Fly Box Update October 2015

There's a lot of flies on my kitchen table.
     The seasons are changing here in Wisconsin, and with them the fly box was in need of a few updates.  I've been spending a lot of time in Port Washington, WI chasing various salmon and trout species from shore and I recently realized that I didn't have any Great Lakes specific fly patterns in my general species box.  As always a quick stop off at Orvis of Madison changed all that.  It's funny how they always seem to have a good reason for me to part with my money...coincidence?

The general species fly box now includes:

  • 6 Steelhead Hammers in Blue and Chartreuse
  • 3 Egg Sucking Leeches in Purple Size 4
  • 3 Egg Sucking Leeches in Black Size 6
  • 3 Z Eggs in Chartreuse
  • 3 Senyo's Egg Raiders in Black
     Hopefully these flies (and a little luck) will allow a few steelhead and big browns to grace the pages of this blog.  I'll be using my Mirage reel and Encounter rod for the majority of the casting.  Although I think my new Wisco rod will be able to handle some of the fish I've spotted up the creek.  Stay tuned to these pages for future updates.  I promise to include both the good and the bad.
All I see is an empty spot that's just begging to be filled up.
       Tight Lines.

Badger Tenkara

     If you follow this blog with any regularity you've no doubt noticed that I'm a firm believer in keeping things simple.  The whole downsize your gear and simplify your fishing thing started when I read a book about Tenkara fishing.  I was blown away by the one rod/one fly concept and set about learning as much as I could about this ancient form of fly fishing.  The only thing I didn't like about it was that it seemed to have the same rigid rules and preconceived notions that many already associate with fly fishing.  Enter at this point the guys over at Badger Tenkara.

     They understand the history and rules of Tenkara well and quickly threw them out the window in an effort to make this form of fishing ridiculously fun.  I've been asked to help them with some R&D in kind of a rod ambassador role.  At Shorebound Hero I like to bend the rules a bit and I couldn't be happier to help them spread the word about Tenkara and hopefully destroy some of the stereotypes as I wade, kayak, and put the rods through a workout.
     For more information on Badger Tenkara  check them out here.  You can also click the banner on the left to make the jump.  Stay tuned to the YouTube channel and blog for updates and stories as I venture more and more into this style of fixed line fishing.  Until next time...

      Tight Lines.

