Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall Fishing

I haven't posted in a while!  I have been fishing.  Since it is getting dark earlier now, I have not found my fall fishing rhythm.  I get off of work and try to sneak in an hour or two of fishing.  I have been going to South Side Park in Belleville, IL.  It has been slow to say the least.  The crappie are biting at that city pond.  I have also been trying out Richland Creek in Belleville, IL.  I take the fly rod and use wooly buggers.  I have caught bluegill and largemouth (all small of course) out of the creek.  The fish that come out of there seem "wild".  They have a bit more fight.

Friday night, my friend Kai and I, went to the Kaskaskia River in Fayetville, IL for some night fishing from the banks.  I haven't fished for catfish at night in a long time.  We got out there about 9pm with some chicken livers, chairs, lanterns, and our fishing gear.  We had good bites all night.  I am a bit rusty with that style of fishing, so I only hooked into one catfish.  It was about 3lbs or so.  Good night overall. 

I really want to try fishing throughout the fall and winter this year.  I usually stop fishing when it gets cold.  I hate being cold.  And cold mixed with wet is never a good time in my book.  I will have to break out the long johns and just get over it!  I hope to post some pictures soon of my fall fishing trips that are to come.  Until then. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bass Mania

Largemouth Bass caught at St. Ellen Mine Park in O'Fallon, IL. 09-12-10.
It is not uncommon for me to go fishing and not even come home with a bite let alone a fish. I am ok with that. I may grumble a bit, but I love getting outside and being on the water. Catching fish is an added bonus. I think I get a real kick out of the chance to catch a fish. You never really know what you are going to hook up with.

Well, last Sunday, the good Lord smiled on me! Actually, in 2 ways. 1. Our church started a Sunday night service at 6pm. Of course this actually means that I now have Sunday am as a fishing option. Sweetness. 2. Somehow I was in the right spot with the right bait or something because I caught a bunch of bass. Many in the 2lb range. That may be a wimpy day of fishing for most, but for me it is unheard of. I usually only get one or two fish. This was great. I was using a plastic worm and fishing next to weed beds. This was my second trip out with the fish finder I installed on the canoe. That may have played a part in catching fish as well? Who knows?

It could also be that I was on the water for 6 hours. My wife, Abbie, dropped me off at the lake and went to St. Louis for the day with her sister. We share a car, so I really only had 2 options. Go with them, or be dropped of at the lake for 6 hours. Hmmmmm...... Easy decision for me!

Either way, God gave me a beautiful day and fish to catch. What else does a person really need?

I haven't been using the fly rod as much lately. I am still trying to learn how to fish deep with that tackle. I am reading all that I can and watching guys who know how to do it. I bring it with me every time I go out. I fish streamers with it to practice. One day, hopefully soon, I will be able to fish well with streamers and deep water fly fishing tackle. I suck at it now, bigtime!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fish Finder Install in the Mad River Passage 14 Canoe

After tons of reading and searching, a free fish finder (laying around in my Dad's garage - thanks Pops!), some online shopping, I am now a proud owner of a Mad River canoe outfitted with a fish finder with the transducer mounted inside the canoe. 

Things you will need:
1. Fish Finder with transducer and a mount for the display unit
2. Marine Goop, or similar marine silicone based sealant
3. Battery holder for 8 AA batteries
4. 9volt snap to connect the battery holder to the power leads of the fish finder
5. Tools (whatever you need to make it happen)

The install was quick.  The marine silicone had to cure for 24 hours, but the actual install was quick.  It did take a lot of planning and reading on my part.  I was undecided on the best place to put the stupid thing.  I fish solo most of the time and that placement was easy.  I do fish with 2 in the canoe sometimes, so my install needed to move the display unit around a bit to make that work. I decided to leave a bit of extra cable to mount the display towards the back when I have 2 in the boat.  When I am solo, I sit in the middle seat and the display goes right behind the front seat.

1. Get your materials.

battery for fish finder install on mad river canoe
8 AA Battery Holder

9volt Battery Snap Lead
Marine Goop 
Find A Fish Finder On Amazon

2. Wire up your power and make sure the fish finder is going to work.  My unit worked on 8 AA's for 5 hours this last trip.  I didn't turn it off once!  You are going to need a dry bag or something to keep your batteries dry while on the water.

