Monday, December 31, 2012

Good Riddance 2012

  Does anyone know where to get a 2013 Mayan calender?

  Contrary to popular belief, Deadfisher is alive and doing a little better every day. It's been close to eight months since my last post and an update is long overdue.

  As the spring slowly warmed and turned to summer, Tackle Shop and I turned our focus from the crappies of Lake Simcoe to the unexplored regions to the southwest and the Grand River. Our first visit to the Grand was in late March, fishing for channel cats in Dunnville and we returned two months later to wet wade the river below the dam in Caledonia.

     It didn't take long to realize that the spillway was swarming with one of my long time fly fishing goals and favorite fish, the longnose gar. It seemed everything I threw at them got their attention, but their bony mouths and short strikes prevented me from getting a solid hook set. We finished the day with a few largemouth bass and crappies to show for our efforts and a vow to return and figure out those toothy critters!

    TS and the Russian returned later that week while I prepared for my return by tying more "gar appropriate" flies and acquiring some stinger hooks.

  Armed with a new arsenal of flies, buoyed by my friend's success, and starting my long overdue vacation, I returned to Caledonia and almost immediately found a large slippery rock with my name on it! In a blink of an eye I found myself in a heap on that rock with the "gunshot" sound of my exploding ankle ringing in my ears. Needless to say my day on the river was done.

   In typical fashion with regards to medical matters, I hurried to seek treatment...eight days later, when the self delusion that everything would be fine finally wore off. For the first time in all my fifty something years I found myself wearing a plaster cast. After a week the plaster was replaced with a sportier fiberglass, racing cast.

   Meanwhile... the crew continued to expand their horizons.  

      I spent twelve weeks during the summer laid up, wrapped in glass, watching TV, tying flies, and getting fat. A month after the cast finally came off, I returned to work, and found the physical demands of the job completely wiped me out to the point that getting out of the house after work or on the weekend was the last thing on my mind!

   Of course TS was having none of that, so my first time back on the water was near the end of summer at the scene of my near demise...Caledonia. Wading with a leg the size of a large tree trunk was a new experience I'd not wish upon my worst enemy. Truth be told, I could have gotten out fishing at any time after the mishap but I've lost almost all wish to use spinning gear, opting for the fly has become near mania.

   As the summer changed to fall my focus shifted from far off rivers to the local tributaries and the annual salmon run. Again, because of reduced mobility, I wasn't able to search the local rivers to the extent necessary to locate fish. I managed to get in one afternoon of stumbling after fish in the shallows, with a few hook ups, but nothing landed.

   By mid October it looked as if my fishing year was coming to a dismal end when TS announced that he was getting a boat. He located one for sale north of Peterborough, so after the deal was done we spent half the day fishing new waters. Again... another shut out, but something to look foreward next year.

  Late October found us back where we started the open water season, Cooks Bay Marina on Lake Simcoe.

 I never dreamed I would open an episode of the Blue Ice Report!

   Anyways... the perch seemed willing to play if you had the right "toys", and it so happened that some flies I'd tied for carp were to their liking.

   So... that's whats been happening here since my last post. 2012 kind of sucked! Stupid Mayans and their lame predictions. Lets hope 2013 is better. 12 hours from now TS and I will start the new year on 4 inches of ice on Little Lake.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

South Simcoe: Panfish Paradise

   It seems that spring has finally taken hold in this neck of the woods over the past few weeks with the trees and shrubs leafing out, birds nesting, fish moving into their spawning areas and the hardcore panfish afficionados hot on their tails.

  Imagine my surprise last week when on the way home from work during the morning rush hour, I see a wild turkey in the middle of a busy industrial intersection. Even more surprising was that all the passerbys never even gave it a second glance or thought. I guarrantee they'd never seen a wild turkey before... and the majority have likely never even eaten turkey! It seems the MNR`s reintroduction program is working better than expected.

