Rutabaga Paddlesports at the WI Fishing Expo

     This work week has been brutal, but the weekend is finally here.  So what am I doing?  Working in the Rutabaga Paddlesports booth at the WI Fishing Expo.  My Slayer Propel from Native Watercraft is on display and fully rigged up.  Rutabaga also has many other kayaks setup from Jackson, Old Towne, and Wilderness.

Some of the new gear highlights include:
     Swing by the booth this weekend and check out all the latest in fishing specific paddle sports gear.  I'll be on hand to talk Native Watercraft kayaks, answer your kayak fishing and rigging questions, and to share my knowledge of fishing the Madison Chain of Lakes.  Rutabaga and Jackson kayaks are giving away a new Cuda and this Saturday Vibrations Tackle is having a lure coloring contest for the kids in attendance.  It's always a great family friendly event and 2016 doesn't look to be any different.  So make sure to swing by the WI Fishing Expo this weekend and check out what Rutabaga Paddlesports and all the other great exhibitors in attendance have to offer.
     Tight Lines.


Southern Wisconsn Kayak Anglers

     For the last year or so some of us in the Madison area have been tossing around the idea of starting a kayak fishing club.  The only issue is none of us wanted to have to join anything.  We were actually looking for a way to get local kayak fishing enthusiasts together on the water.  No pressure, no hype, and none of the normal bulls*#t.  We just want to get together once a week or maybe once a month and chase some fish, drink some beer swap some stories, and connect with other anglers that are just as passionate as we are.
     Well we've finally gotten the ball rolling (only took a year) and have a Facebook Community Page setup for people to join so that they can talk boats, post fish pics, and setup times to meet other anglers on the water.  Their is even preliminary talk about a possible 6 week bass league over the summer with prizes for the top finishers and maybe offering a sticker at some point to rock on your kayak.  I can't stress enough the "preliminary" part of this idea.
     So if you're a current kayak angler in Southern WI or even just somebody looking to get into kayak angling once the ice melts find us on Facebook.  Just Like and Follow the page and will have the occasional post with info about what we're up to, where will be fishing, and maybe will post some tips and let everybody show off their boats and favorite catches.  In case you missed it, follow the link here.
     Tight Lines.

