Monday, May 31, 2010

Veni, Vidi, Vici

I got a chance to go out fishing for the first time since leaving for Vegas last week.  Went out early this morning to Charter Oak North, only to find every pier already taken at 6:30 AM.  I threw a Gander Mountain Trick Stick wherever I could from shore.  Had a couple hits but couldn't set the hook.  I got the fly rod out with the same result: missing hooksets.  This continued for a little over an hour and a half when a storm rolled in and the thunder started so I went home to get a nap and spend some time with my new wifey.

A little after 3:00 PM (after the sun came back out), feeling very inspired by Clif's post from yesterday, I put aside my recent fishing frustration and headed out for Banner Marsh, a local  hotspot that I've heard alot about but hadn't experienced yet.  I followed my Google Maps app to the general area and turned into the first access point I came across.  I ended up at a part of the Marsh called Wheel Lake, parked and got all rigged up.  I hooked up a 7" Powerworm texas style with no weight.

There is a little channel that runs next to the road and leads to the boat ramp that I decided to start with.  It was about 4:00 PM at this point and very sunny so worked down the channel, trying to cast into the areas of the bank that had overhangs from being washed out due to the boats or had downed/overhanging trees.  About fifteen casts in I overshot the water to the other bank and tugged the worm down into the water.  I felt a thunk and the line went slack.  I reeled up and set the hook, finally had one on! I swung him up onto shore just as a couple guys were coming in with their boat.  The Gamakatsu hook (that comes free with every pack of Gander Mountain plastics!) went through the side of his lip, came back and hooked him in the jaw on the outside.  I had to get my pliers out and work the hook out and guide it back through his lip to get him back in the water.  According to the tape on my pole, he was just under 12 inches.  I apologize for not having a pic but I had him out of the water for awhile and didn't want to do any damage while scrounging around for my camera.

The relief that came from that fish is almost indescribable.  Bass fishing is something that I've invested alot of my time into lately and I've come up empty handed more often than not the past half-dozen trips, especially when at a large, unfamiliar body of water.  I know there was some luck involved with tugging the worm off of the bank but I caught that fish by looking for shade and cover and working methodically down the bank.  It gave me a sense of accomplishment that's hard to explain.  It might sound silly but it was just what I needed.

I continued to work my way down around the boat ramp but two boats came out and one put in and they shut down so I jumped in the car and headed back up the road.  There are little channels that run alongside part of the road so I drove a little while down one of the roads, got out and started working down the channel with my Powerworm.  I eventually overshot the bank again, this time I got hung up and had to break the line (something that is much harder/scarier to do with 14 lb fluorocarbon than with 8lb mono, I found out).  I saw a few bluegill rising to the surface so I went back to the Explorer and grabbed my fly rod, which still had a little floating black fly with a red tail on it.

Bluegill love little floating flies.  I think they could honestly care less what it looks like, as long as it's small enough to fit in their mouth and it floats, they'll bite it.  I had a couple takes that I missed the hookset on and then I finally hooked this little guy (I had the camera ready this time):

I got him back in the water and then couldn't get the fly to float anymore and they lost interest.  Does anyone know of a way to keep flies afloat without floatant or know of a cheap alternative to floatant?  Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

It had sprinkled rain on and off while I worked my way down the road so I was a little damp and about ready to head home but I wanted to try one more spot right by where I came in. This little spot looked promising, with alot of grass and shade, but as I walked up I remember thinking "this path leading down is pretty steep, better be careful"  about three steps before I ended up at the bottom of the path on my butt in the mud.  I dusted myself off, (luckily no one was around to see) and grabbed my poles from where they landed in the grass and tried a few casts with the Powerworm and a silver/blue Rat L Trap knockoff.  After a couple dozen casts with no bites, I was ready to head back up the path and head home... Or so I thought.

Before I go over what happened next, let me explain that I'm a big man.  At 6'5" and pretty top-heavy, I sometimes have trouble keeping my balance while walking down a hallway or up stairs.  Apparently trying to climb up a muddy path just after a storm while holding two baitcasters and wearing 6 year old Nikes is a bad idea.  I got a few steps up, started slipping, did a Scooby Doo run in place for a second and then somehow simultaneously dropped my poles, fell to my knees and slid down into the lake up above my ankles.  Awesome.  At that point I was VERY happy no one was around.

I extricated myself from the muck, checked to make sure my reels weren't crushed or muddy and started up the hill again.  This time I extended my poles handle-first up the hill so my hands were free to grab hold occasionally and made my way up to the Explorer very awkwardly.

