Monday, July 27, 2015

Warmwater / Coldwater Flyfishing in NE Iowa

After reading a blogged trip report ( ) from my friend Chad, I decided I had ignored the flyfishing potential of NE Iowa for FAR too long.

My buddy Jay and I loosely planned a 2-day fishing trip to the area.  I picked the town and hotel we would overnight in.  Yeah....hotel.  :)  We could have camped, but that would have just added a lot more stuff we would need to pack and organize.  It was just easier to spend the night in a hotel, and be able to sleep in air conditioning, shower and eat a free breakfast.  We used to have camping fishing trips, but we are older and more susceptible to weather than we used to be.  And other lame excuses.

We knew for sure we wanted to hit one river to target Smallmouth Bass at least one day.  The rest we would "play by ear".

So, it was roughly a 3-hour drive from Ankeny, Iowa, to our destination.
We drove straight to the river access we had chosen (not the same one Chad used, as it turns out).  The first thing we noticed is that the river was rather low.  The flow when Chad visited it was 136 cfs.  The flow when we arrived was 28 cfs.  The water was still crystal clear as Chad had described.  Beautiful water, beautiful river valley with limestone bluffs reaching the waters edge on one side.  The river supports an abundance of for Smallmouth Bass.  There were crayfish, chubs, various suckers and other smaller minnows, plus aquatic nymphs living amongst the rocks in the sections between the sandy runs.

LOTS of suckers!

I enjoy catching new species to add to my "fly rod species" list.  The first day, I added 4 new species!
In addition to Smallmouth Bass and Creek Chubs that I'd caught before, I also caught a Golden Redhorse Sucker, a White Sucker, some Rock Bass, and some Striped Shiners.
Here's pictures of all of those species, in order:

The best fly of the day for most species was a Tequeely:

A Pearl Shiner also did well:
(And...a random picture of a couple Tiger Swallowtail butterflies we saw hanging out on a rocky sandbar.):
Around 5pm, we checked into our hotel, changed clothes and found a place to eat dinner in town.  After dinner, we figured we had a little time to scout a nearby trout stream, so off we went.  It was an embarrassingly tiny creek.  Neither of us had ever fished a stream this small for trout.  There were a few slightly deeper pools like this sweet-looking spot:
It took a bit to figure the stream out, and then the catching started.  In the brief time we had before the sky darkened, I landed 7 Rainbow Trout, all on a gold microjig.  3 came from the pool above, and 4 others came from more marginal areas further upstream.

We had lost most of our good Smallmouth Bass flies, so I suggested we try another nearby trout stream.
The stream was on private property, but posted for public fishing.  The parking area was strategically far from the creek.  This is probably why we didn't see any other anglers all day, although there was one other car in the parking area when we left.
After reaching the stream, we headed upstream and walked quite a long ways before we saw water deep enough to hold trout.  There were plenty of other fish in the shallow sections, though...Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Creek Chubs, suckers, etc.

We finally found some trout.
From the spot above, we took turns catching fish.  I caught 2 Brook Trout:

They sure are pretty!
Jay caught 2 Rainbows from the same spot.
We moved upstream and found some pools with decent depth, and there were trout in most of them.  These are some that I caught:

With plenty of Creek Chubs in the shallower sections.

Jay found a good little pool, and I let him have it while I moved further upstream.  I soon came upon the mother of all pools.  It was big and deep.  Beautiful scenery around it.  Trout occasionally grabbing stuff off the surface, but were otherwise invisible.  I caught a bunch of Rainbows and Brookies there.  Jay eventually joined me and caught some as well.

It was a LONG uphill walk (actually only about a mile) back to the car.  We headed back home from there.  Such and an awesome trip!  I'm already looking forward to going back!

The "Quick Course" in Fly Casting

I had written this up for a group I plan to help learn to fly cast...either for the first time, or to help some infrequent flyfishers improve their casting.

Now, I am NOT a certified fly casting instructor, and I have never received any professional instruction.  This are just some tips that I've learned over the years of teaching myself, that I think are key to starting out and getting comfortable with flyfishing and fly casting quickly.  Hopefully this is quick and easy enough for a newbie to digest and to get started with confidence.

Here goes:

-Remember, you are casting the LINE, not the lure.
-In order to cast the line, you load the rod and allow it to transfer that energy to the line.
-The generally-accepted backcast is a "10-to-2" (clock) rod position movement. You want to feel your rod load (bend). The key is a smooth acceleration between the 10 and 2 position, then a VERY abrupt STOP. The abrupt stop is what causes the rod to transfer the energy to the line.
-A "false" forward cast (one where you are not delivering the fly to the target, but simply lengthening the amount of line you have in the air) is a reverse of the backcast, except the weight of the line unfurling behind you starts to load the rod first and then you accelerate forward and abruptly stop at the 10 position (like chopping wood with an ax). Let the weight of the line moving forward out in front of you take more line out thru the rod's line guides.
-On your final forward cast (delivering the fly to the target), stop the rod at the 10 position, let the line shoot forward, and then slowly drop your rod tip towards the target as the fly falls to the water. If you have trouble with your leader/tippet not straightening out at the end of the cast, you can use your line hand to stop the shooting line just before it runs out of energy. The line will stop and the remaining energy will be transferred to your leader& tippet, moving them beyond the end of the fly line.
-Keep your wrist locked in position while casting.
-When casting, move your rod in a straight line forward and back.

