Sunday, July 31, 2011

Long Weekend

  It's a long weekend here in Ontario. Monday is officially designated Simcoe Day, so in honor of Sir John Graves Simcoe we pledged to go nowhere near the large lake that bears his name for the next few days. A phone call from Treefrog Friday night planted the idea of exploring the Lindsay area of the Kawartha Lakes District and more specifically; the Scugog River. A quick search on Google Earth refreshed my memory of the general area and gave us a few starting off places to fish. The river slowly winds it's way north 14 miles to Sturgeon Lake and much like the lake it drains, Lake Scugog, it's shallow, weedy and heavily tea stained with healthy populations of large and smallmouth bass, walleye, musky and the usual assortment of panfish.

  I awoke to the alarm at 5 am, gulped down half a pot of coffee and met Tackle Shop at the curb by 5:30. Twenty minutes travel farther east, pick up Treefrog, and then north on highway 35/115 to our first location by 7am, just a few miles south of the town of Lindsay.

  We had planned on starting out at a backroad bridge crossing a creek only a long cast from it's confluence with the Scugog River, but upon our arrival it seemed that either word got out or I'm not the only one that can read a map. A dozen other anglers had beat us to the area and all the decent casting spots were taken. Unwilling to move on from such a promising looking site, we did a quick search of the area and found the only other decent place was a tiny, hidden marina several hundred yards upstream.

  Using his direct "It couldn't hurt to ask" approach, Tackle Shop found that $5 each granted us access to the owner's docks. In what has become somewhat of a comical routine, the three of us all geared up with our current "go to" baits; TS with his rubber crawdad, me and my #4 Mepps, and Treefrog with his... well... rubber frog.

  It didn't take too long for things to get interesting. On my fifth cast a 20" slender shadow violently slashed at the spinner right at my feet, missing the hooks but sending a surge of adrenaline through my system that left my hands shaking for a minute. There are no pike in the central Kawartha Lakes so obviously I'd just had a not close enough encounter with their bigger cousin the musky. Several casts later another encounter, this time a tapered torpedo closely following my bait all the way in only to turn away at the last second. Walleye! This continued for a while until the rising sun revealed the expansive weed flats we were casting over and it actually took 45 minutes before any of us landed anything, a 7" perch by yours truly.

  As the sun and temperature climbed higher and the boat traffic increased the targeted toothy predators started to lay low in the weeds with lockjaw. TS and I both managed to coax a couple small largemouth bass out of the weeds, but it appeared the only game left in town were the large schools of hungry sunfish.

  I'd come to this area with the hopes of adding a few new species to my list of fish caught on a fly, namely musky and walleye, and I probably should have started the day fluffchucking large streamers, but better late than never. I spent the next hour playing with the schools of panfish, catching them at will until finally I felt something different on the end of my line...crappie! As it turns out it was a lone fish and there was no school to educate in all things artificially buggy.
  Just before noon it was decided we'd go back up the road to the bridge and see if the weekend warriors had cleared out, but not before having a chat with our friendly  hosts Jack and Linda Chan. They'd been operating Cross Creek Marina and Resort for over 20 years and offer complete services for the day trippers to vacationers with lodging, mooring, boat rentals,gas bar & supplies.

 Our return to the bridge found a thinned out crowd and more of a surprise, a friend of Treefrog's, David and his friend (sorry dude,never did catch your name). In the same spot the day before, David caught over 40 bass and 3 musky, the largest just over 40"! We spent a few more hours there flogging the water...but seriously... when it degenerates into a contest of who can hook the largest crayfish... it's time to move on.
Scugog River from Cross Creek Bridge
  The bottom line here is that "pedestrian" fishing an be difficult on any weekend but successful long weekends require finding those out of the way, little known areas that aren't "blasted" from sun up to sundown. With new friends in tow, we hit the road again to find more areas up river in the town of Lindsay. Somewhere along the route we lost our "tour guides" (probably with an unscheduled lawn sale stopover), and we spent the next few hours searching the urban section of the river for a suitable location before settling on a partially deserted marina. This is where Treefrog started to show his chops, slowly dragging his namesake across the floating mass of slop, getting a mini geyser of weed and water from the strike on every second or third cast... and never managing to get a hook set.
Treefrog in his natural element

  It was turning out to be a long, hot, fish less afternoon so I made the suggestion of driving south to Lake Scugog with an ulterior motive in mind; visiting the Perry Island First Nations Reserve and, more specifially their smoke shop! Revenuers be damned! Why would I care to pay $80+ for a weeks supply of cigarettes when the natives are selling the same number in a ziploc bag for $20?

