Tuesday, May 13, 2014

what is in the bait bucket

So our first run at minnow trapping wasn't the huge success I was hoping for. Me and the kiddos went to a local still water spot and tried soaking the trap for a few hours in one of the channels of the lake. We baited the inside with dog food from the house and made my safety line out of dacron fly line backing. Then we tossed the trap out and let it sit. My first observation is that all the dog food floated and continued to float even after a couple hours. I don't think that that factor helps.

In the time that our trap soaked I sent the little ones scavenging for worms. They came up with nearly 2 dozen crawlers and we sent those into the drink under a slip bobber. We caught a few fish from their self harvested worms and continued to check the trap that remained empty. We moved the trap a few more times and caught a few more fish on the worms, but the trap still struck out.

Oddly enough we caught more shiners on worms then in our trap...

I'm going to ID this as an Illinois golden shiner
I'm preparing for a weekend in the driftless and that means 48 hours of straight trout fishing madness. Can't wait!
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Monday, May 5, 2014

shimano bantam coriolis co-200b

I have a serious sickness, it really came on full force this winter when fishing was at its slowest, but it has continued on into the spring. I can't seem to help myself but I've been buying up all the vintage fishing gear I see. Some I like well enough to add to my personal collection, and some I play with for a little bit and end up flipping it. Being able to resell things for a profit is pretty cool but the other benefit is I get to have my hands on pieces of fishing history (if only for just a bit).

This Shimano Bantam Coriolis isn't really what I would classify as "vintage", but Shimano is a brand that has great name recognition in the industry and holds its value well.

Stay tuned this week for a few fishing posts, more gear and some exciting trips in the next few weeks!

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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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Monday, February 3, 2014

winter time pond management

When a pond of 10 acres or so is over run with stunted pan fish, winter is an excellent time to put in some work to improve the overall health and quality of the fish populations. I'm no biologist but why do panfish become stunted?

My Humble Thoughts

-Lack of food, too many mouths to feed in this family and not enough food to go around. A scary reality for this little ecosystem, and it all but ensures that there are no fat kids. 

-Lack of diversity in the gene pool, everyone here is cousins. Seriously though, serious inbreeding can produce some weak stock. 

-Lack of predators, this goes for natural predators and unnatural types that walk above the water. Time for the DNR to open up the bag limit here. 

Plan Of Action

- a modest culling program should be enough on a small body of water to make an impact in bluegill populations

- introduce a new gene pool into the pond

- inject some baitfish 

Maybe I'm being a bit over dramatic for a small subdivision pond but why not try to make some changes in the way you fish it that could improve the overall health of the fish and fishing. The pond does have a few things going for it though, it gets to 12 feet and in general it drops off quick. Also there aren't too many people fishing it. As we weeded our way through some of the gills this weekend we were pleasantly greeted with a few surprises.  

The future here is looking bright...
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Friday, January 31, 2014

blind wander

Ice fishing is not for the lazy, especially for those who walk their gear out long distance. I'm no sissy but my sled kicks my ass sometimes. Throw in some snowy drifts and sub zero temps, and its a real knock out.

After a strenuous exertion sometimes I get content sitting down over unproductive holes for longer then they deserve. The shack is warm and the ice is thick, and hand cranking 24 inches of ice sure makes one rationalize that new jiffy propane auger...

The pinnacle of my ice season so far has been a blurry photo of just an average sized crappie.

pistakee bay crappie
I poked around out deep for quite awhile. Fishing for hours with no bites, I tried to stay mobile by drilling lots of holes and making dramatic moves. I must have hit the lottery in the shallows out east of the island because in the next few moments I ripped a mixed bag of twenty fish out of a non suspecting hole. Oddly enough, no one around me caught much and I caught nothing else after that even while continuing to move. I don't contribute that to being more savvy then another but my blind wander did put me in the right place at the right time...

Feeling the accomplishment

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

the next generation of ice anglers

Whats better then catching a big fish, or catching a lot of fish?

For me, there is no better feeling then putting my kids on some fish. Dress em warm and bundle em tight and keep your interest on them having fun. Make the trips as short as their interest levels dictates. Follow these steps and you will create memories that both of you can carry forward forever.

next generation ice angler, looking like a freaking stud
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Saturday, January 25, 2014

going back to early ice

early ice in lake county illinois
Cold and windy, those are the words that come to mind when I think back on this winter. I often question my sanity for choosing to continue residency here but I do admire the resiliency of our people. We have endured record low temps this winter without even missing a beat. I'm not gonna go on about a polar vortex, negative 42 wind chills, or the consistent snow but I will say we have made more ice this year then I've ever seen. The ice is super healthy and the weather shows no sign in letting up just yet. And, despite all that nasty we have found some mild days to get out on the water. We have even caught some fish. Maybe the fish have been a bit more negative over all but you would kinda have to expect that. I am a firm believer that weather makes a big impact on fish behavior, even under a foot of ice.

