Dec 30, 2011

Graduation Day - Clay to Feather

I was pleased to see Bass Pro stocks a full line of 16 gauge loads from eight through two, even a couple brands to choose from. The local Gander Mountain keeps just eight shot...and only one variety: Italian.

With some luck tomorrow, Granddad's bolt action will return to her upland glory days.

In case you are wondering, it is a Mossberg 190d bolt action 16 gauge. Until now I've only used it on clay, so far I'm in love. I'm curious how long it will take to remember it isn't a pump.

PS. 400th post....woohoo

Dec 29, 2011

My New Video Camera

The missus noticed my recent post about the Kodak Playsport she bought last year. This past Christmas, she sneaked something special under the tree for me - at the meetings, we call that "enabling."

I took my new Panasonic HM-TA20 camera fishing the other day and you can see the results below. No fancy music or editing...just a four short clips to see how it works. Try it in HD if you like but don't adjust your volume, there is no sound until the final clip.

With one trip under my belt, here are the first impressions on the TA20:

  • Picture/video quality still poor in low light but...
  • ...this one comes with a LED flash to use for picture and video.
  • Close-up capability is better than the first gen Playsport I had previously.
  • I'm loving the little tripod that comes with it, you'll be seeing my face more.
  • 3" screen is awesomely huge but...
  • ...touch controls are more difficult than buttons
  • I forgot to stick it in the water to see how that works.
  • I'm not crazy about the idea of a permanent battery
  • Grabbing stills from video will come in handy
Here's a close-up of Dangle lounging in our dim living room - taken in 2MP mode

And here is a still I pulled from the 720p video. I also cropped it down some.

Dec 28, 2011

Whatsit Wednesday - Mystery Tool Addition

Santa stuffed my stocking with this doodad and I have no idea what it is. The big jolly bastard was unavailable for comment and his little helper weren't no help at all.

Dec 27, 2011

A Mediocre Year, Lets Rehash It

Oh what a year 2011 was. She had some ups and downs and will live forever in my memory due to certain reasons. The past couple years I've put together a recap story; a means to celebrate my perpetually limited success in blogging. Seeing as I'm inconsistent in every other aspect of my life, why not take something serious for once and do it've got to start somewhere.

We've picked up some new readers along the way. Here is a great chance to catch up and see what you missed - all wrapped up in one tidy package. The following is the best Lunker Hunt had to offer in 2011. For previous year recaps, click here.

In January, I unveiled Clif's Crawdad in it's latest form. A bass fly whose degree of tying difficulty is only offset once you get it wet. For video tying instructions smash your finger on this link.
I caught wind of an $8000 fly fishing reel and the creative juices flowed. The result was some of my finest work. A holier person than I might even say I was inspired by God.

One of the biggest draws of the year was my Oscars post. Many thanks to a few of you who liked it and linked up.
Still wallowing in the depth of winter, more fishing related content came in February without me actually fishing. The poster series in which we probably offended you.

In March, things were finally starting to get fishy around here. I got out of the gate in a hurry with a nice grain fed trout, albeit one I snagged in the ass. I followed up with one of my first videos.
Another big hit came when I showed off my fishing hat and chronicled its journey to becoming something the missus would rather not have in the house.

In late March, I journeyed to the land of big sky and big trout: Montana. Fishing the Bighorn River for three days produced so much content I milked spread it over three posts. The preview, the video and the pictures.
I decided to give the Google what it wanted and authored a post rife with information and commonly used keywords. Many people would like to know how to fish Senkos...and I obliged.

Winning some stuff from OBN is great, but then you gotta go through the work of using and reviewing it. Luckily the Berkley Havoc baits were a treat.
In May, the gills came shallow and I had two or three of the most exciting outings of the year. Catching gills on a 3wt is the most fun a person should have...sadly my hoopty noodle broke and such fun is no more.

So you want to be a blogging superstar and enjoy benefits of marginal value like me? Here are some blogging tips, and how to connect your profession to your blogging addiction.
Some of my 2011 fishing goals took luck, others took work. One goal in particular took both and I struggled immensely in attempts to kill it.

Brady came in from Colorado and I showed him how much more fun bass are than trout...and he loved it hard.
The 5th Annual Toothless Beaver Fishing Trip went off with fewer injuries than average. Plus, no one was arrested and we caught more than just a buzz.