Wading Lakes

     I've been wading in lakes since I started fishing.  In fact, I did it with such regularity that it never occurred to me that other anglers don't do it.  This is never more apparent than during expo season.  I constantly get asked what is involved with my guided shore fishing trips.  When I tell them that will probably do some wading in the Madison Chain of Lakes the looks I get are priceless.  "You wade in the lake" they ask, "Like people do in the Driftless?"  You can watch the light bulb turn on above their heads.  "Same concept" I tell them, "You can access and cover a lot more fishable water than you can standing on the shoreline.  You can access lakes at a boat ramp or public park, then wade out past the docks and fish almost anywhere so long as your feet are wet.  It opens up tons of water for public fishing and here is a short rambling on how to do it.
A little lake Mendota smallmouth.  First fish I caught with my hip waders on.
     My wading career started with a free set of hip waders a buddy gave me.  Then I made the jump that fall to a set of camo neoprene chest waders (think duck hunting).  This past season I finally bought a set of nice breathable chest waders and boots from Orvis of Madison.  They were the first ones to introduce to me the idea of safe wading.  It turns out that you shouldn't just go charging out into the water.  I learned a lot of what not to do while wading the hard way.  If you search a little bit you'll find that the internet is full of great videos about how to wade safely.  I would recommend starting with this one.  It will save me a lot of typing if you actually watch it, so here is the link again.
     Now that you've learned the basics of safe wading let's look at wading in lakes.  The biggest difference between wading in lakes and wading in a river is the lack of noticeable current.  It is much easier to wade in lakes.  However when in a lake you have to be extremely careful of the sudden drop offs.  When I first started exploring lake fronts in my hip waders I often found myself soaked because I rapidly went from 2 feet deep to 10 feet deep.  This is probably the biggest threat you will run into as a lake wader.  In fact it was such a common occurrence that I would wear a PFD for extra insurance.  I've since learned that a simple lake map with depth contours helps a lot.  The only issue with the lake maps was that they are a pain to fold and keep dry when out on the water.  You can probably imagine my excitement when I found the Navionics Boating App.  This app works with the GPS in your smartphone to give you lake depth contours in real time.  So when I'm hip deep exploring new waters I can take a quick look at my iphone and avoid suddenly have to swim in a pair of waders.  This is hands down my favorite app for angling.  It helped me discover that on some lakes I could wade out hundreds of yards and only be waist deep.  It was a real game changer when I learned that I could walk out to the same weed beds that guys were using boats to access.
Releasing large fish is much more fun when you're in the water with them.
     One of the biggest changes consistent lake wading requires is a different mindset from the shoreline or boat bound angler.  You will quickly find that everything you own is soaked unless you change some of your tackle habits.  The first thing that comes to mind is gear storage.  Waterproof tackle trays are a must when wading.  All it takes is a few wet hooks on your lures or flies and some air exposure to begin the rust cycle.  As we all know once hooks start to rust they become much weaker and can even break under pressure.  I prefer to use a variety of the Plano Waterproof Stowaways.  They can be configured in a number of different ways to house all the lures you need when in the water.  If you don't want to spend the money to upgrade your current trays, a nice tip is to remember to open up all the trays and fly boxes when you get back home.  This will allow everything to air dry before you put them away.  Significantly cutting down on the potential for rust.  You'll find that the gear you've spent so much time collecting will last a lot longer.  That means you'll have less gear to replace...so you can save that money to buy more stuff!
Open those trays and boxes to extend the life of your favorite flies and lures.
     Another thing to consider is how you're going to carry everything you need with you.  I prefer a backpack when I'm wading since it allows me to carry all my trays, my rain gear, release tools, and a thermos of coffee.  I you get one that's fishing specific such as the Spiderwire Backpack you can even carry a spare rod or two.  If you don't want the weight of a backpack on your shoulders check out the sling or waist packs that you commonly see the fly anglers using.  They are extremely comfortable to wear all day.  Just make sure that the model you choose will carry the fly boxes and tackle trays you intend to carry.  Some of them are made to hold smaller fly boxes and are not able to accommodate the larger tackle trays associated with lure fisherman.  Finally, if you are using a smartphone for navigation or even for gulp, "Hero Shots" make sure it's in a waterproof case.  More than one of my past clients have lost a nice phone due to water damage.  I use a fancy LifeProof Case, but the ziplock models available at any good paddle shop will work just fine.
Everything you need for a day wading in the water.
     Hopefully this little rambling has given you the information you need to try wading a lake in your area.  Wading in lakes can make for some incredible fishing.  Doesn't matter if it's warm water wet wading, in a cheap set of hip boots, a fancy pair of breathables, or a heavy set of neoprene's.  Wading in lakes will open up angling opportunities you never knew existed.  It combines the best of shore fishing with the water coverage you would normally associate with a boat.
     Do you have any experience wading in lakes?  Maybe you have a few more tips you'd like to share for somebody just starting out?  Drop a comment below or hit me up on any of the social media platforms found on the side bar to the right.  Until next time...
     Tight Lines.

Noah's Guide to Chasing Winter Walleye

     I openly admit to not being much of a walleye fisherman.  It's not that I have anything against fishing for them, they just don't get me all fired up.  However that doesn't stop people from emailing me with questions about how to catch walleyes through the ice each winter.  Luckily for me I just happen to know a guy that can't get enough of these finicky fish.  His name is Noah Humfeld, and he's a fellow pro-staffer with Vibrations Tackle.  He absolutely lives to catch walleyes, whether it's through the ice, from the shore, or in a tournament, Noah is my go to guy for everything walleye related.  He recently wrote a nice piece for the Fishidy Blog about catching winter walleyes.  You can read the post in its entirety by following the link here.
That's Noah, the only guy who brings a long rod to use in a jigging tank.
     Tight Lines.