I know that sounds completely insane but that was my day.  It may be weird but I still consider it a success.  I may have looked like an idiot and my beautiful wife was quick to point out that I fell down as many times as I caught a fish but I accomplished something I hadn't done before:  I caught a bass in a large, unfamiliar body of water.  As long as I came home with nothing broken it would have been a good day.

Hopefully someday way down the line when I'm a super experienced fisherman and get bummed out because I didn't catch any fish over 4 lbs or something ridiculous, I can look back and remember not to take myself so seriously.

I decided I'm going to work on coming up with a few realistic goals to accomplish before the summer is over and my fishing time is restricted by college again.  Not sure exactly what yet but I'll be working on it over the next few days, I'll let you guys know what I come up with.

Hope you all had a good memorial day and good luck the next time you get to wet a line!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Troutrageous Giveaway!

I wanted to pass on an opportunity to everyone.  Troutrageous has a contest going with Hobie Sunglasses right now to give away some free shades!

Check it out here.

I'm always stoked to find free stuff.  Especially since I've never owned a pair of polarized glasses and I've been in the market, it'd be pretty sweet to win a nice pair.

I had a good week in Vegas (actually came out even!)  and I'm hoping to get out fishing this weekend so be on the lookout for a report and hopefully some pics of monster fish!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Come on Baby, Daddy needs a new pair of waders!!!

Last post before we head off to Vegas to get married!

Not a whole lot to report.  I had two quick fishing trips to Charter Oak North, total of about four hours of fishing.  No bites.  My guess would be that they're spawning, although I couldn't spot any fish on beds.  There have been people there every time I've gone for the past month so maybe the pressure is wearing on the fish in such a small pond.  Whatever it is, I think I need to find a new honeyhole when I get back.

I did get a try a couple things for the first time:  fluorocarbon and Gander Mountain Trick Sticks. (generic Senkos I believe.)  I haven't caught any fish so I don't have many thoughts on them at the moment.  The fluorocarbon lets me feel weeds and the bottom better but I haven't had a hit on them to see if its easier to feel.  The Trick Sticks have pretty awesome action, like a minnow wiggling to the bottom of the lake.  Look for more thoughts once I catch some fish.

Well thats about it.  Wish me luck, hopefully I'll hit the jackpot, pay off my car and be able to buy a boat!  ;)

Hope you all have a good week, "see" you when I get back.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Don't need a frog to keep the skunk away today!

So I decided I'm gonna stay away from big lakes unless I have someone with me who knows the water.  I get too overwhelmed with all the open water and different opportunities and I think I get a little lost.  I definitely get frustrated.

Today I went and checked out Spring Lake (which is actually two lakes) outside of Pekin, IL.  There were alot of weeds so I went with a texas-rigged Powerworm and a Purple/Silver Rat L Trap on my other rod for whenever I got some open water to throw it in.  I worked along the edge of one of the lakes, working the worm and trap all the way down.  Long story short, I got to the end of the lake about two hours later with no bites.  I lost my Rat L Trap on a submerged tree, got pissed off and decided to head back to Peoria.

Just like the other day, I decided to head to Charter Oak North to try to salvage the day.  I pulled out the fly rod with a little orange foam ant tied on and got some more casting practice in.  I got to experience fish "rising" to my fly for the first time today.  It really gets your heart pumping to see even a little fish slowly stalking up to your fly on the surface.  I had a couple little fish come up and nip at the fly and I missed a hookset on the one that actually took it.

I abandoned the fly temporarily, switching to the Powerworm from earlier.  I tossed a few casts to the weeds with no takers down the bank on both sides.  I eventually went back to the fly rod, this time with a little white and pink popper.

It took me a few casts to get used to the little bit of weight on my fly line and to get the right speed of strip to get a good pop but eventually I got it going.  On my third or fourth cast with the popper, I popped it a couple times, looked at my phone to check the time, heard a splash and felt a tug on my pole and it was my first decent bass on the fly!  I actually reeled up the slack and got the play him a bit on the reel, let him tire himself out.  I swung him up on the dock and snapped a pic for you all:

Just under 12".  Not huge but my biggest on the fly so far.  I tossed him back, went to cast back to the same spot and smacked the popper into the dock midcast, obliterating it.  D'oh!

Now in a pissy mood, I picked up my baitcaster and tied on a buzzbait, figuring if they hit a popper they might hit something else loud on the surface.  After a couple dozen casts with no bites, I went to a white Walmart spinnerbait.  No dice.