Battery Holder from Amazon
9volt Snap from Amazon

transducer thru-hull in the Mad River Canoe.
3.  Install the transducer in your canoe.   I installed the transducer under the middle seat of the canoe.  This was the best place for me because it is out of the way and that part of the canoe always touches the water.  This installation is called thru-hull.  The signal shoots through the canoe.  Sonar doesn't work through air.  It has to make contact with water.  That is why you have to use the silicone.  I gooped the marine sealant all over the bottom of the transducer and placed the transducer on the canoe.  Rock it back and forth a bit and let it set for 24 hours. Make sure you put a lot of sealant on there.  The transducer needs to sit on a cushion of the sealant.  No air bubbles in the sealant.  

Fish Finder in Mad River Canoe
4.  Place your display.  You will have to figure out a place for your display.  That means drilling a hole in your canoe.  Pick your spot wisely.  It shouldn't be in the way of fishing, paddling, or feet!  Think this one through.  Figure out all the options and pick the one that works best with you. 

5.  Run your wires.  Keep them out of the way of your feet.  You are also going to have to travel with the canoe. "batten down the hatches!"  You don't want 15ft of fish finder cable flying out behind your car driving down the road!  I used zip strips.

I was very skeptical of this kind of installation.  I didn't think it was going to work, but it did. Works like a champ.  The install is portable (except for the transducer).  Easy to install.  I didn't want the transducer outside of the canoe.  It would get caught up and damaged while loading up the boat and traveling.  I also didn't want a clamp on model.  that would get in the way of paddling and fishing.  It would also slow the boat down.  I highly recommend this thru-hull fish finder installation on a Mad River Passage 14 canoe.

Hope this helps.  Be creative and cheap!  Do what works best for you.

Check out the specs, costs and reviews of the Mad River Canoe.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Canoe

New Mad River Passage 14 Canoe

My wife and I upgraded to a brand new canoe!  And it was her idea.  I love my wife.  She puts up with all my crazy interests and my fishing addiction.  She loves boats and water, so it all works out.  Abbie loves to read and just hang out in the boat while I fish.  She even likes to paddle and drive the canoe around.  Abbie is like my fishing guide!

We sold our old (as in 40 years) 17' aluminum canoe to some of our friends and bought this 14' plastic type canoe with padded back rest seats!  It was a great all around upgrade for us just in time for the fall and great weather.  We loved our old canoe, but it was hard to lug around by myself and my wife didn't think it was too comfortable.  Those are both things that didn't phase me from being out on the water with it as much as I possibly could, hours at a time.  This new canoe is like a luxury car.  It has rod holders and even cup holders!  Who would have thought, a rod holder.  How convenient.  Now I don't have to figure out where things go when I am trying to paddle and what not.

first time on the car.
Our first trip was to Ramsey Lake State Park outside of Vandalia, IL.  This spot has some special family meaning for me.  My family tent camped there a bit when I was growing up, so I have fond memories of Ramsey Lake.  My wife and I love paddling creeks and exploring the water that feeds lakes.  No other boats can get to these small creeks and shallow waters. We are often the only people who can reach certain parts of water with our canoe.

I have been taking the baitcaster and a plastic worm lately.  You just can't beat how well that works when it is hot out.  It is a fun way to fish.  I like to slow things down a bit and feel the bottom of the lake for a while imagining the stumps and contour of the lake floor.  I stalk fishy type hideouts and holding spots.  I am not the best at finding fish, but the worm certainly lets me cover a lot of water.  Anyways, I caught a few largemouth out of the creek and we were able to paddle it for quite a ways.  The water got to about 4 inches and we turned around because of log jams.

Then I took my German friend, Kai, out to St. Ellen Mine in O'Fallon, IL yesterday.  Bass fishing with the worm again.  Did ok out there too!

The new canoe gets 2 thumbs up.  I can't wait to take it out more.

