Oct 30, 2011

Alabama Rig, Applied to Life

If you have only a mild interest in bass fishing, you've heard about the "Alabama rig." Or "umbrella rig" as it's known in certain other bass fishing circles. It's all the rage these days on the tournament circuit.

Photo courtesy of thealabamarig.com

The R&D team at Lunker Hunt Laboratories is pleased to present the concept refocused....

Alabama Conference Call

Alabama Bullets

Alabama Golfing

Alabama Motorboatin'

Alabama Pisser

Pink Alabama Ukulele

Oct 26, 2011

A Match in My Pocket

In the canyon, wind does terrible things to fly anglers. Shear walls grab the breeze, accelerate it to a gust and redirect it's aggression. The angle of attack seems to change randomly and quickly.

A day alone on the water was my birthday wish and I returned to the scene of the crime to catch a few bass and maybe snag an Asian carp or two. The carp were no where to be seen, but the smallies did not disappoint.

In a certain pool, I was constantly seeing them slurp the surface. I took a quick glance around and saw no bugs, so I settled on a #16 gray/dun traditional dry. I brought a little too much muscle but such was the opportunity presented and I'd be a fool to ignore it.

After the first cast yielded a shad, I had a thought about you trout guys. I thought about how easy you have it; your quarry broadcasting their position in such a way. At least feeding bass are somewhat difficult to locate...

After the second or third fish, I started to realize why you like it so much. The challenge of rolling over and delicately laying down a dry is the sort of challenge I love...and it ain't easy with 3X tippet and 8wt line.

After the third or forth fish, I felt bad for not inviting Dave. So I sent him a TXT to rub salt....

"Shad are taking #16 dries on the Vermilion right now."

At the truck I finally saw a bug...

I had a perfect match all along.

Oct 25, 2011

Far East Fishing, Part Two: Stink and Spatter

Another well dressed local and a new favorite picture

The water glowed with the rainbow of petroleum products. In the calm between gentle breezes, my nostrils filled with sewage smells. The movement of my line kicked up a froth where it entered the "water." After a few casts, the white feathers on my spinner were rusty in color. And every turn of my reel spattered the stuff on bare knuckles.

Traveling light
The previous day's scouting (click here for part one) revealed the kink in my plan; I had arrived in China without the goods to snag Asian carp. But I had a chance to fish in China and wasn't going to give it up easily. Surely, there are predators to keep carp in check...

...and don't call me Shirley.

Anything packed is something to be carried through an airport and I traveled light. I brought my new Eagle Claw Trailmaster rod, a medium action spinning reel, line clippers, a clamp and a small box of spinners and grubs - if I was to choose just two lures they were going to be deadly. I wasn't sure about the space availability for casting fly line, so I left that reel in the states.

I set up shop on a canal, far enough away from the no fishing sign to play "ignorant American" if any military tanks showed up to smoosh me. I wasn't the first to fish there; a well worn path through shrubbery opened up to a standing spot on the concrete wall that held back the canal.

I held my own T! Party
Maybe the site of a white guy fishing is strange. Maybe my "short" seven foot rod was the problem. Or maybe it was my slow even retrieve. I was a sight to see for the locals. A steady stream of foot traffic and e-bikes carried rubbernecks past my spot.

I didn't have a fishing license and wasn't even sure I needed one. Not long after starting, two columns of policemen jogged by in formation and synchronized step. I avoided eye contact and started working my way a little further from the "no fishing" sign.

My line and rod were a little too heavy for the 1/16th ounce jigs, so I switched up to a 1/8th ounce inline spinner. The extra distance was perfect for casting the full width of the canal but was negated by a local who pulled up on an e-bike and started dunking bait directly opposite me.

After moving to a new spot, I was really starting to be grossed out by the smell in the air and water on my hands. I had to pause as a row boat came through with government workers straining debris from the surface; their boat heavily laden with a morning's work.

Where's the feesh? Not here.

At least they made an effort...but the whole situation was just too disgusting and I wasn't sure what kind of fish would be living in water like that. I packed it in after an hour of nothing and headed to the room to scrub my hands and take a nap.

The goal had been accomplished, I wet a line in China and the next goal will be to handle a Chinese fish. At work it is starting to look like I'll have more chances in the future. It's not a matter of if I need to go back, only the question of "how soon?" Maybe next time I'll find someplace other than a major industrial hub to fish...there was hardly enough soap in the hotel to wash the disgust from my fingers and nose.

At a minimum, I know there is ample space for a fly angler to stretch his arms...imagine the funny looks that would garner. I may try it, if only to give them something to talk about.

Oct 24, 2011

Far East Fishing, Part One: Undergunned

On the map it's clearly to the west and my plane left Chicago on a (mostly) Northerly vector. Why we still refer to "The Far East" is beyond me, I guess part of life is perspective and we all have a different view of the world.

All aboard the Crowne Plaza! My digs in Suzhou.

After the longest flight I have ever experienced endured, I found my driver in the Shanghai Pudong arrivals hall. He was easy to spot being the only guy holding a sign with my name. Having been awake for more than twenty-four hours, the white knuckle drive was just the ticket to wake me up...the Chinese have their own rules of the road and we'll later learn about "Chinese rules." Most westerners are best to keep eyelids sealed and it is no wonder my company prohibits us from driving.

This Tenkara cane pole angler dressed for the occasion.
Saturday night my body was experiencing the full effects of being awake too long. At the same time I was on the central time zone schedule, in which the day was just beginning. Jet lag mixed in equal parts with fatigue: it was 6:00pm local time but I was ready for breakfast and too tired to eat - an odd feeling indeed.

