EP:09 5 Mobility Hacks for the Shorebound Angler

EP:09 5 Mobility Hacks for the Shore Angler

     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast I offered up 5 tips or hacks if you will to help the shore angler.  I talked about the thought process involved in order to avoid falling into the "I need to carry all my gear, all the time mindset."  Below is a great picture to illustrate my point.  The poor guy was trapped in one spot the entire night.
     Mobility is everything when fishing from shore.  You'll hear me preach this over and over.  As a shore bound angler you have to be able to move to cover water effectively.  I mentioned a lot of different items from backpacks, to tackle trays, to fly flotant in this episode so just click the links if you're interested in picking any of these up for your own angling use.  These are all affiliate links so buying through them doesn't cost anything extra on your end, but makes a big difference on this end.
     Thank you for listening to Episode 9 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe please take a second to leave a review.  The reviews are essential to getting the podcast recommended in the search results of fellow anglers.  Before you leave take a second to sign up for my free monthly newsletter.  It comes out on the 15th of each month and only on the 15th.  It's full of tips, tricks, some discounts, and of course subscriber only content.  So make sure you get yourself signed up today!

     Tight Lines.

In Pursuit of the Big 50

Not a 50 inch fish.
     No, I am not having a midlife crisis, I am 36.  I want to catch a 50 inch musky.  Really bad...almost awkwardly bad.  Can't explain it, and neither can my friends.  We fish in rain, snow, hail, heat, any weather condition.  I have fished with pneumonia, arthritis, and extreme sunburn.  My wife doesn't understand it, I don't think she ever will.  I am obsessed, addicted even.  Seriously, I feel guilty if I don't go fishing.  Not motivated, but guilty.  Like I somehow let myself and everybody around me down if I don't at least try.  Some days I don't even want to fish.  I end up at the lake anyways, casting out a lure.  I  have casted to the point my hands went numb and I accidentally threw the rod into the lake.  I have fished till I fell asleep and found myself sitting on the shore hours later.  Again I don't know why, I just have to catch that fish.
     So how close have I came to that magic number?  42 inches, or as my brain reminds me, 8 inches to short.  That is the best I have done.  Day in and day out casting has only gotten me to 42 inches.  Now some would say what a great accomplishment.  I mean it took me a year and half to just catch my first musky.  I should be proud of myself...nope.  I have caught big bass, monster catfish, trophy panfish, hell I caught a shark.  Don't get me wrong that shark was awesome.  It was 72 inches and fought like a beast, but it wasn't a 50 inch musky.
     Why do I want one so bad?  No idea; except everybody I know wants the same thing, so now I do too.  With one caveat, it has to be from shore.  I want to be able to say that I got it without a boat.  So what do I have against boats?  Nothing, I love fishing from boats.  Buddies boats, charter boats, boats I have owned, even my canoe and kayak are fun to fish from.   But my 50 incher is gonna come from shore.  A specific shore, Madison's Lake Monona.  I know they are in that lake, I have seen them.  In other peoples photos, other peoples nets, other peoples fishing tales.  They haunt me in my sleep, they torment my mind, and they have followed my lures.  I will get one; it is gonna happen, it just hasn't happened yet.
     Tight Lines

EP:08 Topwater Tactics for Bass and Muskies

EP:08 Topwater Tactics for Bass and Muskies

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     In this episode we talked about Topwater Tactics for Bass and Muskies.  This ended up being only about conventional fishing because it's only a 30 minute podcast.  We outlined the importance of reel and rod selection.  Also we covered how to find the fish, tips for better hookups, and how to keep the fish on the line after the strike.  As promised, below are some links to some of my favorite lures for bass and muskies.
     Thank you for listening to Episode 8 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast so that you never miss an episode on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe please take a second to leave a review.  The reviews are essential to getting the podcast recommended in the search results of fellow anglers.  Before you leave take a second to sign up for my free monthly newsletter.  It comes out on the 15th of each month and only on the 15th.  It's full of tips, tricks, some discounts, and of course subscriber only content.  So make sure you get yourself signed up today!
     Tight Lines.

