Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Poor man's redfish

Title pretty much describes why I like chasing grassers.  They spook easily, pull like fright trains, and they sip bugs off the surface as softly as tout.  On the fly, they make you work for every eat. Probably why I have so much fun chasing them.  If you've ever sight fished reds in the marsh, this is very similar...minus the delicacy part of course.

CPR - Put them back in the water.  Found 2 rotting on the bank at the launch<don't be that guy!

I started w/ some traditional nymph patterns under a pinch on indicator.  Got the door slammed in my face, over and over again.  Finally went with something on top.  Not the traditional method...but...I'm fly fishing, from a kayak, to grass carp, in SEAR...not really a traditionalist.

The thing to remember when presenting to carp is you must be accurate and delicate.  It takes almost nothing to freak them out.  A bug crash landing or paddle slapping the water and you'll either get the, "you suck" stare down.  Or the more popular, "the house is on fire, every man for themselves" run away.



Those are fun b/c not only did you lose the fish you get to see every other fish, that you hadn't spotted, as they to run for their lives.  That leaves the next 50 yards of water fishless.

To big to lift out of the water

Today I had near perfect conditions to sight fish.  The sun was high, no wind, and plenty of fish feeding.  Lots of cruising, tailing, even a few porpoising like dolphins.  Sore hands, tired body, and blisters are what followed.  But I'm not complaining, the catching was too good today.  All eats were at the surface.  Most wanted it w/in a foot of their heads, sitting dead still.  Those that had their heads buried deep in the mud, they came to investigate after a little ringing the dinner bell!

Called it a day when the hook broke, after it was straightened out for the 3rd time.  That's a good day in my book.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekend at the FLW Forrest Wood Cup

FLW Pro Cody Kelley Fishing, invited us and the rest of the family to participate with them as they raised awareness and funds for the Special Olympics Arkansas (SOAR).  It wasn't even a decision.  We loaded up early Saturday morning and made the drive to Hot Springs, AR where the FLW Forrest Wood Cup was taking place.

Cody Kelley and others, not sure of everyone, but I don't want to insult anyone b/c so many helped, organized a SOAR fishing derby early Saturday morning.  We weren't able to make it for the derby.  But we were front and center when the winners were recognized on stage before the day 3 weigh-in.  What an awesome day for them.  The crowd was absolutely incredible.

The Cody Kelley Fishing team also organized a raffle with all proceeds benefiting SOAR.  Below was what the table looked like before the word got out.

As the vendors learned about the effort underway, they all came over and provided something for the raffle.  Here is what the table of donated items looked like minutes before the raffle, ~$3K in tackle, apparel, and merchandise.  Many thanks to them!  Good people doing good things.

I had intended to volunteer Saturday and fish on Sunday.  But after witnessing what was taking place, there was no chance I could leave.  I was just as excited about participating Sunday, as I typically am the morning before I go fishing.  We found a hotel and went back to work for this incredible cause again Sunday morning.

The family, less a few that couldn't make it this time

Justin Moore was performing, lots of vendors offering discounts, all things fishing was happening...but I wasn't interested, so sorry there aren't any pictures of the latest gear or reviews.  However, I heard Eric Jackson was in the house.  My wife wanted to yell at him for all the time I spend w/ my mistress, JK Cuda 12.  So we went and said hi.  Had a great visit, EJ's a cool dude.

In the end, over $1,700 was raised for SOAR.  It was a life changing experience to say the least.  To everyone, who did did a good thing, thanks!!

Cody Kelley Fishing on Facebook

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Last minute trips, Little Red River and local flavor

Last weekend a few hours just fell in my lap.  All the ladies in my life had plans...I was literally sitting at home at 6 pm with nothing to do.  I usually keep my kayak on the truck rack for those last minute trips.  This was one of those trips.

Managed a couple bass

I grabbed some gear and jumped in the truck.  Drove down a back road until I was at a local spot that I haven't really fished this summer.

Caught lots of rock bass on a hopper
It wasn't an extremely productive trip in terms of fish caught.  But I wasn't really after fish on this trip.  I just wanted to be out fishing from my kayak.  If a few fish wanted to jump on the!  Otherwise, I'd just be happy watching the sunset and thankful for it.  It was a beautiful sunset:

Stayed on the water until well after dark.  Had an encounter that was quite I was wading out of the water, something hit my thigh.  It was a solid thump and my first thought was, I just got tagged by a snake.  I looked around and was happy to discover it was only...

