Jan 27, 2011

A Hoopty Noodle and the Blue Broomstick

Santa was good to me this year...here are some new toys. Both of these rods come with a story, but for this you must wait.

TFO Clouser 8wt - 8'9" of muscle in sexy blue.

Cabela's Three Forks 3wt - 7'6" of wobbly in a chameleon color scheme
And to those of you who made this possible, I thank you and leave you with this.  Nothing says Merry Christmas like cash, cash, cash.

Jan 25, 2011

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

What it was:

What it is:

Is Clif's Crawdad getting more delicious or what?

Someday I'll update the tying instructions.  Anyone interested?

Update: Here's an instructional video on this fly.

Jan 24, 2011

The Single Piece of Gear No Angler Can Do Without

Featuring fast action and high modulus materials.

and you thought that custom rod was expensive?

Jan 23, 2011

Stipplated Stimulation

I recently sought some feedback on my carved plugs. I found some in the forums at WarmFly and in those forums I also found Ron Braud.

You should acquaint yourself with the work of Ron Braud. You ask why? I'll let his stipple pin speak for itself.  He's even put together an instructional document to help you create your own stippled work of art: Click here (then click regular download)

24Jan2011 Update: I've been informed the bodies of these were shaped by Charlie Brown, aka "Balsa Fly Rod Lures."  Ron did the paint work only.

If you'd like to get ahold of him, he cruises a few bass fly fishing forums under the handle "StippledPopper." WarmFly is where I found him.

Just Like Jay and Silent Bob

I recently got on a hot streak and won two blog contests - in a row. First I won Owl's Free Flies, Yes Really contest.  How and why? I'm not sure.  Two days later I won Cofisher's Trivial Pursuit contest, apparently because I'm better at Googling than all his other readers...well except one.  Unfortunately the state lottery commission failed to get the message.

Both prizes arrived yesterday at the exact same time, and I must say they match splendidly. Owl sent the flies and Cofisher sent the fly box.  The fly box came as advertised, but the there must have been a mix up with the flies.  Owl promised "a baker's dozen."  I've heard that phrase used to describe a couple different quantities, usually thirteen. Not once have I heard it used to describe fifteen of something.  Fifteen tiny little flies, I would tell you about them but to me they look like just that: tiny little flies.  Maybe Owl will chime in and tell me what they are called, otherwise just look at the picture.

I'll leave you to speculate about which is Silent Bob.

Jan 22, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again

The 2011 Illinois fish consumption advisories are out again.  View them by clicking here, especially if you plan on eating Illinoisan fish this year.  Doublespecially if you want to have kids at any point in the future.

This year the format is easier to read, unfortunately the list is getting longer.  I don't think its a list that normally shrinks.

Book Review: Knowing Bass - The Scientific Approach to...

Have you ever wanted to know how a bass sees the world around it?  Let me be clear...not only what it sees but how it sees.  I recently learned bass have rod and cone cells in their eyes, each cell type is specialized for vision in low and high light respectively.  These cells convert light into brain signals which are transmitted via cranial nerve II (optic nerve) to the Diencephalon and Mesencephalon subdivisions of the brain.  Got that?  Yea, me either.  I have to be honest, I never really wanted to learn that much about bass. At least I never thought I did, but then I read Knowing Bass - The Scientific Approach to Catching More Fish by Keith A. Jones, PhD.

Dr. Jones works at the Berkley Fish Research Center (Berkley not Berkeley) and this book is based on research he has performed on the job and in school. At times the work reads more like a textbook than anything else but he didn't go too far with the technical stuff.  The result was an interesting read, a greater understanding of how bass function and some ideas of what triggers bass to feed.  There is a lot of information here and most of it won't stick, but it is written such that you may take what you wish from it.  No need to understand and remember everything here simply because there is tons of info.

I first heard of this book while reading a post by the Stream Stalker.  He did a quick review that basically said "buy this book if you fish for bass."  So I took his advice and put it on my Christmas list and Santa came through.  Here is a break down of the book by chapter and what you can learn if you read it as well.  In general, each chapter starts out with a "far too technical" description, then follows up with what it means to the lay-person. This book really lays out the information from an anglers perspective.  This is a fishing book, not a biology book after all.

