Sep 25, 2010

Everyone Likes a Push Over Now and Then

Imagine a place where the fish are stacked shoulder to shoulder in crystal clear spring water and their sole purposes in life are to be fed and get fat.  Now imagine a day when the No Fishing - Trout Area sign does not apply.  Such was the enjoyment I experienced today and there is a certain soreness in my shoulders as I type this with Them Crooked Vultures providing harmony via Austin City Limits.

Hooked on Fishing Park in East Peoria is a local not-for-profit organization doing good.  Their mission is simple:
Our mission is to teach the sport and joy of fishing to local children, senior citizens, and special needs groups by providing the equipment, place, and education free of charge.
To help offset expenses, the park was opened today for a fly fishing specific event and everyone was invited.  Local experts were on hand to help newbies learn casting techniques, and hefty 'bows were on hand to make sure the newbies were instantly hooked on fishing.  If you would like to schedule an outing as a family or field trip, please click the link above for more info.  You'll also find information about volunteer and sponsorship opportunities.

The fishing was great, but the company was superb.  I had a chance to chat with a couple dozen like-minded individuals.  Fellow long rodders are hard to come by in the this part of the globe because we have no local trout opportunities to speak of, and most people don't realize you can fly fish for other species.  It takes an event such as this to make us crawl from our warm water honey holes.

The suggested donation was ten bones, but fishing like this is worth so much more and giving extra is an easy decision to make.  I'm not really sure how many I caught.  Definitely more than 20 and probably less than 50, and every one of them was a brute.  All the fish were about the same size but a couple were noticeably larger.  Unfortunately for you, by the time I found the "larger" ones I had already set down the camera and focused on fishing.  So you'll have to look at these pictures and imagine a few bigger ones sprinkled throughout.

Notably, I can remember a particular fish running like mad.  She pulled line of my 8wt like it was nothing.  She didn't quite make it to the backing but she was half way across the pond before tuckering out.  By the time I had the fly removed from her hook jaw, I was focused on the release.  Another fish was mistakenly hooked in the tail and I've never before felt anything like that, while holding a fishing rod of course.

The night before, I had a quick e-mail exchange with someone who had fished here previously; I asked about what sort of flies to bring.  His response was: "You don’t need anything fancy to catch these trout.  They are eating machines.  Anything big and flashy will catch them."  I should have taken the advice but I'm a doubter.  I spent Friday night tying wooly buggers and beetles. I should have been tying Clousers and Murdiches.  Luckily, as a bass angler, I happen to have a few of those lying around and a couple Mad Toms as well.  I burned through my Clouser collection in no time, but now what am I going to do with all these #8 buggers?

One thing was clear today: central Illinoisians don't know how to handle a big ass trout - present company included.  All day we were struggling to unhook and get a hold of these slippery squirmy fish before they flopped back into the water.  Now I really understand the phallic trout pose, because as soon as you get these fish out of the water you need to get a picture quick before they're gone.  The phallic pose is about the only option for the required quick shot.

Another theme for the day was lost flies.  These fish were lively and broke a few leaders.  I lost a few but I also found one.  I spotted a trout swimming by with a fly in it's jaw and cast to it.  Surprisingly, he was still hungry and I was able to retrieve a sparkle minnow for a fellow angler who was located across the pond.

All told, the damage was limited and out of hundreds of fish caught only two ended up on the cutting board.  And boy were they delicious.  Nate cooked up some chili seasoned trout to go with fat cheese burgers for lunch.  I'm going to need the recipe - if you are reading this, please share.  I stole the following picture from Nate's blog - thanks!

I only took pictures and video for about the first two hours.  After that I pocketed the camera and focused on fishing and conversing during the remaining four hours.  However, in those two quick hours I managed to get way too much footage to post.  So I've boiled it down (mostly by editing out the clumsy unhookings) to less than 10 minutes of hot trout action.

Fishing like this will spoil a man, but a periodic sampling won't hurt anybody.  Which is why I was relieved to hear Nate's planning additional outings for 2011.  Stay tuned for more info, this is worth a drive.

