Feb 22, 2009

A rule interpretation is required

I seem to have lost my official fly fishing rule book. Can anyone tell me if jig and pig fishing is prohibited? I got the idea today while moving tackle to my new tackle box. A fly rod is perfectly suited for a slow presentation so why not? Why stop here, why not a Powerbait? Maybe I'll tie a couple flies for the express purpose of transferring these proven techniques to my fly fishing experience. There isn't much info out there, but it's clear I'm not the first to think of this.

On a slightly related note: I was at the store the other day and noticed a couple things. I found some red pork frogs, that's new to me. Also, it seems someone finally told Uncle Josh what a pain finding certain colors can be. They've switched out the sticker on the lid with one indicating the color. See below for the example in red next to a jar I bought last year in black. It was easy for me to look at all the jars on the shelf and ID the colors without having to pick each one up. That old technique might be why I've never seen red before.

Feb 19, 2009

They're small but they're scrappy

I've noticed a recent trend in Illinois sport fishing. In the past year, youngsters have been taking over the record books, and they're doing it sneaky style. I'll start out with the least sneaky, in fact this story is quite normal.

Marcus Miller, 15 and shown above, caught his 4.52 lb (18.75 in long) hybrid crappie on May 14th, 2008 in his family's private Jefferson County farm pond. This fish was headed for the frying pan until Miller's grandpa convinced him he might have something special. Instead the slab was weighed and tested confirming it's status as an Illinois state record hybrid crappie. Miller's fish beat out the previous hybrid crappie record of 2.81 lb by a landslide. Also of note, this is the largest crappie of any kind caught in Illinois. The record black is 4.5 lb, the white weighed in at 4.43 lb. I've caught a 14.5 in crappie, having held that one I can't imagine one being 4 inches longer!

On April 24th, 2008 John Chione, 13, caught 6.71 lb silver redhorse, above, unseating the previous record of 6.63 lb. The next day, his brother Andrew Chione, 15, set a new record for shortnose redhorse with the 3.74 lb fish shown below. He destroyed the previous shortnose record of 2.16 lb (held by a 9 year old).

What is particularly sneaky about this is, while most people have never heard of these fish, Andrew and John knew their fish were records. My suspicion is the previous records were weak, and they somehow knew it. How else could they set two records in two days at the same spot? I would have tossed these back. Talk about being aware of your surroundings, I'm impressed.

And finally the one I believe to be the most sneaky, but the most awesome. On Nov 3rd, 2008 Jon Zettler, 18, got in a boat for the second time of his life and caught what appeared to be a 2.06 lb yellow bass at Rend Lake. The previous record for yellow bass was 2lb. Following genetic testing, it was discovered to actually be a yellow/white bass hybrid. The clarification in species was no problem for Jon's hopes of setting an Illinois state record because...wait for it...there is no other recorded catch of a yellow/white hybrid bass. The state has recognized Jon's fish as a state record. Most likely no one has ever had a reason for genetic testing, but Jon's apparent record yellow was just the motivation required to establish a new fish catagory. Because the yellow record remains at 2 lb (that was close) I think this record might be safe for a while, but then I read the record white is 4.8 lb and I think there is hope for the rest of us. Jon's ability to stay in the books might depend on our ability to distinguish a yellow from a hybrid.

Feb 17, 2009

Stick it to the man...man!

I brought my laptop home from work tonight, hoping to get some work done. I did that last night and it's just what they want me to do again tonight. I tied flies instead, here's what I came up with.

First is a beaded nymph I made up. It's got a pheasant tail, olive dubbing and soft partidge hackle. The hook is a #12 scud/emerger. Click the images for greater detail, I spent a lot of effort in getting high quality close ups of the flies so you better appreciate it.

Next is a clouser minnow. Mostly white buck tail with a little blue. Add some silver krystal flash and a small barbell eye to a #4 plane shank and you're catching smallies.

This is another Clif original. It's on a #14 dry fly hook. The tail is white bucktail, cut short. The body is filled with foam and wrapped in black dubbing. The wings are soft partridge hackle.

