Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Hard Days Night

    No... this has nothing to do with a cheesy movie from 45 years ago.

   As I mentioned last week, Tackle Shop is increasing his weekend activities with regards to picking at garage/estate sales and flea markets so early Saturday morning fishing forays have been placed on the back burner. In order to keep our angling addiction satisfied this week we decided he would pick me up immediately after work and we would proceed north from there. Thankfully the last shift of the week at the factory was uneventful, so at 8am I was out the door and primed to catch some fish, unfortunately as I left for work the night before I'd forgotten my camera so there's no recent pics for this weeks post.

Holland River, April 2010
  We miscalculated on the early morning traffic so it took well over an hour to travel the 45 miles to Bradford and the Holland River, where several weeks before TS had hooked a good sized bowfin. We were returning for another chance at the local version of a snakehead, TS soaking a worm and me casting some new streamers bought last weekend. I'd found an area where workers had been dredging a canal and had strung an expanded metal curtain across the waterway which allowed the water to pass but concentrated the fish wanting to travel downstream. A closer inspection showed several dozen 5-10lb carp, a few bass, and large schools of crappie, perch, sunfish, catfish and minnows all gathered in an area no larger than an average home washroom. I'd been hunting bowfin and chanced upon a honey-hole of species that would readily accept a well presented fly, except on this day! Repeated casts to the frantic schools only stirred them up more and the only thing I managed to hook were several 4" shiner minnows snagged on quick strips of the line. After several hours of  fishing TS had two bullhead catfish and I remained "legally" shut out. 
Holland Canal, April 2010

  By noon the temperature had soared to over 80 degrees with a killer humidity that sapped our energy and the only thing that kept me upright was a constant supply of coffee. We decided to search out a cooler and hopefully fishier location, so we left the agricultural "soup" of the Holland River for the crystal clear, cool waters of Lake Simcoe in the small town of Bell Ewart. Along the way TS and I stopped a few blocks from our destination and scooped a cooler full of shiner minnows from a small creek.

  As we walked out onto the public concrete pier, schools of perch could clearly be seen everywhere to a depth of ten feet! Tackle Shop was catching them one after another much to the despair of the other idle anglers that were using worms. I quickly went through my nymph box and found they were nipping at everything I tried but wasn't able to hook many because they'd spit the fly out without me ever feeling the bite. I developed a new strategy of making a long cast of 70-80 feet, letting the fly settle for half a minute to get a school's attention and retrieving with a sharp, short strip-pause-strip-pause...and managed 100 perch on 100 casts! On the rare casts that didn't hook a fish until the majority of the line was retrieved, you could see as many as 200 perch eagerly following and fighting over the fly!

  After a while a massive school of shiners swam past the dock. It was larger than a good sized house, took more than five minutes to pass, and gave me a bad case of vertigo as I looked down into the roiling water. Tackle Shop took this opportunity to use his net and refill the minnow cooler. With more than enough bait for himself, he shared with the rest of the anglers on the pier and soon afterwards everyone was catching perch non stop. We spent several hours there, caught and released a couple hundred fish each, totally refreshed from our earlier sauna and decided it was time to move on for something different.

  A 15 minute drive inland (and another stop at a coffee shop for me), and we arrived at the Nottawasauga River. This time we were greeted with ideal conditions of moderate flows of clear "green" waters and only a few other anglers in sight. I immediately assembled my rod and lost the first fly on a submerged log on the first drift. The second fly was lost in a tree before it even got wet. The third fly saw a few drifts before it joined it's partner on the log. Long hours and too many coffees do not make John a good fly fisher so I decided to cut my losses, unpack the spinning gear and join TS fishing bait on the bottom of a deep fast pool in the hope of getting a sturgeon or redhorse sucker. Soon afterward dark clouds rolled in from the west and the sky opened up as if Noah himself had finish his little DIY project. I was ready to pack it in after ten minutes of patiently sitting in a deluge, soaked to the skin with only an 8" chub to show for the effort and discomfort. 
Nottawasauga River, early May 2010

Nottawasauga River, early May 2010

  It was late afternoon, the sunshine had returned, I was beginning to dry and after a refill of my favorite go go juice, TS talked me into a return to our first spot of the day. The heat and humidity had dispersed and the fish had become more active with the lowering light. I returned to the morning's unproductive "honey hole" and caught a 9" bluegill on the first cast, followed by several more bulls, a rockbass, a couple perch and crappie and a 12" bullhead catfish! Then I got a log, several clods of dirt, a bush and several fences. For me it was time to call it quits before I emptied my fly boxes. By now I'd been awake over 24 hours and my coordination was akin to that of a zombie.
 Do zombies drink coffee and fish?
I don't know, but Deadfishers sure do!!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Garage Saleing, Headwaters, and Panfish

   Saturday morning started out as business and ended up as pleasure... for some. 

