Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Inner City Fly Slinging

  So... it's been about 6 weeks since my last post, and speaking with complete modesty, the fishing results from this time period have been mediocre. The long awaited trout season opener was on the third Saturday of April. and an hour after sunrise saw me casting to low, clear water that seemed devoid of life. After five visits over a two week period all I managed were a few "bugle trout" aka white suckers. The last day on the river I witnessed a large caddis hatch and in an hour of patient observation didn't see a single rise! It was refreshing to spend a few days witnessing the spring greening in that urban valley without  a single human encounter. The other benefit was that my local ponds were a short ride away.

 My quest for a carp on the fly was accomplished under bizarre circumstances that left me satisfied less than you might think. Much of the best carp water is surrounded by rushes and low trees, so casting to likely lies was achieved with rollcasts. After the retrieve I'd shake the rod tip to strip out the line for the next cast while the fly sat on the bottom by my feet. On this particular cast the line shot out but it appeared the fly was snagged on bottom. With a few choice words I resigned myself to the repeated task of disturbing the area by retrieving a muck encrusted stick, but after stripping in all the line the muck encrusted stick turned out to be a 20 something inch carp! I'd been wanting a good bend in the rod for a while but I've had better battles with muck encrusted sticks. That was the one and only carp so far this spring.

  The crappie bonanza from the last post seems to be a one time, chance occurrence. I can count on a few palm sized fish every trip, but numbers of larger crappie seem to elude me. One particular day I couldn't catch anything other than out of season largemouth. The regulations state incidental catches are to be returned immediately and if the fish continue to bite then you have to move on. Intentionally targeting them is prohibited. Oh well...bass season opens in 3 weeks from now and I'm confident in the flies I've tied and the capabilities of the rod and reel.

 Over the years I've been slowly gravitating toward ultra lite fishing and that's the reason for the 3wt rod I picked up over the winter. Everything I'd read on line and talking to the few fly fishers I'd met suggested a 3wt was only appropriate for small trout and panfish, but after battling a few 3-4 lb largemouth on a long line (40 to 50 feet) I'm truly interested in pushing the limits of what it'll handle. Amusingly, 3 months ago I traded a pocket full of flies to a local shop owner for a 5' ultra lite Lightning Rod which has yet to see water.

  Two weeks ago I was out on an errand and, as is my long standing habit, had to stop when crossing a bridge to check out the water. The downstream side had a series of pools that, from a distance, appeared to be full of fish up to a foot in length. The next day I returned, determined to find what secrets that tiny, urban creek held. I spent a half hour casting the first pool, to the amusement of the urbanite drones at the nearby intersection, cycling through the small selection of flies before finding the right pattern, a #12 bead headed nymph with pronounced red ribbing. Every other cast brought in a creek chub from 4 to 10 inches.

  I continued bushwhacking down the narrow ravine, highrises on one side, a community college on another and not a soul in sight. Every pool produced numbers of feisty chub but nothing else. A mile in and the creek merged with another I was more familiar with, easier to access and full of students smoking crack or whatever. The 90 degree temperatures, bushwhacking with a mountain bike and crackheads galore had taken a toll and the day out was over for me.

  So...in a 6 week period I've been out around 20 times, fished 6 ponds,a river and a creek and managed to catch 6 species of fish on the "new" rod, all without leaving the city limits. I really need to get out of town!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Thursday was Flyday

 I left the house yesterday morning determined to finally put a bend in my new fly rod which until now retained it's virginity. My destination was a series of drainage ponds in the neighborhood that I knew contained a variety of species, but my main target on this day would be carp. After a quick pot of coffee, downed at the tying bench, I loaded the bike with everything I'd need and pedaled off to the ponds.

  I'd fished the first location a few few times over the past 3 weeks where I'd found the fish milling about, just a few feet away from a bulrush lined shore, 6 inches under the surface. On arrival I found the area buffeted by gusting winds, stirring up the sediments and reducing water visibility to 8". Sight fishing was not going to be possible. I started casting the area with a wet hackle fly, slowly stripping line and keeping the fly in top foot of water. The cross wind was playing havoc with my casting and line control, sending my fly into a hungry tree on the back cast several times. Fishing sub surface wasn't getting any attention so I tied on a heavy weighted crayfish/damsel imitation and started dredging the bottom. After flogging the water for another 20 minutes with several more fly changes and no results I decided it was time for drastic measures... I assembled my ultra-light and put on a worm!

