Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to ALL

Hope everyonne is having a wonderful Christmas Day, wherever you may be.

This was the scene here in Illinois last nite

Doves in the ice covered birch tree

The ice covered tree out front

Now it is just raining and windy.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas List

OK, OK - I always say I don't want anything for Christmas - I really don't - but if I think REAL long and hard about it, there are always a few things that pop into my mind that I may need for one reason or another. So, in the spirit of Christmas (and mostly because everyone else's blog has a Christmas list), I bring you my Christmas List 2009

1) A Red Dot scope. I just picked up my new Bushmaster today and decided that I want a Red Dot scope for it. Don't really know why, but I want it.

2) A GREAT windblocking outer shell. I've had a lot of windbreaker-type jackets over the years, and most have been OK. But, when I'm going on a weight restricted floatplane trip - often 40 pounds - I want the best, lightest weight wind shield that is pretty good as a water repeller as well. Something under one pound. Won't let ANY wind through. I take care of the "cold-factor" with layers of UnderArmour, but the early morning boat ride is what kills you on these trips, as well as the windy days on the water. I have my eye on 2 of these pieces. Mountain Hardwear's Windstopper Tech jacket, and/or a Marmot Minimalist.

3) I LOVE the 2 pair of Muck Boots I own. One is a pair of shoes; the other is a full over-calf length boot. I found out this past summer that I need a third pair. Muck makes a shoe that goes just over your ankle. I found out that I needed them at Athabasca this past summer. HEAVY rains were with us on 2 days - so much so that the rain poured off the raingear, right down the rainpants, and right into the Muck shoe! I don't use the boot on these trips - too heavy - so the mid-size will be perfect -just high enough that the rain won't flow INTO my footwear.

4) Mostly what I want is more time to fish where I want to , when I want to . I think this is a pretty universal wish. I really miss fly fishing in the Rockies, and I haven't been on a good smallmouth bass outing for a couple of years. And I certainly need to knock off a few more of the states in my "Catch a Fish in all 50 States" quest.

5) I think I need a new ultralight spinning reel. Mine are pretty much on the back nine of their lives.

6) Finally, I really DO need a new Digital Camera. I want to do a better job with photography in the coming year. I want a compact camera that does a good job and, most importantly, is FAST. The current model I'm using - an Olympus something-or-other, about 8 mp - takes nice pictures, has a good image stabilizer, does all the things I need it to do, EXCEPT - it is terribly slow going from the last photo you took to being able to take the next one (Don't know what that is called in "photographer language"). Any and all comments re: which digital to buy would be greatly appreciated!

That ought to do it. Nothing that I really NEED, just a short list of WANTS.

Here's hoping that you all get ALL the things you want for Christmas, especially the time to do all the things we all love to do.



Monday, December 14, 2009

The "Traveling Dark Cloud of Doom" remains firmly in place, over my head.

Last week I was in Louisiana for a day and a half on business. Our plans were to stay at the house of an older gentleman who is a FANATIC bass fisherman, and possibly (probably?) sneak out and catch some fall bass. The most astute of you will realize that Louisiana is one of the states in which I have NOT caught a fish (the list is on the right hand side of this blog, following the Blog List), so it had a little more importance to me. But, before I proceed with this tale, let me take you back a few months . . .

1) The first failed mission was the Minnesota smallmouth bass adventure in October. First, there was the early snowfall. I wavered about fishing, but was convinced to give it a shot. Until the morning of our scheduled trip, when the boat was blocked in by a couple of Winnebago's. Part bad weather, part bad luck.

2) I had plane tickets to fly to Arkansas the second week of November to try my hand at tailrace trout fishing, Arkansas-style. Never fished Arkansas before, so that would have been another state to check off of my list. 2 weeks before my departure, torrential rains hit Arkansas, and the Little Red River rose somewhere around 20 FEET. Another trip dashed by the weather gods.

Which brings us back to last week. You may have noticed that the upper Midwest garnered most of the attention for it's crappy weather - snow in Chicago, bitter cold temps across heartland. Well, that cold front ranged FAR to the South. When we arrived in Monroe LA on the afternoon of the 9th, it was 35 degrees with a strong NW wind. The previous afternoon, it was 72 degrees and the front was moving through, with the requisite storms that accompany these strong cold fronts. The next morning dawned with a temp of 27.

Being from the Chicago area now, and previously from Syracuse, I would classify the 27 and windy weather as "Chilly". In LA, on the rare occasion that the temp falls to these depths, they hunker down and wait for spring. Needless to say, there were NO fish caught during the short attempt we made to get a few.

Three trips planned, three trips un-done due to weather.

Can't wait for 2010 - it HAS TO be better than the past 3 months!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The BIG GAME Lure giveaway winner is . . .

Time to draw the winner of the final installment of my 3 GIVEAWAYS OF CHRISTMAS - the Big Game / Pike package. Recent trends show it will be a woman, because the winners of my first two were women. Let's see how the trend plays out. By the way - with only 10 commenters, these are the best odds for all involved. Good luck to all. I'm off to the number generator.

And the winning number is: 10!! That means the winner is the last commenter to the contest, and is a newcomer to the blogsite - tmc480. AND a newcomer to pike / musky fishing. This will definitely get you started!

Thank you to all who participated in my Giveaways. I picked up a few more followers and got a lot of blog hits. And, hopefully, made a few people a little happier this Christmas season.

Now I get to go back to the usual blog posts, although this is the season when I struggle at times to come up with posting subjects. But I've got a few up my sleeve!

Thanks again to all who participated.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Time for the third, and final, GIVEAWAY - the Big Game Package!

Alright, time for the last installment of the 3 GIVEAWAYS OF CHRISTMAS. Readers of this blog know that Big Pike are near and dear to my heart - probably my favorite fish that swim. I love the aggressiveness of the strike, the fact that it is often a visual strike, and they can get BIG. The package that follows is an assortment of my favorite lures for these toothy critters.

Even if you are not a die-hard - feel free to throw your name in the hat. These baits will work for musky, striper, saltwater. Good luck to all.

A selection of jerkbaits

The jerkbait selection includes a number of the baits that were the hottest on our Athabasca trip this past summer. The 2 large Rapalas - Jointed X-Rap 13 and SW X-Rap - were our best producers. The Jointed X-Rap accounted for the 47"]er that was the best of the trip. There is also a Clackin Rap #8, an Excalibur Suspending Jerkbait, and new Glide Rap.

The Spinner - Spoon collection

The items shown above are another indispensable part of any pike arsenal. The bucktails are a Mepps Giant Killer and a BIG Dominatrix double bladed bucktail. There is a 1 oz. Eppinger 5 of Diamonds and a 1 oz. weedless Dardevle. And finally, a Magnum King Jr. spinnerbait.

