Sep 22, 2011

Bass Pro Shops East Peoria

Wednesday evening, I braved the crowds with the hope of excitement. It turned out that the crowds were the excitement at the grand opening ceremony of Bass Pro Shops in East Peoria, IL. Dave and I grabbed one of the very last parking spots when we arrived forty-five minutes early...two of the early arrivals in a crowd of 6000. Unfortunately no one contacted me about a press pass, so we had to slum it and wait in line with the "regular folk." There were already two long lines, one to meet NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray and the other line formed to just get in the door....

In addition to the NASCAR guys, there were a few D-list celebrities such as Jimmy Houston, Andre Dawson and Jeanette "The Black Widow" Lee.  The Black Widow was working the pool table and willing to beat anyone wanting a chance. Even local celebrities were on hand to report the "news" that East Peoria now has a ridiculously over sized outdoors store.

The celebrity panel took the stage and said some stuff, I don't really remember what. Just as the crowd grew restless the doors opened. This is the first thing I saw....

Straight ahead of the door and near the back sits a giant aquarium filled with local species of fish like largemouth, smallmouth, stripers, carp and gar. The tank was a huge draw and was constantly swarmed by gawkers.

In the tank is a particularly impressive specimen. A catfish reported to weigh eighty-eight pounds, here she is next to a boy shown for size reference.

After leaving the tank, we went straight to the fly fishing area. This is the single thing I have the most excitement about. There are plenty of places to by fishing poles, guns and clothing but any fly fishing stuff I've bought has been from the intertubes. It is going to be excellent to go touch fly tying materials before buying.

We spent a couple hours milling around the fly shop, time kind of slipped by. We happened across Jonn "Streamstalker" Graham and got to chat with a couple BPS employees who actually know a thing or two about fly fishing. We swapped stories, talked about fishing spots (but not the secret ones) and got to know each other. Dustin and Andy were the two guys who impressed me most. We offered some suggestions on products they should offer and others (see trout stuff) they need to drop. It sounds like they have plans to help localize the selection.

If you are like me and aren't super happy about big stores putting pressure on the little guys, at least you can appreciate finally having fly fishing supplies in the area. I hope to patronize the fly shop as much as possible to keep them around, and I hope you do too. Their fly rod selection is definitely focused on affordable entry models, so if you're thinking about trying the long rod there are plenty of options and some expertise to point you in the right direction

Also of note is an archery range, nothing new for our area. In fact, it's not nearly as nice as as the ones at Wolf Hollow Archery near Chillicothe or Presley's in Bartonville. The BPS lane would be snug with just two people, but it'll be a great place to try before buying.

Speaking of trying before you buy, there was a large Tracker boat store and I hope someday the management takes advantage of their prime location on the Illinois River. How sweet would it be to take a boat for a test drive before buying it? Or pretend to be serious about boat shopping to get to go boating?

The store also features a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, bowling alley and shooting arcade game. Shoot stuffed animals with lasers while a talking moose taunts you. Loads of fun for fifty cents.

All told, I was a little underwhelmed by the opening day festivities. I was hoping for some big door busting deals, feebies and entertainment and that really wasn't the case. It sure didn't reduce the appeal of the place in general. As a store, it is absolutely enormous and offers a huge selection. As a tourist attraction there are plenty of eye popping stimuli to keep you and the family happy. Go check it out...and by some fly fishing stuff.

Sep 20, 2011

Sensible Shoes and Spooky Illinois Trout

The yearning for ever larger and more abundant smallies took me far from home to fish the Vermilion River. A river I've studied endlessly on Google maps, and read quite a bit about. With total drive time approaching three hours, procrastination was rampant. Finally, cold weather reminded me of winter's coming and the close of our fishy season...better get up there before it's too late!

My companion was Dave, who also maintains has a fishing blog. He calls himself The Fair Weather Fisher in salute of a casual attitude about angling (and apparently blogging.) Irony is a cruel mistress and Sunday the cold rain varied from a mist to downpour, a few clear spots in between. I like fishing with Dave; he has a few idiosyncrasies that amuse me. For example...

and I sometimes catch him imagining he is fishing for spooky trout....