Madtown Wader Fishing

     It started with an email...well actually a series of emails.  While searching for shore fishing spots in Wisconsin they stumbled upon  They had limited funds available and just wanted to drop a line to see if the prices I had listed on the site were for real.  I quickly assured them that those were in fact my prices and that I still had Sunday morning open.  Plans were made to chase pike and bass on the fly while wading some of the Madison lakes.
A wonderful place to enjoy nature and it's right in the middle of town.
     I left work Sunday morning (3rd shifter), stopped for a Redbull, and headed over to the meeting point on beautiful Lake Waubesa.  I was greeted by two gentleman that were a little tired from the drive and a little nervous about wading an unknown body of water.  "So you actually wade lakes?" he asked, "All the time" I replied.  "Just along the shoreline?" his friend asked, "Nope you can wade a good 50 yards or more out into the water."  The look on their faces said it all.  They had for the most part entirely written off the ability to wade lakes.  This always puzzles me because it has been my experience that on many bodies of water you can wade out and fish the same drop offs and weed lines that the boaters are fishing.  Just, you can do it a lot cheaper in a set of waders.  I started putting on my Orvis Silver Sonics and went over basic wader safety and fly pattern choices.  As we made our way across the park towards the beach I got asked a common question.  "Where's your fly rod?"  I politely explained that, "When I'm guiding I don't fish."  You're paying me for my knowledge of the fishery, not to go fishing.  He looked puzzled at first, then his buddy piped up and said, "Good! I would be pissed if the guide caught fish on my dime."  "My thoughts exactly I told him," "Lets start casting."  We worked our way up and down the shallow weed line.  It took some prompting, but soon they were comfortable leaving the shallow water to cast towards deeper water and hopefully bigger fish.
Lots of water, not a lot fish.
     It didn't take me to long to realize that the fish weren't around.  Between the crazy winds, the cold front, and it being their first time to throw 8-10 weight fly rods, things weren't going well.  "You guys ready to do a little Urban Run and Gun?" I asked.  "What do you mean?" they replied.  "This is Madison" I said, "We can jump in my truck and be knee deep in another lake in 10 minutes."  "You don't even need to  take your waders off."  They agreed and we made our way back to the beach and headed out in search of more productive water.
     The wind was wiping wildly across Lake Monona as we made our way into the water.  "I can't cast in this much wind yet" one of them said, "Not a problem, I can't cast worth a crap in the wind either."  They found my comment humorous to say the least.  I readily admit that I'm no expert when it comes to fly fishing, so I recommended the use of some Echotails and Mepps spinners on conventional tackle.  "We will have to cover a lot of water, but the fish are here." I told them.  They asked how I knew the fish would be here and I started explaining how the weed beds worked on this side of the lake.  It was when I started telling them about the different depths of the wed beds that I got that look people give you when they think you're full of shit.  So I pulled out my phone and showed them the depth contours on my Navionics App.  They couldn't believe what they were seeing.  They had no idea that something like this was readily available to the shorebound angler.  Seriously, if you don't have that app downloaded on your phone stop reading and do it now...I'll wait for you.
Little bass were everywhere!
     Once we left the beach the action started fast.  Just a few casts in and the bass started banging the baits.  What had started that morning as a slow march through empty water quickly turned into lots of laughing and hollering.  "I can't believe how good the fishing is here" one of them exclaimed.  "This is a nasty cold front" I told them, "Give it a few more days and I promise the fishing will improve."  After a belly busting laugh fest we continued working our way down the shoreline.  I helped with knot tying, color selection, and the landing of fish.  I had my Lucid Fishing Grips working double time both subduing pike and checking knot strength.  The best part was being constantly on the run trying to get pictures of all the fish.
Another northern takes the bait.
     Then it happened, one of the guys hooked into a nice fish.  It started to peel drag and I said, "It's pulling like a largemouth."  "No way" he said, "Couldn't be a bass."  Sure enough it started jumping, and they went nuts!  A lot of "Don't mess this up," and "Why don't you carry a net!" were tossed around.  I told them "You don't need a net to land bass" (I really should buy one though because that crazy fish ran all over the place).  Once we had it in hand he asked, "How much does it weigh?" I put it on the Lucid Fishing Grips, and saw that it was just shy of 5 pounds.  He was ecstatic!!!  Lots of high fives and a few pictures later and that bass swam away no worse for wear.  
     Later back at the truck they thanked me for introducing them to the idea of wading in lakes.  As they loaded up the car to head for home one of them leaned over and said, "Thank you not fishing today."  "Not a problem" I said, "Thank you for catching a big fish!"  He smiled and you could see the whole fight replaying in his eyes.  It was a fish he'll never forget, and I was lucky enough to be there when he caught it.
A beautiful Madtown largemouth bass. 
     Tight Lines.

Kayaking and the A.I.S.

