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.