Saturday, April 30, 2016

Signs of Spring: Flowers and Aggressive Bass

Yesterday was the first nice day in a while here in Minnesota. It's been gray and rainy all week, but yesterday was sunny, so I decided to walk down to the river.
Tulips in bloom on campus
Large-flowered Bellwort
On the way I saw many signs that spring is really here. Maple trees are leafing out, tulips are coming up, and apple, crabapple, and redbud trees are in full bloom.

Last few Anemone acutiloba flowers
The water was high and dirty thanks to the rain (well, it's always dirty) but the fish were aggressive. I hooked into 5 smallmouth, but only managed to land 2. They were fighting a lot harder than they did a few weeks back - most likely due to the warmer water temperatures. The downside of the higher water is that my mobility on the bank was somewhat limited, so I decided to call it a day after hooking those 5 fish at my usual spot.

This guy was missing a mandible
I graduate in 2 weeks, then it's back to Massachusetts for the best trout fishing of the year!

Flowering Crabapples
Wild Violets are everywhere right now

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Minimalist Approach to Fly Tying

I started tying my own flies about a year ago. I wanted to have the ability to customize my flies, but more importantly, I didn't want to go to a fly shop every time I needed a fly.

As I researched fly tying equipment and techniques, I repeatedly came across the same sentiment:

"You won't save money by tying your own flies"

At first, I was incredulous. How could a few tufts of hair and feathers tied to a hook cost me $2.00 or more? 

As I researched further, I started to realize why people find fly tying so expensive. It wasn't that any one material is all that expensive, it was a desire to tie an assortment of flies rivaling the Orvis catalog. If you want to tie a huge variety of flies, it will cost you an arm and a leg to get all the materials, but if you only tie a few, it won't. Luckily for me, I really don't fish too many patterns. 

The following 8 flies account for the majority of my catches:

Elk Hair Caddis
Yellow Humpy
AZ Mini Hopper
Hare's Ear Nymph
Pink Squirrel
Wooly Bugger Variants

By making a few easy substitutions, I can tie all of these patterns with relatively few materials:
  • I use Elk Hair for the Comparaduns in place of Deer Hair, Hare's Ear in place of Squirrel Dubbing for the Pink Squirrels, and Hare's Ear in place of Chenille for the Wooly Buggers. 
  • I use either a light tan or dark brown dubbing for all my dries, which leaves me able to match most light and dark naturals. 
  • I use only white, black and pink thread.
  • I use only grizzly hackle for any fly that calls for hackle. 
The fish haven't seemed to mind my substitutions, and I've started to focus more on stealth and presentation over fly selection.

A good assortment of dries tied with few materials
Over the past year I've spent about the same amount of money on fly tying materials as I did on flies in previous years, but now I have hundreds of flies, rather than the 20-30 I had at any given time before. So on a per fly basis I've definitely saved money, and found myself much better equipped. 

This is not meant to discount fly tying for the sake of art - I understand that's a major part of the appeal for a lot of people. This is just meant as proof that you can indeed tie flies on a budget and that you don't always need a huge variety of patterns. 

My style of fly tying may not be ideal for the most technical fishing, but I've found it very successful for most of the places I fish. It's not for everyone, but it's a great way to tie if you just want to keep yourself well-equipped so you can focus on fishing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Thinking About Mountains

A White Mountain remote pond.
Lately I've been craving a trip to the mountains. While I've had a lot of great fishing this winter/spring, it's mostly been in places like Eastern MA and Wisconsin. While I can't complain about the fishing, those places are pretty flat. There's something special about hills and mountains that I can't quite describe, but which is always obvious when fishing in those places.

Somewhere in the Berkshires...

Luckily it should be less than a month before I can head for the hills and fish. I'll probably start in the Berkshires, on a small stream in the Deerfield Watershed. As we move into June and the water gets warmer, I'll head up to the White Mountains. I can't wait to make a return to the remote pond I visited last year around this time, especially since it could be a long time before I get back there once I move to Wisconsin. There's also something special about White Mountain streams. The fish tend to be a little smaller than in MA, but they exist in great numbers in nearly every stream. You almost never run into another angler, but if you do, there's always another stream just a couple of minutes away.

A remote pond brook trout.
If all goes according to plan, this blog should be plastered with pictures of trout and mountain views. Unfortunately time can only move so fast!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My First Carp

Earlier this week I caught my first carp. I went to the river looking for smallmouth, and I caught one right off the bat in my usual spot.

I moved up the shoreline a few feet and slowly worked my streamer along the bottom. About 15 feet from shore I felt a tug and pulled up, but felt an enormous weight on the other end. The fish immediately went on a run, sending my reel spinning out of control. I had some heavy mono from a spinning rod on as tippet, so I was able to get control of the fish. For 5 minutes he fought, allowing me to get him close, only to flick his tail and make a run back towards deeper water. When I finally got him in I was disappointed he wasn't a huge smallmouth, but happy to have caught my first carp and one of my biggest fish of all time.

I got one more smallmouth as the sunset before turning for home.

To keep with the theme of my last few posts, here are some more flowers I saw this week:

Rue Anemone
Sharp-lobed Hepatica
Not quite sure what this is, but I think it's a wild plum or cherry (Prunus).

Friday, April 15, 2016


Here's another video from my trip to fish for salters with Geoff back in March.

I'm finding that video can capture the colors of a trout in a way a picture can't. I think it's the way the light is reflected/refracted by the water, causing certain colors to come through only at certain angles. With video, the camera and/or fish moves enough to show everything.

We're planning to make more videos starting when I get back to MA in late May, this time in some new locations. Small streams in the Deerfield watershed and remote ponds in the White Mountains are two of our priorities, but hopefully we'll get some other spots mixed in as well.

Massachusetts Sea Run Salter Brook Trout
A still of one of the prettiest brookies in the video.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

More Flowers and Bass

On Sunday I was able to get down to the river and catch a few more Smallies. The weather has been weird here lately - after a somewhat warm winter, the spring has actually been pretty cold. While the warmer winter seems to have gotten the bass active a little earlier than usual, they are only really biting on warmer days, so I've had to pick my days wisely.

Luckily Sunday was one such warm day, so I decided to give it a shot. I first checked on the flowers I saw the last time I was here. They were still there, only now instead of one flower there were clumps of popping up everywhere. Even though it hasn't been as cold this winter, it's still a relief to see things popping up.

After checking on the flowers I went down to my usual spot where the storm drain enters. I made a cast to the moving water, let it sink, and like clockwork felt a tug on the other end. I forgot how fun it is to catch something that really fights.

I moved to a different spot and began casting out into the main current. At one point my line stopped and I thoguht I had a snag, but when I pulled up I found a fish on the other end. This one was a bit smaller, so I let it go without a picture.

I didn't get any more bites after that, but the two fish I caught were a nice change of pace.