Back to the fly rod.  I still don't know the difference between a dry and wet fly but I picked out a little black one with feathers sticking out all over and a little red tail.  It floated!  And the bluegill loved it, they were sneaking up from underneath, taking shots at it.  I had one on but it got off about halfway back to the dock.  After that, the fly wouldn't float and the fish didn't like it nearly as much.

So I switched to a smallish brown fly with little white wings.  I got it out there and it floated too!  Once again, they love it while it's floating and I actually hooked a little guy:

The fly stopped floating after that and they stopped hitting it again.  Note to self:  buy fly floatant.

It was about 12:30 by this time and I was getting hungry and tired after being out fishing/driving since 7:00 so I decided to head home, happy to have at least gotten a decent bass and had a bunch of fish rising to my bait.

So a decent day, I wish I would've just gone to Charter Oak first and not wasted time driving to a place I'm not comfortable.  Oh well, lesson learned.  Also, since starting with the fly rod, I've got four fish on it and no fish on conventional tackle...  What the hell?  Is that why people convert?  It just gets impossible to catch anything on anything but a fly? :)  Probably not but it definitely keeps things fresh.

I appreciate everyone checking out my blog lately, hope you all are having better luck than I have been lately. Have a good one.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Skunked? I'll let you decide.

After putting in a couple extra hours at work today, I decided to head out to McMaster Lake at Snakeden Hollow for a change of fishing scenery.  I didn't realize how far away it was, but an hour later I got to the lake to find about a half dozen boats out on the water and another guy walking the banks.  The lake is pretty wide open, not alot of trees so there was alot of wind, kind of throwing my hopes of fly fishing out the window.

I started throwing a 3" Powerbait Ripple Shad, bringing it back very slowly.  After a few minutes of no hits, I switched up to a 7" Blue Fleck Powerworm and tossed it near some weeds along the bank.  I worked along one bank and walked over to the other side of the boat ramp and worked down the other ramp so I could stop fighting the wind.  I switched to a chartreuse Gulp Nightcrawler and worked back along the bank.  I had a couple tiny bites but nothing I could set the hook on.  I really wasn't feeling this lake with all the wind and unfamiliarity so I decided to head back to my familiar water of Charter Oak North back in Peoria.

Charter Oak is down a little trail and has trees all around and wasn't nearly as windy so I was able to get some practice in with the fly rod.  I tied on the same fly as the other night and got to whipping it around.  I focused on keeping my wrist still and am to the point where I can consistently get the fly out about 10 yards, which is pretty exciting.  After a couple dozen casts with no bites, I switched up to the baitcaster with the Gulp crawler still on it.  No bites.  Back to the Powerworm... No bites.  I was getting very frustrated at this point.

I decided to try something new so I tied on a big black/orange jig and tipped it with half a plastic Gander Mountain crawdad in almost the same black/orange.  I tossed it out a few times, bouncing it along the bottom back to me.  Moved along the bank, throwing in all directions and bouncing it off the bottom.  No bites.  But, when I brought it in the last time, something splashed at it and scared the hell out of me about 6 inches from shore.  It was a big ol' bullfrog.  So I did what any frustrated grown man who had failed at fishing all day would do:  I played with the frog.  Every time I would get the jig within about 6 inches of him, he'd pounce on it and kick it. So, I got the idea to take a video for you guys.  Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to get it on here.  While taking the video, he decided to actually bite the jig, which gave me my first and only catch of the day:

But don't worry, he was ok, I let him go and he went back to sitting grumpily in his patch of the weeds:

So I'll leave it up to you guys, does that count or did I officially get skunked?  Either way, Mr. Bullfrog salvaged my day from being a frustrating waste to being able to mess around like a little kid again.  Speaking of, I'll hopefully be taking my future niece out fishing soon, be on the lookout for a report and pics.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My First (and Second) Fish on the Fly!

Had my last final tonight, got finished early and decided I couldn't wait till Friday to try out the fly rod so I snuck out while the fiancée had her mom over.

I got down to Charter Oak North Lake and set up shop on one of the docks to get out away from all the stuff on the bank I would get caught up on.  Rhett suggested I try out a floating fly and twitch it back slowly so I pulled out my pack of flies and went to grab a floating fly when I realized, I have no idea what the hell a floating fly looks like...   So I just grabbed a brown one with some hair and a couple really small feathers from my pack and tied it on.

My first cast was very awkward and only managed to get the fly out about five feet from the dock.  The fly sunk.  My second cast was equally as awkward but I managed to get the fly out about fifteen feet.  I was super ecstatic about that, and then I remembered I was fishing and stripped in the slack and gave a few small twitches on my line.  One more little twitch and the line started moving!  I snapped the rod up and had my first fish on the fly hooked!

