Sunday, December 12, 2010

Allen Fly Fishing

I ran into Allen Fly Fishing on a Facebook advertisement. Or maybe it was a banner on one of the fly fishing forums. Anyway, I did some research and ran into quite a buzz about the products. There was little if any negative reviews about the reels, lines, and a host of other fly fishing gear. I started following the latest developments with the reels. Once I saw the new Allen "Trout 5/7" I was sold. These were some of the best looking reels out there and at great prices. Then Justin (the owner) came out with a new version of the "Alpha" fly reel which looked equally awesome. I had to decide whether I wanted a new reel for my all purpose 5 weight rod (the Trout 5/7) or the new Alpha 7/8 for my carp rod. So intriguing were these reels that I sold my go-to reel I use on my 5 weight to fund the purchase of the Allen. To even further solidify my confidence in purchasing an Allen reel I found out that my friend Dave (FishnDave) had bought a few of the reels and some other gear and gave me positive feedback about the reels, lines, etc. The light weight (5.37 oz) of the Alpha 7/8 pushed me toward that reel since I only had a heavy clunker for my 8 weight. I had other reels that were adequate to cover my 5 weight needs. I got the Allen in the mail and I am thoroughly pleased and excited about the reel. It feels so light in my hand and Justin did a good job taking out any unnecessary metal.

Not only that but he did it in a way that is very aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

This is a beautiful reel. The gunmetal finish looks great and glistens when any sunlight hits it. I still need to throw backing and a fly line on the reel but before doing so I wanted to take a few glam shots. If anyone is looking for a nice machined reel at a great price I suggest visiting Justin has been praised for his excellent customer service as well. If any reel breaks he will fix or replace it for you. Unfortunately I have to wait several months for things to thaw out around here before I can put this beauty to the test against some large cyprinus carpio.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tribute to Summer

These days I'm longing for the early evening serenade of cicadas in the trees. Here is to warmer times...

I found this guy (or girl) outside my house. They usually are pretty elusive. My 2 year old son does a great cicada imitation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Crappie Day

The weather was cold and drizzly but after finishing a test in the morning I thought I would head back to a local crappie pond and see what I could find. I basically just circled the pond slowly and the crappies were willing. I was using a white micro jig (fly) with a red collar. I suspended it under an indicator and slowly worked the fly in short strips. They loved the fly and I didn't change it once. I brought my iPod Touch 4g along and decided to shoot video with it. It was awkward but I would bring the fish in so I could shoot with one hand then lift the rod to bring the fish in the rest of the way. Most of the fight was over at that point but it was still fun to capture the fish in the water for a few seconds. Anyway, no pics in this post just this video shot and edited entirely with my iPod. Hopefully I can figure out how to export the video in HD quality in the future.

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Fishing Buddy

A few weeks ago I decided to take my boy fishing to a community pond. It was his first real fishing trip with Dad. Luckily it was a red hot fishing day and I hooked fish after fish. I caught a mixed bag of black crappies, white crappies, and green sunfish. I was using a orange bodied fly with a tail, bead chain eyes and rubber legs. I also tried a micro epoxy bodied minnow that worked well too. After each fish he would say "Catch one more Daddy!" He was more interested in watching me catch fish while he played near the waters edge and poked around in the moss and splashed water. But each time I caught a fish he came in close for inspection. His favorite part was using his stick to nudge the fish back into deeper water. I even offered to take him to the park after catching a couple fish but he was having way too much fun fishing. I even got him to hold up a crappie for a photo...

Just recently I headed back to the pond with my wife and boy. He had a blast again even though the fishing was a quite a bit slower for me. I did catch a nice green sunfish that hammered my fly.

I was using a fly fairly similar to a clouser minnow except it has a sparkly orange dubbed body among other things. I also caught a small crappie. I must have not done a good enough job hauling them in because after a half hour he wanted to head over to the park. It was a great day to get out. The weather was beautiful for November and I really hope we get several more of these warm fall days.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Bass Constant

During study of the sciences you soon find out that there are lots of constants, numbers in equations that don't change. Ive been three times to a small community pond fairly close to my house. For every time I have been there is one thing has not changed: I have caught one largemouth bass each time. Although I would not mind catching more than one, they are so fun that I have appreciated the bass constant in my fishing equation.

I didn't say other species were not caught...

Pull Cats

Ted and I tried our hand at gar again but we spotted very few fish. I had a few follows and had one on for a second but that was about it. I switched from the rope fly to a standard fly with a hook and started casting for bluegill and cats. I bagged a few small bluegill which were fun.

