May 30, 2008

It's been a few years since I've targeted crappies with spinning gear. It's almost a rite of passage in these parts during the spring, but the past couple years saw me riding out the sucker spawning wave through late May/early June. I had a couple free hours this afternoon, so I joined up with a couple buddies that I haven't fished with in a while, and hit a local lake.

The fish were sitting right on their spawning beds, and holding tight. If you could find where their nests were, they were willing bite. Setup was a chartreuse 1/32 oz jig tipped with a 2" yellow curly tail, suspended about 2' below a weighted float on 6 lb Gamma Copoly. I managed to catch a few nicely colored males; they were almost jet black. Doesn't quite come through in a photo.

We brought a bunch of nice black crappies to the boat, as well as a few bluegills, rock bass, and largemouth bass. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon and a change of pace is good once in awhile. Of course, it's not the same as sucker fishing on the fly.

May 28, 2008

I met up with a member of FishingMinnesota this evening and went sight fishing for carp. This guy had caught a brute 40 lb carp here before, and pulled in a nice mirror carp the other day. Suffice to say, I had my hopes up. We fished a gin clear South Central MN lake. We saw plenty of nice carp and a few buffalo in the shallows. Seeing that there were midges everywhere, I tied on a soft hackle chironomid pattern. No dice. I tried next a size 10 rust colored clouser swimming nymph, but nary a look. These fish were spooky and very guarded, much like fishing bones on the flat. We broke out the bait and artificials, no luck either. Wanting to avoid the skunk, we went to a different spot in the lake where a feeder stream entered the lake.

We saw a ton of crappies and built nests. Knowing that there were white crappies present in the lake, I had hoped to catch one for my life list. I cast my clouser swimming nymph into a pod of fish and let the fly settle. I pulled my line back and had a fish on. As I brought the fish to the boat, I realized I had just caught my first white crappie! We targeted a few trees near the water and caught a few crappies and sunfish before calling it a day. At least the day was not a complete bust, and the weather was near perfect. Next time I'm in South Central MN, I'm definitely gonna come back. This lake definitely has potential...
Black Crappie, Pomoxis nigromaculatus

May 22, 2008

A great outing today. Started off the day hooking a monstrous muskie in the river. I fought the fish for well over a half hour, trying to land it near shore (without a net) countless number of times. I finally had the fish near the rocks, almost within landing range, when the line went limp and the hook landed near shore. I only got to see the rear of the fish; it was an enormous red tail with an emerald green body. I only got to see the rear portion of the fish, up to the dorsal fin, and that was two feet long. This fish was easily in the 50" range. I'll meet up again with him some other day.

I caught a chunky buffalo shortly thereafter, easily 20-30 years old. I also caught a bunch of golden and silver redhorse, as well as a white sucker. These fish were considerably smaller than the ones I had been catching earlier in the month. Their numbers were down too. One of the goldens had milt dripping off of his anal fin. For the most part, it is approaching the tail end of the spawn for these fish. This correlates with my finding last week with the shortheads nearing the end of the spawn. With that said, the channel cats are gearing up for their spawning period. One section of river I was fishing was lousy with them. They were on a feeding frenzy, with quite a few fish surfacing. It was quite annoying to have to weed through a lot of small fish, so I packed it up and headed up to the backwaters.

I was hoping to find some tailing fish. No dice. So surface activity either., It's still pretty early though. I threw half a crawler on and lobbed it into the middle of a small pool off of the backwater slough. I was hoping to have enough time to rig up my fly rod when carpzilla hit. Not having to fight any current, I was able to subdue this fish rather easily and landed it on shore. This was a beast; it was a pinch longer than the section of my rod from the butt to the first guide, so about 33". It still had quite a bit of fight left in it, and the fish proceeded to splash me silly. I snapped a few pics and released the fish to swim another day. This was likely a virgin fish, as it is unlikely that anyone even fishes these sloughs.
I loaded up another half-crawler and pitched it out, hoping that this time I would be able tie on a rubber legged antron nymph on my 8 weight. As I was cinching down the non-slip loop to my fly, my line went taut. I had another fish on. Not quite as big as the first fish, but not bad.

