Monday, March 27, 2017

Bullgill Therapy

Several months have passed since the last really good fishing outing for me here in SE Ohio.  I caught some fish here and there through the winter, but nothing consistent and not high numbers.  We've had some warmer weather recently in the area, so a friend and I headed out to hit a few ponds he knew hoping to take advantage.  We planned to bass fish, but I also carried my glass 3wt rigged and ready for bluegill if the bass were not playing along.  Early in the morning, the bass bite was pretty slow, so I decided to test the bluegills out that were rising to small black bugs coming off the pond surface.  I had a subsurface fly rigged, the infamous Squirminator in pink/chartreuse, and it quickly found a player.

I quickly changed to my number one topwater fly for bluegill because I couldn't ignore all the rises.  It's a simple black foam spider with bright yellow legs.  It floats well, is a quick and durable tie, and just plain catches fish.  I had seen a rise under the edge of a shoreline bush, and put a cast right in next to it quickly.  The fly barely landed and got blasted.  I set the hook and the fish didn't really move initially.  This porker put a deep bend in the glass 3wt and is probably the fattest bluegill I have ever caught. 

While my buddy worked hard and finally picked up a decent bass, I was picking out risers and hooking, if not landing, most of them.  It was like easy dry fly fishing for trout.  See a ring, put the fly near it, and the fish will do the rest.  And unlike typical bluegill fishing, when fish run pretty small, these fish were thick and feisty.

We finally moved on to another nearby pond where my friend typically does pretty well on bass.  The water was slightly off color and it felt like the pond was in a Boeing wind tunnel, but we quickly started getting strikes on our bass rods.  I was glad I took the 7wt when we found that wind, it helped to punch some flies out in the breeze along the cattails.  It didn't take long to land my first bass of 2017.

Bass were holding tight to the banks, and seemed concentrated on the wind blown side of the pond.  No large bass were caught, but there was no shortage of action.  We fished along there for about 90 minutes and decided we had enough of the howling wind.  The hot fly for me on the bass was a size 2 Murdich Minnow in my favorite color, an olive over white with some light blue splashed on the cheeks with some Laser Dub.

We discussed what to do next when our third stop fizzled out on us, and we decided to head back to the first pond in hopes the bass would be more "awake" with the warmer temperatures of early afternoon.  However, seeing the massive bug hatch going on and the water almost appear to be boiling with bluegills, I couldn't resist and had to sling the 3wt some more.  My fishing buddy eventually caved and did the same, it was just too easy and too much fun.  

Here's a quick recipe and pic of the fly that did almost all of the damage on the bluegill.  I like to add the little chunk of orange foam to the top as a tiny indicator.  This fly sits really low on thwe water and can be tough to spot at a longer distance.

-Hook: size 14 dry fly hook
-Tail: rubber legs
-Body: 2mm craft foam
-Underbody: Ultra Chenille
-Legs: rubber legs
-Antennae: rubber legs
-Indicator: small chunk of orange 2mm craft foam 


Friday, March 24, 2017

New Damsel Pattern (and Body Technique)

I have often found carp in a few specific locations which prove very difficult to coax into striking.  The locations are very different, but the conditions are very similar: clear, shallow water and spooky/selective fish.  A while back, I picked up some Kiley's Damzel Tails with intentions to create a highly detailed damsel nymph pattern that might coax a few of these fish into eating.  I wanted a detailed, buggy pattern with a slow fall and subtle movement.  I weighted the fly with a single 1/8" bead belly-scratcher style for a slow fall on a size 10 Dai-Riki 700B.

My first attempt was a flop, in my eyes.  I tried a new body wrapping technique, and that part actually worked, but the front half of the fly wasn't what I wanted.  The end result was too skinny in the thorax area, the Thin Skin (even though it's olive in color) was too dark, and I wasn't a fan of the rubber legs.

The leg technique I came up with was to combine a dubbing loop idea with a complex twist.  How I accomplished this was to tie in a pair of rubber legs, and use those rubber legs as a dubbing loop with a sparse dubbing layer in between the rubber legs.  Here's how it looks in pictures.

Once you've got it spun, wrap it forward and brush it lightly towards the rear of the fly.  The resulting body is a rubbery segmented body with a buggy "veil" of dubbing over the body.  The changes I made to the front of the fly were to skip the nymph dubbing and rubber legs in favor of a combination of both: Cohen's Carp Dub.  This awesome stuff is a buggy dubbing with tiny spandex rubber legs mixed in.  It picks out really well with a dubbing brush.  I also scrapped the dark thin skin for some basic brown scud back that I topped with Loon Thick UV resin.  Here's the final product.

I think it will destroy large panfish in the right environments, but I'm really anxious to see how the clear water carp react to it.  Hopefully the weather continues to warm up and I can put this fly to the test sooner rather than later.  The final recipe:

-Hook: Dai-Riki 700B size 10
-Tail: Kiley's Damzel Tail
-Weight: 1/8" brass bead (belly scratcher style to keel the hook point-up)
-Eyes: Small mono eyes
-Abdomen: rubber legs spun with Spectrablend Nymph dubbing
-Shellback: scud back
-Thorax: Cohen's Carp Dub
-Shellback Top Coat: Loon Thick UV resin 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Carp on the Brain

The recent acquisition of the paddle board has got nothing but shallow water carp on my mind.  Due to the little guy being sick for much of the past week, vise time was non-existent for several days.  I was finally able to sit down and play yesterday, adding to my carp box a few new colors of the carp mop fly I posted a few months back.

My only "mops" I have been able to locate were a gray color, and a bright green.  I played yesterday with a quick dye job on the gray mop segments, hoping to turn gray into a couple of other usable colors for carp patterns.  I used some Rit liquid dye, in a dark blue and a bright orange, to produce these "new" colors.  I was immediately happy with the dark blue, the orange-dyed segments I wasn't sure about until they dried.  I really dig the way that color came out.

The key method I use in this carp fly is sort of a complex twist method, made famous by the Fly Fish Food boys, but due to the materials I use more of a composite loop technique to make it work.  I'm still combining feather and flash, but since India hen back feathers are so delicate, I put the materials in a loop.  I lay some Arizona Diamond Dub on a feather I prep by trimming the tip and fluffy stem.

That combination of material is then inserted into a dubbing loop, spun, picked out, and wrapped.  It usually needs an additional brushing once it's all wrapped and tied off, also.  The end result is a really buggy combination of the feather and flashy dubbing.

Of course, rubber legs had to be added because I can't tie a carp fly without them.  The fly is then finished off with a sparse dubbing loop of just the Diamond Dub, wrapped over the lead eyes and tied off at the hook eye.  This fly looks great in the test tank, and any fly I have tested on carp that has an appendage that sticks up off the bottom tends to produce carp.  I'm really excited to put this fly in front of some tailing fish this spring!

New Fishing Platform for 2017

Throughout the last six years, I have immensely enjoyed the world of kayak fly fishing.  Having a fishing kayak opened a lot of doors of opportunity for me that simply aren't there for a shore angler.  It was pretty easy to transport, could be launched in tons of locations where you couldn't dream of launching a full size boat, can function in very shallow water, and was virtually maintenance free.  Over the last 18 months or so, I became very intrigued with fly fishing from a stand-up paddle board (SUP).  I have been on a few SUP's in a recreation setting and enjoyed them, and I could see vivid advantages as a fly fishing platform in situations where I had previously used my kayak.  The most important realization was that better than 80% of the time, when I fly fish from my kayak, it's for shallow water carp.

The biggest disadvantage to the kayak as a fishing platform in this situation is the difficulty in spotting fish from a seated position close to the water.  The carp fly fishing game is all about sight fishing, and being higher off the water (even if seated on a cooler and not standing) would be a big advantage.  

The next advantage to the SUP option vs. my current kayak would be transportation ease.  At 13.5' long and 70+ pounds, my fishing kayak was not the easiest thing to throw on top of my Jeep.  I resorted, at times, to using a hitch extender and sticking the kayak out the back of the Jeep, and even though it was well-secured, it never felt truly safe or "right" to me.  Going along with the transport advantage of a shorter (and lighter) SUP would be maneuverability in smaller water.  Some feeder creeks and smaller streams where I had used my kayak, I barely had enough space to turn it around in the water.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me to try a SUP as a fishing platform.

Prior to going on vacation last week, I ordered a Kaku Kahuna ( 12' SUP from Austin Kayak (  I got a great deal on the board, and free shipping was the icing on the cake.  Due to being out of town for a week, I had it shipped to a family member, and brought it home earlier this week.  I was never so happy to see an ugly box!

Since the board was packaged, and I didn't have my roof rack on the Jeep (plus I was in a hurry), I used the bed extender to get the SUP home.

The Kahuna comes in at 12' long and 60lbs, 34" wide at the widest point for stability.  Although it is not substantially lighter than my kayak, it feels less bulky and easier to carry/lift than my kayak ever felt.  The 12' length also allows me to store the board inside, whereas I never had room to keep my kayak out of the weather.  I have small plans to add a cooler (both as a seat and storage) and to build my own push/stake out pole for carpin' the mud flats.  The one thing I am yet to figure out completely is where/how to mount a static video camera for filming.  I plan to continue using a wearable action camera, but like to have a static mount camera to get a second filming angle, as well.  

Our recent cold snap in SE Ohio has put hard water back in play, but as soon as we have thawed and I have the board rigged, I can't wait to get out on the water.  I truly believe this will be the perfect watercraft for sight fishing carp with fly gear, as well as exploring some small streams for bass close to home that are difficult to wade or fish from the bank.  I expect big things from the Kahuna this year!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Florida Sunshine

I tend to fall into the same mental trap on most family vacations...delusional thoughts that I'm going to get to fish a lot.  It doesn't happen.  Last week, we went to the Bradenton area in Florida to visit family.  As usual, I packed some gear and a few boxes of flies just in case I found time to wet a line.  We spent the majority of our time outdoors looking for shark teeth along the gorgeous beaches of the Venice area.  We found a little over 200 teeth in our two trips to the beaches, so we did pretty well.  This was one of the better specimens I found.

We did make a stop at Jiggs Landing, a historic fish camp on the Braden River not far from where my parents live down there.  It was a neat place, and I would have loved to have had a kayak or paddle board (or time to rent one), but I did catch a few fish from the boardwalk area on the fly.

Pretty much the entire time we were down there, the wind was brutally strong.  It was blowing consistently in the upper teens, with lots of gusts over 20MPH.  Jiggs Landing was a pretty exposed area, at least where I was fishing, so casting and strike detection were chores.

The heart-breaking portion of the trip was when we went to the Riverwalk in Bradenton, located along the Manatee River.  I didn't take my fly rod, unsure of what to expect.  We didn't spot much in the water, but did see a few stingrays making their way along the bottom.

But then we came to the marina area, where there were tons of small baitfish in huge schools.  Of course, I had to spot the school of 1-2lb snook stalking and then blasting these baitfish.  I'm convinced those snook would have attacked about anything that hit the water, and there I was, with nothing.  Look closely and you can see all the shadowy snook about 12-15' away from me.

It was a great time, regardless of the fishing aspect of the trip.  We got to spend some time with my parents, who we had not seen in several months.  My son also got to experience Florida and the beach for the first time.  He really enjoyed trying to taste-test everything he could pick up at the beach.  He also got to rock some shades for the first time in the bright Florida sunshine.