Thursday, May 20, 2010

River Monsters (not really)


Now that I had finally caught a bass this year, I felt it was time to catch the other black bass.  I was in serious need of a smallmouth fix.  I loaded my vest up with about 30lbs of gear and took off for Preston.  Things were quite a bit cooler and cloudier than they were supposed to be as I arrived at my favorite smallie run.  I decided to try the fast water below the pool where I had hooked a couple of fish last time around, but nobody was home apparently.  I situated myself a the tail end of the slow water and let a pink X-Rap fly.  A couple of casts later I wrestled in my first smallmouth of the year.  I must say, it was quite the leviathan!

I fan cast across the lower end of the pool and soon caught a bit larger specimen.  I tried fishing a dropshot rig through the area as well, but only came up with moss.  I moved up the run a little way and decided to switch to a small rattle bait.  That quickly did the trick as I brought in this fat little fellow.

I cast downstream to the spot where I caught the first two fish and scored another bass.  I was getting frustrated by all the moss I was hauling in, so I switched over to my jigging rod for a bit.  Since the drop shot wasn't working, I thought I would try a little 1/8 ounce Bitsy Bug Jig with a small reaper as a trailer.  I'd heard that these were killer on smallmouth, but I hadn't had a chance to use them.  About five minutes later, as I hopped my jig through a deep trough, I felt a thump on the end of my line.  I drove the hook home and it was obvious right off that I'd hooked a better fish.  No jumps today, but I enjoyed a hard, bulldogging fight before I brought in this bloated chunk of a bass.

Not a giant, but a good, heavy, quality fish.  I was just glad to have finally caught a bass on my jigging rod.  I worked my way upstream and caught another bass of about 10" on the jig.  I tried a small pearl white swimbait on my lighter rod for a bit, but oddly nothing touched it.  I fished the jig some more, but at 1/8 ounce, it was having a hard time getting to the bottom with the current.  I switched over to a small tube on a 1/4 ounce head, but still nothing.  I didn't get any hits for a bit, so I decided to move upstream.

I drove about 1/4 mile or so before stopping at a spot that had looked intriguing last time, but hadn't produced.  I worked the far bank's slackwater with both baits to no effect.  I moved upstream to where some nice riffles came down and made a seam.  I ditched the swimbait in favor of an old trusty Panther Martin spinner, gold blade with a black body. It came through the slower water but only made it a few feet into the riffle before something hammered it.  I chased the fish downstream and eventually scooped this lovely rainbow into my net.

I still don't feel quite right about catching trout on spinning gear, but at the same time I felt a bit nostalgic.  When I first moved to Utah as a teenager, fishing spinners for trout in streams was the name of the game most of the time.  I worked my way up a little way, but no more fish showed up to play.  I had about an hour left now, so I drove up to the shelf where the rainbows were hammering the pink X-Rap on the previous trip.

I saw a couple of fish jump as I approached the run, and my first cast brought me another bow of about 12" on the spinner.  I took up the jigging rod again, and the first cast got me a fat little smallie. 

The coloration and markings on the fish were just amazing that day.  I was getting a lot of trout chasing my tube but not committing, so I tried fishing flies for a bit.  Oddly, I never saw another trout after that.  I put the Bitsy Bug Jig on again and cast it tight against a mammoth boulder on the far shore.  A fish took it as it was sinking, but I swung and missed.  I ran into the same problem with the current and the light jig, so I switched back to the tube.  My lure swung in the current at the end of the drift, and a fish thunked it hard.  I was into another decent fish.  We danced for a bit, and soon I held this fatty.

As I was working the hook out, I noticed something odd in the bass's throat.  Upon removing the jig, I discovered a mouthful of fish eggs.  Yellow ones.  That makes me think they might be sucker eggs.  I hope so, I'd feel kind of bad if he was raiding walleye nests, though I would imagine their eggs would have already hatched by now.  I caught a few more small bass before moving upstream.  There was a deep pool between some boulders here, and I quickly scored three more smallmouth on the tube before I had to leave.

Overall it was a fun day.  I've caught more and bigger fish on this river, but they were all beautifully marked, and all very well fed.  I'm curious to see how this fishery develops.  If the bass are packing on the pounds like they are, we may see some true monster fish before long.

Final Tally:  13 Smallmouth Bass, 2 Rainbow Trout

Year Tally:  233 Fish

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Go West Young Man, Go West


I haven't caught a bass since Veteran's Day of last year.  It's not that I don't want to, they're my favorite thing to fish for.  It's just been really freaking cold this spring.  We finally had several warm days in a row, and I decided to see if the bass had finally awoken from their winter slumber.  I was also anxious to try out my float tube rod holder.  I knew their was only one place to start my bass fishing season, so I packed up my car, grabbed my Idaho license, and headed north.  It was a warm and sunny day with calm winds.  Calm until I got there anyway.  By the time I got all my gear stowed away in my tube and lugged it down to the water, it was already 11:00, and small waves were beginning to form.  At first it looked like my rod holder was going to lean the rods away from the tube out over the water.  I wasn't too thrilled with this, but when I sat down in the tube, they flopped the other way and were right in my face.  This definitely wasn't going to work.  Once again the strap from my landing net came to the rescue, and I was able to lash down the bottom of the rod holder and keep it tight against the tube.  It worked like a charm.  Now that that was taken care of, I set about getting into some bass.  The water was 56 degrees, which was pretty encouraging.
I decided to start with my new casting rod as I really need to practice casting with it, and because I haven't had the chance to fish it much.  I tied on a River2Sea deep diving crank and had at it.  The wind was making casting and tube control difficult, but despite this, I soon had a hit.  I quickly brought in a small rainbow.  A couple of casts later, it finally happened, the first bass of the year.

He wasn't a large fish, but a bass, nonetheless.  The wind was bringing me more and more backlashes, so I switched over to a spinning rod rigged up with a deep suspending jerkbait, also made by River2Sea (Those Australians are on to something).  It cast like a bullet, and the first cast brought me another small bass.  The next cast brought another, and another, and so on.  I had over ten bass in my first 15 minutes of fishing.  The problem was that they were all little males, and I wanted to find the big females.  I tried fishing out just a few feet deeper with a dropshot rig, but with the wind it was nearly impossible to feel a strike.  I managed one little guy on a watermelon reaper, and that was it.  
I felt it was time to try a steep bluff on the other shore that has always been kind to me.  I paddled across the straight, trolling a couple of flies as I went.  Something smacked one in about 20 feet of water, but I missed it.  I soon found myself at the other shore on a shallow flat.  The water was only 54 over here, but I went for it anyway.  I fished a lipless crankbait over the flat as I paddled toward the bluff, but nothing payed it any notice.  I arrived at a nice steep bank that dropped into 10-13 feet of water.  I worked the jerkbait over it, but still nothing.  This spot had brought me a lot of nice fish last spring, but I guess each year is different.  I kept fishing my way up toward the bluff with nothing to show for my efforts.  Finally I was within casting distance of my target.  I hurled the jerkbait against the wind, landing it about a foot from shore. Twitch, twitch, bam!  Finally a good fish had found it's way to the end of my line.

I worked my way up the bluff and soon connected with another good fish.  My lure just stopped, like I'd snagged a log, and then the end of my line came to life.  Soon I was holding a nice chunky female. 

I caught a few more good bass off the bluff, and then I realized I was running out of time.  I quickly paddled back to the other shore, the wind finally doing something good as it caught me like a sail and helped drag me there.  I arrived to find 57 degree water and a strong mud line that had been whipped up by the wind.  I tossed the jerkbait up against the bank and hooked into a good fish.  About 10 feet from the tube it pulled free.  I kept working the line, and hooked into another fish.  This one was even stronger, and when it came up to the surface and rolled, I could see it was a good three and a half to four pound fish, the largest I'd ever seen at this reservoir.  No sooner had I muttered, "Wow that's a nice fish," then it dove down and snapped my 8lb test like nothing, taking my new favorite lure with it.  I sulked for a moment, and then rummaged through my jerkbait box to find a decent replacement.  I settled on a deep diving x-rap in a goby pattern.  I know there aren't any gobies around here, but it actually looks a lot like a bass pattern to me.  I quickly scored another fish and released it.  I was getting a lot of moss on the bill, and seeing as the fish had moved in shallow, I ditched the deep diver for a shallow jerkbait.  I found a Lucky Craft Pointer knockoff in a baby bass color and started throwing that.  For a two dollar lure, I have to say I'm rather impressed.  That lure does some crazy stuff.  From underwater walking the dog, to flipping around 180 degrees on the pause, to gently wobbling in place when the retrieve has stopped, it does it all.  I caught another bass pretty quickly on it, and then it was time to go.  As I pulled out, I noticed the water was up to 59 in the back of the bay.  It's hard to believe it was snowing with lows in the mid 20s a week and a half ago.

Overall, I did better than expected.  I'm still thinking about that big fish that broke me off.  I keep thinking, "If I'd only checked my line more recently, if only my drag had been a bit looser, if only I'd changed my line before heading out this season."  Oh well, I will definitely be heading back next week.

Final Tally:  20 Largemouth Bass, 1 Rainbow Trout

Year Tally:  218 Fish

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Vengeance Wasn't Mine


I was going to mow the lawn today, but all that rain had left things pretty soggy.  I was still feelingly rather unsatisfied with yesterday's adventure, so I went after the elusive catfish again.  I hadn't been down to The Little Bear since I first moved up here, so I thought I would start there.  I arrived to find some dirt baggy guy and two rambunctious dogs galumphing about.  The guy left while I was taking a whiz, but only one dog went with him.  The other dog tore around being obnoxious the whole time I was there.  I also noticed a creepy old guy sitting in his car blasting talk radio.  He eventually pulled around to another part of the parking lot and sat for another ten minutes.  Then he honked his horn at nobody several times before pulling back around to his initial spot.  He got out and sat at a picnic table for another ten minutes before getting back in his car and driving back around to a new spot.  He honked again at some phantom, and eventually drove off.  As for the fishing, nothing really happened.  I didn't notice a single hit on the carp meat, and nothing hit my jig or x-rap.
After about 30 minutes I left and went back to the marina. 

I was hoping to go hit my old spot where I got into the nice channel cats previously, but it was now under about 8 inches of water.  I hiked about a quarter mile north before finding some dry land that abutted the water.  Unfortunately it was in a large shallow bay with no current whatsoever.  I tossed out my bait and fished a spinnerbait around the rushes for a bit, but nothing happened.  I saw a point maybe another quarter mile up that might give me channel access.  I hoofed it over there, and found deeper, cleaner looking water.  Unfortunately I had the same results as the last spot.  I felt it was time to give up on finding the channel, so I walked back to the bridge.  Despite the warmer weather, things were slower than the previous day.  I managed to land two bullhead and lose a few rigs to the rip-rap.  They were decent sized for bullhead, but that's not saying a whole lot. 

I had about 45 minutes left before work, so I packed it up and decided to give the oxbow a try.  Within five minutes something grabbed the carp meat.  It had some good weight behind it, but after a few seconds it pulled free.  A moment later I snagged a small carp through the dorsal fin with my jig.  That poor rod.  It's my nicest spinning rod, and it's become my carp catching rod.  I still had a pretty nice pile of carp flesh from earlier trips, and I didn't feel like stinking any worse than I already did, so his life was spared. That ended up being it for the spot.  I didn't have a single bite after that, though I did manage to lose my new Super Spot to a big wad of braided line.  It was pretty frustrating to see it, a rod's length away, but hopelessly snarled in the bird's nest. 

So off I went to work, two bullhead and a snagged carp my only glory after several hours of fishing.  I should have gone to Idaho.  I should have gone fly fishing for trout.  Instead I stunk like carp and garlic ridden shrimp, and I didn't catch Jack crap.

Work was slow, and everything was done by 7:45.  I was still feeling bugged by my lack of success, and I kept thinking about that big cat that grabbed my bait.  I really had no choice but to leave early and stop off at the oxbow on the way home.  I arrived to discover a melee of geese, cranes and peacocks.  It was seriously dissonant, but in a pleasant sort of way.  Carp were jumping and swirling all over the glassy surface.  I got a bite pretty quickly on the shrimp, but I was having the same struggles as before.  Even on the carp, I just wasn't hooking up, though both baits were seeing more and more frequent visits as the sun began to set.  Finally I was able to bury the steel into this little "eater" cat. 

Things kept on like that as the sun descended.  Finally, when it was almost dark, I caught another channel cat that was a little bigger than the last, maybe about 14".  I didn't take a picture as it was too dark to bother.  My hands were growing rather cold, and I didn't bring a flashlight or lantern, so I packed it up for the night.

Overall it was a pretty disappointing day.  I spent a good four hours fishing, and all I had to show for it was 5 smallish fish.  Those two channel catfish at the end helped ease the pain a little though.

Final Tally:  2 Bullhead, 2 Channel Catfish, 1 Carp

Year Tally:  197 Fish

Nothing to Write Home About


It's been cold.  Cold and wet.  It snowed last week.  Again.  It's May.  Stupid Utah.  Today was cool and cloudy, but it seemed like the lumbering storm system had finally moved on.  All morning it had been calm and dry.  So of course as soon as I set out to do a little fishing the storms came rolling in again.  Oh well, at least it wasn't snow this time.  With all the rain, everything is becoming a nice emerald green.  The birds are really showing up, and it's finally seeming like a Cache Valley spring.  My Utah fishing license had expired, so I needed to obtain a new one before I could hunt for any kitties.  Bep's didn't have any, so I had to drive into Logan.  I was hoping that the storms would pass while on my journeys, but it wasn't to be.  As I approached the marina, a wall of gray greeted me.  I hung out in my car for a bit, perusing some fishing magazines I had tucked away in my backpack.  The storm tapered down to some light drizzle, so I went for it.  I hunkered up against the highway bridge, which took the brunt of the wind and rain.  I lobbed out some carp meat and then rigged my other rod up with some shrimp that was left over from the weekend's party.  I had foolishly sampled some the day before and found it not fit for human consumption anymore.  I only had about an hour to fish before work, and unfortunately no channel cats showed up in that time.  My rod tips were tapping away, but most of the fish never hooked up.  The shrimp was especially frustrating.  The fish went nuts for it, but it was soft and easy to gnaw off the hook.  I only hooked one on it.  I ended up with 8 bullhead that I felt weren't worth taking the lens cap off of my camera.

Final Tally:  8 Bullhead

Year Tally:  192 Fish

Thursday, May 6, 2010



Today was supposed to be a beautiful sunny day with highs in the mid to upper 60s. I wasn't exactly ecstatic when I awoke to find clouds, wind and cold greeting me. I had really been wanting to head out to a southern Idaho reservoir to test out my new rod holder, but I just didn't feel up to floating around in 45 degree water with air temps about the same. I contemplated forgetting about fishing entirely, but sadly this was supposed to be the best day of the week weather wise. I mulled it over for a time and finally settled on hunting for early smallmouth at The Narrows. The weather report showed calm conditions up that way, but the foulness apparently followed me. At least the new Damien Jurado album was a joy to listen to as I passed through the countryside. The road was a little rough and was littered with rocks, but I took it easy and arrived at my favorite smallie haunt before long. I rigged up my new medium spinning rod with a spider jig, and my medium light with a small hot pink x-rap. I fished the run with nothing but moss to show for it, so I thought I would try a few casts into the fast water below the pool. I worked the x-rap quickly through the current and something quickly hammered it. It looked a bit more elongated than a smallie and looked brownish. It quickly dove below a rock and sought shelter, but I soon coaxed it out. It shot downstream into the rapids and before I could catch up to it, it was gone. I'm pretty sure it was either a brown trout or a walleye, but I guess I'll never know. I was pretty bummed. I worked my way downstream and worked some quiet spots on the opposite bank with no action. I thought it wouldn't hurt to toss the jig to the spot where I'd hooked up before on the jerk bait, and my thoughts were right. After a couple of twitches, something nabbed the grub. The brown immediately went airborne several times but quieted down before long. He was a rather greedy little nugget.

At least I wasn't going to get skunked today, and at least I finally caught something on my new rod other than a carp. I fished back in the slack water where I started, and even tried throwing a spinner for a bit, but it was fruitless. I drove upstream a short way and noticed some extremely deep runs that I had never noticed before due to high water. I immediately spotted a bloated Mr. Bungle holding against the bank. He didn't want to play unfortunately, and neither did anything else. I switched to a Gulp! Minnow on a jig head and still nothing. I only had about an hour left, so I thought I'd find some trouty water and break out the fly rod. About a mile upstream I found some nice looking pocketwater and gave it a try. There were a lot of tricky currents, and careful fly placement and line control were imperative. Unfortunately the wind was howling and essentially prevented this. I was down to the wire on time now, so I grabbed a spinning rod and began chucking the x-rap into some slower water below the pocket water area. About midstream a fat little fish shot up from the depths and pounded my lure. Unfortunately I didn't hook up, but a couple of jerks later a larger fish grabbed it, and quickly became unhooked. That was some smallmouthish behavior, so I was pretty excited. I swung my lure through the current once more and got a solid hookup. I was surprised to find something smooth and spotted on the end of my line.

I continued swinging my lure across current, much like you would a streamer, and for the next few minutes it was fast action. You'd think that with two sharp treble hooks I'd hook up with every fish that took a pass at it, but I only landed two more rainbows out of maybe ten or twelve strikes. Still, it was better than nothing, and it made me very curious about trying streamers here in the future. I had maybe ten minutes before I needed to leave for work, and wouldn't you know it, the sun popped out and that beautiful day finally showed up. I did a quick run and gun stroll upstream to some large boulders that were the start of the pocket water stretch. I got a follow, and a few casts later another bow shot out from beneath a boulder and slammed the x-rap. He pulled loose after a few flips, and that was that. It was a weird day. I can't tell you the last time I intentionally tried to catch trout on a spinning rod. I feel a little guilty, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I must say that I missed the feeling of something clobbering a jerk bait, even if it was the wrong species. As I write this a few days later, it's below freezing and there's snow on the ground. It might be a little while before a bass finds it's way onto the end of my line.

Final Tally: 1 Brown Trout, 3 Rainbow Trout

Year Tally: 184 Fish

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Silver Lining on All These Crappy Clouds

Even though it's May now, it's snowed everyday for the past four days. Thankfully it gave me time to work on some projects I've been wanting to get done. The main one was turning this:

into this:

For about $20 I can now bring three more fishing rods with me in my float tube. That's about the same cost as the single commercially made rod holder I bought last year. Watch out fish, I'm now armed with up to five rods, covering most any situation and/or species I come across. One word of caution, definitely work in an extremely well ventilated area if you are working with pipe sealant. I was floating off into space within 3 seconds of popping the lid off.

In addition to playing with PVC plastic, I had a chance to do some work with liquid plastisol. Since I started making soft plastic lures last year, I have struggled with getting a two color bait to hold together. Well I finally pulled it off.

These little buggers are made of saltwater grade plastic, so hopefully they will hold up well to the punishment the tiger musky and bass will unleash upon them.

The forecast is looking a little better for the next two weeks and I'm excited to try out my new creations.