Friday, March 31, 2017

Two Days Spey Casting

I just took two days to do a little bit of learning with my new two handed rod and skandi shooting head. I knew from the start that I wasn't going to be even the slightest bit proficient at spey casting after these two days, but I hoped to get a feel for things and find what I really need to work on. 

During those many hours on the water I discovered three things in particular that I need to fix before shad and spring stripers start showing: anchor positioning, line management, and avoiding over powering the cast with my right arm.  

I was fished the Salmon, mostly because I wanted some moving water and that was the biggest closest option. Not terribly big, but big enough to get at least somewhat of an idea of how far I would be able to cast. Plus I already know the water like the back of my hand, so I could compare how the two hander outperformed or under-performed what I can do there with a single handed rod. It's complex currents and pools would also allow me to practice swinging streamers, which I have not done much of for the last few years. I've don a little here and there, but I am by no means well practiced. It is actually my least favorite way to fish a river. If I could get takes setting the hook and playing fish with a rod much longer than I am used to would be a plus, but I was not expecting to catch fish. I shouldn't really have ruled that out as quickly as I did. 

Not only did I catch fish, swinging Atlantic salmon and steelhead flies was working much better than pretty much everything else I saw being done on the river in those two days. And I truly wouldn't have been able to make the casts and control the swings like I was with a shorter single handed rod. The amount of control I had over my fly at distances on 70-100 feet was just awesome, and the fact that I could feel a grab at that distance, set the hook well and then watch the fish 80 feet away start leaping, that was just a great feeling. 

The first day I got out for only four hours, but I got a handful of browns on a Cascade Shrimp and 6ips sink tip. Al coincidental, I was not trying to catch fish at all. But obviously I won't complain about it happening! By the end of that first evening I could feel that when I was focused a few of my casts were on point. They did what I needed them to do and went where I wanted them to go. For the second day, yesterday, I alternated every two hours between finding some private stretch to just practice casting on and actually going where the fish were and trying to fish out each cast to the best of my ability, and when I did that the floodgates opened. My flies were getting wrecked by trout left and right, and I wasn't using traditional stuff by any means, I was fishing blue charms, cascade shrimp, snaelda, buck bugs, stuff like that. I would never have fished flies like these in this stretch of water had in not been for this two day two hand stint. They worked and worked well. The only traditional trout fly I fished was a hornburg, and even that I don't typically use for stocked trout. Like I said before, swinging streamers just isn't something I do for trout. 

For a little while I had a mouse on. I wanted to see what my fly was doing when I made mends and such and the big buoyant mouse did the trick. It also caught this dinky brown:

From about 1:00 till 3:00 I had an pic run of fish on a buck bug varient. Must have pulled 12 fish out of one short stretch of water with that fly. All very aggressive strong pulls.

At the end of the day I decided to make the run up to my favorite pool, the Big Bend Pool. It is really made for swinging and long roll casts. Perfect for spey practice. I didn't think they had even stocked that far up but a few casts proved me wrong.

"bug factory" 
 After a bunch of fun fights with just spastic little rainbows and browns my Same Thing Murray got slammed at the end of the swing. I came tight and felt powerful head shakes from something big and angry about 80 feet away. After a pretty substantial battle I had a nice 17 inch rainbow at hand.

I kept working the pool and got plenty more trout. A few jumped seconds after the hook set, and that was really surreal. They seemed so far away they couldn't possibly be the thing I was hooked into. What a great two days. I can't wait for the shad run! Soon, very soon.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Challenge Accepted

White perch rarely, if ever, surface feed like many panfish species. Coming from brackish and salt water roots plays a part in that. Adults are very much piscivorous but also eat aquatic insects. I've seen unreal midge and mayfly hatches that had the water absolutely boiling with bluegills, bass, crappie, shiners, and bullheads and yet never a single white perch. I was therefor never surprised to find no mention of white perch on dry flies in any of my reading. In fact, some books and articles that I have read have specifically stated my first sentence. Last year's spring run had my trying small foam panfish flies for them, and though I got boils and bumps I never hooked one or even came close, they never actually opened their mouths. I figured these fish were aggressive enough that the floating flies got their attention, but they lacked the instinct to actually eat them like a bluegill or trout would. But the mere fact that they had shown interest in the dry made me think a little.

A year has passed and I saw plenty more evidence to suggest white perch just wouldn't take a dry fly. And now the spring run has commenced and today I found perch in massive numbers in shallow water. All I could think was "These fish aren't supposed to eat dry flies? Challenge accepted!".

Now I'll say this, it took some doing. I had to get the twitch-pause cadence down to the perfect speed and my hooksets had to be just perfect. But I was getting white perch on a dry fly, a Puterbaugh Caddis.  Actually floating. It was crazy. In the pile of white perch was a little yellow, though that was less surprising as I have caught them on the surface a few times before.

Challenge accepted, challenge completed.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

PTHW Ep. 8: Leapers

Conditions seemed right today and honestly I was expecting to get a big fish at some point. Spoiler alert, I didn't. But I did catch a healthy number of fish, three stocked brook trout, one stocked brown, and three wild browns. For the most part I was throwing streamers but the first two wild browns were on a nymph... but we're not quite there yet.

