Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pickerel Hunt

After my first attempt at catching pickerel this year I learned a few things. I was going to have to find a solution for stopping the fish from cutting the leader. The wire wasn't working. It seemed to turn the fish off and the fly would work right in the water. I searched online for other solutions. I wanted a cheap fix and I came across this on Sierra Trading Post for $1.50.
I figured if it works for big steelhead it should be fine for pickerel. The weather lined up right and we had 3 days close to 60 degrees with overnight lows of above 40. I felt this would raise the water temperature considerably and the fish would be more apt to eat. I decided to invite my mother along to get more practice with the fly rod and get experience with some new water. Even with recent rains the water was very clear.
The tough part about this creek is the decent pickerel spots are far apart from one another. There's some good hiking involved. The water was still pretty cold and if I didn't spook a few pickerel while wading I would have been concerned. I'm not really sure if pickerel discriminate towards fly patterns. Last year I caught them on a Red Eyed Bass Bandit. The last trip I had a few go after clousers. There is a section I call pickerel alley where I have seen the most fish. I looked in a location where I've seen fish holding before and sure enough there was a good size pickerel there. These fish are either really brave or not used to being prey. They don't behave like other types of fish. This fish held under a log while my mother and I talked right above it. The fish didn't move a fin. I was expecting it to bolt at any time. I flicked my clouser a few feet in front of its nose and the fish started to move. My heart skipped a beat. This was the biggest pickerel I have had the chance of catching. As it came closer I could tell by the pickerel's body language it was in curiosity mode. I gave the fly a little flick and the fish turned on predator mode and slashed at the fly. It was swimming away from me so all I saw was the mouth open and I could see the white from the fishes gill plates indicating it swallowed something. I set the hook and at first the fish was lethargic at first. I wasn't sure if it was from the cold water or it wasn't sure that it was in danger. Once it noticed pressure was coming from the bank the fish decided to fight. It made a nice jump and gave a few runs but the fight overall was pretty short. Now came the fun part of landing it. This is where the 35lb tipped came in. I grabbed the tipped and pulled the fish up the bank without worrying about the line breaking. Once the fish was on land it really started to flop around. I regretted leaving my net in the car. I subdued the fish and made sure I kept clear of the toothy end. In the water the fish looked gray but out of the water you could see the fish was really green with iridescent yellow spots.
It was a nice fish for sure and seemed to be healthy. After taking another pic I let the fish go and watched as it slinked under some debris. It went back to being motionless, blending in with the submerged logs and tree branches around it. We continued to fish pickerel alley and I hooked a couple more fish but I couldn't land them. My mother had a few chances too. The key was fishing near rip rap and having the right retrieve of the fly. If you just dragged the fly through the water you wouldn't even get a follow. If you did a certain retrieve with the right 2-4inch strips you'd usually get a follow. The fish would hit right after a strip while the fly was falling or it would just stare at the fly. It would sometimes follow it all the way to the ground and just keep looking at it. I tried leaving the fly there for a minute then twitching it. The fish still just stared at it. I think pickerel are smart enough to tell the fly is not food if they get a close enough look. The trick seems to really be stripping it a certain way so the fly looks alive and the fish doesn't have enough time to really inspect it. These fish are really fun to catch but the location they inhabit is challenging. There were plenty of places we looked at where we knew for 100% certainty there had to be fish there. The bad part is all the debris and if you caught a fish the bigger challenge would be navigating it threw all the stuff in the water. A lot of the casting is roll type casting and these fish will give you a couple chances but not much after that. It creates a pretty good challenge of working on accurate casts. It is really fun fishing and I plan on doing it more this year. I'd like to catch a monster pickerel. There are stories of 24inch fish in this creek. I haven't seen one that big yet but I might get lucky on my next pickerel hunt.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

NC Fly Fishing Show Recap 2012

This year instead of working at the club booth I took one day to soak in the show. The talent of some of the fly tiers is unbelievable. Especially the realistic fly tiers. When I saw these flies I couldn't believe they were made out of the same materials used to make common fishing flies.
The flies were intricate and detailed to the highest level. This mosquito looked so real I had to constantly fight the urge to smash it.
The tier of these flies is BoB Mead. I talked to him a while about the technique for tying the flies. It's interesting that he just did this as a hobby then people started offering what he felt was ridiculous amounts of money for the flies. He realized quickly that he could have the life we all kind of dream. His hobby could be his main form of income. His work is displayed all over and often used in movies and commercials. The fly show is always great at show casing new inventions to the fly fishing industry. Kevin Arculeo had some very interesting creations.
When I first saw the fly I didn't know what to think. It looked kind of like a science project or something more as a decoration than a fishing fly. Kevin had a small display where one of these flies was swimming against a current. It was in this display that you saw the true efficiency of the fly. It gave one of the most life like swimming motions I've ever seen. The flies are made out of foam and feather light.
There were several variations and styles. I'm pretty sure we'll see more of this type of fly in the future. Part of the fun of the show is the people. I even ran into a fellow blogger. We were both talking to the same vendor when Joel mentioned A Year On The Fly. I couldn't believe the situation. If that scenario didn't happen there would probably be no other way we would have met or known each other was at the show. We talked for a bit and checked out some of the other booths together. Joel is a cool guy and showed me a new wooden fly box he created. Like all of his creations it was awesome.

