Wednesday, August 27, 2008

BWCA 2008

Just back from a little ditty in the BWCA. Here are some notes, in no particular order, followed by some pics – also in no particular order:

(1) Said over and again throughout this trip by more than one camper: wow, what a difference a few weeks can make. For many years now the trip has been in early September. This year we attended in mid-August. The calendar change exposed us a bit as one-trick ponies I think. We applied the same fishing methods in the same places and caught fewer fish. Don’t get me wrong – there was enough action to keep a guy interested and supply food… but it wasn’t hot and heavy, and each fish required more work and time. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call the fishing slow. Water temps were higher. Our “fish the first and last” required an adjustment (due to longer days) that we didn’t really make. The big fish were not to be found – likely in deeper water... Last year we had a legitimate party-wide total of ~30 smallies >= 17 inches… This year we had one. The fewer fish were compensated for by way of more mosquitoes though… so it worked out (HA!). We wore headnets each night. Not used to that either.

(2) Bear came to camp a few nights. On the first, he was greeted by banging and yelling supplied by a couple guys in camp. The next night, we heard him down the shore at another camp… being berated by a worried camper. It wore on into the night – clearly a case of the solution to a problem becoming much more annoying than the problem itself. This guy was yelling at the top of his volume for an hour… and you know how sound travels across water. Amid the rambling, these snippets were heard: “Okay bear, here come the ROCKS!” and “Show me your face – show me your FACE!” Eventually the guy quieted down around 330-400 AM. I imagine the bear got a good chuckle and was reluctant to leave such an entertaining figure. The next night he was back in our camp. I overheard one of our guys approach the bear and say, in a relatively quiet but firm voice, “Go on and get out of here now bear. Go on – GIT.” The bear proceeded to exit the joint, thus suggesting that maybe conviction is better understood by a bear than is volume. This same sequence occurred on a later night.

(3) We were fined by the USFS for splitting our party into two groups and entering on different days. They mean to allow only a certain number of entries per point, per day. Our approach fouled that system, and for that we paid $125. Lesson learned. It was somewhat intriguing to be “boarded” by an official canoe crew and interrogated there in the land of the rock and water.

(4) We encountered some interesting weather toward the end of the trip. Joe and were caught out in a minor lightning storm… rather than paddle back we chucked the canoe in the woods and walked across a little peninsula to camp – that was a good little bit of adventure that featured high winds and sudden bursts of rain. On the way out, we were dead on into high teens or maybe even 20 mph winds from the west. Joe did a heck of a job keeping us pointed right into the teeth of that bit. We never were in danger of coming broadside to the wind.

(5) The popper fishing was down somewhat, presumably due to higher water temps and longer days. Still got a fair number on the top, but many more casts required. Joe got a few pike to eat a Hula Popper.

(6) There was one little “milk run” that was somewhat akin to last year’s – but it was down a magnitude with respect to quality. One morning I picked up six smallies and one LMB on clousers in a period of ~45 minutes – all from the same dropoff. That was the best action of the trip for me. They were all ~12-15”, as opposed to 15-18” last year.

(7) I threw around big pike streamers with fair dedication, but caught only three small hammer handle pike. Toward the end of the trip I was trying to round up some smallies in deeper water – fishing a full sink line and a SE MN brand muddler minnow #8 (the goal was to get the body of the line and thus the retrieve down deep while floating a fly up a bit) when I came up with two walleyes and two pike from a nice rocky drop. Ironic that the best pike (still not what you’d call “BIG”) came with no steel leader, and ate a trout fly.

(8) Three other guys applied fly fishing technique on this trip. Numerous fish were caught on the fly by multiple individuals. Pretty cool. I very much enjoyed watching those successes. I got a great vid of Joe catching his first bass on the fly.

Another one in the books. Thanks to the Director for being the Director and setting everything up. It’s no small planning effort. Thanks to each paddler for making a good trip. See you next year.

