Thursday, April 24, 2014

on the hunt for bluegills

My daughter and I have a plan to chase some serious panfish this year. Over the winter she has become super interested in all the flies that I've been making and has injected herself into the process. The connection of making the bugs and then feeding them to the fish is only natural, right?

5 years old and looking like a pro
The bluegill part was my choice, partly because of their abundance and willingness to take a fly. But, also because part of me really wants to spend some time really pursuing a few slab sized specimens. I've really been interested lately researching panfish related flies and can't wait until they move into the shallows in full force.

We have checked a few of the bigger lakes so far with out much action. The smaller mud bottom lakes though have been quite a bit warmer and have been better producers.

my daughters first fly rod crappie (ignore the discarded bobber, certainly not ours) 
She has done a great job understanding the differences in casting and how to retrieve the flies by using her hands to strip the flies in. The best part is opening the fly box and asking her opinion on what fly is going to be the bug of the day. We are in the process of building her her own fly box filled with her own flies.

not a giant but sure is pretty
Stay tuned as we continue the search for some real slabs. This post will also most likely spawn some panfish specific fly recipes posts.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

hare'e stonefly nymph


Hook - Tiemco 5263 size 10
Bead - 1/8 inch
Weight - 10 wraps lead wire
Thread - tan
Antennae - goose biots
Body - Hare'e wiggle dub (golden brown)
Hackle - india hen back soft hackle

In The Riffle Instruction Video


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Monday, April 21, 2014

a driftless trout fishing blog post

A trip to the Wisconsin driftless area for some trout fishing can really revitalize a persons spirit. Despite the scattered and persistent storms last weekend the trout fishing refused to disappoint. I was able to visit a few streams from the past as well as some new water to bookmark for returns. Streams of the past have changed their faces in the last few years. Pools have changed in shape, some have vanished, and new pools have formed, but the one thing that remains consistent is an abundance of trout.

driftless trout on a wooly bugger
 While most of my morning action played out in the rain, it wasn't until the lightning and thunder showed that I let it run me off the stream and back into town. By that time it was nearly noon. I had fished two streams, covered some new productive water and had caught nearly 20 fish. A good morning for sure.

the storm moving in from the right chased me back to town
It was a short drive back to the town of Viroqua. A break for a hamburger, a pit stop, and a drop by the fly shop allowed most of the lightning and rain to pass me by (so I thought). And, after lunch, I set out to explore Vernon county Wisconsin. The trout streams here refused to disappoint, I found trout visible from almost every bridge crossing I scouted.

driftless trout were liking the wooly bugger
 Mid afternoon is when I finally understood the storms were just going to follow me the whole day. I continued to head east to stay ahead of weather, fishing my way across Vernon and Richland counties. Eventually the fronts drove me south.

rain clouds are in the distance of every scenery shot I have from the day
Wind and rain were all part of the ingredients to my successful day. I wouldn't have changed a single thing about the trip. Even dropping down into Grant county to fish a stretch I've been skunked on the only two times I've fished it worked out well. I caught two trout on that stretch.

not the biggest but takes a skunk off a stretch of river for me
It was a great run to the trout waters of Wisconsin. The fishing made the miles behind the wheel worth it. Also was nice to meet some new anglers streamside. The grass is greening up and plenty of good fly fishing lies ahead for the season. For now, my fly fishing outlook is promising.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

eagle claw featherlight, a cult classic?

eagle claw featherlight
Trying out my new 6'6" Eagle Claw Featherlight fly rod for the first time while in the Driftless area was nothing short of spectacular. Matched with the Martin 65 fly reel acquired this winter and strung with a DT 5 fly line this combo was perfectly suited to tackle these small spring creeks. I tied on a wooly bugger and it took just 3 casts before I deflowered this rods purity.

stream trout on a featherlight
 I own some pretty nice fly rods that cost quite a bit more then the featherweight, which weighs in at a bank busting 30$. I'm not here to be a pusher and tell you that this little rod out performs a rod that costs 10x's as much. What I can say is that this rods delivers far more fun then the value of its price tag. I brought my 3 wt graphite rod set up for throwing some nymphs, and needless to say, it never left my trunk. 

eagle claw featherlight in action
The rest of my trip report will follow later this week...
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

martin 65 fly reel

I blame the severity of this winter for the vast amount of vintage gear purchased off the auction site in the last four months. I now have a completely new arsenal of rod and reel to break in this year and am totally juiced to use some equipment with a bit of back story.