Friday, August 27, 2010

When You Lose A Fly

17" Largemouth.
South Side Park Belleville, IL
I lost my first fly this week.  I was completely unprepared for the remorse I felt.  Who would have thought?  I have lost countless lures and fishing trinkets including sunglasses and cell phones to the depths of some body of water.  I even threw a fishing pole and reel right into the lake once.  However, none of those events can compare to losing a fly that I tied myself.  While tying the fly you almost picture all the amazing fish you are going to fool with it.  You feel the tranquil breeze on a cool dusk evening on the water.  All is good.  Then, you lose it to never see again on some stupid snag.  Bummer.  That sucks.  I contemplated going into the water after it.  If no one would have been around, I might have jumped in with the same life abondedment as a parent saving a drowning child.  Oh well.  One lost and I am sure many more to come.  This first one hurts.  So, I tied another one.  No big deal.  I don't even think about it anymore.  I don't walk by that same spot in the lake and log countless mental notes and memories of losing it.  I am over it.  Really.  I am.

With my new fly that I tied up.  A lefty's deceiver in black.  I caught a 17" just shy of 2lb largemouth on the fly rod at South Side Park in Belleville, IL.  That's right, the underdog city park!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

South Side Park

I think I have found a wonderful little gem.  I took a quick fishing trip over the weekend on a Saturday morning to South Side Park in Belleville, IL.  This place is minutes from my house and I usually ride my bike to the park with a fishing pole tied to the bike frame.  I only had a couple hours to fish and I had the itch to cast the fly rod a bit.  This pond has a ton of bluegill and I have seen folks bottom fishing for catfish.
Large Shad - South Side Park Belleville, IL

I was the only person at the park on an early 7am ish Saturday morning (no surprise there).  I caught a fair amount of bluegill and I even hooked a large shad.  The baitfish swim to the top in their schools to feed.  I was casting to this school and got the big one of the bunch.  At the end of my couple hours of fishing freedom, I noticed a decent bass following one of my flies.  He never took it, but now I knew there were bass in the pond.

I know I am suppose to be writing about fly fishing, but the next day I took out my baitcaster that I got for Christmas last year.  I felt like it was lonely and being neglected.  I tied on a plastic worm and went to work.  It felt great outside.  Dusk and calm.  I didn't catch anything for a bit, but right as the sun was setting I started getting hits.  I hooked up with two 10inchers.  Lost a couple more.  (I am out of practice setting the hook on the worm).  

Then before I knew it, it was dark outside.  I didn't notice right away because there are street lights around the lake.  A bike trail runs around one side of the lake, so that is most likely why the lake has street lights or street lights are just fitting for an inner city lake?  Who knows?  
Largemouth Bass - South Side Park Belleville, IL

So for the finale.  I toss the worm in for one last go before I head for home.  Wham!!!!  The line starts zinging off my reel and then in a split second --- SNAP.  The line broke right off.  I was left speechless and a bit confused.  I didn't expect anything of size to be in this pond, but this thing broke off 10lb test like it was nothing.  

As you might guess, I will be back often to this pond to see what I can pull out of it.  I also caught an old coffee can that night.  


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Barren Creek Vacation

My wife and I just got back from vacation spent in the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois.  We got to spend a week enjoying the outdoors and relaxing.  We weren't exactly roughing it due to the heat.  We had planned on tent camping, but we went for cabins instead.  What a great idea that was.  Air conditioning was a blessing when I would come off the water and it was 102 by noon.  I was on the water as much as I could be.  We took the canoe and had a private dock by the cabin.  Barren Creek, which is a tributary of the Ohio River was literally our backyard.  I took the fly rod and some conventional tackle along with me.  This was my first experience fly fishing on anything but a lake.  The creek was a super muddy brown and extremely slow moving.  However, there were some big fish in this creek. 

We hardly had the bags unpacked when I made the casual, "hey honey, is it ok if I take the canoe out for a bit."  I had a strategy in this trip.  Fish as often as I can.  This meant getting up at the horrible hours and braving the heat if I was going to get any solid amounts of time fishing.  My wife is a trooper and super cool about fishing, but she doesn't fish, she hates the heat and she only likes to be on the canoe for less than 1 hour at a time.  All those statements are perfectly normal and very logical.  Actually, she is a sane human being where as I am not when it comes to fishing.