He wasn't moving.  But his buddy landed a solid headbutt.  

Saturday was a family event in Little Rock.  When I checked the COE generation schedule for the Little Red River, I was happy to see low water forecast for the weekend.  I knew where I'd be Sunday morning.  I went to bed at 9 pm, only to wake back up at 1:30 am, not exactly what I had planned (plans are for golfers).  Didn't bother trying to get back to sleep.  Loaded up and started driving.  Below is what the river looks like at 4 am.

It was nearly impossible fishing.  Usually the dock lights provide enough light for slinging bugs.  But that morning the fog was so thick I couldn't see anything beyond the front of my kayak.  I gave it a solid attempt but nothing wanted to play.  No big deal, I love the river at night before anyone else gets out.

As the sun started to peak the fishing picked up.  I wet waded all day.  It was a little chilly in the morning.  But it was much appreciated in the afternoon as the temperature neared 94f.

In spite of the heavy boat traffic on the water, fishing was pretty good.  The low water limited the boat traffic to certain areas, deep pools between shallow riffles.  In my kayak I was able to get over a couple of the shallow shoals and had a long run all to myself.  I watched as a few boats made the run out as the water fell.  This is when a kayak has its advantages.

Had another encounter on the river.  However, she wasn't interested in headbutting me.

Ran into a couple other kayakers taking advantage of the low water.  Stopped to talk and heard they had a great weekend also.  Nice to see so many enjoying the river.  Look'n forward to the next trip.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Great River Road Trip continued...

If you've been reading along, you're probably waiting for the end of this story.  If you missed the other parts, might want to read them first.  Part 1  Part 2

Veterans Park, Milwaukee, WI
I mentioned in part 1 about an interesting experience we had at the B&B.  I'll pick back up there.  After fishing most of the afternoon, we decided to stay one more night and relax before heading to Madison, WI.  When we checked in, we didn't have a reservation, and were told it was cash or check.  Not really that weird, but we never had to actually check in.  What I mean is, we didn't fill out any paperwork or any of the regular, "you break it, you buy it" forms.  There's no record of us staying.  The nice lady who showed us around...well I'm not 100% convinced she actually worked there...b/c she kept coming from another house down the street.  We left the cash on the counter, b/c she was never around.  I don't think I saw her again until the last morning.

As we were leaving, we ran into her again.  Except this time she was moving out or stealing everything, not really sure.  We didn't ask questions, but she was putting boxes on a trailer.  She mentioned something about not getting paid and moving.  Pretty sure we provided the cash she needed for rent or establishing utilities.

We started driving and laughed about the experience.  We weren't in a hurry so we took the "Iowa Driftless Area Scenic Byway".  It's a really cool area to drive through.  The road meanders between farm land and the bluffs you see in the pic above.

In Lansing, IA, we stopped for lunch at an old gas station/garage turned into a dairy bar Skinny Dip.  It had a nice view of the river and great burgers.

View from Pikes Peak

From here, we continued south along the river until we made it to Pikes Peak SP.  Just a stop for the view.  There were several trails that would have been fun to hike.  But we wanted to make it to Madison and see some city life today.

Madison is someplace I'd return to see more of.  We listened to a live Jazz concert, "Jazz at Five" on the street.  After that, a pianist entertained us while we set beside the capital building.   We had dinner at The Old Fashioned featuring WI grub and brews, mostly a tourist trap but the food and brews are good.  The entertainment happened to be the guy who sat down next to us.  He was alone and ordered a large appetizer.  When it arrived, he introduced himself and asked if we wanted to try anything.  We declined, but I could tell he wasn't local...he had a strong southern accent.  Come to find out he was from Little Rock, AR...seriously!  We drove all the way to Madison, and ended up sitting beside a guy from AR.  Random...

This area is beside the UofW...pretty cool area with brews, food, and water activities.  

It was getting late and we hadn't located a place to rest for the night.  We hopped in the car and started toward Milwaukee.  Stayed someplace outside of wasn't memorable.  Got up early and made our way into the city.