Badger Fly Fishers Spring Opener 2016

     Today I had the opportunity to setup a "booth" at the 2016 Badger Fly Fishers Spring Opener event.  I wanted to use this event as another building block in my master plan for Midwest kayak angling domination, but it was my fly carpin' trip donation that stole the show.  Although my Slayer did its job and got people into the booth, those "trash fish" were the talk of the town.  Lots of people picked my little brain about flies, casting, urban angling techniques, and every other imaginable topic related to what I believe to be the pinnacle of freshwater fly fishing.  I did manage to get a couple of kayak angling trips on the tentative books, but since arriving home tonight I've fielded at least a dozen emails regarding the best times to book a land based carp fishing trip.
     I had a wonderful time today and met some amazing people.  I'd like to give a big THANK YOU to the fine members of the Badgers Fly Fishers for putting on this event and allowing me and my blue boats to anchor the show (we were the last stop on vendor row).  Next up the Slayer and myself will be at the Wisconsin Fishing Expo in support of Rutabaga Paddlesports.
     Tight Lines.

Saltwater Fly Fishing Basics Seminar at Orvis of Madison

     Earlier this week I had the chance to attend a free fly fishing seminar at Orvis of Madison.  This seminar was billed as an introduction to the basics of saltwater fly fishing.  Specifically it was about the rigging and pursuit of bonefish, permit, and tarpon.  The speaker for this event was Mike Goeser an employee of Orvis and a professional Alaskan fly fishing guide.  Mike is a well traveled angler and has made many trips to the salt.  His approach was refreshing because he explained how to set realistic goals and was honest with his triumphs and his failures.
     Mike's seminar was well laid out and covered everything an aspiring saltwater angler would need to know to have success.  He covered basic rigging, casting, and line management.  We were even given advice on the top travel destinations to catch each species of fish.  I learned a lot and would like to thank Mike and the crew at Orvis of Madison for hosting this free event.
     Tight Lines.

MadFlyCasters February 2016 Event Recap

     This weekend I attended the MadFlyCasters event at the Keva Sports Center.  Last year I was able to make it to a few of their events and I had a blast each and every time.  The events exist for one purpose, casting.  They organize these outings to allow us fly anglers in the frozen north the ability to stretch out our arms even though the lakes are currently covered in ice.  They encourage attendees to bring the new gear they got over the winter and if willing, pass it around so others can try it out.  They also contact local fly shops and ask them to bring out models for us to demo.  The folks over at Fontana Sports didn't disappoint this year and brought out a great selection of rods and reels from Sage, and Redington.  They even brought out some of the Salt rods and I finally got the chance to cast a true bonefish setup.  It was a fly flinging beast!  I will never again make the mistake of comparing carp gear to bonefish gear.  I can now honestly say that they are totally different animals.
Small group shot of a few of the fly anglers in attendance.
     I brought a long my TFO Lefty Kreh Bluewater 10 weight and had it paired with my Mirage reel by Orvis.  It got a lot of use as a number of anglers picked it up and fired off some casts.  Another buddy of mine brought his new 4 weight Orvis Superfine Glass paired with the Battenkill reel.  It was my first time to cast this setup and I now understand why it has such a strong following here in the Driftless region.
     The only problem I can see with the MadFlyCasters events are that they eventually come to an end.  I had a wonderful time swapping stories, casting lines, and getting to meet so many great people.  The events are organized on their Facebook page so to make sure you're in attendance at the next one follow the link here.
     Tight Lines.