  After securing a months fix we made our way around the south end of the lake to the town of Port Perry. Much like Barrie, Port Perry has an intimate connection with it's lake and the entire town's shoreline is devoted to public use. TS needed to restock his cooler and I was considering my empty fridge at home, so we stopped at the local grocery store and who do we find parked in the back lot beside the lake? Our recently lost new friends Dave and ? (again... sorry dude). Of course when we come out of the store they've already f**ked off so we had a nice snack in the rear parking lot, beside the lake, listening to a live blues band echoing across the bay.

 We finally decided to call it a day an hour and a half before sundown. While driving south on Hgwy 12, I noticed a sign for Mud Lake. I'd been curious about this lake for years but could never find out any info on it and never had the opportunity to visit. As we approached the square mile of mirrored surface, the first thing I noticed in the murky water was an 8" goldfish. Larger carp, and what I'm sure were largemouth bass, were regularly jumping farther out. Armed with our usual "go to's" we set out to discover what else this tiny isolated lake contained. My fifth cast with the Mepps flew over a low slung willow branch and just before I could flip it over I got a bite. As I tightened the line a small 4"panfish rose out of the water, dangling from the branch. I deftly flipped the rod tip and the fish came sailing towards the shore...CRAPPIE! That was my cue to assemble the fly rod again. Over the next hour (until we couldn't see anymore), we worked that shoreline,catching large numbers of small crappie, sunfish, and rockbass. Even Treefrog managed to dredge up a few bullhead catfish! (not with the rubber frog though)
      The day started out with high hopes, followed by dusty disappointment and ending with the joy of discovery. Nothing we caught could ever be called trophies but the first and last locations show great potential that will require further exploration. Mud Lake, in particular, with it's near proximity to the city might turn out to be an excellent alternative in the hard water season.

  PS: Last month I issued a challenge to all you bloggers out there to post pictures of Telephone Wire Ornamentation, or TWO. Here's another example I shot on the causeway near Port Perry.

  This post took all morning to write and I was hoping to make it over to the Rouge River today and expand on my local knowledge of all things fishy. I'll let you know what happens for the rest of this Simcoe Day long weekend.

Monday, July 25, 2011

joke/quote #8

 It's Monday morning and I'm guessing most of you have already started your work week and planning the next outing. Allow me to lighten your morning with another installment of humor.
 Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land.  It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn.       ~Chuck Clark

Boy Goes to Church Instead of Fishing
One recent Sunday, a young boy arrived to his Sunday school class late. His teacher knew that the boy was usually very prompt and asked him if anything was wrong.
The boy replied no, that he was going to go fishing, but that his dad told him that he needed to go to church instead. The teacher was very impressed and asked the boy if his father had explained to him why it was more important to go to church rather than to go fishing.
To which the boy replied, "Yes, ma'am, he did. My dad said that he didn't have enough bait for both of us.
The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing. 
   ~Babylonian Proverb

Promises to Wife
Four married guys go fishing. After an hour, the following conversation took place. First guy: " You have no idea what I had to do to be able to come out fishing this weekend. I had to promise my wife that I will paint every room in the house next weekend." Second guy: " that's nothing, I had to promise my wife that I will build her a new deck for the pool." Third guy: " Man, you both have it easy! I had to promise my wife that I will remodel the kitchen for her." They continue to fish when they realized that the fourth guy has not said a word. So they asked him. You haven't said anything about what you had to do to be able to come fishing this weekend. " What's the deal?" Fourth guy: " I just set my alarm for 5:30 am. When it went off, I shut off my alarm, gave the wife a nudge and said, " Fishing or Sex" and she said, " Wear a Sweater."

Even if you've been fishing for three hours and haven't gotten anything except poison ivy and sunburn, you're still better off than the worm. 
   ~Author Unknown

A Fishermans Philosophy
A sure way to get a bite on a slow day is:
Talk about changing spots
Prepare another rod while one is out
Lay your rod down unsecured
Go for a sandwich
Start to pull the boat anchor
Use the worst fly you own
Crack open your first beer
Crack open your last beer
Take notice of the chick on a passing boat, bank or beach
Watch others fishing
Start reeling in your lines at going home time
Give your fishing rod to a female companion or child to hold
When your landing net is out of reach
When you have cast your line over an obstruction
When you line has drifted into impossible weeds
When you turn to look at the sunrise or sunset
Decide that you need to take a leak

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My New Backyard

  I woke up before the sun this morning with nothing more planned than to suck back a pot of coffee and catch up on what my blogger friends had been up to lately. After several hours of interesting reading, I found that all too familiar itch that needed a good scratching... the need to find some fishy water in my new backyard.