        The weekend forecasts for the previous two weeks had called for cold temperatures and rain, so...against my "better judgement", both weeks I decided to head out after my final shift on Friday morning when the weather was predicted to be much more enjoyable. Our destination was the shallow, weedy south end of Cooks Bay, Lake Simcoe and our quarry was crappie.

schools in the shadows
   Isn't it funny how our meticulous planning can all go to sh*t and we end up catching everything but our targetted species. Tackle Shop and I started both Fridays on the west side of the bay at Cooks Bay Marina, mainly because of the plentiful minnows available in the drainage ditches nearby, but also because there seems to be fewer crowds due to the entry fee. Giant schools of bluegills could be seen everywhwere, just below the surface. Under the vacant boat slips were smaller groups of largemouth bass, holding tight to cover and easily spooked with just a slightest misstep on the dock. Occasionally TS would spot something larger in the shadows and at one point managed to hook a 40" pike, only to have it wrap itself around a piling and break his line. Yesterday I even managed to locate a school of rockbass (redeyes). All this and not a single crappie. So both weeks we packed up by mid day and travelled to the east side of the bay in Keswick.


   We found a popular spot in the south end of Keswick called Beeg Park, where a shallow canal winds it`s way inland and supports a large population of assorted panfish and predators. Right from the start last week, TS and I were landing equal numbers of bluegill, pumpkinseed and crappies, TS with his minnows and me with the fly rod.

   By mid afternoon both weeks I was running out of steam, having been up for twenty hours or so, and started to take frequent breaks from the action. During these breaks I`d check out the other fishermen and chat with the locals. We ran into Johnny Boy from last year, see; A Crappie Day . His bass fishing skills have progressed immensly in the past year.

   Yesterday the bite was slow so Tackle Shop broke down and started pitching hardware, specifically a #2 orange Panther Martin spinner. Throughout the afternoon he managed over 20 largemouth, the largest tipping the scales at just over two pounds.

  By early evening yesterday I`d packed up my gear and called it quits for the day, happy with the sunfish, rockbass and several small bass and crappies I`d landed. I was just sitting there, content watching TS playing with the bass, when I was approached by a young family and asked how things were going. I told Vin the bite was slow and my chances were limited by the flies I`d brought. Like so many others I`ve talked to, Vin expressed a long time interest in picking up a fly rod and giving it a try. So... seeing as I was just waiting for TS to get his fill, I re-assembled my rod and gave Vin an introduction to casting. After a few tries he was able to roll cast 25 feet out and while he commented on how the line didn`t quite go where he wanted there was a sudden tug and he landed a scrappy bass.
Vin & Vanessa

   I think we have a new convert to fly fishing!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Lost Month

   Hi guys!
   It's been almost a full month since my last post with a lot of fishing going on here and no way to share it with you. My internet connectivity has been inconsistent lately and as a result I've fallen way behind in my reading and writing. So...let's get caught up here while I can still remember the details.

   The last trip reported here, Tackle Shop and I were fishing atop 14" of ice in freezing temperatures. During the following week the long range forecast was calling for soaring temps into the high 20's C or the low 80's in foreign-heat. Tackle Shop and the Russian had planned a trip to Dunnville for channel cats on the next Monday so I booked a night off work to join them....but first we'd have to make it through the first weekend without ice!

  I had little expectation of doing anything Saturday morning when TS reminded me that Bass Pro Shops had some fly line on sale at a ridiculously low price and I had a new reel that was in need of some line. We agreed that after BPS we'd check out the crappie situation on the Holland River in Bradford so on the spur of the moment I decided my ultra light rod needed an new reel. So...these are the latest additions to my ever growing collection. My friends may soon be tempted to start calling me TS2.

   We arrived at the river by mid morning and found over 50 others had the same idea, equally eager to rush into an early open water season. After only my second cast I'd noticed an elderly Chinese gentleman watching the action intently, and when asked why he wasn't participating he told me he'd forgotten his licence at home. That's when I realized my licence was in the inside pocket of my survival suit at home and if I continued to fish I'd get caught for sure. Sure soon as I'd packed my rod away an enforcement officer showed up and started to check everyone for their permission slips.
Holland River Crappie Circus
   I'd averted a potentially expensive mistake by seconds but was now just another voyeur, living the angling life vicariously through other's accomplishments, meagre as they were. TS offered up a solution where we'd drive back to my place, retrieve my papers and hit the mouth of the Rouge River in the hopes of spring steel or some suckers to be used for catfish bait on Monday

