Thursday, July 28, 2016
It had been a full year since I had taken my nephew Henry fishing. He was now just over 4 years old and his coordination had improved dramatically, as well as his attention span. It was time to test both of those on some local Largemouth Bass!
I called up my friend Jim to secure permission for my wife and I to take Henry fishing. Jim lives in a subdivision in Eagle with 2 ponds filled with bass and bluegill; the perfect place for Henry to catch his first bass. Jim was happy to give Henry the opportunity of his first bass, and with a backpack full of snacks and a few plastic worms, we were set up for a great evening of fishing.
According to my sister, Henry was so excited to go fishing that he refused to eat any lunch and refused to take his mid-day nap; not too unlike myself, and hopefully the making of a fishaholic. I set up Henry's rod with a bobber and a wacky rigged plastic worm and helped him make his first cast.
"Ok Henry, now you're just going to reel a little bit and then stop. Then reel a little bit and stop." I said to him, as my eyes scanned the clear water for cruising bass.
"Ok!" He replied enthusiastically as he reeled the bobber in.
Our first cast didn't produce anything, so we walked several feet away and casted to a different area. Henry reeled the bobber in just like I had told him, only this time, I had him pause an extra moment right on the edge of some surface scum. Immediately the bobber jolted and began taking off at a rapid pace.
"Henry you got one! Lift the rod and start reeling!" I said excitedly.
Henry reeled with all his might. The 4 foot kids rod and cheap push button reel were being tested to their limit. The bass pulled hard and I even grabbed the back of Henry's shirt to make sure he didn't fall in. Like all good bass do, the 16 inch fish made his way to the surface and jumped. But as he did, he shook the hook.
"Oh no, Henry! He got off." Katie said with a frown.
"That's OK Henry, we'll get another one!" I said as I checked his plastic worm for damage. "You want to do that again?"
"Yeah, that was fun!" Henry replied with a big smile.
We made another cast and this time, the bobber plunged halfway back and nearly ripped the rod out of Henry's hand.
"You got another one Henry! Reel, reel, reel! Now start backing up slowly." I said, as I ran down to the water to lip Henry's bass.
This fish was a bit smaller, but still nicer than most you'd find in a public pond. I lipped the bass and brought it up to Henry.
Henry was grinning from ear to ear as I showed him his fish. He even reached out and touched it.
"Henry, feel his lip here." I said, pointing to the lower lip's pad of teeth. "It's like sandpaper. Those are his teeth."
Henry cautiously reached out to feel the bass's teeth and giggled when he felt it.
"Ok Henry, now we need to get this fish back into the water."
We released the fish and Henry was ready to catch another one.
We walked over to another spot and started fishing again.
Just a few casts later, Henry was into another feisty bass. At 6 inches per hand crank, the slow retrieve speed on the small push button reel forced Henry to back up as he reeled to keep the line tight. Henry battled the fish like a champ and soon I had the bass lipped and ready for a picture.
Henry seemed to still be having fun, so we continued on.
"Look Henry, duck butts!" Katie said enthusiastically and pointed to a pair of mallard ducks feeding on some aquatic plants, forcing their butt's high above the water and their small orange feet kicking on the surface.
"Duck butts!" Henry repeated and pointed.
"Look Henry, there's some more." Katie pointed to another couple of ducks.
"Duck butts!" Henry repeated again, appearing to enjoy saying the phrase.
"Ok Henry, let's catch another fish!" I said, casting his bobber back into the pond. "Ok reel Henry, reel."
Henry reeled a bit and then stopped, and then began reeling in again. The bobber shot off to the right and took a dive under the surface.
"You got one, Henry!" I said, lifting the rod for him to make sure he got a good hook-set. "Reel, reel, reel!"
Once again, Henry did a great job of keeping the line tight and bringing the bass to Katie's hand.
Katie released the bass as I checked the integrity of the plastic worm.
