Friday, September 26, 2014

Felsenthal Water Trail

Had a few hours today, Friday, so I decided to try the water trail access at Shallow Lake.  It's about 30 additional minutes from my house and having never been I wasn't familiar with the area or specifically the fishing.  But, the only way to learn is to get out and get paddling.

Signs always help!

Found the sign but didn't really follow the suggested path.  It headed North and I followed that general direction but I was mostly lookn for fishy places to wet a line.  Found a few, and caught a few bass.

The area is changing from Summer to Fall.  Temps are lower, 65 this morning at the ramp, and leaves are beginning to change colors.

The refuges inhabitants are becoming more active...saw a few turkeys, 2 deer, and the bass are starting to school up...caught this one and had 3 follow it back to the yak.  If I had been fishing anything with more hooks I would have had a double on the same bait...haven't done that since I was a kid.

Only had a few hours to fish but I managed 3 and lost 2 so not bad for 3 hours of fishing.  I'll be back to really test the fishing shortly, it seemed to have a ton of possibilities, deep water, pads, and cypress.

Part of the water trail

Entrance to Fishtrap lake part of the water trail

Hut with a view 

When I got home I did a little more research and found this, with maps of 2 water trails:

Friends-of-Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge FB page

Looks like I have some more exploring to do....Felsenthal is a yaker's playground.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bows and Bro's, Little Red River adventure

Family had big plans in central AR this weekend, so I was "forced" to take my BnL fishing Saturday, life is tough sometimes. Thanks to the hospitality of a FB friend we were given access to a private launch spot on the Little Red River.  So we planned to meet at 4:30, load his ride 115x on my truck, and drive to a location on the river neither of us had ever seen.  With 4 hours of sleep I was up at 4 am and ready to go.  Made a cup of coffee and went outside to load up....about 5 mins later my BnL arrives about 25 mins early...everyone knows I can't sleep the night before a fishing trip.  So SOP is, if your up early, head on over b/c I'll be up too!!  We load up and hit the road early with excitement in the air and a little bit of nervousness about the destination.  We arrived at 5:40 am to the address we were given and both were glad to see some of the landmarks we had been told about actually at least the location was real.

Parked and started looking for the trail to the river.  Walking around on someone else's property in the early morning hours might seem crazy, but not to the fish obsessed.  We found a trail and started our journey to the river.  After 5 mins of walking, the trail became a dry creek bed...we kept on for another 10 mins before we decided that, if this was the trail, it led to really bad things.  Not wanting to meet whatever was waiting for us in the dark, at the end of the dry creek bed, we scaled a 10ft embankment...quickly!!  At the top we found "another trail"...with a big sign/picture of a fish that read, "River" and an arrow...awesome, that helps!!  At this point we're feeling pretty good, we've managed to not get shot, lost, or murdered (HUGE plus) and we've found the river.  All we had to do was carry our fully loaded kayaks down a smallish mountain.  Let's fish!!!  We found a little pedestrian bridge over a creek and decided this was the spot...dropped the yaks in the creek and made our way to the river.  1st part of this adventure is a success...we're on the river, alive and fishing.

Time to break in the new TFO I got this week.  Made my way to the far side of the river and ditched the yak in favor of some wet wading.  About 10 mins in and fish on!!  Nice start to the morning, 1st bow I've held since June.  

TFO and a bow.  Note: making a "bow" in the hatch strap causes less snags.

Quick photo and released.  Saw a few fish rising up river so I slowly walked that direction.  Made a presentation and got a take.  2 fish in 20 mins!!  Day is looking good.  Checked on my BnL, it had been several years since he fly fished.  It looked like he had knocked the rust off, so I decided to paddle a little further up river and see if I could put a good bend in that new TFO.  Got a few more takes but no hook-ups.  Not long after I hear BnL hollering from down river and he's hooked-up...he was pretty stoked about his 1st bow!  It had been several years since he held a trout.

