Bass+Caelifera=Fun

     The weather is hot around here lately.  Temps have been in the upper 80's and the humidity is brutal.  As the water heats up the carp go deep and my musky fishing stops.  Not being much of a panfisherman until the ice freezes, the only logical thing to do is chase some largemouths.  I snatched up my 8 weight fly rod and headed out to some residential ponds.  Fishing in these urban waters is always a good time and I love throwing topwater poppers to hungry little bass.  I heaved cast after cast and came up empty handed.  After a while I was spent so I stopped for a drink of coffee (I know not the most hydrating drink).  I had to figure out what the bass were hitting on.  Normally chugging a foam popper across the glassy surface will create chaos in these ponds, but today the fish weren't going for it.  As I sipped my coffee I happened to look down at the rod.
     Well what do you know I thought a Caelifera, that's a grasshopper for those that don't have Google handy.  I took a step and the grass was alive with them.  Tons of little grasshoppers scattering in every direction.  As the wind picked up I thought, "maybe these tiny guys are getting blown into the pond?"  So into the fly box I went checking my terrestrials for a close match.  After a bit of digging I settled on a foam grasshopper pattern.  The one I picked was a little bigger than the grasshoppers I was seeing beneath my feet, but I love a large lure.  Big lures for big fish I always say, you know relatively speaking.
     My first cast was pretty uneventful, the second cast yielded a nice sized bluegill.  Then I stumbled onto something pretty neat.  I noticed that if I didn't set the hook when the gills attacked it that a bass would move in and crush it.  After a few missed hooksets (they're free), I strip set into a nice little largemouth.  The keyword here is little, don't tell him that though, he had the heart of a lion!
     Working my way around the pond I caught quite a few little bass one right after another.  I was having a riot and even let another fly fisherman on the shoreline in on my discovery.  So what's the message in this story?  Take the time to figure out what is going on when you fish.  Don't always be in a rush to fire off cast after cast.  See if you can discover what the fish are feeding on.  Matching the hatch might take a little time, but the rewards are worth it.
     Tight Lines.

Evening Shower Summer Crappies

     A couple years ago I noticed a pattern for summer crappies that I just have to share.  I stumbled upon it by accident and it has been so consistent that I wonder if it works in other parts of the country too.  The gear is simple, an ultralight up to medium rod (depending on the size of your crappies).  4-10 pound test line, again depending on what rod your using.  A crappie jig or lure (Echotail), the minnow look a likes seem to perform best.
     The pattern conditions are pretty straight forward.  On warm summer evenings following a rain shower and just before it gets dark, crappies show up in numbers at the point where a creek enters a lake.  At first I thought it was a fluke because this is a common spot to pick off a one or two crappies all summer long.  So what make this scenario special?  It has been consistently producing large numbers of crappies.  As many 18-20 keeper sized fish in less than an hour.  It seems a little to good to be true right?  Let me explain what I think is happening.
     As evening falls the crappies gather in their normal spots, schooled up, relating to structure, and suspended near weed breaks adjacent to deeper water.  As the rain falls insects are knocked from their perches along the creek and drop into the water.  When the creek begins to swell it carries this food supply into the lakes where it is distributed into the water column.  The smaller fry and "minnows" then move to the lake mouths to eat up the floating banquet.  Soon to follow are the ravenous crappie schools.  It's like my buddy always says, "to find the fish, find their food source".
     Whether you're vertical jigging, bobber plopping some shiners, or casting little spinners across the top of the school, around here the action gets intense.  Next time it rains give this pattern a test run in your area for me.  I am curious to hear if it works for you, or if it's a Madison only kind of thing.
Remember to limit your catch, not catch your limit.
     Tight Lines.

Fly Box Update August 2014

   
     So long story short I seem to be accumulating more flies.  I must admit that I enjoy just looking at them as much as I do fishing them.  This collection was supposed to be just for chasing bass and carp.  Then my goal was to collect musky flies over the winter.  Somehow I got distracted by the myriad of designs.  Which I guess is part of the fun.  Here is an updated list as of August 14th, 2014.