   Tackle Shop and I hit the road at the crack of dawn with the intentions of making the rounds in the south Simcoe area again, but to begin with the morning involve a little commerce. TS has always supplemented his income and addiction to tackle with weekend "cherry picking" at garage sales. At one time I shared his mania for weekend treasure hunting, having grown up in a well off neighbourhood of aging collectors looking to downsize, but for the last decade I've found myself living amongst recent immigrants who's idea of garage sale nirvana is the contents of a failed dollar store! Needless to say this type of "treasure" should probably be buried.

   Our destination so early in the morning was in the small, well to do rural community of Caledon and as we approached the intended property my heart sank as the front lawn was strewn with plastic children's toys. In my books this was clearly a case for a drive-by, but upon closer inspection the garage was filled to capacity with plaid jackets and baseball caps. Obviously I'd jumped the gun on this one because the garage contained the left over carcass of a demised outdoor store. A first glance showed rubber worms, red & white plastic floats, snelled hooks and a multitude of lead weights... in other words...nothing I've been into for twenty years. Keep digging! Over in the corner are a few rods...Hmmm...there's a fiberglass fly rod. That's better. On the table in front of me are ice auger replacement blades and right beside them is a beautiful furnace cock neck cape. Ten bucks for both? Sold!!! I asked if there's any more fly tying materials and am sadly told no, but the seller produced a 20 gallon plastic bin full of flies at 75% off. I walked in there sceptical and walked out $40 lighter with 12 egg sucking leaches, 12 stoneflies, 6 Dahlberg Divers, 18 assorted hairwing clousers, a popper, 2 tiny jigging spoons, the auger blades and cape, and a 3.2 megapixel Sony digital camera complete with charger (for when my Canon inevitably falls out of my pocket and into the water).
My $40 Treasure
   Maybe I should reconsider when Tackle Shop suggests going garage saleing in the future.

   The next leg of our journey briefly took us along the edge of escarpment country, with it's multitude of tiny cold water creeks full of wild brook, brown and rainbow trout. We'd never explored this area much in the past and now with a couple dozen new flies and a new opportunity every half mile I was itching to stop and wet a line. Alas...we were committed to meeting our new friend  John in Keswick and there was no time to stop. Rest assured though that these headwaters have been committed to memory and a prolonged return visit is imminent in the near future.
Nasty Disposition, But Tasty

  We met up with John and his friend Mike at "Dirty Harry's" and rather than pay Harry to fish off his docks for crappie we knew were no longer there, it was decided we'd check out the Pefferlaw River area. TS and Mike still fished with minnows while John and I worked the shoreline with hardware and my new streamers for "toothies". The only aggressive bite came from a surprised family of geese in the grass and after an hour of only one catfish by TS, we moved a short distance downstream to the Peninsula Resort on Holme's Point. TS was all for moving but it was at this time his teeth decided to put up a protest and within minutes he was writhing in agony!
Family Fishing!
  We left John & Mike to fend for themselves on unfamiliar waters and uncertain of our return, while we went in search of emergency medical supplies in the form of pain killers and Sensodyne tooth paste. Our mission completed and the fire in TS's head temporarily extinguished, we returned to Holme's Point in time to find John and Mike packing it in for the day. We never did put them on any fish as promised (except for a couple tiny perch while we were gone), so we said our goodbye's with a vow to do it right next time.

   An angry hornet's nest in your head and a handful of pills on an empty stomach does wonders for your ability to sleep anywhere, any time, so TS passed out in the van while I tried to amuse myself toying with tiny perch and gobies. More amusing for me was watching the antics of several dads with their group of toddlers to teens and the joy of catching that first fish. After an hour or so TS revived from his pain and medication stupor, much refreshed and ready to do battle with an army of mighty mites. We fished another few hours there and by mid afternoon started toward home, further exploring Simcoe's southeast shore.