ice fishing redear bluegills
As I am a bit lagging in my posting, these photos were from early ice on a few different lakes in the northern section of Lake County Illinois. We did well fishing heavy weeds for crappies and bluegills. If you look hard at my hummingbird display you can make out the bottom three or four feet is almost solid weeds. In fact, if you don't know what your looking at you could mistake it for being bottom. For what its worth, we got most of our bites once we got our jigs down into the jungle. For someone who has become flasher dependent, you almost feel blind fishing in this fashion but, at least the flasher showed you when your jig was in the weeds. Get that jig down there and shake it and wait for your fish. It did feel kinda old school, fishing them without seeing them, but was refreshing at the same time. We have had some nice redear bluegills mixed in with the other panfish too.

the elusive lake county illinois walleye
Early ice didn't disappoint as Neal was able to get a hook in a nice Lake County Illinois walleye. Goes to show you that you never know whats gonna turn up on a panfish jig and waxie. That walleye was healthy and strong and is certainly a fish to make anybodies day. She looked even better swimming away. I'm going to keep hammering away to catch up on my ice fishing trips. Be warned that there wont be many pictures of piles of fish sitting on the ice as I've elected to let my my fish go this winter but you'll get the drift. Sorry if the resolution of these pics are a bit grainy as my whole ice fishing season pics for the blog are coming off my cell phone...

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Monday, January 20, 2014

fall fly fishing in review

In a blink of an eye, Wisconsin's fall fly fishing season for Great Lakes salmon and trout came and went. In recent years we had experienced a great variance in the severity of Midwestern winters, some mild and some not so mild. Just a few years back we rang in New Years by throwing streamers to big brown trout in flowing water. Conversely, this fall, it was just Thanksgiving when rivers started to frost over.

fall river scenery
 The kings ran thick this year and there was no shortage of them in most of the rivers we frequent. I have no interest to photograph rusty looking kings so the first real fish pictures from the fall came when the coho started moving into the rivers. The coho run this year was also particularly robust. I have always been a disbeliever of reports on local forums of people having success throwing dry flies at coho salmon. This is something I have to seriously reconsider after watching a fish rise on my indicator and giving it a most aggressive smack. Not having any dry flies in my fall salmon box I didn't get to test it on a second drift but did tie on a pink egg which that fish moved 5 feet to hit. Here is a couple of nice coho from the fall.

the fish that proves coho will rise on surface flies

neal with a nice wisconsin coho
The steelhead were a bit more elusive then the brownies early on. Even in the midst of the crowded pools of salmon, a watchful angler could see gluttonous brownies zipping in and out to sip on salmon eggs. This brown trout was sight fished off the back of salmon spawning gravel. The key here was to throw the fly up the salmon's ass and letting it drift back to the trout waiting behind. If you threw the fly to the head of the pool, you would never make it through the group of salmon to the trout without snagging one of those donkeys.

brown trout from in the midst of all the salmon
 I finished my fall in my favorite fashion, stripping streamers through bridge pools for big trout. This could be one of the best bites of the entire year, I was sad that it ended so quickly. I find this method works awesome from when the salmon die off until the river frosts over.

bridge pools = big winter trout
a nice winter brown hit a meaty fly on an aggressive strip
I wish this bite would have lasted even a few more weeks but sadly winter came early. Here is a shot from my last trip before things really started to lock up on the river. All in all, it was a short but productive fall for us. 

flowing slush and ice shelves, the end is near
Looking forward to a great spring run and once again holding a fly rod in my hand. Until then, it's all about the ice fishing.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

the breath of life

a stupid pike photo to make it look like a fishing report

In 2014 I have decided to breath new life back into my fishing blog. I have no regrets for taking a step back from writing and posting a quarter way through last year. It's been almost four years to the day that this site was created and that amount of time is something I don't take lightly. I never have tried to use this site for profit, nor is it for ego. It also hasn't made me famous to smatter my meager catches on the World Wide Web for everyone to see. So as I reflected on this at the end of 2013 I came to only one conclusion; this was done out of love. Not the sappy queer stuff but rather for the love of the chase. Research, planning, and execution on chasing fins in new water.

Matt Pedersen had discontinued writing "Rambling Reports" (my inspiration) long before I had ever thought of blogging, but his site is still relevant. And that right there is all I aspire to, relevancy, be it now or years from now.

 My best wishes would be for this blog to be the type site for an outsider to find, and be able to learn something about fishing locally. Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison are all serious Midwestern hubs that warrant coming equipped with at least one fishing rod. I think this site has accomplished that on many levels. So even if I don't earn back regular readers so quick, at least I will have a opportunity to grow this site in content and also have my fishing journal back.

To the two real fishing friends I met through this site, sorry for the lag in my communication and to the rest of you, I owe you some updates. I'll recap the entire fall tributary trips in the next post and catch you up 100% on ice fishing so far in the post after that. I have also been collecting some vintage fly gear to use as soon as the winter breaks and I'm super excited about that.

I have thought about writing this post 100 times in the last few months and thanks for enduring the drippy ramblings of a New Years resolution. As you can see, this post has been all about fishing but yet has nothing to do with fishing.

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