The pre-trip recon showed my hotel would be on Jinjihu Lake (pronounced Gin-Jew...I think) and my schedule granted one of day jet lag recovery. I would have Sunday to explore Suzhou before getting to work on Monday, a rare chance for recreation on a business trip. After checking in, I took a stroll along the lake to see what was shakin'.

The "Rules"
I had brought my new Eagle Claw Trailmaster travel rod, but was disheartened to see a sign prohibiting it's use. I would later learn the Chinese culture is pretty similar to ours in many ways, but certain aspects are a complete departure. For example, these rules were merely strong suggestions. I saw many men fishing and one nude swimmer. The idea of swimming in this water is a repulsive thought and you will later the reason. Why he chose to skinny dip was a question I couldn't answer - sometimes there are mysteries, which are best left unexplained.

The prevailing strategy of my angling brethren from the east was clear and I came unprepared. These guys were shameless in their disregard for the no fishing "rule" and less shameless about their technique.

They used telescoping surf rods of approximately 12-14 feet in length and spinning rods that looked to be about right for medium weight rigs. On the line they tied about two ounces of weight below two treble hooks. On one of the hooks went a scrap of bait, presumably to keep up appearances. There was no expectation for fish to be caught "fairly."

Technique demonstration, mid rip on the right.
With long rods and heavy weight, they were able to cast out a couple hundred yards of line then start the "presentation." The rod was held horizontally with the butt secured firmly in their crotch. With a quick twist of the torso the hooks were ripped through the water, then slack line was reeled. Rinse. Repeat. One appeal of travel is to learn the local culture and I was picking it up quickly. Lesson one: snagging is just fine in China.

The well dressed angler pictured atop this post was the only guy trying to catch fish fairly, and he was the only one not catching fish. Things weren't looking good for me and my meager selection of spinners and twist-tail grubs.

Dinner marinates - Au Jus Trash
One big question I had was the type of exotic fish present in these far-off waters. My imagination was picturing toothy critters with bright colors and slanty eyes. Toward the end of my walk I had a chance to see the quarry. A silver carp (we call them Asian carp around here) was left in a puddle near the dock to marinate. My tongue-in-cheek post about Asian carp snagging fliesTM was a little more directionally correct than I imagined.

My stomach growled as I walked back to the hotel - I was flying solo that night for dinner and the act of finding food was shaping up to be it's own little adventure. On the other side of a sleepless night I had a date with the lake...and you will wait to hear about it. No doubt this primer will leave your night sleepless as well.

Click here to read part two

Oct 11, 2011

Pinch Your Barbs, a Gentleman's Game

Do you enjoy a noble spot of fly fishing from time to time? Perhaps you also have persnickety and invasive species in the local flow? If so, feast them peepers on Clif's Asian Carp Snagging FlyTM

Fourteen gauge steel, three points of death and two patents pending. Snuggle the "high-viz" yellow to the side of your problem and give a hearty tug - congratulations on tail-hooking your first torpedo.

If he gets the chance, your net man will give thanks for pinched barbs*

*Safety glasses recommended but not required for all parties within 100 feet...seriously.

Oct 7, 2011

Made in Illinois, Made in China

I've been playing with craft fur, this guy is simple to make and has great action in the water. A few additional lead wire wraps and maybe more fluff, it'll be perfect.

And apparently my new rod was made in China - something I didn't realize until I uploaded this picture.

Oct 5, 2011

These People are Liars

From time to time, I hear people say they don't fish to catch fish. They're out there soaking up the sun, unwinding, enjoying scenery, building friendships, exercise...that sort of thing. Catching fish is unimportant to these people and I'm here to tell you these people are liars.

The reason people fish is to catch fish, or at least try. It is not the only reason, but if you think catching a fish is unimportant you wouldn't fish at all. If you want to get outside, go take a hike or go camping. If catching isn't the root, why do you have a rod in your hand?

The basis of the experience is catching fish. If you evaluate your reasoning at a "big picture" level you'll come to the same conclusion. There are all sorts of secondary and tertiary benefits to fishing. Icing on the cake to make an experience more enjoyable and fruitful. Don't get me wrong. I love angling and everything that goes into and comes from it, but we're out there fishing...to catch fish.

I love the feeling I get after successfully fooling a fish. I love paying attention to details and perfecting techniques. I love to be on or in the water. I love to catch fish! Big or small, it doesn't matter.

Why do you fish?

Oct 3, 2011

Desperation, Desire, South of Chilly

I landed a dink on my first cast whist standing on the ramp. My kayak sitting at my feet, an ominous sign of things to come.

What followed was sloooow fishing. An odd string of events led me to "paddle-troll" a shallow running crankbait through thirty feet of open water with an ultra-light rig...the equivalent of tying kitchen sink to my line. I'm running out of time to scratch off the year's goals. Call it desperation or desire, I did some funny things this weekend...

Giving up foolish trolling, I opened a granola bar, took a pull from the water bottle and proclaimed the fishing to officially stink. Blue bird skies, plunging water temps and enough wind to frustrate delicate presentations. I had to pack it in or kill a couple hours until the golden hour - my last chance. I chose the latter, the final act of a desperate man.

The golden hour starts when the breeze stops, this is your signal to tie on topwater "stuff." Largemouth bass on the surface is the most fun an angler can have, any other presentation during the golden hour is a missed opportunity for heart stopping fun. Make the most of each cast, your time is limited. I was not disappointed in my decision to stay, but missed far too many strikes to call it an outright success.

A pound short of goal number two, I'll have to get out again soon. The days are getting shorter and we'll be "falling back" before you know it. Our air was somewhere south of chilly by the end of the night.