Chapter 1: Bass Basics - Here is a basic breakdown of black bass taxonomy, life cycle and history.  Descriptions of each species (Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted, Redeye, Shoal, Suwannee and Guadalupe).  This book focuses primarily on the mighty largemouth, but he mentions most black bass function similarly.

Chapter 2: Brain, Learning and Instincts - Technical description of the brain and nervous system, plus some valuable insight into learning ability and instincts.  I found the learning ability information valuable.

Chapter 3: Chemoreception -Description of the smell and taste systems followed by information about what scents bass like and how scent/taste trigger a feeding reaction.  Some great information here about what commercially available scents work best and what scents will actually drive bass away.

Chapter 4: Hearing and Vibration Detection - Description of the inner ear and lateral line systems.  Gives some good info about what sounds a bass can hear and what sounds don't exist in her world.  There is information about how vibration and sound trigger feeding and which sounds work best.

Chapter 5: Vision - Vision is, by far, the most critical sense a bass possesses so this chapter is the longest.  Again the author provides a technical description of the vision system.  After that he delves into how bass combine action, flash, size, shape, color, contrast to evaluate potential prey.  There is some valuable information about which lure colors work best as well as what colors a bass simply can not see.

Chapter 6: Senses of the Skin - Senses of the skin is broken down into temperature sensing and pH sensing.  Great information is provided about how bass react to temperature change and differing acidity levels.  Ever wonder why bass slow down in the cold?  The answer is a little more in depth than "they are cold blooded."

Chapter 7: Pain and Stress - Tackles the tricky question of whether bass feel pain and how they react to stress.  The author makes it clear pain and stress are unique.  Provides some great information about how to reduce mortality in your live well and at the scale.

Chapter 8: Super Lures - This chapter is exactly what it sounds like - the most valuable.  The author summarizes the previous seven chapters by expounding on what properties a "super lure" should possess.  He also speculates on what lures of the future may look/sound/taste/feel like.

Knowing Bass was originally published in 2002 and has a jacket price of $16.95 - internet shopping will get you the book for a few dollars less.  The pages are printed on high gloss paper resulting in excellent picture quality but this is not a picture book.  The paper makes the bar graphs really pop too.  At 280 pages long it'll make great bedtime reading, I finished it in about a week.

I think this book is a must read for anyone who makes a living from bass fishing. Tournament anglers and lure makers alike can really get a leg up.  Maybe even talk to your CPA about a possible tax deduction.  If you're a casual angler, this book only fits if you have a desire to think way too much about fishing.  If throwing a spinner or floating a bobber is all you need to relax, why clutter that valuable brain space with information to get in the way?

Disclaimer: As with all reviews on Lunker Hunt, the preceding review is my honest opinion, I received Knowing Bass - The Scientific Approach to Catching More Fish as a Christmas present from my lovely wife. I assume she paid something for it but I don't really care how much. Lunker Hunt is not sponsored by or associated with the author or publisher and is accepting no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review. My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

Jan 19, 2011

You Are Too Close To My Hole

When trying to explain bruised rear of your dome, remind her it wasn't your nose like Eddie got.

Gale says the 29-year-old Fruitport woman instructed the men to turn their heads while she relieved herself, and while their backs were turned, she struck one of them in the head with a fish. The lieutenant says the woman then struck the other man across the face with a fish.
She's lucky to have such a chivalrous man in her life; Eddie couldn't help but sneak a peek.

When Times Become Slow, Go To The Archives

Gosh, I have nothing to write about.  Lucky for you, I have years of blog content under my belt...that will have to do for now.  If you are jonesing for some witty Lunker Hunt content, might I suggest you click here.  Doing so will automatically search this blog and return all the funny stuff from years gone by.

Jan 15, 2011

Book Review: Fly Fishing for Smallmouth in Rivers and Streams

For Christmas 2010, I received about 1000 total pages worth of book to read - Santa was more than generous. Luckily, I enjoy reading and hate to get cold. Illinois winters are a perfect situation for someone in my...uh...situation. So without further ado, I present my review of Fly Fishing for Smallmouth in Rivers and Streams by Bob Clouser.

