Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wading for Smallmouth Bass in Central Iowa, 6-25-2016

The water level and flows of a nearby Smallmouth Bass stream looked good.  A couple guys I know kayaked the stream t he previous weekend.  With rain in the forecast, I figured the sooner I could get there, the better.  So, Saturday morning I waded into the stream @ 8am and fished until 1pm.  As expected the river was about perfect for wading.  There's a couple hard-to-pass deeper areas, and I just barely had to dunk my jewels there.  The water never reached my belt.
Saw a lot of these Ebony Jewelwing damselflies.
I landed @ 30 Smallies.  Only about 5 were decent fish 10"+, but really nothing very big.  Most were like this:
I did have two better Smallies on that fought like crazy.  One I saw, one I didn't.  Probably both would have been the biggest fish of the day.  Caught most of the fish on modified Pearl Shiners.  One was modified thus: tied on a #4 Mustad 90-degree jighead hook, with a lead or brass conehead for weight.  This kept the fly riding hook-point-up and relatively snag-free.
I also caught 3 Creek Chubs and 3 Striped Shiners.  One of the shiners was VERY big for a shiner, but I wasn't able to photograph it before it set itself free.

Monday, June 20, 2016

My Favorite Warmwater Fly Patterns for Iowa (2016 Edition)

Everyone has their favorite fly patterns that catch the bulk of their fish.  These are my current favorites.  Lets break this down by species.

A yellow Gurgle-Pop is a good foam topwater fly, as is a black-on-bottom Chernobyl Ant/Hopper.
Size 10 is about perfect for bluegills in both of these patterns.
Here's a picture of some Gurgle Pops I tied:

And here is a link to a video by my friend Chad, showing how he ties the Chernobyl Ant/Hopper:

As we go to slow-sinking subsurface patterns,  my two favorites would be a Boa Yarn Leech (created by Rick Zieger) and a black mohair leech.
Yellow is a great color of Boa Yarn Leech, but other colors certainly have their moments.  Size 8 is perfect.

The black Mohair Leech fly...you can search for images and tying videos.  I tie them both with or without a red glass beadhead.  Size 8 is good.  For the tail, I prefer rabbit fur, but marabou works very well also.  For bluegills, remember to always keep tail materials short...about the length of one hook gap beyond the hook bend.

As a third good pattern, I've had good success with a #10 unweighted Gartside Sparrow:
Gartside Sparrow

We get a lot of algae growth on our pond/lake bottoms, so fishing on the bottom isn't usually a good choice in my experience.  So, for deeper presentations, I either do a slow swim retrieve, or use an indicator (such as the Fish Pimp original size strike indicator) to keep the fly suspended.  My favorite fly for getting a bit deeper is the Springbrook Wunder Microjig, tied in a variety of colors.  Chartreuse is a great fish-catcher, and at times a silver-bodied or red-bodied one can also be very good.  Experiement to see what colors your fish prefer.
1/80th oz with a #8 hook is my favorite, although I've caught a ton of fish with a #10 hook on this.:

Here's the silver version:
The recipe can be found in post #6 of this FAOL bulletin board thread:
Springbrook Wunder Microjig

Another fly that I've tried recently with excellent results is a #8 Briminator...the original style tied with beadchain eyes and a single pheasant feather (using all parts of the feather).  Here's some I tied:
Here's a link to a tying tutorial for the Briminator:

95% of the time, the chartreuse Springbrook Wunder-style microjig, set about 18" beneath an indicator is my best Crappie producer.  This works all year long.  In the hottest part of the summer when Crappie suspend in deeper water, simply set the indicator to suspend the fly deeper.

Other favorites are the Boa Yarn Leech, and the Crappie Candy.  The Crappie Candy tying instructions can be found here:
Crappie Candy

Redear Sunfish:
There are some decent Redear Sunfish populations in Iowa, unfortunately not very close to home.  So I usually don't get to fish for them every year, and even then its only during the spawning season.  But they are awesome, challenging fish to catch.
Some of my favorites are:
Black Springbrook Wunder microjig (1/80th oz), black or purple leech with a pink or orange glass beadhead (your choice of style, size 8...see top right in the picture below), and the Briminator (size 8).

Pumpkinseed Sunfish:
In my experience, Pumpkinseeds seem to like Chartreuse flies.  Microjigs under an indicator are great producers, as are unweighted leech patterns tied with chartruese mylar chenille body and chartreuse marabou tail.  Simple and very effective....like the ones in the lower left of this picture:

Hybrid Sunfish and Green Sunfish:
These fish seem to like black mohair leeches, with or without a glass beadhead, size 8.

