You're Unique, Just Like the Rest of Us

     You're Unique, you're an individual, you're one of a kind...we are all get fed these lines a lot.  I roll through all of this on a pretty regular basis in my mind.  We all spend time thinking about how we are different from our fellow anglers.  When I first started actively pursuing large freshwater species from shore I was unique.  At least that's what I was told by others in the industry.  I even believed it for awhile until I gave my first seminar and realized that a lot of other anglers did the same thing.  Then when I started casting for carp with a fly rod, the anglers I met told me I was crazy.  That I was doing something that nobody else in my area was doing.  I believed that too, at least until I started to get more active in local fly fishing circles and found that many other fly fisherman in Wisconsin also spend a ridiculous amount of hours in pursuit of the "Golden Bonefish".  When I decided to start a kayak guide service and that I would go over the top with the setup and rigging of my Native Slayer, people once again told me how unique my ideas were.  I bought into this belief until my first kayak fishing tournament.  Pulling my boat to the beach I stopped and surveyed the sand absolutely blown away by the other kayaks I was seeing.  Other kayaks that were rigged up just as crazily as my own.
     The point of all this is, don't believe the hype.  When I attend events, I am always surprised by the number of anglers that believe they are better than you.  Anglers who must be unique in their abilities.  I am sure you have met them from time to time too.  They never have anything nice to say about other anglers, most of the time they will take the time to explain why they're better than so and so.  It doesn't matter what the other angler does, records he holds, or how many tournaments he has won.  They are better because of what they use, where they fish, and what they fish from.  Fly fishing, bait fishing, boat fishing, kayak fishing, pelagic, inshore, river, lake, all of these areas have those anglers.  They must exist in their own little bubble, never opening a magazine or a web browser.  Otherwise they would see just how much they have in common with other anglers.  We all enjoy our time on the water, where ever it is.  We all love the gear, the philosophy, and the subtleties of our particular style of fishing.  We all use different tools, none are any better than the other.  They just help to enhance your angling experience, improve your time on the water.
     So the next time you think you're the better angler.  The next time you think your style of fishing is better than the guy standing next to you on the bank, remember that you're both after the same thing.  A chance to get outside, fire off some casts, and land a few fish.  Because you're unique...just like the rest of us.
     Tight Lines.
     

Carping Chaos

No seat, just a cooler for some sight fishing.
     Launching my kayak into the shallows of Babcock Park on Lake Waubesa I was fired up and ready to fling some flies.  I was after my new favorite fish and the conditions seemed more than favorable.  The weather pattern had been stable the last few days and I had been seeing a lot of carp in the shallows while testing a new lure prototype for bass.  Everything was adding up to be a great morning in pursuit of the ever present golden bonefish (carp).
Each ring is a group of carp.
     I paddled across the shallow water and was blown away when I rounded the corner into the clearing.  Looking down the channel the water was exploding!  Normally when I am scouting for carp I look for subtle mud clouds, shadowy outlines, or broad tails breaking the surface of the water.  Today I was staring at multiple carp jumping, crashing, and waking all over the place.  It was surreal, "Heaven?" I said to myself, "Nope, their spawning".  I've seen this before and I knew getting a carp to eat my fly today was gonna be tough.
     I tried my best to ease my way back into the channel.  Carp are normally very easy to spook and you have to be extremely stealthy in order to sneak up on them.  I stood up and switched over to my SUP paddle.  The thought was that I would create less of a disturbance if I was only paddling on one side of the Slayer at a time.  This has worked well in the past from my canoe, and slowly but surely I made my way into the thick of those horny carp.  Slowly raising my 8 weight fly rod I made a delicate cast towards a large fish on the edge of the action.
Carp were breaking the surface everywhere.
     Waiting for my Jan's Carp Tickler to settle in front of his face I was almost knocked from kayak.  Carp were crashing into the bottom of my boat as they chased each other from spot to spot.  Tons of carp in shoals of 5 to 15 were splashing and breaking the surface all around me.  It was insane to see so many carp, so oblivious to my presence.  As they moved around the channel they soon pushed the carp I was targeting out of the strike zone.  I made a few more casts in an attempt to find a player, but it was proving to be a fruitless endeavor.  
     Long story short, I will be targeting a different species for the next week or so.  Probably bass (tournament next weekend), maybe musky, pretty much anything that will bite.  If your interested in trying to land a carp during the spawn I found a nice write up by FlyCarpin that will lay out a few techniques you can try.  Truth be told though, the bite is gonna be tough for a bit.
Look carefully and you can see some real beauties.
     Tight Lines.