This one is based loosely on the wholly bugger. Substitute rabbit fur (from a zonker) in place of the maraboue tail. It's on a #6 streamer hook.

And I finally got around to tying a size down version of the Clouser Mad Tom. I'm still not really sure the exact instructions for duplicating Clouser's original but all the pieces are there. This one is on a #1 plan shank. Bicolored rabbit strip, a medium barbell eye and white bucktail.

Word on the street is that Spring Lake (and others) thawed last week during the heat wave and rain. Mastering Spring Lake is on my list for year. Now that temps are hovering around freezing again I can only hope the ice stays away long enough for me to feed the monkey. I wonder what's going on this weekend...if you're interested, you know who to talk to.

Feb 15, 2009

Oh-nine plans coming together

It's a new year, a new administration, and my 2009 fishing gameplan is shaping up. Of course, I'll be making regular visits to Banner Marsh: the warm comfortable jammy pants I've been sliding into for a few years now. I'm a little excited about wading in Banner during the spring season. One of my other goals for this season is to spend more time exploring new waters. I've fished Spring Lake a few times but not as much as I'd like, Double T is sounding like a real possibility and Scott keeps telling me he'll take me to his fishing club more this year than last.

Add to the mix two presents. My lovely wife bought me a St. Croix 8wt fly rod for my birthday, then turned around two months later and got me a fish finder on Christmas. I'll definitely be working on the fly fishing at local lakes and rivers. Add loaner kayaks to a fly fishing trip and there is a good chance I'll drown this year. The fish finder is going to just save me time. It's taken me 3 fishing seasons to get a concrete understanding of the structure in a particular section of a particular lake at Banner. Now with the finder I can map out the contours much more quickly; aiding in my goal to master fresh water.

And finally I've got a few trips tentatively on the schedule. Assuming the current economic situation doesn't interfere...

1) Annual TBA fishing trip. This will be the third installment of a coworker outing. We've done it in August and June, August worked well and I think June was too early so I'm pushing for a July or later date. This year there is also talk of a new venue, which may dictate a new month. There is still plenty of loose ends to tie up before I know for sure.

2) The in-laws have talked about a trip. Possibly down south, but last we talked they weren't sure of a location.

3) The blue hole trip. This year our annual family reunion camping trip has me a little more excited than normal. I know for a fact the pond we camp next to holds grassy pickerel, and I know for a fact I have caught 12 inch (or more) pickerel here before. At the time I didn't think it was special so there are no pictures. My goal this year is to catch a trophy pickerel and document it for you.

And finally I have a strong interest in continuing to work on Lunker Hunt. I've discovered it's quite enjoyable to blog and I'll spend this year working to make this blog more enjoyable for you. Together we'll spend 2009 in pure enjoyableness.

Feb 13, 2009

Good forage is critical

Yesterday I got a hot tip about the crappie bite being on at the Woodford Ditch. It got me all worked into a tizzy, and I hurriedly threw together some crappie size minnow-looking flies. I admit they're kind of sloppy, but I was just trying to get something done in a hurry. I tied these 5 in about 30 minutes.

So I got to work 1.5 hours early, and borrowed an extra hour from Wednesday to be on the shore at 3:30 (sun sets about 5:30 this time of year). In the process I got a few coworkers excited too, so they joined me. We threw jigs, floated minnows under bobbers and I flailed away. No crappies to be found! The water had risen a great deal overnight and that must have changed their mood. After an hour Colton had to go do something important, so myself and Scott picked a new spot. He spotted some shag jumping, we got there and tossed in minnows. I started with the fly rod and he threw white crappie jigs. Before too long he caught a fish, from where I was it looked like a crappie. After coming closer to snap a pic I found it wasn't a crappie at all. He had accidentally steered this post to a topic that history has proven to be a big draw for Lunker Hunt; I'm still not sure why I get so many shad snagging search engine hits, but believe me it happens.

He'd snagged a gizzard shad (this is becoming a pattern for me, see here and here). What followed was a bad fishing trip salvaged by shad. I'm sure you've been there before; when you decide you'll take any fish over no fish.