A selection of Big Game swimbaits

I love to fish big swim baits for pike. The group above contains a package of 6" Salt Shakers and a package of 6-1/2" Strike King Shadalicious. There is also a 10" Storm Kickin Minnow and a Worden's T-60 Flatfish - the lure preferred by giant lake trout everywhere.

There you have it. The rules are the same - contest will end next weekend 12-12-09. Add your comment below.

A) Are you a pike angler? Other big game? Or just planning to be.
B) Best Pike / musky / ...

Thanks again for participating.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

The BASS Package drawing winner is . . .

Well, it is 2:30 pm and, while it is a little later than I planned, it's time for the BASS GIVEAWAY. (Actually, I'm doing a science project with my 12 year old son, and if I don't walk away, I might have to bludgeon him. Just kidding, of course. Maybe)

There are 22 comments, so I will use 1 - 22 on the random number generator. If it comes up to a comment who doesn't bass fish, I'll re-draw.

And the winner is - 5!! The 5th commentor is: Luvs2Fish - Laurie. She found the blog through Ashley in Canada. Congratulations Laurie - I'll need for you to email me with your address and I'll get your stuff out to you.

The final installment in my "3 Giveaways of Christmas" is a Big Game package. I originally thought it would be a pike / musky package, and it certainly does apply to that, but it will also be good for stripers and salt water game fish, too. Not quite as many pieces in this one, because they are more expensive per piece.


I'd like to thank everyone who has been participating in these events - it's been a lot of fun for me. I am astonished by the number of fellow bloggers who have written about the Giveaway - thanks to you all.

The only "bad" part about this is that, by design, I don't do another blog entry until the date when I declare the winner. So, if I appear quiet, it's only because I want the GIVEAWAY post to come up first on my blogsite.

Thanks again to all, good luck on the pike / musky/ big game package, and Good Luck to all of you big game fishermen.

By the way - if everyone is as excited about winning their package as Rebecca was with her fly fishing package, my wildest dreams for this contest will have been fulfilled.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Good Karma, the GIVEAWAY winner, and a new BASS GIVEAWAY

OK - time to let you know who won the first of my giveaways - the flyfishing package. First , the specifics about determining the winner. I had 13 comments to my Giveaway offer, so I used the range of 1 - 13 at, and generated a number. If the number would have corresponded to one of the people who responded but declared that they don't fly fish anymore - Mel comes to mind - I would have done it again until I got a winner. I only need 1 try though, and the number generated was 10. (My wife was my witness, so no one can accuse me of manipulating the number!) The 10th comment was from a newcomer to my blog - Rebecca at The Outdooress. (To see Rebecca's site - the Outdooress - click through on my blog roll) The winning selection was PERFECT on one level - Rebecca had posted the GIVEAWAY on her site to let others know about it. Thank you to Rebecca, and her package will be sent out this week after we email and I get her address. BTW - I asked a little bit about what you like to fly fish for in the comment section. Part of that was to have something to read; part of it was because I planned to include a little bonus in the winner's package appropriate to what their likes are. Rebecca's is easy - she's a trout angler and relies on caddis and Princes. So - she'll have a little something extra in the package she receives.

Congratulations Rebecca, welcome to Flowing Waters, and thanks for the plug on your site!

Now it's time for part 2 of the 3 part giveaway. I think (expect) this one to have a few more comments than the first. The second part of the giveaway is a BASS PACKAGE. Since bass are more widely fished for then trout, and my blog deals with bass a whole lot more than trout, I think this will have more universal appeal than the fly fishing one. I will choose the winner next Saturday - December 5 - using the same methods as with the first one.

Rules will be similar - send in a comment to this post. Please include:
A) Are you a bass angler?
B) Favorite species - smallmouth, largemouth, spotted bass
C) your personal best / biggest bass.

Obviously, these lures can be used for anything, but they are geared toward bass. The package includes:

The Plastics part of the GIVEAWAY

Soft Baits, Accessories

MIZMO - 1 pk Flasher Tubes
STRIKE KING - 3 pks of Tubes. 1 pk each: Craws, Rage Toads, Ocho worms
CULPRIT - 2 pks. worms
LINDY - 1 pk Munchie Ringworms
YUM - 1 pk Floating Worms
OPTIMUM - 1- 2 pk. Baby line-Thru swimbaits
VMC - 1 pk. 1/16 oz. Bugeye hooks, 1 Tube Jig kit
MUSTAD - 1 pk. 4/0 Bigmouth tube hooks
BERKLEY - 1 pk. Powerbait Realstik 3" black shad
FALCON - 1 FTO 1105 Speedbag for worms





Hard Baits

STRIKE KING - 2 each 1/2 oz. spinnerbaits
BILL LEIS - 1 - 1/4 oz. Rattletrap
STORM - 1 each: Deep Jr. Thunderstik, Thin Fin, and Chug Bug
RAPALA - 1 each DTFSS-7 (Flat sided Dive-to 7' crankbait), Long Cast Minnow
SEBILE - 1 each 3-1/2", 1/3 oz. Magic Swimmer


RAPALA and STORM baits


26 pieces in this assortment, plus a bonus of my choosing to the winner!

Before we start the mad dash for Bass lures, I'd like to say Thank You to the newcomers to my blog, and as always , a sincere THANKS to the loyal long-time readers. You're all appreciated more than you know.



FLY FISHHING Giveaway results

I have done the random number generator (with a witness, no less). But - I am walking out the door to do some "Christmas Season" stuff with the family, so I will post the result, and the next GIVEAWAY, tonight.

Thanks to all who particiapted - stay tuned

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fly Fishing GIVEAWAY! Everyone invited

Fly Fishing Package - GIVEAWAY #1

I'm really not in the Christmas mood yet, but I think this may jumpstart "the Season of Giving". I said I would have 3 Giveaways between now and Christmas, and this is the first.

