Mix It Up For a Spring Mixed Bag

Sometimes we can slip into a rut and just keep casting the same lure or fly despite changing conditions. I catch myself doing this all too often. A little success can reduce your total productivity by reducing your willingness to change up offerings or tactics at appropriate times.

A weightless and weedless fly was productive for Chain Pickerel in shallow cover.

Don’t be a victim of your own success. If conditions dictate a change in size, color, or depth of presentation – make it. Think of your flybox or tacklebox as a toolbox. Choose the right tool for the job at hand.

A switch to a weighted fly on a deep water edge yielded Black crappie…
… as well as this big, bonus Bluegill.
A return to shallow cover and a switch back to weedless & weightless was rewarded with more foot long Black Crappie.

Halfway to the goal! “The 2018 Fly Fishing List” so far:

  1. Brown Trout – Salmo trutta
  2. Brook Trout – Salvelinus fontinalis
  3. Rainbow Trout – Oncorhynchus mykiss
  4. Landlocked Atlantic Salmon – Salmo salar
  5. Creek Chub – Semotilus atromaculatus
  6. Northern Pike – Esox lucius
  7. Largemouth Bass – Micropterus salmoides
  8. Chain Pickerel – Esox niger
  9. Black Crappie – Poxomis nigromaculatis
  10. Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus

Spring Bounty On The Fly

The warming waters of spring bring many species of gamefish near shore to feed and prepare to spawn. This concentrates the fish both laterally and vertically. That concentration sets the stage for outstanding fishing, especially flyfishing. One of the stars of spring’s shallow water venue is the northern pike.

Violent strikes, lunging battles, and just a cool appearance make pike one of the most exciting flyrod species available in freshwater. Check your local regulations first to be sure pike angling is currently “in season”. Some jurisdictions are open year round; others not. Even if the season is open, practice catch and release or selective harvest to preserve the resource during this vulnerable time.

Esox lucius, the Northern Pike is #6 on my flyrod fish list.

One of the earliest spawners, pike are quite active even before the ice leaves the lakes. Ice fishermen will attest to that. Despite their cold tolerance, look for the warmest water to find the most active pike. All things are relative after all.

A white bunny fly was quite productive on this day.

Flies in the 5 to 7 inch range have been most productive for me. Streamers fish a lot like soft plastic jerkbaits. When constructed of the right materials, they will outdo plastics with more inherent, subtle action.

Even small pike are fun on fly tackle.

They are not as powerful as northern pike, but fat, wallowing largemouth bass are still lots of fun. They are numerous, willing biters that can save the day, or just add a little variety. Best of all, they will take the same flies and presentations in the same habitat as the pike, so you can fish for both species simultaneously. If the Alabama Rig taught us anything, it’s that hungry bass are not leader shy.

In much of the pike’s range, these are a common bycatch. Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) is #7 on my flyrod list.

Best of all, this is a fishery available to anyone. Walking or wading a shoreline can be just as productive as fishing by boat. Put in your time methodically, and you will find success.

Fat, prespawn bass are prime flyrod targets. Be sure to release them quickly to assure a productive spawn.

“The 2018 Fly Fishing List” so far:

  1. Brown Trout – Salmo trutta
  2. Brook Trout – Salvelinus fontinalis
  3. Rainbow Trout – Oncorhynchus mykiss
  4. Landlocked Atlantic Salmon – Salmo salar
  5. Creek Chub – Semotilus atromaculatus
  6. Northern Pike – Esox lucius
  7. Largemouth Bass – Micropterus salmoides

The Venerable Creek Chub…

…is number five on the list, and the first incidental addition. This particular fish took a nymph intended for wild trout. The creek chub often shares waters with more commonly targeted species such as trout, bass, or panfish. In some of those waters it is an occassional bycatch or a forage fish. In others it is the dominant species and a top predator. I spent many summer days in my youth on the banks of a brook loaded with creek chubs.

“The 2018 Fly Fishing List” so far:

  1. Brown Trout – Salmo trutta
  2. Brook Trout – Salvelinus fontinalis
  3. Rainbow Trout – Oncorhynchus mykiss
  4. Landlocked Atlantic Salmon – Salmo salar
  5. Creek Chub – Semotilus atromaculatus

#4 Landlocked Atlantic Salmon

Winter does not want to loosen its grip just yet. This ice-out limbo is a good time to target cold water species. Fishing among the slush-bergs, fly fishing species #4 slid into my new, prototype boat net.

The Landlocked Atlantic Salmon is a formidable opponent on light tackle. Despite their athleticism, they are a delicate fish. Minimize the time you keep them out of the water. Keep Landlocks in the net in the water to recuperate while getting pliers or preparing to take a picture. Although not an issue now, warm water kills. In the southern part of their range, leave them alone for the summer.

Enjoy this brief montage video.

“The 2018 Fly Fishing List” so far:

  1. Brown Trout – Salmo trutta
  2. Brook Trout – Salvelinus fontinalis
  3. Rainbow Trout – Oncorhynchus mykiss
  4. Landlocked Atlantic Salmon – Salmo salar

 

Chasing Rainbows…

…and Finding Brook Trout

Hoping to follow up on my recent rainbow trout success with more of the same, I headed off to a different stretch of the same river. It seemed like a great plan. The plan was solid. It was the execution that went to shit.

Upon arrival, I found that I had packed my chest waders, but not my wading shoes. Damn! A limited time frame did not allow for a round trip to pick up my shoes. High water and treelined banks would have made flyfishing from dry land ineffective. Double damn!

