Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Carp Yums

The right flies, the right tippet, just add water!

"Please don't eat me Mr. Carp!!!"

wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, gulp!

Thank you for another great pattern Mr. Clouser!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stickin' Picks!

First pickerel of the day
I got out today with Ken Capsey from Pike Pickerel Adventures today to chase some chainsides. Ken wanted me head with him to one of his favorite ponds. He said we would get into some Esox niger and he was right. We were both tossing perch patterns on 8 weight rods. I kept my leader pretty simple- about 4 feet of 18lb test, then 3 feet of 2X Mirage then about a foot and ahalf or so of 50 lb fluorocarbon.  Ken's was even simpler- 8 feet of 50 lb fluoro. We both used perch patterns. That was definitely the way to go. But we both had to do things differently: I put on a perch colored 2/0 Half and Half with big dumbell eyes while the fishin' redneck went with an EP fibre perch that had an epoxy head.
That fly is half your size buddy!

I got the party started with a decent fish in the 16" range. Those little buggers tug hard!  They are a ton of fun on an 8 and can be pretty easily fished on rods from 6 to 9. Ken and I both agree that a 7 or 8 weight is probably best- especially if you toss bigger flies for bigger fish (which both of us like to do). I banged out a little one of 8 inches or so and another in similar size. One more fish on the board for me put us at the size of the hook Ken was using- 4/0.
Ken was pleased with his first fish!

 Ken did of course redeem himself and got into some nice fish. His first fish was a respectable 18" fish that was really fat. When Ken grabbed ahold of it he felt something wiggle. We looked down that pickerel's gullet and sure enough there was a tail in there. Definitely made for a great picture. We kept hammering fish after that. Ken was stripping in flies fast, I started off stripping fast then switched to a slow deep retrieve. It really didn't matter- the fish took the flies no matter what we did.

Wiggle all you want Mr Perch- you aren't gonna get out!

Don't look so happy Ken...
Ken suggested we head out to these floating weed beds out in the middle. He said he gets into a lot of fish near them. I banged out a fish pretty quickly. Then another one. During this time I kept repeating "Sinking fly Ken". The last time I said that Ken said "I hear ya" and I said it again. He groaned when he realized that it meant I had my third fish from that weed bed.  He pulled a good fish out of there too.

Bandaid sticks on fly rod, but doesn't stick on line...
It was right about then that disaster struck! The middle pieces of my Hydros had worked themselves loose a bit and CRACK!!!  I pulled the tip section back to the boat. About an eighth of an inch of the rod broke off. Fortunately it was a clean break and I could put the halves back together. I didn't have any electrical tape with me (a standard piece of gear for me) so I asked what Ken had. Just a Bandaid- and that worked great! First aid for fly rods and another rod heading back to Orvis this week. Damn.

We drifted a bit further on to a deeper spot. Ken said that he had been getting some nice crappie in there. With that in mind I let my fly sink deeper and stripped it in even more slowly. I was rewarded with a good tug. It wasn't the fast hard strike of a pickerel so I was hopefull it was a big crap-ola. Mr. Slabsides came up and I had my Master Class black crappie in hand!  13.25" did it just nicely. Ken was right again.

Nice fish Ken
We both got into some more pickerel as we headed back to the launch site. Rain started coming down and since I am suffering from some sort of nasty summer cold/ebola virus we started cutting our fishing time short. Not before Ken showed off what his fly can do one last time. He put the biggest fish of the day in the boat just before we got off the water. It was around 22" and a nice fat fish. Great pickerel!  But the sinking fly still outfished the unweighted fly 11 to 7!

Always great to spend a day out on the water with Ken. I am sure I will get a few more in when Dave "McFluffchucker" Lindsay comes to visit in a couple of weeks. The three of us (and Kevin too) have some fishing to do. Dave has never caught a bowfin or a gar... I think I know someone who can change that!
The EP Fibre Perch works!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New Goal This Year- No Dries!