That Was Bigger Than Expected

Orvis will never let you down.
     Opening weekend came in like a lion here in Madison, WI.  I was busy with a few guided trips, getting the kayak out on the water, and catching up with some old friends.  However the one thing I had been wanting to do was fish a little pond full of carp I found last fall.  It was full of smaller 3-5 pound carp and I thought it had a lot of potential as a spot to take first time fly carpers.  The location is free of overhead obstructions so casting is much easier than some of the other urban fishing spots I frequent.  Plus the fish in this pond don't seem to be as bothered by my presence.  You very rarely see wakes when you screw up a cast making it an ideal spot for a newbie.
     As I said in the beginning most of these carp run a little on the small side.  Nice thing about carp is that size doesn't really matter. They all run like freight trains.  It didn't take to long and I had my first common on the bank.  After the release I noticed that all the activity just stopped.  No mud trails, no tails, no bubbles, just a whole lot of nothing.  I lit a cigarette and sat down on the bank scanning the water.  Normally this pond keeps producing, but for a good 10 minutes or so the water was just lifeless.  Then I noticed some bubbles slowly breaking the surface.  The issue was that they were way out in the pond.  Probably a good 40 feet or so from were I was sitting.  It's pretty well known that I'm not the best distance caster.  Most of my casts are only accurate if the distance is less than 30 feet.  Carp fishing is an accuracy game.  You have such a small area to drop that fly.  The fly needs to land within inches of the carps head to even have a chance of getting noticed, especially in muddy water.  Stripping some line off the reel I took a deep breath, made a few false casts, and let that Jan's Carp Tickler Fly loose towards the middle of the pond.  To be honest it was probably the prettiest cast I've ever made.  The line laid out straight and the fly barely made a ripple as it hit the water.  "Impressive" I thought to myself, "All that practice in the backyard is finally paying off."  That's when I felt the bump.
Fish On!
     Strip setting woke her up and almost instantly I was in the backing.  Saying I was surprised would be an understatement.  The fish in this pond just don't fight this hard.  I tried to keep the heat on, but the fish wouldn't surrender.  She walked me up and down the bank for what seemed like forever.  Finally, I started to make up some ground and was relieved to see my fly line starting to make an appearance on the reel.  Once she was close I pulled my net free of the backpack.  This fish was bigger than the normal pickings and I was happy to have brought the net along.  Still this carp just wouldn't relent.  Every time I got it's head close to the bag it would just dig a little deeper and bulldog itself out into the deeper water.  Luckily my knots and tippet held up and after a lot of scrambling along the steep bank she was mine.  The big girl barely fit in the net!  I fired off a few quick pictures and returned her to the water.  Making my way back up to the truck a jogger stopped to congratulate me on my catch.  "Thanks" I said, "That was bigger than expected!"
     Tight Lines.

EP:07 Outfitting a Canoe for Fishing an Interview with Scott Hamstra

EP:07 Outfitting a Canoe for Fishing

     In this episode I sat down to talk with Scott Hamstra retail manager for Rutabaga Paddlesports.  Over the years I've fielded a lot of questions from both traditional paddlers and budget conscious anglers about outfitting a canoe for fishing.  I started my paddle sport angling trips from the seat of a heavily used Coleman canoe.  At the time it was the only thing I could afford that allowed me to fish, while getting my two young kids out on the water.  Things have come a long way since those days of concrete anchors and muffler clamp rod holders.  There are a lot more options available to the consumer now then when I started.  Scott and myself talk about some of the advantages of fishing from a canoe.  We also discuss the use of track systems, rod holders, anchor trolleys, and even paddle choices.  We even took a few minutes to discuss the new Old Town Next and Native Watercraft Ultimate boats.  These watercraft blur the lines between kayak and canoe and are fun to paddle.  You can find all the products we discussed at www.rutabaga.com.  Better yet, stop into the shop and say hello.  There is no better way to find out about an area than to visit a local shop.  A big THANK YOU goes out to Scott for taking the time to sit down with me for episode 7 of Bluegills to Bull Sharks.
Canoe musky on Lake Monona.
     Hopefully you enjoyed this episode of the podcast.  While you're here please take a moment to sign up for my free monthly newsletter.  The first one launches June 15th and will be full of fishing stories, tips, and subscriber only content.  It only happens once a month so make sure you take a minute to sign up.  Also check out the E-Store on the side of the page.  It uses Amazon links so when you order something through the Amazon store a small percentage is kicked back to the blog to help finance domains, hosting, and web design.  It doesn't cost you any extra money, but it makes a big difference on this end.  Finally, if you listen to this podcast on ITunes please take a second to leave a review.  Reviews help drive the podcast up the rankings allowing it to become visible in the search results of other users.
     Tight Lines.

