Photo of the Month: Bycatch

Showing posts with label Streamer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Streamer. Show all posts

Friday, January 06, 2017

New Year, New Fish

My goal for 2017 from a fishing perspective is to get out on the water a lot more. With 180 days on the water for 2016, that is a lofty goal. That is especially true because, as much as I love fishing, there are other things I truly enjoy that call for dedicated time as well. Things like hiking, climbing, and photography all compete to take up my time. So, with big goals for 2017, I knew I had to get an early jump. After fishing for the first four days of the new year, I would say I'm off to a good start.

The highlight of the young year happened no more than five minutes into my fishing for the year. I'm not sure whether that is a good sign or a bad one. Occurrences like that have been known to throw one's luck either way, so only time will tell if it is a good omen. The story of my first fish of 2017 actually goes back a ways.

There is a New Years Day gathering that I had been hoping to attend for a while. It is not an official group putting on the event, but that is probably part of the charm. Bigsur had been doing this for the last four years and the plan was bigger and better than ever for year five. While my plan involved a lot of fishing and less socializing, I still wanted to drop in on what is really a terrific event.

I made it up to the meeting place at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area right about the time that all the preparations were completed. Food was ready and the crowd was ready for fun and fellowship. I saw a lot of friends that I've made over the years. Still, the plan was to fish, and by the time my buddy Jayson showed up, I was throwing on waders and rigging rods.

One thing I had noticed while prowling around the gathering was a fancy award plaque made by the famous Duckypaddler. Imagining how it would look above my tying desk, I started dreaming of big brown trout on the end of my line.

As I was rigging up, I put together a normal nymphing setup on my five weight Orvis Helios rod and was debating what to do with the seven weight. I noticed some random tin boxes and decided to see what goodies they were holding. My smallmouth bass flies of course! A Tequeely jumped right out and asserted itself so I tied it on the streamer rod and was ready to go.

Down on the stream, I intended to fish one particular hole before driving further up river to search for more fish. I made a cast or two in the back of the hole before hurrying up to the head. My goal was a serious of textbook perfect ambush points on the far bank. In other words, I was hitting prime brown trout water. I wish I could say I was a genius who knew that these trout love Tequeely flies, or that I knew that this brown trout was sitting right behind the bedrock ledge, but in all honesty, I just got lucky. I waded in, slapped a few casts across the river, bounced the fly around a little, and a big brown blur hammered the fly.

On the seven weight rod with 2x fluorocarbon tippet, the fight wasn't much, but I was just as glad to get that fish in the net in a hurry. Nice brown trout don't come along every day in the Smokies, and I'm not sure my nerves would have been happy fighting the fish for an extended amount of time.



I quickly setup my cellphone for a self timer picture by leaning it against the base of a tree on the bank. The fish calmly finned in my big Brodin Coho Ghost Net in between the two shots I took to make certain of a good picture. Then I took one or two in my hand in the water and it was already time to say good bye. A new year and a new fish had only taken five or ten minutes. Either I used up a TON of dumb luck way too early in the year, or I was simply meant to wear the famous Herb's Welding Shop Hat. That link includes pictures of this famous trophy by the way among other things...

I got even more suspicious about the implications for my luck after I only caught one other fish the entire rest of the day, but perhaps I'm too suspicious. The good news is that I fished again in the Smokies on Tuesday and caught some trout, so clearly there is still some good luck left. In fact, if one can believe Bigsur, winning this award guarantees all kinds of good luck in the new year. I hope he is right because a fisherman can always use a little more good luck!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January Brook Trout


As the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016, I began to think about fishing goals for the new year. I'm not a resolution kind of a guy because why wait until the calendar changes to get things on track? However, from a fishing perspective, it is easy to get stuck in a rut and keep doing the same thing each time I get out on the water. With that in mind, I've set a goal to catch a brook trout each month of the year. Originally I even contemplated doing it using dry flies only or maybe Tenkara, but for now those ideas are on hold.

Still, when I decided to head up to the mountains this past Sunday, I knew the early morning hours would be spent chasing brown trout. After having such a good day the previous Sunday, I figured it was too good an opportunity to ignore. I still had that monster to track down and land. For some reason that fish was nowhere to be seen. After doing a lot of scouting and a little bit of casting, all I had to show for it was 3-4 half hearted chases and one fired up fish that couldn't find the hook. The time had come to move on to plan B.

Before heading to one of my favorite brook trout streams, I rolled into Townsend to warm up and chat with the guys at Little River Outfitters. A short stop turned into a longer one as the nice warm shop was hard to leave. I knew that I might not get back to the mountains much again in January though so I eventually forced myself back out into the cold to go find those brook trout.