So I entered a photo contest on Facebook a month or so ago. It was all about rough fish. You know, my kind of fish. Big, ugly, the kind of thing fly anglers would not have been caught dead targeting 15 years ago when I started targeting them. One of my bowfin pictures took the winning place. Cool!  They emailed me to get my address to send the fly box and leaders to. I sent them the address and I said "Out of curiosity, which flybox would it be? (I generally don't do anything with dries- I like the big weird fish!)". I was told I would get a box for big weird fish (I am thinking streamers, big nymphs and the like).

I got the package on Wednesday. A couple of flouro leaders (I can always use those), a pile of Sci Anglers stickers (every fly guy loves stickers) and a dry fly box. Yes, a dry fly box. Bummer. A buddy of mine already has it coming his way.
Shocking, yes, but caught without a dry fly!

Now, not that I am appreciative of a freebie- I love free stuff- but I haven't put on a single dry fly this year. As I drove up to teach entomology at the first Vermont Trout Camp yesterday (more on this in a later post) I started thinking about dries and me. When you have to drive 2.5 hours in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont you have a lot of time to think. I was bummed about the box, but I made a decision. No dries this year. None. I have caught a bunch of fish already in 2011 without the use of dry flies, I have caught a lot of big fish in 2011 without the use of dry flies, and I actually dislike tying dry flies. Combine that with the fact that I am not guiding for trout this year and BOOM!!! 2011- no dries for Drew this year. 

So, let the hate mail fly!  Screw the dry flies! I made it halfway through the year without them and I think I will catch overall bigger average fish because of that!  Lookout Vermont- rogue fly angler on the loose!  SEMPER STREAMER!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Angler Interview: Caleb Parent

Caleb working the New Haven river for the Otter Creek Classic
This weekend is the first ever Trout Unlimited Vermont Trout Camp sponsored by MadDog TU. It is taking place at Quimby Country up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Half a dozen young anglers are up there now honing their skills and learning new techniques. I am heading up shortly to teach the kids a class on entomology (they might like the name bugology better). One of the campers is a young man I thought would be a great fit for the Trout Camp- Caleb Parent. Caleb's dad Dan has been a great advocate for him and both of them are enthusiastic fly fishers. Every time I talk to Dan he is singing the praises of Caleb's growing skills at fly fishing. Hopefully he learns more over this weekend!

I thought it would be appropriate timing to interview Caleb for the Friday Angler Interview. When I got his answers by email I not only realized that he is psyched about the camp but that the kid can write too!  (always great for a teacher to see!)  Here he is:
How did you get into fly fishing?
Jesse Haller instructing Caleb on some new techniques

My dad originally introduced me to fly fishing before him or I had actually learned anything about the sport or how to do it properly. I briefly got a chance to try at Conservation Camp in southern Vermont but not by a proper guide. On my 15th birthday my dad took me out on a guided trip with a familiar guide, Jesse Haller. He taught me the basics of what I needed to know from then on.

How long have you been fishing in general?

I have been fishing since the last I could remember. 5-6 years old or even younger. Launching a huge worm out into the lake and catching sunnies, smallmouth bass and other warm water species. But only the past year or two I have been out fly fishing.

What do you like about fly fishing more than other types of gear?
Working the foam line

Fly fishing was very attractive to me because of the challenge and complexity of the sport. It is much more rewarding catching a fish on a fly rod than it is to catch a fish on a spinning rod and a big night crawler. It is not only the fishing that I enjoy. I think catching a fish is just a bonus for getting out on the stream and enjoying the great outdoors. 

What kinds of fish have you caught so far?

I have caught multiple species fly fishing: perch, smallmouth bass, brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, fallfish, sunfish. That's all I can think of at this time.

Everyone has a big fish story, what is yours?

Well, so far I haven't caught a giant fish per say on a fly rod yet, but with Mepps I caught the biggest brown trout I've caught at around 16 inches. It took awhile to land and was the highlight of my week. My dad was jealous of me because he caught no fish for the rest of the day after I nailed that big brown.

Have you ever tied flies?