Of the fly reels purchased, the cheapest score has turned out to be my most favorite. The Martin 65 fly reel was the first one I have added backing and line to and seems to pair nice with the 2 short glass rods it will be used on. The line I chose is a DT 5...





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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

creek creeping

I've been creeping around some local creeks for a couple weeks now. Many of the big rivers just iced out and most of the medium sized rivers locally are running high and dirty. While I am still fishless since switching over to fly fishing this year, I'm content just to finally be throwing some loops. As flows and clarity begin to level out I expect to find the fly fishing picking up.

fox river tributary flowing high and muddy
a trib to the creek above, a grandchild to the fox, if you will
The two photos above are places I scouted while out on a dog walk. While I didn't actually fish them, I did manage to make note a few access points. It's quite a long creek and should contain a variety of fish since its connected to the fox river. I'm going to spend some time fishing this a bit later in the year so I'm excited to put in some time getting the lay of land. On the other side of the coin, the new dog Bandit got some off the leash time here and I now realize that he is fricken nuts. Bandit needs some more training before I just set him loose again. He was a good sport about following me but had a hard time understanding when I wanted to leash him up again. It took me almost 30 minutes to get him hooked back up again. The highlight of our walk was Bandit falling into the creek and not being able to get himself back up the raised bank. I had to get a good hold on his scruff and yank him back on dry land.

love those hazy blue green pools, should be a steelhead in there somewhere, right?
Yes, there should be a steelhead in that long run, and there was. I hooked him in some brush just above where this photo was taken. I horsed him back out of the brush pretty quick but lost him racing down the gravel bend in the photo. It was a good trout with very nice shoulders, and that is the heartbreak story of the post. The fish ate an egg under and indicator. There wasn't a lot of fish in the river from what I can gather but I gave it a good try and covered a lot of ground out there, enough so that my legs were tight and on fire the next day.

a des plaines river tributary
My most promising discovery was this little gem of a creek that flows into the Des Plaines River in a 100% urban setting. The creek was running swift and clear and I gave it 20 mins tossing an orange wooly bugger with no takers. Being a trib to the Des Plaines I would have to imagine some pike run through here in the spring. My most favorite thing about this creek is the succession of riffles and pools in this lower section of water. It just seems fishy and from the looks of the bank, it doesn't see much traffic.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

late ice fishing on lake geneva


Many ice anglers know that late ice can be some of the best ice fishing to be had the entire season. Neal caught this gator this past weekend on Lake Geneva on a panfish rod and 3# test. He said that the battle was touch and go especially after the fish buried itself into the weeds. He opened the bail and waited for the fish to work itself out before re-engaging pressure on the fish. Now that the rivers are starting to open up, I myself have given up on the ice fishing but on many of lakes there is still plenty of safe ice to continue forward on the hardwater.
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Monday, March 24, 2014

spring run off


The larger rivers are still looking a bit high and muddy, the smaller creeks and rivers that flow into Lake Michigan are looking prime. Water temps are still in the 30's and don't imagine a huge improvement until most of the snow and frost melts. Don't be discouraged, its finally spring and reports of fresh chrome are starting to trickle in. While we came up empty on the first try, we did see a nice chrome fish caught down river on a spawn sack on bottom.

Exciting times!!!
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Friday, March 14, 2014

slump buster fly


A simple fly that is highly adaptable to many species and easy to wrap up in a variety of sizes. It consists of a braid or cord wrapped under-body and wire to latch down the tail and body section of rabbit strip. The head of course is a cone with a second strip of rabbit wrapped in to form the collar.

By no means is this a technical tie and are pretty easy to knock out in quick succession. On this fly I used white rabbit (duh) and a pink braid but this is a fun fly to mix up your material colors. Make it look like a egg sucking leech using an orange or pink bead with black or purple fur, oh yeah!