TFO Fly/Spin Rod Review

     Last summer I picked up a new ultralight rod for trout and panfishing.  I had recently started using a new to me technique called threadlining.  Threadlining was developed by angler Joe Robinson down in the great state of Texas.  Joe Robinson was a fly fisherman for many years before he made the switch to a spinning rod.  He took the ideas of light weight fly fishing and combined them with the advantages and casting accuracy of an ultralight spinning rod.  More specifically he had custom spinning rods built from 2 and 3 weight fly rod blanks.  He shared all of his ideas in his book, Piscatorial Absurdities—A Fly Fisherman’s Guide to Radical Freshwater Ultralight Spin Fishing.
     Fast forward a few years and this ultralight technique started to grow a following which caught the eyes of TFO.  They decided to offer a rod based on his build specs so other anglers could experience this amazing technique without the need to have a custom rod built.
     So first off let me say that this was my first time to purchase a TFO rod.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the packaging.  My first thoughts were that this rod is extremely well built.  The wraps were well done and the eyelets were straight.  Below is a spec sheet laying out the TFO Fly/Spin rod.

  • 6 foot Graphite Blank
  • Premium Cork Handle w/sliding reel seat
  • 2 piece rod blank
  • 2.7 oz. weight
  • Line weight 2-6 pounds
  • Lure weight 1/32-3/8 oz.
     I originally paired this rod with a 500 size Daiwa spinning reel.  Following the setup laid out in Joe's book I loaded the reel up with an entire spool or Orvis Mirage 7x tippet.  As I said before this is a rod designed for extreme ultralight spin fishing.  The use of tippet as the mainline as opposed to you standard 4 pound test fishing line let me know that I was going to be fishing with extremely small lures.
     My first outing with this rod was last summer.  I decided to take it to a local pond in search of some bluegills.  The first cast was a mess to say the least.  This rod has a medium action so the parabolic bend runs from the tip to the handle.  It really took some adjustments in my casting stroke to have any semblance of accuracy.  After a few minutes I got it under control and soon enough I was on the fish.  As I landed the little bluegill I was blown away by how much fun fighting the fish was.  This rod was the first ultralight that I've owned purpose built for fighting smaller species.  It was a true fight, not just me reeling in a fish on light line.  I used the rod on and off during the summer and really enjoyed it for the panfish in the Madison area.  However, I wondered if it would be a capable performer out on the driftless creeks in pursuit of trout.
        In the past I've always used a 5 weight fly rod when chasing trout on creeks.  Recently I got the chance due to a sore back to get out on the driftless with the TFO Fly/Spin rod in tow.  Casting on small creeks is entirely different than casting into urban ponds.  Precision is the name of the game and this rod didn't disappoint.  I was able to place my small spoon in every riffle, seam, and pool that we encountered.  The sensitivity of this rod is amazing and I was able to feel the difference between each rock, stick, and gravel strewn section.  Most importantly I could feel the lightest take.  This rod is a casting rocket with small lures and I could cast well upstream of the pool and bring my lure back under control.  It really performs well as long as you use it for its intended purpose.
      Being that this is a review I feel compelled to tell you about some of the things that bothered me about this rod.  First off this is a technique specific ultralight rod.  It throws light lures with light line very well.  It doesn't throw bobbers and live minnows well.  The rod just isn't designed to be an all around rod.  So if you are looking for a do all ultralight to add to your quiver of rods look elsewhere.  The TFO Fly/Spin rod is designed for threadlining.  It shows it's design focus when you ask it to do anything else.  Another thing that bothers me is related to build quality.  The rod features alignment dots to help you when assembling it.  The dots on my rod are not lined up correctly.  This means that when I put the rod together the line guides don't line up.  It's easy enough to fix by sighting down the rod, but it's annoying.  The other build thing that I'm not a fan of is that the sliding reel seat constantly comes loose.  On more than one occasion I've had the reel fall off of the rod while casting.  One time while I was trying to release a fish the reel just came loose and fell off the rod handle.  At that point the reel became encased in mud and wouldn't work correctly till it was cleaned.  That immediately ended my fishing trip for the day and made me very angry.  It's something that I was able to fix by putting a little grip tape on the reel itself, but you should be aware of this issue if you're considering purchasing this rod.