The sun came up and the boats came out...not long after...the bite slowed way down.  We had landed 10-15 bows in 3 hours, but from 10-12 it wasn't happening for us.  I tried nymphs, hoppers, small streamers, everything I had in my limited trout arsenal but all I got was good experience tying knots and changing leaders.  We had drifted over a mile and had to paddle up river to get back to the start.  We decided now was a good time to make wake.

Along the way the river got calm, the boaters must have caught their limits and went home.  The trout came back out and we began to see them in the river.  BnL sight fished 5 bows at the halfway point, all while I was tying a bugger on...I though about ramming him with my kayak but I almost had my knot tied (those that fly fish understand).  He had a good spell that lasted the entire paddle back.  We made it to a shoal that I had success at earlier with a sow bug, so I beached the yak and worked the far bank.   It didn't happen fast but I managed to pull 4 out of that shoal and had 3 shake off.

We paddled up river a mile and drifted back, repeating this drift a few times, pulling in several more bows.  Final total, ~50 bows between the 2 of us but no browns.  No real big ones, ranged from 10-14 inches.  Both lost our biggest on weak sets.  Coolest part of the trip; having a bald eagle fly over us, it was close enough I think I could have touched it with my fly rod.  Interesting catch; a small bow with a deep gash, perfect beak shape, behind the head...released it thinking it would just turn upside down.  Saw it 30 min later about 1/2 a mile down river...could see the white and red gash on his head.

I suspect one of these tried to snack on that bow.

It ended like it began, the fog started to set the sun faded, and we were left with that anxious feeling we had at the start.  We had to make our way back to the truck and hope we hadn't trespassed or have an angry homeowner waiting for us.  Paddled to the creek we started at and found it empty...the water had dropped a foot since we started.  So we waded through the mud to the bridge and carried our fully loaded yaks up the smallish mountain.  Got back to my truck and found nothing...not a sole around.  Got a call from the FB friend that he'd be home we waited and met someone with the same addiction we of kayaking!!  That's why I love yaking, it's a great sport filled with great people, similar people with similar interest.  2nd part of the adventure completed, not end up in jail...or worse!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

For all the good days there must also be some bad days...truth be told.

Keeping it real...not all trips are worthy of a was one of those days.  Covered 6 miles of water today with the 8wt.  Not much to show for it except a catfish, gar, and 1 small bass.  Today was mostly an exploration as I ventured out further than I have in the past.  Can't say that I liked what I found, fish wise.  Mostly really shallow flats...less than 3 fow in most places and about the same in visibility.

Gar on the fly.

Started with a popper and had a huge carp take a swipe at it...but only at the no hook up.  Switched to bait fish patterns and stayed with that the rest of the day.

Catfish on the fly

Bass on the fly
At the end of the day I came across a school of carp feeding on the surface and tried a small popper but this time they weren't interested, go figure.  Not every trip can be epic.

School of carp, you can see their heads above the surface.

Been on the watch for ducks, none spotted.  I did run across this decoy today.  Going to give it to my BnL.  The fish didn't respond like I would have liked, but slinging feathers is always fun.  Lookn forward to fishing the new TFO 5wt that arrived today.  Some cold water trout may be in my near future.

Track if interested: use the satellite view for accurate depiction of refuge.
9/16 Track

Friday, September 12, 2014

UPS be damned...I fish on!!

Let me start this off we a recap of the last 2 days.  After a slow trip on Wednesday, I made a plan to fish today.  Partly to fish just ahead of the cold front that is pushing south and partly to break in my new 5wt that I ordered from Cabela's...being delivered on Thursday.  Like most good plans, Thursday arrived and the plan deflated quickly when I arrived at my house and found the package that my new TFO was residing in completely destroyed...might as well have been a casket.   New TFO 4 piece, now a 5 piece and going on 6 piece's...nice try UPS, but I'm still going fishing.  My probably won't hurt my casting skillz!!

UPS delivered rip completely in half and taped back together, C'mon man!

Big surpirse, the contents are damaged.

So after UPS tried to sabotage my fishing trip I had to make a new plan.  No problem, I have a brand new package of "Game Changers" still waiting from the last trip.  Got out to the refuge around 8:15 am and discovered the wind wasn't too bad.  Would have been a great day for a fly rod.  I decided to go north into the wind so that it would be at my back when I was leaving.