The first of the three parts of this giveaway is a FLY FISHING ASSORTMENT and consists of the following:
- 1 - Scientific Angler WF-5-F Lefty Kreh signature series flyline
- 1 - S.A. 9', 5x leader
- 1 - 25 meter spool S.A. 5x tippet material
- 2 - Seaguar 10 yd. trial packs Flourocarbon leader material - 1 each 8# and
- 1 Plano Fly Box
- 38 flies from Montana Fly Company. The flies are listed in order of the way they appear in the fly box when you open the box, from top to bottom. In the picture, the order is actually from R - L. TOP ROW - Caddis - 2 each: Elk Hair Olive #14, Elk Hair Tan #18, Goddard #16, Olive Sparkle Pupa #14, Tan Sparkle Pupa #14. 1 each Taylor Gut Instinct, Kyle's Killer Caddis.
ROW 2 - Dry Attractors - 2 each: Royal Trude #14, Yellow Humpy #16, H&L Variant #14, Royal Wulff #18. ROW 3 Nymphs. 2 each: Bead Head Flashback Rubberlegged Copper Bob #12, Bead Head Pupa Prince #14, Bead Head Rubberlegged Prince #16, Bead Head Fast Water Prince #14, Spring Creek Olive Superflash Pheasant tail #16, Bead Head Epoxy Back Copper Nymph #20. ROW 4 - Hopper / Dropper 1 each : Bloom Parahopper, Oswald Head Turning Hopper. 2 each: Bead Head Rub-a-dub Olive Caddis Pupa #16, Bead Head Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear #16.

Montana Fly Co. Flies

It's my belief that Montana Fly Co. flies are the finest commercially produced flies available today. Their patterns are awesome, they constantly add new patterns, and my experiences show that the fish like them as much as I do.

Everything in this GIVEAWAY is new and un-used. You DO NOT need to be an experienced fly fisherman to win - this could be the package that jumpstarts your fly fishing career!

5 weight floating Flyline

Since I've never done anything like this before, I want to keep it simple. The winner wil be chosen by a random number generator next Saturday, November 28 at noon Central time. The comment that corresponds to the number generated will win the package. And, yes, I will ship Internationally.

Please limit your comments (for the purpose of winning / entering the contest) to 1 per person. I would like the comment to state:

A) are you currently a fly fisherman (or woman)
B) Do you primarily fish Warmwater (bass, panfish) or Coldwater (trout) or Saltwater
C) Any other comments or stories involving fly fishing, even if you just say you want to try it!

HAVE FUN - Let the Season of Giving begin!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Blog Days of November, and some random thoughts. (And - maybe - A GIVEAWAY!!!!)

They say the Dog-Days of August are the worst times - too hot to fish, fish don't bite, everything is just lethargic. These must be the Blog-Days of November. For some reason, I find myself in blogging funk. I just have no drive to post anything on my blogsite, and I'd rather have no new posts than worthless drivel. I was commiserating my dilemma with Lizzy at From the Fisherbabe and she was echoing the same feeling. Her impetus for a new post came today when she received her new Cabelas catalog; mine came through our conversation. Nothing in particular - just the overall feel of the conversation. I came home from work and decided that my blog needed a jumpstart, fishing experience to write about or not.

I've decided That I need some enthusiasm and interest in the site, and nothing generates interest or enthusiasm like A GIVEAWAY. I will be putting together at least 3 separate packages to be given away randomly between now and Christmas. There will be one BASS assortment, one TROUT assortment, and one PIKE assortment. I will be posting details and pictures of all of these over the weekend - stay tuned.

One thing Lizzy and I talked about is something I've just recently paid any attention to, in the way of recently posted additions to my blog list. I have, what seems to me, an inordinate amount of blogs written by women on my blog list. We both came to the same conclusion - the blogs I really like to read are the one's where people show real emotion and enthusiasm for the sport, and I believe women convey that better than a lot of men. So I'm not really searching out blogs by women - it just happens that I like what a lot of them are writing. Ladies - keep on writing great stuff! I hope I convey the same amount of enthusiasm that I read in all the blogs on my bloglist!
[by the way - this is certainly not a knock on any of the blogs written by men that many of us follow. If I follow it, I like the content, regardless of the gender of the author]

So - keep reading. I'll be unveiling the Christmas 2009 Giveaway this weekend. Good luck to all of you!


Friday, November 13, 2009

55 degrees today - gotta fish

The lower pond in November

It was 55 today with a southerly breeze. I know there won't be many of these days left, so I went out to the old reliable pond over lunch today. The pond was stocked with trout a few weeks ago, so even if none of the other residents are cooperative, I figure I should be able to catch some trout.

Mepps Aglia Streamer

I started off fishing for the trout. I used the Mepps Aglia Streamer spinner pictured. Its become a favorite of mine, even though it is a little bit longer than I would call ideal. After 5 visible hits from trout, and no hookups, I decided i needed to go smaller. I went to the old reliable 1/16 oz. jighead with a 2" grub, and started after them. My grubs were Lindy Munchie, and I started with a watermelon color. the pond was very clear.

November crappie

All the trout were about this size

The fishing was a little slow, but I was only there for 45 minutes. Final tally - 4 trout brought to hand (and a few others hooked and lost), 2 gills caught, and 1 crappie. All were on the Munchie grubs, and all were on subtle colors. I threw a chartreuse grub, but found no takers. The watermelon and copper colors caught everything.

Good colors today

Not a day for the record books by any means, but a day on the pond catching trout ove lunch beats the hell out of the usual lunch alternatives!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I must have offended the Weather-Gods

I bought a plane ticket about a month ago to fly to Arkansas and do some Fall trout fishing. I should be there right now, enjoying the Ozarks and trying to set the hook on a few trout - maybe a trophy trout.

But I'm not in Arkansas. I'm in Illinois. And there are NO tailwater trout nearby.

Foiled again.

If you remember back about 2 weeks ago, there was a tremendous amount of rain from Texas to Illinois, with the system moving slowly to the East, taking the moisture with it. I watched the news over one of the weekends and saw cars completely submerged in Little Rock, ARK due to the flash flooding.

Uh-oh - that's where I was flying into to fish! No problem, I thought - 2 weeks will flush out the rivers and they'll be perfect when I get there.

Wrong again.

The dams have been releasing water almost around the clock. The conditions you hope for when fishing these tailwaters is for a long period of NO dam release, so you can get out and wade the shoals. Well, that's not going to happen for this fisherman in 09. I'll start making plans to try again in 2010.

But - all is not lost. I was talking to a friend at the trade show I worked last week, and he was GUSHING about how great Falcon Reservoir has been lately. This is a guy who fishes all over the South, and has caught a lot of big bass. So, I'm trying to set up a short trip to the Mexico border to sample Falcon. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back to the "Old Reliable " pond

I've been getting antsy to get out and do some fishing - ANY fishing, really. The weather in Illinois has flat out stunk on the few days I've been home. But, on Wednesday, the overcast, misty weather didn't seem like it would get any worse, so I snuck out to the ponds for an hour in the late afternoon.

As you know from reading this blog, I'm very in-tune with the fish in these ponds in the springtime. Well, Fall is a different story. I've caught some BIG bass here in the Fall, but have had difficulty patterning them. I really didn't care on this little venture - I just wanted to get out and cast a line. In addition to the usual array of fish found here - largemouth, bluegill, crappie, walleye, channel cat - there were a nice amount of big rainbow trout stocked a week ago.