   We spent several miserable hours drowning worms in the river with nothing to show for our efforts except for numbed fingers, trying to stay warm in the cold fog blowing in off the lake. Before returning home we decided to give Highland Creek a try and TS managed a few river chub.
Lower Highland Creek
  Monday morning dawned with great anticipation. I had my first day off from work in over 9 months, we were targeting a new species in new waters, and I was reuniting with old fishing friends: the Russian and Flea. Flea works weekends at a local flea market so our work/fishing schedules haven't synced for quite a while and...true to his nickname, as soon as we settled into the back of the van he started burrowing under the skin of the front seat occupants, irritating them to the point they turned on each other like a bad Abbott & Costello routine. I love the group dynamics on a fishing road trip!

  Our arrival in Dunnville had me questioning the weather forecast as we were greeted with a cold damp fog obscuring the lower stretches of the Grand River but after a few hours the sun broke through the mist and the temperature soared into the high 20s.

    We fished below the dam for hours, trying a large variety of prepared and cut baits, until the Russian finally landed a sucker...using cut sucker as bait! Not the targeted species but as it turned out, the only species.
   The rest of us were unwilling to return home with the stink of failure so prevalent in the van so we headed northeast to the  known waters of 15 Mile Pond. There we washed off the skunk with plentiful catches of the channel cat's little cousin, the brown bullhead and a small carp for Flea too.
Flea & the days smallest kitty

   So the first week of open water was eventful and the unseasonably hot weather had all of us thinking of an extremely early spring season. The next weekend saw TS and I exploring the marinas and backwaters of the south Simcoe area in search of crappie. Our first stop was at Cooks Bay Marina where the fish seemed to be in a slightly neutral mood in the morning and warming up to our presentations as the day progressed.

  I started out using my new 5wt rod & reel and immediately discovered the Bass Pro Shops 4pc, 7'6" combination spin/fly didn't load to my liking. I'm sure it will make a fine ultra lite spinning rod but I'll be looking to buy a better quality rod to match the reel. I abandoned the 5wt, assembled the Sage and was immediately rewarded with my best pike on the fly to date. As I was about to release her I realized that the season for pike had yet to close for the spawn so I brought her home for dinner.
    Aside from the pike, I'd landed a half dozen keeper sized crappies and dozens of feisty pumpkin seeds and bluegills. TS was slamming the sunfish on the other side of the marina but having difficulty in locating any good sized crappies.

   We worked the marina over until mid day when we decided to check out other locations in and around the Cooks Bay area.They were having an equally slow day in Keswick at Dirty Harry's so we headed farther up the shore to another promising marina which was full of shiners and perch.

   We've returned to Cooks Bay Marina again for the last two weekends but the effects of that summer like weather has faded and the fish have returned to their natural state at this time of year...slow to bite and generally inactive.
Networking the local fly fishing community

   I constantly have to remind myself and others that the season is still young and there's little sense in expecting the fish to cooperate when the conditions aren't right. At this time last year we were still
out on the ice slamming pre-spawn perch. It's been a rollercoaster ride this month, fishing new water, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, sweating one day and shivering the's all good!
The last month was only the lost month with regards to reporting what a blast I've had to you the readers.
I promise you wont have to wait so long for the next instalment.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Last Ice on Little Lake

   There's always a few who make what I do in the winter time look reckless to the average person. Last Friday the local headlines shouted out "27 Stranded on Ice Floe on Lake Simcoe". I was not then and will never be one of those foolhardy soles who risk their lives for the sake of a few fish. These knuckle-heads were trying to extend the shortened deep water whitefish and lake trout season by fishing a stones throw from open water a mile out from shore and had to be rescued by helicopter. Who knows where their equipment, snowmobiles and ATV's are right now, but I'd guess about a hundred feet down! Like the oldtimers from my youth I'm tempted to shout out "There aught-a be a law!" but the way this province's government seems to listen to crackpots, my winter leisure time may just be legislated to death soon enough.

    Keeping in mind last weeks mild temperatures and high winds, Tackle Shop and I decided to stay away from the big ice and opted for a more stable, smaller venue, Little Lake in the north end of Barrie. We were assure by Penny at Rack n Reel Bait and Tackle that there was still shore access to Little and 12 to 14 inches of ice, so we bought a couple dozen 4 inch shiners and gladly hit the ice for what was likely our last hardwater outing of the year.