This is where the trip got frustrating, should have stayed in Madison...but we didn't.  After stopping at Veterans Park to see the lake.  We were going to drive into Chicago.  Well....after 2 hours of traffic, stop lights, grid lock, and road closures, I got sick of sitting in the car and called an audible.  Turned the car away from the madness and headed West towards...who knows.  It wasn't much better, Illinois is being torn apart from the ground up.  Every town, no matter how small, was having its road system redone.  We pretty much lost that day.

Lake Michigan, looks nice and warm...not so much!
The drive from Springfield, IL, to St Louis, MO, isn't interesting.  But we got back on the GRR after St Louis and followed it through IL, KY, TN before heading home.  It was very scenic, tall bluffs, river views, cool bridges to cross, and a few local eateries that we really enjoyed.  After getting home, I realized we didn't take as many pictures on the return.  I guess that's because we drove up in 6 days and home in 2 not much time to stop.  We had a great time and the road trip took us back to some of the many trips we have taken in our marriage, both literally and figuratively.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Driftless on the fly

This was my second trip to the "driftless", and since I only had 1 day to fish, I decided to revisit a good looking stream.  My first stop at the stream, I got a late start, and spooked every fish in the county.  There's a learning curve to small stream fishing and I didn't want to fumble through learning a new stream.  I had a good idea of the access and pools, and hoped, I'd be more efficient this trip.  Knowing where to cross the stream and which side to approach a pool seems to be very important in these environments.  It's been great fun learning these new techniques.

Big brown on size 18 dropper

Like I said, I had an idea of the stream.  It was early, 530 am when I arrived.  I started with a black bugger in a pool not far from the access.  I saw a few fish rising but they wouldn't eat the bugger.  I didn't spend much time in any 1 spot.  I was searching the deep pools and any woody cover I could find.  The first eat was a bow.

Not long after that I broke off in some cover.  The bugger was getting some eats so I stuck to that same "stick and move" pattern.  After 2 hours (that seems like a long time but when you're tip toeing around a creek in chest high poison sumac, ivy, oak and whatever else - it's right hand blistered a day later), I had managed a couple bows and a brown.  I rounded a corner and saw about 20 browns sipping something off the surface.  My heart jumped, my hands started shaking, and it took about 10 minutes to tie on a dry.

I manged a few browns from that hole, that wasn't much bigger than a 2 car garage.  After hooking several, losing most, and landing a few...they got wise to the idiot standing behind them.  I was just happy to be fishing dry's.

Around 9 am, I switched to a hopper/dropper and the fishing was...I lost count of how many I caught.  I decided to call my realtor and put the house up for sale...unfortunately, there's no cell service in the area.  I guess that's my only complaint for the day...if that's really something to complain about!

They mostly ate the dropper but a few wanted the hopper.  A 18-20" brown came and took a look, but the sudden increase in my heart rate must have sent him back down.  I finished around 1 pm, the water started to feel warm and the fish were taking longer to revive.  I had planned on fishing the evening, but I was completely satisfied with the day, and didn't feel a need to annoy any more browns.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Great River Road Trip

My wife and I decided to take off on a week long road trip to celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary.  We didn't plan a destination...but rather a direction, sort of.  We decided to just take out the Rand McNally (20 year old-we've used many times) and start driving but that decision wasn't made until Saturday afternoon, after dropping the girls off in Central AR for the week.  So, it's about 2:30 in the afternoon and we're looking at the map.  Time to make a decision.  In the South, the temperatures were HOT...flip flops melting hot.  I love my flip flops, not going south!  Checked the weather (hi 80's low 50's all week) and decided to drive north and follow the "Great River Road".  We traveled 2200 miles trough 7 states (AR, MO, IL, IA, WI, KY, TN)

Our first few hours got us to the Missouri border and we had to make a stop for dinner.  The theme for this trip was water and paper maps (no GPS) like we did when we first got married...that simple.  Looking at the map we located Lake Wappappello outside Poplar Bluff, MO and started driving that direction.

As we were driving in, we passed a cool local spot with some RV's parked in the back and a few boats in the front lot.  Looked perfect for us.  I could smell some goodness in the air...found we're I'd be pulling up a chair for dinner.