Walking Between 2 Worlds

Even the selfies are different depending on which world you're in.
      In many ways I consider myself lucky to have not spent a lifetime fishing.  Since I came to fishing later in life I'm not bogged down by the dogma associated with different forms of angling.  I don't believe that there is any advantage to being a one trick pony when it comes to pursuing my favorite species of fish.  In fact I often feel sorry for the people that I meet at expos that says things like, "No I don't fish with chicken feathers" or, "There is no art in chucking wood and treble hooks at fish."  I believe that how an angler chooses to fish is irrelevant.  The fact that anybody would judge how another person goes about catching fish is just ridiculous in my book.
My favorite reels from both worlds.
     It's been my experience in life that most people are looking for an identity.  A group that they can belong to.  I forget sometimes that some people only fly fish.  They even talk down about those who fish any other way.  That somehow the other person is less of an "angler."  I thought this was just part of the fly fishing scene.  In fact one of my favorite magazines even has a separate price printed on the front for "bait fisherman."  However it turns out that it's not just the fly fisherman with the messed up view when it comes to acceptance on the water.  I distinctly remember my partner being mocked last summer during musky league by competitors in a nearby boat because he was fishing with one those, "fly wienies."
     My ability to walk between these two distinct worlds has even caused confusion in my dealings with others when fishing.  I've had times that I have invited my "fly fishing only" friends out on the water only to have them look shocked when I pulled a spinning rod out of the back of my truck.  The same holds true for the guys I fish with on "conventional gear" when I arrive at the lake for some bass fishing and they look disgusted because I'm carrying a fly rod.  Most of the anglers I fish with seem to strongly identify with one world or the other.  When somebody asks what would you use to fish a certain area and you tell them a Dahlburg Diver and they don't fly fish it causes issues.  Want to have a lot of fun? Try explaining in a text message what a 3 way bottom rig is to a guy that only fly fishes.  Even clients of mine seem to scoff at the fact that my backpack usually has a baitcasting rod strapped to one side and a fly rod strapped to the other.
Both caught from shore and released happy and healthy.
     This need to fish one way or the other is really evident when I show off a catch.  The "traditionalists" say it doesn't count if it's not on a fly.  Who cares if it's on a fly or not?  I argue that it does count, because I have the damn photo in my hand to prove that I caught it.  Although the bait fisherman certainly have "traditionalists" too.  One time I had a guy argue with me over a musky that I caught on a fly because I obviously had, "No concern about the well being of the fish."  Why?  Because fly anglers always play fish to long and put them through unneeded stress.  In fact he said, "I bet that fish died 20 minutes after you released it" "You should be ashamed of yourself!"  Why?  Because I caught and released a nice musky?  The CPR practices are the same.  The truth was he had no experience in fly fishing for muskies, but he had heard some idiot give a speech somewhere about how fly anglers can't horse a fish in because of the light rod actions so now he's a freaking expert.  The truth is if you lose the stereotypes you'll find that you probably catch more fish.
     On more than one occasion I've learned a new technique either online or at a seminar and instantly thought about how well that would work if I transferred it into another world.  From topwater tactics to bottom bouncing rigs I've learned all kinds of cool tricks from both types of fishing.  From fly fishing gear that can be used to aid me in conventional fishing (floatant).  To neat swimbait tactics that can be just as effective with a streamer pattern.  Not to mention all the flies that I've found can be thrown with a spinning rod when rigged below a bobber.  The crossover ability you get when you are familiar with different types of angling is amazing.  You will never be exposed to this if you allow yourself to be limited to only one type of fishing.
     So the next time you're at an event or out on the water, don't discount what the other guy is using.  If you're fly fishing take a look at what the bait fisherman is using and see if you can recreate it.  Same thing goes for the guy with the conventional gear.  Take the time to learn what each world offers and I guarantee you'll become a better angler.  At the very least, you'll have an excuse to meet some cool people and maybe buy some new fishing gear.  Until next time...
I don't care how it's caught, the proof is in the pictures.
     Tight Lines.