Tuesday, June 30, 2015

All smiles!

Just rolled back into town.  Really, at this point it's just to do laundry and grab some mail.  No point in unpacking as we're gonna be headed to LR to visit family for the 4th.  But, I wanted to share a cool story...cool to me anyway.  As I've mentioned many times, my girls have 0 interest in fishing.  But I always include them in my outdoor activities. This week, instead of just burying the left over fish remains, I set up a few crab traps for entertainment purposes only...everything was released.  My oldest really got into it.  At one point, she was ready for a grip and grin!!
Although, she quickly changed her mind when she got a good look at the business end of a big blue crab...maybe next year.  I'm very excited that they love the water and all it has to offer.  At the end of the day they were running the traps w/o any help.  Pretty awesome!!

Get Some!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Nomad Life - the life for me

Haven't stopped to count, but I think I've been home 4 days in June. Cool
ith me.  In not so many words, the fishing has been great, the beach life awesome (where else do you see dolphins, horses, and find a message in a bottle-kids LOVE this place) and our trip into NOLA was exceptional.  Pics tell it better, so here's another photo post, enjoy. 

Double on 1 rod...that's great fishing!

Monday, June 22, 2015

AR tailwaters (part 4)

Finished up my overnighter in the Ozarks and had to make a decision.  TS Bill was moving through the area and dropping a lot of rain.  With 5-8"s of rain forecast in the area I decided to take a time out and watch the weather a little closer before I made a final decision on the next stop.

Got up bright and early Monday and headed to Lake Conway.  The catching wasn't red hot, but I managed a few and this bass made up for the slow action.

Monday evening, I got in touch with a buddy and we changed our plan.  Originally, we were going to gravel bar camp on a river in MO.  But the fear of drowning in a flash flood made us change locations.  We decided to bring a boat and fish the controlled flash flooding below the Norfork and Little Red River tailwaters.

It rained all night Tuesday, but it was bright and sunny on Wednesday.  We arrived at the Norfork and found only 1 unit running for minimum flow.  The fishing was great in the morning.  I'm not sure of the count but it wasn't slow.  Midges were on the menu and I had to replace a few after the thread got worn and unraveled.

We worked our way down 2-3 miles before the COE turned on the other unit and high water fishing started around 1 pm.  That isn't an option from a kayak so I was really excited to be throwing streamers from a boat.

My buddy worked the oars first and let me take the first run.  My first fish wasn't an eat, but a follow from a brown that looked to be as big as my leg.  It was huge.  It came up behind the articulated streamer and just watched for a second or 2.  I was watching for the white flash of an eat but instead he just ghosted out.

My heart was racing so fast, the only words I could get out were, "brown, big, follow me".  Most days, I don't need any help sounding like an idiot and big fish make it worse.

It wasn't much longer, and I had an eat from a 20+ brown.  Got a good look at it when it came to the surface, but as my buddy reached for the camera, the brown came unbuttoned.  That signaled my turn on the oars.

We motored back up to the dam and started over.  The first run wasn't successful...probably more my fault as I was getting use to working the oars.  The 2nd run resulted in much of the same except a few more follows.  So we switched out again.  Nothing was happening, and I was starting to wonder if we had pounded the area to much.

Made a cast below a tree that was hanging over the river, and something crushed the streamer.  It was mad and fighting hard.  Saw a silver flash, and knew it was a big bow.  It came to the surface and I figured it was going to do a self release.  But luckily it stayed on and ended up in the net after a few minutes.

After that, it got slow.  A few follows and few eats from small cutthroats (barely bigger than the streamer).  We decided to put the boat on the trailer and head to the LRR.

We only had a half day to fish on Thursday.  The COE was running water when we arrived so it was going to be more high water fishing.  It rained off and on all day and lots of fog...it was perfect conditions for throwing streamers and the fish were biting!  My buddy was catching but my day was frustrating at best.  In short....I hooked 5 browns (various sizes), got them all to the surface, and watched as they all self released!

BUT...I'm not complaining, getting eats, seeing fish, and watching my buddy catch made the day awesome.  Of course, I wanted to bang my head against the boat a few times.  Mostly, b/c I was taking up the majority of the fishing...we switched at catches (in the beginning)...and I wasn't holding up my part of the deal.  I hate being a slacker!

We called it quits around lunch time.  Despite the rain and lack of catching on my part, it was an awesome day (days).  A great ending to a great road trip.  Drove home unpacked and repacked for a weekend of fun with my family.

Where is everyone!?

Big "Thank You" to my wife and all our family for all they did for me and the girls.  They took care of everything during the 2 weeks of art camp.  Best fathers day gift ever!!

"Play and Display" Arkansas Arts Center

Is it too early to get commitments from everyone for next year?!  Just kidding...but seriously.