   We walked several hundred yards out from shore, the sound of cracking ice rumbling like thunder, music to my ears as the sub freezing temperatures were causing the ice sheet to expand. Less than 15 minutes after setting my tip down, the alarm bells jingled the arrival of a hungry pike. In my haste to answer the call from 30 feet away I'd forgotten an old lesson of pike fishing in shallow water...stealth. As I reached for the rod, pointing down into the hole, the line went slack and I'd missed my chance. In fact it was my only opportunity at landing a snot-rocket for the whole day.

  After an uneventful four hours, I awoke from a daydream to hear TS chanting the now familiar mantra "take it, TAKE IT" and then an un-printable expletive as he retrieved his rig missing two 4" shiners. Seconds later his other rod spasmed in it's holder and after a brief battle a 27" pike laid on the ice.
   What ensued after will be hotly debated for years as I had said earlier in the day that I'd never landed a pike through the ice with a lure. He'd caught this one dead sticking a 3" Jigging Rapala with a 4" shiner attached. I maintain he was bait fishing with a lure used only as a hook and not the main attractant. You decide.

   With the forecast showing temperatures from 10 to 20 C (50 to 70 F) over the next week, I regrettably have to admit that the hardwater season has drawn to a premature close. Trout season doesn't open for another 5 weeks except in the lower reaches of the Lake Ontario tributaries so my next few weekends are up in the air.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Perchin For MS

   Several weeks ago at the annual Spring Fishing Show, Tackle Shop and I met an individual named Doug Poirier who had organized a charitable fishing derby to benefit multiple sclerosis reserch. At first I was a little hesitant about the whole idea, having never participated in such an event and strictly fishing for fun and the occasional meal, but as the week went on I allowed myself to believe we actually had a shot at winning this thing.

   All things were going according to plan as we entered Sibbald Point Provincial Park right on time, signed in and chose our spot out on the ice an hour before the competition was to commence. That was about as far as the plan got! Conditions for the day were extreme...with the temperatures hovering around freezing, four inches of slush and standing water atop the ice, and a sustained SW wind at 40mph with gusts over 60mph. We watched over 200 teams file out onto the slush with most moving toward the far outer corners of the boundary, rooster tails of spray flying from their snow machines. A few hapless soles tried to erect portable huts, only to have them snatched away by the winds, bouncing them across the ice like a lost balloon at a backyard party.

   At 8am we all drilled our holes and a minute after my first drop I retrieved a fat female perch of about 10 inches. With five hours left in the derby I was confident 9 more fish like this would put us in the money...It was just that easy! An hour later and I'd marked absolutely nothing on the sonar in the dozen holes I was working. Fortunately no one else within sight was catching anything either. Finally I found a school of fish and quickly filled the bucket with our 10 fish limit, unconcerned about their size, just happy to have ten and the chance to cull if necessary.

   By 10:30 Tackle Shop had caught his first fish of the day and culled a 6 incher from the bucket. There came word that the lake's ice was breaking up a few miles to the west at Jackson's Point from a few competitors on ATVs. It seemed the whole competition moved a little to the right all at one time. TS and I started to slowly make our way back to the launch area, taking advantage of the hundreds of holes along the way, picking off a
solitary fish here and there but never finding anything big enough to replace the dinks in the bucket.

right size...wrong species

    Around noon we joined the steady trickle of anglers heading off the ice, tired of the beating the wind and the lake had laid upon us, and lined up for the weigh in. Already one team had weighed 6.9lbs for their ten fish and the largest single fish was 1.3lbs and there was still an hour left in the derby! Our total weight was 2.3lbs and after talking to many teams who came in empty handed, I believe we still placed well. It was an interesting day but one I have no wish to repeat...friendly competition for bragging rights is one thing...but entry fees and big prizes change the stakes and, at least for me, turns what should be fun into business. Next year I think I'll just sponsor a team and go out on the ice for the pure joy of fishing!
   For a list of the top ten winners and some videos, go to: Perchin for MS

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Cold Day In Hell

   I thought the title and opening video pretty much summed it all up. You'll notice that there's no pictures of the fish we caught...they were swallowed by a rapidly expanding snow drift. They weren't plentiful but the seven I had to excavate for will feed me several dinners.

