Glamping and Multi-Species Angling

I recently had the opportunity to fish some new waters. The top dog at Northkill Tackle was planning a camping and fishing trip in the middle of nowhere. He had room in his camper, and I had room in my schedule. It was perfect timing.

Maybe it’s not fair to say the middle of nowhere, but you could see it from there. More important than the remoteness was the variety of water types in the area. I got to sample four different waters, and there are more. It was a fishing cornucopia.

Day one started early for me. I had a few hours to drive. Half of that was before the sun rose. Coffee, snacks, and the promise of fishing kept me alert behind the wheel.

I arrived at the campground and found the Northkill mobile headquarters without too much trouble. The camper was a cushier set up than I was expecting. Running water, electric, Seinfeld on the TV; I can see why there’s a market for those things.

Our comfort pod in the woods.

My past camping experience had mostly been the tent kind. I did have a childhood friend with access to pop-up campers, but that was a long time ago. Camping for me was generally some acceptable discomfort for convenience or cost cutting. Anyway, enough about the micro-hotel on wheels. This was a fishing trip.

After a quick breakfast we packed up for the first venue. It was a boulder strewn, freestone trout stream We were rigged up for tightline nymph fishing. My expectations were low. I wasn’t prepped with glorious fish stories. The preface for this stream was a story of the sentimental significance. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. The foliage was beautiful too.

The boulder strewn freestone stream.

Well, the stream gods were listening. They gave us what we asked for. We bugged out at midday with no fish landed and maybe two strikes between us. It was fishing, not catching. Time to mix things up.

The trophy of spot #1 – maybe a fossil.

We needed a sure thing for the PM session. A short drive and a shorter walk brought us to a mountainside trickle inhabited by native brook trout. We leapfrogged our way up the creek with our lightest fly rods. The resident fish were plentiful and hungry. Most pools at least produced strikes. Many produced one or more landed fish. This was a great water for field testing the prototype Northkill Native net.

My host working for a brookie.

The Native is a net with a small hoop and a deliberately short handle. This reduces weight, and presents less length & surface area to catch on the bushes & boulders that line mountain streams. Aesthetically, it pairs nicely with the diminutive tackle that is so effective on native brook trout streams. It’s the two weight of nets.

The Northkill Native is the perfect net for rugged mountain streams and the wild trout that dwell in them.

Back to the stream. The afternoon was as much about catching as it was about fishing. Our final tally could be measured in dozens. These weren’t big fish. Some were no longer than the beech leaves that covered the ground. What they lacked in size, they made up for in color and cooperative spirit. We wrapped it up before the sun set, and headed back to the glampsite.

Some brookies were no longer than a beech leaf.

The next day started early. We wanted to squeeze in a trip to a local lake before the forecasted afternoon rains arrived. We loaded up a cartop boat and were on our way to what I thought was the final venue.

A respectable largemouth on the Fishbelly Hawg Shad.

This was planned to be mainly a spinning trip. The pre-frontal winds made sure it stayed that way. We used a mix of plugs & plastics, and found success with both largemouth bass & chain pickerel. The rain was drawing near. We both had things to do, so we stuck a fork in it before noon. This warmwater fishery had been a perfect, complimentary juxtaposition to yesterday’s trout fishing.

Lifting a chain pickerel out of the Northkill Boat/Steelhead Net.

Before I left the glampground, it was suggested that I scout out Lake Such-n-such on the way home. Sure enough, 15 or 20 minutes down the road I see a sign for the lake. I better check it out.

It was a good looking body of water. It was a moderate sized lake. There were some visible weedbeds. The surrounding topography lead me to believe there were some steep shorelines too. Then it happened. I caught a glimpse of movement. It was time to stop looking and go fishing one more time.

After a little more observation I was fairly certain they were trout cruising a shallow flat. I still had a small minnow plug on my ultralight. I tried that first, then a few different soft plastic presentations, then a spoon. Nothing garnered more than a follow. At least the followers revealed they were indeed trout.

I ran back to the vehicle and grabbed my two weight, a rig I normally reserve for the smallest trout streams and panfish applications. With the rain almost upon me, I didn’t want to waste time rigging a bigger rod.

Bucking a stiff wind, I was maybe casting 20 or 25 feet with the six foot something fiberglass rod. On about the third or fourth cast with a leech fly I had a take. As soon as the line came tight the trout went full berserker mode. On one of its jumps it actually hit dry land and bounced back into the water. Somehow the barbless fly stayed secure in the jaw. After a few more jumps, a couple short surging runs, I slipped my Native net under a healthy rainbow.

A nice rainbow fills the Northkill Native to end the trip.

I’d like to say I released it and walked away a winner as the rain began to fall, but I can’t. I did release it, but I also stuck around casting until the drizzle turned to a driving rain. I didn’t get another bite. At least I caught a fish and maybe found a new fishing spot for another time.

 

 

Bushido on the Rocks

Sunrise Fishing on an Inlet Jetty

 

A  Bushido Shad rigged on a leadhead jig was deadly for stripers prowling among the rocks.
The “meaty” Bushido tail created a thump that the stripers couldn’t resist.
I swear the bluefish are working for tackle companies. Not only do they destroy soft plastics, they almost always know where to stop biting – just short of the hook. They must have inside information.
A switch to a pink Bushido Shad was fine with the stripers.
They came one after another until it was about time for me to quit.
I found redemption with the last fish of the morning. This bluefish was overzealous with his bite. He paid the price with a quick visit to the rocks before being released.