Road Trip 2015 - NEI Driftless
RT 2015 Part 1

RT 2015 - Truly Wild
RT 2015 Truly Wild (part 2)

RT 2015 - AR Ozarks SMB (part 3):
SMB float 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

RT 2015 - Truly wild

Picking back up from where I left off.  After a 2.5 days of getting my bearings and perfecting (humor intended) my craft I was ready to tackle the one stream in NEIA that,"maintains an undisturbed population of Iowas only surviving brook trout.  They are genetically different than all others world wide."  True wild trout and I was ready to see if I could land one of these true IA treasures.

Getting to the creek is no small task.  It's a mile hike down a well manicured path into the valley, and it's steep...that also means climbing back out.  It was about 85f when I went.  The creek is lined with vegetation that bites...briers, thorns, something that when it sticks you, burns like a sting from a fire ant for 30 minutes.

creek at bottom of ravine

About 3 of these to descend/ascend

All of these are found on several other streams just not the same populations.  They formed a protective wall around the creek.  It was like they were the gate keepers to this special place.  Access had to be earned.  Waders would have been nice just to protect my legs but it was absolutely worth all the sweat and blood lost.

I approached the creek in stealth mode.  Walking slowly, not moving much brush, keeping the sun in my face to not cast a shadow over the water.  I was lucky to sneak up on some trout feeding and got to watch where they set-up and ambushed their prey.  After watching the brookies dart out from the undercut bank and grab something from the surface I was ready to make a presentation.

The creek is small and it took a few casts to get a fly in the right spot.  The targeted area was the fall out of a small riffle protected by over hanging brush.  It was about the size of a dinner plate.  The EHC landed, drifted a couple inches, and a wild brook trout exploded on it.  Something so small was full of fight.  I enjoyed every moment.  I netted the little guy.  Removed the hook and went to capture the moment with my camera.  In an instant, my first wild brook trout slipped through a hole in the net.  Thought to myself, I was fortunate to have caught that, probably won't catch another, and I'll be the only person who knows.  That's cool with me.

It wasn't but a few minutes later and I had another in the net.  Followed that with another.  Decided to explore the rest of the stream.  Found a few more feeding trout but lack of talent kept me from landing anymore.

I covered about a mile of water and had a good idea where the good water was now.  It was about 6 pm and I started stalking the same water with my recently acquired intelligence.  It was nothing short of spectacular.  I caught fish from every type of holding water.  But the highlight was a deep hole that held about 10 feeding trout.

I set up behind a riffle that fell in to a deep hole shaped like an "L".  I couldn't see the feeding activity after the bend, but I could hear it.  For about 15 minutes, it was a fish almost every cast.  Some were at the head, some in the bend, some at the end.  I worked my way from the back to avoid spooking the hole.  Watching a brook trout leap out of the water to intercept a falling EHC was nothing short of spectacular.  I'll never forget the sight!

It was time to hike out and I left knowing, that I had just validated this road trip.  Good thing too!
Thursday morning I woke up to a torrential down pour.  Being off the grid, I was unaware of the weather.  I drove out to the nearest city with cell service and discovered the area was under flash flood watch, 2-3 inches of rain forecast for the area.  Anticipating everything being blown out I packed my gear and made a new plan.

Pointed the truck south and headed to MO.  Stopped at the Current River and caught a few rainbows and 1 brown on a dry fly.  Wanted to camp but man that place was crazy.  Decided to drive back into AR and do a smallmouth bass float instead.

Current River Brown

The good thing about having a truck full of camping gear is I'm prepared for most situations.  Packed the kayak with what I needed for a gravel bar overnighter and I was on the water by noon.  The fishing was phenomenal few more pics.

To be continued....

Road Trip 2015 - NEI Driftless
RT 2015 Part 1

RT 2015 - AR Ozarks SMB (part 3):
SMB float 

RT 2015 - AR tailwaters (part 4):
AR tailwaters (part 4)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Road Trip 2015

School is out.  Ball season is over (for my kids).  And my awesome family agreed to keep the girls for 2 weeks while they were at art camp in Little Rock....yes, I know I'm one lucky person.  2515 miles later and I can say, the road trip was out of this world great!  I caught trout in 3 states (IA, MO, AR).  Including an unscripted stop in AR for largemouth and smallmouth bass.  Here's how it went down.

1st stop

 So...what to do and where to do it.  If you've been checking this blog out, then you know I'm going to be fishing.  I keep it pretty flexible...no plan is usually how I plan my trips.  Sunday, I was checking out the weather in SELA, Ozarks (AR/MO), East Tennessee, NM, CO, IA...basically anything with in driving range.  Driving range being 14-16 hours for me (an over night stay and a wake up to fishing).  The weather was how I eventually decided...I needed 4-5 days of good weather and I found it in Iowa.