I fumbled with the line for a second because I had a few feet coiled up beneath the rod that didn't get cast. I remembered you can strip line in to bring in little fish so I tried and the line went right back out.  I stripped it again and held it with my rod hand while grabbing another handful of line to strip in.  I finally got him up to the dock and swung him up and over the rail:

A monster, I know.

So I got the fly loose from him, let him go and cleared the gunk off my line.  A third awkward cast produced a distance similar to the second.  I stripped in it in just twice this time before the line started moving!  I snapped up the rod again and had a little bit of a better fighter this time, but I was stripping in line like a pro now. :)  A few seconds later, fish number two was being lipped:

Another little guy but I was so excited to just be making casts into the water and actually catching fish that I could've cared less about the size.  I got him back in the water pretty quickly, ready to keep my streak up.

Thats when it all went downhill.  We had a storm roll in and the winds started picking up randomly.  About three casts later I got my tippet all knotted up to the point where I had to cut it and tie something else on.  So I tied on the only popper I have and gave it a few casts but it was increasingly difficult with the wind.  I decided to put up the fly rod and try to catch a couple more bass before I had to turn in.

I tried a rattling crankbait, buzzbait, and finally resorted to a 7" Powerworm over the next 45 minutes or so with no bites.  I booked it as soon as I saw lightning in the distance.  The storm is currently raging around our house.

So thats it, a very successful first outing with the fly rod, if I do say so myself.  I need to check out some youtube videos or read some books or something on how to cast, because I feel like a total d-bag flailing around so dramatically just to get a fly out 15 feet.  Any suggestions are very welcome.

I'm planning on going fishing again on Friday, weather permitting.  Hopefully I can post some pictures of a couple big bass and quite a few more fish on the fly.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My First Fly Rod

So I went up to Dixon to see my mom Sunday, and while I was in town, I took the opportunity to pick up my fly rod from my dad's basement.

I bought this setup while on a vacation about ten years ago in Wisconsin because there were two of them together for about $30 and I was 12 so I didn't realize not many people cast flies on the Rock River.  My dad messed with the one I gave him for awhile but quickly retreated back to his spinning tackle and my combo has been sitting in the original packaging in his basement for the past ten years.

It's a Shakespeare combo, 8 feet long.  It says #5/6 fly line on bottom, which I think means its a 5-6 weight?  Which is good because I've read thats a good weight for bass/panfish.  It is black but its not apparent whether it is graphite or fiberglass.  It has a foam handle, which is the only time I've seen a fly rod with a foam handle.  (Although, admittedly, most of them I've seen are either on blogs or on TV.)

The reel is a Shakespeare 1094.  I tried to lookup reviews but I can't seem to find any.  Guess I'll just have to get some experience with it and write my own.  I was trying to figure out how to set the drag online and found out it just has a click drag.  The Shakespeare site also said you can "palm" the reel as a form of drag but i'd be pretty afraid to do that, sounds pretty risky with a big fish on..  From what I've seen, you are supposed to strip smaller fish in by hand anyway, so hopefully I won't have any problems with the drag.

The line and leader came like this:

This led to a giant cluster-eff of a tangle when I tried to unwind the line.  It took me about 20 minutes to untangle.

I wasn't sure what to use for backing so I put about 25 yards of Big Game Trilene 20# test mono on.  I don't think I'll need backing since there was quite a bit of fly line but just in case I suppose.

Tying line to line sucks.  I tried a nail knot a few times to no avail.  I then looked up a blood knot and, after some silent cursing and several attempts, I pulled off a bastardized version that held when I yanked on both the line and "backing."  I tried to do the same for the leader but couldn't get it to hold and I really didn't wanna break the only leader I have, so I just threaded the line through the guides and headed out to try whipping a few casts....

....  Only to find that it started pouring rain since I was last outside.  So I'll have to wait until at least tomorrow to actually cast with some distance.  I'm really good at casting against the inside of the garage door though.  :)

Here's a picture of the rod/reel and the few flies that came with the package:

(Kinda weird to see a foam handle on a fly rod, huh?)

(Sorry thats a little blurry, I was having trouble getting a good focus on those little flies. Ignore the purdy flower wallpaper.)

I have my last final Wednesday so I may be able to get out fishing Friday or Sunday, so hopefully I can get that leader tied on and try it out.  I spent as much time as I could reading blogs and articles on beginning fly fishing but it seems like I just need to get out there and get some experience.

