretty well muddied up.  Deeper areas were reasonably clear, and most of the algae mats around the shoreline were gone.

I switched back and forth between a blockhead popper (trying for bass), and a chartreuse mylar bugger (unweighted, trying for everything).  I caught one decent Largemouth Bass and a 9.25" beastly Hybrid Sunfish on the blockhead popper, along with a smaller Hybrid or two, and some aggressive Bluegills.  A large bass broke my line and stole one of the blockhead poppers!
9.25" Hybrid Sunfish...inhaled the blockhead popper!
On the mylar bugger, I caught 4 Crappies, 1 nice Largemouth Bass and some smaller ones, a couple Hybrid Sunfish, and 3 beautiful Pumpkinseed Sunfish.

While I was fighting one of the Pumpkinseeds, a BIG bass attacked it right in front of me!  I tossed some flies around for it, be never saw it again....although I had some really good strikes on a blockhead popper that never got hooked up.