I ended up blind nymphing the fly for about 10 minutes, before putting it away and breaking back out the garden hackle. I caught another half dozen carp, as well as a few bullheads. Nothing like catching one bruiser carp after another, every 5-10 minutes. This was some good action!

After spending 7 hours on the water and nearly exhausting my supply of two dozen crawlers, I packed it up and headed home. Every single one of those carp I caught splashed clay silt all over me. I was filthy. You could just tell by looking at me that I had a good day.

Brownlining at its finest.


This beast was estimated at 33" long. It resides in a backwater slough enclosed entirely within a WMA. It was likely the first time this fish ever felt the cold steel of a hook.


A monster buffalo, easily breaking twenty pounds .
This fish gave me a huge spalsh on the release. I was soaked.
Black Bullhead, Ameiurus melas

Yellow Bullhead, Ameiurus natalis

Smallmouth Bass, Micropterus dolomieu

May 18, 2008

I wasn't really expecting to find carp today, as I went back to the section of the Otter Tail I was on yesterday to target more white suckers and shorthead redhorse. The day started out promising, as I tied on a soft hackled prince nymph and quickly caught a shorthead with my 6 weight.

I proceeded to catch several white suckers, before I decided to change flies and repair my leader. My leader had been ravaged pretty hard by the rocks over the past couple days it was full of abrasions. Also tying on new sections of tippet started to shorten the length of the midsection by about a foot. After I tied on a few new sections of line and 2X tippet, I scrounged through my Bugger Barn for something different than what I'd been fishing over the past couple of weeks. I found a size 8 pheasant tail nymph, dubbed with hare's ear. Perfect.

I saw a large profile enter the pool where I was fishing, I thought to myself " man that's a large fish; almost too big to be a white sucker". I drifted my nymph through the choppy water along the current seam. I checked my rod back and and felt resistance, fish on! The fish made a few bold runs upstream, headstrong into the current. There was a lot of current in this area due to high flows, so I was trying to be easy on the tippet. I tried playing the fish out in this pool, still not quite sure what it was. Finally, the fish turned against the current and that's when I saw the yellow belly, it was a carp!

I played the fish through a rock weir down to the large pool below. I didn't get a good look at the size of the fish, as all I could make out was the initial flash of yellow in the tannin stained water. The fish made a couple of good runs, determined to head back into the pool up above. That wasn't in my game plan, as the strong current ripping though the weir would surely snap my tippet. I'd get most of my fly line in when the fish would make a run and take another 20-30 yards out. The fish would just sit in the current on the bottom for a while and there was nothing I could do to budge it. I tried turning the fish to tire it out, when it decided to make a large run that took me into my backing. Boy was I glad I just fixed my leader! Eventually I put my fly line back on the spool and tried to figure out how I'm going to land this fish, as I don't have a net. I tried backing up the steep bank behind me to gain some leverage on the fish. I would get the fish near shore when it would take off again, this time, however, I finally saw a red tail and a large profile, this was a dandy carp. I was wondering if I had snagged this fish, as it just was not tiring out. After a few more runs, I finally got the fish close enough to shore to notice that it was hooked in the mouth. I quickly stepped down the bank, keeping tension on my rod, to grab the fish and land it. It was beautiful! I quickly looked at my watch and noticed that I had been fighting this fish for 25 minutes! Luckily, a man was down there fishing with his son and a friend, and was so nice to snap a couple of photos before I released the fish. We were both impressed by the size of the fish and the duration of the fight.

This fish fought harder than any walleye or pike I've ever caught. As I recovered from my adrenaline high, I looked over at the guy and said, " I can't believe why more people don't want to catch a carp on a fly".

May 17, 2008

The shorthead redhorse have made their way upstream to spawn. I found a bunch fish schooled up in a current eddy on the Upper Otter Tail. They were actively spawning. It's the first time I've seen them up here. I've heard reports of carp making it this far upstream , but never shortheads. This holds promise, as now I have a spring redhorse spot less than 10 minutes from home. I'm psyched.

This male shorthead had highly developed tubercles on his anal and caudal fins.