I was casting close to some structure just off the bank and my line went completely tight and I set the hook. It was a feisty fish that stayed down and was pulling hard. It turned out to be a nice little channel cat.

I think the channel cats always surprise me because I spent many hours when I was younger trying to get channels cats to bite on cut bait, stink bait, and a variety of other smelly concoctions. I never did catch a channel catfish while using bait. The closest I came was about ten years ago when I was fishing for channel cats at Utah Lake using shrimp. I had something take my bait and I set the hook. The fight was on and after a lengthy battle I had the fish near the shore. I saw his big forked tail a few times but he made a last second run and my knot failed and I lost it. Fast forward ten years and now I am here in Iowa catching channel cats on flies, go figure. I'll say it again, they pull hard! I can't imagine catching some of the big cats my friend Scott catches on the fly out in Omaha. While kicking my way in I made a few last casts near shore and nailed another cat that went about 13 inches. Despite no gar I still had a lot of fun with the pull cats.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fishing Tradition

When I was a boy I took many fishing trips with my dad to various places including the Eastern Sierra mountains in California, the mountainous regions of Arizona, Utah, and many other places. My son's first fishing trip was on the Provo River in Utah when he was probably around 10 months old or so. I went up to the river to just look but a hatch of blue wing olives turned it into a fishing trip. I got him out of the car seat and strapped him to my chest and carefully made my way down to the river's edge. I was able to land a nice brown trout within a few minutes which was good because he did not like being stationary and wanted out pretty quickly. The other night he "caught" his first fish. My wife and I were walking around a small pond and I carried my fly rod along to take a few casts. I was not expecting too much but after a half dozen casts I had a nice little largemouth on and I let Blake turn the reel while I held the rod. Without even telling him how to do it he started turning the reel and got the fish to shore. My wife took this picture with her cell phone hence the graininess.

Learning the Ropes

(Gar pics taken by FishnDave)
After returning from cold water paradise out west I planned a gar trip with fellow blogger FishnDave (I'll just call him Dave from now on). He had not tried for gar on the fly yet so we met up one morning to target the toothy critters. I walked down the trail straight toward the cove to launch my tube in order to save my legs. Dave had to wheel his kayak down to the dock. We started walking from our cars at the same time but due to his amazing peddle drive system on his kayak he still beat me over there before I even got in the water. With the unprecedented water year in Iowa the lake looked full like it had flooded again. The previous time Ted and I noticed a slight decline in the aggressiveness of the fish and simply didn't see nearly as many. It had flooded before that trip too and my theory was that the cooler water from the river had decreased the surface water temperatures. Regardless of what happened exactly this trip was going to be even trickier.
We paddled across a good chunk of the cove without seeing a gar which was really strange. My spirits were a little down so after awhile I decided to cut off my rope fly and throw some small panfish flies near the trees which produced a few bluegill fairly quickly. Dave stayed focused to the task at hand and scanned the water hunting for gar. He finally saw a fish and casted to it. The fish was persistent and Dave got it to really eat the fly after a few previous hits. Dave decided to wait for awhile before laying into the fish and let the rope fly really tangle up in its teeth. Ted and I had waited quite awhile for the set on the first few strikes of our first outing without much success. Possibly because we didn't have the end of the nylon rope singed. We seemed to have more luck just waiting a second or two then lifting the rod. After what seemed like an eternity for me Dave lifted the rod tip and was wrangling in a nice gar. After a good fight Dave netted the fish and I was so excited I let out a few hoots and hollers. He had to work for that fish and it payed off.

After watching Dave's method of waiting a good ten seconds before putting on the pressure I think I am sold on the delayed "rope-set" theory. He had the end of his fly singed too which probably helped. Ted and I had experienced so many hits/missed fish but Dave solidly "hooked" the first fish that took his fly. It has been a learning experience and there may be several ways to use the rope fly but next time I get a gar to take one I'm going to let him chew on it for awhile. Ted joined us after a few hours but also was having trouble seeing many gar. At one point I went up on the bridge and tried spotting fish but they simply were not there in the numbers I have seen before. From up top I did see Ted get a splashy and explosive take from a gar but he didn't hook up.
We all went on hunting and Dave was able to land another gar awhile later. After trying the rope again I eventually switched back to a fly with a hook and started casting near the bank. I was able to land quite a few bluegill and landed a small channel cat that absolutely smashed my fly. I think channel cats have to be one of the hardest fighting fish for their size around here. They pull hard and don't give up without a lengthy fight.