Everyone's perspective is unique, so check out what other bloggers have to say about today's event:
Diary of a Lake Nerd - Flyfishing Pics from Today's Outing!
Intro to Bass Fishing - First trout on the fly!
[Place holder for Jonn, whenever he gets around to posting it.]

Well Austin City Limits is now over (God, I type slow), but Umphrey's Mcgee is coming up next....guess I'll be staying up late.

The Sunfish Sage Continues

Dave and I hit the Mack after work yesterday for a few hours.  We hadn't fished together for some time, and he hadn't fished in a couple months.  He made up for lost time and made me look bad by catching six compared to my two.

Early I spied Dave roll casting from the bank.  It looks like he's been practicing, and the scene composed itself.

That's a pretty cast Dave.  The pretty casting soon lead to a hooked smallie and I happened to have the camera read for some more action.

Nothing huge, but this seems to be pretty typical for the Mackinaw these days.  I'm starting to feel better and better about the 16 incher I landed in May.  Even though they're small, most have beautiful coloring.  Dave's fish had some excellent markings you can see below.

Later on, we split up for a while and I rejoined him just in time to see him land a potential state record longear sunfish.  As you can see, he wasn't even trying and the hungry bugger took a bass popper.  Fortunately for me, he wasn't interested in claiming the record and the little guy swam free.

Seeing this, gave me the motivation to go for the record again.  I tied on an Adams and promptly hooked up.

Is that a record?  Yes.  Did I take it to the scale? Nope.  Let me explain. I caught it about five minutes after Dave's and about a minute after I put on the Adams.  So I thought I could do better, but I couldn't....that night.  You can be sure I'll get out there again, I've got the spot figured out and the presentation down.  Only a a matter of time.

Sep 23, 2010

You Should Too

The cause is good and a $10 suggested donation is cheap entertainment. I've received permission from the boss and I'll be there...probably late as usual. If you have the wherewithal to make it, you should come too.  Click the following link for more info and some pictures of big trout.

Flyfishing Lessons and Demonstrations
Hooked on Fishing Park East Peoria, IL

Saturday September 25th from 8 am to 2 pm
$10 suggested donation

I've fished this place before, but LONG before it became "Hooked on Fishing." Back then, fishing wasn't great because the ponds had been neglected for years. However, judging by these videos things have changed.  I'm looking forward to meeting with like minded individuals (hopefully it's more than just Jonn and I) and hooking into some monster trout.

Just three hours from the loop in Chicago.

Sep 19, 2010

The Zen View From the Back Seat

While traveling in Utsunomiya, Japan last week I saw something worth writing about.  My mood was hurried and nervous as I worked my way across a strange land to talk business with people I've never met about technologies I'm barely familiar with.  Through the taxi window I spied a sight to bring comfort to my anxious heart.  Certain things are universal, and I'm sure the cluster of fisherman would have felt similar thoughts had our roles been reversed.

What I saw was a group of about twenty anglers in full combat mode as they worked a small riffle.  Their tenkara rods were at least twelve feet long, which I'm sure made combat that much more difficult.  From the taxi it was an odd sight; it looked like a forest of super long rods leaning in the same direction as they searched for the sun.  I wish I had a picture, because there is nothing I can type to properly convey the scene.

Life would be boring if it weren't for coincidences such as the one I experienced two days later.  While riding a commuter train, this time near Akashi, my boss handed me a newspaper opened to an article he thought I'd enjoy.  The paper was The International Herald Tribune and the article was titled "Japanese fly fishing catches on in the U.S."  It's a short read so go ahead and click the link.

To further the coincidence, the article described an angler catching a "scrappy longear sunfish" from Crooked Creek, Arkansas.  As regular readers know well, I'm currently in a half-hearted race to claim the Illinois state record for longear sunfish.  I thought it would be fun to get the record on a fly but a tenkara rod would make it that much more enjoyable.

