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.


My buddy Ted and I fished in a sheltered bay that I had done some recon on so I knew it was loaded with gar. Armed with nylon rope flies we started casting at the prehistoric fish and got interest right off the bat. After many hits and misses we figured that we were waiting too long for the rope fly to do its magic (tangling up in their teeth) and we started giving the fish only one or two head shakes before laying into them. Even then we still had countless misses. A typical approach was to land the fly a foot or two in front of their nose then start stripping really fast. Usually they would turn on it and follow for only a second or two before unleashing a violent strike on the fly. I hear some people use ultra sharp hooks and actually hook them in a traditional manner which I may try sometime but the rope flies were a lot of fun to fish and got plenty of interest. The cool thing was that we were exclusively sight fishing to them. In fact, I do not think you would do very well just blind fishing for gar because we had to get the fly within a few feet of them to spark their interest, but once that was acheived you almost always had at the very least a good follow. Gar tend to come up and hang just under the surface of the water. If they are not moving you could mistake them for a log floating in the water. We even found the cruising ones just under the surface no more than a foot deep or so. They also occasionally come up and gulp air at the surface, hence they can live in poorly oxygenated water. I saw them do this many times. We also found out that they tend to pull a lot last ditch trickery at the boat which makes landing them fairly unpredictable. One time the fish freaked out and the hook on my fly got caught in my stripping apron so I had this fish suspended halfway in the water with his mouth pointed skyward right between my legs. It was pretty much like having a kitchen knife being waved around between my legs. I was most concerned about the fish putting puncture wounds in my waders. Luckily I got the hook out just in time before any more freak outs could occur. Since the hook was not actually being put to use we decided future flies would be tied on rings or some sort of tube fly setup. Around here gar are considered by the vast majority trash fish much like carp. I find them to be an very worthy opponent though and will continue to fish for them often. What an awesome fish!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Raccoon River Bust

I have been out in the Midwest almost a year but until two weeks ago I had still not hooked up with my good fishing buddy Scott who lives a few hours away. Once school ended for us it was time to make up for lost time. We decided the target was smallies on the Raccoon River. I beat Scott to the river and happened to run into a guide that said the river was high and that it was more of a late summer and fall fishery. We decided to give it a go anyway but there was not very much fishable water and the river was off color. Scott somehow managed to bag a small crappie and lo and behold a little smallmouth. After those fish there was nothing else to be had. We decided to cut our losses and head to a small stillwater in the area. We launched our tubes in a wind protected finger of the lake. The fishing there was far from red hot too but still better than the river was. We both got several scrappy bluegill and I was able to get my first largemouth on a fly rod. I was working the edge of a weed line and right after my crystal bugger hit the water my line went tight and I set the hook. The bass gave me three or four really nice jumps before I subdued him. At one point I must have found some bluegill holding over their nests because my fly was getting slammed almost every cast as soon as it hit the water in one certain area. It was nice catching up while spending a relaxing afternoon on the pond.

Gar Recon

I came across a backwater of one of the the area's major rivers and I soon observed a fish shaped similar to a pike but on closer inspection its true identity was revealed, gar! I did not know too much about the fish, only that it was toothy and could be caught on the fly. My friend out in Omaha who is now a warm water guru had shown me a pic of a gar he had caught on the fly. I had more exposure to the alligator gar which grow to mammoth proportions and are usually caught on bait in the south. The gar around here are related but don't grow to hundreds of pounds like their cousins. I did a little more research and recon and luckily found a gar mecca in the local area where I have fished twice for them already. I'll just say I will be targeting them often!

Back from the dead

Between August 2009 through the third week in May 2010 I had been out fishing only twice! Thankfully that has changed since school has ended and hopefully I do not go through such a fishing hiatus again. My first year of graduate school was pretty brutal (time consuming) but the next 3 will not be quite so bad. After classes ended I really did not care where I fished I just wanted to get out so I hit a local lake to see what was there. I had a lot of fun. There were bluegill and crappie in close along the rocks. I started off fishing a warm water pattern called the breaminator that my friend Scott tied up for me. It was magic. For the first hour it was a hit or fish on about every other cast. They would hit it on the drop so to increase my odds I put on a micro indicator about four feet above my fly. I would strip a few times then let the fly flutter down and most often they would smack it on the drop. It was a mixed bag of bluegill, crappie, and a few green sunfish. At one point I was working the shoreline and something really smacked my fly and was pulling a lot harder than a bluegill or crappie. I thought it must be a bass but when I finally got the fish in I was surprised, a little channel cat. The same thing happened again a bit later and it was another little channel cat. They were a lot of fun to catch. Overall it was a great way to break myself back into the fishing lifestyle.