"We've been polishing this turd for years, and it still looks like shit." - Click here to enjoy some hilarious hijinks from the Red Neck Fishing Derby in Bath, IL where fishing poles are not allowed.
I went after a noble game fish and ended up with a disgusting gar...believe me, I was happy to have it too.
It took me exactly six minutes to catch the same fish twice...well I think it's the same fish and could use some help knowing for sure. What do you think?
Dave put on sensible shoes, we explored some new waters in search of smallies and I snagged an Asian carp. The experience left me thirst for more; I even designed the Asian Carp Snagging FlyTM.

Bass Pro Shops opened a store very close to my home. I braved the crowds on opening day to see what the fuss was - having tying materials nearby is a good thing.
A business trip to China left me with a day to play. I spent part of it fishing. I can now say I've done that and probably won't do it again. Part 1. Part 2.

As the Alabama Rig took the bass fishing world by storm, I jumped on the band wagon and poked fun and the idea. This post is a gold mine for google related traffic and has become my second most popular post of all small feat in such a short time.
I wrote my final blog post in November...but didn't publish it. I still have it saved as draft and on certain days my trigger finger starts to itch.
A fishing trip during hunting season can be a treat, if only due to interactions we have with "those other" outdoorsy type people.
In December, I took my final fishing trip of the year (or so I thought) and penciled in the first couple lines of a country song...yet to be completed.

So there you have it: a mediocre year summed up in one giant mediocre blog post. Here's to a great 2012 for you and yours...and may I retain the conviction to avoid publishing "that one post" and keep this shit show going for another few months.

Dec 23, 2011

I'm Not a Proud Man

Cooling lakes, the savior of winter fishing

Having already sworn off fish 'til spring, I surprised myself Thursday when a txt asked if I wanted to wet a line, a fly line no less. The surprise came with how little thought I gave the suggestion.

All in the name of "chasing the dragon" I guess.

I busted out the long underwear for the first time and layered up the torso and extremities. My truck's thermometer confirmed what I already suspected...I was going to freeze.

It pays to know fishing regulations. In my case, it paid to know people...who know other people who read the book. With duck season closed, Powerton is open again for fishing - from shore only. This was new information to me, but luckily there is a guy out there named Troy who is more addicted than me. And luckily Troy knows how to get in touch the The Mark. And The Mark has my phone number.

To match, first you must catch
I learned pretty quick about the local forage. My first fish took a Crystal Schminnow with authority and put up a great fight. In my opinion, shiners will compete pound-for-pound with any game fish out there...I cast him twice before noticing a real treat on my 8wt.

White Bass?

Asian carp came into the lake during floods a few years ago. I was surprised to see the number of anglers trying to snag them. Apparently Asian carp chunks make great catfish bait and Powerton is a local legend for monster cats. The shore was littered with butchered carp carcasses carci carcassi bodies.

[Bloody Asian carp picture censored]

The crowd was light, much lighter than I've ever seen. I guess that just means there are fewer of us idiots around these days. One highlight of the day was an early exchange between The Mark and another angler:
Catfisher: You guys catching anything with those fly rods?
Mark: Not yet.
Catfisher: I didn't think you would.

Hybrid Striper?
I can never tell with certainty the difference between stripers, white bass and their hybrids. I came home and looked it up...apparently I should have taken a peek at their tongues, but I'm thinking I caught some of each - four in total, plus this little guy:

The intention, albeit a small example.

It took a while to find a bite, but I figured it out and caught all five fish within the last hour. Fly selection didn't seem to matter as much as location....and when I struck gold a mob of three kids surrounded me. It was almost instant, and the little buggers did their best to get in my way. They learned damn quick to speak up before crossing my rear.

4 hours, 25.0 miles and 6 degrees later
The weather guesser promised a high of forty. Having endured four hours, I knew my truck thermometer would prove him wrong. It's tough to walk away after unlocking a secret, but the wind can be down right cruel and relentless.

Dec 19, 2011

Flat Pictures, Empty Words

The problem with words is they are a translation.

The mind can think in dimensions words will never represent. Transferring thoughts into words is a difficult task. That is about the best way I can describe it.

To those who come close, I salute you and envy your mastery
The problem with pictures is they are a translation.