The worm was about to break in half but a quick fix placed the worm back in service. One downside to fishing plastic worms wacky style is how frequently they break or fall off. Most trips, I'll burn through at least half a dozen of them.
Henry was back onto the "duck butts", and seemed less interested in fishing now.
"Henry, you want to keep fishing?" I asked, enthusiastically.
"You should fish, I'll watch. I'm hungry."
Katie and I looked at each other and knew we better not push it. If Henry was getting bored, it was time to call it quits.
"Shall we go back to the car and eat something?" I asked.
"Yay!" Henry replied and started walking back toward the car.
We sat down and ate several snacks until Henry was satisfied. We had only been fishing for about an hour and I was secretly hoping Henry wanted to keep fishing.
"Henry do you want to fish some more?" I asked, smiling.
A small piece of me died inside as Henry replied, "No, I'm good."
"Okay. Let's head on back." I said, as we loaded back into the car.
"Can we make planes out of legos when we get back?" Henry asked with enthusiasm.
"I think we can do that." I replied, smiling, thinking about my obsession with Legos when I was Henry's age. Maybe there's hope yet.
One minute later, Henry was out.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
When I was just a young boy, my fishing buddy Camron and I were drug to a garage sale by his mother. Camron's mom could not drive by a garage sale sign without stopping.
"Come on mom. Sheesh! Another one? It's just a bunch of junk!" Camron yelled from the back seat.
"I'll be quick! Maybe I'll find you boys a fishing pole or something cool." She replied, as she pulled the van over.
"Look, a pond!" Camron said, pointing to a small pond about a half acre in size. "Mom, can we go look at that pond?"
"Sure boys. Be careful. I'll be done soon." She said, as she walked over to a nice house with a display of "junk" in the yard.
Camron and I walked over to the small pond and stopped dead in our tracks.
"Look! Fish!" I pointed and yelled.
"Look at that bass! And that's a big bluegill!" Camron shouted and pointed his finger.
Like kids in a candy store we walked around the pond, marveling at the number and size of the bass and bluegill. We also discovered that this pond was just one of several in the neighborhood. Turns out, Camron knew a kid in the neighborhood and his parents gave us permission to fish. That was the beginning of many years of neighborhood pond fishing.
Neighborhood or subdivision ponds can be found all over the Treasure Valley. Almost all are planted with bass and bluegill and receive little to no fishing pressure. Bass and bluegill in these ponds live happy, prosperous lives, growing to great size and numbers. Most of these ponds are catch and release only and are reserved for the residents of the neighborhood. Secure permission from a resident and you will likely experience some of the best bass and bluegill fishing you've ever had, only 10 minutes from home.
When I found out our local UPS driver, Greg, lived in one of these subdivisions, I was quick to ask permission to fish.
"Yeah, of course you can come fish... But as long as you take my 2 daughters!" Greg replied.
"Deal!" I said, with a big smile on my face.
On the day we had planned, I was knocking on Greg's door at 6:00 pm sharp.
"You girls ready?" Greg yelled from the front door of the kitchen.
Greg has two daughters; Lola is 9 and Stella is 6. Neither one had ever caught a fish. The girls threw their shoes on and we headed out the door. We grabbed a couple spinning rods and a fly rod out of the back of my pickup and walked over to the pond.
A pod of large bluegill were waiting for us as we approached the water.
"Girls, do you see those dark shapes out there? Those are bluegill, let's just see if they like this fly I have." I said, as I made a short cast out to the pod of hungry fish.
A fat 9 inch bluegill responded the way it should and in seconds I had a fish thrashing and fighting. I palmed the fish and lifted it up to show the girls what they would be catching.
"See the cool colors and these pokey fins?" I asked, as Lola and Stella reached out to touch the skin of the fish before I released it. I made another cast, and this time when a fish grabbed the fly, I quickly passed the rod over to Lola so she could bring it in.
The large bluegill was pulling hard but Lola was not going to let this fish get the best of her. Moments later, I grabbed the large male bluegill and we admired his bright orange chin and dark gill patch.
