Dec 31, 2008

Fly Tie Time

One of the problems I've found here in central Illinois is that the stores only sell trout flies, but we don't have any trout. If you want a bass bug you have to go on-line or make your own. So this year, a Christmas request I had was fly tying kit. Unfortunately Santa didn't come through. However, my in-laws did come through with a Gander Mountain gift card so I went out and purchased one yesterday. I spent most of the night playing around with it. I started out easy and followed the step-by-step instructions to tie a Woolly Bugger. It's kind of ugly and when I tie the next one it will be much better.

Then I got a little more advanced. I tied the following two Clouser Minnows without step by step instructions, but I did use a picture.

And finally I really stepped out of the box, I tied the following creature. I got the idea from a funny little fly I couldn't even begin to describe that Dave tied, but this is entirely different. In the short amount of time I've been looking at bass flies I've seen nothing like it, so I think I'll call it Clif's Crawdad. The only thing I think I will do differently next time is to make it weedless with a loop of heavy-weight mono and I'd like to see what it does if I move the weigh closer to the middle instead of near the eye. There are probably many ways to get the same effect, but this is how I did it:

Here is my first attempt at using MS Movie Maker...also Lunkerhunt's first video. I felt a video was required to do this thing justice. Here's hoping it works!

Dec 11, 2008

Historic Documents

As mentioned in a previous post, I recently stumbled upon some fishing pictures from 2003. I know these aren't the oldest fishing pictures of me in existence, but until Scott finds them these will have to do. Get on it Scott!

The pictures I found seem to all be from a single trip to the "Lacon Pits." That's what we called the former strip mine just north of Lacon, it's attached the river so it has plenty of species. There was good shore access, and the gravel bottom made fishing mostly snag free. Sadly, the following year we went there to fish and all the trees were torn out and a no fishing sign posted. Not sure what happened, but I'm guessing they planned to develop the lake or there was some sort of liability issue. If that hadn't happend, I'd still go there all the time. Maybe I should drive by, it's been 5 years so maybe I can fish it again.

I've decided to string these out a little and not post them all at once, to keep my two or three readers begging for more. Next up, pictures from the great gar harvest of 03.

Skinny Scott and a drum

Long haired Kerr with something, can't tell what.

Me with a bass

Dec 2, 2008

Tackle Box Photo Shoot

I got an artsy feeling, so I pulled out my Nikon and a few of my more photogenic lures. Here are four of the best shots I got. They are of an old crankbait I have but don't use, one of my largest spinners and my Spook Jr.

Edit: There are 4 pictures, if you see less hit the refresh button. For some reason it's not loading them all on my computer....hmm

Nov 27, 2008

Shad snagging: a gentleman's game

Back in March of this year, I reported on this blog I had snagged a large shad. Looking through some recently rediscovered fishing pictures (circa 2003) I found the following. Turns out March wasn't the first time I had snagged a large shad.

I've found a few pictures from a trip to the "Lacon Pits" back in 2003, if I'm motivated I'll post the rest. Maybe it will give me something to do this winter, in the mean time this is it....

Nov 8, 2008

Exciting Times for High School Anglers

As some of you may know I first started fishing in earnest while still in high school. What some of you may not know is that the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) will begin offering competitive bass fishing to highschoolers throughout the state in 2009. This is awesome and while I wish such an option had been available for me, I'm excited for all kids who have the opportunity now to learn about the sport and how important conservation is.

It sounds like there will be a typical sectional/state tournament to narrow the field down to the state champion school. The details (such as sectional dates and locations) on how this will work are still a little sketchy, but they do know the season will end at Carlyle Lake on May 8-9, 2009. The official rulebook is here, but like I said they're a little sketchy. I imagine schools will begin holding smaller tournaments as a sort of unofficial regular season. In fact, what may be the first such tourney was won by Batavia on Oct 19th out on Lake Shabbona.

On November 5th, the list of schools who will be participating in the 2009 state tourney was announced. 214 schools signed up! I find that number amazing, and I'm really happy to this because it means there is a strong interest in fishing throughout the state. I see IVC on the list...GO GHOSTS!