My Special Moment
Lefty Kreh was giving a presentation on casting techniques. Near the end he was looking for volunteers to try out what he was teaching. No one was chomping at the bit to volunteer but I decided to give it a try. He told me I'd be the last person for the day. It's one thing to cast on a stream with hardly anyone around but doing it in front of 50-100 people is nerve racking. He gave me a few tips to get more distance on my cast and tighter loops. Then at the very end he was talking to some folks then as I was leaving he asked where I put the fly rod. I noticed where I put it up against a railing it had slid over. I was kind of embarrassed and said "well I didn't leave it there on the ground." Lefty said that's alright and walked over with me to pick up the rod. While I picked it up and handed it to him, he said "Kevin you cast very well. Your cast is very smooth. I don't say that to very many people." The compliment blew me away and I was so taken back by who it was coming from I was speechless. I did manage to say thanks. Then I went over and told my friends and we all giggled and acted like teenage girls who just talked to Justin Beiber. It was a moment I won't soon forget and I appreciate Lefty for taking the time for anyone who will listen his knowledge.

International Fly Fishing Film Festival

The only word that can describe the films from the festival is "AWESOME."  The production quality and style of the films is top notch.  Here are just a few.   What do you think? 

Costa Rica Challenge Sneak Preview from Fly Max Films on Vimeo.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Picky Pickerel

Yesterday I hit a stream that is known for having good populations of pickerel. This day was the first time I really felt like it was winter. It was in the low 40's and dreary. Everything was gray and dull but had its own beauty. The creek always has an emerald color too it and against the gray sky it stood out a little more.
The fish were definitely there but they weren't very aggressive. I found that the wire leader I was using was turning the fish off. Once I removed the wire I seemed to get more action. The bad part was I only had 10lb test and these fish eat that for breakfast. I lost two flies on two consecutive casts. I would strip the line a few times there would be a little resistance then just slack. After trying different combinations I eventually packed it in and enjoyed the hike. Each season in the south has its own beauty.
The rain held off and even though everything was wet and the leaves made the trail slippery I didn't mind. It was good to be out exploring and every turn had more scenery.
Until next time....

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Getting the Skunk Off

With the way the weather has been it seems more like early March than February. I remember seeing reports of people catching bowfin around late February so I decided to take a stab at it.  I've never really targeted them before but I have always wanted to catch one. I came equipped with wire leader and a plan of action for if I caught one.  Bowfin have vicious teeth. Lipping them is not an option. The locations I was informed that have bowfin in them wouldn't be your first choice if you were a nature lover.   The location I was found was perfect.  It had all the proper requirements for a nice bowfin spot. A stink you can't quite put your finger on.  Is it sewage or decaying animals? The water was dingy and had the visibility of maybe 6 inches.  There were interesting graffiti tags and drawings that really seemed to fit the place. It reminded me a little of places I fished as a kid.  They weren't pretty, usually borderline nasty. I can remember many times fishing off a pallet with nails sticking up everywhere or an old mattress. There were usually remnants of someone camping or random items like a pair of underwear, hyperdermic needles and if I was lucky an adult magazine.   The fishing in those places was sometimes quite good. Probably because most of the people inhabiting those places didn't have fishing on their mind.   

So here I was in this glorified gutter hunting for a fish that hasn't changed much since prehistoric times. I put on a clouser and started working the water. On my first cast I hooked something under the water. It seemed like a snag but after a few good yanks on my rod it came free. This happened several times and I started to wonder how much debris was in this water.  I kept working the fly and with in the first five minutes I had a fish on. I let out a little wooohooooo! Then looked around to see if anyone heard me. I hadn't seen anyone and actually I really wouldn't have been that embarrassed if someone did hear me.  I was tickled that catching a fish after a two month slump can still make me feel like a kid. The murk of the water made it hard to tell what kind of fish it was. I was hoping for bowfin but the fish didn't seem slender enough.  I got the fish to the surface and saw the lateral line that identifies a largemouth. The fish fought surprisingly well.
Despite the water quality this fished looked very healthy. When I turned it sideways you could see it was obviously feeding well.
It was a great first fish of the year. The catch a fish early curse followed through. I only had one other tap on a stealth bomber the rest of the morning. It was still a great time and I'll be back to hunt for bowfin again. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Fishless January

I never really had a goal this year to catch one fish a month. After this month I'm glad I didn't. I went fishing three time for striped bass. I can try to play it off and say that I didn't try very hard or didn't have the right gear. The sun was in my eyes, the flies weren't right, the fish were finicky..... Basically I just froze my butt off and got skunked 3 times. The only excitement over the three trips is a buddy stuck a size1 clouser in his face. The wind was getting pretty good and it stacked up his back cast. I heard a slap and looked over. "Is that stuck in your glasses or your face?" I asked. Hoping but knowing the true answer. "My Face" he said. Luckily the barb was smashed down and the fly was removed with no harm done. Well not much. Family time is taking more of my fishing time. My wife and I have kind of a deal, well it's something I hope she thinks is a deal. I told her I'll be around more on weekends in the winter if it's ok that I fish a lot in the summer. My wife is very understanding and tolerant, I think she knows letting me go fish is good for both of our sanity.

The fly fishing show is coming up soon. The fishing club will have a booth there and I can't wait to see what the vendors have to offer. It's always nice to check out the seminars and showcases by the experts. It looks like David Whitlock will not be at this show which is disappointing. I'll try to take some pics and give a report. The weather is teasing us in the south. It was near 70 today. It gives you the false sense that maybe winter is over. We all know better. Right when you start thinking that you get a freak snow or ice storm. Spring isn't that far away and late Feb is usually when the pickerel get active. I only caught one last year. I want to catch a few more this year.