When I lived in Colorado, winter time streamer fishing on Boulder Creek right in the middle of the town of Boulder was one of my favorite things to do. I could get out for an hour or two, walk the ice along the banks, and maybe even catch a trout or two. Often I would be surprised by nice brook trout that hammered the streamer so I knew that they loved streamers. If you know me this is probably shocking information, but I actually have not fished streamers for brook trout in the Smokies, until this past Sunday that is.

As it turns out, the native brook trout of the Smokies like streamers as well although water temperatures in 30s meant that the hits were few and far between. I did get this beautiful fish on just the second or third cast which meant I could relax the rest of the time and not worry as much about catching trout.


Able to enjoy myself, I spent more time looking around than fishing after catching that trout. My camera provided another avenue of enjoyment. Here are a few of the stream shots. Notice the dusting of snow on this cold January day.




Monday, January 04, 2016

When in Yellowstone, Fish...the Yellowstone: Yellowstone Day 5

Yellowstone River above Tower Falls

How many times can you squeeze "Yellowstone" into a post title? Apparently at least three times. Never limit yourself when greatness awaits. If you can't tell, my creative side is getting close to being shot it seems. Nothing that reliving a trip to Yellowstone can't fix (or maybe worsen, I'm not sure which). Either way, looking back over the pictures from day five refreshed my memory fabulously and I'm excited all over again for what transpired on that day of fishing the Yellowstone River.

The discussion on where to fish had began a day earlier, well after dark when we got back to camp from a long but good day in the Lamar Valley fishing Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar Rivers. My buddy Kevin only had two full days available to fish before heading on to fly fishing guide school and we had already used one. That meant the pressure was on to select a winner for the day's fishing.

Having fished the Yellowstone River on my last several trips out there, I knew what it was capable of. In fact, one of the most memorable days I've been a part of fly fishing wise in Yellowstone happened on that river. Anyway, it always has the potential to produce a quality day of fishing, and in fact, I can't say I've ever had a bad day of fishing on the Yellowstone. Since it was Kevin's first trip, he ultimately deferred to me in the decisions on where to fish so there was a bit of pressure to say the least.

For this day, I knew my stream-side breakfast tradition was in jeopardy. There are few places where you can drive to the Yellowstone in the canyon reaches we hoped to fish. Somehow, eating breakfast in a dry parking lot with a flood of tourists surging past didn't appeal, but something was tickling my memory. That great big breakfast from my first full day in the Park had been delicious, and as we were already driving right past Canyon, why not stop in for round two? Convincing Kevin was not too hard at all and we left in time to be there right as they opened. With a good breakfast behind us, we were ready to hit the water of the mighty Yellowstone River.

Hiking down from the shortest access at Tower Falls, I carried two rods. One was rigged with the hopper/dropper rig that had done so well on the Lamar Valley waters while the other was my 7 weight complete with full sinking line. In other words, I was ready to fish streamers. Tied on the end was my favorite, the PB&J.

At the bottom of the trail is a huge boulder in the edge of the Yellowstone's flow. I just had to fish there as I do most trips down into the canyon. While normally I'm smart enough to make the long and slightly dangerous hike upstream, trudging up and down slopes along trails belonging as much to the deer, elk, bison, and bears as to humans, this time we had people fishing ahead of us and had no idea how far they had hiked. Might as well enjoy the water close at hand since no one was on it.

Yellowstone cutthroat that hit a PB&J streamer

I had a solid swipe on the first cast and shortly thereafter teased the nice cutthroat back out from under the rock and onto my fly. A quick picture and I tossed the fish back to catch again another year on another trip. We moved upstream to a long deep run just upstream and started working streamers hard. Flashes, taps, and the occasional tug kept us going for longer than I normally would fish one spot. In fact, in all honesty, I believe we could have stayed in that one spot the rest of the day, but the urge to roam was strong and we kept pushing upstream.

Only once did we need to leapfrog around other anglers. The main group of competition apparently had booked on up the river to where I normally fish, leaving us the easier to access water down low. Turns out that wasn't a bad thing. We found more fat cutthroat than is fair for two anglers to catch in one day.

Yellowstone Cutthroat trout

We soon arrived upstream at a large pool that I remembered well from past trips. The one thing lacking from my recollections were any particularly great stories about fishing there. That would change on this trip. I had been working up through some pockets and told Kevin to head on up and fish that hole. When I moved up, I found him absolutely certain that a large cutthroat had taken at least a couple of swipes at his flies. A high bank loomed over the hole and provided the perfect spot for me to spot from. When I got up there, I started to get a little giddy, because sure enough, there were large cutthroat chasing his fly on most casts.

I've been fishing long enough to know many of my shortcomings as a fishermen, and one of those is that I tend to start seeing things by the end of a long day on the water, but these shadows were too well defined to be imagination. Deep bright red along the flanks suggested that at least some of the fish could have rainbow ancestry mixed in, but I've also caught enough large cutthroat to know they can be brilliant red as well so who knows.