It was settled, I told my wife how much I loved her (even asked if she wanted to go...got her typical response, "are you fishing"..."no".), packed up the kids and all of our stuff, and started driving to Little Rock.  2.5 hours later, I was getting them settled in at their Nana's.

Most of the time I'm feel welcomed everywhere I go (I think so anyway).  But on Sunday, I got the feeling it would be ok if I departed sooner than later.

This was how I figured it out.  Early conversations, Nana,"where are you going".  Me, "Iowa".  Nana, "Wow that's a long way away.  What time does camp start every morning".  Me, "the driftless is all small stream trout fishing and hopefully I won't see many people".  Nana, "Ok.  Hey, what do they want for lunch".  Me, "I'm planning to fish as many of them as I can in 7 days".  Nana, "That's a long time.  Who has the girls next"?  Me, "Here's a folder with all the paper work for camp.  Do you care if I leave now and start driving"?  Nana, "Nope, check in often, that's a long way away.  I love you and have a good trip"!  My family gets me!!    

First deviation from the schedule, start driving Sunday.  Plan to drive as long as I can keep my eyes open.  Then grab a cheap hotel or nap in the truck.  Wake up early Monday morning and finish the drive.  Fish the rest of the day on Monday.

Brought the yak (planned on a IA SMB float) but never got to use it

The drive went like this...just kidding.  Short story, I was way to excited to stop.  I pushed through MO and made it to IA before 2 am.  Stopped for coffee, red bull, and breakfast.  Only a couple hours until my destination...no chance I'm stopping.

Since I hadn't planned on arriving Monday morning, I didn't have a clue where to start fishing or how to get to where I had planned on staying for 5 nights.  Not an issue, there was plenty of water near the camp.  What I wasn't aware of was the sudden drop in cell phone coverage.  Just as I arrived and started to descend into the valley I lost reception.  Without a map I was driving blind and there were a lot of back roads to get lost on.

Found a small spot with reception and grabbed a screen shot of the area and had a map to the camp and 1st stream.  Game on!

Putting the experience into context.  I have zero experience with small streams.  Only tailwaters in AR.  First challenge...wear waders or not.  Started out with them on, went and took a closer look at the stream and access to the water.  Changed my mind...took them off.  2nd guessed myself again.  Put them back on.  I wasn't sure of the water conditions and access further than I could see...better to have them, and not need them, than not have them, and need them (my thoughts after being awake 24hrs).  It was a mistake (lack of sleep probably had an impact on my judgment).  It was hot, the water was skinny, and...it was really hot (90F).  Only wore them 1 day.  Wet waded every other stream (at times that was a mistake-explained later).

2nd challenge, presentation.  Fish were rising every where.  I got really excited and made my way to the stream anticipating an epic morning.  The bank was lined with brush at least as tall as the average person.  The first few presentations never found the water.  Instead, I had to reacquire my fly from the meadow behind me.  Didn't take long for me to figure out, after 700 miles, if you want to catch a fish, better put the fly in the water.

Made a few adjustments and voila, fly landed in the water.  After about 30 minutes I had my first fish.  Yep, they were indeed in the water.

It wasn't a smooth transition from tailwater fishing to small stream fishing.  I had to down size my indicator many times before I could bring fish to hand regularly.  When not nymphing soft hackles were very effective and I switched back in forth depending on the water depth.  

Eventually, the excitement of watching trout rise all day got to me and I decided to fish drys.  It's not something I do very often...I could count on 1 hand, how many times I've done it.  I was lacking in the selection department, if they wouldn't eat EHC, Adams, or BWO's, I wasn't going to be fishing drys long.  Fortunately, the area was ripe with insect activity.  The fish might have responded better to a local favorite...but I was happy catching the 30-40 fish each day on what I had in my box.  I did make a stop at the local general store to fill the ever growing empty spots in my box and picked up some local flies also.

I caught so many fish it was silly.  Big brookies, wild browns, and rainbows all came to hand over the next 2.5 days as I explored 5 different streams (at lunch I would move to a new creek).  Each with it's own personality and challenge.  The area was like the Disney World of fly fishing...you want fast shallow runs, visit X stream.  Want long deep pools where you can sight fish big wild browns, visit Y stream.  Want wild browns, wild bows, grab a map b/c it's all there and accessible.  Truly, it's an area for every one.

A 2 week road trip needs to be broken up into a few posts so I'm gonna end here and pick it back up later.

To be continued....

RT 2015 - Truly wild (part 2):
Truly wild (part 2)

RT 2015 - AR Ozarks SMB (part 3):
SMB float 

RT 2015 - AR tailwaters (part 4):
AR tailwaters (part 4)