Anyways, I go out for a few hours before dinner and I see fish jumping, popping the water and surfacing all over the place.  I swear the heavens opened up and a chorus of angels sang to me.  Then, I spent the next 3 hours and next day getting skunked all over the place.  I was out of my element.  I didn't know the water, what fish where in it and what they were eating.  And don't forget, I usually suck at fishing.  First time on a creek fly fishing and first time getting skunked while fly fishing.  Not even a puny bluegill.  That wasn't so bad, but fish would surface all over the place.  Even right next to the canoe.  That frustrated the daylights right out of me. 

Come to find out, the surfacing fish were short-nose gar.  I didn't know a thing about them.  I called my dad for some recon since he had the internet.  The wise old advice from my father went something like, they have teeth...and what are you going to do with it!  We found out they eat shad and other bait fish and attack in the middle of the bait.  So I tied up a long sinking wooly bugger to no avail.  I gave up fly fishing and went to the spinning rod.  No luck.  Fly rod, no luck.  I was going insane.  I couldn't catch a heat stroke even regardless of my extended hours in the high temperatures. 

My brains kicked in and I just sat in the canoe for about 1 hour and just watched stuff.  (now that may not sound like brains to some of you).  I observed what the fish were doing and what they were eating.  Where they were hanging out and the like.  Then I grabbed the spinning rod setup and tied on a rapala black and white minnow that looked just like the baitfish in the creek.  BAM.  Gar on.  That sucker pulled the canoe around the creek and had the drag working overtime.  Then came largemouth bass and even a catfish.  Skunked no more!!!  I probably laughed like a mad man with the whole muuahhahaha thing being all heat stroked and all.  I even had luck with the fly rod and caught a mess of bluegill on the last day. 

We also took a great canoe ride on the lower cache river.  It is a wetland with a canoe trail.  Freaking sweet.  The trail leads you buy a 1,000 year old cypress tree. 

All in all, it was a great trip.  I highly recommend the Ohio River Smithland Pool area on the Illinois side.  Great water and awesome woods.  Abbie and I got to see bats in the evening, hawks, turkey, deer, turtles and of course cows! 

Check out the Barren Creek Cottages where we stayed.  Not a luxurious place, but it was cheap and right on the water.  To me, what more could one ask for?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

City Park

I grew up about 5 minutes from Sangchris Lake State Park.  I took that for granted and I realize that now.  I live in what is called the Metro-East.  It is the Illinois side of the St. Louis area.  I live in Belleville and I love it...except that I miss the great outdoors big time and I have traded the tress and lakes in for concrete and buildings. 

I have had a cranking busy week at work trying to get ready for a vacation.  Vacations are cool.  Doing 2 weeks worth of work to go on vacation is not so cool.  Needless to say, I needed to get out and fish.  It has been super hot and I have been super busy.  I only had an hour to fish, so I packed my vest and rod in the car and headed to South Side Park.  Remember, I am already a spectacle as a fly fisherman in the city.  People fish this small pond in a city park quite often, but most are bottom fishing for catfish.  No one is fly fishing.

I got to spend a relaxing hour fly fishing.  I only caught 2 small bluegill.  I never said I was any good.  It was just what I needed to get my fix and recover some balance in my life.  Then a crazy thing happened.  3 guys under a park pavilion yell, "hey mister fisherman, do you want a beer?"  I look around and I noticed that I must be the "mister fisherman".   I holler back in a joking manner, "what kind!"  Now you must know 2 things.  I hardly ever drink and I actually don't like beer at all.  Plus, I am a little guy.  Pair that with not drinking much and you can guess that I don't handle alcohol very well.  So, the guy brings me a budweiser in a can.  What was I going to do?  It was hot out and he left me no choice by bringing over this ice cold beer.  In an effort to be friendly I take the beer and follow him back to his friends under the pavilion.  I then spent the next hour drinking a beer with 3 guys I have never met talking about life.  The craziest thing was that 1 guy was homeless and lived in the park woods.  That blew my mind.  All he had was a bicycle and trash bag.  He kept the beer cans.  He had 2 rolls of toilet paper, 2 loafs of bread, ham and some pizza in his trash bag.  He was just riding around the park and the other 2 guys invited him over for a beer as well. 