I spent a little bit of time trying to catch a trout or 2. I used a Mepps spinner, and had 2 different trout slash at it, but they struck short. They were nice sized fish, and will be a ball to chase through the ice or in spring. I went back to one of my "go-to" baits - a 1/16 oz. jighead with a 2" silver grub - and started casting to the shallow dropoffs.

No great story to tell about the results - I got 2 bluegills, 2 small walleye, and 1 little largemouth. What is truly amazing is how good it felt to un-hook a few fish, no matter how small. The water looked nice, ducks were flying, and it was a great day to spend a few hours on the pond.

Don't forget, folks - Fall Fishing can be great!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Even a little fishing is better than no fishing at all

One of the "cookie-cutter" bass we caught

I spent Monday - Thursday in Pinehurst NC this past week. There was an industry fundraiser for the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) and the ASA (American Sportfishing Association). I actually got to play golf on Pineurst #2, one of the most highly rated courses in the country. BTW - I stink at golf, but periodically get to play some pretty good courses.

Anyway, an old friend of mine retired about 10 years ago and lives in Pinehurst. I hadn't seen him for years, and we managed to spend an afternoon together. That meant we went fishing on Pinehurst Lake for an hour and a half.

The lake is about 200 acres and is rarely fished on any serious level. It really exists to hold the pontoon boats of the residents and host parties. But there are some BIG largemouth bass in the lake - Roger has caught them over 10 pounds, and he (admittedly) isn't a bass fisherman.

To make a long story short - we got out, and caught a few bass. I believe we got 14 between us. All but one were the same size as the one in the photo. Roger got one about 2-1/2 pounds. We found them in 10-12' of water and covered the water with 1/8 oz. jigheads and 3" grub tails. The bass were very light / silver colored - the lake is spring fed and very clear.

The most interesting part of the trip - I asked Roger to bring a camera. His wife was on a trip with her sisters and had taken the digital camera, so all we could find was a Polaroid. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw a Polaroid camera. But it served it's purpose - he took a picture, I scanned it, cropped it, and fixed it, and here it is!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stymied by a Winnebago

Well, our attempt to fish smallies on the Mississippi didn't happen. No, it wasn't my whimpering about the cold that brought our attempt to a halt. My buddy Gregg is the boat owner and guide for this venture. He has been as busy as I have recently, and hasn't had much time to prepare for this trip. But it doesn't really need much prep time - pull the boat, buy some minnows, and catch smalies.

I was set to leave the hotel at 8 am and meet Gregg when the phone rang - never a good thing. It was Gregg, sounding apologetic. To make a long story short - he went down the storage facility where he keeps his jonboat, and it was blocked in by 2 Winnebago's! Couldn't get it out for at least a day or 2.

(Before anyone asks - he has a larger boat for fishing the lakes in MN, but on the shallow upper Missisippi, he uses a small jonboat. It doesn't come out of storage until the Fall season gets here, so this was the first time he went to get it from the storage facility this year)

I've lost days of fishing when MY vehicles have decided to quit working, but never because I was blocked by a Winnebago. Until now.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Poor timing

I had planned to sneak a half day of fishing in on Wednesday. My annual, or almost annual, smallmouth bass trip on the Mississippi River above Minneapolis.

As I sit in O'Hare Airport, waiting out my 2 hour delay to GET TO Minneapolis - snow and low visibility in the Twin Cities - I'm thinking that odds of that little trip coming together are diminishing with the visibility. Not because the fishing won't be any good - on the contrary, it would probably be great.

The real reasons (there are two):
1) I didn't pack enough clothing to make it through a bitter cold day. Couldn't fit that much stuff in my carry on

2) I'm getting older, and the days of me doing ANYTHING to catch some fish may well be seen only in the rear view mirror of life. As much as I love to catch big smallmouth - and there are very few things I like more than that - I hate freezing my butt off. If it was a local trip, there would be no question about going - I'd don my snowmobile suit, Pac Boots, and be off. But on a trip - not looking promising.

But it COULD come together - I'll let you know


Monday, September 28, 2009

The little ones count, too

My quest to remove the 2009 Smallmouth Bass Skunk has come to its conclusion - I actually caught a few smallies on Sunday evening. 4, to be exact. I went down to the Fox River - only a couple of miles from my house - and started wading with a light action spinning rod and a couple of lures in my shirt pocket. Pretty basic assortment of lures - Rebel Teeny Craw, 1/16 oz. jigheads, 2" grub bodies. I started fishing with the craw - it usually is good for something on any shallow river.

Little smallmouth on a Rebel Wee Craw

The Fox, in my area, is relatively featureless. A noticeable riffle, or change in current, may be a series of rocks that goes from 2' deep to 1-1/2' deep. After a fruitless 1/2 hour, I got 2 hits in a "riffle" - hooked one and lost it on the jump, and missed the other hit. Both on the craw. Over the next hour, I landed my 4 smallies, the largest going a whopping 10"!!

Smallmouth on a little grub

Sometimes, the small fish are just as rewarding as the big ones. I look at the small fish, and see a healthy population, and possibly future big ones. They can't all be big!

A future river trophy??

It seems like all my posts have a "story within a story", and this one is no exception. This was a very short, unplanned trip, so I grabbed a rod/ reel from the garage and drove down to the river. Half way through my little excursion, I noticed the tip-top of the rod was not aligned with the rest of the guides. I immediately knew what I had done - grabbed a broken-tipped rod. Months ago, I had tried to glue the tip back on the rod (I had broken a tip earlier in the spring) but didn't really succeed. Now, after 3 small bass, the tip was spinning around the rod. I got one more fish before the tip came completely off on a cast. This really isn't a big deal, except when you stop to consider that, at last count, I have 52 spinning and/or baitcast rods in my rod racks in the garage - St. Croix, Loomis, Kistler, Fenwick, Falcon, ...

Why in the world I even had this broken-tipped rod at all is beyond me.

It was thrown out last nite, with the rest of the garbage.

Friday, September 25, 2009

National Hunting and Fishing Day

I should have made this post earlier in the week, but work has seriously overloaded me recently.

This Saturday - September 26 - is National Hunting and Fishing Day. It is a day to celebrate our love of the outdoors and all the associated goodness that comes from our passion. It is a great time to introduce a friend or neighbor to all that is the outdoors. In some areas, there are celebratory events. Near to me, at Silver Springs State Park in Yorkville, IL, is then largest NHAF Day event in Illinois. Tents filled with exhibits relating to hunting and fishing (and trapping) are on display for all to see and participate in. Rods and reels are available for kids to fish. Canoes, too. The trap range is open. It is a very well attended, very well run event. Even if you don't have a local event to participate in, be sure to pass along the good word.