I started out with my favorite all around single hook streamer, an orange and olive cactus bugger. That fly took the first couple of stockers and was bumped a handful of times as well, all in a deep eddy. One of those bumps felt very large but you never can tell unless you see the fish.

Wanting to potentially avoid the stockers, which on previous outings hadn't liked bigger streamers, I changed to a four inch articulated fly that has done quite well here in the past. It didn't work, I the sewer trout kept grabbing. 

There was a long gap in there where I just didn't get any fish, despite a number of solid eats I decided to try a nymph just to see, even though they had been less effective than streamers here most days. First run I stuck a buttery brown trout that must have been a reincarnated salmon. It jumped ten times, no exaggerating. It just launched itself skyward time after time before I got it to hand. It was a stunner! 

If you look carefully you will notice the hook is in a different place in each photo I sincerely have no clue how that happened. I had the fish in the water between photos, the hook must have come loose and then re-hooked further back the top jaw. Sharp barbless hooks stick fish really well. The energy this one had in the fight was not lost in handling, she went home healthy!

I got a second wild brown on the same fly further downstream, a silvery little yearling with purple rather than red spots. After letting him go I changed to a Zoo Couger hoping to get some fish I had moved on the way up. I didn't. I got one I hadn't moved. This one jumped almost as much as the first.

I was going to fish for a while longer, and indeed in the 45 minutes after that last fish I moved quite a few more, all small, but a stupid mistake and a soaked arm cut my outing short. Fine by me, I didn't need much more than that.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The First Stripers of Spring

I went striper fishing with a friend today. I went back to the holdover-spot-that-shall-not-be-named. I know, I know, I said I wasn't going back, but to be honest a few friends of mine have been going and have dialed the bite in better than I had and therefore have been getting some bigger fish, including a handful pushing 30 inches. So yeah, I gave in to temptation. But I'm never going for one of those ridiculous long triple digit days again, not at this spot.

I tried to pick out the larger fish with a 10 inch white bucktail pattern and a sink tip line. I was able to get about the same number of 20 inch+ fish as I did on my first trip here in  about a 6th the amount of time. One was actually the heftiest I've caught this winter, though still not even a keeper size fish.

That was all very fun. My friend was fishing jerk baits and he was catching well too, his first striped bass. The coolest thing I noticed were fish busting periodically in a rip. There must have been grass shrimp or small bait fish washing through that rip, just under the surface. Seeing surface action made me wish I had some small gurglers with me. I probably wouldn't have caught anything on top but who knows.

I'll leave you with this. Striped bass are a special fish and a lot of us would like them to stay around forever, but that won't happen with the kind of fishing pressure they are getting right now. PLEASE fish responsibly, release breeders, and don't keep fish every time you go out. Four or five 32 inch bass a year will do you just fine and maintain an suitable fishery. It physically hurts me to see a dead 40lb cow bass. These incredible fish will not be around long if things keep going the way they are. Don't take every keeper.

That is all.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Crazy Wild Stuff

I fished a lot yesterday but the first portion of the day, though I caught a handful of good trout, did not yield much post-worthy materiel. Not interesting fishing, no big fish or wild fish or interesting species, and not really the most interesting photography. Later in the day, however, I had a very interesting outing!

I go out onto my favorite tidal freshwater river, hunting for sea run trout, pike, walleye, and giant perch. I found none of those. But very early in the outing I did catch something and it was a but of a surprise.

A little stocked brownie, many miles from where it must have been stocked, in tidal waters? That's bizarre, awesome and just the odd luck I enjoy experiencing. This fish might even be headed towards salt waters, though it hasn't been there already and isn't one of the ones the state has been stocking (no clipped pectoral fins). 

A likely spot for when the water warms up.

Now here is why I am one of the few people who fish this stretch from the shore:

It is a long, difficult hike to get into many spots, access is spotty, and it is really not the easiest fishing. But that's why I love it.

The wildlife was out in force today. When I wasn't being menaced by mute swans I could hear wood ducks and black ducks. Neither species allowed me to approach them, carefully as I tried. Turkeys were calling from the opposite shore. As I walked out of my final spot at twilight I saw a something swimming and I momentarily thought it was a beaver and considered just continuing on my way. I'm glad I took a closer look because it was actually an otter. 

Up the hill and away from the river I had come out of the tree line when I heard a bird call that I had never heard in person before. I recognized the distinct call immediately, the unseen caller was an American woodcock. I pulled out the camera, and with what little battery I had left I was able to record it calling and then taking off for one of it's short looping dance flights. 

I wish I had more battery life because that was by far one of the coolest things I've every seen on a fishing trip. The sound these birds make on their way back down from their flight just by manipulating their wings is absolutely wild. At the same time a couple deer were coming down into the field I could hear them come down the hill and along the tree line. I never moved, but a light breeze came up behind me and they caught my scent and began huffing and stomping before busting back into the forest. To make it just that tiny bit cooler two bard owls were calling back and forth on the adjacent ridge, and spring peepers and wood frogs were enjoying the warm evening rather loudly in the swamp. What a night.