I have never seen a photo that spoke to me as real life does. Sometimes, I see one that comes close, maybe even stirring emotion

To those who come close, I salute you and envy your skill.

Why are you here? Go do something, see something, think something.

Dec 14, 2011

More Like Kodak NO-sport

I like to take things apart when they stop working..and sometimes when everything's fine.

I can no longer do anything but watch it cycle through menu options like a button is stuck, but I can assure you the buttons are not stuck.

This piece of crap Kodak Playsport is going in the garbage. Any recommendations for something similar that doesn't suck balls?

Dec 12, 2011

Gear Review: TFO Clouser Fly Rod

About a year ago I was flush with Christmas cash. I decided to use the moola to upgrade my bassin' fly rod and took to the interwebs for research. After a few hours, it was narrowed down to the Temple Fork Outfitters Clouser, a Redington Predator or the Sage Bass Series. The Sage was is just too damn expensive for normal folk, so it was ruled out immediately...which left the other two...

The Clouser was a smidge more spendy, but the short length of the Predator rod scared me away - at the time they only offered a 7'10" version. A little extra length would help out while fishing from the low perch of my kayak. The Redington boys liked to brag about the short length because it fits in under bass tournament length regulations...if they only knew that was the deciding factor for me, perhaps not in the way they intended.

I searched high and low for the best price and discovered there were no retailers offering deals; they all held onto the MSRP of $249 like it was *bleeping* golden. The Predator was going for $200 at the time (now $250) and the Sage was somewhere north of four bills (now five and a half.) I chose to buy my rod from the man himself; Mr. Clouser sells his namesake rods through an on-line store. This was also the only site I found to offer free shipping on the full range of TFO Clousers from 5wt all the way up to 10wt - most stores only sold the 5 and 8wt models and charged shipping. I suggest you take a look at that link above if you're in the market.

I selected the 8wt model, ordered it up and sat tight through Snowmageddon 2011 to wait for the shipment. Shipping was pretty quick: about a week. The rod was actually sent directly from a Temple Fork Outfitters facility in Texas. The day after the rod arrived, I received another package and letter from the Clouser shop directly. The package contained a spool of RIO Clouser fly line and a short letter I have since misplaced. It frustrates me to have lost the letter because I was saving it with the purpose to add a picture to this very post. Anyway, to paraphrase what I remember the letter said:
Thanks for puchasing a rod, it should ship soon from TFO in Texas. Here is the line I designed to use on your new rod. -Bob

Perhaps I may have mentioned Lunker Hunt and my intent to write this review...I guess Mr. Clouser wanted to make sure I wasn't using cheap line to evaluate the rod. I ended up ignoring his advice and used RIO Smallmouth fly line for the full season, though I intend to spool up with the RIO Clouser line next year. I smell an 8wt line shootout post in the future.

First Impressions

The 8wt model is eight feet, nine inches long and breaks down into four pieces at twenty-eight inches each. It weighs five and a half ounces.

The blank finish is a unique shade of blue. The thread wraps are a matching blue with grey and silver highlights. They claim the rod is protected by a TiCr finish to guard against impact from heavily weighted flies - a feature I am unable to independently verify.

The grip is mostly burl cork with rubberized cork accents and the fighting butt (6-10wt versions only) is oversized and rubberized. The up-locking reel seat is metal (aluminum I assume) and anodized in a chocolatey brown finish. Everything around the handle is comfortable and firm.

There are a total of ten guides (excluding the tip) and are all double footed. The first two are ring style and the remaining are stainless steel snake guides. The tip-top is stainless as well.

Each section has tiny yellow dots near the ferrule to help get everything in a straight line and the male ferrule portion is colored grey - I suppose that helps to quickly determine which end is which. When fully assembled, a little grey coloring is visible at each joint - I consider this the only ugly feature of this rod and would prefer to see it all blue.

Near the handle, they included a quick line weight identification feature. My rod has a thick red bar and three thin gold bars. The red one indicates five, and each gold bar indicates one five plus three equals rod is an 8wt....get it? I guess a 10wt would have two red bars and no gold ones.

The rod came in a blue velor sock, but I was disappointed to find a rod tube was not included. Even though this is not a top of the line rod, I think something at this price point should include a protective rod tube.