  It took no time at all for my float to submerge and a palm sized bluegill to came to hand. One after another they came in with the occasional chub mixed in and a 4' large mouth. It was comfortable sitting in a camp chair, reeling in panfish at will, but that wasn't what I'd come here for. I moved to the far end of the pond, where the previous year I'd had frequent success with bait. I wasn't finished with the fly rod yet and chose a rocky point as a casting platform that gave good access to the corner while sheltered from the wind and unobstructed room for the back cast. This wasn't a place for a heavy weighted fly as the water's  surface was dotted with the leftovers of a beaver's winter snacks. The skeletal remains of treetops, branches and shrubs poked out every few feet making casting risky business regardless of the fishing style.

  I tied on a bead head nymph with a bright green body and wound hackle and started picking apart the "pocket water". It was't long before I finally popped the cherry on the new rod. It wasn't what I'd hoped to be the first, but the palm sized gill was welcome just the same. Not long after I got a bite that put the good bend in the rod I'd been expecting all morning, only to be surprised to find it wasn't a carp but a scrappy 16' largemouth. A quick pic, live release (bass are not in season until the end of June) and back at it. After a few short strikes and a couple flies lost to the shrubbery I finally got a hook into the fish hiding in an particularly "woody" corner...a palm sized crappie! It's a good thing that when I tie a fly pattern, I usually tie at least 5 in a sitting, as it appeared I'd need all I'd brought.

  I'd disturbed the area too much by dragging snagged branches across the bottom, and instead of waiting for things to settle down, decided it was time to move on to the next pond a few blocks away. Like the first pond, I'd had multi species days there and the chance of hooking into a carp were good. I worked my usual access points with no luck and eventually ended up at the windswept end, casting into deeper water than usual. On the second cast I landed a small crappie. A few more casts and a couple more fish. This was the first time I'd ever found a school locally but after six fish the bite stopped. I moved farther down the shore, spending time picking apart likely areas but came up empty. By now it was mid afternoon and although I didn't catch my intended species, I was well satisfied with the results and was ready to call it a day.

  On my way back to the street I thought I'd give the crappie spot one last try with a heavier fly. That was the final piece to the puzzle. Every cast brought in a fish as long as the fly was allowed to sink for at least 15 seconds! After about 20 fish the line tightened and pulled drag, the rod bent over and as I saw the flash 5 feet below the surface I thought I'd hooked into a good sized bass. Nope. What a surprise to find a 14" crappie on the end of my line! If I'd been on a large northern lake I would have had nice fish dinner, but because this wonderful resource is literally in my backyard, conservation is key. I'm not going to destroy future enjoyment for the sake of a free meal, as I know many of you would agree. Anyways...I came for carp and got blanked, and walked away totally stoked.

The usual suspects.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Crank Bait Fly

  I returned to my local carp ponds on Wednesday afternoon hoping to pop the cherry on my new 3wt but Mother Nature's early spring fickleness and Charlie Brown's kite tree both conspired to thwart my ability to perform said act. Blustery winds and abundant shoreline shrubbery frustrated my attempts to reach my quarrie on the far side of the pond and after a dozen rescue missions into the prickly thicket, I'd had enough.

  Luckily I'd brought a box of worms and a brand new 5' UL Shimano Lightning Rod with a Pflueger President 6720 reel spooled with 5Lb. tracer braid, more than enough to tackle anything in those waters. All I needed to do was get them to cooperate. Tackle Shop showed up by the time I'd worn out my third location without a single carp bite. I did manage a half dozen bluegills though.
  TS set up at my first location, tossing a heavily weighted worm 50' out into the deeper water and reeled in a golden 18" carp less than five minutes later! Followed by another slightly larger and a handful of small bullhead catfish. If he hadn't rubbed it in so much there'd be a picture of him peacocking with his catch. Seriously though...my mistake was focusing too intently on the weedy margins using a slip float when obviously the weather had the larger fish feeding in the depths. So after adjusting my depth and casting to deeper water...all I could catch were gills.
   Honestly...catching anything from open water in March is a bonus and both of us were well satisfied with our results but by mid afternoon we were fairly chilled from the constant wind.
   You may remember me showing off this deer hair "crank bait"a few months ago. I finally got a chance to try it out and the results were better than I expected. First off...no I didn't catch anything with it, but I will! With a 2" body it was a bit much to cast with a 3wt rod, but on a long, moderately quick strip it rocketed to the bottom with a tight wobble that would have made Lauri Rapala proud. I played around with different retrieves and discovered by holding the rod under my right arm I could pull with both hands, maintain a fairly constant speed and attain greater diving depth. On a slack line it wobbled back to the surface. There's no doubt this style of bug is going to be deadly fishing predators in stillwaters.

