EP:22 Kayak Muskies

EP:22 Kayak Muskies













     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast we talked about Kayak Muskies.  Pursuing the fish of 10,000 casts from a small plastic boat is a lot of fun.  It does however present some challenges for the human powered angler.  I gave some advice on kayak specific rod and reel selection, lure choices, and how to seal the deal with an oval at the side of the kayak.  We talked about the differences you'll encounter trying to land a fish with a net compared to a set of lip grips.  Finally we had a quick discussion on the importance of a healthy release.  Take these tips out on the water the next time you find yourself in pursuit of the mighty muskellunge.  Just make sure you send me a photo of your monster fish.
Chris Baron with a beautiful Lake Wingra Musky
     Thank you for listening to Episode 22 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe take 30 seconds to leave a review.  The reviews are essential for getting the podcast recommended in the search results of our fellow anglers.  Before you leave please 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.

How To Tie An Egg Pattern Fly

     The seasons are right on the cusp of changing here in the Midwest.  For me that means that before you know it the salmon and steelhead will be in the rivers and harbors of Lake Michigan.  I've really learned to love the various salmonids that have been stocked in these waters.  More importantly over the last few years my interest in pursuing these fish with a fly rod has become more and more intense.  For guidance in this pursuit I've been picking the brain of the guys and gals over at Orvis of Madison.  Last fall they showed me some of the ways you can fish an egg pattern.  On one particularly cold evening they even took the time to show me how to tie one up.  Turns out they're pretty easy.  So easy in fact that I'll never waste my time tying my own.  "Don't tie what you can buy," is my battle cry when it comes to fly fishing.  If you're not of the same opinion then get out your vise, a #10 hook, some egg yarn, and a spool of olive thread.  Then just follow the photo dump.






Editor's note: At some point you need scissors to cut the yarn.  Must have missed that part...

     As you can see it's a pretty easy tie.  For more information check out the links here and here.  Chasing lake run salmon, steelhead, and brown trout with a fly rod is ridiculous amounts of fun.  To learn more about flies, gear, and techniques be sure to contact Orvis of Madison at 608-831-3181 or follow the link here.
     Tight Lines.

A Little Tape Goes A Long Way


     A quick tip for my fellow anglers out on the water.  I like to wrap the handles of all my different fishing pliers with some electrical tape.  You only need to 8-10 wraps, but those wraps of tape can save your day.
     Let's say you land yourself a beautiful musky.  You realize that the hooks of your bucktail are buried deep and that it's in the muskies best interest to clip the hooks and get it back in the water.  As you get ready to replace the hook it suddenly dawns on you that you didn't bring any heat shrink tubing to hold the hook in it's correct position (I know it sounds crazy, but it happens).  A few quick wraps and your back in action, just make sure the lure is dry so that you get good adhesion.  While your at it a few wraps around the base of the hook will keep your silicone or tinsel skirts from getting stuck in the hook itself.  It also helps to reduce the amount of weed slime your hook picks up as it travels over the weed beds.
     Another use I recently discovered was using the tape as a stand in when your finger stripping guard fails.  If you spend enough time stripping streamers and poppers for bass and carp eventually you'll wear right through your finger guards or gloves.  I have found that it never seems to happen when I am ready to call it a day.  Usually it happens right around the time I have located the big fish.  1-2 wraps and I can fish the rest of the day blister free.
     If you think about it I'm sure you can come up with tons of uses for that little bit of tape.  The key is to wrap your pliers, No tape...No fix.  It could be the difference between finishing the day and finishing early.  Until next time...
     Tight Lines.

EP:21 Some Thoughts On Human Powered Vessels

EP:21 Some Thoughts On Human Powered Vessels













     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast I discussed the use of inflatables to help you leave the shoreline.  First I explained why renting a kayak or canoe might be a great way to fish open water.  Then we covered why inflatable kayaks, paddle boards, and float tubes, can be a cost effective introduction to human powered angling.  They've come a long way since the yellow inflatable kayak I sank in years ago while trying to musky fish on Lake Monona.  The ease of storage makes many of these vessels a great alternative to a rigid kayak when lack of space is an issue.  I also talked about Lucid Fishing Grips and a wonderful buzz bait rig made by the Bog Baits Company that can be added to any top water lure.  So if the water is calling you to leave the shoreline, this episode may have the answers you've been looking for.
     Thank you for listening to Episode 21 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe take 30 seconds to leave a review.  The reviews are essential for getting the podcast recommended in the search results of our fellow anglers.  Before you leave please 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.

What To Do If You Flip Your Fishing Kayak

Photo Credit: Spencer Jones
     Sooner or later it's going to happen regardless of how good you are as a paddler.  Whether due to a lapse in judgement, a rogue wave, or a large and unruly fish, eventually you're gonna flip (turtle) your kayak.  It happens to everybody, it sort of comes with the territory.  Instead of worrying about when it will happen, take the time to put a little thought into what you'll do to right the boat and continue your outing.  I recently went through this myself on the Wolf River in northern Wisconsin.  It was my first time to encounter true whitewater on a fishing trip and I survived just fine because I planned ahead.
     The first thing you need to do is pack your parachute.  Make sure you follow the basics.  Dress for the water temperature, wear your PFD, leash everything (I know it's a pain in the ass), strap down your crate/cooler, ALWAYS have a knife, and carry a bailing aide.  For many of us kayak anglers in SOT kayaks a bailing aide such as a pump seems pointless, but it doesn't hurt to have one stored in the front hatch or on the side of your crate.
     Now that we've covered the basics, let's take a look at the steps needed to get back inside your boat when you flip.
  • Don't Panic-This part can be hard since most of us don't plan to flip on a regular basis.  Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine.  Get to the surface, find the kayak, and assess the situation.  In the photo above I flipped in moving whitewater so staying calm was a real test.  Still by not panicking I made it out unscathed. 
  • Flip The Kayak Right Side Up-This can either be a really simple or a real stumbling block.  If you're in shallow water just stand up, laugh a bit, and flip the boat.  Deep water re-entry can be a little more challenging.  Either reach under the kayak to the far side and pull on a seat, handle, or strap, while pushing up on the side closest to you.  On my Native Slayer I've found that pulling the Propel Drive acts as a lever and will flip my kayak right side up easily.  If you have a sit in kayak or a canoe move to the front or rear and roll the kayak from the end.  This step takes some muscle and you may find the use of flipping stirrup very useful.
  • Remove The Water-If you fish from a SOT then just pull the scupper plugs, no big deal.  If you use a canoe or a sit inside kayak then you'll need to start bailing.  I've found that pumps remove the water much better than a small bucket.  You may find that it helps to be in shallow water when you're bailing if possible.  It takes quite awhile to get all that water out of the kayak so pace yourself.
  • Get Back In The Kayak-This part can be a little tricky to get right.  Again if you're in a SOT then pull yourself onto the kayak deck to at least your belly button.  Then lean forward and kick your feet while you pull yourself onto the kayak.  Once on top remember to keep your weight centered and you're good to go.  If you're on a sit inside then the steps are same, just a little more demanding.  You'll need to be careful that you don't flip the kayak or canoe back over.  I've found that it's easiest to re-enter a sit inside from the back of the kayak.  Pull yourself up on the rear of the kayak.  Then once your weight is centered kick your feet until you can straddle the kayak.  Then just work your way up to the seat keeping all your weight centered over the kayak as best as possible.  SBH TIP: Don't worry if the kayak or canoe takes on a little water while getting back in.  Just get yourself inside and bail once you're seated.
  • Enjoy The Rest Of The Trip-After you get the kayak righted and yourself inside start gathering up everything that came free in the process.  This is step is much easier if you keep your gear strapped and leashed at all times.  Do a quick double check to make sure you have everything.  Nothing is worse than realizing later in the day that you left your favorite rod or lunch bobbing in the water.
     If you follow these steps you should be able to continue your trip and enjoy the rest of your day on the water.  Remember though that all of this information is useless if you don't practice.  Find a friend and a nice warm day and go flip your kayak just for fun.  Take turns helping each other learn how to self rescue.  It will be an outing full of learning and laughter.  Put these 5 steps into practice the next time you find yourself next to an upside down kayak.  Work them right and you'll still have time to catch a fish or two.
     Tight Lines.

Tackle Storage for the Human Powered Angler

Waterproof Tackle Trays come in a variety of sizes.
     One of the biggest differences I see between traditional boating anglers and human powered anglers is how they choose to store their tackle.  If you fish from a boat your gear is less likely to be totally submerged in water (hopefully).  I guess you could call that a perk?  The simple fact that the boat keeps you isolated from the water means the gear you carry will stay safe and dry.  Human powered anglers however face an entirely different challenge.  It doesn't matter if you wade, paddle a kayak, sit in a float tube, or cast from shore, sooner or later the tackle you carry is going to get soaked.  It just comes with the territory.
     To help combat the rust and rot associated with wet tackle I've personally made the switch to waterproof tackle trays.  These tackle trays have made a huge difference in the life of my lures.  I no longer have to deal with rusted hooks, rotting bucktails, or dingy pitted spinner blades.  The boxes do a wonderful job of keeping my gear dry, clean, and ready to fish.
SBH Gear Tip:  Remember to always open your tackle trays and fly boxes to let them air dry after a day on the water.
     If you're like me and you spend a lot of time on or in the water look into the tackle trays with a waterproof seal.  They may cost a little more up front, but they'll save you a lot of money in tackle in the long run.  Do you have any tips to help other readers keep tackle dry when on the water?  Share them in the comments section below.
The author with a nice little Wolf River smallmouth bass.                                                             Photo Credit: Spencer Jones
     Tight Lines.

EP:20 Considering A Pedal Driven Kayak

EP:20 Considering A Pedal Driven Kayak









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     In this week's episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast we looked at pedal driven kayaks.  Not really the differences between the brands, but why as a kayak angler you'd even consider one for purchase.  Pedal driven kayaks offer some unique advantages over their paddle only brethren.  From hands free fishing, to trolling, to just overall versatility they are hard to ignore when you're in the market for a new kayak.  Now more than ever companies are stepping up and offering kayak anglers options.  Starting next year almost every major brand will have a pedal driven kayak on the market.  It's an exciting time to be looking for an upgrade.  Also this week we launched our first contest.  The prize is a Shorebound Hero Sticker Pack.  All you have to do is listen to the podcast then visit the blog and comment with the answer.  I'll use a random number generator to choose the winner.  I'll announce the winner in next weeks podcast (episode 21) then ship them to whoever wins.  Good Luck!
     Thank you for listening to Episode 20 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe take 30 seconds to leave a review.  The reviews are essential for getting the podcast recommended in the search results of our fellow anglers.  Before you leave please 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.


So I'm Getting A Divorce

I had to go back to 2011 just to find a picture of us together.
     This Thursday almost marked 14 years of marriage.  A milestone that was very important to me.  However, I came up short and will have to settle for 13 years.  It's not how I thought my life story would play out.  In fact, I was blindsided when she let me know that she wanted out.  Trying to make sense of it all just left me angry, depressed, and feeling lost.  It didn't end because of an affair or abuse...it just kind of ended.
     When I posted this picture last week someone commented "Something must be off, you're breaking to many rods."  They were right, something was off in a big way.  My marriage is the one thing that I always thought I had going for me.  We weren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked.  Since finding out about the divorce I have had more than a few broken rods.  Many things appear to have broken in different areas of my life.  Some I can fix (like my eating habits and smoking) some I can't fix (like my marriage and lost time).
     I've ran into a bit of a confidence problem lately.  From raising my kids, to dealing with the split, to simple things like choosing which shirt to wear to work.  I'm constantly second guessing myself and the confusion is screwing with my fishing.  My friends have noticed something's wrong too.  Lately I've been getting more random phone calls, emails, and fishing invites than ever before.  I've spent so much time on the water recently that I have blisters from my sandals and line burn from stripping flies.  It's working, I'm finally starting to feel better. Kind of funny how something as simple as fishing can make such a big difference.
My whole world...
     My kids are taking it in stride.  They're holding up pretty well and just want to see their mom and myself happy.  We're currently co-habitating in the house we rent.  I moved downstairs to the spare room in the basement and she sleeps upstairs.  It's working out okay minus the occasional hiccup.  Our lives were so far removed from each other for so long (10 years on 3rd shift) that the transition hasn't been all that hard.  We really had grown apart and now after a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself I can see her side.  Outside of our amazing children we don't have anything in common.  Even our long term goals were totally different...it was just a matter of time.  I wish her nothing but the best in the coming years.  It's not like we won't bump into each other from time to time.  We had two very socially active kids together.  I'm sure will be interacting much more than we realize.  So what's this all mean for the blog and the podcast?
     It means you're stuck with me.  I'm turning more attention to my long term goals.  I still don't have a paddle sponsor, I haven't caught a mako shark, or been to Thailand, and my name doesn't appear anywhere in the IGFA record book.  Hell it's been almost 4 years and I haven't reached my goal of 10,000 weekly readers on these pages (only 6,000 short).  That goal has my full attention now.  The blog will have 3 posts a week from here on out.  Two will be written on Monday and Friday.  The 3rd will be the show notes and audio file from my Podcast every Wednesday.  The site is getting a redesign in the next few months and I'm already on chapter 3 of the first E-book.  Big things are coming down the pipeline now that my focus is clearing up.  I've got a few dreams left to chase down and these pages will be coming along for the ride.
     Tight Lines.