True story: while Dave was keeping a low profile to avoid spooking stupid fish, I caught this smallmouth from the very hole I was standing knee deep in. I was day dreaming at the time and she picked the stationary fly off the bottom. The result: we began to put together a pattern...a slow presentation was critical.

We took in some very un-Illinoisian landscape. This section of the Vermilion hosts the only class III whitewater rafting in Illinois (in times of higher water) and features a beautiful boulder strewn bottom - all nestled between sheer rock cliffs. A far cry from the muddy Mackinaw I'm used to.

The water is clear, exposing abundant signs of life. What was most striking was the healthy prolific crawdad population. Had I anticipated, my fly box would have been chuck full of Clif's Crawdads. Instead, I had only one...and quickly lost it. Note to self: tie something that looks like this...

...because Vermilion River smallies gobble crawdads up, all day long.

Dave was semi-prepared, having a single olive wooly bugger. The lack of heavy lead eyes kept his bugger above the snaggy rocks and thus he enjoyed immense success, catching five fish as compared to my one.

The highlight of my day was the accidental snagging of an Asian carp that spent more time in the air than in the water. Them suckers can jump and don't appreciate being foul hooked. The tail hooked fish probably went 8-10lb and put up such a fight that the next one I snagged was not an accident. Sadly, both carp shook the hook but I now have a challenge and I'm wanting more....

I've already designed an Asian Carp Snagging FlyTM. Stay tuned for that.

Sep 9, 2011

Reminder of the Good Years

The Clarks remind me of the good times. Live music and cold beer at The Copper Dragon.

The song that sealed it was actually a cover...have a listen.

Home made turbine engines also remind me of college:

Pull-Tab Litter Bug

I wonder if the pull-tab went in his pocket....maybe it's still there.

After all, he top does say "Please Don't Litter."


This is my photo submission for the GreenFish and Outdoor Blogger Network Photo Contest

Sep 8, 2011

Take Me to Your Superglue

I think aliens are taking over the Mackinaw River.

Or someone got a deal on superglue.

Sep 7, 2011

I Hate It When This Happens

Fish public waters and you will have to interact with all types of people. Some of them like to drive ATV's through your fishing hole.

This was the second time in two weeks this happened to me.

Sep 6, 2011

Timestamps - A Pictorial

Monday I went fishing in the Mackinaw River and many strange things happened. This week, I'm featuring a mini-series to cover the oddities. Monday night's post kicked things off, here is part two:

It was a beautiful day with a nip in the air, I wore a jacket and my waders to stay warm:

At 1:27pm on I caught a smallmouth on a white grub:

I caught him amongst these logs:

At 1:33pm (6 minutes later) I caught this fish from the same spot:

I have decided it was the same fish. The second picture is a little overexposed, so the colors don't quite match the first picture. But the fish's markings and that distinct line in it's eye are common. What do you think?

Sep 5, 2011

...and Me Without My Fly Rod

While walking to the parking lot I spied him... could it be?

It is not common to see another fly rodder in central Illinois, but Monday I happened across one - in the wild, totally unplanned. It was the first time ever....and me with out my fly rod.

His name is Fred. Or was it Frank? He had just started fishing and I had just finished, but we made time for a chat about smallie fishing in Illinois. I suspect he may end up reading this, so everyone better act normal. We have company.

(I did catch fish, but you'll have to wait for that)

Sep 2, 2011

To Be Born Again

Happy Friday to one at all. Looking for something to kill time?

This week we're going to do things a little different. Instead of featuring a particular band, this post is focused on a song. Astral Weeks is the title song for Van Morrison's classic 1968 album with Warner Bros. Morrison described the song is:
"like transforming energy, or going from one source to another with it being born again like a rebirth. I remember reading about you having to die to be born. It's one of those songs where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that's basically what the song says."

The song has been covered by many other musicians, each adding their own personal touch and feeling. My favorite version is by The Secret Machines, they're not a very good band in general but they rock this song. I can't find it on Youtube so here is an "audio only" version:

If that didn't work (it probably didn't...grrr) try this link

Another outstanding cover version is The Swell Season's solo acoustic version, as played by Glen Hansard:

And with everything out there worth loving, some will love it too much. Those people will make the rest of us uncomfortable by publishing videos like this: