Monday, March 29, 2010

3/26-27/2010 outing

Uncle Johnny Rotten (UJR) and I spent the weekend down in Grant Co. looking for some big browns and Blue-Winged Olives.
John spent the weekend fishing streamers in search of big fish. It paid off with this 21" brown on Friday, just before dark. Look at the shoulders on that fish, impressive. Although John was pumped about landing it, his immediate response was that smallmouth half the size fight twice as hard.
We fished a couple of different streams and within those streams a couple of different types of water, from wooded to open and big to small. We took a few fish from the run above, which was at the transition from wooded to more open stream.

As usual, I fished dry flies probably more than I should have. On Friday it was BWO's and on Sat it was midges (different streams and perhaps different weather conditions). The fish above was one of a number small fish taken during the midge hatch on Sat. I had to leave during the middle of the hatch ~3:00 :(

I took this fish on Friday during the BWO hatch. Just when I was thinking of putting the dries away, this fatty rainbow rose to my cripple.

A couple of runs later I took this 14-15 inch brown (long and skinny).

John, hooked in.

My stripping finger after two days of non-stop fishing. Time to redevelop the callouses.
Check out UJR's pic's here:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

3/26 Weekend in WI

Small trout streams in Grant County WI.
Good Company.Venison cheddar brats, buffalo burgers, and more venison cheddar brats. (not pictured)
Nate taking em on dries.
The pig.
I love big fish from small streams.
This guy was sitting just below the riffle.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

3-16-2010 Outing

Fished yesterday afternoon/evening for a couple of hours in La Crosse County after work. I didn't anticipate fishing and so didn't bring the camera along (again). I started out fishing nymphs under an indicator because that was how my rod was rigged up when I finished fishing on Saturday. I landed a number of small fish this way, and one 15-16" fish which looked very similar to the fish shown below that I landed on Saturday. Sorry for the rod/fish photo (unappealing, I know) but fishing alone stinks for photos.
I saw a handful of midges, but no fish rising. I also noted a couple of fairly large (#12-14) stoneflies in the air. After two fish came up and tried to eat my indicator I put the damn thing away. There is nothing like meticulously constructing flies and then having a fish try to eat your florescent bobber to make you wonder just who you are trying to impress. Taking the stoneflies in the air into account, and the attempts at my indicator, I put on a #12 caddis dry-fly and took a small fish on the first cast. Sweet. I fished that fly through a couple of runs without another strike and then switched over to streamers. I landed another 15-16" brown on a streamer and a handful of smaller fish.

In the last two outings to this little creek, I've landed almost exclusively fish under 10 inches, with three fish over 15 inches. There may be larger fish in this creek, but there seems to be a real lack of fish in the 10-15 inch range. The data shown below are quite dated, from Thorn and Anderson (1993, MNDNR Invst. Report 428) but still shows approximate length at age for brown trout from MN, Michigan, and the American West. You will have to add an inch or two to the fish I've been catching, since they are from Wisconsin and everything is a little bigger in Wisco. Am I right?
At any rate, a 15 inch brown will be starting its 5 or 6th year right now. -Which humbles me when I consider that this is a wild trout stream. These fish were born in this very stream 5 years ago, and have persisted through two incredible floods during their lifetime. I wonder if these floods did a number on the age 2-4 year old fish, as these fish would have been just born during the 2008 flood. I have yet to land a fish in this age-class in this stream. I suppose I'll have to keep fishing it to find out.

In March of 2009 I made a few visits to my local streams and found the streams full of suckers and chubs. This wasn't a disappointment as I relish the opportunity to hook into a quilback, redhourse, or any member of the carp family. I didn't hook into smallies until the first week in April. Adult smallmouth migrate to larger waters downstream to spend the cold season. Some of those deeper pools were piled up with smallmouth in early April. The junction points where creek meets the larger river held the most fish, while the upper sections of the streams held fewer fish early in the season. A study performed by the IDNR reported radio-tagged smallmouth around Elkader migrated 35 miles downstream to the Mississippi in the fall and returned the following spring.

This female recently dropped a belly of eggs. She had no fight in her. Like hooking a wet sock.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

1st of 2010

A couple weeks ago I fished a nice stream, Catfish Creek. Lots of work has gone into this watershed since 2007. This plump rainbow was tasty on some tortilla chips.

In a couple weeks my backyard streams will be stacked with carp! A few more weeks and my backyard streams will be stacked with smallies!

Warmwater fly fishing

During a ski with Uncle Johnny Rotten (UJR) in Feb. 2009, we were discussing some of the finer things in life, such as the various species of fish that can be caught with a fly. The conversation somehow drifted to a friendly wager: to the guy who can catch more species of warmwater fish on a fly goes a pizza and beer.

A blog was then developed ( which at the time was called "Warmwater fly provocation", where we posted the various species that we caught during the 2009 season. In the end, we both learned that there are specific types of rivers and species that we love to spend our time on, and there are others that we don't like that much. The problem with the competition became that in order to try and get a walleye on a fly, we had to go and fish water and use techniques that we didn't much care for. Nevertheless, it was fun, UJR beat me by one species, a quillback; a species he is now gearing up to target during their spring spawning run.