The Importance of Casting Practice

     As we unloaded our gear from the vehicles Spencer asked if we should rig up tonight or in the morning.  "Probably tonight" I said, "Got to practice anyways."  The look on his face was priceless, "Practice?"  This seemed strange to me knowing Spencer's penchant for exercise.  He's a guy that constantly work outs, eats right, and prepares for physical activity.  Practice is important to him, so is routine, yet he still looked confused.  "Practice 20 minutes everyday regardless of what you fish for was my answer."
     It's something that I kind of live by as a "Pro Angler."  Professionals in any industry don't rely on luck to meet goals.  They put in the work required to reach them.  The roman philosopher Seneca once said, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."  Words to live by I think.  You see if you don't practice than you can't react.  Over the years I've noticed that many of my so called "Lucky" catches seemed to show up out of nowhere.  The cast, hook set, and landing of the fish, just happen.  I believe it's because of the hours spent practicing.  My body only needs to react and muscle memory takes over allowing me to catch the fish.
     The best example I can think of to illustrate this is when I caught the largemouth bass pictured to the left.  It was during the Cub Scout Fishing Derby I hold each year for the scouts of pack 39.  I was talking with the boys about how to cast and deal with the weeds while carrying around my musky combo with a Lee Lures Waterchopper tied on the line.  I didn't bring the musky gear to catch the bass in this small pond.  I brought it along because the kids think the lures are huge!  They always get a kick out of my big game fishing gear so I always make sure to bring it along.  While we were talking the water by the small island exploded.  Something was chasing prey right next to the shore under the cover of weeds and low lying branches.  Without thinking I pointed to the water to get the boys attention and fired off a cast.  A cast with a big musky lure, into extremely tight cover.  The bass hit the topwater bait within the first few cranks of the handle.  The scouts were shocked that such a big fish lived in the little pond and everybody started casting to try and beat my catch.  Those boys still talk about that fish 3 years later.  If I didn't practice each day I would have never been able to make that cast.
     Practice is something simple you can do to keep your skills sharp when you're not on the water.  Just taking out your fly rod and firing off some casts will keep you in tune with your casting stroke.  Same goes for pitching, flipping, or skipping with a bait caster.  You don't have to spend hours practicing each day.  Just spend 20 minutes or so and it will add up over time.  Taking the time to practice your casting is a great way to catch more fish on a consistent basis.  Don't believe me?  It worked for Spencer...
Spencer Jones with a great catch on the Wolf River.
     Tight Lines.

EP:19 Fly Line Management

EP:19 Fly Line Management 











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     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast we talked about fly line management.  Fly fishing provides some unique challenges for the human powered angler.  Whether you're on the shore or casting from a kayak, fly line management can become a major pain in the A$%.  This issue has been something I've struggled with since taking up the sport a few years ago.  We also talked about a few of the products I use to manage my fly line when out and about.  The first was the Orvis Stripping Basket which really takes the pain out of fly fishing from the shoreline.  The second product that I recommended was the Bonefish Hippies Urchin Stripping Mat.  I stumbled upon this last year and it has quickly become a must have accessory when I'm fly fishing from my kayak or SUP.  Give these concepts a try the next time you find yourself casting a fly.  They work great and will keep your fly fishing line tangle and swear word free.
     Thank you for listening to Episode 19 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe take 30 seconds to leave a review.  The reviews are essential for getting the podcast recommended in the search results of our fellow anglers.  Before you leave please 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.

Rigging Up A Native Watercraft FX12

     This weekend I had the opportunity to take a Native Watercraft Ultimate FX12 up north to catch some smallmouth bass on the Wolf River.  I had a great time and we were able to land several bass in the double digits.  Taking the time to rig up a kayak for river fishing was a fun experience.  Before we left for the trip I took a few minutes to record a quick video showing how the Ultimate FX12 was going to be setup.  Native Watercraft's Ultimate FX12 proved to be a great kayak on the river.  I hope this video will give you some options to think about the next time you get a chance to take your favorite fishing kayak to a flowing body of water.
     Tight Lines.

Native Watercraft Titan Propel 13.5

Photo Credit: Nativewatercraft
     This week Native Watercraft announced a new kayak at the Outdoor Retailer Show.  It will be called the Titan Propel 13.5 and I haven't been able to focus on anything else since the photos and videos have started rolling in on social media.  The new kayak promises to be able to compete head to head with the Pro Angler from Hobie Cat.  I'm stupid excited about this because this new boat addresses all of my perceived shortcomings relating to my current rig the Slayer Propel 13.  Let's take a look at what the Titan Propel 13.5 kayak has to offer.
Photo Credit: Kayak Angler Magazine
     The Titan Propel 13.5 will be released with a length of around 13 1/2 feet (obviously).  The width is a staggering 42 inches!  Talk about a roomy and spacious water craft.  You should be able to stand and even turn around easily on this kayak.  The boat is of course rotomolded plastic for strength and features the ever popular Propel pedal drive to move it along.  A beefy hand controlled rudder is a given and the factory promises great steering and a reasonable turning radius.  It will be a bit of a bear to paddle similar to the Pro Angler, but to be honest nobody will buying this boat because of how well it paddles.  No word yet on color options, but watch the video below to see some of the features that are integrated into the Titan Propel 13.5.