Kayak Guide Service

     Still have some dates available for kayak trips this summer.  The water is warming up and the days are getting longer.  Guide fee includes kayak rental, paddle, dry bag, and 4 hours of angling fun on the Madison Chain of Lakes.  For more information, drop me a line at shoreboundheromadison@gmail.com.
     Tight Lines.

River Monsters/Reel Monsters

     I have been a fan of River Monsters since it started 7 years ago.  While watching the latest episode they asked for fans to send in pictures of fish they've caught for a chance to see it on national television.  My kids thought it was pretty cool to see my photo on tv.  I thought it was pretty cool too...
     Tight Lines.

Which PFD is right for me?


     It goes without saying that you should have a life jacket on when your out on the water.  It's estimated that about 10 people a day lose their life to accidental drowning in the U.S. alone.  Last year over 372,000 people died of drowning worldwide.  I'm not writing this to convince you to put on your life jacket.  If you have half a brain, and care about your family you already use one.  If you need a refresher on life jacket use or fitment follow the link here.  The reason I'm writing this is to explain the different types of PFD's (Personal Flotation Devices), and how I decide which one to wear on the water.
     Back when I first started kayaking I just used whatever PFD I had around.  To be honest I never really gave them much thought.  However, as I've progressed through the years I have found that I prefer to wear different PFD's depending on the angling situation and water conditions.  What am I talking about?  Let's take a look at 3 different life jacket styles and when I wear each type.
Perfect those cool fall mornings.
     The first jacket will look at is one that most of us are familiar with.  This one will call the boating PFD.  They are designed with the power boater in mind and will do a great job of keeping you afloat when you're in the water.  Boating PFD's are full cut and are not the best choice for paddling.  That said, I like this kind of PFD in the early spring or late fall.  I wear them as another layer on really cold days.  Since these PFD's get really warm, I find them very uncomfortable when paddling in warmer temperatures.  These jackets are normally less expensive than the other PFD's will be taking a look at in this post.  
They look small, but are perfect for the paddle sport enthusiast.
     Next up is the paddling specific life jacket.  These jackets are designed with the paddling enthusiast in mind.  They are usually cut shorter so the jacket doesn't ride up when sitting down.  Many also feature back flotation that is placed higher on the jacket to better accommodate the backrests used on many of today's canoes and kayaks.  These PFD's are very comfortable when on the water.  The only downside to these jackets is that they still feel fairly bulky when paddling or casting.  I wear this type of PFD whenever I am on large bodies of water or on lakes with a lot of boat traffic.  If I were to get hit by a passing boat or knocked over by a rogue wave I know this jacket is always ready to go.
Lightweight and out of the way, great for warm weather kayaking.
     The last jacket will take a look at is the inflatable.  These are relatively new on the boating/kayaking scene.  Inflatable PFD's work exactly like the name suggests.  They inflate, usually with the help of compressed Co2.  You can purchase them setup to inflate manually with the pull of a cord, or to inflate automatically when exposed to water.  Inflatable life jackets are lightweight and comfortable to fish in.  I wear them on calm days or when it gets really hot in the summer.  The only downside I see to these is the risk of accidental inflation.  Just remember that inflatables should never be used as a life jacket on a child.