     All in all I would recommend the TFO Fly/Spin rod to any angler looking to get into threadlining.  It is designed to excel in this area and it doesn't disappoint.  You can cast a 1/16th oz. spoon or size 00 inline spinner a mile.  It also changes the game when it comes to delicately fighting larger fish on extremely light fishing line.  I wouldn't recommend this rod to the angler looking to get into general ultralight fishing.  You can get an ultralight rod for far less that would allow you to just get out and experience light line angling.  If you're an experienced ultralight angler looking to take your fishing game to the next level than this the rod for you.
     Tight Lines.

Exit Strategy

     As shorebound anglers we constantly deal with situations that would be foreign to most boat anglers.  Many times we have to land fish in areas that are hard to access.  I know from my own experience that I can often make a cast from areas that don't allow me any access to the water on foot.  This means that I need to find a place to land the fish safely.  I call this part of the shore fishing process the exit strategy.  All you need to do is take a few seconds to look around and find a safe place to land the fish before you make a cast.  This way when you hook into that trophy you already know where you're going to bring it to the net.  This will make it easier for you and the fish.  Make this practice a part of your angling thought process and I guarantee you'll successfully land more fish from the shoreline.
     Tight Lines.

Orvis of Madison May Happier Hour

Tristan Kloss putting the hurt on a driftless area brown trout.
     This Thursday night is Happier Hour at Orvis of Madison.  For those of you out of the fly fishing loop (hahaha) this is a free seminar series that Orvis of Madison offers each month.  This months speaker is Orvis fly fishing shop manager and Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited chapter president Tristan Kloss.  Tristan will be sharing his secrets to finding productive water in the driftless area.  He'll be sharing the specific websites and other online tools that he uses to get on the fish that you constantly find on Orvis of Madison's Instagram page.  Also if you contact the store and RSVP for the event you will be entered to win a fly box full of productive patterns tied by Tristan himself.  To contact the store call (608) 831-3181 or follow the link here.
     Tight Lines.

EP:06 Take A Vet Fishing an Interview with Rob Blanchar

EP:06 Take A Vet Fishing

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     In this weeks episode we talked to Rob Blanchar one of the founders of Take A Vet Fishing.  Take A Vet Fishing gets veterans out on the water.  In fact the organizations motto is "A Day of Giving Back" and they live that motto.  Take A Vet Fishing has grown from very humble beginnings on Lake Waubesa here in the Madison area.  To now having events in 5 different states serving veterans and their families.  Yes, you heard that correctly, their families.  Take a Vet Fishing honors the families too.  Many times people forget that the family still needs to function during deployment.  Sometimes the families have to be rebuilt when the service ends and civilian life starts again.  Many times with the after effects of war following our veterans home.  Take A Vet Fishing is an amazing organization working hard to help our veterans both get on their feet and out on the water.  To find out how you can help out or to get signed up if you're a veteran yourself follow the link here.

     Thanks again Rob for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down for the interview.  Also a big thank you to everybody that has taken the time to leave a review for the Bluegills to Bullsharks Podcast on ITunes.  These reviews are required to get the podcast moving up the rankings and I appreciate everybody that has taken the time to leave a review, whether it's positive or negative.  Over at the Shorebound Hero blog I have some new posts in the pipeline about local upcoming events, shorefishing tips, and a neat little DIY for making a fishing net.  While you're there be sure to sign up for my free monthly newsletter full of tips, tricks, and subscriber only content.  It comes out the 15th of each month and only the 15th so make sure you get yourself signed up.  Finally, this coming weekend I'm attending the Midwest Kayak Fishing Symposium.  I'll be available all day answering your questions about Native Watercraft kayaks.  My personal kayak the Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 13 will be rigged up and on display so that you can see some of the available options when rigging your fishing kayak.  That wraps up the show notes for episode 6 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  Until next time...
     Tight Lines.