It was time for me to head home and Dave opted to leave at that point as well. As we worked out way back toward the car I saw something small but quite long cruising around on the surface near me. It was a small gar! I didn't have a rope fly on but it might have been a good thing since this gar was so small. I presented my fly to it and got him to take it. I somehow got the hook stuck into its bony mouth and landed the little devil. It was a nice little morale booster since I thought I'd be skunked for gar on the day. It was nice to meet Dave and we hope to fish again together sometime soon.

Tribute to a Tributary

The day I left Sun Valley Jim and David headed back up to the tributary of the Big Wood where we slayed them several nights earlier. The fishing was off the hook again as David landed around 20 fish in under two hours. These are a few pics they took.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


One day during the Sun Valley trip we headed through the mountains over to Stanley where many tributaries comprise the headwaters of the Salmon River which runs through Stanley before winding its way over 400 miles to the Snake River. The Snake River then drains into the Columbia River which drains into the ocean. We did not do any fishing while in the Salmon River drainage, however we did visit the fish hatchery there which was the highlight of the trip. There were a few holding areas with stocker rainbows waiting to be planted in the region. Then there were several holding areas where tiny chinook (king) salmon were being raised up to a certain size before they are put in the river to make their journey back to the ocean during spring runoff. Many of these tiny salmon were near the end of the holding pen where a small current comes in and they were trying to jump up and over a plastic barrier. There are some wild salmon that do return to the upper Salmon but they are few in numbers. In fact I think the number of wild returning sockeye was in the single digits last run. I believe there are still wild chinook that return but their numbers are most likely fairly low too, probably not as low as the sockeye though. It is an amazing phenomenon for fish to travel around a thousand miles upstream to spawn whether they be wild or not. After seeing the juvenile fish we drove over to the far side of the hatchery near the river to see the adult chinook in the holding pens. It was awesome to see the big salmon cruising back and forth and imagining them on the end of your line. I then went over to see a small latter system that had water spilling over at different levels. The fish were jumping up and trying to proceed further into the concrete system of the hatchery. I think they manually let the fish in each day or maybe just net them and throw them into the holding area. Regardless of how it is exactly done it was sure fun to see the fish leaping and smacking themselves against a rubber mat that was placed there to avoid injury. Some of them would pull an easy six foot vertical jump, very impressive. Then I went over to the river where there was a small spillover dam barely downstream of the ladders. If you kept your eyes glued there for about thirty seconds you would usually see a salmon rocket out of the water trying to make it up the spillover. One probably caught six feet of air and traveled a good 15 feet horizontally, it was amazing. I wish I had my camera on me to capture the fish in the air but I had dropped it off at the car after seeing the fish in the holding areas, oh well. Stanley was really a beautiful area and I hope to visit it again someday!

The Big Wood

My wife's family rented a house up in Sun Valley (Ketchum) Idaho for a week in mid July. The Big Wood River runs right through town and picks up water from many tributaries that are scattered across the valley. The first day of fishing was happening on a Monday and the glimpses of the river I had caught the previous two days got me pumped. The Big Wood is a true freestone stream with wild rainbows and the water was running gin clear.

Jim, David and I headed down to an access point a few miles south of Ketchum. We got down to the river and I was surprised how much water was still flowing. I guess Idaho had a cool spring and we were seeing the tail end of the run off. Regardless, the river was definitely fishable and we went for it. David struck first with a nice fat whitefish by nymphing a little pocket along the bank. We worked the water but the first section we were on did not have a lot of structure or bends to break up the flow so we decided to look for some more promising holes so we hopped in the car and headed further down river. The second spot had some good holes and I also got a nice fat whitefish. For a few minutes David had a nice little tail-out dailed in and had three or four takes in a row but they all popped off within a second or two. After this things shut down and the action came to a halt. We didn't see any sign of bugs coming off the water which surprised me. I headed up to a big back eddy and was able to pull one small fish out. I could see quite a few fish but could not figure out what they wanted. David had a few follows in the back eddy throwing a bugger but that was it. Jim worked his way upstream of us and after a bit we headed up too. There was no action after that and we found Jim upstream aways and he ended up getting skunked for the day. We all went back to the car talking about the tough fishing. It was a beautiful stream and a great day out but the catching left us wanting a bit more. The next evening we wanted to try a small tributary of the Big Wood called Warm Springs where the fish might be a little more willing. As soon as we left the car the mosquitoes were on us and we forgot the bug spray. We walked down stream and found some nice looking holes with no takers. Jim was working his dry at a nice little hole below us and got a nice (for the stream size) rainbow. I had a small nymph rig and switched over right away to a dry. From that point on it was lights out action. The beautiful little rainbows were sipping, slurping, and smacking our dries with reckless abandon. Every place that looked like it held fish did with a few special areas that held dozens of fish. It was the kind of night that you don't forget. We all caught somewhere around 20 fish. We did not document the trip but it is seared in our minds and we created a great memory. The next day David and I decided to hit the Big Wood again. After lunch we headed out and the river had a different feel to it. It seemed alive and bugs were coming off. We started off at a deep hole and ran a nymph rig through it several times with no luck. I tried a Green Drake and started getting hit after hit. I missed a nice fish more than once but landed a smaller rainbow out of the first hole. We then worked our way upstream and had success on Green Drake and PMD dries. These fish were some of the prettiest rainbows I have seen with some having a wide dark red band across their sides.