This was obviously a very uncommon event for me.  The thing that was crazy was that it seemed perfectly normal.  It didn't matter that we were strangers.  It didn't even matter that one guy was homeless.  Social status and race didn't matter.  It didn't matter that I don't like beer.  Nothing mattered.  It was just people hanging out talking about life and enjoying the night.  Everything was so simple.   Each guy was equal. 

I got a healthy dose of perspective tonight as I drove home after fishing for recreation knowing that Jacob (the homeless guy) was going to camp in the woods where he lived. 

I will never forget this fishing trip.  I didn't even catch fish worth remembering, but I will never forget this trip to the city lake. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's been HOT

I haven't been out fishing much lately.  Life, job and the heat have been keeping me from fishing.  Lame sauce.  But, I did get to go fly fishing with my Dad on Saturday!  Pops hadn't thrown a fly rod since he was a young man.  He is retired now, so we are trying to get together as much as we can.  We planned a day of fly fishing for whatever we could catch.  All was good except that it was sick hot outside.  The heat zapped us and we sweated buckets.  Gross, I know.

However, that didn't stop us from having a great day.  Pops took to throwing the fly like he was riding a bike.  He caught 3 fish before I even got my line in the water.  We both ended the day with I think 5 fish each.  And we hit up burger king on the way home.  Great day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Big Blues and a farm pond

My wife and I have some great friends (Lyndsay and Andy) who take us out to their families farm pond to relax, hang out and fish.  You can't beat that.  They took us out last weekend and we were on a mission.  Lyndsay's Dad charged us with thinning out the pond a bit, so it was catch fish to eat time.  

It was a tough call if I was going to go....Super stocked farm pond, so many fish it needs to be thinned....friends...and the hopes of a fish fry.  I had to think for about a micro second before everything in me said yes.  We got to spend an great afternoon hanging out and fishing with Lyndsay and Andy and Lyndsay's parents and family friends.  What great people to be so open and inviting.  I always want to live my life with an open door policy.  What is mine, is yours.  I think God calls us to share our lives and stuff.

Well, needless to say, I came home with a stringer full of fish (most caught on fly's that I tied).  Check out the ka-junga blue gill!  One was 9"!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fly Tying on the cheap

I got into making my own flies lately.  I have only tied a few up, but it is addicting.  I can easily see myself making hundreds of these things.  The only problem is, I want to fish every single one of them.  It is hard to choose which one to fish when I hit the water.  I have the greatest hopes of each creation being a fish magnet. 

I am kinda cheap, so I have been finding materials and making them work.  Here are some things I use:

Dubbing - Dryer Lint (free)
Feathers - I find them in the park (goose, duck, common birds)
Silly Legs - Cut up an old bungee cord and use the rubber strands.
Craft Stores - My wife loves to do fabric crafts.  I hit up the stores with her to find cheap marabou, beads and other random stuff.
Popper Bodies - I have been using ear plugs.  Bright Orange foam ones that I had laying around.

I haven't tied a fly yet that a fish hasn't gone for.  No perfect fish magnets yet, but I am still working at it.

I will have to say my favorite commercial fly so far is a size 10 Betts Frugal Frog.  I always catch fish with that one.  It is my go to.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fishing with a buddy

I mostly fish alone.  Now, I am not some hermit social weirdo who can't make friends.  However, I am a fish until I can't stand it any longer even if the fish aren't biting, I am sun burnt to a crisp and starving to death kinda guy.  I don't think I will ever get tired of fishing.  I just can't get enough of it.  When I leave the water for the day, my only thought is when I will get to go back and give it another shot. Obviously, most people I know are not like this.  Thus, I fish alone.

I am also the only fly fisherman in my circle of people I know.  I live in Illinois and I fish still water while in a canoe or wading, so I don't think I will be finding crowds with my interests!  But, I found a fishing buddy.  Actually, he found me.  Todd Lercher - the other fly fisherman that I know.  Todd and I talked to each other over the 4th of July about our fly fishing and we instantly planned a fishing trip.

