Thursday, December 30, 2010

Puslinch Part 2

 The first thing I need to say is that the new blades on the auger make it a pleasure to drill holes, and I drilled plenty this morning. My friend Tackle Shop and I returned to Puslinch Lake this morning with the expectation of hitting the local pike population fast and hard. As we walked out onto the lake, it became immediately clear that quite a few others had the same thing in mind as there were twice the number out there from two days before. The other main difference was the weather. The temperature was hovering around freezing with a lowering cloud cover and the threat of showers. All that said, as we walked into the crowd to the location that produced the other day, many of our neighbors had already iced a good catch, and the prospect of a productive day was looking good despite the weather.
Working the 14' Weedline

 This time out we decided to go with only a dozen 6"-7" chub minnows seeing as that's what worked the last time there. Big mistake. Everyone who were catching anything were using 2" shiners on tip-ups or deadsticks, but of course we didn't know that at the time and continued using chubzillas thinking bigger bait = bigger fish.

Catch of the Day
  So we continued on, one set line each with a 7" minnow, Pete jigging one of his favorites: a Storm 4" rubber pike, and me working a Lindy Chubby Darter. Over the next hour we moved several times, every so often the live minnows freaking out as if being chased, but no real action. At about this time I started taking a good hard look at the Lowrance and realized the bottom was alive with fish, but what kind? I downsized to one of my favorites from last year a 1" Halli jigging spoon with a single hook on a dropper chain, tipped with a powerbait honey grub. With this setup I was able to lure the fish off the bottom, but still no bites. Downsizing again to a micro jig and maggot combo I finally hit the mark and landed the first fish of the day, a scrappy 4" perch. If it was legal I probably would have been better off using it as bait!

 I could have stayed at home to catch 4" perch, or gone to Cooks Bay on Simcoe and get hundreds two to three times that size. We came to Puslinch for pike! After noon and another move Pete finally hooked into one, only to loose it at the hole.

 Meanwhile, with the temperature now above freezing and many vacant holes open, I started roaming over a large area, working each hole for a few minutes with a jigging Rapala minnow. So... when I'm over 100 yards away my tip up finally comes to life, the alarm bells alerting everyone within earshot to witness the mad dash  and headfirst slide to breathlessly retrieve... a slightly used 7" chub minnow. By this time it has become clear that smaller shiners were the go to bait for the day, not only because of the success others were having with them (40 pike by my count), but also because the fish lost on our set lines would have inhaled the smaller baits and only gotten away by biting through the line. Oh well, another lesson learned, but not a complete shut out.
Not so Cold Comfort
  One of the joys of ice fishing for me is that when things are slow, you can visit your neighbors and trade war stories. Seriously, fishermen out on the ice seem to be much more relaxed and friendly compared to their open water counterparts. Pete and I made friends with a couple locals: Nick and Dave who shared some fish stories, pictures and local info, most importantly the location of the nearest bait shop so we won't be stuck with the wrong offerings next time. We stayed out an hour after dark, guided back to the van by the lights from the Old Marina Restaurant, said our goodbyes to our new friends, loaded up the van and headed for home, surprisingly pleased considering our catch. Sometimes the trip is more important than the destination.

   Going to Puslinch and need bait? Check out: talltales bait & tackle in Cambridge.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Puslinch Pike 12/27/10

 Merry Christmas everyone!

 I hope all your Christmas wishes  were granted , if not on the day itself, then at the Boxing Day sales. The week leading up to the big event found me researching the web, looking for just that perfect thing: a fresh location to kick off the ice fishing season. After pouring over countless ice reports on several local message boards, the search was narrowed down to the Guelph area, just west of Toronto, where the ratio of ice thickness to pike caught made this the place to start. So after the mandatory Boxing Day pilgrimage to Bass Pro Shops, the rest of the day was spent in preparation, charging batteries, checking line and tackle, and generally trying to be prepared for any possibility.

 Yesterday started  with the phone ringing nearly an hour before my alarm clock On the other end of the line the Russian was asking if I was ready to go. Needless to say I thought I was,and scrambled out the door to meet him 10 minutes later on the side of the road. As an omen of things to come, I spilled half an XL Tim Horton's double double (for non Canadians - a very large coffee) in my lap on the drive to the lake and joked that the way the day was starting out I might be going for a swim..

Puslinch Lake
  After a tip to the local bait shop and buying enough minnows to supply an army of deadfishers, we drove 45 minutes west down the 401 to Puslinch Lake. Gearing up in the busy parking lot gave us the chance to get the "local dope" on the lake we were about to walk onto, although this wasn't necessary as there were about 50 people clustered in a small area to the west of the large central island.