  A quick search on Google Earth showed me several promising areas to explore. Just a few blocks to the west is a small creek with a channeled river bed, but just a mile downstream it opens up into a wild urban ravine whose pools and runs could possibly hold some bass or panfish, and for future consideration...salmon and steelhead! Under two miles away to the northeast I found a series of small flood control ponds that looked promising from 300 miles in space but require a more up close and personal scrutiny, and of course there's the Rouge River 5 miles east with it's healthy population of bass, pike, brook trout in the north end of the city and carp liberally scattered throughout.

  With a pot of coffee under my belt, my bike loaded up with gear and a planned route for local exploration, I set off just before 9am in 90degee temperatures towards the ponds in the northeast. After a few wrong turns and having to backtrack, (I didn't print out a map of the area) I'd arrived at my destination in less than 15 minutes without realizing it! One thing a satellite image doesn't show you is tall grass obscuring the lower lying areas, and this was the case at hand. Let me tell you... breaking trail with a mountain bike loaded down with fishing gear through several hundred yards of chest high scrub isn't getting any easier on me but the potential payoff was worth it. As I broke through the brush at the waters edge it became clear that these bodies of water are rarely fished because of their visibility and difficult access. The only place to set up was on a narrow rocky saddle separating two adjacent ponds, and as I approached I could see a large school of good sized carp frolicking in the shallows.
south pond
north pond
  I immediately assembled my fly rod, tied on a coachman and on the second cast retrieved a palm sized bluegill. As I released the sunfish a nearby voice asked me if there were any fish in that "ditch". Unknown to me a resident had been curiously observing my actions from a balcony overlooking the water without ever putting together the pieces of the puzzle (like all the 10lb carp splashing about!). It's always been amazing to me how many people are unaware of the opportunities in their own back yards. I patiently explained to him what I'd already figured out about his backyard, what I believed could be there, and how to go about catching them. Minutes after our conversation my line quickly straightened out, pulled like a freight train for 3 seconds, and then came limply flying back towards my head so that I had to duck in order to avoid impalement.


  The brief commotion had scattered the remainder of the school so sight casting was no longer an option. In no time at all I'd exhausted all my known patterns for carp with not so much as a bump to show for it, so... rather than tying on ridiculous choices and getting frustrated, I decided drastic measures were in store if I was to even the score. BAIT. There...I said it. Just don't tell Tackle Shop, he'd never let me live it down.

  Jolly Green Giant to the rescue! Four nibblets of corn on a #8 trout hook a foot below a quarter oz sliding egg weight, cast into an area heavily chummed with handfuls of corn, sit back and wait. Honestly...this is not my preferred method of fishing, I'd rather be fluff chucking or heaving heavy metal on the run. Perhaps 20 years down the road when I'm back in diapers a can of worms or corn will be a constant companion, but for now I resist the obvious benefits of bait in all but the most difficult of situations. hour later, several repositionings, and a serious case of distraction was all that was needed for my rod to suddenly make a break for the waters edge. I'd like to say my lightning quick reflexes saved the day but the truth is that the reel hung up on a rock allowing me to keep my equipment AND even the score!
20" "Golden Boy"

  Knowing what the previous fight had done to the bite, I decided to call it a day rather than wait another hour for some action. All things considered I'm fairly pleased with the day, I'd gotten into some decent fish and found a nearby fix for my addiction. On my return ride home I came across this beautiful little gem, but it will have to wait until my inevitable return.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Trent River

  OK... so I've gotten my act together.. somewhat. There's a new fridge in my kitchen stocked with all kinds of good stuff for the BBQ, a brand new cell phone to finally bring me into the new millennium, and most importantly... internet access. So I'm blogging again.

  On July 3, several hours after my last post, Tackle Shop roused me from a sound sleep by pounding on my apartment window at 4:30am. All I knew the day before was our destination, Trenton, so it was a complete surprise to see the Russian in the van and a stop along the way to pick up another long lost friend...Treefrog. So at the crack of dawn I found myself surrounded by three characters en route to one of my favorite fishing holes.

