Apr 30, 2010

Ever the tinkerer and always a tightwad

I've never been huge on following fly patterns exactly.  If I see a fly I like, I usually do my best to duplicate it with materials I happen to have.  Now I've stepped outside my comfort zone because I recently ponied up for all the materials required to tie a couple proper streamers. 

I was unable to be true to the recipe for either fly.  In looking for Prisma markers, I found the local art store closed for the evening.  Opting instead for Sharpies from the 24 hour Walmart, I called it good and went to the vice.

Above is my first Bart-O Minnow.  I found the instructional video quickly, but looking for a recipe to print took some time.  The secret is to search for "Barteaux Minneaux" and you'll find this, a nice step-by-step with pictures.  It seems someone had a sense of humor when they named the fly, but found us regular folks need a dumbed down version.  I opted for the version from the video, which uses EP sparkle brush (instead of angel hair) for the body.  I'm pleased with this first effort.  However, I admit tying the tail with excessive downward slope and the eyes should be located smidge rearward of my location.

Finding a step by step recipe for the above Murdich Minnow proved fruitless - as far as I know there are no alternate French spellings.  I found out the fly did not originate at the Tight Lines shop as I previously stated.  Instead it was originally made to target stripers and has since found it's way into the bass world.  I also found several variants of this - all looking unique and each claiming the Murdich name.  I stuck with the fly tied in Tight Line's video. I had to watch it a few times to ingrain some memory of the procedure before heading downstairs to tie.  I used 5mm eyes and they might a bit large, but that is all I would change.

I tend to tinker and can't be satisfied with out spilling some creative juice.  So I added a couple Bart-O inspired streamers to the collection.

The tail is white buck tail, pearl flash and three saddle hackle feathers.  I stuck with red rabbit for the throat, but opted for a zonker strip body.  White zonker comprises the bulk of the body, with a strip of natural colored rabbit tied in at the nose and draped reward.  I added some dumb bell eyes and a beard made from orange buck tail.

This one is the exact same as previous, but I've opted to include the peacock hurl for lateral lines and used white eyes instead of red.  You can also see I bungled up the head with a few too many wraps.

None of these flies were a quick tie for me and that has me worried.  Don't forget, I'm the "Snaggingist son of a bitch" and I'll be required a few of these.  Hopefully some practice will speed things up, eliminating the part where I read each recipe step will be a start. 

Apr 29, 2010

Fair warning on Tiemco hook size

For me, the gold standard in hook size is Eagle Claw's "plain shank" model; if you tell me a hook size, my mind indexes to an image of a comparable plain shank.  The simple hooks are easy to find and, most importantly, cheap.  We don't have fly shops around here, so after staring blankly at a screen full of numbers, it's easy to justify a trip to the box store for a pack of Eagle Claws.  As such, I've tied flies on the gold standard with few exceptions.

This weekend I decided to buy proper fly hooks to tie some proper patterns.  Luckily, Jonn recanted his misguided unguided ordering of #2 sized Tiemco hooks in the 8089 model.  He said "it looked like something for saltwater guys, so now I tie only on the sixes."  Despite his advice, I still almost balked on ordering fifty number sixes.  I kept thinking "How can I tie bass streamers such a small hook?"

The shipment arrived and you may see for yourself - the Tiemco TMC 8089 is the horse pill of fly hooks.  When compared to a 1/0 plain shank, you can see a wider gap and a longer shank.  I threw in a dime so you trout types can see exactly what I'm up against here. 

Tiemco TMC 8089 #6 hook size compared to Eagle Claw Plain Shank 1/0

The #6 will suit me just fine, but this may be just the start.  In no time I'll be lamenting the good old days when a hook was a hook, just like the world's most anal fly tier.  For now, I can safely tell you I won't be buying any more hooks when their sight remains unseen.

Apr 28, 2010

The local fly shop

One of the joys of being a fly fisherman in central Illinois is abundance of local fly shops. Well, not really. The local Gander Mountain has discontinued their meager tying selection, which featured mostly materials to tie trout flies for our nonexistent local trout population.  No wonder they discontinued it - most of their stuff was useless to the three fly tiers around.  Gander's missed market exit leaves me with a grand total zero stores in which to look and feel before I buy. Without the interwebs, my life as a fly angler would be a rough series of lessons learned - one at a time.

After Friday's outing on the Mackinaw River, I was inspired to tie some better minnow patterns.  On the web I've read about a few possibilities that don't look too tough to tie.  One of my partners on that day was Jonn, who as a fellow central Illinoisan feels my pain, but had some pattern tips.  After chatting with him about our lack of fly shops and some good web sources, I settled on buying the goods to tie Bart-o Minnows and Murdich Minnows.  Two flies originating at the Tight Lines Fly Shop in Wisconsin; also the source of Jonn's recent guided Menominee River trip.