It is the opinion of many that Bob Clouser is the preeminent authority on fly fishing for smallies. Who has not heard of the Clouser minnow, or the Clouser madtom, or the Half and Half, et cetera, et cetera. He's either a marketing genius or magnet (I'm not sure which) because there are a multitude of products with the Clouser name. Because of this reputation, and because I'm always game for some learnin', I started asking for Clouser's book about three years ago. I'm one of a handful of fly rodders in the area so our local brick 'n mortar stores apparently felt no need to carry it. Well luckily the in-laws pulled through in 2010 and I unwrapped a shiny new copy on Christmas day.

The book is in the "coffee table" format, was originally published in 2007 and is 222 pages long. I normally avoid coffee table books, because of their size they get in the way when I want to wipe put my feet up. However, for this book I made an exception due to the wealth of knowledge it contains. Also, you shouldn't be intimidated by it's page count, at 12"x8" the idea of reading that many pages can seem daunting. However I assure you it is an easy read. The jacket price is $39.99 US, but a quick internet search shows you'd be a sucker to pay that much. The book is old enough now to get marked down, so go find a deal.

One way to know it is an easy read is to look at all the pictures...all the gall darn beautiful glossy pictures. This book is chuck full of gratuitous fish pics, gorgeous river scenes and helpful step by step instructions; each of which takes up space where text would normally reside. One example of the step-by-step photo instructions is shown at right, where Clouser demonstrates a successful method to swing boat anchors heavy bass flies. There, just like that you only have to read 220 more pages! Pictures like this really speak to me because I've spent countless hours pouring over verbiage about fishing technique, and I'm always left with the sneaking suspicion that I have no clue what's going on.

Ten chapters fill the book and cover topics from an introduction to the species, to fly pattern suggestions, to my personal favorite: "Ten Tips to Catch a Trophy." What are the ten tips? Well I can't say if I'd like to avoid a summons but I think they are worth your while techniques and strategies that may put you over the top. Another helpful chapter was "What They Eat," in which the author outlines a handful of prominent dinners. Most of those are no secret, but the chapter also provides a fly pattern and fly recipe for each food item.

The other way I am confident this book is an easy read is how quickly I conquered it. It took about six or seven bedtime stories to wrap things up. I even think some of the information stuck to my dense skull. For example, I've always lamented about bass getting lock jaw during bright sunny days. In this book, Clouser provides some insight into the phenomenon and even some tips on how to coax 'em to bite under a blue bird sky. That is the single most valuable bit of information I was able to take from the book. What will you find out?

Disclaimer: As with all reviews on Lunker Hunt, the preceding review is my honest opinion, I received Fly Fishing for Smallmouth in Rivers and Streams as a Christmas present from my in-laws. I assume they paid something for it but I don't really care how much. Lunker Hunt is not sponsored by or associated with the author or publisher and is accepting no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review. My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

Jan 12, 2011

With Giddy Anticipation

Some of you may have noticed but most probably have not...Dr. Timmy of Old Man River OR has posted the Bighorn River Series for me - I feel so special.  He's providing some guidance on the hot patterns he has used on the Bighorn for the past few years.  To see his series click here: one, two, three.

I've got one major situation to resolve at work and then, if all goes well, I'll check off goal seven for the year in late March.  Until then, I have some time to figure out how to first, see a #16 hook and then, find a way to tie something to it. Here is the first pass.  Not perfect but I have time to improve.

Thanks go out to Dr. Timmy. He probably hates that name so you should go increase his traffic so he feels no need to bring out a nickname for me.  Did I mention he doesn't have many followers and hardly any comments?

Side note: 70 followers as of yesterday - wahoo

Jan 10, 2011

Deserving is a strong word, why don't we talk about it

Hook & Hackle is offering a sweet fly rod building kit through a contest at Fly Fishing the Southern Blue Ridge. If you are curious about the rod kit or contest, click above.  Those links and the following essay fulfill the requirements set forth in the contest rules, so lets get on with it...sorry no pictures, strictly biz-nass here.

Let's be honest, no one really deserves to win a rod building kit without bringing something to the table.  Instead of faking my way through how deserving I am, I will instead focus on what Lunker Hunt has to offer Hook & Hackle and their Homestead, PA based establishment.  You'll soon see I have many plans for the rod kit, each will guarantee much happiness for me and much publicity for you.  Such a mutually agreeable arrangement should be hard to pass up.