Largemouth Bass:
The most enjoyable way to catch Largemouth Bass, for me, is topwater.  Love to see those aggressive strikes! The topwater fly that has worked best for me is Tim Holschlag's Blockhead Popper.  You can cut the foam heads out of cheap summer thong/flip flop sandals, or buy precut heads from Rainy's website: http://www.rainysflies.com/foam-products/holschlags-blockhead-popper-heads

Bright green heads have worked best for me for Largemouth Bass, whereas the yellow has worked best for Smallmouth Bass.  Size 8 BASS STYLE HOOKs (much larger than standard size 8 hooks) work well.  Here's some I've tied.
Here's tying instructions (I use marabou tail):
Blockhead Popper
One interesting thing to note...try these on lakes/ponds you haven't fished much.  The bass seem to figure these out after a couple seasons, sadly.

For subsurface patterns, flies used for Bluegills will often catch bass as well, such as black leeches, or chartreuse mylar buggers.  But large baitfish imitations are often more effective when trying to specifically target the bass.  I like craft fur baitfish patterns in a firetiger color scheme, tied 3.5"-4" long...about a size 2 to 2/0 hook.

Smallmouth Bass:
The Blockhead Poppers in a slightly smaller size and yellow head are very good for my local streams.

For subsurface flies, a large beadhead chartreuse mylar chenille Woolly Bugger (with or without hackle) is good, as are the FeatherCraft Pearl Shiner:
and the Tequeely:

White Bass:
 I've tried some great-looking baitfish streamers for White Bass.  And White Bass will hit the heck out of many of them!  But I had HORRIBLE hook-up percentages with all but one.  So now its about all I use for White Bass.  Its a Clouser Deep Minnow variant, tied on a #6 saltwater hook, with lead dumbbell eyes and white marabou on bottom/chartreuse marabou on top instead of standard deer hair.  Total length of the fly should be about 1.5" long.  White Bass charge from below, grab the fly and dive quicker than you can realize what just happened.  With the hook-point-up orientation of this fly helps hook those fish, where hook-point-down flies kept getting spit out without the hook catching the fish.

White Bass are fun to catch on topwater.  I haven't done it too much yet with flies.  I have caught them on Blados' Crease Fly, but there may be some better choices.  Because of the big pop of a Blockhead Popper, a small version might work really well....but I haven't tried it.

Hybrid Striped Bass (Wiper):
I've caught nearly all my flyrod Hybrid Striped Bass on standard Clouser Deep Minnows in about a #4 saltwater hook size...@3"-3.5" long, just about any color.  Gray over white is very good, as is chartreuse over white.  I've caught plenty on brown over yellow, and I bet chartreuse over yellow is very good too.

This doesn't complete my warmwater fly list by any means...  I have preferred flies for carp, grass carp, goldfish, freshwater drum, suckers, rock bass, walleyes, pike, yellow perch , etc.  But I feel others know a great deal more about most of those fish, so I will encourage you to do as I will do when I go after these other species...and do a web search for the best, most updated flyfishing information available!  

Good luck! :)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Iowa Redear Sunfish, July 14-15, 2016

I did exhaustive homework and research, trying to locate a decent Redear Lake in Iowa.  There are historically reliable lakes known to have good Redear populations, such as Ahquabi, Belva Deer, and a fair number of other lakes.  I checked the most recent fish survey data on the DNR website, as well as the Master Angler submissions.  In doing so, I discovered a lake I had not even heard of before, although its been around a long time.

Jay and I visited the lake Tuesday-Wednesday...June 14-15, 2016.  We rented a small cabin ($55/night) that had a great view of the lake.  It was air-conditioned, had a microwave, and could probably sleep up to 6 in the 4 available beds!  Outside the cabin was a firepit, a grill, and a yard hydrant for water.  about 20 steps away from that was a very clean, lit outhouse-style toilet supplied with toilet paper.  Further into the campground is a showerhouse with flush-toilets and sinks.  What's not to like??

The water clarity was good.  We could easily see down 4-6'.  There are lots...LOTS of flooded trees everywhere in the lake.  The lake is nearly overrun with Chinese Mystery Snails and some sort of non-native (?) clam/mussel.  About 7 years ago (according to the very helpful and likable Conservation Officer, Scott, the DNR stocked Redear Sunfish, saying this lake would be the cat's meow for Redears soon.  Indeed!  We got to the lake, and hadn't even launched our kayaks before I'd spotted a dozen or so Redears and managed to catch one!  Now, the Redear population isn't like that around the entire lake...just in a very few choice spots, unfortunately.  And with the clear water, I'm sure they get HAMMERED during the spawn!

The Bluegill population is pretty solid as well.  The biggest I caught was a 9.75" female.  It was very difficult to keep the bluegills and small bass away while fishing for the Redears.
There's also a decent catfish population, enhanced by annual stockings.  I caught a small one, Jay saw some nicer ones swimming around the rock jetties.