Time to transition from the hardwater to the feather, fur, and flows. Stay tuned as this blog is about to throw down on some new flies, vintage rod and reel, and some fly fishing reports...
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

in the cloudy first few feet

Have you ever noticed that the first few feet on Hummingbird and Vexilar sonars always seem to have a lot of interference? I cant speak for Marcum flashers as I have never used one, but I always seem to have some trouble getting a good reading right below the puck. I've spent 95% of my time ice fishing jigging close to bottom only raising bait to suspended fish that move in on the sonar. The last few weeks I'm really beginning to rethink my approach.

We spent the morning fishing and we were just slaying perch off the bottom. They were extremely small perch but they managed to hold our interest for a few hours. Wondering where the hell all the panfish where was kinda mind boggling. Deep study of my Hummingbird led us to believe that there was something moving around in the cloudy first few feet.

We peered down the hole and we were just straight dumbfounded at the giant school of sunnies cruising just a foot below the ice. Needless to say, the flashers were turned off, the windows were closed, and we spent the rest of the day in a dark shack sight fishing just under the ice.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

the winter is dragging

The winter is dragging, and I'm about to scream. All I want is a fly rod in my hands and flowing water. I really believe that I was bred for warmer conditions then this.

Ice fishing is what keeps me going in the winter and more of a chance to hang out with friends and family while waiting for the thaw.

Fishing in the last few weeks has been pretty slow. While we have been on top of fish both times I've fished its been a lot of sniffers. Spent 3 hours out with my brother in law tonight and for the first hour and a half I was scared that we weren't actually going to catch a fish.

Things turned on in the last hour and we each got some bluegills and he took the tip up bass.

Winter is old but I think I'm going to give this ice fishing another go tomorrow...



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Thursday, February 20, 2014

fox chain of lakes ice conditions

The winter of 2013-2014 has been quite frankly an ice fisherman's wet dream. Early ice, thick ice, and willing fish it really doesn't get much better then that. On the flip side, it has been a long and cold winter and every time it wasn't blistering cold, it snowed. Ahhh yes, payback is a bitch Mother Nature.


In the waning days of winter it is most important for ice anglers to take the necessary precautions to stay on the right side of the ice. While we currently have over two feet of ice on most lakes, not all areas on the Fox Chain have safe ice. High current areas and channels connecting the lakes never should just be assumed safe. Even this winter, the coldest in memory, there is open water and thin ice visible.


Here's to staying topside, catching a few more fish before the end of winter, and stocked fly boxes by spring.
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Saturday, February 15, 2014

fox chain of lakes ice fishing report


Neal spent a few hours out on the Fox Chain of Lakes today, fishing about 100 yards of an ice party. He said fish were schooled up and active. Pretty good news as we are heading out tomorrow to try some new spots. Jigging rap was responsible for all the fish in the picture...
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Saturday, February 8, 2014

skandia tungsten ice jigs for big panfish

Its been a few years since I first added Skandia tungsten ice jigs into my winter time tackle box. Tungsten has really made a huge impact in the ice fishing scene in recent years. Nearly twice as heavy as traditional lead, tungsten allows jig manufactures to make lower profile jigs at half the size as before. Finicky fish often prefer a more diminutive profiled ice jig and with tungsten you can have low profiled jigs without sacrificing the weight.

skandia ice jigs
Tungsten also eliminate the need for the use of split shot. These jigs fall fast enough to get your bait down to the fish quickly, very helpful when fish are packed up. You may have only a minute before the school moves off and so being able to make rapid presentations makes sense. Get your baits down to fish more quickly.

skandia hook sizes

Tungsten jigs penetrate better then lead. That's right, penetrates. It punches through slush filled holes as well as through weeds, helping get your baits down to fish level. I've also experienced times when all the big fish are on bottom and slow falling jigs couldn't get down quick enough past the small fish hanging out up high. Tie on a tungsten a drop that bait like a rock.

bluegill on tungsten ice jigs
Spring bobbers sometimes are too sensitive to use with the heaviest sized tungsten jigs. When using a spring bobber with these jigs, I normally don't use the heavier jigs that I would use on a rod with no spring bobber. With that being said, heavy jigs can make your everyday ultra light ice rod even more sensitive. With all that extra weight, even the slightest jiggle can now be felt all the way through the rod and down to the handle.

I will never fully give up on my lead jigs because they have many practical applications in ice fishing but the benefits of these tungsten bombers are here to stay.  
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