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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a tactic I employ far too infrequently, and I’m actually prepared this time. I’ve got a rod & reel and some good searching lures. I’m on the way home from a road trip with a loose schedule. An interesting bridge over a steep valley makes me instantly curious.
A short, steep hike through misty rhododendrons and cedars reveals a midsize freestone stream. I’m thinking – smallmouth for sure!
Fish #1: a leeping, pink finned rainbow trout is a nice surprise.
Fish #2: a little smallmouth bass. That’s more like what I was expecting. A couple more of those and it’s time to move upstream.
A deep, slow pool yields a mix of largemouth, smallmouth, and sunfish.
Rivaling the rainbow, this bluegill may have been the gem of the day with shades of purple, turquois, and burnt orange.
Turning a monotonous grind into a mini adventure is as simple as being prepared and being willing to stop. A rod & reel and a small box of confidence lures is all the equipment you need. Most importantly, you have to stop. If you don’t stop and try, you’ll never know.
Crappies come in two varieties – black and white. You would think with descriptive names like that, telling the two species apart would be as easy as, well, black and white. For a crappie beginner, the differences may not be that obvious. For example; the very light colored fish at the top is not a white crappie. It is a black crappie.
The most conspicuous difference is the patteren on the sides of the fish. The white crappie has dark blotches arranged in bars. The black crappie wears his blotches in an evenly distributed pattern.
Body shape is another ID cue. Black crappies have a more round silhouette. White crappies are more “stretched out”, and have a little more of a snout.
The most analytical identification characteristic is a count of the rigid spines of the dorsal fin, A white crappie will have 5 to 6 spines. A black crappie will have 7 to 8 spines. When in doubt, a quick count of the spines will provide a near certain identification.
The range and preferred habitats of the two species overlap quite a bit. In my area, the black crappie is the dominant species. In other areas, the white is the dominant crappie. In either instance, it is still quite common to run into both species during the course of a season, or even in a single day. With these three methods to differentiate the two species, you will always be sure of a proper ID.
This great way to store and dispense line or leader from 1/4 pound spools. It’s a neater and cleaner solution than rubberbands or tape. It reduces tangles in your tackle bag while protecting the line from indadvertent UV exposure.
Sunfish generally don’t get enough credit. They were the “first fish” for many of us. Their colors rival any tropical species. Ounce for ounce, most of them put up quite a fight. Despite all that, they are often lumped together as one fish, or even overlooked altogether. Here’s an individual look at some of the major players and their characteristics.