Albert Rasch over at The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles (clck the link on the Bloglist on the right) posted a pdf that gave great examples of the impact of the American Outdoorsmen (and women) - with his permission, I've included that URL below:

Also, the National Hunting and Fishing Day website:

Celebrate being a Hunter and/ or Fisherman tomorrow! (Actually, we should celebrate that fact every day, with tomorrow being the Annual Holiday!)

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to catch a smallmouth bass. Of course, I haven't wet a line since posting that I WILL catch one, either. Makes the actual catching sort of tough when you don't fish. Maybe on NHAF Day???


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More on the "Followers" widget

I just went to the other blogs I follow - looks like the FOLLOWERS widget has imploded - everyone has a blank area un der their Followers.


What happened to my "Followers"??

I just logged on and checked my blog site, as I do every day. The section on the right side of the posts - my FOLLOWERS - is gone! It says "Followers", but there is nothing there. At least on my monitor.

Now I wish I actually had some inkling about how this thing works. I've been subscribing to the "Ignorance is Bliss" school of thought re: how this whole thing actually works, but now I am pissed off!

Anyone know what might have happened? Any ideas on how to recover / relist the Followers piece? Maybe it was just some temporary thing and it will pop back on.

Any help is appreciated

And, if you happen to be on this blogsite and see that it is indeed there, I SWEAR it was gone today at noon!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Man on a Mission

Some missions in life take years to accomplish - some can never be accomplished in a lifetime. And others, like this one, are ridiculously simple and easy.

I just realized, after perusing some notes in my fishing diary from this year, that I have not caught a smallmouth bass this year. I haven't even tried (I DO realize that it's sort of tough to catch a fish that you haven't even tried to catch). I have NEVER gone a year without catching a smallmouth bass, and I can't let it happen this year. I don't care how small, it is now a matter of pride. I WILL get this done this Fall.

The smallmouth is a matter of personal pride for me. It's the fish I grew up catching, and the fish I used to Guide for in the mid 80's. I've fished for them from TN to Quebec. I have a local river that has smallmouth in it and I have not wet a line in the river this year. Shame on me.

So, now I've put it out there for all to see. I WILL get my smallmouth this year - I have to! I'll let you know when this event occurs. [Actually, there s a decent chance that I'll get to fish the Mississippi River in MN with my friend Gregg in October, and that is always a smallmouth bonanza. But it's not a 100% done deal that I'll be able to make it]

I'll keep you posted


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why I blog

Over at Outdoor Blogger Summit, Kristine posed a question to us last week. A very simple question - at least on the surface. "Why do you write a blog"? Obviously, it is different for every blogger out there. My reasoning, as well as I am able to put it into words, is as follows: [BTW - you would think that, if you write a blog, you'd be able to put things into words - right??]

First and foremost, I love the language - all of it. I love to read, to write, and to orate. Yes, I even enjoy speaking to crowds and groups. I think I have a keen appreciation of a well constructed sentence, as well a disdain for those who mutilate these same sentences. Overly pompous and verbose writers are in many ways worse offenders than those who refuse to use correct grammar or spellcheck. (Can you tell I grew up before the age of texting?) I believe you find your comfort zone as a reader and a writer by reading a wide variety of writing styles. You'll find your center by doing this. I enjoy and appreciate the most simple of writing styles. They may also be the most difficult to emulate (IMHO). Think Hemmingway, or Robert Ruark. You won't need a dictionary to read their works. But there is depth in the relative simplicity of their style. I always liked that style, and always wanted to write it myself.

Back in the pre-cell phone and computer days, when I went to college, my major was English Writing - this after a long, circuitous route that went from school to school, from Chemical Engineering to Economics to English. Hardly the straight and narrow path. Simply put, I wanted to be an Outdoor Writer, where I would be paid to go on hunts and fishing trips, see the most beautiful places on earth, and write poetic lyrics about them.

Then I realized that , if I wanted to earn a living writing for Outdoor magazines, I would probably live in my car, or my parents basement, for the rest of my life.

I had to get a real job, but still fostered the idea of writing. I actually did a few columns for a fledgling Outdoor newspaper when I got an opportunity to change career paths from the one I was on and enter into the world of outdoor sporting goods sales as a rep. I took the leap, and never looked back. I've spent the last 21 years in the Sporting industry in various positions, but I got to work in the Industry I have a passion for, an Industry that is also my hobby.

The dreams of being a writer went on hold, but never left completely.

Before blogging, the writing bug was still eating away at me. I have a lot of contacts in the Industry, so I talked to one of the guys who owns and operates his own website, and asked him if he'd be interested in reading an article I had written about a pike trip to Athabasca. He read it , and ran it on his web site. I've since done 2 more articles for him - one on bonefishing in the Bahamas, and one on a trip to Panama for saltwater big game. (If you feel like reading them, the links are located at the end of this post) Whether the articles / stories are good or not, they resurrected the urge to continue writing.

I researched blogging for about 4 months before I finally decided to take the plunge and do my own. I read A LOT of outdoor related blogs. A few were outstanding, most were good, and some were awful. Most disappointing, to me, were the ones that were good reads, had interesting perspectives, and then just ceased to put up anything new for months at a time. I vowed that, if I did this "blogging thing", I wouldn't fall into that trap. I also dislike the blogs that are nothing more than links to someone else's news, or nothing but YouTube links. I knew how I wanted to write, and I knew what I DIDN'T want the site to look like. In September 08, I jumped in. I told NO ONE that I was doing this blog. I was curious to see if anyone would ever find it in the vastness that is the Web. I had no delusions about readership - I was doing it because I like to write, and I thought I might have something worth reading.

I remember distinctly when I got my first comment on my Blog. It was October 11, 2008, and the comment was from Mel in Idaho. I couldn't believe someone had found my blog and commented on it (positively, I might add) after only 2 weeks. I really didn't expect to hear from anyone for months. Mel and I still follow each other's blogs and comment to each other frequently.

So, that's the evolution of the blog site, and a little background. Why do I blog? Because I love to write. I chose to blog about the Outdoors because it's my passion. And I think I write well enough to make people want to return and read the next installment of the journey. [NOTE - the previous sentence wasn't put in there lightly, nor was it intended to come across as being cocky. Everyone who publishes something for others to read and enjoy should think they are capable writers.] I'd love to someday make some money via the blog. If that ever happens, I plan to put every cent earned into a "Fishing Trip Fund", go somewhere chasing fish, and write about the experience, bringing it full circle.