Someday soon, the rod kit will arrive on my doorstep...where it will lie undisturbed until Jeremy (from across the street) calls to tell me about it.  I'll thank Jeremy and then become distracted, thus forgetting about the kit again.  Luckily, my street is heavily traveled by folks looking to avoid a couple traffic lights. Thieves will be discouraged by the constant passing of headlights and prying eyes.  Just as luckily, Hook & Hackle packaged the kit within a rain resistant bag and smothered it in easily interpreted store decals (they read this so they planned ahead).  Sometime just before Smarch 1st, I'll walk around front to chase that stupid squirrel off the roof again and recall Jeremy's phone call.  Deciding the package billboard has soaked long enough, I'll bring it inside. In the mean time, all my neighbors have become curious...you know...building suspense, anticipation and excitement.

The first step will be to unveil the kit to the world, right here on this website.  I'll start out slow with some some seductive music, first glance observations and witty commentary (the masses are suckers for witty commentary). Secondly, my wife will roll her eyes because I bought another rod but for once I'll have an honest excuse. Then we'll get into the nitty gritty (pay attention this gets good), I'll pour through detailed post after detailed post as the rod comes together: multiple posts about the Hook & Hackle rod kit.  I'll write as many as it takes to get the job done and did I mention the hotlinks?  Don't you worry, your kit didn't just go to some Larry, Darryl or Darryl. The author of this blog is technically trained, anal retentive, detail oriented and "pretty average" with a charcoal grill.

To be honest, I have never previously built a rod but this is no deficit.  I have read quite a bit on-line about rod building but never pulled the trigger as I am a little nervous about screwing it up.  Surely there are countless others in the world with similar thoughts, seeking reassurance their investment will not be in vain. These same people may even search the internet for information and tutorials - here they will find the "mini-series" written and published by an average Joe with no rod building experience.  Oh, did we mention the average Joe knows how to create process flow?  Certainly a skill worth having during such an endeavor.

Some day the rod will be completed.  This is the time when I'll have to find something to do with it.  I'll likely try a few things before the rod hits it's stride.  Potential uses I can think of right now:
  • Cat toy
  • Television "remote" control
  • Roof squirrel scarifier
  • Wunder Boner
  • Bluegill catch'em-a-bob
I'll figure something out but at this point you won't care.  You'll be too busy rolling around in the money from the recent inexplicable boom in rod kit sales.  Regardless, I'll create another review of the rod highlighting it's ability to do whatever I decide to do with it.  It may not be perfect, but it will be as perfect as I can make it and that is what people want to read.

Reference Material:
6955 unique visitors in 2010, with an upward trend heading into 2011.
Use Google to find info about RIO Smallmouth fly line, look who's ranked first
Older post where I documented another build activity you can expect similar stuff
Another build, this one with more pictures but less chit chat.

Jan 9, 2011

After Midnight in Vice Land

One strategy I've used to keep things lively is to post fewer fly tying pictures.  I realize I have pretty average ability on the vice and no one wants to see a bunch of average looking flies.  Don't get me wrong, I love seeing and sharing flies but I could post about 500 more posts per year about flies and this blog would get boring.  So...believe it or not I do tie flies.  I usually tie just enough to keep the box full and any given fishing trip is usually be preceded by a scramble to replace the lost.

When I first started wrapping thread, I bought this little red box to hold materials.  It did pretty well for about a week.  Then things got out of control and the box is only used to hold flies while they dry (you can see a few hanging now.)  I am seriously out of control, now I'm contemplating ways to get organized and I don't think this box is going to cut it.  So how do you guys do it?  Give me some insight into your organizational methodology and we'll see what I can do to alleviate my predicament.

The following are pictures of my "vice land." View them and you'll have a feeling for what I'm dealing with.  Right now, if a fly should take five minutes I'll spend about three minutes looking for the material, about five minutes looking for my scissors and five minutes tying.

Here is a wide angle shot of my corner in the basement.  This is what it looks like if you spend a few years accumulating stuff and never take the time to organize it.  I've taken the liberty of labeling all the key elements in the image.  Click on the picture and you'll instantly feel like your at the vice, whipping up some Mad Toms.