Checking all of the fasteners on the Slayer.
     Today is a maintenance day over here at Shorebound Hero Kayak Guide Service.  I've been crazy busy lately taking out clients, aligning sponsors for the 2016 season, and booking speaking engagements.  On top of that I still have the "Day Job" of running a state publishing and distribution center as well as trying to be an involved husband/father for my lovely wife and two active kids.  As I was going through the gear in my garage I found that I had a surprising amount of weeds still in the bottom of my kayak from earlier this week.  Why does this matter?  Because of AIS, that's why.
A DNR wader cleaning station.
      Last Tuesday night was the monthly meeting of the Southern Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  One of the speakers that evening was from the River Alliance of Wisconsin and he was talking about AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species).  Part of his talk covered the use of wader cleaning stations around the Driftless area.  The question he was interested in having answered was, "Is anybody actually using them?"  This turned into a talk about what we can do as anglers to help stop AIS from spreading around the state.  To be honest I didn't give it much thought until I was out fishing the following morning.
     I had invited Tristan the fishing manager from Orvis of Madison out for a little urban run and gun in pursuit of bass and carp.  While we were out he brought up what the speaker had said the night before about buying a second pair of waders and boots to help stop the spread of AIS in Wisconsin waters.  More specifically he was talking about how everybody almost seemed to laugh at the idea.  He wondered whether or not people cared enough about the waters they fished.  "Would they be willing to change their habits as anglers?" he said, "Would they be willing to reach for their wallets if it meant keeping the waters they call home healthy?"  Tristan is probably the smartest guy I know in real life and he recently wrote a great post probing deeper into this thought over at the Caddis Hypothesis.  I read the post on break at work last night and when I finished it, the wheels in my head started turning.
     I travel quite a bit doing the things that I do.  Just this season my kayak has been in 15 different bodies of water.  Some of these waters are known to have AIS issues.  Zebra mussels, asian carp, New Zealand mud snails, and curlyleaf pondweed are just a few of the AIS species that my kayak could have came into contact with this summer alone.  I began wondering if I'm doing enough to make sure those aquatic hitchhikers don't follow me home.  Then in the garage this morning I found those weeds in my kayak and I started to worry.
Take the time to thoroughly clean your boat after each fishing trip.
     Now before you judge me, know that I don't purposely turn a blind eye to the issue.  I always wash my kayak thoroughly when I get back from fishing anywhere other than the Madison Chain of Lakes.  I also clean it with a bleach solution and allow it to dry completely for 4-5 days before I drop it back in my home waters.  Still after hearing the speakers at the Trout Unlimited meeting, I'm wondering if that's enough.
     Aquatic invasive species are a serious threat to all bodies of water nationwide.  Their presence also raises a lot of questions about an anglers responsibility to the waters that they love.  What about you?  What things are you doing as an angler to help prevent the spread of AIS?  Do you own two sets of waders?  Clean your boats with bleach?  Maybe you have some other tips that may help your fellow anglers keep invasive species at bay?  Leave a comment below and let me know.  If you want more information about AIS issues in your area check out the DNR website for your state.
     Tight Lines.

Bucktail Tuning Tip

Floppy hook...
     If you spend enough time chasing muskies sooner or later you're gonna foul up a bucktail when casting.  Or maybe you're a shore fisherman who's looking for a couple more feet when making a long cast.  Well this tip will help you stop fouling inline spinner baits on the cast and will make you're bucktails cast farther.  I first came across this modification a few years ago and have been shocked at how many anglers I know that don't take the time to make this modification.  They will tune the blades by bending them for more cup, bend the wire eyelet to keep the bait from rolling, and they'll spend who knows how much time trying to keep the hooks sharp, but they won't take 5 minutes to make sure the hooks don't fowl on the cast.
     So first off let's take a quick look at how this modification works.  For the example in the pictures I'll be using a Nauti Lures Blade Bait.  The heat shrink will be added to the base of the hook and over the split ring.  This allows the hook to stay straight when casting and the heat shrink on the hook itself keeps the skirt from getting in between the trebles allowing the material to pulsate better in the water.  The pulsating action of the materials helps to attract the fish so the more action, the better.
A bait, a blade, a little heat shrink, and a flame is all you need.
     To get started you'll want to gather up some supplies.  A pair of scissors or a knife to cut the heat shrink.  Your split ring pliers to remove and attach the treble hook.  Don't forget a lighter, torch, or heat gun to melt down the tubing (heat shrink).  Finally, be sure to move the tablecloth so that your significant other doesn't give you a lecture.
     To begin you'll want to cut off a small section of heat shrink and slide it up the hook.  This piece is just going to be covering the part of the hook where the trebles come together.  Slide it up on the trebles and apply some heat.  The heat shrink will...shrink, filling the gaps between the individual hooks.  This will keep the skirt material from getting caught in the gaps at the base of the hook.  The next piece of heat shrink (I use 1/2 inch) needs to be cut a little longer.  This piece need to extend from the hook shank, over the split ring, and onto the wire that makes up the inline spinner.  Don't add any heat until you get the hook reattached.  Admittedly reattaching the hook with the over sized heat shrink in the way can kind of be a chore, but I promise it will be worth it in the end.  Once you have the hook connected slide the heat shrink down over the split ring and keep the hook pointing up.  This will let gravity do the alignment work while you concentrate on not getting burned.  Speaking of not getting burned, it helps to hold the hook with a pair of pliers.  I've found that hooks make great heat conductors which isn't very helpful when you're holding on to them and applying a flame.
With both pieces applied it's ready to catch some fish.
     When it's all said and done it should look something like this.  The hook is held inline with the bait which allows for less fouling and longer casts.  It's a simple trick that can really make a difference.  Give this a try with one of your own lures or pick yourself a Nauti Lure online.  I think you'll find that it's definitely worth the time and effort.
     Tight lines.