Making my way through the pads.

The bite was VERY slow and not what I was expecting.  It was the eve of the cold front, temp 68F, overcast and almost dark, perfect conditions...I thought anyway.  I caught 1 small bass around 11am.

Had a few more bumps but no hook ups.  It went like this until about 12:30pm....and then it went crazy.  I found a long wind swept tree line that was sitting in about 2 fow and fell into 5 fow and the bass were stacked up along the edge of the trees.  After 10, I stopped counting or taking pictures but I'm sure I caught over 20.  Just not enough time for pics today.  They weren't the biggest and almost looked identical...just a school of 13-15 inch bass.  Lost 2 that were probably 2.5 lbs...but no real giants today.  Just real fun catching.

This dude hasn't missed a meal..look at the belly.

Had to be home by 3 pm and I had a 2 mile paddle I reluctantly put the tree line behind me and started paddling back to the launch.  It's tough to leave just when you think the pre-front bite is turning on.  But I know how fortunate I am to fish as often as I at the school I must be by 3!!!  Hope this is the start to a fall feed up!!  Next adventure being planned...going to be fun!!

If interested here's the track from today's trip.  Forgot to turn it the last mile is not on water, lol.
Sept 12 track

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hot weather, slow Bass bite - salvaging the day!

Got back out on the water again today.  When I checked the forecast last night, it said it would be hot, no surprise.  But when I checked it again this morning before leaving, the predicted winds had gone from 8-10 mph to a breezy 10-15 mph...SURPRISE!!  I had packed the 8wt but b/c of the winds never attempted a presentation (sustained at 10 gusting to 15).  Fishing from a kayak in windy conditions can be a challenge...but not impossible.  So plan "B" it is...umm...did someone, ME, tell plan "B" it was game on.  Nope..."Fish Brain" strikes again.  For those that aren't familiar w/ "Fish Brain"...imagine forgetting a VERY important item on fishing day b/c you're all-consumed with the thought of fishing.  Example, you could forget your paddle, or sun glasses, or was my trusted artificial bait of choice.  I had a new package of "game changers" sitting in my truck, however, I was fishing from my prized Jackson Cuda...not helpful from the truck.  So I went with what I had...all chewed up, put away wet, and funky lookn left overs from previous trips.  I don't throw away my used soft plastics...I set them aside and store them.  Why? I know I suffer from "Fish Brain" I prepare to be unprepared..."1 is none, 2 is one!"

Not sure if it helps or hurts the flavor to store, Gulp, Zoom, Powerbait, Yum, and any other used plastics together but here is how it went today:

First fish hit an olive colored plastic.  Estimated time in flavor concoction, 2 weeks.  Drawback of old baits, they don't last long.  1 fish = 1 soft plastic retired permanently.  Next up, same colored soft plastic (time in juice, ~5 months).  Got a couple good hits but no connections.  It wasn't fishable after it was ripped in half.

Replaced with black/blue soft plastic (time in juice, ~1 week).  Fish seemed to like it and after a few casts, fish on and in my hand.  Not a huge fish but I'm no fish snob...I like'em all.

Decided to explore some new water so I paddled deeper into the refuge before I started fishing again.  I like the new area and the fish were there...managed 2 more on green/red flake soft plastic (time in juice, ~3 weeks).  Had to change b/c, I lost my last 2 black/blue plastics along with 2 tungsten weights after getting hung on the bottom...TWICE!!  That seems to happen more with recycled baits...big down side of my recycling program (tungsten isn't cheap).

It wasn't the most ferocious action and I didn't catch any monsters, but having a successful outing using only old chewed up, seen their better days, soft plastics was an exciting challenge.  One I hope to never repeat...but know I will.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Labor Day weekend - fishing around part 2 of 2

Alright, if you hung around after reading part 1 of this story then you deserve to hear how good the fishing was on Monday.  Woke up early, earlier than expected, about 1 am on Monday and started the drive south.  At this point I have had about 10 hours of sleep all weekend and I was scheduled to meet my brother at 4 am.  I wish I could rest the night before a fishing trip but it never happens.  I guess my non-fishing days are meant for resting.  He was waiting right where we agreed, along with his shiny new ascend kayak that still needed a good fish slimming.   So were off and headed to my neck of the woods...lily pads and timber.  No more of that crystal clear water that I had fished on Saturday.