   It takes a very special type of crazy to willingly expose one's self to extreme conditions like this. In the second picture the guys in the Frabill hut were up from the Detroit area for several days and when you travel several hundred miles to another country to fish, regardless of the conditions.

   In the next pic, the huts behind Tackle Shop were owned by locals that were only five minutes from a warm fire and a cold beer. Once TS was assured there were fish below him, after 45 minutes of cold futility, he erected and retired to his one man shelter leaving me to be the only nut job exposed.

   About the time of TS's erection another lost soul wander out onto the ice and set up closer to shore. I thought he looked vaguely familiar through the veil of blowing snow but it wasn't until I went for a visit that I realized it was long time friend Road Animal.

   It was a hard day for everyone out on the ice and I heard it said "It will be a cold day in hell before I do this again" but one man's hell is another man's heaven. I just need better gloves!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Goodbye Gilford, Hello Sibbald Point

   Over the past week, here in southern Ontario, we've actually managed more "snow events" than thaws, and even though it's two months past the date I'd  have to say "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas". Saturday morning was greeted with all the enthusiasm of an eight year old riding out a sugar high on Christmas morning as Tackle Shop and I were taking a break from our usual Saturday morning routine and attending the annual Spring Fishing Show at a local convention centre.

   For many years it had been a great way to fill out the depleted tackle and fly boxes on the cheep and meet a few fishing celebrities, but if it hadn't been for TS winning the tickets on  a message board joke contest I would have asked for a refund. There were only a handful of tackle vendors participating and very few deals to be had. My biggest regret was that after leaving the show I realized local blogger and tournament angler Ashley Rae at was demonstrating her new found kayaking prowess. Ashley is one of those rare anglers who eagerly sets personal challenges and then accomplishes them with spectacular results.

   After leaving the show with little more than a free newspaper and a pack of Fat Boy Jigs  TS and I headed north to Simcoe for another round of perch fishing. The persistent morning rain turned to snow immediately after leaving the city and it wasn't long before we were faced with stop and go traffic for the next 30 miles in near white-out conditions. The adverse conditions had little effect on the turnout at the lake though as Perch City appeared to be busting at the seams with activity.

   Tackle Shop and I must have been spoiled over the last five weeks pulling our sleds over bare ice, because when suddenly faced with dragging our equipment a mile out through six inches of drifting powder we both simultaneously voiced the opinion we were either too old for this crap or we had altogether too much stuff! Feeling like one of Pharaoh's older, chain smoking slaves working on a pyramid, I'd  quickly decided that where I stood was good enough to catch the multitudes of perch below the ice.

   Over the next four hours we'd managed only about 30 tight lipped tiny perch each, which was about as good as everyone else was doing. The day turned out to be a complete wash out except for some info we got earlier at the show that the main lake basin had finally frozen over and we were no longer confined to this particular bay and it's tiny perch.
   The next morning saw us walking out onto the main lake from Sibbald Point Provincial Park, the site of my introduction to winter perch fishing many years ago. Sibbald Point extends 300 yards out from the windswept shore as a field of fist sized rocks that ends in 20 feet of water and is replaced by an extensive sand flat.

   The area doesn't hold fish all the time like Gilford, but is more like a drive through diner. We set up near the transition area and within the first minute I lost a 12-13 inch fish right at the hole. Several minutes later I landed my first jumbo of the year, a fat 12 incher that probably weighed as much as half my entire catch from the previous day!

   The action was sporadic over the next few hours with long periods of inactivity followed by a feeding frenzy when the next school came through. I eventually resorted to my old habit of hole jumping, moving with the schools of fish. I'm not sure whether it produced any better than staying in one spot but it kept me busy trying to anticipate their movements. By mid afternoon we'd caught 50-70 fish each, ridiculously low by Gilford standards, but iced 18 respectably sized fish for dinner.

potato salad, baked beans and perch fillets fried in bacon grease
We'd heard about the ice conditions at Sibbald Point from Doug Poirier who's organized a charity derby at the park on March 3 8am-1pm. Check it out at: Perchin for MS and hope to see  you there!