  What makes Trenton so special is the fact that it's the first of 45 locks on the Trent Severn Waterway which connects Lake Ontario in the south to Georgian Bay, 250 miles to the northwest on Lake Huron. In the first ten miles north of the Bay of Quinte there are five locks and dams where at any time there is the chance of catching any species that swims in the Great Lakes, all easily accessible and wadeable for the adventurous angler.

    Our collective anticipation was like a living thing pushing us toward an unknown goal, ever increasing as the distance to our destination dwindled until we parked the van and scrambled down to the river in search of a prime location to land a dream. Tackle Shop and Treefrog immediately rigged up and took position on the near wing of the dam, amazed at the large schools of giant carp playing follow the leader in and out of the current, while the Russian and I started pitching heavy metal, wading near the tailout of the plunge pool several hundred yards downstream. This was only the second time this year that I'd started the day out with the spinning gear and I was quickly rewarded for that decision with a strike that nearly ripped the rod from my hands. After almost a minute of questioning myself what I'd hooked into, a "nearly subdued" 20"+ smallmouth swam between my legs and impaled the treble hook into my calf, thus securing his freedom and supplying me with a painful fish tale.
He was grinning ear to ear right up to when I snapped this pic 
  Next in line for a surprise was the Russian. He'd been cycling through his tackle until a #5 Mepps struck gold. Close to five minutes were spent "winching" in line, only to have the river monster take it back again, until finally what looked like an ancient piece of driftwood in the depths coalesced into a trophy sized musky right at our feet! Too bad we don't use wire leaders as I'm sure the Russian would have loved to have had a  picture of the beast and kept his Mepps at the same time!

  By this time TS and Treefrog had quit the dam for quieter waters and joined us to fish a back eddy. I'd switched to my fly rod hoping for a large predator, but kept myself amused with the occasional small bass and rockbass. Several times over the next few hours we'd witnessed monstrous fish jump and roll right before us, but unfortunately we'd had our chances earlier in the day and there were few decent takes by noon. A few hours before we packed up the Russian pointed out what must have been a sturgeon "breaching" in the center of the pool
TS & the angling cold war
    After noon it was time for a change of scenery so we traveled a few miles upstream to lock #5 in Frankford. As we'd done earlier, TS and Treefrog zigged right and the Russian and I zagged left. After several hours we'd determined the main pool was devoid of life (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!) so the others satisfied themselves with fishing over the high water edge of the dam while I explored the many tailouts with an olive woolly bugger. I finally found where the fish were hiding and after twenty 8 to 14 inch smallmouth I was informed that we were leaving for home.
Frankford lock tailout
  I realize that I didn't take too many pictures this time, but I never noticed that Treefrog was missing in all of them until we were back home. So... it wouldn't feel right without exposing showing a picture of him from exactly 2 years ago near lock #45, Port Severn.
anyone know what this bug is?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I'm Back

  Yes...that's right, I'm back. At least for a quick update on what's been going on in the last month First off I'd like to wish everyone a happy Canada Day, Independence Day or summer. The reason I've been away is that I've moved closer to work, trading a 250 mile weekly commute on public transit for a 5 mile bicycle ride. The downfall is that the place is a dump with basic cable (30 channels), a broken fridge that cost me $150 in groceries and worst of all... no internet! This post is courtesy of my neighbor and his mobile stick. Oh yeah, TS, I broke my phone yesterday out of sheer frustration. I'm still on for getting out on Sunday.

   Tackle Shop and I have been getting out every weekend, usually to the south Simcoe area, and hitting a few sales along the way. The highlight of the month for me was adding species #25 to my list of fish caught on the fly; an 8" golden shiner several weeks ago. On the same day we dropped in on an antique tackle show & sale in Barrie where I picked up several old fly boxes at $5 each. It turned out they were all full, so along with the boxes I got about 200 flys!
8" golden shiner

$35 haul
   Tackle Shop had some excellent outings in June. One Sunday several weeks ago he was the bassmaster, catching several dozen largemouth, many in the 4 to 5 pound range. In order to keep up with him last week I ditched the fly rod in favor of  my ultralite spinning outfit. He still beat me in the numbers game (using bait) but I caught the largest bass of the day at about 3.5 Lbs. The highlight of the month for him was his first ever bowfin that same day!
Never believe them when they say your bait is too big!

Tackle Shop's first bowfin
  Well... that's about all I have to report for now. My search for better digs will continue between work and fishing. I might consider buying one of these mobile internet sticks, but until then my posts are likely to be few and far between
Cooks Bay, Lake Simcoe