 Observing proper ice fishing etiquette and keeping our distance from the main group, the first hole drilled found only a foot of water under the ice. We moved a few hundred yards farther out and when it came time to drill again the auger refused to bite and just skidded across the ice. Did I mention I was prepared for anything? I had everything I needed for the whole hard water season except for my carbide sharpening tool! We were up the proverbial frozen creek without an operational auger.

 So... after borrowing an auger from our neighbors and punching a few holes each, we settled into what would be a long wait for the first bite. After an hour of non stop nothing and our neighbors landing 3 hammer handles in less than five minutes, I decided it was time to go for a walk and see what their secret was. Puslinch is a shallow weedy lake that averages only 5' deep, and another move of only a few hundred feet put us over 12 feet of water, and more importantly, fish.

 We borrowed another auger, drilled a couple holes each, and before the Russian could set up his second line, his first rod was making a desperate attempt at disappearing down the hole. After a few good runs, the Russian finally lifted his first catch of the hard water season, a fat 25" pike.
First Ice Pike of the Year

 So the Russian broke the ice, figuratively speaking, and now it was my turn (hopefully not literally). Less than ten minutes later my tip up suddenly came to life, and while fumbling to remove my mitts, I missed setting the hook. The same thing happened to the Russian a few minutes later on his second bite. It was now time to get serious and pay closer attention to details, so when my tip up showed renewed activity I was ready and set the hook only to have the rod snap in half. Well... I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days, but at least I was still dry, had three spare rods, and the fish were biting!

 We both had a few more bites but didn't land any more fish. Our fingers and faces were frozen from a severe wind chill, and as the sun started it's descent to the horizon, it was decided to pack it in and call it a day, both satisfied with the day's experience on a new lake. I'm already planning the next outing and am going out to get new blades for the auger as soon as I'm finished with this. I know there will be plenty of fish over the next few weeks, but I can't help but wonder when or if I'm going for that surprise swim.


Friday, December 17, 2010

On Ice 2010

 Well it took 2 days of work but it's finally done and ready to be seen. Introducing On Ice 2010.

  The season started out fast with 4 exploratory trips to Bond Lake (a local pothole lake just north of the city) in early January. We managed to catch a few perch and pike there, but half the time was spent mapping the lake's depths. By mid month our focus turned north to Simcoe, and our first few trips were to one of my favorite areas: Sibbald Point. In the past the Point had been a reliable spot, but this year the schools of jumbo perch were nowhere to be found.

  As the season progressed, we started fishing a new area for me, the southwest side of the lake from Barrie down to Gilford. I have to say that I'm not a big fan of hauling a perch out of 50' of water, only to have their stomach explode out their mouth, but the fish were there in numbers and size.

  A few trips were made to Big Bay Point and Jacksons Point for lake trout and whitefish. Unless I get really lucky or go out with someone experienced at this type of fishing, I don't think I'll ever catch any of these deep water fish.

  Interspersed amongst these local trips were a few farther afield to Belleville, on the Bay of Quinte and Gibson Lake, just south of Parry Sound.

  The morning of the last day was spent searching for a location where the ice was intact along the shoreline. After an hour of checking all the right-of ways south of Barrie, we found (along with 30 other people) the only "safe" access point. The five of us loaded up just the necessities, walked an 8' plank over open water out onto the ice for the hottest perch bite of the year! Just after noon, with the temperature around 12C, the wind started to blow and it was quickly decided to git while the gittin's good. To tell the truth, that blue honeycombed ice scared the hell out of me, but the crazy thing is a week and a half after that, we saw a group a few hundred yards out from Sibbalds Point, having somehow crossed a 6 wide pressure crack.   

 So... until the local lakes are safe for my fat ass, I might as well start compiling the rest of the videos for this year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Extreme Ice Fishing

 The other day I posted about extreme ice fishing and the lengths some of us will go to get the big one. I've endured many extreme days weather wise, and even went for a partial dunking once a few years ago, but these guys are absolutely crazy! They're obviously Scandanavian and most likely have a sauna on shore, but really?
 Hoping to get out this weekend, just not in this way!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Well The Weather Outside Is Frightful...

 Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. OK, not too much snow please, there's already a state of emergency!

 Winter finally showed up in Southern Ontario with a vengeance, particularly the southwest of the province, where certain areas have received over 100cm. of lake effect snow in just a few days (that's over 40" for our American friends). Add to that the low temperatures of -10C to -20 overnight (again, 14F to -4F) and the majority of the population has hunkered down for a long winter's hibernation, where possible.