Here’s a quick photo journal (maybe I’ll add some more later):

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The drab, but effective basics - all heavily weighted with underwrap and conehead or DB eyes:

Last year the clouser was highly effective. See the milk run 2007 report. I lost seven clousers in a period of 1-2 hours I think... so this year, I'm bringing no fewer than 1.5 dozen - aka 18 - clouser minnows. All on tough hooks, finished with Gorilla Glue. A few include some interesting variation - including rattles tied in... and this "clickety" deal here - copyright Tim Holschlag's book.

I smell a RAT... a yellow and orange highlighted RAT ready to have his ass eaten by Micropterus dolomieu!

Between BWCA prep and the carp swap I've probably tied 50 flies in the past 10 days... still need to pound out more.
Mini Carp Swap Results

Carp Carrot in Alt Color Scheme, John Montana:

Rubber Legged Hares Ear, John Montana:

Swimming Clouser Nymph Variant, John Montana:

Golden Ghost, JP:

X Factor Nymph, JP:

San Juan Worm, Armored Car Version, JP:

Red Spider, Mr. P:

Zebra Hair, Mr. P:

Carp Carrot, Mr. P:

San Juan Worm Variant, Wendy Berrell:

Swimming Clouser Nymph Variant, Wendy Berrell:

Legion of Doom, Wendy Berrell:

Great bunch of flies. Thanks Mr. P, John Montana and JP for sharing some great patterns. Course, I did a little extra tying to create a true Legion of Doom to stock my own box:

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Hunt

Went looking for some truly big carp recently. It required a bit of paddling, which was highly enjoyable. Driving through the countryside and skimming along some of our local water, I saw countless people out there “recreating” themselves I guess you’d say… that is, tubing, boating, floating, running, biking, wading, skiing, fishing, wishing, hoping, etc. Great to see some folks out and about. As we struggle to maintain the quality of our water resources, it’s important to observe folks interacting with them.

Anyway, when I walked up on the water, I could tell directly that I wasn’t going to get into any big carp. I knew it was a dice-roll, so I wasn’t too disappointed. I was still stalking around in an interesting place, with a lot of “other” fish around. I think that the deal was that it was really bright and warm, and the big carpies were out in deeper water… I saw them jump out there, and I also caught fleeting glimpses of cruising fish, just on the edge of my sphere of vision. For another day, I thought… and I then commenced to mix it up a bit. A few interesting notes, in disjointed fashion and in no particular order:

(1) For about an hour or so I was reveling in the belief that I had a muskie chase my carp fly. That was pretty cool. A long, sleek and silver arrow followed the hi-tail craw into the shallows and even gave a little burst or two toward it… No take though. I would later find evidence to suggest that the fish was in fact a northern pike (I saw it from a distance).
(2) I put on steel leader bit and cast a homemade diver around… that was fun. On the first cast, something came in from the side, right along shore and rolled on it pretty hard… but I don’t think the fly ever got in the fish’s mouth. I was not able to discern just what it was – sure it was either pike/smallie though… outside chance it was a muskie.
(3) I found some stationary fish – meaning dead still – sitting on the bottom. First was a pair of carp – the only chance I’d have all day at them. One was big… really big I mean. Could have been 20 lbs. With her was a smaller fish – probably low double digits. I stalked up to them – got within 10 feet… was doing everything right… put the hi-tail craw on the biggie and she ignored it… jigged it… she ignored it. Switched to the mega SJW… she ignored it and then finally spooked. Some good heart-pounding went on during that little affair. It would have been an absolutely perfect location to let her just run and run… too bad. When they don’t want to eat, they don’t eat.
(4) Kept that SJW on and fed it to a white sucker. That fish did eat it… No real drama there - came in slow and heavy like a stick I guess. 100% sure it was right in the mouth though, which doesn’t happen too often with suckers when sight fishing it seems.
(5) Just as I was landing this sucker, a teenager came along with a harem of bikin-clad folk. He told me he has “shot a lot of carp here” with his bow. I figured I’d call him on it… so I asked him if he’d ever weighed any of them. He said he’d scaled one at 41 lbs. He also “guaranteed” me that there is an 80 lb carp in this particular water. Huh.
(6) Sight fishing to a quillback (damn near impossible to get one – I’ve only ever blind-nymphed them in current) a pike (I was hoping it was a muskie) came in and chased that quill out of there… with some gusto in fact. I responded by picking up and laying the hi-tail craw in front of the pike… who commenced to eat it. I had no steel on so I figured a quick hookset was in order… lipping worked out okay and a few minutes later my first true sight-fished pike was on the bank. Pretty cool. I’ve caught a number of them with flies, but until yesterday they were all blind-fished.
(7) I left early to do a little exploring. At one location, I was eyeing some carp, getting ready to cast… when I caught sight of an interesting silhouette in a deep pool. Stared intently for a while, and began to realize that I was in the presence of a venerable predator: a pike or muskie that was absolutely between 15-20 lbs. Very long fish. I left the carp and ran back to the car to put on some steel… thinking that this was a pretty rare opp. I swung some big streamers through there for a while and got no action (I’d lost sight of the fish at that point)… and after a while I jigged the streamer by the log that was right at my feet… and found that the fish had moved up toward me and had been laying in the cut right under that log… pretty funny. She kind of spooked then, so I left her alone. Put the craw back on and looked for the carp, but they were gone. On my way out, I saw her again though – in the same pool. Too much to change to steel, so I jigged the draw in front of her…. Thinking I could take a chance. Not interested though. She faded into the gray of the pool and I drove home.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Four Year Old with a Backcast

Some items of note here:
(1) On taking out his custom made fly rod for the first time in a while, JD immediately walked to the edge of the dock, flipped the line behind him and laid out a cast on the water. Wow. Note that in the first pic below you can see the rod coming forward and the line in a loop above his head. I had to warn several people to avoid standing behind us... hehe.
(2) On several occasions, while fishing, JD offered commentary regarding whether or not the fish had eaten the fly (we could see plainly all the fish around the fly).
(3) At one point he said "Oh - there's a big one Dad," and he picked the line up off the water, walked to another spot on the dock and flipped a cast at a big LMB! Nice!
(4) I'll never understand why parents so often give kids worms on giant hooks or big ol' beetle spins to fish for panfish. The sunnies cannot physically place those hooks in their mouths. JD walked up to the crowd on the dock with a #18 beadhead nymph and immediately banked several fish... to the astonishment of the kids who were trying to stuff dictionaries in pea-sized fish mouths. I cut a jig off one kid's line and gave him a nymph - he caught three sunnies in the next five minutes. Happy kid.
(5) I'm experiencing micro-management-dad syndrome lately... and it worked its way into our outing here. James had 1000 hits on the nymph today. He probably fought ~15 fish, but I had to hook ~10 of them for him... We'd sit and watch the fish destroy the fly, one after another... and I say "lift up the rod J" over and over... and he stares blankly at the situation in the water. The only fish he hooked himself were those that happened to swim away with the fly in mouth. So the dilemma is that I see the pure joy on his face when he feels that sweet hookup and resistance... so I want him to be able to do that for himself... but I feel like a jackass when I sit there on his shoulder saying over and over "lift up the rod J" and "OH - pick up the rod man!" etc. Funny thing is that he has explained to me and others on many occasions how fishing works: you cast the fly into the water, and wait for the fish to eat it, and then you pick up the rod! Anyway... kind of a funny little thing. The kid isn't even four yet... geez. I've just been trying to decide the right thing to do in those spots... I think I'm leaning toward letting him work his way to hooking up by himself.
(6) Little Brother really loved seeing those fish. He was literally cackling each time JD showed him one. Pretty cool.