This is my box of stuff.  After the red box shown above, this was my second and last attempt to stay organized.  This box carried it all when my vise was downgraded to the basement where it could be left undisturbed and unseen by unsuspecting guests.  This is where I keep all the paint I use on my solid wood poppers, I've also got the Illinois fishing regs magazine from 2008 here...because you never know.

This is where the magic happens.  The table started it's life many years ago at the in-laws' house.  Back then it led a boring life of holding up a lamp, tissue box and soda cans; it never dreamed how exciting life would be in it's golden years.  My cheapo vice is front and center with most of my tools arranged thrown about the vicinity.  Thread and other smaller materials reside here as well as polyurethane for the poppers.

When tying flies it is important to have everything within an arm's reach.  Here you can see the pile of stuff on the tier's left.  Here you'll see some basic materials.  There is also a bag of goodies I recently procured from Tight Lines and a bag of caulk backing.  I'm not sure why the caulk backing is here because I've never used it on a fly, however it's appearance has prompted some thoughts on how it would float.

Here is the pile of stuff on the tier's right.  As I'm right handed, this is the good stuff.  I've got bunny fur, feathers, bucktail and flash...all the important stuff for bass flies.  The brown paper bags hold some "free range feathers" received a couple Christmas's ago from my sister-in-laws farm - sparkly bow still attached because it might some day look good on a fly.
So there you have it. I know it is no where near as much stuff as some people probably have. It is even a little more organized than others might be. However, I'm serious about tidying up and I'd like some advice.

Mom, telling me to "pick up after I'm done" isn't going to count as advice.

If you came here looking for sweet flies...sorry.  Click here instead to see some absolutely amazing deer hair work.

Jan 8, 2011

A Winner Emerges

My contest for my hand carved bass bugs closed at midnight while I was dreaming of warm water and big green fish.  This afternoon morning when I woke up, a winner was drawn.  Everyone had great odds with just thirteen entries.

Wouldn't you know it?  The winner was T-Rage; that guy is everywhere.  Not only does he keep a kick arse blog over here, but now you have to be jealous about his propensity to win stuff.  His winning comment (#7) stated the bugs are worth "at least $3 a fly."  So when my poppers are sold for "at least $3," you should see him for a loan.  He'll probably take your home as collateral.

Congratulations Mike.  I'll be in touch via e-mail to get your mailing address.

For the rest of you, if you'd like a piece of the action please contact me.  We can work something out to get you hooked up with a custom bug or two.

Jan 4, 2011

Time is Running Short

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win some spectacular hardwood bass plugs. All you need to do is click here and follow the rules. You have until Friday the 7th to throw in a hat or four. Currently you can have pretty good odds and I don't really care what your hat looks like.  Dunce or stetson...whatever...just throw it!

Don't forget, you can't win if you don't play.

Jan 1, 2011

It's Best To Use Sparingly

I dislike resolutions and goals because I hate not being able to fulfill them. The Buddhists say a key to happiness is to avoid all expectations - I'm no Buddhist but, believe me, it is a fundamentally sound practice.  However, the philosophy reeks havoc in the modern world so it's best to use sparingly.  Here is a modest set of goals for the year. I believe all to be achievable and each requiring more than luck.  I'll even put a little side bar on this blog to help stay vigilant, crossing items off a list is extremely satisfying... if only I felt good about leaving them unchecked.
  1. Start and maintain a fishing log. Data can be a beautiful thing if you have the patience to process it and wherewithal to draw reasonable conclusions.
  2. Catch a 3lb bass on 4lb test.  This was a secret goal for 2010 left unfulfilled; I came close once but could probably have tried a little harder.
  3. Catch a musky or pike on a fly rod.  Any size will do.
  4. Set a new personal record by catching a bass heavier than 5.1 pounds.
  5. Write a check to a taxidermist.
  6. Capture some decent footage of a bass destroying a top water lure/fly.  The word decent is key here.
  7. Fly fish for trout in Colorado or Montana.  The past two years I have declined an invitation to the Big Horn River and I severely regret it.  This year I will not say no, so if you're reading this...please ask again.
  8. Visit the East Peoria Bass Pro Shops on opening day. Then go buy something from locally owned Presley's as penance for my sins.  Last word was BPS will open in the fall of 2011 and I hope they have some ridiculous opening day event.