     
     This new kayak will be a game changer for many of us in the Native Watercraft Tribe.  For years many of us have been clamoring for a larger more angler friendly kayak that would allow us to compete on the same playing field as the Pro Angler owners.  With integrated rod storage, full sliding high rise seat, dual micro anchor mounts, and the ability to store a full size paddle conveniently and out of the way the Titan Propel 13.5 is going to be a force to reckon with out on the water.  The factory is currently chasing a March 1st production release date so you have a little time to start saving some money.  I plan to be one of the first on the list when the Titan Propel 13.5 starts rolling out the door.  Until then I'll be paddling my lighter and smaller Slayer Propel 13 which seems like a crazy thing to be saying.
Soon this Slayer will be my lighter, faster boat!
     Tight Lines.

EP:18 Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention

EP:18 Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention













     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast we talked about Aquatic Invasive Species (A.I.S.).  We discuss some of the species that are effecting the Midwest as well as the announcement of the Illinois DNR to reintroduce alligator gar as a means of natural population control for Asian Carp.  I think it's a great idea since studies have proven that they don't have any adverse affects on the game fish populations.  Plus, I would love the chance to catch a monster gar relatively close to home.  I also gave a few tips on how as human powered anglers we can be proactive in helping to stop A.I.S.  One of the products I mentioned was the Rinse Kit, a self contained pressurized spray unit.  It works wonderfully and is an inexpensive answer to cleaning our boats when a water source isn't present.  Aquatic Invasive Species prevention is something we should all take seriously.  It all starts with you (and me) together we can make a difference.
Not an alligator gar, but it was still fun to catch!
     Thank you for listening to Episode 18 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe take 30 seconds to leave a review.  The reviews are essential for getting the podcast recommended in the search results of our fellow anglers.  Before you leave please 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.

3 Favorite Terrestrial Fly Patterns For Big Bluegills

A Gibson's Dragon Fly was inhaled by this eager bluegill.
     As the dog days of summer start to wear on here in the Midwest my mind turns to the bluegills.  These little fighters can be just the thing you need to get your thoughts off the crazy heat and humidity.  My fly box is overflowing with terrestrial patterns of all types and colors. However these 3 patterns keep ending up on the of my line.
Gibson's Dragon Fly
     The first pattern I must recommend is my current go to fly on the water.  It's called Gibson's Dragon Fly and it's the most productive BIG bluegill pattern I own.  The bluegills are crushing this fly on a regular basis.  They just seem to lose their minds when these dragon fly imitations hit the water.  Which makes sense since you can't walk (or paddle) more than a few feet without seeing little blue dragon flies buzzing about.  If you get nothing else out of this post, get this fly!
Bully's Bluegill Spider
     Next up is the Bully Bluegill Spider.  If you've read the book Bluegill Fly Fishing and Flies by Terry and Roxanne Wilson then you know how effective this pattern is on the water.  Day in and day out this fly catches fish.  It's probably the first pattern that comes to mind when most fly anglers think of bluegills.  I know they will forever have a place in my fly box.  They work great in almost every situation and body of water.
Peeper Popper
     Finally, I offer my favorite popper for monstrous (size is relative) bluegills.  Every bluegill hunter has at least one top water popper in the box and for me it's the Peeper Popper.  Although it's technically a bass pattern, it will really put the hurt on your local panfish population.  It's chugging sound just calls the bluegills in and it has the has the most consistent hookup ratio of any popper I've ever thrown.  Quick Tip: Trim the legs and tail a bit with your nippers before you take it out for better hook ups.
     I think that you'll find that these patterns will perform just as well on your waters as they have in mine.  All of these patterns are available at your local Orvis store.  If you don't have an Orvis nearby you can purchase them online by following the link here.  Give bluegills a try the next time you're looking to wet a line.  As a buddy of mine once said, "Nobody stops fishing before passing through a school of panfish."  
Bluegills are a great target for kayak anglers.  This one was caught on a Bully Bluegill Spider.
     Tight Lines.