Tuesday, August 30, 2011

giving credit where credit is due

Being a brand new smallmouth bass fisherman and the newly appointed president of “The River Snobs” (a made up group) I would like to take a moment to say thanks. Not to a person, but to a river.

This river begins in Fon du Lac County and flows just over 100 miles before emptying into Lake Michigan. Its watershed covers a 900 square mile radius and its flow is fed by three main tributaries. It gets a dependable run of great lakes steelhead, salmon, and trout but is also home to almost every warm water species of fish imaginable. Any ideas?

The Milwaukee River is correct and it has served as my base camp for learning the ropes of river bass fishing. Its water has kept me cool on the hottest summer days and has offered me a chance at some bonus pike and musky (even if the musky wasn’t my catch). I’ve been amazed at how clear the water is and how secluded I feel when wading its banks. The Milwaukee River gives you that “up north” experience while being just a stones throw from Wisconsin’s largest city.

a scenic milwaukee river dam

A lot of people have inquired about where to fish for the bass on the Milwaukee. I’ve bounced around quite a bit fishing both the main and west branch of the river. I can honestly say that every single access I have come across has had some good water with some fish there to be caught. This is a very long river, and even though its named the Milwaukee, it doesn’t mean that the fish are found just in the city limits. To tell you the truth, I have only fished bass from Thiensville and north. I had no one there to point a spot out on a map. All I started with was the desire to catch some fish and the rest came natural. To me, exploring new areas is half the fun of fishing. Getting off the beaten path and blazing my own trail is what it’s all about.

starting the morning off right

another milwaukee river slob smallmouth bass

What are you waiting for?

These photos are from my last bass trip of the season here. I don’t think I will be back until the salmon are in, and I will miss this river. 

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

des plaines river dam

Went out to for a little exploring expedition tonight. I've wanted to check out this dam for the last few weeks and have just finally found the time to get around to it.

Never have I seen the water on the Des Plaines so crystal clear, it even felt cooler then normal. The bottom here was ninety percent sand and relatively shallow. Of course, I brought the fishing rod with and gave it a go but the mosquitoes chased me off after a half hour. I really need to pack the bug juice for Des Plaines River trips.
des plaines river dam
On the way out I did notice this…

des plaines river spring?
Is this a spring? Looks kinda man made.

Was this water being pumped in from somewhere else? Maybe that’s why the water looked almost drinkable? On second thought, maybe not.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

crossing paths – iowa county trout

When I first started my blog, I never would have imagined how many great people I would come to meet in such a short time. Most of these people I have met online and some I have come to meet in person.  I recently had the opportunity to meet another local trout fisherman who just started his own blog. By coincidence, he shares the name Blake with me and is a talented fisherman, rod builder, and fly tier. His blog “Money Can’t Buy Happiness” has become an instant success and has rekindled my “trout bug“, even in the middle of summer.

We met at the Salmo Pond just off the famous Black Earth Creek, condensed our gear into one vehicle and started the journey further west. Our first stop was on a Dane County stream that was familiar to the both of us and our plan was catching some fish before heading out further to the west.

Blake from Money Cant Buy Happiness
We didn’t light the world on fire there but it was nice to shake the skunk early in the day. Both Blakes were on the board before we proceeded to depart, and push our way deeper into Iowa County.

the first fish of the day, a dane county brown
Blake(2) with a pretty dane county brown
The stream in Iowa County that Blake(2) took me to was a real gem. It was more of a pasture stream where bank side grazing kept the weeds and grass at bay. It was a real treat to be able to walk the bank without fighting chest high brush and made covering water much quicker. There was a whole lot of fast water dropping into some beautiful pools and was a real pleasurable fishing experience.
an iowa county trout stream
We both ended up stripping streamers down and across the stream and rolled plenty of fish. Our hook up ratio was around fifty percent which seems typical for streamer fishing but was a real blast watching those fish swipe at our flies. The action here was better and this is where we caught the majority of our fish that day.
an iowa county brookie
an iowa county brown trout
We caught around 20 fish between the both of us, mostly browns with a few brookies mixed in. Though we only caught a modest amount of fish, I made a new fishing friend. It’s been hard for to meet up with Damien and Neal for the last month due to our conflicting schedules, and was nice to actually be on the stream with a new buddy. This must have been the first time two Blakes have been fly fishing the same trout stream in western Wisconsin at the same time, so this was a major groundbreaking event.
On a side note, Blake(2) lost a personal best brookie at the bank that we estimated to be sixteen inches. Please don’t feel too bad for him though, later that week he went on to catch a personal best rainbow and brown.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

crossing paths - milwaukee river musky

a milwaukee river musky
Sometimes on the water we run across some strangers that are very good fisherman. While its nice to observe their style, its always cooler to lend a helping hand when needed…

Coming around the bend I could hear the commotion. The stranger one pool up was laying back on a very big fish. One of those fish that make a crash rather then just a splash when it jumps. He gave me a quick nod and then called down to me “musky“! To me, that was his invitation to come check out his fish.

I had run into a guy fishing swim baits just about one month ago. He told me he had released a forty inch musky in this very same pool just last year.

The stranger (who I found out later) was named Randall. He’s an angler from the local area and seemed to have fished these waters quite a bit. Randall played the fish like a champ and by the time I made my way upstream to him to fish was ready to be landed. Two fisherman with a total of zero nets between the both of us, this is my reason for always carrying boga grips in my backpack. I reached down and latched onto the fish and pulled it out of the water for my new friend. The fish looked big in the water, but out of water he was a true musky monster. He measured out at forty one inches and was just shy of 16 pounds. I took a few photos since Randall had no camera and was sure to get his email so I could forward the photos. Great fish man! Great fish!