Sep 7, 2010

Green Means Go

I always knew Mike, from Mike's Gone Fishin'...Again, had a few things in common with yours truly.  We both enjoy throwing "big bugs at big fish," as he so elegantly stated. His recent post about tippet size revealed another common way of mind.  While I do not yet require magnifying glasses, it got me thinking and a post is in order.

When I first picked up a fly rod, I didn't know what tippet lets start there.  I had read enough to know a tapered leader was required to turn the fly over for proper presentation.  So I bought some of those.  Then I bought a couple more...and then some more.  Finally I got smart and looked into tippet, now I use a tapered lead and 6-12 inches of tippet with a strength less than the leader.  Now when I snag (as I often do), breaking off costs me only a few cents worth of tippet instead of a $4 leader.  The revelation has saved me at least $100 so far.  I'm sure fly fishing aficionados will tell me I'm missing something, but if there is another purpose for tippet I have not discovered it.

Now a little more about tippet and the god sends who package it.  Tippet is rated on an scale of X's. Generically speaking, the higher the number the thinner the line but the exact tensile strength depends on the brand you buy.  Being of bass fishing heritage, the "X" system means nothing and I prefer to know the breaking force in pounds.  Breaking force doesn't change from brand to brand and it is something I can really wrap my brain around.  For example, in the picture above you can see two spools of Scientific Anglers tippet, one is 6.8lb (4X) and the other is 3.7lb (6X.)  Those spools are the only two I own.

The angling I do falls into two categories: big fish and little fish.  I always use a 8-10lb tapered leader but the tippet will change depending on bass or blue gills. This is where the geniuses (or is it geniusii?) who market this stuff have a solution to make life simple and I've come up with an easy memory trigger to quickly find the tippet I want.

First, it is worth noting many brands will snap together to eliminate minimize our need for organizational therapy.  If you can't snap yours together, you may purchase a tippet holder to keep things in line.  In the picture above I've snapped my spools together, but a problem quickly presented itself: I can't read both labels.  One can imagine the conundrum stream side when you pull out your barrel of ten spools and start the search for 5X.  It seems the package designers felt our pain and gave each "X" a unique color - and there is today's pro tip.  If you hadn't noticed that detail, you will now.

I only have to remember "green means go."  Fitting because I usually throw big bugs and tying on the red stuff is cause for a quick confirmation of intention and sanity.  Should I ever get a third color, I'll need a new memory trigger.  When I have twenty, a laminated spreadsheet will be at hand.

Sep 4, 2010

I am but an honest man with empty pockets

A couple interesting things happened tonight while I was on the Mackinaw River.  Firstly, I've always heard about you trouters fishing with a "dropper" nymph below a dry fly.  Tonight I put my own spin on things and had a bit of success; this little guy took a nymph suspended from a bass popper.

You may realize nymphing is a bit out of character for me but there is a simple explanation. I was wondering if I could repeat a recent performance, in which I caught a state record longear sunfish but didn't realize it until later.  In the front of my mind I was fishing for bass, but the back of my mind thought it would be nice to have that record.  Well the night wore on and the bass stayed quiet, but the #14 Adams proved to be the ticket.  Once again, I was holding a potential record fish but there was a slight problem.

The little guy was foul hooked under the gill plate and therefore not something I wanted as my record.  I'm not even sure if it would be accepted.  I let him swim, but I'm on to something here and a record is just around the corner.  The quest continues!

If only there were some bass around to eat all these sunfish.

Sep 3, 2010

Lunker Hunt has a Face?

The Lunker Hunt experience has expanded to Facebook and is looking for fans.  Somewhere over on the right side of your screen, you'll find a "Like" button.  If you're not sure how much you like it, click here to go learn more.

This move was spawned from a recent post about the worthlessness of blog index services.  After some conversations with fellow bloggers (most notably The Outdooress, whose site hit the web like a bullet) I decided to give it a shot.  There's not much to lose.

Old Man Awaits an Awakening

If you're down with Oregon trout or wish to increase your sphere, go here and make your mark.