After dinner, we decided to make up some miles and not stop again until we were in St Louis.  We stayed on the scenic route and drove into the city about 9.  Stopped about a dozen times trying to get a room for the night, but everything was full.  No worries, that's part of road tripping.  The Cards (I'm a Cubs fan...the Cards are my nemesis...don't think I didn't notice) were playing a home game so every hotel in the city limits was full.  We eventually found a dump to rest at for the night.  It was terrible...I mean sleep in your clothes, don't touch the floor, kinda filthy.  It got worse, no kidding.  The next morning, I was getting breakfast...continental breakfast was 2 kinds of cereal and milk.  But they did have coffee, GREAT!  As I'm making a cup, the guy manning the breakfast area (are you afraid someone would steal the cereal), informs me that it's closing...breakfast is over, NOW!  I grab a bowl and start to pour some cereal in it...but the dispenser is broke.  The wheel spins but no crunchy goodness comes forth.  No worries, I just really wanted me, I'm way nicer when I have coffee.  BUT....before I could walk away, the guy grabs my bowl and starts using his finger to turn the wheel and basically serves me handfuls of crunchy goodness.  Me, "dude I'm good", him..."it works".  Then he gets the milk.  Think that's gets worse.  As I'm trying to wrestle my bowl away from this guy, a woman walks in and grabs the coffee machine.  Me, "are you taking the coffee", Him, "yes, breakfast over".  All I could say was, "I'll trade you a bowl of cereal for a cup of coffee".

They didn't get it.  We stopped at McD's, so my wife could eat...after 15 years...I understand the dangers of a hungry woman.  There's a reason lionesses do all the hunting!  Afterwards, we drove straight to the, "Mighty Mississippi".  We were finally on the "Great River Road".  About an hour later, we ran into Overlook Farm, in Clarksville, MO.  Of course, it's the perfect place for breakfast, but we're good...I had a bowl of cereal and my wife had McD's.  So we just walked around and stalked the paying customers.

From the pamphlet I stole, I learned it's a "farm to table" experience, with an Inn.  They also host special events and weddings...sounds very romantic.  Not my thing, I prefer handfuls of cereal and filthy Inns.

Next up, was Clarksville, MO.  We parked and walked around.  It was 11 am, it had already been an eventful day.  I found a pub down the road from the VFW and had a beer.  It was good and much needed.

Old buildings and cool doors

After watching a barge shove off and head south, we continued north.  Passed several scenic overlooks with views like this.  We stopped at all of them.

We decided to cross over into Illinois and see what that side of the river looked like.  It was mostly flat.  With miles of corn fields.  Eventually we found a nice place to sit for lunch that had live music.  They didn't mind us pulling out our camp chairs and setting under the tree.  There was a nice breeze and the temp was in the mid 80' was really nice!

It was mid afternoon and we hadn't decided where to sleep.  So, we pulled out the map and found a lake.  Before long we were at Lake McBride just outside Iowa City, IA.  My wife really wanted a sunset cruise.  No problem...we just need a boat.

Found 1 or 10.  And off into the sunset we peddled.
If one wanted, they are plenty stable to fly fish from, and have a back casting platform...

The next morning, we pulled out the map again and decided on the next stop.  I had planned on spending 1 day in the "Driftless" fishing and I was sure she'd have a great time camping, or shopping and doing girl stuff in Decorah, IA.  So that's where we decided to drive next.

Volunteers drive around in a golf cart w/ water hose and water hanging plants

As were driving around town we happened to park beside a B&B.  Actually, I parked so I could point out the camping area on a map...and there it was...interesting!  She decided she'd rather stay here instead of camping.  I wanted to claw foot tubs and Keurig coffee it was!  Funny story about the B&B, I'll cover later.

We spent the afternoon walking around town.  Making appointments for my wife and such.  Really, she has no sense of direction, and if she got lost while I was fishing, I'd never hear the end of it.  So I did my best to acquaint her with the small town.

At this point, I've found the "cutest" little town (her words), garden full of flowers, coffee shops, good food, shopping...I feel like I've done my part to secure a day of fishing.

Early morning drive to a "Driftless" stream

The fishing was awesome, so check back for the follow-up post. Of course, if you wanted a sneak peak, I update Facebook and Instagram more often.

part 2