Once you get comfortable with the above, you are ready for an advanced but very important and useful upgrade to your casting. It incorporates a "haul", which can be a single haul (used in either the forward or back cast) or double haul (used in both the forward and back cast). The double haul is no more difficult to learn than the go for it.

The premise of the haul is pulling down on the line in your line hand at the beginning of the forward and/or backcast to create additional tension and rod loading, thus increasing line speed and resulting in shooting the line further. You pull down on the line at the beginning of the cast, as I mentioned, pause briefly as the line passes you, then raise your line hand back up to starting position as the line extends out on the other side of the rod. At this point you can also release more line into the cast if you want to. This technique is particularly useful when casting into the wind, or you are casting heavier flies, or if you are just wanting to get that little extra distance to reach the fish.

Burn these things into your mind. It may sound complicated, but with just a bit of practice, it all begins to flow together and come more naturally. Pretty soon, you are just doing it without even thinking about it. Kind of like driving a car. Remember how overwhelmed we were when we first started driving? So much to know and details to pay attention to! Traffic and street signs, other drivers, watch your speed, whose turn is it at the stop sign... where's the gas, where's the brake!

Anyway...those interested in reading about the myriad techniques in flycasting, you can search instructional videos on YouTube, or read the articles here (additional article headings are on the left column on the page):

Monday, July 13, 2015

Flyfished for Smallmouth Bass on 7-11-2015

I wanted to fish on Saturday.  Rainstorms in the morning kept me home, agonizing on where I should go.  There was a big festival going on in town which is a lot of fun, but for fishing I prefer solitude if I can find it.  So, I didn't want to fish in town.  By 11:30, the radar showed the rain and clouds were clearing out.  After checking some river levels online, I made my choice to go flyfishing for Smallmouth Bass at a small river about a 45 minute drive from home.

42 Smallmouth Bass, 2 Largemouth Bass, 3 Creek Chubs and 1 Green Sunfish proved it was a great choice!

This was my first visit to this river this year, and I was pleased to find it perfectly wadable, and water clarity good.  And whats even better is I didn't see another person the whole day.  Not even any kayaks or canoers, which I do sometimes see there.

At this particular spot, I walk upstream along a dirt trail through the woods, get in the river, and back back downstream towards my car.  The understory was fairly lush, and that's my excuse for missing my usual point-of-entry into the water.  I walked down one trail to the water, and caught a couple small Smallmouth Bass right away on a beadhead gold Woolly Bugger.

I retraced the trail back to the main path and continued upstream.  I ended up at a feeder creek.  I got in the water there, and waded it back down to the stream.  Along the way, I picked up a couple Creek Chubs on the Woolly Bugger.  I'd been wanting to catch some Creek Chubs on my fly rod, but hadn't actually seen any in years.  I later caught another one in the main river, so I ended up with 3 for the day.

I made my way to the main river channel and soon had a decent Smallmouth Bass on next to a log in the water.  I watched another nice Smallmouth and a smaller one chase the hooked fish around the area...I suppose trying to steal whatever it had eaten?

I tried a blockhead popper, as that has worked well for me on this river in the past.  But I think the topwater bite gets better later on in the Summer.  The fish weren't interested.  I switched to an FC Pearl Shiner and caught a number of Smallmouth bass off that log, as well as a small Largemouth Bass.  Most were small, but this one might have been the other good one I had seen:

I waded on downstream, picking up a fish or two here an there, mostly smaller fish.  I did see a few carp, which doesn't always happen.  I didn't fish for them, but they would have been a lot of fun.

I saw a wild Turkey spook from its roost near the top of a tall Oak Tree next the the high-banked river.  Its flight was quite loud as it flew across the stream and disappeared somewhere downstream.
I also caught this damselfly that repeatedly landed on my fly rod as I was fishing.

Anyway, I fished for about 5.5 hours, and waded 0.75 miles of river.  I noticed in the afternoon, the Smallies preferred shaded areas.  Here's some more fish from the trip:

I'm pretty sure I've never caught that many smallmouth bass in one trip to this river before.  It was a VERY enjoyable day!

Monday, July 6, 2015

July 3rd, 2015

Flyfished a couple ponds this morning.  Caught a nice bluegill and some smallish bass at the first pond.

At the 2nd pond, I caught some nice sunfish (bluegills, hybrids, and pumpkinseeds), mostly small bass, and one 17.5" bass.   Had another nice bass break my 13 lb tippet.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Last Week of June, 2015

Algae blooms are forming broad mats along the shorelines of many of the public ponds I flyfishing.  It makes fishing and landing fish difficult.  But not impossible.
I've tried unsuccessfully for more Grass Carp.  Largemouth Bass are becoming increasingly aggressive towards topwaters.  Bluegills and Hybrid Sunfish, too.  Some sunfish are still hanging out near nesting areas, but I think the main spawn is mostly over.  A much smaller percentage of the population may continue to spawn sporadically for the remainder of the summer.

Hybrid Sunfish:

A 10" Bluegill!! :
And Largemouth Bass up to 18":