A Quick Update To The List

I’ve been busy with both fishing and non-fishing things, and neglected the fly fishing species list for several weeks. Here’s a quick update to get it up to date. In no particular order we have:

Fallfish
Smallmouth Bass
Redbreast Sunfish
Pumpkinseed
Green Sunfish

The 2019 fly fishing species list stands at 12 going into the second half of the year. That bodes well for reaching 20 by year end.

  1. Brook Trout – Salvelinus fontinalis
  2. Brown Trout – Salmo trutta
  3. Rainbow Trout – Oncorhynchus mykiss
  4. Creek Chub – Semotilus atromaculatus
  5. Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus
  6. Landlocked Atlantic Salmon – Salmo salar sebago
  7. Hickory Shad – Alosa mediocris
  8. Fallfish – Semotilus corporalis
  9. Smallmouth Bass – Micropterus dolomieu
  10. Redbreast Sunfish – Lepomis auritus
  11. Pumpkinseed – Lepomis gibbosus
  12. Green Sunfish – Lepomis cyanellus

 

A Simple and Effective Shad Fly

  1. Lay down a bed of thread on the hook shank.

2. Affix the dumbell eyes or bead chains eyes of your choice. I like to add a bit of nail polish/head cement at this point.

3. Add a little lead wire behind the eyes, and tie in a a few strands of Krystal Flash to start forming a tail. Sorry about the blurry pic.

4. Top the Krystal Flash with marabou.

5. Top the marabou with 4 or 5 full strands of pearl Flashabou at an equal or slightly shorter length. Do not trim off the long ends.

6. Fold the long ends of Flashabou back, and tie in a few inches of metallic braid.

7. Bring the metallic braid forward in overlapping wraps to form a tapered body.

8. Wrap the long ends of the Flashabou forward with no gaps. This adds a smooth, pearl iridescence to the metallic braid. Build a head with thread and whip finish. Top the body and head with a thin layer of clear coat for strength.

9. Add the Hickory Shad to the 2019 Fly Fishing Species List.

The 2019 Fly Fishing Species List:

  1. Brook Trout – Salvelinus fontinalis
  2. Brown Trout – Salmo trutta
  3. Rainbow Trout – Oncorhynchus mykiss
  4. Creek Chub – Semotilus atromaculatus
  5. Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus
  6. Landlocked Atlantic Salmon – Salmo salar sebago
  7. Hickory Shad – Alosa mediocris

 

To Net Or Not To Net

Safe Handling of the Landlocked Salmon

Landlocked Atlantic salmon are probably the most delicate fish I target. Keep them out of the water too long, they go belly up. Fish in warm water, they go belly up. Look at them the wrong way, they go belly up.

To add to the problem, they have no quit in their fight. They make runs, they jump, they bulldog. Once in the boat, they flip, they flop, they spin like sharks. They just don’t know when to give up. They’re too scrappy for their own good.

I started as a 100% netter. Any LLS I brought to boat I scooped up with a net, and brought it aboard. That seemed like the logical approach. Unfortunately, it just opened a new can of worms.

Typically, when you bring landlocks in the boat, they go ape shit. They have no regard for their own safety. They don’t just thrash a bit. They spin, and they spin fast. This snaps leaders, breaks split rings, and sinks in extra hook points. Possibly worst of all, that spinning will often roll the salmon up in the line or leader. That can cause physical injuries, but it also delays the release while you untangle them adding to their stress.

I have tried boatside releases. Just bring the salmon beside the boat, reach down with pliers, and pull the hook out. This can work well in the right situation. Add in a lure with trebles or a fly that you don’t want to destroy, and it’s suddenly a bad idea. Now, I rarely use this method.

The best approach I have found is a hybrid of the two. Net the fish at boatside, but don’t lift it out of the water. The fish will remain calm – relatively speaking. After the hook is removed, lower the net a little to create a pool in which the fish can recover. Once the fish is upright and free swimming, tilt the net below the surface. It will swim off.

If you are in a moving boat, do this at the stern. There will be slack water there. The fish won’t get pinned in the net. Recovery and release will be stress-free

With that bit of advice, here is Number 6 on The List, the Landlocked Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar sebago.

The 2019 Fly Fishing Species List:

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

Tracking Down Another Species

So back to “The List”. A warm day and a little free time presented the opportunity to chase down another flyrod species for 2019.

Right out of the blocks, I hooked up with a little wild rainbow. A pretty fish, but not what I was looking for. Keep working.

Stoneflies were fluttering around. It was nice to see some insect life. I won’t miss the winter.

A watersnake even came out to catch a little solar energy.

My next catch was a slightly larger rainbow.

Followed by a brown trout,

and another brown trout.

Finally, I hit pay dirt. On my first cast into a big pool that I call the “Chub Hole”, this beautiful specimen ate my nymph. The Creek Chub became number four on The List. The “Chub Hole” lived up to its name by producing several fish like this before it was time to call it quits.

 

The 2019 Fly Fishing Species List:

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

Goodbye to Winter Stripers

I took one last shot at winter striped bass last week, and pulled some nice schoolies. The local lakes have lost their ice. Other species are readily available, and it’s time to give those stripers a rest.

Hello spring species! Now, I’m working on the early spring patterns that develop right after ice-out. I will see the striped guys again, but not until they are chasing shad and herring later in the spring.

The first landlocked salmon of spring ’19.

Preseason Prep Tip

Remove your trolling motor prop. Cut and unwrap any fishing line that may have accumulated last season. I’m told, if left in place, this line can reduce efficiency of your motor and even damage seals. You won’t know its there until you check.