Another disappointment I immediately discovered was the lack of a hook keep - another simple feature you only miss when it's not around. Not a complete deal breaker though; you can't catch fish without a hook in the water anyway. On the TFO site they currently claim "hook keepers have now been added" so I can only assume this oversight is now corrected.

The "wiggle test" revealed an action earning this rod a new nickname (previously revealed) "the blue broomstick." Fast action and muscle are worthy attributes for someone planning to throw heavy flies, which crater rather than present.

As with all Temple Fork Outfitter rods, the Clouser comes with a life-time no fault warranty. This selling point goes a long way in my book, especially since the demise of my previous rod.

As a whole, I was impressed with the rod out of the box and couldn't wait for ice to thaw in Illinois (and beyond). The next step: give it a swing.

How it Works

Flash forward eleven months and with a season of use under it's belt, I am now comfortable commenting on performance. As stated, I kept the 8wt rod paired with RIO Smallmouth WF8F - a very good line in my opinion. I'd be curious to see how it handles a WF9 or a heavier sinking line. I did not upgrade my reel, but a cheap plastic St. Croix reel was a perfect balance and otherwise deserves no mention.

The fast action allows for some spectacular casting displays while being unforgiving in the same instant. The rod begs you to exceed your license and get too much line in the air. I had overshot my casting abilities with this purchase and learned to practice applied restraint.

While casting large wind resistant and weighted flies, I was never short on muscle. This is what the rod is designed to do, what it is marketed as and where it excels. Large poppers, furry streamers and heavy bottom bouncers snap out of the water with ease and stay off the ground in the rear. Belgian casting helped when I was using really heavy flies and roll casting worked if the fly was light.

On several occasions I used the Clouser rod to throw "traditional" flies like nymphs, emergers and dries. In my opinion it is too much rod to effective fish these. It will reach out a country mile with light flies, but I lost accuracy and had difficulty dropping the fly gently. No one reading this will consider an 8wt if they intend to fish dries, but the point deserved a mention.

I took this rod just about everywhere in 2011. It accompanied me to the Bighorn in Montana, I used it to wrestle grain fed trout in East Peoria, it pulled smallies from the Vermilion and Mackinaw, and it fought largemouth in quite a few area lakes.

With enough backbone to fling dumbell eyes, it makes sense for me to have no trouble landing fish. I also had the luxury of choosing how to fight 'em depending on the circumstance. In fact once the fight started I felt the rod was too stiff in most cases. The only fish to give me trouble was the hawg shown at right...but I tail hooked that one and still had sufficient leverage to bring it to hand.

Wrap it up Already

The Temple Fork Outfitters Clouser series of rods are a great value. At $250 (a little less for the 5wt version), the rods are reasonably priced well below the more expensive Sage Bass Series. The Clousers currently priced equally with Redington Predators but I can't compare performance without having swung the later.

If you purchase this rod and use it for bass, saltwater, or salmon (probably any species preferring large flies) I am sure you'll be pleased.

Action Shot - Tangled Up with a Mackinaw River Smallmouth
Disclaimer: I paid full retail price for this rod in January of 2011. I have no association with Temple Fork Outfitters, Bob Clouser or any other company/entity named herein. I disclosed that Mr. Clouser probably tried to ensure a fair review by providing quality line, but as you read I ignored his advice - who would ignore his advice anyway? This guy. The review presented above is my honest evaluation of the merits and demerits of my TFO Clouser 8wt rod. It's my every day stick and will continue to hold that position...probably until I slam it in the tailgate, at which point I'd be happy to own a new one (courtesy their warrant...this time with a hook keep). Do I get bonus points for working in a Rod Blagojevich reference?

Dec 8, 2011

Caption Contest - Jackass and Belly Edition

Is this a fishing picture? Depends on the caption.


Enter your caption in the comment section below. This isn't really a contest because I'm not going to pick a winner...if I did the prize would probably suck anyway. Should anyone else choose a winner, more power to 'em.

Dec 7, 2011

Missed One Nibble, Froze Two Kibble

"Are you fishing today?" asked the birthday girl.
I knew the correct answer was, "No."
"Why not?"
"Everywhere is closed because of hunting."
"What about Charter Oak?"
Was this a trap?

I missed one nibble, froze two kibble

and swore it all off for the year.