Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best fly of 2012

The samurai was the fly of the year for me. Black marabou tail, peacock body, grizzly hackle, and rainbow flashabou with black rabbit strip for the wing. I added some rubber legs to these and tossed in a couple of olive buggers. I would like to credit the person that developed this fly, but all I know is Trey Combs mentions this fly as the 'Bulkley River Samurai' in his steelhead fly fishing book and indicates that he first saw people fishing it in the late 1980's.  If anyone knows who is responsible for this magical creation, please let me know.
Merry Christmas John, these are yours. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

November Cloopers

Clooping carp in November? I'll take it. I more commonly see this behavior in the summer when the cotton wood trees are dropping seeds. So I tossed a dry & dropper. The dropper being a very nice soft hackle tied by WFF -- Justin Carroll. When fishing a pod of cloopers it's wise to target the outlying fish. Once the pod is spooked they may not go back to school for awhile. I picked a few fish off the edges and eventually spooked the pod. Sipped hot coffee waiting for the cloopers to return. They didn't, but that was fine by me.
Ocean Floor Fossils. Coralville Lake / Lake Macbride.

Monday, November 12, 2012

November Trout

I went to the river in search of large spawning brown trout. I did not find any.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Driftless Ugly Bug or the Dirty Mop?

My woolly buggers have evolved into something resembling a bass fisherman's mop jig. I'm also contemplating calling this pattern 'The Dirty Mop'. Feedback welcome. 

Tying Tips: 
I prefer a hook with a shorter shank. This helps keep the legs from getting tangled in the hook gap. • The legs are secured with turns of wire. I use craft wire. A thin wire may cut through the legs. • These particular rubber legs are from a pack of bass jig skirts. • I'm tying on a size 8 hook. • Overall pattern is about 2" long. 

Don't hesitate to throw some split shot on and dredge that deep pool with a 'Dirty Mop', or is it a 'Driftless Ugly Bug'? 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Instinctively Crazy

I've grown an affinity for rubber legged buggers. The movement gets em. I'm thinking the rubber legs are particularly helpful in slow water. Whereas a standard bugger in slow water will have less action. I've got a pending post featuring the 'Driftless Ugly Bug'.

Andy and I managed a quick small stream outing this week. Hit the water around 9:00a.m. and didn't catch more than a couple chubs before noon. Then something shifted, perhaps just our luck. The browns decided to act like pre-spawn fall browns. Instinctively Crazy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Good Driftless Fishing

Nate and I spent a couple days throwing streamers on the Driftless. The colder days have triggered browns to reclaim their breeding grounds. Pretty soon they'll be making beds. The pre-spawn bite can be crazy good--perhaps the best time to catch a Driftless pig. I've been looking forward to this window of time that follows every long summer.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gar-You gotta believe!

I doubt Alan Sparhawk was thinking about Gar when he wrote this song. Nevertheless, I give you a very slow look at a gar,  to the tune of "Little argument with myself" by Low

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall Steelheading is a process

To fully appreciate flyfishing for steelhead in the fall, you must think of it as a process. Of course, you can simply show up at a river and fish for these migratory beasts any old day of the week. You may even catch one or more. But that really isn't what it's all about. I've realized this since moving away from a certain Great Lakes coastal area.
When I wake up in September and it is raining (like today), I think of this fish

