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.