  • 6 Woolly Buggers in Black, White, and Brown
  • 4 Vernille San Juan Worms in Red and Tan
  • 6 Clouser Minnows in White, Black, and White/Olive
  • 2 San Juan Worms in Red with bead
  • 2 Gibson's Dragon Flies
  • 2 Predator Pounders in Green and Orange
  • 1 Dancing Frog
  • 5 Jan's Carp Ticklers in Green, Orange, and Red (love these)
  • 2 Crystal Buggers in Black
  • 2 Fluttering Blue Damsels
  • 3 TH Medusas in Red and Pink
  • 2 Graw Dawgs in Brown
  • 1 Superfly Terrestrial Assortment-6 Hopper Imitations
     Of course this is a list of just the newest flies.  The flies from last months inventory post are in the box still too.
   Tight Lines

Carpin Success

     After a few weeks of relentless pursuit I am happy to report that I have finally landed a carp on the fly.  That particular morning started like any other, with me just sitting at work patiently waiting to clock out and head to the water.
     I headed over to a local pond where I have had marginal success in the past.  Once on the shoreline I spent the first 10-15 minutes just scanning the water and observing what the fish were doing.  I decided to try my chances on a small pod of carp that were actively feeding just on the other side of the lily pads.  I tied a green carp tickler fly onto the tippet and settled in behind some cattails.  I made my first cast and BAM! the fly was stuck in the tree behind me (it happens all the time).  In the process of trying to free my fly, the line broke and I startled the fish.  I don't know why the green carp tickler flies get stuck in trees all the time, but they do.  I retied with a simple red San Juan worm and slowly worked my way around the far edge of the pond scanning for movement in the water.  Then I saw them, a nice group of fish blissfully feeding without a care in the world.
     With a little stalking to get into casting range I fired off a long cast and watched the worm sink into position.  The bottom of this pond has a lot of rotting vegetation so I lost track of the fly.  Then I noticed a slight twitch at the end of my fly line.  Was that a fish?  With a quick strip of line, off ran the carp.  I was shocked at how fast that carp peeled line off my reel.  Suddenly I found myself deep into the backing and a little concerned about whether or not I could actually stop it.
     Applying pressure to work the fish proved difficult with all the lilly pads at the waters edge.  Each time I got it back in, that damn fish took off on another run.  It was back and forth across the pond, bolting this way and that.  All I was able to really do was tuck the rod in close and then reel like hell when he slowed down.
     After 3 reel blistering runs he had finally ran out of steam and buried himself in the lilies.  I trudged out into the pond and felt around in the water looking for my prize.  As soon as I touched its back it tore off again freeing itself from the weeds and heading to open water.  Keeping tension in the rod I brought the carp in close to shore and reached down with my Lucid Fishing Grips.   I removed the fly and lifted the fish for a quick photo.
     As I released the fish back into the pond I noticed that my hands were shaking.  Truth be told I was a little shaken up.  All the hours of backyard casting and countless trips to get advice from the guys at Orvis of Madison had paid off.  Most of the guys that have I talked to both in person and on the blogs I follow mention that pursuing carp with a fly rod will make you a better angler.  Now I can honestly say, that I believe them.
     Tight Lines.

A lesson in Patience, Perseverence, and the importance of Research.

"All I want is to finally land a catfish (flathead) that can bend my shark rod". -Shorebound Hero