After releasing that fish, I handed Greg a spinning rod and wacky rigged a 5 inch plastic worm onto the hook. If you are an open minded, decent human being, and aren't a fly fishing snob, the most effective tactic I've found for small pond bass fishing is wacky worming. It is downright deadly and a tactic you should learn and use if you want to catch lots of bass. Greg no more than dropped it in the water and a large bass appeared out of nowhere and inhaled the worm, swimming off with it. Greg immediately set the hook and the worm came flying back toward him.
"Next time you have one grab it, count to 5 before you set the hook." I said, casting the fly back out to where the bluegill were.
I handed the rod to Lola and I showed her how to strip the fly in and twitch it.
A fish jumped onto the fly and I helped Lola set the hook. This fish was pulling a little differently and moments later it jumped, revealing that our fish was a bass.
"Lola, you have a bass! And it's a good one! Keep that rod up." I said, as I got ready to lip the bass.
Lola swung the bass to my hand and I apprehended it.
"Lola, you want to hold this one?"
"Suuurrre.." She replied, a little unsure of what she might be getting herself into.
"Now when you grab this lip, you have to commit. Just grab it hard."
After a couple loose grabs, she finally got a good hold on the bottom lip and hoisted up the fish.
I continued to fish with Lola, and Greg sat Stella on his lap and they began casting the plastic worm.
Several casts later, Stella was giggling with delight as she reeled in her first bass. Greg did a wonderful job helping her keep the rod up and the line tight. I crouched near the water and lipped the bass when it came close.
Lola and I went back to fly fishing as Greg and Stella continued to throw the worm. A few strips of the fly and Lola was into another fish, this one another big bluegill.
We released the bluegill and heard Greg and Stella yelling for us to come over.
"Ryan! This one is pretty big!" Greg said, as Stella reeled with all her might while sitting on Greg's lap.
The bass was pulling hard as it made it's best attempt to stay in the weeds, but Greg and Stella eventually overcame the strong bass and I was able to apprehend it.
After releasing the 17 inch bass, we began to walk around to some other areas on the pond. I continued to fly fish with Lola as Greg and Stella stuck with the spinning rod. Greg and Stella parked themselves on a rock nearby and began to auto-load on the bass. Every time Lola and I looked over, they were hooked up on another bass. Eventually, the competitiveness in Lola couldn't take it anymore, and she wanted to use a spinning rod to catch up with her little sister. I handed Lola the spinning rod with a plastic worm and we were back in the game!
With a little instruction, Lola was casting by herself and fishing the worm like a champ. Then several casts later, she was into a nice largemouth bass. Over the next half hour, both Lola and Stella brought in numerous bass until both girls were tired and hungry. We had fished for close to 2 hours and each girl had not only caught their first fish, but each had landed about 10 apiece. It was a very successful fishing trip.
"So did you know fishing would be that good?" Greg asked, as we walked back to the house.
"I was hoping it would be that good. But I'm not surprised it was that good." I said with a smile.
If you like catching 10-20 inch bass, and large pan-fish just minutes from home, subdivision or neighborhood ponds are for you. I can almost guarantee you know someone who lives in one of these neighborhoods. Most people, including the people who live there, don't even realize they are fantastic fisheries. Start asking your friends and I bet you have an "in" to some of the best bass fishing around. It's amazing how underutilized these fisheries are. If you can handle fresh cut grass and scenery consisting of fancy houses with lawn furniture, these little gems will keep you entertained all spring and summer.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
When my wife asked if we should go to a hot springs near Hagerman for our one year anniversary, I excitedly said yes. All I could think about was all the fishing opportunities that abounded in that area. I also realized that if I didn't want to be in the dog house, I better come up with some non-fishing ideas of things to do and see. The Hagerman area has no shortage of sights to see; a hike into Box Canyon, a trek across the Malad Gorge, a trip to the alligator farm and a visit to Shoshone Falls would occupy enough of our time so I wasn't tempted to fish the entire time. With the perfect plan in place, we headed off to Hagerman!