Yes, I briefly learned how to tie flies at Conservation Camp but once again that was not from a professional. I did learn from a friend and worker at a local fly shop-Green Mountain Troutfitters in Jeffersonville VT. I tied some beetles, some hares ears, and other nymphs.

What is your favorite fly and why do you like it so much?

That question is very broad and can be taken in many different ways. I assume it's the name i.e Parachute Adams. But I much prefer streamers and  wooly buggers because I seem to get more luck with them. On certain nights with prime conditions for a dry fly the first thing I would tie on would be a red Humpy.

Are you excited about attending the very first Trout Camp in Vermont?

I am very excited for the camp and think it will be a great learning experience and also a way to meet more people that are interested in the same things I am.

What are you hoping to learn there?

I am hoping to learn more about how to catch trout and where they lie in a stream and what flies to use when. I'm pretty confident in my ability to use the fundamentals of fly fishing (Casting, hook setting, stripping line etc.)

What class at the camp are you looking forward to the most?

Of course I am looking forward to the entomology class. :P No, but I am very interested in bugs and science. Biology has been my strongest subject in high school and I have always had an interest in science.

So, if you were given a trip to go anywhere and fish for anything you wanted, where would you go and what would you catch and why?

My dream fishing trip would have to be Patagonia fishing for Brown Trout. It looks like SO much fun and killer fishing. Not just the fish but the amazing views of the mountains and the indescribable beauty of the winding streams.

What do you want to fish for near home that you haven’t caught yet?

I have caught most species in my area on a fly rod except Landlocked Salmon and Muskies. I am definitely looking forward to getting out with you and hooking into some killer fish.

Is there a rod/reel combination that you really, really want?

I personally don't believe that fishing is in the gear. I am perfectly happy with the gear I have right now. I could go for a better, perhaps Orvis rod that doesn't every now and again get jammed up. But there is no rod/reel combo that I am dying to get.

So Caleb, do you have a special thank you for someone that likes to get you out on the river as much as he can?
Caleb and Dan Parent enjoying the water at one of their favorite fishing holes

Absolutely, my dad has been the one to always take me out on great fly fishing trips whether it be a fishing tournament in Middlebury or just a nice day on the stream on the Clyde river in Newport. But the most fun I've had was the Dam in Sheldon, every cast regardless of what fly is a fish on.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Another Awesome Day!

16.5" of native cyprinid goodness!
Fishing as of late has been fantastic! Don't listen to the B.S. that the media has put out there about Lake Champlain. It fishes great when it is high, you just need to be careful flying around in a boat because of debris. Debris is not a consideration when you are in a canoe however. (Seriously, try me out and you will see!)

I started off the day hunting down a Master Class fallfish. I knew right where to head to and I started slamming lots of fallfish, mostly in the 12-14" range. I needed 15. I hooked a big fish and thought for sure it was the one, but it ended up being a lucky take from a 20" pike. Not long after that I got into a 16.5" fallfish. That was the one I was looking for. Since it was raining, I was wet wading, and I have been getting over a cold (brilliant Drew) I decided to head to other waters.
Check out the colors on this fallfish's face!

When I got to this spot, I looked down and saw a big carp working the edge of the river. I ran back to my truck, grabbed my rod and headed down to get it. It was right where I had seen it last and it was mudding hard!  I knew I was going to get this fish. As I looked at it I realized that it was a mirror carp. Mirror carp are a variation of common carp that have larger, mirror like scales. More importantly, I haven't caught one yet. My first cast got his attention but he missed the take. The second cast he took it solidly and the race was on. It headed up around a log so I had to run out into the river waist deep to get to a rock pile. Then the fish went up through a log jam. I had to run up there and thread my rod through the jam to keep it on. The fish went deep and it felt like it was on some obstruction on the bottom. 
Trying to get the fish to hand

I was a bit worried but it pulled out of whatever it was in. Then it decided to come back through the log jam again. So I had to run to the other side of the channel to get it out. It took about 25 minutes fighting this fish to get it to hand. I was pretty psyched. I got a bunch of great pictures and watched it swim off. The carp was 31" and I estimate the weight somewhere between 12 and 15 lbs. Now for the bad news.... as I started up the bank I heard a crack. Looking down I noticed my leader was caught up on my pliers. I pulled the rod up and there was the tip to my old faithful Orvis TLS 9' 6wt MidFlex dangling. Goodbye old friend. You go back to Orvis Land today.
My first mirror carp

Almost scaleless on this side.

