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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