So just to recap:

Boating PFD
Pros: Inexpensive, Lots of flotation, Warm
Cons: Heavy, Not accommodating to a paddlers range of motion, Warm

Paddling Specific PFD
Pros: Accommodates a paddlers range of motion, Cut for backrests, Good flotation
Cons: Pricey, Can still feel bulky when paddling

Inflatable PFD
Pros: Lightweight, Extremely comfortable, Good flotation
Cons: Expensive, Has to be inflated in order to work

     Hopefully this helps explain the common PFD's you'll see on the water.  As you can see, I let the conditions dictate the type of PFD I need.  Like everything else in fishing, what life jacket style you use is a personal choice.  The important thing is that you remember to wear one.
     Tight Lines.

St Croix Avid X Rod Review

     The release of the new Avid X line of rods from St Croix has generated a lot of buzz lately.  Everyone from industry insiders, to sponsors, to club members have been talking about what a great addition these rods are to St Croix's lineup.  Normally I don't get sucked into this kind of hype.  I have always been able see through the whole, "this didn't exist last year but you can't fish without now" horse and pony show.  This time however, I let my guard down for a split second in Chicago and BAM, I owned a new fishing rod.  Owning another rod isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Summer frog fishing is coming up and the snakehead rod that I imported from Thailand a few years ago is broken starting to look a little worse for wear.  With this in mind I picked up the Avid X in a 7 foot Medium Heavy Casting.
       The Avid X lineup of rods feature a lot of the same things that we already love about the Avid line.

  • SC-3 Graphite Blanks
  • IPC Tooling Technology
  • Fuji reel seat
  • Select Grade Cork Handle
In fact the only major differences (besides the warranty) are:

  • Split Grip Handle
  • Kigan Z Micro-Guide Platform
  • Exclusive Kigan Hook Keeper
  • "Radical" new graphics look
     The new Avid X lineup is available in 18 different models covering just about every conceivable angling situation (spinning and casting) you could run into in freshwater.  The only thing missing is some musky rod sizes, but St Croix has that more than covered in some of their other rod lineups.  Since this is a St Croix rod we know the build quality is good.  After all they are made here in Wisconsin.  The real question I wanted to answer was, how do they fish?

     To answer this question I tried out the rod in as many scenarios as I could.  I took it walleye fishing, used it in a kayak tournament, drug it all over the shoreline, and even handed it off to clients.  So far the rod has performed perfectly.  The rod loads up evenly when casting allowing for accurate lure placement.  I was able to fire off cast after cast to weed pockets from the kayak with incredible precision.  It's casting accuracy is phenomenal!!!  The Kigan Z micro-guide system controls the line very well, and works great with both braid and fluorocarbon line.  Upon hook set the rod really shines, giving you plenty of back bone to help horse the fish in.  The fast action let's you control the fish, not get bullied by it.  This rod feels like quality in your hands and inspires confidence when you're casting. Plus those "Radical" graphics look pretty sweet too, it really is a nice fishing rod.
     That said, there were a few things about this rod that I didn't like.  Being that I am kind of a shore fishing specialist I have grown to favor longer rod handles.  The Avid X split grip handle feels really short to me.  This makes it harder for me to use both hands when making long casts.  While this may not be an issue for the boat bound anglers, it drove me crazy having to cast with only one hand on the rod.  Also the micro guides seemed excessively noisy when using a round bait casting reel.  I am guessing this is due to the more extreme line angle coming into the stripper guide.  The noise wasn't an issue when using a lower profile reel so it isn't a deal breaker, just something to be aware of if you like to swap reels a lot.  Also, I'm not a fan of the hook keeper on this rod.  Since it sits on top of the rod instead of to the side I kept getting the treble hooks on my Echotails wrapped up in the line.  Not a problem for the recreational angler, but tournaments are all about efficiency.  Definitely something to think about if you're constantly fishing against a clock.
      All in all the Avid X Medium Heavy is a great fishing rod.  The Avid line has always meant affordable quality, and this series certainly doesn't disappoint.  I would happily recommend this rod to other anglers.  If your a recreational boating angler this rod is perfect.  The casual shore angler will also love this rod for it's power and accuracy when casting.  You get a lot of top shelf features for the $200 price tag, and it's made in the USA.  To learn more about the Avid X series of rods or to purchase one of your own click here.
     Tight Lines.