The official rules indicate all schools will participate in a single class tourney for the championship... maybe as participation grows over the years this will change to even the playing field. While smaller rural schools probably have a higher percentage of experienced anglers and it only takes two kids in a boat to win it all, money can make a huge difference in this sport. As the state tourney is in early May and all sectionals would need to happen before that, the bass will still be deep - so boats with sonar will probably do well. I hope it doesn't boil down to the richest schools fishing Lake Carlyle in fast boats with fancy equipment while the smaller schools watch from the shore. Maybe a date change to Sep/Oct would help boost the fish count and excitement but it wouldn't leave much time for a "regular season" of smaller outings.

All in all I'm excited to see out this works out. I expect some growing pains, but in a year or two it could really be something.

The official IHSA bass fishing site
The other (more interesting) IHSA bass fishing site.

Nov 3, 2008

Personal Day

I woke up this morning to a beautiful forecast - mid seventies and sunny in November! Couple that with my bout of insomnia last night and I had all the motivation I needed to take a personal day. I started my day with a quick nap then headed out to Mineral Springs park again to see if there were any trout left. Apparently all the trout have been harvested, or more likely I'm still lacking that "something" with the fly rod. After 3 hours of nothing at the park, I packed it in and grabbed some lunch from the local Gas-Mart. After a fine lunch of Combos, I went to a lake where I hold a historically significant chance of catching fish: Banner Marsh.

I've been secretly dreaming of catching a monster as my first fish on the fly rod then writing about what an awesome experience it was. Instead I picked this puppy up about 6 inches from shore. I literally picked it up, when it bit I just lifted my rod (cane pole style) to land it. Anyway, the monkey is off my back and I can finally concentrate on catching nice fish instead of just concentrating on catching any fish.

Sorry, I didn't bring my scale - no measurements.

Side note: apparently repeatedly ripping a balsa wood popper through the brush behind me is a good way to find my pockets devoid of poppers. Time for a trip to the outdoor store.

Oct 25, 2008

Mineral Springs Park

As some of you know, I've been trying out fly fishing lately. When you think about fly fishing you think trout. Well, here in central Illinois the trout fisheries aren't exactly around every corner. While we don't have pristine gravel bottom streams filled with trout feasting on may flies, what we do have is Mineral Springs Park in Pekin. Every fall, the DNR dumps a bunch of rainbow trout into the lagoon at Mineral Springs. While it isn't exactly their natural habitat, and I'm sure they don't thrive, it does provide us with an opportunity to catch trout. Really our only opportunity, so don't laugh if you're reading this from Colorado; it's all we have.

Dave and I went to Mineral Springs park with our fly rods, (I got a nice St. Croix 8wt for my birthday, thank you honey) and tried our hand at fly fishing in a lake. While it wasn't as exciting as standing in the rushing waters of the Mackinaw River, it did provide some entertainment. Unfortunately the only real excitement I had was watching Dave catch fish after fish while I caught none. It was bad, I was even using a very similar fly and standing 5 feet away from him using the same techniques. Anyway, Dave caught one blue gill, enough crappie that I lost track and two rainbow trout. The two trout are shown below.

Oct 19, 2008

Flying the Mackinaw

Dave and I went to the Mackinaw River to work on our fly fishing abilities, and they need some work. Perhaps we should call Mr. Jonn Graham of Streamstalker fame for a guided tour and some tips. This was my first fly fishing experience ever and I think it was only Dave's third or forth.

Well, we drove around for 3 hours looking for a place with public access AND shallow enough water for waders (the later being the real problem). Once we settled on a place we tried hard, really hard. The water was clear, the leaves were coming down, the sun was out and the wind was howling down the valley; overall the day was a perfect example of why I love the outdoors. Ultimately we didn't catch any fish on fly rods but later in the day Dave abandoned is fly and threw a craw daddy crank to catch the pictured smallie on his second cast. The thing squirmed away after the picture but before we could get measurements, but it looked to be in the 2 pound range.

It's obvious I have much to learn and you'll probably be kept up to date on my schooling. So here's what I've learned so far.:
- The location of the only place acceptable for public waders on the Mackinaw within a reasonable driving distance.
- How deep one needs to stand to ensure the current will overpower one.
- I don't know how to catch fish with flies
- A canoe would make access easier
- I need to go try again

Sorry the only fish picture is out of focus....

Oct 18, 2008

Fly practise and a 15lb catfish

I was practicing my fly fishing technique in preparation for a serious trip tomorrow and I caught a catfish in my neighbors yard.