  The first thing I did when returning home was to tie a couple scaled down versions for my new rod. Tied on a #4 baitholder hook these flies have a body lenght of 1". I can't wait to use them ...legally. Bass opener is still 3 months away.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Carping

  I got up fairly early this morning and instead of searching for hidden eggs, decided to christen  my new 3wt at the local ponds. Two hours of flogging the water, casting the narrow openings in the bullrushes, roll casts and reach casts. all the while trying to avoid cedar, dogwood and barberry on the back cast and with the rod tip, and for the most part succeeding. Two hours without a single bite and I was in heaven. Off to the next pond.

  Here the water is quite a bit muddier. I cast the margins, slowly bouncing the fly along the bottom. Working several hundred yards of shoreline, occasionally setting off territorial dogs in adjacent backyards. Finally...not a bite, but sight of a sunbathing school of carp. Off with the weighted nymph and start chucking a small wet hackle, crouched behind a stand of rushes. The slowly retrieved wet, just below the surface, gets the attention of the school and they all start closing in, only to turn away at the last second. The scenario is replayed over and over, through multiple fly changes, each time the school becoming warier to the point where, rather than spooking it completely, I make a major change in tactics. The fly rod is retired for the day, no longer brand new but still cherry.

  Out comes the lawn chair, box of worms and the ultra lite. Two minutes later...

  It completely left the water on hook set and immediately peeled off 10 yrds of line like maybe it thought it was a smallmouth bass.  It also completely spooked it's buddies. Eventually things quieted down, and after a few bluegill this guy came to hand
  For a healthier lifestyle, my doctor recently told me I should have fish at least twice a week. I couldn't agree more, I should do this more often!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Eyed Snake Fly

  While reviewing old fly files copied from the web or scanned from old magazines earlier this week, a few patterns jumped off the screen and shouted "TIE ME".

  The first, The Eyed Snake Fly, was originally tied for surf casting for stipers and features a cylindrical body of spun deer hair, an ostrich herl  tail, and the unusual addition of dumbbell eyes to make the fly float lower on the surface.
     The first one was tied on a large saltwater hook, the others tied on smaller bronze hooks with marabou added at the butt..

    These should appeal to bucket mouths and big toothies.

  The next pattern that demanded attention was The Killer Jim, another saltwater fly used for stripers. I've scaled down the proportions for fresh water and eliminated the zonker strip.
    Simply a marabou tail with a bit of crystal flash and a body of pearl mylar tube. This one was tied on a #4 baitholder hook and suitable for small to medium predators. Tie it with different colors, add weight and eyes or go up or down in size, the combinations are infinite.

  The third fly is an old Irish salmon fly called The Gosling.
  Hook - 3x long #6
  Tail - 4 pheasant tail fibers
  Rib - gold tinsel
  Body - caddis green ice dub
  Hackle - orange saddle
  Collar -chartreuse mallard flank

  This fly was designed to imitate a large swimming mayfly nymph and as such is not limited here to just trout and salmon but a full range of predators. Anyways... this is what I've been doing for the last week, while winter reasserts itself for one final gasp.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Yesterday I Drowned A Worm...

And I Liked It!

   There was no malice involved, but the drowning was intentional. My fly boxes are overflowing with proven and new patterns and here I am fishing with live bait. To a lot of you this doesn't make a whole lot of sense but the bottom line is that I needed to feel a good tug on my line and the only way to accomplish that was to dangle a worm below a float. Word on the street suggests he had it coming.

  The abbreviated winter of  2016 is in it's final stages, and with daily highs of 10C or more all week long ( that's 50F for those of you who use the Foreignheat scale) it was time to reacquaint myself with my backyard. Ice fishing is over for the year and trout season is still 5 weeks away so the only game to be played was at my local carp ponds.

  I loaded the saddlebags of my mountain bike with my ultralite, a small box of terminal tackle, a folding camp chair, and lest we forget...a box of 24 potential drowning victims. Funny...I don't recall ever hearing PETA protesting for the ethical treatment of bait. Throughout the 15 minute ride I envisioned casting to basking carp along the pond's weedy fringes.
   This pic is from 2014
  The reality I faced at my destination was that winter hadn't completely give up.