Egg sucking leach claims another victim
   In the small coastal community of Willow Beach we found a hidden, inland marina that allowed limited fishing access and in the first minute there TS spotted a 40"+ pike lurking in the shadows of a boathouse. While he futilely attempted to tempt the large snake, I was casting nymphs in the canals for anything moving. We only got a few perch there but the potentials obvious and the location's filed away for early next spring and the crappie spawn.

   Our last stop of the day found us right back at the beginning of our fishing excursion at Harry's Riverside Bait & Tackle in Keswick.
This muskrat's seen better days!

Saved the best for last
       We started our day with a hunt for treasure and came home with that and more. Sure...the tangibles are a no brainer, but meeting new people, scouting new locations and coming through a bad situation relatively unscathed... that's the real treasure for the day. Oh yeah...catching a few mighty mites doesn't hurt either!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Panfish Surprise!

  No... this post isn't about an outdoorsy brunch. Lately my Sunday routine is to get up at 6am, stay up for six hours, sleep another six hours and then get ready to go to work. Not very interesting or productive but it gets me back into the midnight shift sleeping cycle.

  This morning I awoke just before 6am, poured a coffee and fired up the computer. As it turned out Tackle Shop had gotten up at the same time to take Sid the Kid to work, only thing was that Sid was sick and wasn't going in and hadn't told his dad. So... he's up early for no reason and I'm doing my usual nothing.

  The only plan was to get me back home for bed by early afternoon so for a short trip I suggested we travel north and try the Nottawasauga River for some steelhead, redhorse, and possibly sturgeon. We arrived by the river in the town of Ivy just after 7:30 to find it completely blown out. Luckily Lake Simcoe was only 5 miles to the east and in less than 15 minutes we were standing on the end of the public dock in Belle Ewart admiring a 15" yellow perch caught by a not-so-friendly local. Aside from the hostile locals jealously guarding the end of the dock, we decided to move on because there was a 30mph cold wind blowing in from the lake!

  Earlier this week TS had shown me a You Tube video, "The Blue Ice Report", showing several people landing crappies one after another. The interesting thing about this video was that I recognized the marina and it was only a few miles to the south in Gilford. Another thing is that all the drainage ditches in the area were full of shiners, so finding bait wasn't going to be an issue.
  We arrived at Cooks Bay Marina a few minutes later with a full cooler of minnows for TS, and after paying $5 each to the owner for access, claimed our spots on the deserted slips. I'd decided from the start that this day was going to be fly only, so I assembled my 4 piece Sage, selected a hand tied olive bugger and was immediately onto fish.
largemouth bass

pumpkinseed sunfish

   The first three casts produced three largemouth bass 8" to 14" followed by several bull pumpkinseed sunfish and a couple good sized rockbass. After 20 minutes of landing a fish on almost every cast I decided to try the deeper water in the hopes of something larger and toothier, and was immediately rewarded with a 20"+ largemouth! After several short runs I had the fish to my feet and was faced with the problem of how do I lift him the 2 feet without breaking my tippet or having my electronics drop into the water as I reach for him? As is usual when faced with a dilemma that causes you to pause, the problem usually solves itself and that was the case here as I unwillingly opted for the "long distance release". For you non-fishers that means he got off!

  After an hour or so, Tackle Shop decided to join me and set up at the end of the dock I was on and proceeded to slam a school of jumbo rockbass averaging over 12", the largest close to 16". Soon afterward an attractive woman carrying a rod showed up and immediately landed a 3lb bass, only to be chased off by the owner because she didn't have the $5 entry fee. Rats. A few minutes later TS had one of his own.
   We were soon joined by a father/son combo intent on getting the youngster onto a pike. That wasn't going to happen on this day so we persuaded them into accepting some minnows and being content catching giant rockbass, one after another another.
father, son, and me in the background
   Just after noon the wind increased in intensity, it started to rain, and my "hotspot" had cooled considerably. The father and son had their fill of panfish and sought out warmer places while I began to pack up my rod. TS has always been reluctant to leave a productive spot and this time was no exception, but he realized I needed my beauty sleep before work and promised that this was the last minnow. Immediately his float disappears and after the hook set there's a large swirl on the surface and the line goes slack. When he reels in his line there's no hooks on the end so he packs up the rod and I think we're leaving. Not so. Another rod is already rigged and in less than a minute he's got the same fish on again! When the fish is brought to hand we can see the other hooks hanging from the bruiser's mouth. Who says catch and release hurts fish that are released quickly?

   So... not too shabby for an unexpected trip out on a day that where I'd probably just surf the net! A Sunday panfish surprise indeed!