We checked into the Billingsley Creek Lodge and headed off to our first destination: Box Canyon.
"Honey, you don't mind if I pack my fly rod and make a couple casts when we get to the water, do you?" I said, with an innocent look on my face.
"No, that's fine!" Katie replied lovingly.
Crystal clear spring water, flowing into the Snake River, how could one not at least try to fish a little!
Box Canyon was definitely a pretty place. The water was gorgeous and the trail was easy; minus the botanical hazards of course!
Poison Ivy and Stinging Nettle reminded us the importance of staying on the trail.
We reached the famed waterfall, took a moment to enjoy it's beauty and then it was time to find out what lurked in the cold, blue waters.
Immediately I found small trout chasing my flies and I picked up a few in a short amount of time. The water looked like it might hold some monster trout, and I'm sure it did, but the "doinks" were all that were willing to play.
I fished for 15 minutes or so and decided that was enough. It was time to move onto our next destination: the Malad Gorge.
The Malad River Gorge was a neat sight to see. Crossing the high bridge and staring down into Devil's Washbowl could make even a roller coaster repairman queazy. We hiked a ways downstream on the canyon edge before turning around and heading to the car. No fishing to be done here! We had planned to go to the hot springs that night, but found out they were closed. Thus concluded our 'touristy' first day in Hagerman.
The following day we decided to begin with a trip to see the alligators. Fourteen and seven foot long gators are a strange sight to see in Idaho, but only in Hagerman!
The alligators were close to one of my favorite carp fishing spots and Katie was eager to try to catch one. She had fished for carp with me before but had never gotten one. I had high hopes for this spot and this day, so we rigged up the fly rods and snuck our way down to the river. We walked along an overgrown trail following a small creek.
We emerged from the "jungle" next to the Snake River, and basking in the sun was a pod of nearly 50 carp. All ranging in size from 2 to 20 pounds. We took great care to be stealthy as Katie got into position. Carp are spooky fish and all it takes is one fish to see you and they all blow out of the area.
Carp will eat nearly anything in their aquatic environment with the exception of MOST rocks and sticks (I really wouldn't put it past them). However, fly selection and presentation is still very important. The carp in this particular location tend to be suspended in the top 2 feet of the water column. There are also bass, trout and bluegill spawning in the area. Thus I chose to suspend under an indicator; a small yellow bead above a small halloween leech.
Katie made a short roll cast and we intently watched the indicator drift very slowly through the carp filled water. It only took a few casts before the indicator slowly sunk and Katie raised the rod.
"Does it feel big?" I asked with high hopes.
"Yes, it feels very heavy!"
"I think you've got a carp! I think you've got a carp!"
My excitement was probably greater than hers as I fought the urge to jump up and down.
The 5 weight Helios rod was working overtime, and I like to think it was enjoying every minute of it (my Helios does not discriminate amongst fish species).
After a great battle and probably too much coaching on my end, we scooped the large goldfish into my tiny net.
The fish had fought so long and hard that it actually cooperated while we humiliated it with photographs.
Katie was very excited to land her first carp, or "Big Nasty" as she calls them, and probably the largest fish thus far in her fly fishing career. She handed me the rod and told me to get another one. Yes ma'm!
I casted the fly to a different area on the stream where I had seen a few rise earlier. Several casts later, I was into a nice scrapper of a carp.
This fish tried to wrap me around every rock in the area and in the end, the animal on top of the food chain won (although the gators a few blocks away would probably disagree with that statement).
After releasing the medium sized carp, I asked Katie if she wanted to try for another one. She wasn't ready yet so I rolled a cast right back out there. The indicator sunk and I set the hook. I felt the weight of a carp and the battle was on. The carp made a great first run and then came directly towards me. I quickly stripped in my line and leader and was about to see my carp when something extremely unusual breached the surface. Instead of a golden colored fish, my fly was hooked onto a blue, nylon rope. Is that a stringer? The carp continued to battle with all it's might, seemingly un-fazed by the 4 foot hitch-hiker looped through it's mouth and gills. Katie scooped the net under the fish and we took a moment to fathom what had just happened.