We decided to focus on catching shad, and we did it all with normal twister tail grubs - on spinning gear.

And I made a personal best. I snagged the biggest of the night and my biggest shad of all time.

Scott threw the first two back, so they aren't pictured. Once we realized what was happening, we started to keep them with the intent of ultimately taking this picture. Scott's size nine is shown for size comparison. Five of these are mine (including the two large ones on the far left) and the rest are Scott's.

Feb 11, 2009

He’s got a big boat and everybody knows his name

I recently read an article about BASS founder Ray Scott endorsing the X10 from Carolina Electric Boats. In fact here he is showing off his best endorse...

According to the article the boat has a shallow draw that allows it in as little as six inches of water. It apparently has two props powered by two electric motors, allowing for maneuvering in tight spaces. Also the props are recessed, limiting chances for prop damage. If all the fanciness sounds good to you, be ready fork over about $2300. But remember, for under $600 you can a new two man bass boat and motor. Keep your eyes on the classifieds and you can get one on the cheap, and that’s something a little more my speed.

The boat above was my first, The Good Ship Clif and it had what I like to call character. It was fiberglass, camo painted, came with Skoal Bandit stickers and measured just under 8’ long. I picked it up from a coworker for $75; the deal included a 27lb thrust and dead bloated battery. During that boat’s early days it spent a brief period flipping through the air over an interstate. Sadly the subsequent brief period inflicted severe damage. My coworker got it, patched it with fiberglass and fished it through the ‘90s. His kids started demanding time, as kids are known to do, so the boat sat for a few years before I got it in ’05.

Just like the X10, it was small enough to get into some pretty tight spots. However it had some draw backs. It was small so space for tackle was at a premium. It claimed a 375lb weight limit, something I had a total lack of respect for. The extra weight caused the boat to be a little “tippy,” so movement needed to be coordinated. If I leaned forward for a fish, my partner had to lean back. No ramps were required, but it was heavy and unwieldy. Sadly, The Good Ship Clif was retired due to mechanical disrepair. The fiberglass patch jobs were starting to fail and water was slowly filling the hull making one pontoon heavier than the other which made it even more tippy.

Next was an even trade with another coworker for my current boat. It’s an 11’ aluminum and came with some dents, some slow leaks and no title. Add JB Weld and a coat of Herculiner and it is now leak free, plus I won the battle against red tape required to get a new title. The new boat is lighter, more spacious and also rides high in the water. However, it is also a little unstable, in a different more comfortable kind of way.

You’re probably wishing I would get to the point. I’m not sure I have a point, but if I do it’s this: I’m a fan of small boats and prefer them over larger ones. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having space available to get some jogging in, but I’d rather have something a little more nimble. It gets me on the water, and usually keeps me dry.

Feb 9, 2009

Powerton Cats Take Two, or Ten

Dave and I went to Powerton again on Saturday. The weather was beautiful, 43 degrees when we started at 9am and 65 degrees when we left at 2:30. If you're not from Illinois that's about 30 degrees higher than normal and 86 degrees warmer than what we had a few weeks ago. So needless to say, we were mostly pleased to be out and about. I even got a slight sun burn and it feels good.

We started out focusing on smallies using our fly rods. Streamstalker had mentioned the previous weekend he had success with flies, so my hopes were high. The closest I came to catching a bronzeback was having one pick up my fly, but when I set the hook it was gone. I was fishing with a Clouser Mad Tom, so he may have just taken the tail. I think I'll downsize future Mad Toms I tie, it looks like Mr. Clouser uses a size 4 hook and mine are all on 3/0 hooks. They'll have shorter tails too! If was wasn't learning, fishing would stop being fun.

On top of that, my trusty camera malfunctioned. Without warning, it's 5 year run has come to an abrupt end. Our camera phones came to the rescue, luckily we're both the type to never leave home with out them. Now I'm in the market for a new camera. While my Nikon DSLR takes really great pictures, it's not too convenient to lug around a lake.

