April 27, 2007

Red-horsing around

I fished the Otter Tail River at Orwell today and managed to catch a few fish on the fly. It was the maiden voyage for the new 9 weight rod, reel and sinking tip line. All were put to the extremes today and performed with flying colors.

They put a pretty good bend in the rod. One fish that I caught got turned around in the current and headed down stream. Flows were really high this morning, running about 1300 cfs. It felt like I snagged a log. My 9 wt was bent nearly in half, I though it was gonna break. I finally just horsed the be-jesus out of the rod to turn the fish around. After pulling like a mad man, I finally got the fish within range, and discovered it was a redhorse. I was not surprised.
I can't wait to head back down there when the game fish season opens, as it was difficult to keep the smallies and walleyes of the hooks in some spots.
One note to self though is to keep the hand out of the way when a carp is running. The knuckle on my pinky got rapped pretty good this morning, ouch. Tight Lines!

April 24, 2007

Flies + Suckers = Fun

I managed to get out for a couple hours this afternoon/evening on the Otter Tail River. I had an increasingly rare free couple of hours, so I grabbed my 6 weight and headed down to the river. White suckers were the target species today. Relying on the other weekends success, I tied on a prince nymph, pinched on a split shot, and proceeded to long line nymph in a patch of foam along a current seam. Flows were pretty high from last weekends rain so the fish were concentrated pretty close to shore. I fished the rocks pretty heavy, and had to fight the frequent hang ups. Eventually I hooked into a sucker and it put up a nice fight. I grabbed a quick picture and returned the fish to the water. I managed to hook up with a few fish here and there, as well as a few rocks. On one occasion I got lazy and let my fly drift a little longer than usual. At first I thought I got hung up on a rock, but rather I had a big fish on. I fought it for some where between 5 and 10 minutes. I would work the fish as close to shore as I could, then it would run into the current and we'd start all over again. I got impatient after awhile and started to horse it and the fish got off :(. Sometimes I need to be a little more patient.
These suckers were a blast to catch on the fly. Definitely an underrated fish! I can't wait until the game fish season opens so I can get the big rods out and have some fun.

April 17, 2007

It's still good

Well I got out this past weekend, but only for a short while, like 15 minutes. And it wasn’t on trout waters. Domestic duties kept me at home this weekend, but after a walk around the neighborhood with my daughter Saturday morning, we ended up at the bridge crossing behind my house on the Pelican River. White suckers were starting to line up in a deeper pool of slow water. My daughter had fallen asleep in her stroller 15 minutes earlier, so I quickly walked back to my house and grabbed my 6 weight.
I tied on a 12 foot 4X leader, and a size 14 beadhead Prince nymph. I pinched a piece of moldable tungsten onto my line about 12” above my fly. I headed down to the backyard and made my way past the bridge. After a few drifts through a pod of fish, my fly wasn’t getting deep enough, so I pinched off another little piece of tungsten and moved it to about 6-8” above the fly. After a couple more drifts, I felt some resistance on the line. I hooked up with a fish but soon the line went limp. I pulled in my fly and removed a scale from the end of the hook. I drifted my fly through the pod two more times before another hookup. I lifted my rod to set the hook. I looked back at the end of the line and a sucker slowly rose up to the surface, head first. A fair hook! I eased back off the bank a bit and moved over to a spot where I could get better leverage positioning. I got the sucker in near the bank before the fish would make a run and scream the drag on my reel. I quickly eased off the drag a bit and palmed the rim. The 4X tippet should be plenty to avoid a break off, but I wanted to make sure. After a few more runs, I finally landed the fish on the bank. The hook was firmly lodged in the sucker’s upper lip.

At about this time, one of my neighbors came over with his two daughters to see what was going on. I showed the girls the fish and the fly I caught it on. I mention that the fish was fairly hooked, because my neighbor is the Area Conservation Officer. We chatted about work and the upcoming walleye spawning run for a little bit before I had to head back home before my wife left for work. That sucker was a fun fight on the fly, I wish I would have had the time to catch more fish. It was not a famed trout on the end of the line, but as a fellow coworker said to me yesterday, “a tight line is a tight line”.

April 11, 2007

Ready for the stream trout opener?

When fly fishing for freshwater big game species, a bite guard is necessary to keep from losing your fly to toothy critters. Pike tend to bite a fly at the head, and that causes me to believe that's why there are more bite offs, than say with a walleye; I can't vouch for the muskies since I haven’t caught one on a fly yet. The main choices for a bite guard consist of a large diameter “shock tippet” usually around a 150 lb test hard monofilament line, or wire coated line. I will be refraining from using the mono shock tippets for pike. Even with 150 lb test mono, I've heard anglers report bite-offs. I've yet to hear a report of a pike biting off a wire tippet. With the availability of cheap tieable wire nowadays, it leaves me little incentive to use monster diameter saltwater line. I use 49 strand (19 will also work) coated wire as the bite guard. It ties as easy as mono and is simple and quick to use.
I usually am fishing a sinking tip line, so I tie leaders with fluorocarbon. I have been using about a 3-4’ butt section of 20lb fluorocarbon line connected to a 12-18" wire bite guard with a surgeons knot. This year I am going to get a little bit heavier butt section and use 50 or 60 lb fluorocarbon line, tie on the 20 lb fluorocarbon tippet, and then tie on a 12" wire bite guard ("shock tippet"). This setup should be IGFA kosher. Hopefully I will get a little bit better turn over on some of the larger flies I fish with.
One thing I may try this year instead of knotting the wire tippet to the fly, is to twist the wire and re-melt the plastic coating. I've heard from many other anglers that they've never had a line failure due to the melted coated coming apart. Some guys leave a larger loop tied on the other end of the tippet and pre-tie their flies to the wire tippet, and swap out the entire tippet section when switching flies. I'll also be tying up similar leaders using monofilament for my floating lines. I've had good success using the Berkley big game mono for leader sections, plus it’s cheap and readily available.
Here's the bottom line: finding materials for pike leaders can be difficult if your looking for fly oriented brands like Rio, Climax, SA, Maxima. I've had really good luck using Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon and Beadalon 49 strand bead stringing wire. Try to find anything larger than 40 lb test Rio fluoroflex or hard mono, frog hair, or Maxima big game leader spools in stores in the metro. I couldn't. I went to several different fly shops and a big box store and they didn't have them. The big box stores had vanish leader spools, though, from 10lb through 100 lb. Beadalon you can find at just about any craft store.
Yeah, some of those other lines may seem to be nicer to use, but I'll stick to using what I can readily get at the store, and it seems to do the job just fine.