Someone had caught a carp and placed it on their stringer with the intention of keeping and eating it. Somehow the stringer did not remain attached to the bank and the carp swam off with the stringer. My fly had snagged the stringer and here we were with the results.
I unthreaded the stringer and released the carp. I felt a bit strange as the carp swam off, thinking about many of my fellow anglers who don't believe in releasing these non-native, often destructive fish. I've killed plenty of carp in my life, but I just have a hard time killing things I'm not going to eat.
As we gathered our things and prepared to leave, I asked Katie,"Want to try to catch some of those bright yellow golden trout? I know a place nearby."
"What?! There's goldens around here? All you had to do is tell me there's goldens and I would have gone to Hagerman just for that!" Katie replied, with the kind of excitement she knew I would want to hear.
Katie had also fished for goldens with me before and not gotten one so she was eager to get a hero shot with one.
Before we left though, we picked up some of the garbage that other "anglers" had left.
We hopped in the car and headed to the next fishing spot: Riley Creek.
Riley Creek is a spring creek that flows right through one of the major fish hatcheries in Hagerman. It's easy to access and gets planted frequently with fish ranging in size from 8 inch doinks to 2 foot brood stock. We pulled up and I put Katie into position to intercept both the rainbows and the albino rainbow hybrids, or goldens as most people call them. With a small tungsten bugger under an indicator, Katie was into a fish in no time.
"DANG IT! It's the wrong color!" Katie said in snobby disgust, that a 'normal' rainbow had taken her fly. "I wanted one of the yellow ones!"
"It's a 15 inch trout. You should be happy with that!" I said, while laughing.
Katie practically skated the fish in and then released it. I sat on a log above her and continued to observe as she tried to catch one of the golden trout. Katie was very determined and after a half dozen rainbows, she finally had a golden chase and take her fly, only to miss the hook set. Her next cast placed the fly next to one of the monster rainbows that had been laying next to a golden. From my vantage point I had a great view of this fish and I knew it was over 20 inches. It tipped it's head down as the fly sunk and tried to eat it, but right before it did, Katie stripped the fly. This drove the fish nuts and the chase was on! The fish spun around and began charging after the fly. It was all I could do to remain calm as I watched the massive trout grab her fly. Katie set the hook and the fight was on!
Like the carp earlier in the morning, my net was a little small for this caliber of fish. Nonetheless, after a great battle, I was able to apprehend and hand Katie her giant fish.
This rainbow was not the prettiest trout in Idaho, but she measured out at 23 inches.
"Hey, she might be the wrong color, but that's a dandy rainbow!" I told Katie as we released the fish.
"Yeah I'm happy with that one," Katie said with a big smile. "Why don't you try for bit?"
"Ok, I'll make a few casts." I said, grabbing the rod and rolling a cast out to the fish. "Oh shoot! It's a golden!"
"What?! That is stupid! I can't believe you just caught a golden like that! I'm so mad at you!" Katie said with a disgusted look on her face.
"Sorry," I said, laughing.
I released the strange looking trout and handed the rod back over. Katie fished a while longer and never did end up catching one of the goldens, but she landed another half dozen rainbows before we decided to move on.
One of the locals told us that Shoshone Falls was not worth viewing this time of year because of the low flows caused by irrigation. Since Katie was still eager to fish, we decided to try one last spot for smallmouth bass on the Snake River on our way home.
We parked near some railroad tracks and made our way down to the river. Katie made a quick cast and her line went tight on her 4th strip. A 12 inch smallie came thrashing to the surface and quickly into Katie's hand.