I was primarily fishing soft hackled wet flies on my 6 wt. Fish were actively taking flies on the lift, which is indicative of an emerging nymph. I mixed it up and tied on a bunch of different patterns to see if these fish were keying in on anything specific. That was not the case, as they took everything from a soft hackled prince nymph, antron special, gold ribbed hare's ear, to a san juan carp killer.

I also caught a few white suckers. There were a few females still full of eggs and a few males releasing milt. These fish are near the tail end of their spawning run.

I Redhorse

May 13, 2008

Wet flies rule. This white sucker was caught on my golden ghost pattern.

May 10, 2008

I got an early start to the day. I woke up at 330AM to head down to the local trout lake. I got there in plenty of time to start fishing an hour before sunrise. I had a pesky beaver slapping his tail at me, swimming back and forth in front of me in the dark. I'm sure that helped attract the fish. When light came, the beaver finally decided to move on. Unfortunately, the morning didn't improve as I left for home just after 800AM without a bite.

After a few rain showers, and yes, snow showers throughout the day, the skies began to clear early this evening. I felt like a glutton for punishment, so I grabbed my gear bag and threw it in my truck and headed down the road. The only beauty about the "opener" is that it re-opened one of my favorite spring spots on of the Otter Tail to fishing. Luckily, the crummy weather had put off the crowds and I was the only down there. I grabbed my 6 weight and tied on one of my soft hackled prince nymphs and a couple of small split shots. I walked down the bank to find the current eddy that was holding a ton of white suckers a few weeks earlier. There were still suckers here spawning! I hooked up with a fish on my first drift, but unfortunately it was foul hooked. After a couple more chances and a foul hooked walleye, I caught and landed the first white sucker of the day. This male had nicely developed tubercles. When I grabbed the fish to remove the hook, he released milt everywhere. It was a mess. Of course the sucker decided it would be funny to splash me at the same time. I had milt all over my pants, jacket and hands. Regardless, the day took a complete 180 from this morning. I proceeded to catch over a dozen more suckers over the next 2 hours. A couple of females were quite full with eggs; another male released his milt, but this time I was wiser and avoided the shower.

It was a great way to end the day. I love roughfish on the fly.

Sunfish = Bad for designated stream trout lake.

I don't know what would give a clown the bright idea of putting sunfish into a trout lake, but the results can be devastating. This bluegill washed up on shore this morning on my local trout pond. I was told by the Area Fisheries Supervisor responsible for managing this lake, that there were sunfish present in this lake, as far back as two years ago. I had not confirmed the presence of sunfish until this morning; up until then I was living in denial. That is quite unfortunate because, the lake was reclaimed with rotenone in 2004, an expensive process. Subsequent years provided some excellent fishing. Even on slow days you would catch fish. I had done my fair share of catching rainbows here over the years. Unbelievably, I did not get one single bite this morning in three hours. For reference, I had my limit of fish in an hour on last year's opener. This is a shame, as this was one of my favorite ice fishing spots.

What a bunch of meatheads...

May 9, 2008

Bigmouth Buffalo, Golden Redhorse, Silver Redhorse, Shorthead Redhorse, Channel Catfish.
A damn good day for a roughfisherman.

Someone's ready to have some fun.
Found these nicely developed tubercles on a male Silver Redhorse.

No. This is not my new clam fly pattern.

May 8, 2008

A muskie readies for spawning at Dunton Locks, Lake Sallie.

May 7, 2008

I've been on a wet fly tying kick lately. You can thank Justin over at Fishing and Thinking in Minnesota for that. All his drooling over soft hackles got me wanting to expand my collection of wet flies.

I understand the beauty, effectiveness, and sheer simplicity of the soft hackled fly.

But my bugger barns are often unfairly represented with only a few of these little gems. Sometimes tyers get too wrapped up in to tying the ultra-realistic fly pattern. While often effective, I believe that fish can become too selective with these patterns, and sometimes a simple wet fly will break fish out of a funk and will get them to take a fly again. I definitely don't fall in to the group of ultra-realistic fly tyers; I like experimenting with different materials to achieve my desired outcome, even if they are more abstract. I do, however, occasionally fall in to a rut, tying the same old patterns, losing my inspiration for tying. I whole-heartedly welcome any new inspiration or ideas for new patterns. The best part of all this is getting to field test these flies on the water.