Stay tuned, I'll make sure to share as many of those experiences as I can.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Quick Report - Charter Oak North

Had a slight break between working overtime and classes so I went down the local pond and tried to catch a few fish.  It rained most of the morning so I thought it would be pretty murky and I had a dark crankbait tied on. It ended up being the clearest I've ever seen it there but I figured I'd throw it a couple times anyway.

After a few minutes with no bites, I switched to a texas-rigged Gulp!  nightcrawler in chartreuse.  No bites for a couple casts so I snuck up next to a weedbed and slipped the worm over the edge of the weeds and got a hit from this guy:

Not very big, only ten inches but at least I didn't get skunked.  I got an even smaller one a few minutes later and no other bites.  I scared up something HUGE again in the same spot as last week, tossed my worm in that area but couldn't get anything to hit.  I tied on the same buzzbait as last time to try to relive the magic but no takers.

I saw a couple carp (I think) that were at least two and half feet long.  Don't know how they get so big in such a small pond.

I have Finals next week and then my fiance and I are going to Vegas to tie the knot on the 25th so kind of a busy month ahead but hopefully I'll be able to get some more fishing in in early June.  Also, an added bonus of going up to see my mom Sunday is that I will be able to pick up my fly rod.  Look forward to preview of that rod with pictures and a report of a trip to either Banner Marsh or Snakeden Hollow eventually.

Hope everyone has a good weekend,

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I feel very blessed.

Didn't get to go fishing today.  My fiance's grandfather passed away about a week and a half ago and we had to go pickup a few things today at his house.

I was kind of surprised that no one else on his side of the family fishes.  Because of this, the family decided to give me his old tackle, saying that he would have wanted it to go to someone who would use it.  I'm also looking forward to Mark(ette) Jr.  catching a monster bass a few years down the line on a lure his/her great-grandfather passed on to us.  :)

I thought I'd share a couple pictures of some of the things that were given to me.  I'm looking for tips on a couple things and just thought a couple items were really cool.

Bob was really big into going to Canada and fishing for giant toothy monstrosities. I'm guessing that's why he had a bunch of these:

I don't think I've ever used a spoon in my life but I'm looking forward to trying.  Does anyone have any tips/blog posts on how to fish them?   Can the smaller ones be used for bass and/or panfish or should I save them for a trip to a lake with some muskies and pike?

I didn't pick up any rods as they were pretty old and brittle looking.  However, I did get a couple old reels that will probably get some use, most notably my second baitcaster!

This gives me a reason to pickup a new rod!   I was looking into the Amp rods by Berkley, anybody have any good/bad/indifferent experiences with them?  What I've read is that they're a pretty good rod for the $30.  I also think I'm going to pick up some reel oil and try to make sure its working in the best condition possible.  It'll be fun to see how an older Daiwa reel compares to my new (but inexpensive) Shakespeare baitcaster.

Clif (or anybody with fly fishing experience) may appreciate this next picture.  I didn't find any fly rods or reels or anything but I did find these mixed in with some of panfish lures:

I'm curious as to why Bob had these but no other fly fishing gear.  Makes me kinda sad that I didn't know to ask him while he was still around.  Whatever the reason, I'm very grateful to have them passed on to me as I'll be picking up an old fly rod my dad has in his basement.  I'll be giving fly fishing a shot for the first time.  Whenever I can find time to drive up to Northern IL that is.

I was really excited to see some of the different bass lures he had.  A few Rapalas, Mepps Aglia spinners, and some other crankbaits that I have been wanting to try but couldn't have brought myself to spend the money on.  I'll have to remember to silently thank Bob whenever I catch a fish on one.

Finally, I found this in the bottom of one of the tackle boxes:

Some old-school Omni-Flex mono.  Pretty sure it was made before I was born.  The best part is I found this on the back:

87 cents for 700 yards of 10 # test mono!  I just paid $5.97 for 330 yds of 6 # test Stren.  Damn you inflation!!!  :)

Time for another week of work/school.  I have finals coming up (and getting married on the 25th in Vegas!) so I'm not sure how much I'll get to fish over the next couple weeks.  Good thing is I have a lot to experiment with when I do!

Tight lines everybody!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I'm a Basshole!

At the recommendation of Basspastor, I joined up in forum to try to learn a thing or two.

I definitely pass on his recommendation, within two threads I had learned some tricks for my upcoming foray into dropshotting!  There's a wealth of knowledge on there that anyone new to bass fishing should check out.  It looks like they also give away free gear just for being a participating member and they have alot of contests to win free stuff.  Always good for the college student wallet!