  Not so with my growing group of maniacs. This weather is just the thing to kick start the little anarchist corners of our hearts. Bring on the apocalyptic winter storms, the bone chilling freeze only stokes the internal fires of ice fishing fanaticism. In about 100 days on the ice in the last 6 years, only 3 were partially spent in an ice hut. Even on the most miserable of those 3 days, I spent half the time outside huddling over my hole, keeping a low profile to the gale force winds and pelting snow, only to become buried in a rapidly growing drift. These are the days where enduring "difficult" conditions often pay huge dividends.

  That day was five years ago, when I managed to arrange a trip in late January to the Bay of Quinte with a group of co-workers. All of them had experienced fair weather ice fishing on Lake Simcoe once or twice, but nobody was prepared for what mother nature had in store for us! Early morning saw wind chills close to -30C here in the city, one and a half hours later and 100 miles east in Trenton, the wind was rising and the snow staring to fall. I'll let this video I made up today tell the rest of the story.
 The fishing aspect of the trip was a huge success, every one caught their fill of perch (yes they really were pissed) and a few other surprises. The trip home, though, was a hair raising ordeal from the start, running off the road several times in the few miles to the 401. The highway itself was completely adrift and barely visible so the only recourse was to follow the car ahead, hoping not to be led like a lemming over a cliff! By Port Hope the highway conditions improved, mainly because we (and 1000 other cars) were stuck behind 3 plows, running abreast at 30km/hr,  for the next  70km to Oshawa. Surprisingly all made it home safe and sound, no worse for wear except our nerves.

 Did I forget to mention half the group was of Caribbean decent, normally bundled up in parkas, scarves, gloves and wool hats by mid November, furtively venturing out in the cold like an insomniac groundhog only in unavoidable instances. After this trip, a typical Toronto winter day was greeted with all the chest pounding bravado of a maniacal Yeti daring the gods of nature with "is that all you've got!" Funny how one successful fishing trip during adverse conditions can change your entire perspective of a dreary season.

 So let it snow, get stupidly cold, freeze the lakes to their cores, the sooner the better, I wanna get out on the ice and I wanna do it now!!!     Or this weekend.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words... What About Video?

 It's really kind of funny the round about routes we take to get us to our current situations. Eight years ago, I bought my first digital camera, and instantly the love affair was on with digital imagery. As with most first timers, I found myself taking pictures of everything and anything, filling the memory card in just a few days, loath to delete even the most banal subjects. But necessity is the mother of invention, or in my case at that time, the mother of further financial expenditure. I'd had the camera for 4 months before the purchase of my first computer.

  With the computer came a whole new set of possibilities. I was given Adobe Photoshop and Premier (a movie making program) which severely tested my limited user skills and patience. Unlike Homer Simpson's "If you tried and failed, it probably wasn't worth doing", I could see the potential for boring the shit out of my friends in completely new ways that our parents never dreamed of...a slide show with attitude. So I kept plugging on, honing my skills, and occasionally "borrowing" special effects like 3D Pan.

 Interesting enough, I've only been connected to the internet for the past 6 months (primarily for job search purposes), and only recently started blogging and uploading to You Tube. The latter two on the suggestion of my friend David Hunter of The Writers Den, as a way to inflict upon the whole world my personal skewed view of the way things stand. Anyways... that's how I find myself here writing this posting now.

 One of my biggest problems to date has been distribution of my "artistic creations". It has become ritual at the end of each year to take all the pics and vids from my fishing trips and edit them into a video slideshow, to be given out to anyone that took part in the yearly adventures. As my list of fishing companions has grown, so has the amount of time necessary to burn copies onto DVD. The actual editing and rendering of the video is still a pleasure, but I find the burn process incredibly tiresome, especially when I see my hard work casually thrown onto a pile of other un-watched discs, only to be forgotten. So, from now on, unless I get a special request for a hard copy, all videos will go directly to You Tube and this blog.
4 Season Fishing

  2009 was an outstanding year for fishing and travel. The compilation of the movies for the year was challenging not only because of the large number trips and images, but also because of my own personal need to keep it fresh and interesting.