Check out the skin and scale patterns

One big scale with little ones behind it

On the caudal penduncle


I quickly raced to my next spot where I was meeting up with someone I hadn't fished with yet, but I was pretty excited to get out with him. Pat Berry is the new Vermont Fish and Wildlife Commissioner and really wants to promote some of the great fishing on Lake Champlain. So after he got done work in Waterbury he came out to join me. He worked as a fly fishing guide in Montana for 10 years and was dying to get into some carp and bowfin. The weather was less than pleasant- a constant drizzle/light shower with low clouds overhead. Not ideal sight fishing conditions. 
VT F&W Commissioner Pat Berry with his first Champlain Carp

At first we didn't see any fish then the carp started to show. There were mudding fish around and Pat had a take. He didn't get a hook set on that one. The next fish he got a hook set on but it popped out during the fight. I was pretty happy that he was getting into fish. He took to this new (to him) style of fishing like a duck to water. We saw a fish coming through the trees parallel to the boat. He got a great cast in front of the fish and the fish jumped it hard. The Commissioner was using my 8wt bowfin outfit which had 18.5lb tippet. He put the hammer down on that fish and never even put it on the reel. That was the fastest I have ever seen a carp landed... very impressive! It was a nice fish of 9 lbs which is a pretty typical fish. 

We tried for bowfin after that and had one take but it got off. We also saw a Master Class bowfin but she was having nothing to do with the fly. It was really difficult conditions to sight fish and we ended up getting off the water shortly after that. I was pretty happy with the day, but I was drenched and shivering. Like I said, it was brilliant of me to wet wade on a day like that. 

Awesome day on the water!  I am really excited to have caught my first mirror carp and to have Commissioner Pat Berry put some time the water with me. I don't think it will be the last time either!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slammin' It!

34", 18 lbs, long fight on a 6wt!
What a gorgeous day to be out on the lake!  And the fish were more than happy to play with me too!  I started off chasing some carp, which weren't being terribly responsive at first. I was tossing a variety of flies but nobody was overly interested. Welcome to carp fishing! Finally I had switched to a bead head nymph and I tossed in front of a deep swiming carp close to the boat. That fish literally attacked the fly!

I had that fish on for quite a while, close to 20 minutes. I was using a 6wt and I had Orvis Mirage 3x tippet (my absolute favorite tippet in the world!!!) That fish ran, did circles around the canoe, went under the canoe, went through the weeds (pulling a lot up as it did that). It was awesome! Finally the fish tuckered out and I got it in the boat with my Boga-Grip. I was brilliant and didn't bring a net with me. The fish was 18lbs and measured in at 34 1/2". My first Master Class carp!  Species #13 on the board for me now!

Nice big female bowfin!
After that fish I switched gears and started hunting bowfin. I knew where to find them and what to use to get their interest. I had a couple swim near the boat and not show much interest. I saw something crazy I had never seen before too- a big bowfin with a half swallowed bullhead in its mouth. Awesome sight for sure! Finally I found one that was a player. That fish hammered the fly and tore me up. 30" and 10 pounds... great bowfin and a MC fish too.

Paddling a little ways from there I saw a huge pickerel and some big bass. Nobody was interested though. That is when I saw a group of pumpkinseeds. Nice school of them. I watched them for a couple of minutes before noticing a HUGE individual. I love fishing sunnies and you don't often see really big pumpkinseeds like this. I hunted around for a small fly and I had just the thing in my carp box- a midge pattern. He had spooked by this point but I noticed he only moved about 5 feet away. I repositioned the canoe and dropped the fly in some grass. BAM! he was on. 9"- Master Class pumpkinseed thank you very much! Species #14 for me at this point. I am pretty close to halfway through the species list now. 
That is a corker pumpkinseed!