     This is a story that I couldn't tell immediately.  When I got home from this trip it occurred to me that it wasn't as simple as it seemed.  On paper, all I had done was cast out an injured bluegill and reeled in a flathead catfish.  In reality, I had finally accomplished a goal 4 years in the making.
     A few years ago I decided that I was gonna learn to fish.  I was talking with my buddy at work and he said the biggest fish he had seen around here was a flathead catfish.  We checked online to see what we needed and where we had to go.  We didn't check what we needed to catch a flathead, just what we needed to catch a catfish.  Wandering around Gander Mountain we were overwhelmed to say the least.  We bought two cheap catfish combos and some of the worst smelling stink bait they had.  We went to a popular catfish spot and I landed my first catfish.  I was so excited, but it wasn't a flathead, it was a channel.
     You see, despite our success and "research" we hadn't identified how to catch a flathead, just how to catch a catfish.  Once back home I started to read about flathead catfish specifically.  Flathead differ from channel catfish in one very important way.  They are predatory hunters not scavengers.  Channel cats find their food by following scent trails in the water.  That is why stinky baits work so well.  They smell the bait in the water and go looking for it.  Flatheads hunt their prey.  Dead or smelly baits may work once in awhile, but to really up your odds you need something they can hunt.  Something injured, something struggling that will draw them in.
     The following year after a lot of YouTube videos and fishing articles I once again found myself out looking for a flathead.  I went to a local pond to catch some bluegills.  I knew I needed some gills as big as my hand.  I loaded them up in my aerated bucket and headed off to the lake to meet up with some friends.  Once I was setup I casted out my lines and waited.  After about 20 minutes or so I had a hit and I quickly set the hook and started bringing the fish to shore.
     After landing and releasing the catfish I noticed something strange.  The bait was a weird grayish color.  I had seen this before, but not while fishing.  I had seen this in my aquariums.  When a fish is brought home from the pet store you have to float the bag for 15-30 minutes.  This allows the water temperature in the bag to equalize with the aquarium water so the fish don't go into shock and die.  When they die they lose their color.  I had the right bait, unfortunately I killed them almost instantly.  We were fishing at Lake Columbia, a cooling lake for a coal plant.  It never freezes, it stays hot, about 72 degrees year round.  The bait was in a nice cool aerated bucket, they died with in minutes of hitting the water.  At that point the bluegills were essentially just natural stink bait.  As a by product all we caught was channel cats.
     So fast forward to the following season.  I was out with my son and his friends for a chance at a big fish.  We were once again heading to Lake Columbia and I suddenly had a genius idea.  Why not leave early and catch the bluegills there?  They were already adjusted to the water temps so they would survive longer.  Genius!!!  When we arrived the boys and I started catching some bluegills and as the sun set in the distance we casted out our lines.  I knew this would be the night when I finally caught my flathead.  My rod went off and again I set the hook with great anticipation.  Once I got it under the lights my heart sank.  What did I do wrong?  I had caught a nice sized fish, but it was a channel catfish.  I was missing something, but I had no idea what it was.  This brings us to my most recent trip, still looking for my first flathead catfish...
     I have recently started my coworker Richard down the dangerous road of recreational fishing.  He was an avid fisherman in his youth, but hadn't been out fishing in years.  He wanted to try catfishing again, I of course knew just where to go.  The only issue was that I had no interest in catching another channel cat.  I started up the research to refresh in my mind, what I would need to catch a flathead (again). I ended up watching a video of some guys catching flatheads from the shore of Lake Columbia.  In the comments I read something I had apparently missed in the past.  They said they were casting really close to shore, maybe 20-30 feet from the bank.  Their reasoning? little bluegills were hiding in the rocks so the flatheads came in shallow to find them.  I was casting to far from shore.  When I was casting, I was power casting I was heaving that bait as far from the shore as possible and the fish just weren't out that far.  Now I believed I had the missing piece, 4 years later.

     We rigged up the rods at my place.  I wasn't taking any chances because I had recently broken 2 rods on large fish.  In fact the lightest rod I planned on using was my double extra heavy musky rod.  I was pulling out all the stops, I had my surf rod and my 50-80 pound stand up shark rod.  Now all we needed to do was get to the lake, catch some bait, and wait.
     The bait was easily caught with some ultralights and wax worms under a bobber.  We laughed and told stories as we reeled in enough buegills and little channel cats to use as bait throughout the night.  Once the sun started to set we got the rods casted out.  We casted one out far, one out close, and the last out somewhere in between.  I was after a flathead, but Richard was after any catfish so we opted to vary our line spread.  Then we waited in the dark eating doritos and enjoying some hand rolled cigars.
     As normally happens when sitting in the dark waiting for your rods to go off, you have plenty of time to talk about your fishing adventures.  We were about an hour into the wait when I mentioned how long I had been trying to catch a flathead.  He had no idea that I had been at it for 4 years.  I told the stories of each failure, each trip that ended with me coming home, tail between my legs like a dog who had just been whipped by the neighborhoods stray cat.  How I had to go back each time knowing that I had not accomplished what I had set out to do.  As we sat in the darkness listening for the slightest click of the reels, I mentioned that, "all I want is to finally land a catfish that can bend my shark rod".  He kind of chuckled at the idea.  "That would be a big catfish!" he said.  I agreed and talked poetically about how on River Monsters I always knew when Jeremy Wade had a big fish on because the rod would just STOP on the hookset.  That would be awesome I thought to myself, to have the fish just stop me in my tracks.
     Then it happened, click, Click, CLick, CLIck, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK!!!  Something had the bait on the shark rod and it was running.  I scrambled out of my chair and reached for the rod.  The line was just pouring out of the reel.  I brought the rod close to my body and flipped the lever to engage the spool.  Cranking in the slack line I thought, could this be it?  I heaved back on the rod and it just stopped in it's tracks.  I was tight on something that was very unhappy to be hooked.  It immediately bolted down the shoreline and I strained to keep tension on my line.  Wouldn't you know it, the rod was doubled over!  As I worked it through the rocks I yelled to Richard "grab the lip grips!!!"  Turns out I had forgotten to show him how they worked and in the excitement he almost flipped over my chair and he knocked the surf rod from its holder.  Once he had the grips he came stumbling up behind me in the dark.  The fish was thrashing around in the shallows, throwing water at us with each twist of its tail.  Finally I was able to reach out into the chaos and grab that fish.  I strained to see the figure in the dark, now angrily rolling around on the beach.  It was a flathead, a respectable flathead.  I quickly unhooked it and handed the camera to Richard.  I lifted it up and the 30 pound scale was bottomed out.  Then with a quick thrash of its body the grip came apart.  I tackled the fish in the sand and scrammbled to get the grip back together.  After a short battle I was finally able to raise my prize in the air.  
Please don't hold a fish like this, I got a little to excited.
     I had landed a flathead catfish.  I was ecstatic, high fiving and shouting into the night.  Richard fired off a few more photos and I returned the fish back to the lake.  It took me 4 years to catch one, it took a lot of research and problem solving to finally get everything right.  The lessons I learned while pursuing this catfish species were many.  From where to fish, to how to keep the bait alive, or why they'll be in a certain place at a certain time.  I'm sure the methodology will help me in the future, as I chase other fish in new waters.  I always tell people that I want to represent possibilites with my fishing.  That you don't need fancy boats or expensive electronics to catch a fish worth bragging about.  All you need is some patience, some perseverence, and a little research.
     Tight Lines.

        

How to Cast a Spinning Reel Without a Bail

     Casting a bail less spinning reel is easy.  All you have to do is practice and follow these 3 steps.

  1. Lift the line off the bearing.
  2. Hold the line against the rod.
  3. (Cast) doesn't count as a step since it's in parenthesis.
  4. Pinch the line back against the rod and reel in the line.
     For more information I made up a quick video to help explain the motions required.
     Tight Lines.

Removing a Spinning Reel Bail for Threadlining.

   
     So in my previous post on "Threadlining" I brought up the fact that the most commonly used reels were antique ultralight bail less spinning reels.  These reels are proving extremely difficult to find so I decided that I needed to modify a modern reel.  I located an inexpensive spinning reel.  This was a test after all, so I didn't want to destroy a perfectly good reel if this didn't work.
     First- you will have to remove the screw that attaches the non line roller side of the bail wire to the reel.
     Second- remove the screw that holds the line roller and bail wire to the reel.  This one is pretty tight so make sure you have the correct size of phillips screwdriver so you don't strip out the head of the screw.
Brace the reel if needed, it's really in there.
     Third- free the bail wire and line roller from the reel.  This will normally come off in one piece, but keep your eye out for any small parts.
     Fourth- step is a little tricky, you need to cut the bail wire off the line roller.  I used a hacksaw for this, but a dremel tool with cutting disc would be another good option.  Be careful not to scar up the line roller to bad or you will need to spend a lot of time polishing it so it doesn't damage the line while reeling (trust me).
1000 grit sandpaper and polishing compound may be needed to smooth it out.

     Fifth-reattach the line roller to the reel.  This is as simple as tightening down the screw.  Just a heads up, without the bail wire to hold it in place you may need a set of needle nose pliers to help hold the line roller while under tension.
     Sixth-this step is optional, but I found it helped.  Remove the bail trip assembly from the reel, being careful not to lose the spring.  Apply some super glue or epoxy to the housing and reattach the bail trip assembly to the reel.  This step is optional, the reason I say that, is that without the glue the reel will function fine and be ready to fish.  The reason I ended up needing to glue the housing in place was that even without the bail wire, I would instinctively try to flip the bail open instead of just lifting the line with my finger.  Having the housing glued in place helped me to learn the required muscle memory faster.
Careful not to lose that spring.
A little glue helps the process.
     Well that's all it takes to make a reel bail less.  Obviously some reels may require more work than others, but this is the basics.  Now that you have a bail less ultralight reel you can eliminate line twist, have a more even tensioned line lay (less line loops), and get a smoother more fluid cast.  With some practice you'll be casting as well as you did with the bail wire on the reel.  So how do you cast a bail less reel?  Will cover that in the next SB Hero blog post.
Bail less and ready to fish.

     Tight Lines.

Radical Ultralight Fishing and the Flip Cast

     A few months ago I saw a video that sparked a flame of curiosity.  It was shot with a high speed camera and showed the great Texas fly fisherman Joe Robinson demonstrating a series of casts with a spinning rod.  Casts that I had never seen before because the evolution of spinning rod design had long made them obsolete.  Mr. Robinson's term for this style of fishing was called "threadlining".
Photo Credit to Scott Wallace
     Threadlining was the use of extremely specialized gear to cast 1/64th-1/4th ounce lures to highly pressured bass and trout in crystal clear waters.  I quickly became intrigued by this specialized fishing style.  Not just because of the lack of effort in the cast, but because the gear was fascinating.  The rods are custom made from 0-3 weight cut down flyrod blanks, and the antique bail less reels were spooled with 7x fly tippet.  Not fishing line, just the tippet you attach to your tapered leader to turnover a fly at the end of a cast.  This is the radical edge of ultralight fishing and the catch potential of this style is off the charts.  Not necessarily huge fish, but lots of them.  Plus with the learned rod control that will come with mastery of the flip and snap cast, I should be able to get those little echotails into some pretty tight spaces (under trees, bridges, docks, etc).
     I have had some success playing around with the ideas, and only with more practice will I know if the theories work around southern Wisconsin.  For more information check out the video below or follow the link to buy a copy of Joe Robinson's book, at www.piscatorialabsurdities.com.
     Tight Lines.

Been Busy

     So these last few weeks has been pretty busy.  Started up the Zazzle.com store so I am know happy to announce that the Shorebound Hero hat and performance tee is now available, and shockingly a few have already sold.  Just follow the link to join the army of shorebound anglers who believe, you don't need a boat to catch a trophy.
     I received my new jersey from Rayjus.  It looks great and as always the crew over at Rayjus did an awesome job on the design and layout.  It is loud and gaudy and has already gotten quite a few people to ask me about the different companies displayed on it.  Which in turn gives me an opening to show off the lures and hand out business cards and promo information.
     Lastly, I have been doing a lot of template and layout changes to the blog.  I have added direct sponsor links, SEO optimization, and a language translator at the request of some international readers.  I have been back to my regular schedule of fishing and guiding 4-5 days a week after a rocky start to my summer due to a loved one losing her cancer fight.  Been doing everything from fly fishing, ultralight fishing, catfishing, musky fishing, and preparing to make a run on an IGFA line class record.  I want to thank all those who have supported me.  Vibrations Tackle, Nauti Lures, and Pink Fishing, if you guys need any help during the expo season in the booths let me know, I am happy to help.  Finally to all my readers THANK YOU.  
     Tight Lines.