We missed a lot of fish at each hole or run we fished so the action was pretty hot. At a little side channel I got a nice rainbow to come up and swipe at my Green Drake dry on at least 4 drifts but I never could hook up. I eventually put the fish down but it was fun while it lasted. We then worked our way back downstream and came to some nice pockets and back eddies at a particular turn in the river. David saw a group of three rainbows suspended just above a tree in the water and drifted his fly over them. They looked but none took the fly. Then he skittered his fly upstream and as it was skittering over the fish the second largest trout of the group breached the surface and grabbed it right out of the air! It was a beautiful rainbow. I then switched to a nymph rig and ran a stonefly/green drake nymph (that I had previously snagged and brought up from the river bottom on the first day fishing) in one of the back eddies and my indicator shot under after a few drifts. I had my drag a little too loose and got caught a little off guard and the fish started stripping out line and ran me toward a nightmare of a snag. I thought the fish was gone but I put some pressure on him and by some miracle I got him into the back eddy and he came right back towards me exhausted from the runs he made.

This trip definitely gave us redemption from such a tough day of fishing a few days prior. The river seemed much more alive and willing to give up a few of its gems this day. We saw Green Drakes, stoneflies, and PMDs hatching during the afternoon but a big Green Drake dry was definitely the hot fly of the day.

Tube Jiggin'

I don't pick up a spinning rod all too often anymore aside from ice fishing. Due to the slow nature of our first trip up to Strawberry I thought a spinning rod might be key in picking up a few more fish. I thought that throwing some big weighted tube jigs tipped with red side shiners in 30 feet of water might be a little more productive than fishing shallower with our fly rods. Since neither David or I had a type V sinking line to dredge the depths it seemed like a logical option. We got back up to Strawberry a few days after our first trip up and the wind was whipping a little bit. We kicked out against the wind and chop and started vertical jigging just off the bottom. It was slow at first then David picked up a nice cutthroat.

Then from there on we started to get quite a bit of action with several missed fish. The chop died off and it turned into a beautiful evening. Between the two us we probably landed a half dozen fish with several long line releases and hits.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

High Country Happenings

I was back "home" in Utah for a few weeks and my brother-in-law David and I had stillwater on our minds. The first trip out was up to Strawberry Reservoir. Due to the transitional nature of the reservoir at the time we thought the fish would be a bit shallower (and we would have less wind) if we waited until early evening. So we decided to fish the tail water until evening started to approach. It is a beautiful little stream with crystal clear water but the fishing was very difficult.

We finally saw some nice browns holding in a slower stretch but our attempts were fruitless and we spooked them after a few casts. Then a big thunderstorm hit and we took shelter from the rain under a tree. I know when there is lightning you should not hide under a tree but we were deep down in a canyon and the bolts were not striking very close to us. There were thousands of other pines too so it was a calculated risk. We just didn't want to get soaked then freeze in the evening out on the reservoir since we didn't have rain gear with us. It started even hailing for a little bit and then things let up. A hatch started where we saw the browns holding earlier and they started rising but it was so sort lived that by the time I got a dry fly on they had stopped. It was just a mini hatch maybe brought on by the change in temperature or pressure of the thunderstorm, who knows? We decided to head down to a different stretch of the tail water further downstream where its nature changes a bit to try our luck there. I guess the big thunderstorm that just clipped us picked up some steam because we ran into a small flash flood while attempting to access the lower section of the river. Some fairly hefty (and jagged) rocks were washed across the road that would have probably been problematic for our sedan's tires so we were forced to turn around.

We got back up to the reservoir in the early evening and launched our float tubes and kicked over to a promising shoreline. We had on a John Barr fly on called the "Meat Whistle" which imitates a crayfish and thought it would be good since Strawberry is full of them. We tried casting along the shoreline and trolling but it was proving to be a tough day. After an hour or so David was in the process of trolling when a fish smacked his fly, the kind of hit that startles you when you are not expecting it. He got the fish in close but it got unbuttoned just as he was trying to get a better look at it. Things went dead again after that but I re-tied the meat whistle on since it had produced a violent strike. After pounding the shoreline my arm was getting tired so I decided to troll for a bit. As I was lazily trolling I experienced a similar startling strike as something attacked my fly with fury. Strawberry cutthroat are not known for being the hardest fighting fish but when you have a fish that starts stripping a little line you know its a good one. The fish immediately started stripping line like crazy and started going very deep. I was in freak out mode and kept telling David "this is a big fish, this is a BIG fish!" I was worried the beast was going to find some underwater vegetation, get wrapped up in it and break me off. When I said big I thought somewhere at least in the high 20's in inches, a true trophy trout. I did have the thought that maybe it was a large rainbow instead of a massive cutthroat.

As I continued to fight the fish something did not feel quite right, I could not turn the fish or lift him toward the surface. I also could not feel head shakes. I started to think that the fish was foul hooked. I still kept my hope alive and once he surfaced aways out David confirmed it was a nice fish, exactly how large he didn't know. I finally was able to bring him up next to me and lo and behold it was a nice cutt that was foul hooked around the top of his neck (if a trout has a neck). No thirty inch behemoth but it was over 20 inches. I was slightly disappointed at first because just minutes before I thought I may have had a fish of a lifetime on my line, but any disappointment soon left me and I was satisfied with the gorgeous fat cutthroat.

Most places a trout that exceeds 20 inches is a trophy and I thought of how awesome it is to fish a place where catching trout in the 20 inch range is a common occurrence. It also amazed me how much power the fish had when hooked where it was. It was like walking a bulldog on a leash. During the fight David was trying to get a pic and had his rod laying across his tube with the fly on the hook keeper. He leaned on his rod a little and the large hook on the meat whistle was right over the float tube bladder and you can guess the rest of the story. As I was fighting the fish David was losing air in his tube. Luckily after the fish was released he got to shore in time. He tried fishing from the bank but it proved to be difficult. We soon called it a day and David started hiking to the car while I opted to troll across the bay back to the car. After a few minutes my legs were so tired I just kicked to the closest shoreline and took his route back to the car as well. It was not an easy day for catching fish but it was great to be out and see such beautiful country and it left us invigorated and ready for another return trip.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mulberries n' Hammers

Ted and I headed out again for gar. The action was so intense during the first gar trip that we returned with high expectations. We each got a fish right off the bat but the action proved to be a lot slower than our previous trip. We still got plenty of follows but the fish seemed more hesitant this time round. Gar are most active in warm water and I believe the flooding of the river into the lake cooled the water off considerably. The level of the lake was a good two feet higher and the water was more stained than the previous trip. I felt a bunch of cold spots while kicking my tube around. We also did not see nearly as many fish so they may have scattered in search of warmer water or some of them went deep. Regardless of what happened exactly I believe the action will pick right back up once the lake drops below flood stage and things get more stabilized.

While kicking along the shore I noticed a rise after something fell off a tree above. At first I thought it was maybe an insect that fell in but on closer inspection I noticed it was a mulberry tree.

I had read about how carp will often hang below mulberry trees and eat the berries as they fall into the water. I did not have any mulberry fly patterns but I decided to tie on a fly called the Hammer my friend Scott had tied up for me. It supposedly was a good fly for carp so I gave it a shot. I casted right under the tree and let my fly sink. My line went tight and I set the hook. The fish shot out from the bank fairly quickly and I was not really sure if I had a carp on or not. Whatever it was I knew it was not too big however it was fighting very hard for its size. I really had no idea what it was. Once it got near me it shot straight for the bottom. This fish had was very strong willed. Finally I lifted him and to my surprise it was a nice little channel cat! It went about 14 inches and I regret not taking a pic of the nice little kitty. I decided to cast in the exact same spot and bam! The same thing again although not quite as nice of a cat.

Then the same thing happened again and again. I got four in a row and had a fifth on. I would have continued but we had to get going at that point. Maybe it was channel cats eating the mulberries, who knows? One thing for sure, I'm going to return to the same spot with some mulberry patterns and more Hammers.