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 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 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.