Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A Three Day Weekend in the Fishing Doldrums
Day 1: kids fishing only. LMB and sunnies. I broke down and outfitted these boys with spinning rods. Given the “automatic” nature of these rigs, James is able to stand alone, cast, retrieve, catch fish. He’s becoming deeply intrigued with the various fish, how big they get, what they eat, etc. I stand about 20 feet away and watch him, occasionally casting a little jig out for Danny and then handing him the rod. It is highly enjoyable to watch the rod tip dip and see a face light up. One of my multiple gripes regarding spinning gear though is the size of the hooks that are typically available: too big. And the barbs are huge. For a kid, you want a hook that can easily fit in a sunfish mouth. That was why these guys enjoyed flipping little BH nymphs over the past few years: any fish can eat them. With these jigs though, the fish pound away at the #6 hook but can’t ingest it. Anyway: thinking I’ll make some droppers using little BHs. That should be deadly. James caught a 10” LMB on the first cast he made with his new rod. Proceeded to catch three more from this pond. Ended the day taking a night tour of Whitewater State Park.

Day 2: fishing solo. Every July and August I’m reminded that these months can be worse than winter. Hotter than hell. Thick vegetation everywhere. No good bugs coming off. Sure you can make it work. But it’s still the doldrums around here, when compared to every other month of the year. I can honestly say that January 2011 was better trout fishing than what I got on Sunday. It was fine. Fish were where you’d expect to find them. Figure I landed maybe 14-15 nice BNT. I take it back it was slightly better than fine. It was indeed a Sunday and I never saw another person. Blue ribbon water and not a person in sight. I take it back I did run into a family right as I pulled up: the young son was lining his fly rod. They said their goal was to get him into fish on flies. They had hopper patterns but no nymphs so I gave them a selection. Twenty inches of tippet I said, but they had no tippet. I told them to cut a piece of mono from one of their spinning rigs. Such mono could only hope for such a valiant application I thought to myself but did not share out loud. But after that: no one. Walked downstream and quickly realized that was garbage. In July you need to be in the water. For three reasons: stay cool, make it possible to actually move your feet forward without wrapping yourself up in vegetation, and keep yourself from finding the next day myriad welts and itches from what I refer to generally as “chiggers.” A common school of thought is “stay out of the stream” so you don’t spook the fish. That’s well and good but abandoned by me in hot summer months. In the water is good. Turned around and headed upstream. I was hoping for hopper action. Tried it. Kept nervously switching between terrestrials and nymphs. Tried some standard dry flies. Nothing going until maybe 9 AM. Two nice browns erupted on a black hopper pattern tied by WFF. Assassination attempts. Completely out of the water. The rest of the day was standard stuff: nymphs and streamers in good water produced fish. I took a creel of perfect-for-frying-pan BNT: limit of five. The only other notable fish was one that came from the highly desirable slot marked by the red dot below. I walked past this water and noted it: not deep, but a great grass overhang. You figure a fish wants to feel safe; it can do so by going deep in a pool, or by getting under something. This water was maybe 8-9 inches deep. But on my way out I stopped and put one cast of a tandem rig at the top of that little riffle and before I could even track anything a BNT of maybe 12-13 inches cleared the water straight up 4 feet airborne in agitated fashion. Geez. Nice. So maybe not the worst day afterall.

Day 3: James fishing only while Danny and I swam in the pond. He was wet-wading up to his waist, and tirelessly casting a little jig and twister tail. Caught a LMB and sunfish. I offered to help him remove the hook from the LMB, and he said calmly: I don’t need any help. I already know everything about fishing. Hehe. Well that’s that. He’s clearly into it and I think the spinning gear was a good move. Promotes independence and allows a kid to go at his own rate. He wants to go fishing tonight.

Some carp were looked in on over the weekend, by me solo and one morning with James. He forgot his shoes, so he did a little carping in socks for 2.5 hours. It was the typical MN carping garbage: sweat our asses off hoping and praying that we’ll find some fish. Plowing through weeds and tripping on rocks. Finding just enough activity to keep us plowing. Getting one shot a feeding fish from 30 feet away and not hooking up. The carp bar is near the ceiling now, and MN carping is on the floor. I can barely bring myself to do it at this point. I think a guy in SE MN should just trout fish. Then head out a couple times a year for banner carping. The only thing that keeps me moderately interested is the possibility of a 20 lb Mississippi River carp. That would further elevate the Great Lakes / Columbia / Miss triad. I saw one too and put flies on it but I knew in advance it would not eat. Logged one redhorse.

July. August. Doldrums. We need something dynamic here, like James getting a big LMB or maybe a trout. Or a 20 lb carp. Etc. The need is there. Probably no more trout fishing until an early morning trico session comes along.


Blogger winonaflyfactory said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:05 PM  
Blogger winonaflyfactory said...

I feel you man, I also abandon the "out of the water" approach under these conditions. Glad the hoppers brought fish to hand, love seeing them charge from below.

I've had several times this season where I sunk a cast at the head of a riffle and before I could blink a fish was moving on it. Lost quite a few because I wasn't expecting the take.

Love seeing James get on fish, the line about knowing it all is hilarious. I bet that put a big grin on your face. He said it probably not thinking much about what it is to know "everything" about anything. Being a kid, what a cool time in a life.

Bummer about the carp. I wish it was even in the middle rather than the floor around here. Mississippi carp hunting will commence in the next week as soon as I get things around here taken care of, need to get back out in the boat and hunt for anything remotly clear and shallow.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Johnmet said...

Hi Wendy,
Thanks for the interesting reading and great pictures. I am longing for some low clear water on the next watershed to the west, the Straight River just SE of Faribault. I hope it comes before duck hunting season!
Best regards,

7:20 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Good notes folks - thanks.

WFF: I'm interested in carp exploration. Let me know if can team on that. The MN carp scene needs a bump. Once one's been to Nirvana, all else will taste like dry cotton.

Johnmet: my take is that you will get your desirable flow conditions there in the Straight. Good luck and enjoy that area: cool place. I floated a good stretch of it last year.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

RE: Too Big of Jigs

Have you looked in to micro jigs for your boys to fish with? Very similar in size to bead head nymphs.

I've been using them for years for ultra light fishing for trout and panfish (love me some panfish!).

I usually use 1/100th to 1/64th oz jigs, fished under Thill's Shy Bite type floats (very sensitive, easy to use).

The 1/100th jigs normally come on something like a size 14 hook, and the 1/64th are usually on a #10 or #8 hook - just about any sunfish can eat one of those.

You can tie up your favorite trout flies, get creative and make wild, brightly colored flies, or just stick to micro-size soft plastic bodies. One of my favorite micro jigs is the "Trout Magnet" from Leland's Lures (get 'em at Wal Mart or online) - they're a super simple split tail grub about half an inch long, on a 1/64th oz shad-dart type jig. You wouldn't think they'd be much of a fish catcher - but last year since I discovered them, I've caught 8 species of fish on them (including trout, of course) - and I'm sure I could get more, if I was fishing the right locales. I usually rig them in pairs - tying the droppers eye to eye. I use different colored bodies - but white is by far my most effective. I switch between fishing these under a float, or simply cast & retrieve (very deadly retrieve is as slow a crawl as you can accomplish, with the occasional rod twitch in the mix for good measure).

I get the plain unfinished micro jigs from Cabela's or my local fly shops - the Trout Magnets I started out buying at Wal Mart - but then went to their on-line store and found lower prices & higher quantities.

Those jigs are deadly on pannies and bass (both large and smallmouth).

I envy you - my boy is only 4 months old - so he's got a little while before he can hold a rod & reel - but his grand dad already bought him one, as did a friend of mine (heh, he's only 4 months and already has 2 fishing rods) - plus I plan on building him a nice rod by the time he starts fishing. Kid is going to be spoiled in tackle...

Good luck with the little jigs. You can email me if you need more info, or have some questions on them.

3:06 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Very useful info Mark - thanks for taking the time to provide it all. And your son has two fishing rods at age 0.33. Pretty good thing there.

I'll look into the micro jigs and report back.

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