The one smallie seemed to be an anomaly, but a short walk downstream revealed a healthy pod of carp milling around in a shallow bay. I switched flies quickly and asked Katie if she wanted to try. She seemed content with her angling adventures for the day, so I gave it a go. Sight fishing for cruising carp can be a challenge, but there were so many carp cruising in so many directions, eventually a fish decided my fly was food and ate it. The fish raced for the main river, grabbing extra strength from the current and doubling my 5 weight over. However, the fish was not a monster, so eventually I won him over.
After releasing that fish, I decided I'd put Katie through enough fishing for a couple days and it was time to head home. Even though we had plans to view a few sights, this day had turned into a fishing day. Katie had landed her first carp and brought in a dandy rainbow trout. She may not have landed a golden, but that may be just the right motivation to bring us back down to Hagerman another time.
Monday, April 4, 2016
The once emerald green slough was now nearly black, a result of the hundreds of silver salmon taking a pit stop on their journey upriver. This is a fly anglers dream; resting silver salmon are very aggressive. But today was different for some reason. I was guiding 2 clients on the Kanektok River in Alaska. They were making great casts, retrieves and doing everything right. Why weren't we catching fish?
I grabbed my fly rod and told my clients to continue casting while I crept around to the opposite side of the slough. The brush and grass were thick and nearly impenetrable; not a place to take my clients, but I wanted to take a closer look at these fish and see their reaction to my clients' flies. I sometimes did this while guiding. A quick observation or tweak in technique could make the difference in having a 10 silver day or 60 silver day. I crawled through the thick brush to the edge of the water. The mosquitos were nearly unbearable, testing my ability to stay focused on the task at hand and keep a calm composure. The silvers were stacked on top of each other, nearly motionless, with glazed eyes as the egg sucking leeches swam past their faces. I unhooked my leech and crimped a split shot on the nose of it. A small silver lay close to a rods length away from me; a prime candidate for a technique experiment. I dropped the fly off the tip of the rod and began twitching, moving the fly in an up and down motion. In a flash, two silvers nearly 10 feet away charged for my fly, practically fighting to inhale it. The jigging motion had been the key.
Over the years, I've learned how deadly the up and down motion, or "jigging", is to fish. The conventional tackle world has been onto this for years, but fly anglers and manufacturers are just now tapping into this world. I'm going to outline a few tips for catching more trout on your jig-head streamers, and a few tactics for you to use in different scenarios.
The Fly Patterns
Large gaudy streamers take most of the hype these days, but I prefer small heavily weighted patterns. A size 10 wolly bugger tied with a tungsten bead-head or cone-head is one of my top producers when jigging streamers, but you can also try using lead or brass eyes for weight. The lead or brass eyes will provide enough weight at the head of the hook to give a great jigging motion, and these eyes paired with a jig hook can be a deadly combination to driving fish wild. A 1-3 inch minnow imitation tied with a jig hook is another one of my favorite patterns to perform a jigging technique with.
Size 10 and 8 Tungsten Buggers
Brass Eyed Minnows
Jig Head Minnow
Put it under an indicator!
When stripping streamers, make sure you keep your rod tip low to the surface of the water. It will help you stay tight to your fly, allowing you to detect subtle strikes. You my even keep the tip of your fly rod dipped under the water to maintain full contact with your streamer.
The quick strip is the retrieve I use the most. This is 6-12 inch strips, followed by 1-2 second pauses in between those strips. This is all you need to get your fly performing a jigging action. This retrieve is very versatile and can be used in both stillwater and rivers. It can be fished with floating, sinking, or sink tip fly lines.
When fishing deep runs and drop offs in faster water, I use what I call the "mend-strip". This retrieve only works with a floating line. Cast your fly approximately 45 degrees upstream and throw a quick mend in the line to help your fly get deep. Strip in the slack line as your fly starts to drift downstream, then throw a small mend in the line. This will move your fly slightly, but keep it deep at the same time. These small mends will give a jigging action to your streamer, but won’t bring your fly up and out of the deeper water column. Repeat the small mends while maintaining your fly line slack, making small trips for control. Since you aren't always tight to your fly, a take may register as a movement in the end of your fly line.