I rounded up a list of the required materials and started shopping.  Seeing as these flies originated on Tight Lines' vices, I figured that would be a good starting point.  Strangely they don't sell materials on-line, but their sister shop does.   Just as strangely, they didn't have everything to make these flies.  I had to find Icelandic sheep hair at Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters.  Orders were placed and I waited anxiously until today.

I expected delivery today and found no packages in the mail, nor behind the front screen door where big packages are usually ignored for a day or two.  Double checking the tracking numbers told me I better look harder.  Finally found them...we've got a new mailman, and now I know where he puts the over sized packages.

Packaging was removed, and inventory taken.  Delivered was everything needed.  I was also able to confirm Jonn's warning about the size of Tiemco 8089 hooks, but that bit of useful information is deserving of it's own post...check back later.

Here are the videos for how to tie a Bart-O Minnow (Barteaux Minneaux) and how to tie a Murdich Minnow. Wish me luck!

Apr 24, 2010

Illinois high school anglers are at it again

The Illinois High School Association hosted it's second annual round of sectional tournaments yesterday.  I've already shared my thoughts about how awesome it is for high school kids to have this option, so I'll spare you those details. Are there any other states with similar programs?

Central Illinois Results

The Banner Marsh sectional was won by Pekin with second place being taken by Dunlap and third went to Limestone.  The top three teams advance to the state tournament, which takes place May 7th and 8th on Carlyle Lake - so a big congrats to those three teams.  A big congrats to Luke Stewart who bagged the big bass of the day with his 7+ pounder shown below.  These poor kids had some terrible weather to deal with, but they did quite well with just about all the top ten teams weighing a five fish limit.  That is a marked improvement over last year, when only two limits were weighed at Banner.

Also locally, the kids at Evergreen lake didn't weigh as many fish.  The largest bag had just three fish in it and weighed about five pounds.  That bag belonged to Deer Creek Mackinaw.  Also advancing to state were Metamora Township and Normal Community.

Statewide Roundup

Stewart's seven pounder appears to be the biggest in the state.  An honorable mentions go to Neil Smith's six pounder from Forbes Lake, and Evan Chamber's 5.75 pounder from Shabbona Lake.

State wide, the largest bag came from Clinton Lake, where Clinton HS weighed in a limit at 16.45 lb.  Also at Clinton lake, GCMS weighed 15.65 pounds of bass.  At Banner Marsh, Pekin's limit weighed 15.13 lb.  Oak Park - Fenwick wiped the floors at Skokie Lagoons by weighing 15.10 lb (second place there had just over four pounds).

As I expected Lake Egypt appears to have been the best all around fish producer again this year.  The top ten teams on the southern Illinois bass hot spot weighed double digit totals and 17 boats found a five fish limit.  Banner Marsh looks to have been the second best producer with just one team in the top ten stuck in single digits, and at 9.71lb Peoria Christian came close to cracking the 10 lb mark.

For more info about IHSA fishing click here.
For official sectional results click here
For Central Illinois tournament commentary on Prairie State Outdoors click here (thanks for the picture)

Apr 23, 2010

Good Times Between the Storms

Dave and I met up with Jonn Graham this afternoon after work. We climbed into the Mackinaw River a little after four and fished a few spots until dusk.  Jonn and I had met up on one previous occasion and made a fly swap by mail, during which I made out like a bandit.  This was the first time we actually did much fishing together.  The three of us fully committed to the fly rod and worked a few different areas of the river before the sun finally gave out.

Jonn and Dave swapping rods

Jonn has a pretty nice Sage rod, which he let us take for a spin.  It's the Sage Smallmouth BASS Rod, and comes with a sinking tip line.  I'm not sure if it was the rod or the line, but everything about that package felt right.  As a guide, Jonn is in the Sage guide program and is encouraged to plug products such as this.  Today he did his job, Dave and I both loved it.  She's a little pricey for a cheapskate like myself, but a guy can dream can't he?  *Update, I was wrong about the sinking tip line - see the comment section for more info*

Fishing was tough, perhaps due in part to an all day rain shower, which we thankfully just missed.  With a lot of hard work Dave managed a rock bass, and I managed a decent river smallie.  She was still full of eggs and came on a fairly large streamer made with white rabbit fur, white saddle hackle and pearl flash - sorry no name for it but I'll try to remember how to tie it and show you.  It was a big fly tied on a big hook and I dropped it in perfectly on my first cast to an eddy already visited by both Dave and Jonn.