What A Racket

     I've never bothered with owning a landing net.  It was just something extra to carry and I never saw a real need for one.  I already owned a set of Lucid Fishing Grips so I could land any critters with teeth easily.  Everything else I'd just tail grab or lip.  Then last year while fishing for bass on the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series I lost two fish I desperately needed right next to the Slayer.  I was crushed and I got no sympathy from my fellow anglers back at the landing.  In fact many of them looked shocked that I didn't have a net on my kayak.  After the event I went out shopping for a landing net.  Turns out they are stupid expensive!  So here's a fun DIY that works well, is easy to make, and is reasonably cheap.
     First you need to find yourself an old tennis racket.  You may even find one laying around the house.  Next you need to get a net bag.  Mine was salvaged from a broken net I found on the bottom of Devils Lake.  The other item you see in the photo is a magnetic net release from Orvis.  You DO NOT need this to make a racket net.  I've just found it to be an extremely handy accessory.  Also you'll need something to attach the net to the tennis racket.  I used 20 pound Berkley Big Game because that's what I had lying around.
     Next you have to remove the string on the racket.  Destroying this racket was surprising fulfilling.  I never much liked playing tennis in gym class growing up, so this just felt good.  A quick tip?  Make sure you cut the string free from the racket head over a garbage can.  Otherwise those little pieces will be all over your floor and you'll find them for weeks.
     Next orient the net bag and start sewing.  It doesn't really matter where you start so don't get caught up in the will it be even mindset.  It all works out once you get going.  Remember that you want to pull each stitch tight as you go.  Work your way around the racket and then tie off the last stitch.  Finally stretch the net a few times with your hand to seat the net bag in place.
     This net has worked out really well so far.  I used a metal tennis racket, but if you used a wood racket it would even float!  It's a great way to recycle that old racket and keep it out of the landfill.  Since I found my net in the bottom of a lake this whole thing cost me nothing.  If you have a racket but don't have a net bag you get one by following the affiliate link here.  The extra fish you successfully land will make the 20 minute build time worth it.
     Tight Lines.

Poppin' a Chubby in the Driftless

    While out and about on some random creek in the driftless area of Wisconsin this week I got to encounter a new species.  We were supposed to be catching those little trout that so many anglers invest small fortunes in.  Instead we got into a number of Hornyhead Chubs.  I've been introduced to various chub variants in the past though mostly as BAIT.  Nobody ever told me that chubs were so much fun to catch.  They were aggressive and put up a great fight for their size.  The colors on this particular species (Nocomis biguttatus) were just gorgeous.  My angling companion didn't seem nearly as excited to catch these awesome little locals as I was.  So I figured I'd leave some interesting facts here to help educate my fellow anglers.
  • Male hornyhead chubs exhibit small horns or tubercles during the breeding season.
  • Although commonly found in coldwater streams, chub species are able to survive in a wide variety of water temps.
  • Average size of hornyhead chubs is 4-7 inches.  However fish over 9 inches in total length have been reported.
  • In many creeks and streams the chub is the top predator in the system.
  • There are 48 different species of chub in the USA.
  • Due to habitat destruction and the introduction of invasive species in coldwater streams, chubs have being placed on the endangered species list in states such as Kansas and Colorado.
    All in all it's a pretty cool little fish.  As I said earlier this is a fun species to catch and just as beautiful under the right circumstances as any trout species.  So the next time you hook into one of these little guys on your favorite driftless stream show some respect.  Because on many bodies of water, they were here first.

Tight Lines.

EP:05 Choosing a Kayak Fishing PFD

EP:05 Choosing a Kayak Fishing PFD

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     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast we talked about choosing a personal flotation device (PFD).  PFD's have come a long way in the last few years and the myriad of styles and options can be a little confusing.  We got started by explaining what makes a PFD kayak specific and then talked about the advantages to owning one designed with the kayak angler in mind.  Then we talked for a little bit about the inflatable PFD.  Finally, we covered my own thoughts on when to wear each style of PFD.  I'm hoping it will help clear up any confusion those new to the sport may experience.  Wearing a PFD is literally a life saving decision, make sure you always have it on.  Below is a list of affiliate links to the PFD's I own and trust when out on the water.
     That about wraps up this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  Remember that it can now be subscribed to on both ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you could do me a favor and leave a review on either platform that would be wonderful.  It helps drive the podcast up the rankings which will make it easier for your fellow anglers to find.  Also don't forget to sign up for my free monthly newsletter while you're here.  It's full of great information, tips, stories, and special subscriber only content.  I only send it out once a month so make sure you get on the list.
     Tight Lines.