What was Plan B? I had no plan B. I was hoping to check the ice status of a nearby lake, if time allowed. Maybe this was plan B. This lake has good fishing for mixed species and fair shoreline access. I could make this work. Well despite recent warm spells with temperatures that surged into the 60’s and 70’s, the lake was still fully covered with slushy ice. Balls!

Racking my brain for options, I decided to hit a roadside spot that I had never tried before. It had a reputation for holding numerous brook trout. Sounds good. The pool did not hold the numbers of fish that I had heard and hoped, but it did have one nice brookie that immediately grabbed my fly. As I swung it to hand, he shook the hook and dropped back into the water. That was the end of that spot. Half a damn or maybe one ball!

Off to the next spot. This was one I have fished a time or two. Open shoreline on a small river with smallmouth, mixed panfish species, and a remote shot at a trout. Well, I may as well have faced the other way and cast into the grassy field. I realized quickly these fish weren’t buying what I was selling. I was growing comfortable with failure now.

Running out of time and patience, I had one spot left. A small mountain stream closer to home with a reputation for native brook trout. Remember now, this was a wading trip without wading shoes. I did not have proper shoes for anything but driving. I was wearing Crocs – the worst shoe ever created for physical activity. This was going to be like bouldering in bedroom slippers. Oh well, no choice and no time.

Well, brook trout I sought and brook trout I found. Every pool held at least one, and often more. I didn’t count, but I caught enough to make my earlier failures laughable. One by one and a couple times two by two they came to net and hand. I was the proverbial kid in a candy store. What they lacked in size they more than made up for with their cooperative spirit. Success at last!

Here a brief recap video showing a few of the fish:

What’s the moral of the story? I don’t know. Don’t give up? Stay positive? Be flexible? Pack more carefully? Maybe it’s just go fishing and you’ll feel better.

 

 

Meltwater and Rainbow Trout

With melting snow and ice swelling local streams, it was time to add another salmonid to the 2018 flyfishing list. The rainbow trout is now #3 on that list.

The gentle rise of meltwater added only the slightest stain to the water. The river held enough turbidity to put the fish at ease, while enough clarity remained for easy sight feeding. Conditions were perfect for nymphing at close range.

My rainbow trout pattern Buff pales in comparison to the colors on the real thing.

“The List” so far:

  1. Brown Trout
  2. Brook Trout
  3. Rainbow Trout

Brook Trout, Speckled Trout, Brookie…

… and now #2 on my 2018 flyfishing list.

Last week, I set a goal to catch 20 different species of fish on the flyrod by the end of the year. This week, mild weather gave me the chance to add to the list.

Being my first visit to this particular, small mountain stream, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, I found some native brook trout receptive to my flies. Here’s the release of the first one:

A large mouth and a matching appetite make brookies vulnerable to over fishing. Whether mandated by your state or not, careful catch and release is the rule within their native range. These beautiful fish are slow to grow, slow to reproduce, and too valuable to be caught just once.

Brook trout are clearly one of the prettiest freshwater fish.
Brook trout are a “State Fish” for at least 9 of the 50 states (some recognize multiple species). As much as that shows a lack of imagination, it also reflects the iconic position of the species.

“The List” so far:

  1. Brown Trout
  2. Brook Trout

Winter Musings With a Goal

My fishing habits and preferences are continuously changing. I used to think of it as a circular path, but it’s really more like a jumble of old monofilament. It’s sort of like a spiral, but with many points of unpredictable intersection.

I was born into spin fishing and have jumped around between spinning/baitcasting and flyfishing since I was a teen. There was a period of several years where flyfishing was clearly my preferred method, but I never fully put away the conventional tackle. For the last decade or two the flyrod has been a tool reserved for special occasions.

That doesn’t make sense. When I do break out the flyrod, I always have the same thought; I should do more of this. I enjoy almost every aspect of it. I like the casting, the fight on the long rod, the finesse, the fly tying, even the reduced weight when traveling is nice.

I have heard more than one person say this in varying terms. If you want to switch to flyfishing: sell your spinning tackle, put your spinning rods in the closet, don’t bring spinning tackle on the boat etc., etc. That is too miltant to me. Plus, it leaves a lot of meat on the bone.

I came up with a better psychological strategy to implement more flyfishing in my schedule. I’m going to challenge myself to catch 20 different species on the flyrod by the end of the year. Why 20? First I thought ten would be enough, but there’s probably five intentional gimmees and another five common bycatch in my local haunts. Without making a list and over-thinking it, I semi-ambiguously decided on twenty species. That’s it.

The game is afoot!

#1 Brown Trout. What this wild brown lacked in size, he made up for in significance as the first species on my 2018 flyfishing list.

Flatty New Year!

2017 was a year of consistency over size. I’ll take that – for now anyway.

A nice one from some butt-clenching, high water.
I didn’t think they made flatheads that small.
A nice fish to cap a strong morning.
After changes in weather, tactics and location, it was a return to the original plan on spot #1 for more like this.
And, the one that got away.

Mixed Doubles Through the Year

Whats more fun than catching a fish? Catching two at the same time.

How could that get more interesting? Simultaneously catching two different species, of course.

A small pond double header of largemouth bass and black crappie in the early spring.
A river twofer of smallmouth bass and channel catfish on a summer float trip.
Early fall brings some great panfish opportunities like this bluegill and black crappie combo.
The cool water of the late fall sparks salmonid activity. This RBT and LLS pair will attest to that.

One from winter: the pic at the top shows a mixed double of rainbow trout and chain pickerel captured over deep water. They were sharing that location to feed on a school of alwives. Notice the third fish in the net. That alewife was barfed up by the pickerel. The gamefish were released unharmed. The alewife was DOA or maybe DOB.