.   My third stop looked much the same but after 5 minutes of bush whacking waist high weeds I managed to find some open water.
    I spent half the afternoon comfortably basking in the spring sun, watching the ice sheet recede and sloughing off large rafts of floating scum that collected at my feet, all the while keeping a lookout for activity on the margins. After 3 hours of no action it was time to pack it in and as I retrieved the line one last time, it stopped dead at my feet.
  Definitely not what I expected to catch but welcome all the same. As it turned out the worm didn't really drown... it expired from massive trauma inflicted by a tiny, yet very hungry largemouth bass. The other 23 survived for another day.

  As I loaded up for the ride home it occurred to me that, although I can't legally fish it, I should check out the Rouge River, just a few blocks away. To my surprise it was running a little higher than last fall and crystal clear. Every time I'm there it amazes me how little this area is used recreationally! I've spent days down there without seeing anyone.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fishing Giggles

  Well...It's Sunday morning and I have nothing to share other than a few of my favorite comic strips:
The Far Side by Gary Larson and In The Bleachers by Steve Moore. So... grab a coffee, fire up the hookah, or whatever  mellows you out, and enjoy.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tackle Box Time Machine

  Have you ever been asked what you would do, or when/where you'd go if supplied with a time machine? Sure you have, and you've probably discussed the topic extensively. It's human nature to try and control our environment and the opportunity to change the present by affecting the past has been a dream for millenia. Whether to witness the marvels of the past or to right some wrongs, just about everyone would accept the challenge.

  Walking with dinosaurs sounds delusional,  if possible it would more likely be fleeing from dinosaurs. Witnessing the building of the pyramids would probably result in a "request" to help. and stopping (or possibly starting) a global genocide may seem noble but highly impractical for a common individual.

  Of course you know I'm already a time traveler, it's just that my travels are of the forward persuasion, one day at a time. If given the chance to travel the opposite direction, my needs would be comparably simple; one day back...and the time machine itself, light weight and compact enough to fit...lets say... in a tackle box. I don't want to give the impression that I'm not curious about the past, it's just that I've been told far too often "You should have been here yesterday".

  On the topic of time...Monday marked the latest date in my personal history to get out fishing in the New Year, and to celebrate the event Tackle Shop and I rearranged the alignment of the planets and made a reservation for the next day with Lake Simcoe's yeller bellies.
  Overnight flurries played havoc with pre-dawn rushhour traffic, and the normal 45 minute trip to Gilford took twice as long. We were met at the lake by Rob, operator of Gilford Yellow Huts, and he taxied us out to one of his rental ice huts situated over 20 feet of water a mile and a half from shore.
  As always, the first thing to go into the water is the transducer to the fish finder, followed by our "go to" ice fishing bait, a silver Slab Grabber with a chartreuse bead. It's an amazing lure that, with a little practice, you can make it glide away from the hole at a 45 degree angle or a side over side roll.
  On the first drop, a school of perch could be seen on the screen, charging off the bottom to meet the fluttering spoon , only to follow it down to the bottom and proceeded to stare at it like a swarm of penny less window shoppers. No amount of erratic jigging or deadsticking could elicit more than an occasional bump. It didn't take long for us to cycle through all the proven perch lures with only a handful of dinks to show for the effort.

  Now was the time to break out all those flies I'd tied specifically for a slow perch bite! What ensued was reminiscent of that Goldilocks story with a lot of too much of this and too much of that. Let me explain.
  This one had a great swimming motion with a subtle jigging action, slowly moving ahead with the tail fluttering up and down, but ended up scaring the wary perch with it's size and movement.
  Like the previous fly, this one had great fluttering movement, but didn't have enough weight to keep 20' of 4lb braid tight enough to feel the bite.
   This one came to life once submerged, but again, not weighted enough and too imposing in size. I should say here that I've never been a fan of adding extra weight to ice jigs as it throws off the balance and feel and frequently, when sight fishing, you can see the fish biting the added weight instead of the lure. I suppose that's a sign it's time to downsize.
    Attracted a lot of interest, but again too light. 
  I caught a few with these. Their weight forward design allowed them to dive head first and at 1.5" in length, proved to be a nice snack that bit back.
 Being the dumb old f*** that I am,  I completely forgot to bring these.

  So...after my tale of woe, you'd assume it was a tough day on the hard water with about 75 fish landed and only 4 "keepers" between the two of us in an 8 hour period. This was not the case for the six others that accompanied us in the sled back to shore as they each had 30lb buckets full of yeller bellies, mostly caught at sunrise! "You should have been here earlier"

I joke, of course. It was refreshing to finally get out.