Madison Musky Outing 2015

     Dropping the Native off at the launch I had mixed emotions about signing up for this event.  This outing was being hosted by the Capital City Muskies Club of Madison, WI.  I had the choice of fishing two lakes, Lake Monona or Lake Waubesa.  Since most of the other anglers where fishing Lake Waubesa I decided that I should too.  It was a difficult choice for me since I have a love/hate relationship with this particular body of water.
     Waubesa is the only lake on the Madison Chain that I struggle with.  It is more or less a giant weed bed.  It has structure, I just don't have a good enough grasp yet as to how the fish use it.  Pedaling away from the dock I stared at my Garmin hoping to find any clues as to what was going on under the water.  The only thing I knew for sure was that the fish would be shallow.  This time of year most of the muskies in my area are either already spawned out, or just finishing up.  They are rarely in the chase it down and kill it mood.  Still the water conditions were perfect, and I figured the fish that would be interested in eating would be up shallow warming in the sun.
24 inches of Essox awesome sauce!!!
     Working my way into the first bay I discovered that I wasn't the only angler that knew the fish were shallow.  The difference was that I could drift in just inches of water.  I was able to get my casts up really, really shallow.  When I attended the last club meeting I overheard people talking about how all the fish were being caught on small bucktails.  The smallest musky worthy bucktail I own is a Mepps #5 Black Fury in orange and black.  Those in the know are aware that this is my go to spring bait and once again it didn't disappoint.  Only an hour in and I landed my first musky of the season from my kayak.  I love all muskies, every size, shape, and pattern.  However, for the sake of the tournament all qualifying muskellunge had to be at least 30 inches and this guy came up 6 inches short.  Still he had a lot of fight in him and after a quick photo, swam off strong.
     As the day wore on I was reminded of how much I still needed to make an effort to get into shape.  Pedaling, paddling, standing, and casting in a kayak can really take it out of you.  Around noon the wind finally started to cooperate and I soon found myself enjoying a great drift crossing an emerging weed bed.  I was throwing a 1 oz. Echotail in a custom Tommy Harris pattern.  This pattern had been extremely effective for me last year and it led to 4 descent follows as I drifted over the weeds.  Unable to get anything to bite, I wandered back into the bay that had started my morning.  Despite my best efforts I could not keep the kayak drifting the same way I had when the morning started.  Using my micro pole to hold position I spent the last few hours fan casting the bay.  This worked very well and again I had a few follows.  After switching back over to the Mepps I hooked into what I thought was a bass.  It was a musky, just really small, only making it to 18 inches on the Hawg Trough.  He was a scrapper though and a great way to end my day.
18 inches of fury!!!
     Even though I failed to land an eligible fish, I had a great time.  Back at the Green Lantern Tavern I talked with other anglers and found that most didn't catch anything.  Some hadn't even seen a fish in almost 7 hours on the water.  Only 4 eligible fish were caught, although many participants reported having a bunch of follows (to bad we can't register those).  Finding all this out I decided that even though my two muskies were under sized, at least they ate and graced the cockpit of my Slayer.  Next years outing is already being planned and if your free you should check out.  Thanks again to the Capital City Muskies Club for the event, I had a great time.
     Tight Lines.

Fly Box Update, May 2015

     Finally visited the new Cabelas that opened up in Sun Prairie, WI.  I grabbed myself a few musky, pike, and bass patterns that I haven't found anywhere else locally.  With the season now in full swing I am sure these will be in the water shortly.
   