So we arrived to find the ramp vacant again.  It's about 3 ft low so boat navigation isn't easy but no issues for a yak.  At times it can be like bumper cars, bouncing off all the unseen tree tops.  Or having them impale my scupper holes...that's a real joy!!! But its quickly becoming my favorite place to fish.

1st fish a nice 6lbr - time for a cold one, days a success.

As far as the fishing, it's still producing a good amount of bass and a few have some size.  This was my first bite and first fish of the morning.  When you get a 6lb bass that early in the morning, it takes the pressure off the rest of the day.  Fishing for fun from that point on.

2nd fish ~2.5lb way up in the pads
But the bass were active all day so I didn't have to convince myself I was having a great day.  We had to deal with some wind but it didn't slow the catching down.  We both ended up with 5.  I lost 3 in the pads b/c I couldn't get to them soon enough.  Missed a few more on lazy line management...too much slack.  But no complaints, the fishing was awesome.  Only wish I had my 5wt to try and catch a few of the giant bluegills that kept tearing my plastics all to pieces.  Thanks for the nice assortment of plastics with only 1 or 0 pinchers.   I'm com'n back for you warned.  Just got to pick out a new 5wt...with a lifetime warranty.

More adventures in the works.  Got to get back to SELA and stalk some reds, it's been almost a month since I saw a red that wasn't in my freezer.  It's getting close to Fall fishing...lookn forward to it!!!

Labor Day weekend - fishing around part 1 of 2

About a month ago, some family and I had planned a float trip down the lower wilderness section of the Buffalo River over Labor day weekend.  Well the weather (area was under a flash flood watch) was not favorable for a float trip so we decided to head to Lake Ouachita and stay in a family fishing camp near the Buckville area.  My plan was to fish the lake Sunday (part 1).  Then on Monday, I'd fish a different lake on my way home (part 2).  The fishing wasn't the greatest but the scenery more than made up for the lack of it didn't!!  C'mon man I'm all about the fish...but I did take some photo's to highlight the majestic views.

Not a bad view...see any fish?

The fishing: started w/ the 5wt.  Had high hopes of running into some schooling bass and really wanted to see if the stripers were in the area?  Found shad all over the place...huge packs all huddled up strategizing on how to remain alive during the mass feeding that I suspected would be taking place shortly.  I camped on the buffet for an hour...but it never happened.  Guess the bass were waiting for the Saints game to come on...that's next Sunday silly bass!!  SO, I was forced to pound the rock bank looking for bass b/c they didn't come to the buffet.  No LM's but the Rock Bass were eager to play.

After an hour of catching them, the wind kicked up to about 15mph and was gusting to 20mph.  Boat control became a real issue...flinging REALLY sharp hooks around your head, in 15mph winds, from a moving kayak seemed like a bad idea.  Away the fly rod went and out came the baitcaster.  No change in fishing...just a float trip at this point.  After another hour we arrived at a creek that feeds into the lake.  I had been waiting for this.  Got the fly rod back out and made a few false casts then something weird happened...the end came unbuttoned and....wait a minute it's still attached...yea you guessed it, it BROKE above the 4th eye.  Now my 2 piece is a 3 piece...awesome!

View up the creek and my new 3 piece.  

Well that simplified my equipment decisions.  I went with a swimming fluke and managed 3 pickerel and 1 little spotted bass.

Some interesting rock formations along the creek.

Shoal crossing leading to a deep pool.

Road to the take a little rain this weekend.

If you don't have 4wd don't's remote up here.  
No great bass stories but the scenery was spectacular and when it was all over I got to play in the mud a little!!!  Any time on the water is a GREAT time!!!