Gorgeous fish!

Brindle bowfin!
I had seen this pair of bowfin cruising earlier and I wanted to see if they were still around. Sure enough they were. I saw a disturbance on the suface and investigated. There they were, hanging out together. Sometimes bowfin will pair up to hunt which can lead to double trouble!  I noticed that one looked different than the other. I tried for the normal one first, but after it missed the fly I looked for the other. I watched this lighter colored fish swim under the bow of my boat. I thought I had lost my opportunity but it showed up a minute or so later. It engulfed the fly without hesitation. When I landed the fish I noticed how cool it was- extremely white belly, the white coloration when about a third of the way up its side, the normally dark top was a light olive color with black scales sprinkled throughout. A brindle bowfin!  And it clocked in at 30" and 10 pounds too- my 4th Master Class fish of the day!
Check out those spots!

I headed in shortly after that, but not until I got a male bowfin in spawning dress and losing another in some puckerbrush. Awesome day out there!  I have a guest joining me today... if you want to get into some hot fishing, now is the time!  I have some slots open if you want to learn how to fish the way I do... go to MasterClassAngling.com and book yourself a trip!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Champlain is Heating Up!

Foxy Lady at work again!
Lake Champlain has been a bear this year... a really really big bear!  Normal flood stage is 100 feet above sea level. Until this past Sunday 6/19 Lake Champlain had been over that 100 ft mark for about two months. At the highest level there were 867 billion extra gallons in the lake and it was about 74 square miles larger than normal. That is a lot of water to fish!  Fishing was tough for a while- the lake is no where near its normal clarity and it is still murkier than it usually is. But fish are still around and on the bite!

Pretty typical Champlain Carp
I got into a favorite backwater area of mine the other day and found some carp, bowfin and bass. The carp were really thick in there. I ended up catching 3. I did get a nice big bass and a bowfin as well. Lots of bowfin around but they were acting rather strange. I had only a couple of takes from them which is not normal. 

Great to see that it is getting back to where it should be!  More to come I am sure... I will be on the lake in the next couple of days so watch for more reports!

Lots of bass in this size range around

Best carp of the day- 9lbs!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Musky Opener 2011

Musky ninja rockin' the Saber!
Kevin was concerned about the weather. “Are these fronts coming in going to screw up the fishing?” I wasn’t worried. Musky fishing is musky fishing weather be damned. Sometimes it messes with you, sometimes it works in your favor, but either way, the only way you are going to catch a musky is to be on the river with your fly in the water.

Kevin started off the day tossing a 9 weight rod with an unweighted streamer. Beautiful fly tied by Pike Master Dave Lindsay that got Kevin into his first musky last year. Here is the re-cap of that event: Kevin had been working hard to get into a fish. He had been having a lot of trouble with putting the fly into trees and snags. We got to this big log jam that had a lot of debris on it and a perfect cast put the fly right at the edge of the debris. Kevin promptly announces “$%@& I am snagged” as I watch the line move through the water. He then realizes he has a fish and starts getting excited. After a good fight, Kevin gets up on the bank to land the fish. He is visibly shaking. It is a big fish- over 40”. As soon as he removes tension from the line the fly drops out of the fish’s mouth and takes off. No picture. For Kevin it means no musky (even though it is all on video). He has a truly stunned look on his face. This event has haunted him for the past year.
Musky fodder.

I have to admit, I wasn’t feeling the unweighted fly. The water was in the mid 60’s and I had a feeling the fish would not be super aggressive with streamers. We switched to my Pike Saber with a heavy streamer. Kevin got a follow, right up to the boat. The whole canoe was shaking from Kevin’s excitement. It was a nice fish. We went to the edge to give Kevin a minute to calm down and I got out the Redington Predator rod that was rigged with a diver to see if that would interest this fish (which seemed interested, but non committal). That was indeed the case. It came out looking at the fly but would not take. But Kevin stuck with that fly and set up.