     Here's a quick list:

  • 1x Tequila Popper
  • 1x Fire Tiger Femme Fatale
  • 1x Game Changer in Rainbow Trout
  • 2x Barry's Pike Fly in Chartreuse and Black
  • 1x Dahlberg Diver in Red/ White
  • 1x Granato's Chartreuse El Chupacabra
  • 1x Jared's Outlaw in Orange/Black
  • Rainy's PSP Bubble-Head in White

     Tight Lines.

Lucid Fishing Pro Team

     I am excited to announce that I have joined the Lucid Fishing Pro Team.  Lucid Fishing makes the best fishing grips in the industry.  To find out more about this great product click here.  If you need a little more convincing, read the review from a past post here.
     Tight Lines.

Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series Part 1


Photo Courtesy of Nick Doumel
     Waking up the morning of the event I was full of nervous energy.  It was 4am and I was off to Lake Delavan to compete in the first stop of the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series.  We would be fishing for northern pike and although I have plenty of experience with this species of fish, I had never been in a tournament situation before.  My attempts to pre-fish the lake didn't work out and much to my dismay I couldn't even scout online since the most recent Google Earth images showed a lake locked in ice.  I was gonna be fishing blind and needed a game plan.  I decided that I would look for emerging weed growth and target pike the same way I do here on the Madison Chain of Lakes.
That's a lot of Hobies...
      Arriving at the launch I checked in at the registration table and surveyed the lake.  It was a lot bigger than I anticipated.  My Native Slayer would definitely have an advantage.  That Propel pedal drive can really eat up water and I was confident that this was gonna be a great day.  At the very least my arms wouldn't be shot from paddling.  
   Once unloaded I quickly went to work setting up my kayak.  As I finagled my way down to the water I was greeted by some of the nicest anglers I have ever met.  They had a lot of questions for me about my boat.  I was happy to answer all the questions and explain why I did the things that I did when I was rigging my kayak over the winter.  It was kind of surreal to be surrounded by so many anglers with the same passion I have for kayak fishing.
Photo Courtesy of Nick Doumel
     After a quick participant meeting to discuss the rules for the event we all launched our kayaks shotgun style and raced across the lake.  I however was soon back on the shore line because I drank a little to much coffee on the drive down.  Paddling back out I was shocked by how clear the water was, you could easily see down a good 20 feet.  I tossed my Echotails up and around every dock, crib, and rock pile I could find.  Nothing, the water was so clear that I could actually see the fish holding tight against the bottom.  It was driving me crazy!!!  At one point I actually watched my lure bounce off the head of a decent sized pike.  The thing just casually swam away.  I had no idea why they wouldn't eat.  Around noon I decided that I needed a break and headed into shore.  Arriving back at my truck, I discovered that the lunch I had made was still at home on the counter.  Luckily, I was able to scrounge a decent (though questionable) meal out of the vending machines near the boat launch.
     For the second half of the tournament I decided I that I would focus on a side channel.  It looked muddy and I thought it may be a few degrees warmer.  As I turned the corner into the channel my Garmin proved me right and I proceeded to throw everything I had in my tackle tray in an attempt to find a pike.  All I caught was 2 bass, and they weren't even big enough to warrant a photo.  It was a tough day to be on the water.  Soon the time came to start making my way back to the launch point.  I wondered if anybody else had any luck?
     It turns out that a number of anglers did catch a pike.  A couple of them even caught multiple pike.  Due to the high number of participants first place ended up taking home over $500 in prize money.  In fact the tournament paid out cash all the way to 6th place.  It was a great event and I want to thank F&H Decals and all the other sponsors for the cool door prizes.  The next stop is in Illinois fishing for bass, and since I'll be a little more in my element I hope to have a good showing.  If you own a kayak you should join us, it's a great way to spend a day on the water.  For more information about the Great Lakes Fishing Tournament Series follow the link here.
     Tight Lines.