Todd invited me out to his parents house.  They live in town and have a lake / pond on their property and it is super close to my job.  We had an awesome plan.  Fish after work.  What more do you need.  Bad news.  It rained buckets right when we were suppose to meet up.  Lame.  Most non die hard fisherman would have called it, but I have a feeling Todd is like me.  I call him up and he said, "let's wait it out."  I am thinking, this is my kind of fishing friend.  So, we waited it out.  The rain stopped and it turned into a great evening of fishing.  We caught a bazillion bluegill and I got two 1lb largemouth.

It was a great time shooting line with another fisherman.  We talked fish, life and stuff.  We traded techniques and fishing spots we like to visit.  We swaped flies and Todd even gave me an extra pair of hemostats he had.  And best of all, when we gave it up for the day, we planned on doing it all again.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

1 week of fishing

I just wrapped up 7 days of fishing and I am not even on vacation!  I have gone fishing every single day for the last week.  I am trying to work on fly casting and I found a great strip mine lake that is 6 minutes from my job and it has an Aldi (grocery store) on the way back home.  Win, win.  Especially to appease the wife when I take my random trips out there before and after work.
Here in Illinois, we have been blessed with a great week of weather.  It has been super calm and cool at dusk and the mornings are worth getting up for.  My wife and I took the canoe out the last 2 times we went fishing.  (She likes reading on the canoe and feeding ducks).  I did get her to try her hand at the fly rod and she did great.  She caught 2 bluegill and the first one made her smile bigtime.  Maybe I can get her into fly fishing because she didn't really take to the normal bass fishing I do.  

Anyways, it was great to be out on the water doing something I love and sharing it with someone I love.  I know that sounds cheez-tastic, but I really enjoyed this last week. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bluegill on Poppers

I have never had so much fun catching bluegill than I have had while fly fishing with poppers. In fact, I never really fished with top water anything before I started fly fishing. Picture you dropping a fly on the calm water surface at dusk. The lake is calm and you see fish nipping at other things that land in the water. Now it is time to start making your popper come to life, so you give it a little tug and let it settle. Then out of nowhere, BAM! The surface pops with a fish that just grabbed your fly. It is not the slow paced bobber fishing most people have in mind with bluegill. Largemouth bass will take the popper hard too.

Add some waders and you turn into a bluegill hunter moving around the lake into the places people on shore can't go! Sometimes I feel like I am a herron bird that slowly stalk their prey. Sometimes my boots get sucked into the mud and I almost take a dip in the lake and look supremely idiotic.

Anyways, grab a fly rod, some panfish poppers and head to the lake to catch some fish.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Largemouth Bass on the fly

First Largemouth Bass on the fly rod.
I know it's small, but you have to start somewhere.

St. Ellen Mine, O'fallon IL
June 27, 2010

Biggest Largemouth Bass on the fly rod...yet!
Biggest Largemouth Bass I have ever caught!

And it was on the fly rod.

St. Ellen Mine, O'Fallon IL
June 29, 2010

and it was on the same fly. Just a little green panfish popper with white rubber legs.

Peace, Life and Fish

Have you ever found something in life that fits you like an old pair of comfy shoes? That is what fishing has always been for me. I connect with it on a deep level and I am not sure why. I would even go as far as saying it is kinda like a spiritual thing for me. Now don't get me wrong...I am not some weirdo hippie crazoid. I just like fishing and I like God and I think He had a mind to have us enjoy His creation and nature.

So here is my helpless addiction to fishing and then steps in fly fishing. Actually, in came a magazine when I went to pick up groceries after work on a Wednesday. I was minding my own business and then I took a wrong turn trying to get milk and ended up at the magazine rack. My eye spots a 2010 fly fishing made easy beginners guide to fly fishing magazine. I pick it up and think, "I've always wanted to try that." Two days later, this video and a trip to dick's sporting goods, I have my very own basic fly fishing setup. (Check it out here) I have greatly enjoyed this setup and it has done everything and more than I need as a beginner.

I went fishing that Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday (twice), Wednesday and I plan to go today after work.

I want this blog to tell my story of how I am learning to fly fish on the cheap and how I get out as often as I can to do what I love. Maybe I can share a tip or show some cool pictures of fish I have caught to inspire you to pick up a rod and go fishing. I am not a pro at the least bit. In fact I suck at fishing, but I enjoy it to the core of my being.

Get out there and wet a line.