The fish hit a number three mepps spinner and was taken on what appeared to be twelve pound test. No leader was used and Randall put the hooks right in the corner of its mouth. Without that hookset it could have turned out way worse.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

bluegill and the bacon fly

the first bluegill on the fly
Pond fishing bluegills is a great way to introduce a kid to fly fishing and an almost sure fire way to catch some fish every outing. Any bead-head nymph is a good stating point, you want something that is gonna sink. I love to add a pinch of raw bacon fat to the back of my fly in an almost “tail” sort of fashion. Bacon fat has earned me more fatty panfish over the years and by far is one of the most user friendly baits out there. It certainly has the scent and texture that fish like and it is almost impossible to shake from the hook. There are times when you can catch a dozen fish on one single piece without ever rebaiting. As soon as that raw bacon hit’s the water, the oils from the fat start to disperse and calls the fish in from far.

luke, are you having fun?
Lets just say that teaching a 5 year old how to fly fish isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. It takes a certain amount of patience and a whole lot of understanding. Casting, line management, and presentation are completely different then spin fishing and for someone who just learned how to cast a spinning rod last year it can seem quite intimidating. The key here is to keep things fun and light hearted. The more serious fishing becomes to a youngster, the less fun it seems. We like to explore new areas, look for cool bugs, and spot fish swimming in the shallow water. The important thing is spending time together and learning to enjoy and respect the outdoors.

sunset over our bluegill hunting grounds
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

poke a pike on the des plaines river

I spent 45 minutes last night fishing a feeder creek to the Des Plaines River (northern lake county).

des plaines river feeder creek
 I rolled this fish almost a half dozen times before catching him. Hungry little bastard!

des plaines river (feeder creek pike)
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Friday, August 5, 2011

two hours spent on the des plaines river

some new backwater on the Des Plaines River
The water is still running very high on the Des Plaines River in southern Lake County and has crested its banks in most areas. The once dry shoreline has become something that more resembles a marsh and quite a few new back water areas have been formed. This would be the third time fishing the Des Plaines river and the very first under these high water conditions. Expecting this, I picked a spot I ran across on my very first outing. A clear water drainage ditch pumping fresh water into the river was sure to have some better visibility. Flowing under a trail bridge and making a few nice turns, this creek finally hit the river against a long gravel bar. It's a one hundred yard stretch and was a manageable area that could be effectively covered in a short period of time.

the best Des Plaines River pike of the day
Upon arriving I noticed the once clear stream was now a cloudy tan color. I went for my new orange body orange blade spinner from Sims-Spinners that had just arrived by mail earlier this week. I figured the bright colors would add a foot or two extra visibility and was supper excited to see how a Sims performed in the field. I wasn't to be disappointed, within a few minutes I caught my very first fish on a Sims-Spinner. A meager pike, that quickly released itself from my hands, not too worthy of a picture anyways. Ten casts later, I turn the biggest pike of the day. The fish chased that little orange spinner hard and fast, striking the bait from just inches beneath the surface. Right before my eyes the drama unfolds as if in slow motion. I set back on my rod and the fish begins to dig hard in the first of his two runs. I gave the fish some loose drag and let it tire before bringing it back to the surface. With the fish now on the surface, I could see the spinner completely inside the fishes mouth. Oh crap! One misplaced head shake and those razor teeth would cut my 8 pound flouro like a knife through warm butter. With steady pressure I eased the fish closer, thank God the fish decided to keep its mouth wide open. With a perfect Boga-grip landing I carried my DRP pike to the bank for a photo!

Not a huge fish, but not so bad for only my third trip. I'll take a three pound pike just a few minutes from the office any day. Six total fish came to hand in this short trip, but none of the others had much size to them. I know there are some more substantial fish in this section of river and will be happy to keep searching for a big boy. A special thanks to Dan from Sims-Spinners, my initial impression was a good one! This truly was a good two hours spent on the Des Plaines river.
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

independence grove summer bass

a decent independence grove bass
The recent rain over the past week has completely wreaked havoc on the local river systems in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The weather has stabilized and is now back to its normal hot and muggy mid summer pattern, but it has left behind overflowing banks on most if not all of our local rivers. I have to admit, this last year I have really become quite the river snob. There is something magical about fishing the flows and river fishing has captured my interest in a big way. Locating fish on a body of water that spans thirty miles isn’t the easiest thing to jump into but once you start to pattern the fish, it’s a super rewarding feeling. Even though I have a new found romance with the local rivers, I’m no glutton for punishment. I know when to fold a loosing hand and given the adverse conditions in the rivers, there was only one thing left to do… fish a lake!

neal with a decent independence grove bass
I have hardly paid Independence Grove enough attention for the last couple years. It wasn’t long ago that this was my go to spot when I wanted to catch a lot of bass in a short period of time. This was the type of place I would go when I needed a confidence booster during the hot dog days of summer. Time to rekindle that old flame. Neal and I geared up with drop shot rigs and an assortment of finesse plastics, my preferred method for fishing the steep drop offs found in these quarry lakes. We got an early start to the day and really pounded the deep water structure found throughout this entire body of water. Deep timber, weedline drop offs, and sunken humps were all winning tickets that produced us some fish. We fished hard all morning and it wasn’t till just around lunch that we were chased off the water by the overbearing sun. We fished for less than four hours but landed right around twenty fish, all largemouths and just one rouge walleye. I've lost a few fish over the years there that clearly would have been my biggest bass ever and I’m always looking for that next big bite opportunity while fishing there. No donkeys today, but we did catch a few respectable northern Illinois largemouth bass. Thought I would share some of our morning drop shot shenanigans with you all. Tight lines and stay cool.

independence grove walleye
my best independence grove bass today

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