We got to a stretch which looks fishy, I have seen the occasional fish in, but never caught anything there. Kevin has a good cast under some overhanging brush and he exclaims “A fish!”. A good fish is after the fly. I coached him on- “pop it, let it sit, pop it, let it sit- POP IT POP IT!!!” She was following and opening her mouth, very interested, but not ready yet. Those last two fast pops were too much for the fish and she hammered the fly. Very impressive to see a big fish hit topwater 15 feet from the boat. 
Congrats Kevin! Gorgeous fish- and relief from your nightmare!

Kevin initially was more concerned about getting the line on the reel than playing the fish but I got that changed quickly. The Predator worked great as a fish fighting tool. She jumped a bunch and made some good runs. I had to lock down the drag for Kevin. I had a 16 lb leader on there and I knew he could put plenty of pressure on the fish. The last part of the fight took place out of the canoe. When she started to roll on her back I knew it was over. I had never used a Boga on a musky before, but I had a good feeling about making it a lot easier to handle them. Kevin was very pleased about that. It was a gorgeous fish. We didn’t tape it, but I think it went easily 42” or so. After a few pictures the fish swam away. Kevin wore a look of awe and relief. The nightmare he lived for the past year was over.
Like a kid in a candy store...
The business end

Tossing a streamer. I need to lose some weight...

Saber caught musky!
I took the deck. I took the deck for a long time too. Kevin wanted me to get a fish before switching out again. I had a slashing strike on my streamer from a smaller fish, then a non-committal follow, and another non-committal, and another and another… I was losing faith. I saw a musky in the midst of a school of suckers and tossed into them. I had a take but no hook set. That made me feel better, but I wanted a fish. Then I put the fly in front of a branch hanging in the water and the game was on. The Pike Saber was tossing this big streamer beautifully and I knew it was more than up to the task of landing this fish. Big weighted streamers had always been a good choice on this water and this proved it once again. The fish came to hand pretty quickly. It was a nice fish in the low 30” range. It went back after a quick photo shoot. Kevin on deck again.
Kevin breaks 40"- look at the pride in his face!

The wind started to pick up and it was getting tough to paddle. Keeping the boat in a place a fly caster can put the fly in spots they need to go in tight quarters can be tough at the best of times but when you add 20 mph winds it gets to be a real bear. Kevin was doing his best to get the fly where it needed to be and I was doing all I could to keep him on track to do it. Tight, tight quarters made it difficult. There are times that there is a channel only 20 feet wide between the trees to get a cast into. I was busy fighting the wind as he fished.

Then Kevin did it!  Finally, he broke the 40” mark! Under 40” that is. And he did it in spectacular fashion. That next fish was a one hander. Maybe 20”. All that mattered to me is that I got to fish again.
Count Muskula

The wind was still howling and I had a solid take but it disappeared as quickly as I felt it. We hit this big log jam that always looks great but has never produced anything beyond bass. This time was different. A good fish followed out from the front of it. Then Kevin and I were talking about how the logs in the back were the same as last year. This is where I tried to sit down on a log, it dumped me, ripped my shirt open, scratched my back up nicely, and put me under the water. Just after saying “That is where it happened” BAM, a fish takes the fly hard. Two muskies in the jam this year!  

This fish was better than my first and it was a digger. It keep digging straight down and fighting hard. It did come up for a jump or two. Then it rolled the leader around itself. Then it was ready to come to hand. A little CPR (Catch, Photo, and Release) and the fish was off. A fast turnaround time- I was fishing less than 15 minutes and Kevin was back on deck. And I was fighting that wind again. Oh Joy. The rest of the day was uneventful, except of course for the bloody wind. I had to paddle directly into it for much of the last part of the day.
Last fish of the day. Great colors.

We got to our take out point and I managed to swamp Kevin in the back of the boat which lead to some laughter. It was a great day overall, even with the wind. Kevin’s concern about the front coming through never materialized. The fish weren’t hot and heavy, but there were a few players around. Not a bad start to musky season 2011.

 Post script- I had video rolling for much of this so expect some cool musky vids soon!