After much effort, we decided it wasn't panning out. In an effort to salvage the day we turned to the dip bait. We ended the day catching 10 catfish (Dave had 7) about the same size as those below.

A face, hands and fat bellied fish floating in mid-air!

Here's my little one, it wasn't my best day...

On our walk out we saw a guy who had two big catfish, one looked to be about 15lb and he said the other weighed 26lb! By 2 pounds, that's the heaviest fish I've ever personally laid my eyes on.

Then today I read that the Streamstalker was there a day later. He caught one and missed two.

Feb 6, 2009

Domestic longhair dubbing?

It was pet grooming night in my household. As a new fly tier, grooming Dangle suddenly took on a new meaning. Dangle produces enough dubbing to keep a few fly shops fully stocked. Soft, fluffy and sticks together. What do you think?

On second thought, I need some time to rationalize. It is a little creepy to tie part of my cat into flies and I realize that. I'm still not sure I want to admit I had the thought. You can rest assured that no cats were harmed in producing the hair ball you see above, in fact he loved it.

This batch is going to the curb. For a far creepier story of scavenging fly material click here.

Feb 3, 2009

Does this Powerbait make me look fat?

It is no secret fishing is a highly commercialized sport/hobby. Fishing television shows are essentially 30min commercials about resorts, guide services and tackle. Professional anglers receive sponsorship at levels rivaling NASCAR. Fishing articles are usually 2-5 page advertisements masquerading as reviews - when was the last time you read a bad tackle review?

....and we love it.

Recreational anglers (present company included) can't get enough of it. In 2006 the spend by recreational anglers in the US was $31,431,718,000 (yes thats $31 billion), and that money supported an estimated 533,000 jobs. That's a lot of money on the table and companies are looking for a piece. We are all looking for an edge and big companies such as Berkley have an obvious advantage. As advertising changes so do the baits we throw. Some call them hot lures, I like to call them fads.

The picture you see above is (chronologically from top to bottom) how I have seen the progression of hot bass lures over the past few years - check your local listings. On top is a Berkley Powerbait (of the 10 inch variety). Below that is Lunker City's Slug-Go followed by Gary Yamamoto's Senko. Finally, the newest thing I can't stop hearing about is the swimbait. It's too early to say which brand is going to run away with the swimbait craze, but not surprisingly it seems Berkley has an early lead. That reminds me...there are cheaper versions of each of these; the only exception being the Slug-Go, I've never seen a knock off Slug-Go.

Ask your parents and they'll tell you falling out of fashion is easy. It happens pretty quick - just do nothing. To stay afloat in this world you have to pay attention or you'll get behind. Throwing a Powerbait around these days can sometimes seem like showing up to a party in tight rolled Bugle Boys. But I'm here to tell you there is hope. It was easy for me to take the above picture because I have all these lure readily available. In fact I had a hard time choosing colors. With the exception of the swimbait that I haven't thrown yet, I still use them all.

While some have fallen out of favor with marketing divisions, these are all great baits and I think they all have a place. I still like throwing weighted Powerbaits into moderately (5-10 feet) deep water, and I often use them to work weed lines. Slug-Gos are a great jerk bait I find works best in shallow open water or above submerged cover. Senkos can not be beat for making a slow presentation plus they are great for skipping under brush and docks. Finally, although I don't have any experience with swimbaits it sounds like they work well in deep water over structure transitions.

To further my argument regarding fad baits and advertising, I present to the court Exhibit A.

It's obvious the above lure is a swimbait. It isn't obvious that I've had that lure (and two others just like it) in my tackle box for at least 6 years. I do not remember where I bought them and I don't remember the brand. What I do know is that none of the three have hook marks on them. Apparently I bought these and never got around to using them. Swimbaits are not new, Swimbait advertisements are. My advice is find what works for you, then sprinkle in some new stuff. Get in tune with what's catching fish now (on this day in this water), you'll do OK.

Now...can we talk about that hair cut?

Writing this has given me another post idea. Sneak peak: fish conditioning.