 The new year started off slow, with just a few scattered trips out on the ice with a newbie to ice fishing : Sarcastic (not his real name, just his predominant attribute).
 The fishing in the spring picked up, with a few trips to local rivers, reservoirs and ponds earlier on. On one early local outing I met the Russian, and a month later I introduced him to some of my favorite cottage country locations. At the same time, his sense of fishing adventure and my "backroad" experience, led to the discovery of many new fishing opportunities and a few long forgotten locations. Not all trips produced memorable catches, but the videos capture the wonder of Ontario.
 Summer provided a few new areas to explore, but the majority of the time was spent fishing within the Toronto city limits. Notable trips included our first to the Niagara area, and two long awaited returns to the Port Severn area with Treefrog, Sarcastic and the Russian.
 The fall was busy, starting out with a trip to a small lake north of Barrie, followed by several months of salmon fishing in the local rivers. The year wound down with a few trips to Barrie for perch fishing before the freeze, and ending with a surprise ice fishing trip to a local lake.
 After seeing all this, I hope you will agree that 2009 was a great year, and I enjoyed boring the shit out of you with my inane ramblings and self indulgent video sideshows. My biggest problem right now with You Tube is that some of the audio tracks have been dis-allowed for copyright infringements and I've had to substitute them with the crap they supply. Another problem is one video has been denied upload due to it's length. So... to view these altered or denied videos in their original, although lower resolution formats, just click on:
 View my You Tube channel at: thedeadfisher


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fear of Flying?

 One day at work my boss, John, approached me saying he'd heard that I frequently went fishing, and would I mind if he tagged along to learn a few things. John's company was well established and no longer needed his daily input so he was interested in finding new ways to occupy his increasing free time. Hmm... lets see... a newbie fisherman with a vehicle and unlimited finances... Challenge Accepted! Over the next few months we explored dozens of new areas and styles of fishing.

 I guess it really didn't surprise me too much when John suggested we learn to fly fish. From the very beginning I was resistant to the idea, being the die hard tackle junkie that I am, but John was adamant. Having just viewed "A River Runs Through It", he'd envisioned himself wading a quiet pastoral brook, gracefully casting to unsuspecting trout with the accuracy of a marksman and the technique of an artist.
Murray's Fly Fishing School

So we booked a day at Murray's Fly Fishing School  just north of the city in Shelburne. Here we both received a half days classroom instruction on basic set ups, knots and fly selections followed by a half day practical casting instruction on stocked trout ponds. Within a week of that day we were both totally hooked on the concept and purchased the first of many complete fly set ups.

John on The Credit River

 That was 7 years ago. Unfortunately John and I have parted ways professionally and socially since then, me finding other employment and him finding other interests. The one thing I will always thank him for was pressuring me into doing something I had no previous interest in.

 In my first year, after catching a few largemouth bass and a 24" carp in a local reservoir, I started to realize that with proper research, equipment and a little luck, you could catch almost any fish on a fly.

These days a fly rod is my first weapon of choice except during the winter, when I'm either out on the frozen lakes or replenishing my depleted fly boxes at the tying bench. I love the subtleties of casting. There have been many fishless days on the water where I'd spend countless hours playing with the line and the flies, working on distance, accuracy and presentation, rarely accepting my limitations, only the limitations of the water I'm fishing. I have to say at this point that I consider a fly rod, for the most part, to be no better or worse than spinning gear, just different.

Crappie on a Streamer
First Carp Ever


Bullhead Catfish
 A few years ago in mid May, a group of us made the rounds east of Lake Simcoe and I had decided before hand to only bring the 4 piece Sage.  Where bait had failed, a subtly presented fly proved highly effective in culling a school of skittish crappies hiding amongst the emerging  weeds.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Later in the afternoon we had worked our way down to Pefferlaw, where on the first five casts of a full sized tube jig, my friend pulled out over 10 Lbs. of spawning bullheads. I figured this was a good opportunity to try something completely different and it took nearly half an hour of trial and error before I'd gotten the fly, weight and drift just right. What traditional flyfisher would ever believe you could consistently hook into a bottom feeder like a catfish one drift after another? The really crazy thing is that in between the catfish, suckers and occasional rockbass, I was also catching gobies!  

Round Gobie
  Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm a little obsessive compulsive in some ways. I like to keep lists. To date I figure I've caught 24 species of fish with a fly rod with at least another 50 native species on my hit list. Some of the more common, and yet elusive species on my list are: gar, musky and walleye.

 Over the last four years salmon have been a great source of entertainment during the fall. Getting them to bite isn't difficult at all, it's getting them to shore using a reel that is little more than a spool for your line!

 I've come to the conclusion that trout are basically smarter than me, and the few that I've caught must have had something wrong with them. One of my biggest problems with trout is that I don't know anyone who regularly fishes them and there aren't any concentrations in my backyard. All the same I will keep plugging on.
Dry Flies

 As mentioned earlier, I also enjoy fly tying. Just like the fishing, when I started out, I mostly concerned myself with learning the basic tying practices and patterns. Since then I've basically "thrown out" the books of fly patterns, and now prefer to tie what I call free style.  
Assorted 3" Hairwing Streamers

7" Pike Flies
For more info, check out: