How to tie a Clouser Minnow

     The clouser minnow is a great little bait fish fly pattern that seems to work in every environment.  Freshwater, saltwater, lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, big fish, little fish, if it swims and eats anything bigger than zooplankton you can probably catch it on a clouser minnow.  I recently attended an intermediate fly tying class at Orvis of Madison and learned how to tie this pattern, step by step.

To tie the Clouser Minnow your gonna need a few materials:
     First, place your hook level and start your thread about 1/8th inch to a 1/4 inch from the hook eye.  Our instructor said to leave yourself a generous amount of space since we will be tying material down all way down to the eye of the hook.
     Second, place the dumbbell eyes on the hook.  A good tip he gave was to tie them in an X pattern then pull the line tight.  This will help keep the eyes nice and straight on the hook.
     Third, select 4-7 strands of Pearl Krystal Flash.  You want them long enough that when you tie them down behind the eyes they extend about half a hooks length past the bend of the hook.  When you tie the flash into position start with a few loose wraps to hold it in place.  Once it's straight on the hook, continue with a tighter wrap.
     Fourth, grab your white bucktail and choose a nice long section.  Cutting at the base of the bucktail select a hair grouping about 1/4 inch in diameter.  Gently pull the shorter fibers out of the grouping. Then tie the long fibers onto the hook so that they are even with the Pearl Krystal Flash.  Tie the bucktail down behind the eye with a few wraps.  Then tie it down in front of the eye with a few tight wraps.
     Fifth, take a similar amount of the chartreuse bucktail and tie it on under the hook.  Make sure your wraps are in front of the dumbbell eyes.  Once the chartreuse bucktail is snugged down add some wraps to get your thread back to the eye of the hook.  Then finish it all off with a series of half hitches or by using a whip finisher.
     As you can see the clouser minnow is a simple, yet effective pattern.  It's easier to tie than you would think, even for a complete beginner like myself.  A big thanks to Tristan and the staff over at Orvis of Madison for putting on the free tying class.  I swear I learn more on accident in that store than I could ever learn in the pages of a book.  If your interested in learning to tie flies check out Orvis of Madison and sign up for their next event.  Or if you're not convinced you want to tie flies, but would like to own a clouser minnow follow the link here.
     Tight Lines.










2015 Madison Fishing Expo

     It's that time of year again, time for the Madison Fishing Expo.  I will be in attendance in Booth 612 helping out the Vibrations Tackle team Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  New for Shorebound Hero this year, my Native Watercraft Slayer Propel kayak will be on display with Rutabaga Paddlesports fully rigged for the 2015 season.  So make plans this weekend to check out the Madison Fishing Expo.  On a side note I will have the new stickers with me, free of charge.
     Tight Lines.

Kayaks and Foam a SeaDek Story

They even include a sticker!
     The first thing I ordered for the new Native Watercraft Slayer Propel and Versaboard was complete SeaDek kits.  For more info on SeaDek products follow the link here.  For our purposes all you need to know is that SeaDek is an adhesive backed foam padding that is precut to fit your boat.  It's waterproof, provides good grip in wet conditions, and is extremely durable.  I contacted SeaDek and ordered a set for the 2015 Slayer and Versaboard.  Once they arrived I called my buddy Richard and we set about getting them installed on the boats.
Cleaning with Windex
     To install the SeaDeking you need to prep the surfaces of the kayak.  You'll want to start by removing all the deck rigging.  If you don't the chemicals can stain your rope, trust me!  For the Native boats all that's required is a phillips screwdriver (your kayak may need other tools).  Since the Slayer came with some padding already installed, I had to rip it off the bottom of the boat.  Then I washed the whole thing down liberally with acetone.  Once I got the glue removed the instructions said to wipe it down with a cleaning product that contains ammonia.  So I followed it up with some Windex glass cleaner.  The Slayer was really dirty when I picked it up so this step took quite a while.
     Next up, you need to layout all the pieces of the SeaDek kit.  Take your time with this if you have a kayak or SUP like the Versaboard.  All the pieces look the same and are pretty close in size so I can easily see somebody gluing down the wrong piece and ruining the install.
Layout and fit every single piece.
     Once you have all the pieces laid out and in place you will want to find some masking tape and a razor blade.  You need to lightly score each piece in the middle so that you can remove the backing paper.  Then tape down one side of the foam so that the pieces stay in place.  Believe me this step is wicked important.
Tape one side to keep it in place.
     At this point I started to get nervous.  The instructions make it clear in no uncertain terms that once you peel the backing and press down on the foam you can't move it.  Just to make sure you understand this, IT IS PERMANENT.  Peel back one side of the foam, line it up, and press it down in place.  Then remove the masking tape and the rest of the backing paper and starting from the middle finish applying the piece of SeaDeking.
Peel one side of the backing at a time.
     Now just take your time and slowly apply each piece to your kayak.  It can be a little tedious, especially if you, like myself, suffer from carpal tunnel.  Pay special attention to getting out all of the air bubbles.  Also apply extra pressure around the edges since this would be the easiest place for the foam to peel up.
Pay extra attention to the edges.
     Once installed you will find that the SeaDek looks great.  The pieces are cut clean and have a nice bevel giving the kayak a very professional look.  I am happy with how the whole thing turned out and would recommend SeaDek to anybody looking for some extra cushioning, noise deadening, or grip for their kayak or SUP.  Check them out for yourself at www.SeaDek.com.
     Tight Lines.

Ode to a Bucktail

So simple in your purpose,
so deadly at your trade.
Spinning so enticingly,
with a spoon shaped blade.
Oh how we love you,
so basic in design.
Quietly working magic,
flawless every time.


Unless you don’t,
perhaps you're broke.
When you stop,
hooks they fail.
Over weed beds,
without a tail.

Easy repairs,
a simple fix.
A subtle snap,
and then you’re back.
Simply spinning,
fish on the way.
I see the follow,
a bait well played.

Tight Lines.

The New Boat

     My new boat has arrived for the 2015 season.  It's a 13 foot Native Slayer Propel in Lagoon Blue.  I am also excited to announce that I have recently joined the Pro Staff for Native Watercraft and will be both guiding and tournament fishing from this amazing watercraft.  The Propel is a pedal driven fishing specific kayak that allows the angler to move both forward and backward hands free!  This is the only boat currently on the market with this ability.
    I first saw this boat a few years back at Canoecopia and have been enamored with it since.  As an angler I love the idea of being able to go hands free when on the water.  In the past I have always struggled with trying to maintain my position when I am casting. Winds, current, and boat traffic, have always worked together to burden my kayak angling experience.  With this boat it should no longer be an issue.
Side and Top Layout View
     I will be outfitting my Propel as a flagship boat and using it for The Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series. It will be serving as the company boat for my guide service on the Madison Chain of lakes, and it will be in attendance at my SBH fishing seminars.  I'm really looking forward to getting it out on the water this spring...just as soon as the ice melts.
Bone stock, right off the truck.
     Tight Lines.

The Curse of the White Bass

     As we unloaded the atv I was full of hope.  Today I had an expert with me on the ice and I knew I'd get my chance to catch fish.  Though I had been beaten in the past, today would be my day!  However, I believe that to tell this tale properly, a little back story is in order.
     The curse started about 4 seasons ago.  I was on Lake Monona in one hell of a snow storm.  Determined to put something on the ice I stuck it out in some truly miserable conditions.  Squinting through the blowing snow I suddenly saw my Vexilar light up like a Christmas tree.  It was a white bass school, and it was huge.  I began to aggressively jig my Echotail waiting for the telltale jack hammering from a fish below.  Maybe I was just to cold that day, or maybe I had to big of a bait on my hook, regardless of the reason, I missed fish after fish.  Then as fast as they arrived, they vanished into the vastness of the frozen lake.
     Each ice season since I have had opportunities to land these little fish.  Each time I struck out and went home empty handed.  On multiple occasions in the spring, summer, and fall I have landed more than my fair share of white bass.  One such occasion saw my buddy Mike and I land so many of these silver devils that we actually got bored and headed home early, tired of bringing so many fish to the hand.  Ice fishing however has been a completely different story. 
     Heading out on the ice, kids in tow (literally they were on the sled laughing hysterically).  I started to wonder why I had never fished this lake before.  "Focus!" I said to myself, you need to be on top of your game.  Mark brought the machine to a stop and off went the boys tackling each other as they ran across the ice.  Mark said, "I'm gonna start drilling," "The bite doesn't start till just before sundown."  I pulled my ice skimmer from the bucket and followed him around ice.  Cleaning each hole out as he drilled.  "Must be a good spot," I said, "Everybody is in this same little area."  Once we finished I pulled my rods from the bag.  Mark handed me his Vexilar and said, "You can use this if you want to check for fish."  It was a good idea, we had covered a huge area.  We had maybe 5-15 holes in the ice, all covering a spot where the weeds transitioned to gravel.  Turning on the Vexilar I was greeted by that familiar humming sound.  Moving from hole to hole we quickly discovered that nothing was down there.
   
     "It's the curse!" I told Mark, "No fish!"  He laughed and reminded me that it was still a little early.  As the sunlight faded I realized that I didn't have my headlamp in my bucket.  Now that it was getting dark, I would be fishing blind.  Huddling over my little hole in the ice I felt it, Bang, Bang, Bang, I knew it was a fish.  I reeled back and set the hook, SWISH, I missed it.  Then Mark yelled, "Got one!"  Soon he had another, and another, and another.  I started to jig frantically, like I had never been fishing before.  Nothing was happening, then Bang, Bang, Bang, SWISH.  Dammit, why can't I get the hooks in one of these things.  I was frustrated, no I was mad, so mad in fact that I stopped to have a cigarette and calm my nerves.  This was insane, I knew it was in my head, why was this so hard?  Collecting myself, I once again dropped my little Echotail through the hole.  Watching it drop of sight to the chilled waters below.  I jigged a few times keeping a nice steady cadence.  The kind of cadence that makes crappies swim for miles, just to take a bite.  Bang, Bang, Got him!  The rod doubled over (it was an ultralight) and bucked as I worked that fish to the surface.  Mark and the boys ran over to see me finally catch a white bass through the ice.  Almost at the surface, my line suddenly went limp, I lost the fish.  Reeling the line up I saw that my poor little Echotail was gone.  Bragging rights I guess, a trophy for the little white bass to show off to his buddies.  A prop for his tale about the time he beat the Shorebound Hero on Lake Kegonsa.
     That's my story, exactly how I remember it.  A woeful tale of a man forced to wander the ice in shame every January.  Veraciously drilling hole after hole in the lake.  Chasing little fish on big bodies of water.  Perhaps it's not a curse  Maybe, I just need to work harder if I hope to land my winter white whale.  Either way I'll get another chance at these fish.  As long as I don't fall prey, to the Curse of the White Bass.
The boys with the spoils of war.
     Tight lines.

Can't Fly Fish With Your Boots On

     Always looking for new experiences I stopped off at the Madison Fly Casters, Winter Indoor Casting Event.  Lately I have been looking for ways to bridge the gap between conventional fisherman and fly fisherman.  For me, both styles of angling are really interesting and they both require an incredible amount of skill.  Skill that can only be developed through time on the water.  I have witnessed amazing casting skills from both breeds of fisherman in the past and I want desperately to figure out how to get these two distinct groups of anglers together.  With this in mind I decided that I would attend and spread the word about the Capital City Muskies Club.  Besides, I'm down for any opportunity to cast a line during these long Wisconsin winters.
     I arrived at the Keva Sports Center in Middleton a little late.  It wasn't my fault really, I had just gotten back from the Milwaukee Harbor and for whatever reason my dog was in no rush to finish her business out in the yard.  I ended up having to leave the house still suited up in my ice gear.  Judging from the glances I got walking through the door I must have looked like I was coming back from an arctic expedition.  After finding my way through the throngs of soccer moms I rounded the corner to find a line of dedicated fly casters.  
   At the end of the picnic tables lined with rod cases I found a familiar face.  It was Tristan from Orvis of Madison and he was busy showing off new Orvis rods.  He had Superfines, Recons, and Helios 2 series rods available to demo.  They were all rigged up and ready to go.  Whether you wanted to cast a 10 weight rod or were just curious about how a 4 weight carbon rod compares to its fiberglass counterpart, all you had to do was grab one of the combos and head out on the gym floor.
     I got to meet a lot of people and was able to introduce myself to new musky anglers (new to me, not new to muskies).  Was also able to see some amazing demonstrations of casting skill.  Guys firing off 40-50 foot casts across the wood court and landing their flies inside what looked like the little 5 inch diving rings from your backyard pool.  It was truly impressive to watch, regardless of your angling preferences.  The next event is this Sunday, February 15th at the Keva Sports Center in Middleton from 12:30pm to 2:30pm.  They will have representatives in from Fontana Sports, as well as Sage, Rio, and Reddington.  It only costs $5 to cast and if you "throw down" $10 total, you get a sweet MadFlyCasters sticker.  Do what it takes to get yourself free and stop out this Sunday.  You can also follow the group on Facebook.  They post information on future outings, events, and some sweet catch pics.  Please remember to wear non marking, non black soles to the event this Saturday.  The fine folks at the Keva Sports Center don't want your shoes messing up the basketball court.  I didn't get to cast that day because well, you can't fly fish with your boots on.
     Tight Lines.

Thought He Was Lying

     The other evening I was talking to my buddy Mark about his recent outings on the ice.  He told me a story, I thought was a lie.  It goes something like this...
     Mark and a friend were out on beautiful Lake Kegonsa doing some tip up fishing for walleyes.  Mark set his 3 tip ups out in a semicircle baited with shiners and went back to the shanty.  Shortly after he sat down he had a flag.  He ran out to set the hook and fought the fish for a few seconds before the fish snapped the line.  Mark still had his tip ups rigged with 8 pound fluorocarbon line and size 8 octopus hooks a classic brown trout rigging.  He picked up his tip up and headed back to the shanty to retie his line.  While working on the tip up he had another flag.  Rushing out on the ice he noticed that the spool was spinning and started the process of fighting the fish.  After a few minutes he got a little over zealous and once again, broke off the fish.  Feeling a little defeated he headed back to his shanty, now with 2 tip ups in need of repair.  As soon as he sat down his last flag popped up on the ice.  Racing out to his flag he made a mental note to take it easy during the fight so he wouldn't lose this fish.  After some delicate fish wrangling he soon had a chunky 32 inch pike on the ice.  He decided to keep the fish and take it home for a couple of nice fillets.
     When he got back to his house he cleaned the fish, careful to keep the fillets Y bone free.  That is when he noticed that the pike had a really full stomach.  Being the curious angler that he is, he slit the stomach open and found 3 shiners.  Two of the shiners had size 8 octopus hooks behind their dorsal fins.  I swear I thought he was lying through his teeth.  I think he could tell I didn't believe his crazy story, so he pulled out his phone and showed me the picture.  I was blown away by what I saw, that pike hit all 3 of his tip ups in a span of about 15 minutes.  Just thinking about this now, it still blows my mind!  Congrats Mark on a nice fish, and an even nicer fishing tale.
     Tight Lines.

Fly Box Update January/February

    

   After attending the Orvis of Madison fly tying event awhile back I have had flies on the brain.  Today while waiting for them to load the line and backing on my new Mirage V fly reel, I found some more flies I couldn't live without.