I had tied a small piece of cloth to the line and was practicing the cast. My distance goal was to get it over the railroad tie you see in the picture. After the cloth landed on one particular cast, bam. Straight out from behind the garage the cat had it and wouldn't let go. I set my rod down to chase him off. He ran, but took the cloth and my rod with him. Afterward I went out for a picture and discovered the little rascal is friendly as can be.

Oct 13, 2008

Banner Marsh Trips

This was the last weekend for fishing on many area public waters before the waterfowl season opens. Also, my wife was out of town leaving me plenty of time to slack off, so I went to Banner Marsh twice in two days this weekend. First day was slow, second day was sloooow. The two pictures are from when Dave and I went Saturday. I had a 10 incher and the pictured 3.5lb bass and Dave caught what I believe to be his first fish on a fly rod, it's not much to look at but a major milestone none the less. Sunday produced no fish, but not for lack of effort. We threw everything in the box and couldn't muster up a fish. In a true sign of desperation, we even trolled crank baits.

Aug 20, 2008

Banner Marsh and a Picture Worthy Definition

Went to Banner Marsh with Scott on a weekday evening and experienced some slow fishing. It was nice because Scott doesn't come around's no fault of his. In fact, if you ask, he'll say the same about me. Despite the reminiscing and catching up we did, this is the only fish we deemed picture worthy.

"Picture worthy" is a term I've been throwing around on this blog for a while and it's clear to me now that an small disclaimer is in order. I realize now "picture worthy" is definitely a relative term. This fish is big relative to other fish of the day, but compared to the bass normally featured on Lunkerhunt, this thing is just a toddler.

Aug 16, 2008

Banner Marsh

Father in law and I went out and fished Johnson Lake at banner marsh. We didn't have a lot of success and here's the only fish we felt deserved a picture.

Aug 2, 2008

Strip Pit Fishing

Some co-workers and I went to a private strip mine club located in Fulton County for some bass fishing. Overall it was good for two of us (keeping 7 total, but letting the little ones and big ones below go), but the third guy somehow got blanked.




Jul 13, 2008

Spring Lake Swans

I went out to Spring Lake by myself and did some shore fishing. It was a blue bird sky and the bass sure were cooperating so I settled down on a lawn chair with some night crawlers and fished for catfish. I ended up catching two channel cats that were nothing special, but while sitting in my chair a couple swans came in real close. One of the two was banded as you'll see in the pictures.

These things came within 10 feet of me, most of the pictures were taken without having to zoom in.

Jul 6, 2008

Blue Hole

I went down to southern Missouri for our annual July 4th camping trip and family reunion at the Blue Hole. I only did some casual fishing and caught a few small bluegill. Perhaps more interesting is that one night my mom and I were sitting by the fire and an armadillo came into camp. I didn't have my camera, so he escaped without being documented. I did however see a bat that was acting peculiar and managed to capture three pictures. It looked like he had taken a dip in the pond and wasn't taking kindly to it; at one point he flopped on his back and laid on the ground for a few minutes before flying off. Maybe he had rabies, it sure wasn't acting like a normal bat.

Jun 30, 2008

Lake Delavan, Wisconsin

Co-workers and I went up to Lake Delavan, Wi in the end of June for our second annual toothless beaver fishing trip. We all had a good time. We started out Friday with a tailgate at Miller Park before going into the game. After that it was all fishing, drinking and boccie ball - in that order. Over all the fishing was just good enough to keep us excited, but we didn't catch any trophies. The closest we came was Scott's 18 incher. The crappie didn't cooperate like they did last year and were spotty with only a few nice ones. This year we had two boats again, and I only have pictures from the one I was on.

Jun 15, 2008

Father's Day on Lake Eureka

I took dad to Lake Eureka for fathers day. Rumor has it, the bass here are plump. So we fished for a few hours and only managed to catch two fish, including the following fine specimen. She weighed in at about 2 and a quarter pounds. Note worth is the black spot on her back near the dorsel fin. Dad caught one too, but it was little and he didn't want to document how small it was.

Another good thing to point out...this was the maiden voyage of my new boat. She did very well, didn't leak a bit and cut through the water a little better than The Good Ship Clif. It's taken a while to get the boat legal. The state needed the previous owner to sign over the title or fill out some paperwork to issue a new title. It turns out the previous owner never registered the boat and he happens to be dead, so finding out who the previous owner was turned out to be tough. Finally, I navigated the red tape, found the previous owner and got her legal.

I'm still working on a good name. Now that I've had her out and know what she's capable of, it shouldn't be long before a name becomes evident.