The unforeseen benefit of blogging is that I've developed a relationship with people I've "met" through the blog. The small group of us who follow each other's blogs have gone from random people to friends. I am sure that I'll eventually fish with some of you, and I really look forward to that. I've already spoken to a couple of you on the phone and exchanged baits in the mail. I had no idea it would ever come to that, but I'm very glad it did.

To wrap this up, I hope I don't succumb to "Permanent Writers Block", or run out of things to write about. I hope my blog doesn't become repetitious - if it does, please let me know. I'd like to become a much better photographer, as that would make my blog better. And I hope to meet more really great outdoor bloggers and grow our circle of kindred spirits. Keep on letting me know about the mushrooms, the day on the lake, the birds, and the fact that your husband likes to eat sandwiches! We all look forward to reading these posts more than you'll ever know.


Links to articles

Pike Primer

Bahama Bonefishing

Panama 2008

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pike Lures revisted, Part 2

A selection of hardbodied swimbaits


The swimbait revolution has taken over the bass market. There are a plethora of huge, expensive hardbodied swimbaits used by trophy hunting bass anglers, particularly in So. California. While I am by no means an expert of any kind on these baits or their histories, I believe they evolved (at least on the national level) when AC Plugs started catching huge largemouth in California. The AC Bait is a hard body with a soft plastic tail section. Most of these baits started as rainbow trout imitators. The stocked rainbows were like fish-food to the giant CAL largemouths.

The baits evolved into what I now call the hard swimbaits. While the original baits are still around, I like, and fish, the lipless, or very small lipped baits with 1, 2, or 3 joints. They have a hypnotic side to side swimming action on a straight retrieve. How aggressively they swim is determined by the angles of the joints. The Sebile has a very straight track with a tight wobble. The Lucky Craft has 1 joint and a much wider swimming track. Both are effective.

To be quite honest with you, using these baits on pike is probably overkill. They are expensive baits, and I don't think pike are that selective - if they see something even remotely edible, they eat it. Still, I like to try new stuff, so I threw them for at least a while on this trip. They all caught some fish for me, with the Lucky Craft probably drawing more hits than the others. You can't go wrong with them, but I believe you will catch just as many fish with other, more affordable jerkbaits. The one advantage they DO have is that they are generally big baits, since they are designed as trophy baits.


I rely on Rattletraps a LOT when pike fishing. One of my most beaten-up, tooth scarred baits is a 1 oz. Rattletrap that used to be chartreuse. I rely on 3 models of these baits when pike fishing. I usually have at least 8 of them along with me on any given pike trip. The 1 oz. Rattletrap is my go-to bait. There is just something about these baits that drives pike crazy. I believe I have had the most vicious hits I've ever gotten with these 'traps. I rely on Chartreuse, Fire Tiger, and Honey Bee colors. Before this trip, I found some 1-1/2oz. SW Rattletraps, and I liked them a lot. they've found a place in my arsenal.

My favorite 'trap-type baits for pike

I also use Lucky Craft LVR 15. They cast a mile, give of a very loud rattle, and have terrific hooks on them. Finally, Strike King Redeye Shad in 3/4 oz. round out my selection. You must add these baits to your pike trips. You will shake your head in amazement when a relatively small - 30-35" - pike nearly tears your rod out of your hands when they attack these baits.


Glide baits are used extensively by musky hunters. They are large wooden baits that have a slow sink rate. Using a rod tip-down technique, the angler jerks the lure in a repetitive motion, causing it to jerk erratically side - to - side under water. The musky baits are very big baits - 4-10 oz. - and require specialized rods to work and fish them effectively.

Rapala glide-style baits - pike love 'em!

Then, 2 years ago, Rapala introduced the Sub Walk. This bait does exactly the same thing, but is small enough to handle on bass gear. And they work for pike. Then, last year, they brought the bait out in a saltwater size. BINGO - perfect trophy pike lure. The same year, they introduced the Glide Rap - a musky type bait that is just a little smaller than a lot of musky baits, making it perfect for pike.

Well, these baits DO work for pike. I had high expectations for the SW Sub Walk on this trip. For some reason, I didn't get around to using it as often as I would have liked. Plus, I had a little difficulty slowing down my rod action - the bait really whipped around on a slack-line twitch, sometimes coming around on the line. Still, Andy and I caught fish on them, and I'll always have some along. The Glide Rap is a big bit and really requires a stout rod to effectively cast and work it. Even if you don't have specialized BIG pike / musky gear, be sure to use the XRSB09 Sub Walk, which is 3-1/2" long and weighs 5/8 oz. - perfect for typical bass gear. (The SW XRSB15 is 6" long, weighs 2 oz)


Finally, the lure category that stole all the honors on my recent trip - jerkbaits. I categorize all crankbaits with lips as jerkbaits. Whether you jerk them in erratically, or do a straight retrieve, they work. They work because they imitate the primary prey species for pike - other fish.

Pike jerkbait assortment

Jerkbaits really make up the 3rd part of the 3 major categories of pike lures - bucktails, spoons, and jerkbaits. Many jerkbaits are easy to cast and retrieve, and can be fished with any bass gear. This includes some fairly large baits - the Rapala F-18 comes to mind. Of course, if you target big pike using big lures, you'll want to use rods and reels appropriately matched up to your lure selection. On our recent trip, 3 individual lures shined through as the stars: A Rapala X-Rap Jointed Shad - XJS13 - in Hot Steel color, a Rapala X-Rap Saltwater size 14 - SXR14 - in GGH (Glass Ghost) color, and a Salmo Pike. You've read about Jim's retrieval technique - a slow, steady retrieve until the Jointed X-Rap hit some cabbage, then a rip through the cabbage. Andy works the SW X-Rap in an aggressive jerking motion, and it calls in fish due the erratic movement and size as well as when it gets popped out of the weeds. Billy relied on straight retrieves with the Salmo.

Again, you will see that the baits we opted for on this trip are, by most accounts, pretty big lures. You need to get the attention of the fish, and the size / flash of the big baits does just that. Also, since we're really targeting big fish, it's our intent that these bigger baits discourage some of the smaller fish from going after them. I don't really think this works at all, since pike will go after baits as long as they are, but we like to think it does. I've included 2 pictures for you. One shows the difference in bait size for a freshwater X-Rap to a SW X-Rap. It is substantial. the next shows a war-torn Jointed X-Rap Shad in Hot Steel. these baits just get better and better the more mauled and chewed up they get.

FW vs. SW X-Raps

A battered X-Rap


Very little has been mentioned (by me) about topwaters for Pike. I always have an assortment of topwaters along with me on these trips, but the last 2 trips I have had very little success with them. In the past, buzzbaits and Super Spooks have been good to me on pike trips, and I always have them along. The other bait I've done OK on is a Woodchopper. I 've gotten very little on Popper style baits (Chug Bug, ...) I would rather catch fish on topwater than anything else, but I won't use them if the fish don't want them. While I'll always have a few along, in recent years they have been falling out of favor with my. I hope that changes in the future, but when you have weight restrictions on what you can carry on your trip, you can't waste precious ounces on baits that have not been productive.