The bass...there sure are a lotta small ones!  There's a 15" minimum length limit for the lake.  I saw a couple that were around that size, and one giant one that was probably 19"+++.  A guy staying in the cabin next to ours fished all night using small live bluegills for bait...he said he caugth 4 nicecatfish and one HUGE bass...he said it was probably 7 lbs.  Thankfully, he released it.

Back to the Redears...The highest concentration I saw was right next to the dock by the boat ramp.  But they were notoriously uncooperative.  There was one in particular that was considerably larger....I really wanted to catch it to be able to measure it, but it wasn't interested in my plans.  I caught 2-3 from that area.  I think I could have caugth more before we left, but the small bluegills and bass would swarm over the tops of the Redear nests whenever I'd drop a fly there.  It was ridiculous.  Even when I could get  the fly down finally and the Redear seemed interested, it had to then put its attention back on chasing the little bluegills away instead of investigation my fly further.

Waah waah waah.   I complain about it so it sounds horrible and difficult.  But its just fishing.

We saw Redears scattered around the lake.  From an experience on our last day, I wonder if I didn't get close enough to shore to spot even more nests.  There was an area I fished on Day 1...caught the biggest Redear there (it was almost right at 12", but I photographed it on the measuring tape in my kayak's side-tray, and the fish was too big to lay flat, so even bent, it was 11.75", so that's what I'm going with...and it weighed 1.45 lbs), and saw one other Redear that wouldn't bite.  And plenty of bluegills around there.  On day 2, I fished that area again.  Couldn't get the big one to hit, but did catch the other one.  After catching lots of bluegills again, I decided to move, but let myself drift in even closer to shore before paddling my kayak back out.  Suddenly I could see about 6-8 more Redears on nests that I hadn't been able to see before!!  I dropped the anchor, and started catching Redears!  Even then, I suddently was able to see one larger one that I hadn't seen for the past hour or so.  Tossed a fly at it and caught the second 11+ incher of the trip.

Close your eyes and ears, flyfishing purists.  I deplore the use of live bait for a number of reasons...but having read that Redears have a great sense of smell, and more likely to strike live baits, I took along some nightcrawlers and waxworms.

That being said, the biggest one was caught on a fly-only...a purple leech with a pink glass beadhead.  I also caught a couple on an unbaited Briminator (size 8, the original version that uses a single pheasant feather).

On day 1, I caught 2 Redears on fly-only, then tried tipping with nightcrawler or waxworm and caught 2 more, including a Hybrid.

On day 2, I probably caught 2 on fly-only, but caught 7 others with the Briminator tipped with a waxworm.  Tipping with a waxworm seemed to help.  I could see it better when the Redear would suck in the fly...and the white waxworm would disappear.

Speaking of which..technique.  There were exceptions, of course, but by and large the best technique was to cast beyond the Redear nest, swim the fly back over the nest, and the let the fly drop straight down onto the nest.  Just let it set.  If the Redear didn't react within 20-30 seconds, you could try shaking the fly or dragging it slightly.  If they were going to react, they usually would by then.  If not, it didn't matter what you did, that fish wasn't going to be caught that day!

Redears are not Bluegills...The bluegills would chase flies all over the place, but the Redears wouldn't.  I had to target individual Redears...simply swimming a fly over a series of Redear nests wouldn't get any attention.

Now the pictures:
Here's the Briminators I tied...really great fly, the fish loved 'em:
Here's the 11.75-incher:
Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish
Here's the 11 1/8" Redear:
Redear Sunfish
And some 9"-10" range beauties:
Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish
Here's a couple Redear x Bluegill Hybrids (I'm guessing):
Redear x Bluegill Hybrid

Redear x Bluegill Hybrid
It was a good trip!  We vacated the water once for an hour due to lightning, and got a few drops of rain...but otherwise the weather was a good as we could have hoped for, despite the heat.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Getting DOVE-Bombed!

I just couldn't stop laughing....it was too ridiculous not to enjoy the moment.
My buddy Jay came over to do a trial run of loading up our gear for an upcoming fishing trip, to see if both our kayaks and gear would fit in the back of his pickup.

As we stood in the opening of the smaller 3rd garage door, a dove kept whizzing right by and over Jay's head.  It was building a nest in a Magnolia tree in my front yard, and then flying around the side of the house to get more grass and twigs.  It was coming by about 3 times/minute!

So, we took some videos with our cell phones.  They crack me up!  Here's some screen captures from those videos:
Jay ducking as the dove flies by his head:

Giant Dove attack!  (of course it wasn't attacking...but go ahead and imagine that whistling sound doves make as they fly)

Here is the view of that pass from Jay's perspective:

Pretty cool!  They don't often get this close!