Here's whats been added to the Orvis fly box as of February 2015:

1x Puglisi Yellow Perch
2x Montauk Monsters in White, and Green
1x Smack'em Spey in Black
1x Kinkly Muddler in Chartreuse/White
1x Cowen's Floating Minnow
9x Schultzy's S4 Sculpin 3 each of Olive, Gray, Rust
3x TH Rubber-Legged Bugger
2x Jan's Carp Tickler in Red (since mine are in trees all over Madison)
2x May's Identity Crisis in Olive
2x Hise's Carpnasty in Rust
4x Carp Bitters in Rust and Olive
1x Woolly Bugger (I tied myself)
1x Panfish Streamer (I tied myself)
2x Weird Little Green Yarn Thing?

     That about wraps up February and it's only the 6th.  Who knows, we may have to do another update later this month since my fly tying kit is scheduled to arrive next week.
     Tight Lines.


2 Great Apps for the Shorebound Angler

     As shore fisherman we kind of get the short end of the stick when it comes to help via electronics.  The boys in the boats have depth charts, water temps, lake contours, and side scan imaging at their disposal.  Often times the shore based anglers I meet have no idea that they can have some of these same things in the palm of there hand.  I use a few apps on a regular basis that have helped me immensely in both my personal fishing and my guiding here on the Madison chain.   The first one is Google Earth, the second is Navionics Boating.  These two apps have become as important to me as my rod and reel.  In fact they have had such an impact on my fishing that I now purchase my mobile devices based on how well they can run these applications.
A favorite spot in Madison.
     Google Earth is a free mobile app that many are already familiar with from desktop use.
Google Earth lets you scroll through aerial views and allows you to explore large expanses of land in a short amount of time.  It also lets you sort out water access, map routes, even mark way points and measure distances.  On more than one occasion I have discovered wonderful shore fishing I would have never known existed if it wasn't for the zoom features on this app.  It helps me figure out where to park the truck, where the bathrooms are for clients, and sometimes if your lucky you'll see what areas have the most weed growth.  You can even take screen shots of the map on your phone and send them to buddies that want to know where the fish are biting.  It is a great free tool to have with you by the water.
So many options at your disposal.
     Navionics Boating was first introduced to me at the Madison Musky School a few years back.  At the time it was relatively new and few anglers were using it.  Fast forward a couple of years and I sometimes wonder how I ever fished without it.  This app gives me access to lake depth and contour maps from all over the country.
Map your route from your living room.
All you have to do is type in the name of the lake or even just the general area.  For example, type in the Florida Keys and your instantly exploring the water.  It works in conjunction with your phone or tablets GPS and shows your exact location in real time.  Whether I'm wading or trekking across the ice, I can open this app and instantly know what the lake looks like beneath my feet.  It also saves way points and routes, allowing me to return to the most productive fishing holes.  
Just search your lake.
You can even keep notes, add photos, and share your favorite spots publicly.  All this with zoom features, depth charting, and the ability to check and save the current weather forecast to help in updating your logbook when your done for the day.  Navionics Boating is an indispensable tool for the mobile shore fisherman.  For download and purchasing information click here.
     As you can see both of these apps are extremely useful whether on the water or at home planning for your next trip.  I have used Google Earth and Navionics Boating to decide where I was gonna setup my shark fishing rigs on the beaches of Florida and Louisiana from the comfort of my couch.  I am currently using it to map the best musky locations for this summers trip to Lake of the Woods.  I am absolutely hooked on these two apps.  Give them a try, and I bet you will be too.
     Tight Lines.

Chicagoland Fishing Expo In Pictures


      This past weekend I was invited by Vibrations Tackle to help out at the Chicagoland Fishing Expo.  It was kind of overwhelming and I could never do the experience justice in words, so I'm just gonna park some photos here for everybody to look at.

Show time Selfie
The show had a great turn out.
Working the Echotail in the show tank.
Rob explaining how the Echotail works to an eager customer. 
Where did everybody go?
It's a family business and she's eager to learn.
End of the day.
     Tight Lines.