For me, fall steelheading would begin on a day like today; a rainy mid September morning. The fall colors are only starting to change, the weather is still pretty warm, and the flows are typically low and clear this time of year. It is just starting to feel like steelhead should be in the river. You go because you've hooked fish during September before. But mostly you go because it is raining and you are craving what October and November will soon feel like. While it doesn't feel like that now, you know that you are starting the process of fall steelheading. You also know that fishing in October and November won't feel the same if you don't put some hard work in early. If you are like me, you've got to earn your fish.
October Steelhead are also very nice, but only the really big ones are memorable
During October the fish show up. Some were already there in September and maybe you hooked a couple then, but the majority of the fish enter the river during mid October. Now you experience days when you hook and land several fish. But you also get skunked. That's just the way it is. You play by the rules of the fish and the river, you can't force success here. The leaves are at their peak colors now and the mornings are cold. The is what steelheading feels like.  
                Perhaps just as important as your experiences on the water are your experiences off the water. The fly shops are buzzing with talk about big fish, where someone hooked this or that fish and on what fly. You don't contribute much to these conversations, choosing instead to listen and nod your head. You meet friends at local bars to watch the baseball playoffs and talk about your last day on the river. At the end of the season you will look back and realize that for every hour you spent on the river you spent 2 or 3 thinking about being there, tying flies, talking about it. For me, fall steelheading was about immersing myself in a feeling best characterized by constant anticipation and tension. Not catching fish only increased the time I spent thinking about catching fish and further added to the anticipation of getting back on the water.
                The fall steelhead season ends in November, when the air temperature might not get above freezing all day. You still fish because you know that fish are in the river. You also know that you won't be having the sort of days you had in October. But you go because this is the end of a two-month process. Most of the leaves are off the trees now and the scene is brown and cold, perhaps with a dusting of snow. Ironically, you spend more time looking around now than you did when the fall colors were so pretty because you simply can't stand to be in the water for extended periods of time- it's just too cold. And then it's over, the season ends. Perhaps more importantly, the mystery is gone. You now know that the fish are in the river and you know where to find them. That doesn't mean you'll catch them. But you know much more now than you did in Sept when this whole process started. In the Spring you will come back and fish hard. But you will know that the fish are in and the process will be much different.
Damn I miss fall steelheading. Driving to the coast for a couple of days just isn't the same.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Some excuses for not catching fish (gar) this morning

They just aren’t biting.
I wonder if that airboat that went by a while back spooked them.
Maybe they can hear the kids slamming doors up on the hill.
I should just put a hook on this fly and fish it deep for smallies.
Gar really aren’t that fun to catch anyway, it sucks getting all the rope out of their teeth.
It’s just nice to be out on the water.
This overcast morning would have been a good one to spend fishing trout on that one river in Iowa.
Ok, maybe they are eating, I just saw some rises over there.
This fly doesn’t have enough flash and it’s too beat up, doesn’t have enough rope left to land a big one anyway.
I need scent.
I’m fishing this fly too shallow.
I think they want it presented upstream, directly in line with the current, not broad side.
What are they taking? They are eating something, I can see them.
Screw it, I’m out of coffee and getting hungry. Gar suck.
-My excuses are getting old, perhaps you have some that you would like to share.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Some trends in bass, pike and bluegill abundance on the Upper Mississippi River

The Upper Mississippi river north of La Crosse, WI.

There is something like 140 known fish species that inhabit the Mississippi River. Knowing how specious this big river is, a couple of years ago I was sure I would beat John in a contest to see who could catch more warmwater species on the fly rod. John lives more than an hour from the Miss. and at the time I lived 4 blocks from it. In the end, John humbled me by a single species: a quillback caught from a small stream in Iowa. But this is not an article about quillback of John's superior warm water tactics.

19 year trends in the catch frequency of bluegills, bass and pike
That year I learned that there are 120 or so species that are not easily caught with flies and a dozen or so that are. Three species that are particularly easy to fool with flies: bluegill, largemouth bass, and pike, are also quite common in the Upper Miss. Shown here (left) are 19 year trends in the frequency of occurrence of these species by La Crosse, WI. The data here were collected using a method called 'day electrofishing', which is basically driving around in a boat, shocking the water for 15 minutes in a specific location and collecting all of the fish that float to the surface. The high frequency of occurrence of these species indicates that when  the DNR shocks the water in any given place, there is a greater than 90% chance they will find a bluegill or bass, and a greater than 40% chance that they will get a pike, pretty good odds.

Another way to look at the fishery of the UMR is through the lens of squarified tree maps. In the map to the right, the size of the box is scaled to the proportional abundance of each species. BLGL (bluegill) are like rats, making up more than 1/3 of the catch in 2011 in Pool 8 near LaCrosse. What's more, the green color of the box indicates that the bluegill catch in 2011 was greater than historical estimates. LMBS (largemouth) were the second most abundant species in 2011, which is good because they can eat some of those bluegill (and perhaps your streamer or popper).

So find yourself a boat launch or spillway and tie on a fly, the numbers are on your side. Oh, and if you want to catch one of those other 120 species, you might try dragging a crawler along the bottom of the river.

To have some fun with Upper Mississippi River fish data, go here:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Skinny Warmwater

When I think home water, I think skinny warmwater. It's where I started with a fly rod.  I fish many water types, but skinny warmwater is my claim. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

high temps and low flows

Casualties of the drought. Big flatheads looking for cooler water. They were laying at the confluence of a creek and the Cedar River. I'd guess the largest two fish at 25-30lb, prior to their deterioration. The warm low water is taking it's toll on fish throughout the midwest.