Mackinaw River Smallmouth

And as a followup to my previous post, I can confirm my waders are finished.  You know it's bad when I'm able to pour water out of them.  Luckily I had the forethought to wear rain pants under the waders, it helped keep my legs dry.  Following the fishing, the three of us chatted for a long time about flies and fishing.  Jonn had some interesting ideas on where to go find some big smallies.  Now I've added a couple destinations to the list of places to go fishing - some day.

I have to say I had a great time seeing the river like Jonn sees it and chatting him up afterward was great. I think we'll be doing it again.  If you're interested in Jonn's guide service and/or his custom swim jigs, go drop him a line on his blog and he'll set you up.

Apr 21, 2010

Holy overalls Batman!

After a particularly sweaty day fishing last year, I wrote a post about destankifying waders.  Apparently that post filled a niche and became an instant hit on the Google search charts.  It even earned me a cross link on a blog I hadn't previously read.

While letting the full waders soak, I noticed some wet areas where water was leaking out (you can even see them in the original picture above.)  Being a smart guy, I recently deduced these must be the same areas water leaks in.  What better way to find where to apply patches?  So today I filled them up again and, armed with sharpie, started marking all the wet spots.  What a difference a year of fishing makes.  Here are today's results:

Great googly moogly!  I'm not even sure I got them all marked.  There was so much water leaking out I couldn't keep up and eventually everything was damp.  There are even some on the back side.  I've now decided these are beyond repair and this is my reward for buying the cheapest pair I could find.  I'll have to go shopping soon - anyone have a good tip for a guy in the wader market?  Maybe this time I'll try to avoid bumping into so many submerged trees.

None the less, I'll be donning this holy mess on Friday when I go looking for smallies on the Mackinaw River.  With rain in the forecast, I'm not sure I'll notice leaky waders.

Apr 19, 2010

More sweet action

I have tempted you once before with a high production video of bass hitting top water flies. Here I go again.  If you have never fly fished for bass, I intend to make it difficult for you to continue living as you have.

PS: I'm loving the moped

PPS: If the video is too big for your screen, go here to watch it on youtube.  I'm having difficulty resizing it to a reasonable resolution.

Apr 17, 2010

A second and a ground squirrel

Many years ago I caught a five pound flathead catfish while throwing a crankbait - that was a first.  Yesterday I managed a second, the channel cat shown below bit a rattle trap. This surprise capped off a two day fishing event for me.

Thursday Dave and I kayaked at Banner Marsh.  I only had about an hour and a half, so I was in all out search mode.  Changing location and presentation as quickly as possible.  While trolling a shallow crank, I managed to pick up a little large mouth.  Another acrobatic little one threw my jig and pig.  Dave blanked.

Friday Scott and I headed to his club for some fishing.  We put the boat into two lakes and tried a few finesse presentations and a few more aggressive baits.  The finesse worked the best on the sunny day and I caught three bass on Senkos and a jig.  The channel cat was the last fish boated, but I had a dink throw the rattle trap later.  Scott blanked.

The big news for me was catching a couple fish with Senkos. It is always a good sign when the water warms up enough for the Senko bite to come on.  The fish are waking up.

Try not to notice the huge wad of sunflower seeds I have in my cheek.  Pictures like these make it hard to hide I was begat by a chipmunk.  In other news, this post was brought to you by Giants Sunflower Seeds.  Those things are a delicious fishing snack.

Apr 12, 2010

Don't forget what you're doing out there

Yesterday I hooked a fish.  I set the hook (twice to be sure) and fought her for a moment.  While reaching for the video camera, she came off. 

That is all I have to say about yesterday's outing.

Apr 3, 2010

How you know if you caught a fish

If you have fished with me, you probably know The Rule. I came up with The Rule many years ago to solve what became a common dispute. The Rule dictates what is counted as caught, and which ones get away. The Rule is as follows:

1 - A fish can not be considered caught, and therefore added to the official daily tally, until the angler touches said fish.
1.1 - Touching of the fish may be performed by any body appendage, it's substitute or direct extension, with the obvious exception of rod and reel.
1.2 - In lieu of touching certain dangerous species, the act of posing for a photograph with said fish shall demonstrate sufficient control to deem fish caught.
1.3 - With verbal agreement made by all interested parties, a special exception to The Rule may be made, thus granting the angler one half of a fish to be scored in the official daily tally.
For you to practice implementation of The Rule, I submit two examples from today's outing. Can you decide which fish I caught and which one got away?

In other news, today I chased the skunk out of 2010. Wahoo!