I hope you enjoyed the overview of pike baits. The lists grow and shrink with each passing year, and I love to try new stuff. I'll keep everyone posted on new baits for these toothy predators.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A detailed overview of Pike Lures, Part 1

You all know I love to fish for northern pike, especially at Athabasca Lake in Saskatchewan. I've gotten a number of comments (both publicly and privately) re: the lures we use on these trips, so I thought I'd do a little introspective on the lures, types of lures, when and why we use them, and the gear needed to use them effectively.
I'll go through them categorically.


Along with spoons, spinners (and the spinners with dressed tails, known as bucktails) are the most commonly used lures for pike. The reasons are twofold: they are easy to use, and they catch fish. Since pike are big, top-of-the-foodchain predators, you should really use spinnres made for them. I carry a few #4 blades (not really sure why - I 've never used them. I guess I just want to be prepared for the tough bite when I need to downsize to catch fish) all the way up to tandem #10 Colorado blades on 3 and 4 oz. tandem bucktails. The beauty of bucktails is that they are easy to use - you simply cast them out as far as your rod will throw them and retrieve them back to you. Certainly, you can twitch the rod tip to give the blade some additional flash. Many times, hits come on the straight retrieve alone. Or, when retrieving through cabbage, the fish hit when you POP the lure off a cabbage stalk. You don't really need specialized rods for this type of fishing - a MH spinning rod works fine.

Single bladed pike bucktails

The blade choice on bucktails dictates the depth the lure runs on retrieve. You can see the differences on the picture of the single blade bucktails. The Mepps Musky Maribou blade is very round, and creates a wide, thumping profile that rides high in the water and can be bulged just under the water surface if you retrieve it a little faster. The other extreme is the blade on the Mepps Giant Killer - a long, heavy Willow leaf blade that spins tightly to the body of the spuinner and runs deep in the water column. It is perfect for deep weed lines. It is also a little tougher to retrieve than the smaller bucktails. The double bucktails are a chore to cast and retrieve all day. The smallest of them, and easiest of the double bucktails to retrieve , is the Mepps Musky Maribou. This is a bucktail that should be in every box of every pike fisherman. It can be used with standard sized tackle and still gives the large look and feel of the bigger baits. The bigger Musky style bucktails need to be thrown on Bucktail gear - I use a custom made 7'3" Diamondback blank rated for 1-4 oz. baits, and pair that with a Team Daiwa Luna reel and 65# braid. These big rods have long butt sections that allow you to tuck them under your arm while retrieving and don't wear you aout as quickly. But eventually, these big baits will beat you down (At least they do me! That may well be a testimony to my lack of physical fitness)

Double bladed and tandem hook Pike bucktails


More commonly associated with bass fishing than pike fishing, spinnerbaits are terrific pike baits. Think about it - why do bass fishermen like spinnerbaits so much? 1) They are virtually weedless, by design. 2) Their single hook design (double if using a trailer) gives solid hookups 3) They can be used with any tackle. Well - pike LOVE weeds, good hookups are essential, and you don't need special tackle to use them. Sounds like perfect pike baits to me - and they are! The smallest size I would use for pike is a standard 1/2 oz. bait. I prefer larger ones, though. 3/4 oz. is my favorite, and I believe the best pike spinnerbait for all applications is the 3/4 oz. Reed Runner from Northland. These baits are the right size and profile, have great hooks, and just plain work. I happen to use a fair amount of BIG spinnerbaits designed for pike/musky. My favorite is the M&G from Lindy. These are a handful - you'll need to use heavy gear for them, similar to the Bucktail gear I use.

Spinnerbaits for pike. Noted how mauled the Reed Runner skirts are - courtesy of some hungry pike!

Spinnerbaits have the potential to be difficult to store, but I find them very easy. Use a Plano wrap and fill the laminated bags with your spinnerbaits. You can take 2-3 dozen baits in one of these wraps easily and store them in a side pocket of a tackle bag.

Spinner Wrap with assorted spinnerbaits


Probably the most commonly used pike lure is the spoon. The ubiquitous red-and-white Dardevle or a 5 of Diamonds are used by thousands of pike anglers every year, and they catch thousands of pike. For some reason, I am not a confirmed spoon guy. I use them, and they catch fish, but they're never my go-to baits. I don't really know why. I did find a terrific use for them on my last trip: when you are beat up from throwing huge tandem bucktails and jerkbaits, and you tie on a 1 oz. spoon, it feels like you have Nothing on the end of your line! It is a great way to recuperate from the beating the big lures give while still fishing!

Even though I am not a devout spoon guy, a lot of people are . One of the hot baits on our trip (by the other guests) was a Len Thompson in black/ white. And all the followers of The Fisherbabe blog know that Lizzie wouldn't be caught dead north of the border without her Hammer spoons! She sent me 2 for my trip, and they DO work. Many trips up north have been made carrying only a box full of spoons. And many trophies have fallen to them. No tackle box is appropriately packed for pike without some spoons.

Pike spoon assortment - all are 3/4 oz. or bigger.


Swimbaits seem to have taken over the world of lures. 30 years ago you had Mr. Twisters and Sassy Shad; now there are hundreds, if not thousands of choices to make when choosing a soft swimbait [I refer to the plastic ones as soft swimbaits. The hard bodied swimbaits are found in the following category] These paddle or curly tailed baits are fish imitators, and are simple to use. Retrieves can vary from cast and retrieve to allowing the bait to fall deeper and retrieving with a yo-yo type retrieve. You can fish all throughout the water column with these baits. They are typically single hook baits, and I believe single hooks give better hookups. They are easy to rip through weeds. So - is there any downside to these baits?