UJR also found some absolutely awesome small streams that hold big smallmouth. He is now transforming the blog above into a site devoted to catching various warmwater species in Eastern Iowa, with smallies as the main species.

Our friendly competition helped John learn something that he probably would have learned anyhow, only perhaps more quickly. That is, he learned that streams he was driving over on his way to trout fish, held some bigger and funner fish, smallmouth. Many of the small creeks in Eastern Iowa were historically probably full of trout, but are now too warm. But they still hold good populations of smallmouth and various carps. This is information that people need to know, because healthy fisheries don't just happen. In fact, the more people fish in an area, the more money goes to that area to improve fishing, and then things start to snowball.

Thanks to the National Fish Habitat Action Plan: ( folks like us can learn more about our local fisheries and what we can do to improve them. In this area, we are lucky to have two partnerships, the driftless area restoration effort:

which focuses on trout streams in the driftless area. And the Fisher's and Farmer's partnership:

which focuses on those other streams that most of us drive over on our way to the driftless area, but which UJR finds big smallies in. If you fish, please support these groups, either financially, or by volunteering. And stay tuned to UJR's website for some sweet warmwater action.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weekend Update

I had a trip planned to fish Grant County over the weekend. Decided to fish closer to home due to the chance of cloudy/cold water from the recent rains. I fished LaCrosse County on Sat. It was windy and rainy and would have been miserable had I not been fishing. Fish we hitting pretty consistently-caught fish on streamers and nimps-mostly nimps. The fish of the day was this nice 15" male brown trout, which took a #18 pheasant tail. I saw it come out from under a lunker structure, grab my fly and then head right back to the lunker again. Prettly lousy fight-as with all of these fish right now.

The release...

The stream....
In other news, the Black River is alive with water. Friday morning I woke up to a 95% ice covered river. One hour later, it was 95% ice free and starting to rage.

Late in the day on Friday, there was still some ice.

Late Sunday, there was water everywhere.

It won't be long now!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rainy weekend in store

I have a trip planned with Johnny Rotten to Grant County for the weekend. Its going to be wet. It makes me dream of this day...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Where Smallies Live

Rock, trees, stumps, whatever gives this fish a place to ambush is perfect. Find some water with rock and you’ll find the fish. Fishing for smallmouth on small streams and creeks is a thrill. With the right conditions smallmouth can be very predictable.


I took Junior out to do a little scouting and some fishing for the Wisco trout opener. I only had a couple of hours and decided the time would best be spent investigating a couple of streams close to the house.
I found some real nice looking water. The substrate was mostly sand (like most of the rivers North of the La Crosse river) but this section had a bunch of habitat work and I moved some fish out from under the lunkers, but not many.
Look at these badasses.

This was an interesting stretch of river. It was impossible to fish with Jr. on by back because of the alders and elderberry lining streambank. But it had tons of aquatic veg and I'm willing to bet some brookies too. I'll have to get back here again someday.
-Looking forward to a weekend trip to Grant County!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Other days it does matter....

I got back to that certain small creek full of nice sized fish. The fish were there, they were chasing my flies, but they were not taking them with the same type of reckless abandon as before. As a result, I ended up with a number of short-strikes and some follows, but I landed no big fish. Instead, it was the usual for this creek-lots of small trout. I only took a photo of one fish because it was a pretty little brook trout. Most of the fish that I have caught in this stream are about the size of the trout shown below, which is why I have been so excited about finding the larger trout.
35 degrees and sunny, great day to be out!

Here is why I suspect the fish are so active in this stream. There are a number of springs all along the creek.

There are also a number of nice deep holes with overhead cover. Some bigger fish sit under that log. The challenge is swinging a fly under there.

Brook trout are pretty eh-and they like big flies.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Some days...

Some days it just doesn't seem to matter what fly you use, where you cast it, or how you retrieve it. Sunday 02/28/2010 was one of those days.

Leaving the house, I was looking forward BWO's and midges on the wing. When I got to the river, I saw no such action. After picking up a few fish on nymphs, I started to see a couple of bugs in the air. I switched to a soft-hackle and started swinging and skating it down and across. At that point, I knew it would be a good day. A nice sized fish (~16") moved about 10 feet for the soft hackle, took it into it's mouth and turned away, breaking my line. I promptly cut my leader back to 3X and put on a streamer. The fly was modeled after the 'steelhead samurai', with a marabou tail and a pine squirrel wing, but it didn't really matter what the fly was. After this point I caught fish on streamers down and across, upstream dead drifted, and stripped in crosscurrent. Fish were in riffles, in pools, in tail outs. Fish where everywhere and moving sometimes long distances to my fly. It was one of the finer days I have ever had on a driftless area stream.

I won't go into details about the fish, because I have no photos of the day (dead battery) and so you will just have to take my word for it. But in the end, I landed no fish over 16", but over 10 fish were at least 14". That is simply huge for this stream-it is tiny. It was like all of the fish that I caught in this stream last year, which were 10, 12, and 14 inches, are now 12, 14, and 16 inches. In addition to the 10 biguns, I landed twice as many 10 and 12 inchers, but who's counting. 2010 is shaping up to be a great year. I'm planning on hitting this stream again later in the week with camera in hand.