Fly Fishing the Yellowstone River

Yes, who knows, because while some true giants that I'm convinced were in the 25 inch range showed, the best landed was in the 18-19 inch range. That said, both of us were ecstatic at the fish that were caught. I do my best to not complain about the catching. Complaints can affect your fishing mojo negatively.

What I can say is that I'm sure both of us will fish that same pool again the next time either one of us is out in Yellowstone. Best of all, we both know what fly they seemed to really appreciate. Notice I'm not telling here, but for the record, it is a fairly common streamer pattern you should find at just about any normal fly shop.

The rest of that day was anticlimactic. There were plenty more fish to be caught after this epic pool including some nice ones on the hopper setup. A few hit the hopper, while a good number hit the nymph that was trailing underneath. Eventually I set the hopper rod down and went back to streamers because the hopper rod was almost too easy. We didn't fish as late as sometimes, probably because we were both beyond satisfied.

The memories of those big fish though kept us pondering and both of us were ready to get up early and head back to the Yellowstone if it wasn't for Kevin's need to depart the next morning. I had some vague plans to sight see and enjoy the scenery the next day. Even though the sun set early at that time of year, both of us were tired enough to enjoy a good supper and a bit of conversation before turning in to our respective tents for the night.

Just before dark, the sunset lit up the meadow that was my usual early or late day fishing spot whenever I was in camp. The rich glow painted the perfect end of day picture as the moon rose to the east until, moments later, the sunset itself was worth a shot.

Junction of the Gibbon River and Solfatara Creek at Norris Campground

Sunset along Solfatara Creek at Norris


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Tossing Streamers


When David Perry texted me last week about the possibility of a streamer float, I made sure to clear my schedule.  A day on the river throwing streamers is tough to turn down.  The flows on the Caney have been a bit erratic lately but drifting and throwing flies is better than sitting at home.  A 9:00 a.m. start was a welcome change from some of the early mornings I have to put in for fishing over in the Smokies.

After meeting at the ramp and dumping his boat, we were soon experimenting.  On a guides' day off, lots of experiments go on.  This is part of what helps a good guide keep things dialed in as well as scratch the curiosity itch.  Some deep nymphing was attempted but for the most part we stayed with the streamer game.

I had several early drive by swings from fish who weren't interested in a second look, but after switching rowers a few times, neither of us had yet connected.  Finally, a good half way through the float, we got to the one bank I had been looking forward to fishing.  I had on a new rig that someone showed me earlier this year that has a ton of potential.  It uses a tippet ring to set up a two streamer rig with a larger streamer chasing a smaller one.

Sure enough, after just a few moments on this bank, a beautiful rainbow clobbered the larger of the two flies.  After a quick picture, I dutifully offered to take my turn rowing.  On slow days, it is usually reasonable to switch after just one fish.  David P. generously offered to row a little bit longer, and I didn't take time to argue!

Photograph by David Perry

Just a few feet more down the bank, I made a perfect cast to the bankside water, let the sinking line get down for a couple of seconds, and then started the retrieve.  On the second strip the line came tight and with the flash I knew it was a nicer fish.  With a 7 weight it would seem like you could horse one of these in a little faster, but this fish bulldogged like the brown trout that it was.  Each time I got it close to the net, it managed to get its head back down and take off again.  Finally, we got it in the net, and I noticed it had taken the smaller of the two flies.  Maybe it thought it was racing the other streamer to the food.  Whatever the reason, the two streamer rig had worked to perfection, and I was happy.


Naturally, when I again offered to row, David P. quickly accepted.  In fact I think he would have tossed me out of the boat if I didn't row after getting such a nice fish.  Over the rest of the float, he boated a good number of fish including a beautiful brookie and a 16 inch brown right near the takeout.  We never did see that monster we were looking for, but that's streamer fishing for you.  I'll happily take the quality fish we did find any day.



If you are interested in a day of streamer fishing, the river is dropping into the sweet spot and should provide great streamer action through the colder months.  Just give me a call or drop me an email at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com to set up a trip!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Golden Ribbon

Walking around a small lake on a farm just to try and discover something that will give me an edge as a fisherman is standard practice.  Thus it was not unusual when I met my friend Tyler at the lake that I asked if he wanted to head down the shoreline "at least a ways."  The sun was high, the sky clear, and the fish seemed to have headed out to deeper water.  Still, you never know when you might find a bass right up on the bank, and based on the boils and wakes we saw every once in a while, there were some decent ones.  If only they were less spooky...

By the time we had nearly circled the lake, stared down a few menacing bulls, and incidentally chased some cows off, the sun was getting low in the western sky and panfish were beginning to rise to the midge hatch that really gets cranking near sunset each day.  Here and there, the dimple of a rise form would break the surface.  I had caught two fish up to this point, one small bass and one crappie, but was hoping for that evening magic to set in.  Little did I know.