A selection of soft swimbaits that work on pike

There can be. Because they are plastic, they don't have the durability of hard baits. They are usualy surprisingly durable, but at times the bite-offs of the tails can be a pain in the ass. Another part of the equation that can be frustrating is trying to find jigs / jigheads / hooks that are good matches for these big pieces of plastic. To balance out a 6" Lunker City Salt Shaker, for instance, you need to use a 3/4 oz - 1-1/4 oz. dressed jig or jighead. The best that I've found are Owner jigheads in 1 oz., and 1/2 - 1-1/2 oz. J-Mac dressed jigs. the problem with most jigs or jigheads is that the hook shanks are not long enough. The 8/0 hooks on the J-Macs are great, and the Owner hooks are long enough, too. The Lunker City Salt Shaker is my plastic of choice. I've caught up to 15 pike on one plastic tail (I've also had the first fish nip off the tail!) They're affordable and durable. The Storm Wildeye series of swimbaits is another great producer - on our recent trip, on of the more successful anglers in camp was throwing a Wildeye Pike almost exclusively. (Yes - pike eat their young). I was experimenting with a new (to me) line of plastics on this trip - Optimum Double Diamonds. They have a terrific action in the water - the body rolls from side to side while the tail has an exagerrated wag. They sport a big belly, or midsection, too. But that middle makes finding the right hook a task. Mustad JUST introduced a weighted 11/0 swimbait hook, and it does the job with the 8" Optimums. The smaller ones worked well with a 7/0 Gamakatsu weighted swimbait hook.

Big bait, big hook - hopefuly - big pike!

Bottom line - if you want to use soft swimbaits for pike, you'll catch fish, but be sure to take along plenty of replacement bodies. Because they are often fished slowly, you need a rod with some backbone to drive home th ehook when you get bit. A heavy action FW rod is about right for the big baits.

In my next installment, I'll detail HARD SWIMBAITS, RATTLETRAPS, GLIDE baits, and JERKBAITS.

Stay Tuned!


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 4 - Pine Channel. Day 5 - Richards Lake, pt. 2

Wednesday 8-5 - East of the Lodge

Day 4 of our trip found us headed to the east, to Pine Channel, Roubillard Bay, and the surrounding bays. This is the water closest to the lodge that we usually fish. Pine Channel is usually one of the largest expanses of cabbage in the lake. Usually, of course, is not this year. We found some weed growth, but it was scattered over a large area, and though there were fish there, they were not as concentrated as we had hoped for. We got a few fish, but nothing of note. (In my past 2 trips to Blackmur's, I've taken a 42-1/2" and a 45" pike here, and seen a couple of huge fish that missed baits). We actually started the morning in a small bay called Jackfish Bay, where Billy and Jim caught a lot of fish, while Andy and I got a few. Shorelunch of pike was outstanding, as usual.

Andy's 43 from Crouse Bay

My 37" from Wednesday

The afternoon we fished a number of smaller bays, most being known more for their success in the spring rather than summer. Crouse Bay ended up being the area of choice for the day. It is a small, narrow bay that is an offshoot of a larger bay. The bay itself is maybe 100 yards long and 40 yards wide - not a big piece of real estate. But - it did have some weeds, and that meant pike! Andy caught fire in this bay, taking a 38" and a 43-1/2" pike on jerkbaits - Rapala SW X-raps. I got a 37" earlier in the day, while Billy and Jim both got 38's. Every fish I caught on this day came on a #6 Vibrax spinner with a white tail. Our daily combo bet went to Andy and I, and we were all tied up with one day to go. And the plan was to fly out to Richards Lake again for our last day of pike fishing on our favorite water.


Our last day fishing Athabasca and we opted for the fly-out to Richards - again. Actually, I'd fish Richards anytime I get the chance - I just love the lake and the pike there. Everyone in our group had caught decent quantities of fish on the trip, and everyone had taken a number of trophy fish (over 40"). Except, of course, for me. My numbers were as good as anyone, but I just couldn't put the hooks into any good fish. The monster from the first afternoon was still haunting me, too. But anytime you go to Richards, you have to like your odds to overcome any slump you may be in.

As before, we were the only 2 boats on the lake. The first expansive weedbed we stopped at (the one that had been so good to Andy and I two years earlier) held some fish, but it wasn't giving them up easily. We opted to try one of the other beds. Jim got on a bite unlike any I have seen before. EVERY time we would look over to the other boat, he had a fish on, or was releasing one, or posing for pictures. He must have landed 40 pike that day, and caught the biggest one taken by any of us on this trip - 47" - a truly magnificent pike in ANY waters! He also had a 42" and a 40". Every big he caught fell to the same lure - a Jointed X-Rap #13 in Hot Steel color. He would make long casts, start a straight, slow retrieve and, when the lure would get hung in the cabbage, he'd pop it out. Almost all of the fish took the bait as it was busting out of the cabbage.

Jim's 47" trophy from Richards Lake

Andy got a 43" in the morning, while Billy and I had 38"ers. We got down to the last hour and a half before we had to meet Cliff at eh landing area. We went back to the 1st spot we tried that day. I looked at Andy and said "Time to go big or go home". I put a Dominatrix bucktail (a knock off of a double bladed Cowgirl musky bucktail) (these double bucktails are 11" long, and weigh 3-1/2 oz.) on my bucktail rod and stated casting. Got a small pike right away. Missed another decent fish - at least there were fish in the area that were interested! It was pretty windy with a good chop on the water. I got a nip at the bait and looked down to see a GOOD fish - finally. I watched him inhale the bait about 20 feet from the boat.

Andy's 43 from Richards Lake

It seems like there's always some kind of a story with a big fish that I catch, and this is no exception. The fish hit and came toward the boat. Like they do many times, when pike see the boat they make a run away from the boat, or they dive. this one dove. Only one problem - he dove under and BACK, toward the motor. Which, by the way, was running to try to keep the boat under control in the wind. Even with the big bucktail rod, the best I could do was slow him down, but he went behind the outboard, and the line wrapped around the prop.

This would be the appropriate place to talk about the gear I use, and why. The line on this particular reel was 80# Power Pro braided line. The leader was a 12", 75# Terminator Titanium leader. Why such heavy gear? I like Power Pro for its inherent toughness, but I dislike one of the properties of ALL superbraids - their thin diameter. I've found that anything under 40# test has a tendency to "eat into" the spooled line when a lot of pressure is put on it, whether from a series of big fish, or by using big jerkbaits and working them with slack-line jerks. the line gets hung up inside the outer bands of line on the spool, and consequently hangs up on the cast and decreases your casting distance (at best) or starts a hopeless backlash (at worst). So - I use a line with the DIAMETER that I like - anything over 30# test is certainly sufficient to play and land any pike. I like the diameter of 80#, so that's what I use. With regard to the leaders, I like the larger size of the Crosslok on the 75# leader, so that's the one I use.

My 42" pike from Richards Lake

All this info actually has a point - the line wrapped around the motor, and the pike got drawn in toward the prop. The boat had been put in neutral, so the fish wasn't hurt. But he was stuck. We got the fish into the net - thank God for long handled nets - and I cut the line. The slick braid came through the motor effortlessly, and I had my pike. 42", with an hour to spare! I am completely convinced that the heavier than normal gear is what saved that fish for me. I believe lighter (30#) braid would have been nicked and would have broken. the same for cheaper, lighter leaders. