Friday, April 27, 2012

Scouring The Narrows 4/20/12

Last Friday was supposed to be sunny and warm, so I thought I would head up The Narrows.  I had enjoyed hooking those nice trout on streamers on my last trip, so I wanted to try some more of that, but a little closer to home.  Well, I awoke to find a cool, cloudy day.  I went for it anyway, but I was greeted by a slick and muddy road.  I was a little afraid I would get stuck, but I didn't want to drive all the way up there for nothing.  I arrived at a favorite deep water spot where I thought I might find a big brown, walleye or smallie.  Unfortunately, the water was quite high and full of nasty moss.  I threw a jerkbait, lipless crank, grub and an articulated sculpin on the fly rod.  While trying to burn the crank through some fast water to make another cast, a large trout shot up from the depths to have a look, but was soon disgusted by the glob of green sludge that soon enveloped my bait.  I managed a little tick on the sculpin, but that was all.

The gloomy weather had brought out some bwos, so I ditched the deep hole and moved upstream to some faster water.  I rigged up my 4wt and tied on my new favorite nymph in a pheasant tail motif.  I was still getting a lot of moss, but finally I caught a little dink planter.  That was a lot of work for so little, but I moved upstream.  I finally reached a nice deep run and worked it hard.  I missed a decent trout, and then to my surprise hooked this little guy.

It wasn't much, but it was my first smallie of the year.  He actually put up a decent fight on that little rod.  I caught a decent bow, maybe 14", with some nice color, but he refused to pose for a photo session.  I worked the run some more and scored a few more 10-12" bows before moving upstream.  I managed another trout here or there, all about the same in size, but they were scrappy little buggers.

I had just a little time now before I needed to head to work, so I decided to head back downstream to a favorite smallmouth spot.  The sun was finally out, so I was hoping they would be getting more active now.  I tried a lipless crank, jerkbait and grub from the bottom of the run, but nothing much happened.  I thought I had a couple of hits on the grub, but it may have been the bottom.  I moved upstream to a deeper part of the run and got a nice thump on the grub.  I love the sound that braid makes when you set the hook on a fish.  He fought very well for his size, and even jumped a time or two.  After a short while I lipped a pretty little chunk of bronze.

I had one more good thunk on the end of my line, but I swung and missed.  It was time to go, so I hurried off to work.

Total for trip:  7 rainbows, 2 smallmouth

Total for year:  233 fish

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Bowhunting Trip 4/16/12

I really wanted to get back to my new favorite rainbow stream, but I knew that runoff would be here soon and I was running out of time.  I found someone to cover my shift at work and was able to head up on Monday.

I met my friend at the parking lot at a little after 8.  The weather was calm and sunny and the water had a bit of color.  We hiked up to our favorite stretch and began to fish at a deep, slow run.  I tried a rainbow scud where a shelf dropped into it, but came up with nothing.  I broke out the 6wt and lobbed an olive cone head crystal bugger to the point where the current dissipated and dead drifted it down the run.  As I started my retrieve there was a sizable fish on the end of the line.  After a brief tussle it pulled loose.  I continued fishing the bugger through the same water with a couple of taps before hooking a nice bow on the drift.  After a short battle, I finally brought her to the net.

We got no more love, so we moved upstream to a small run that usually produces.  My friend caught a small cutthroat on a spinner, and I eventually caught a chubby little jumper on the scud.

Oddly enough, the fish actually swallowed the fly, something I have never seen before.  I could see the bead sticking out of it's gullet, but that was it.  I cut the line and wished it the best.  We continued up through a small braid where the river splits.  This was more like fishing a creek, something I'm more experienced with, though the experience didn't pay off.  My friend caught a nice one on a worm, and I eventually hooked a decent fish on a rainbow scud, but it dove beneath a rock and pulled free.  We worked up the whole braid with no more action.  Things were definitely slower this time.  Last time there were clouds of midges and a decent number of bwos coming off with a few caddis in the mix.  Not today.  I had seen a loan bwo or midge, but that was it.  We fished a usually choice run with not a hit.  We worked up to a large run that is our honey hole.  At the tail, we spotted a large, dead, stonefly nymph floating by.  I had no idea they lived in this river.  I took note of that for later.  We worked up to a nice run that plunges into some slow water.  Still not much going on.  I decided to switch to a rubber legged brown stone nymph and immediately got results.

I fished the run some more, but had no more action.  I hit the tail end of another smaller run as it came into the larger run, and immediately a nice bow savaged the stone.  Unfortunately his spasticity coupled with the hook set snapped the tippet.  I hadn't checked my line after the last couple of run ins with rocks, so I was kicking myself for that.  I tried another stone, but immediately lost it to a rock.  About the time we reached this stretch, clouds had moved in and so had some bwos.  Finally.  I put on my favorite little nymph in a pheasant tail ice dub color scheme and immediately hooked up.  I could tell it was a nice one right away.  This was definitely the best fish so far, and we battled for several minutes before it shot down into the calmer water.  It was a slow fight.  No searing runs, but a lot of give and take.  I would reel the fish up to netting distance, and it would slowly pull off another 10-15' of line.  Eventually it tired and I was able to guide it to my net.

A beautiful specimen that I taped at 19".  Definitely spawned out, but some nice colors still.  I caught another  fish in the low teens from the run before relinquishing the run to my partner.  I headed down the run to where a spring entered the river.  There was a pod of fish rolling on the surface there.  I missed one on the nymph and then they shut down.  I decided to try something illogical and throw the bugger to where the water drops off.  I was stripping it in, and at the last minute, this feisty buck hammered it.  He put up a nice fight.  He was nice and dark, with a kype that was beyond his age.

I tried the nymph again on the far side of the fast water, and immediately hooked a fish that ripped me onto my reel almost immediately.  Oddly enough, this tackle crusher was on the small side, it was just insane.

There was another deep run upstream a little ways, so we decided to give it a shot.  The river split here again and we fished some serious pocket water on the way up.  I actually did quite well here catching several fish in the mid teens.  It was tough landing them with so much fast water around, but somehow  I didn't loose any.

This little jerk took me on quite the ride.

He got my line wrapped around a rock and then plunged down a fall into the next run.  Somehow I clambered over the boulders and made it down there to land him.

We eventually got to the run, I took the left, my friend took the right.  I started with some slower water at the tail.  I quickly caught another teen bow.  A short while later, I hooked something massive.  My rod was doubled, but I thought I saw a dark brown shape down there in the murk before it took my line out across the river.  My rod was a U for the next 10 minutes as my hand began to cramp.  About half way through the fight I finally got a good look at my adversary.  It was indeed a smelly old scum rooter, a carp.  I was quite surprised that my little size 16 light wire hook and my 4x held as I finally netted the monster.

I rested my arm for a moment and retied.  I quickly hooked a foot longer, then a mid-teener who wouldn't stop shaking his head like a dog. He eventually pulled loose and I had to retie because he had worn my line raw.  My friend had come over to my side when I caught the carp and we were getting in each other's way.  I caught another typical fish before moving to some pocket water upstream to open the area up.  I caught some more teeners here.

My friend was lamenting the fact that he hadn't gotten a fish out of this stretch where he always can catch something on a worm.  He went back downstream to the other run to see if it was more productive.  I made my way to the middle of the river and was standing on a rock when I hooked a large fish that immediately ripped off a bunch of line.  I looked frantically for a route to safer water where I could land this thing.  Over the boulders and through waste deep water, I eventually made my way to the far bank and eventually landed this 19" bow.

I tried working that side but couldn't get a good drift.  I missed a good fish from a riffle above the run and caught another foot long from the main pool as I made my way back across.  I couldn't entice any more fish, so I decided to see how my friend was doing.  As I walked downstream, he saw me coming and gestured for me to come down quickly.  When I arrived I could see that he had found redemption in this 23" hen.  Even though it was spawned out, it was definitely a monster of a fish, and his best for this river.

He also told me that he had caught the fish that had broken my off earlier.  Unfortunately while trying to document this fluke with a photo, the fish flipped back into the river with my fly still in it's mouth.  Darn it.  I could see fish were still rolling at the spring, so I went back down there.  I quickly hooked a nice fish on the nymph.  It was very deflated from spawning, so the fight wasn't what it would have been otherwise, but the colors and spots were amazing on this 20" specimen.

I moved back to where I had caught the 19 incher and broken the other off and quickly hooked another dark buck.

The weather was getting nastier, and it was also getting late in the day.  I decided to spend my time fishing streamers back down at the spring.  I had switched to a black and purple crystal bugger, and was beginning to wonder if it was a bad choice, when something thumped it hard.  My line immediately peeled off across the pool before the behemoth emerged from the murky depths, shaking it's head violently and sadly throwing my hook.  This thing looked as big as my friends fish from earlier.  I was pretty bummed, and was even more so when I lost the fly to a rock.  I was even more frustrated when I lost a blood crystal bugger a few minutes later.  I tried an olive articulated sculpin and eventually snapped it off on a rock too.  I switched areas and put on a crayfish orange sculpin, and eventually one thumped it and stayed hooked.  It wasn't a monster, but a good quality fish.

After that it was time to hurry down to the cars and get home.  We made a few brief stops along the way.  I missed one small fish on an olive Zonker, but that was it.

It was definitely a slower day, I fished all day and landed 24.  Still the quality of the average fish was quite nice.  I think I caught 2 or 3 around a foot, and the rest were larger.  I'm not sure why it was so slow.  My guesses would have to be the lack of hatches, fish redistributing after the spawn and also not being as active as they recover.  Still, it was a good day, and 20" is the best trout of the year for me that I've landed.

Total for trip:  23 rainbows and hybrids, and 1 mirror carp

Total for year: 224 fish

Friday, April 13, 2012

In the Kingdom of the Flies 4/11/12

The weather was supposed to be extremely windy with thunderstorms rolling in later in the day on Wednesday.  Much to my surprise I awoke to find calm, warm, sunny conditions.  I couldn't let the day slip away, especially with four straight days of cold and wet in the forecast, so I packed up my 3wt and headed to a favorite stream.

There were a couple of cars parked at the gate when I arrived, but I figured there was plenty of water to split up amongst us.  I couldn't help fishing the runs right near the parking area, and they were pretty good to me.  I quickly caught four small to average browns

 and a chunky cutt that crushed my dry.

About this time another car full of teenagers arrived, and the flies were thick and pesky, so I decided to hike upstream a ways.  I started at one of my favorite spots, but it was pretty dead.  Several really nice looking runs didn't even bring a strike.  I was beginning to wonder if I had put in behind one of the other fishermen.  Finally, in a shallow run, I spotted a fish holding tight to the bank.  As my fly drifted past, he did an about face, chasing it down to devour it.  He went airborne several times and tail walked across the river before quieting down.

Up ahead was a really nice hole, but you really need to sneak around through downed trees and brush to get into position without spooking them.  As I reached an area where I could present my fly, I could see a cutty feeding against the opposite bank.  On the first pass he grabbed my dropper and I quickly landed him.  I focused my efforts upstream and saw a nice brown moseying downstream towards me.  He set up shop about 8 feet in front of me.  I didn't think I had a chance, but I placed a cast to him.  He slowly rose up and bumped my dry, and that was all I got from him, though he hung around feeding for some time.  While I was fishing this run, the flies descended upon me once again.  They weren't biting flies, just those big, shiny, blue annoying poo eating buggers.  They would land on my arms and hands and seemed especially fond of my elbow and the back of my neck.  Wherever was the most irritating I guess.  Just as I placed a cast into an eddy, a pack of rabid bugs swarmed my arm.  I shooed them away just as I saw a large fish grab my dropper.  Of course I missed.  I couldn't get the fish to come back, though the flies did.  I kept working upstream and saw a large cutthroat working the head of a small pocket.  I swear the flies are in cahoots with the trout.  I crept into position, and just as I made my cast, a horde of buzzing anguish lit upon me again.  I was getting pretty pissy by now.  The next round of flies got smooshed by my wrathful hand, but they got the last laugh as their guts wreaked of dead flesh and excrement.  Nasty little buggers.

I worked up to the next deep run and had a refusal on my dry at the tail.  Luckily I was able to pull several browns and a cutt from the run.  Up ahead was another favorite run where I always see a bunch of fish working.  Nothing in sight.  I was becoming quite certain that I was tailing behind someone.  I fished it anyway and scored one lanky acrobat from the center of the run.

I placed a cast against the far bank, and as it passed some submerged roots, another brown chomped it.

I continued upstream through some pocket water and caught a few more small guys and had a nice cutt swipe at my fly a couple of times.  I arrived at the logjam where I had lost a nice fish last time.  The wind was finally starting to kick up now, but I got a good drift, and little nicer brown took my dropper.  He put up a good fight on my wispy little rod, but I was able to keep him out of the roots and brush.

I was able to pull a cutthroat out of the same spot, and he fought surprisingly well for both his size and species.

I worked up to another good run where I had a nice trout chase my fly downstream, but then do a 180 when it saw me.  I wasn't able to coax any more bites from this stretch.  Up ahead I saw a cutty feeding in a small, shallow pocket.  It was a difficult cast with brush all around and a persistent breeze.  I flubbed it up and tangled my leader.  After I retied I was able to get a cast to him, and he inhaled my dry.  I set the hook, but he flipped me the tail and was gone.

The next run usually holds some fish, and it did.  I quickly caught a brown, a cutt

and then a more colorful cutt.  It almost looked like a hybrid, though I've never caught them or rainbows up there.

Notice the flies.  They were still with me, pushing me towards a life in a padded room.

I scored a few more browns and then a nice cutthroat chased my dry down and smacked it.  He put up quite the fight, but he didn't want to stay still for a pic.  Unfortunately all the photos were a little blurry.

I was nearly out of time now, but there was one last run I wanted to fish.  If I could catch one more trout, I would be at 200 fish for the year, and I wanted to make it happen.  I got no love from the tail end of the run, but once again, as my fly landed at the head, an onslaught of entomological horror accosted me just as two huge cutts fought for my dropper.  Well, I swung and missed, then swore a bit.  One of the cutts continued to feed, but I couldn't entice him into eating my fly again.  I tried for far too long and realized that I was going to be late for work if I didn't hurry back.  I was pretty bugged that I was going to be left at 199 fish, so I was going to quickly fish the next run, but I popped an average brown in some pocket water on the way up.

I speed walked back, realizing as always that I way underestimated how far I had come.  I got stuck behind some lumbering work trucks in the canyon, but eventually escaped from them.  I didn't think I'd make it, but I managed to clock in right at 4, out of breath, but happy to have made it.

Despite the flies, it was a nice day on the stream.  I will definitely be wearing a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and a UV Buff next time.  Besides, I got a little bit burnt too.

Total for trip:  23 browns and cutthroat

Total for year:  200 fish

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jumping the Gun 4/9/12

I love bass.  I really love bass.  I don't know what it is, but there's just something about them that does it for me like no other fish.  So every year I find myself floating around in butt numbing water in my float tube thinking I should have probably waited a couple more weeks.  Well, yesterday was better than the first couple of bass trips last year, but still pretty slow.

I mulled over my options for bass containing waters in the area, and settled on the one that has been ice free the longest.  I arrived and saw a few trout dimples on the surface, so I thought I could always chase them if the bass didn't want to cooperate.  I pulled up to a spot that seemed to be the right kind of water and in an area that should warm the earliest.  I was a little disappointed to see the water was a bit murky.  Not chocolaty, but only two to three feet of visibility.  I got all my gear together and the batteries in my socks, and I was ready to go.

As I eased into the water I was pleased to find the temp at 50 degrees.  Definitely warm enough for some largemouth to be active.  I got a new rod over the winter that I really wanted to give a try, so I started with it.  I really love throwing jerkbaits and small lipless crankbaits, and this is the perfect rod for it.  It's a Fenwick HMG 7' medium light, medium fast action spinning rod.  It has a nice parabolic bend so that the fish can engulf the lure, and once hooked they don't pull free as easily.  I was delighted to find that it casts the lure a mile too.  Within the first few casts I hooked a strong fish on the little Lucky Craft LV100.  I was burning the bait in a couple feet of water parallel to the bank when it clobbered it.  My rod flexed and arced right to the butt as the fish dove straight down under the tube.  I finally caught a glimpse of it through the cloudy water and was thrilled to see it was indeed a bass.  I scooped it up and was soon holding my prize.

Not a monster, but a good chunky little guy.  The skunk was off, and I was happy to have caught a bass a month earlier than usual.  I continued fishing the crank through the shallows but wasn't getting any more action.  The wind was beginning to kick up and I drifted into a shallow cove with some flooded brush.  I thought this might be the perfect place to find some foraging fish, but they just hadn't seemed to have moved in that far yet.  I fan cast the cove with the Lucky Craft, but all I hooked were old lilly pad stems from last year.  I was afraid I was going to lose my lure several times, but luckily I pulled it to safety every time.  I also pitched a 5" Skinny Carrot around the brush, but I got  no takers on that either.  I decided to go back to where I started because the drop off was more abrupt and closer to shore there.  I fished a deep diving crank and a Lucky Craft Staysee 90 along the drop, but nothing happened.  I don't think the off color water was helping the jerkbait bite.  It's usually my bread and butter when the water is this cold, but the water is usually gin clear then too.  Finally, about 100 feet up from the first bass, I got another good whack.  For a second I thought it was more dead weeds or brush, but then it started pulling back.  I got it near the tube and it dove straight to the bottom like the first one.  I had to dunk the rod tip in the water and pull of line so it didn't snap my 8lb test.  Despite the cold temps, these fish were fighting very well.  I netted the fish and admired my catch.

 A bit longer than the first, but much skinnier.  I continued to fish the LV100 up against the brush.  It was in the Florida Bass color, a ghost largemouth pattern, and I thought perhaps a little more flash would produce better in the murk.  I switched to a Spro Aruku Shad Jr in Magic Shad.  No takers.  I switched to an LVR Mini in Aurora Bass, bringing in the best of both the lures I had previously fished, but again, no dice.  I ended up back on the LV100, but I had no more love on it.  I also fished several different jerkbaits as well as a Crystal Bugger on a type II line, but again, nothing.  With the wind churning up the water, the temp had actually dropped a degree.  I thought about rigging up a dropshot and fishing the break, but I was nearly out of time, so I settled on a chunk and wind for the next little while.

As I was packing up my car, fish and game stopped by to check me.  It's odd because I fished a lot last year and never got checked.  This was only my second time out in Idaho this year, and I was already checked.  Weird.  Maybe it's a good omen as I had my license checked a lot in 2010, and that year was amazing for me.

Overall it was a pretty slow day and I probably should have stuck to fishing one of the trout streams in Cache Valley, but at the same time it was quite satisfying to have caught a couple of decent bass in early April.  I also had the lake largely to myself, except for the hawk that was circling about much of the day, and the pair of curious loons that shared the lake with me.  I'll take that kind of company to the power squadron that shows up later in the year.

Fish for trip:  2 largemouth

Fish for year: 177 fish

Saturday, April 7, 2012

%#@*! 4/4/12

I had one chance to get out this week.  Not much of an excursion, but hopefully enough to get me through the week.  Class got out at 1:20 and I had to be to work at 4.  I planned on running up Logan Canyon a short way to maximize my time, and to avoid the higher water above the dams.

Well, fate had other plans.  For some odd reason the entire contents of Old Main decided to slowly shuffle and mill about as I was trying to exit the building, and the sidewalks on the way to the bus stop weren't much better.  I arrived just as the bus pulled away, but thankfully another was approaching as the other left.  I took my seat, and waited.  Fifteen minutes later, as the last of the passengers were squeezed into the stairwell of the bus, the bus in front of us decided to do the same thing while blocking my bus.  Eventually both buses were bursting at the seams as they lumbered away from campus.  Forty minutes after my class ended, I finally reached my car.  I hurried up the canyon, only to find cars at every pull off.  I continued to ascend, and eventually found a spot at my favorite area.  I quickly re-rigged my rod and got layered up.

As I walked downstream to some interesting water I had spied from the road, I noticed that my rod looked a little shorter than usual.  It's a fairly new rod though, so I figured it was just my imagination.  I bushwhacked down to the stream, arriving on the water just as the wind hit.  Before I could even attempt a cast, my line was whisked away into some willows where it was hopelessly tangled and damaged to where I had to retie again.

As I made my first cast, things didn't seem right, and it was then that I realized that in my haste I had put the top of my 3wt onto the bottom of my 4wt.  I decided to go with it, though casting was a little awkward, especially with the wind pummeling me.  I managed to hook into a feisty brown which rocketed down stream through the fast water.  Eventually I led him back upstream to some calmer water where I could net him.

I carefully worked my way upstream through the torrent and placed a few casts into a nice pocket against the far bank.  I immediately missed a carbon copy of my first brown and had another flash on my dropper.  Up ahead the river narrowed to a churning chute and was flanked by an impenetrable wall of vegetation.  I ended up going back to the car to fix my rod mix up.

I now had about 20 minutes left to fish.  I had a decent trout suck down my dry at the tail end of a run, but for some reason the hook didn't penetrate and he was gone.  I missed another on the dropper further up the run.  The next couple of stretches I fished brought me no love.  I crossed the stream and found a nice looking run where a cutthroat was actively sipping blue wing olives.  I placed a couple of casts to him, without a single bit of interest.  A couple of his cohorts flashed at my nymph but never hooked up.  I switched to a longer dropper line and caught a whirling dervish on my first cast.

I could see a larger cutthroat up ahead rising periodically to intercept nymphs about a foot below the surface.  I cast a couple of feet above him, and was delighted to see his big snout confidently break the surface and suck in my dry.  I was even happier when the hook actually took hold.  He tried to take off downstream into the faster water, but I was able to snatch him in the net as he passed by.  This cutt had some serious shoulders with a slight hump on his back.

I could see several more good sized trout working the run, but I was pushing it with getting to work on time already, so I had to abandon the productive water just as I found it.

It was a pretty frustrating day, though watching that thick cutty come up and snarf my big attractor made things much better.

Total for trip:  1 brown, 2 cutthroat

Total for year: 175 fish