Just as the sun was sitting on top of the horizon, I noticed a swirl or two.  The gentle breeze had ended with the setting sun and the water looked like glass.  Sky and cow pasture met the water in one continuous scene as the reflections were now almost perfect.  Then I saw it, nervous water.

To a bass fisherman, there may be nothing as exciting as schooling baitfish.  The boils appeared slowly here and there, until I had probably six or seven good balls of baitfish in front of me with at least three within casting range.  Then it happened.  The nearest ball had an eruption as something attacked from below.  By the size of the splash it was a large bass.  Before long, bass were attacking each of the bait schools.  The incredible part is that these baitfish were bluegill and crappie.  Those were some big bass.  Of course, this is the same pond where I saw a bass come nail a 9 inch crappie off of a bed so there are some nice fish around.

Without knowing what else to do, I just tossed the same Clouser out that I had been using the whole afternoon.  My plan of attack was to cast either into or just beyond the bait balls and let the fly sink below it before beginning the retrieve.  In theory, any bass cruising a little deeper would notice my fly first.  And it worked.

Two quick bass in a row suggested I had picked a good technique.  I started feeling just a little selfish because my buddy was still fishing a little cove that has great potential, but I knew that the action in front of me was the best we would see that evening.  I whistled until I had his attention and waved him over.  Back to fishing, now with a clear conscience, I caught some more.

By the time he had arrived, the bait had moved off towards deeper water, probably following the hatch.  Huge midges were coming off and the bluegill were responding like it was their last meal.  For some it was.  By now the largest bass in the pond had moved in.  Some of the explosions were so big I wondered if my 5 weight would even have a chance. Promising myself to bring the 7 weight next time, I did what I could which was to keep fishing.

As darkness approached, we finally each took that last cast and headed out.  Walking through a pasture full of snakes and fresh cow pies in the dark sounds like the makings of a horror movie and we wanted enough light to make the short walk up the highway without getting hit.

That night, I lay awake going over the scenario again and again.  What else could I do to hook those big bass?  The next day I tied up a couple of different flies.  One was a Diamond Hair Minnow that I had done well on for bass recently on another lake.  The other was my PB&J but with lighter hourglass eyes.  I didn't want it sinking too deep.

By the time the next evening rolled around, I was armed and ready.  Bring on the big fish!  I got to the small lake and everything seemed ready for a repeat performance.  The only difference being that the wind didn't completely lay down this evening, but the baitfish were there chasing the midges.  Larger bluegill and crappie were cruising leaving their dimpled rises around the lake.  Occasionally, a boil would suggest some bass were out hunting, but where were the big ones?  

Like most big fish, it appeared that this was a one shot deal.  The first day was the day to catch a monster, and I had blown it.  Of course, it was early and the trip could still go either way.  I walked down the shoreline and spooked some nice bass.  One of them was big, but it wasn't out cruising, just laying up waiting to see what developed.  The slight chop made it a bit more tricky to decide where the nervous water was, but enough larger bluegill and crappie were mixed in that I could usually locate the schools by their rises.

Walking along the shore to the magic spot from the previous day, I decided if there was not a repeat performance, I could at least enjoy the evening.  Everything was exactly the same as the day before except for that chop on the surface.  Since the fishing wasn't as hot, I took time to look around.  Right in front of me was a golden ribbon thrown down by the sun, stretching out across the lake.  Absentmindedly I wondered where it might lead.


Maybe it led to fish.  Not having any other theories to work off of I started casting.  Once or twice I snagged some cow patties behind me, but other than that everything was going well.  I made sure my casts were laying out perfectly in that golden ribbon, just in case.  Then it happened.  After several casts, I felt the hit and set the hook.  A nice little bass with most of the emphasis on the little had eaten the PB&J.  Little bass are better than no bass.



Getting back to my fishing, I noticed with dismay that my golden ribbon was almost gone.  Did that mean the end of the catching?


As the sun disappeared and I prepared to navigate the cow pies in the waning light, the wind suddenly died down.  Sure enough, there was very little nervous water left.  Occasionally a bass would explode on something, but nothing was happening within casting range.  I didn't have long to ponder that, because the sky was going through the beauty of a spring sunset.  Maybe I didn't really come to catch fish after all.  Glad that I had a good camera, I paused to soak it all in.



The colors faded quickly, so I had to hustle to get out before dark.  The big bass are all still out there, and of course I still think about how to catch them.  We probably have a few more weeks at best before the pond becomes too nasty to fish as the summer heats things up and algae blooms.  I'll go back again of course.  One of these days I'll probably hook a big one, finally I might add, but if not I'll be happy with finding another golden ribbon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fire Tiger PB&J

Think this might move some big predatory browns?  Try the PB&J in fire tiger colors and let me know if it works...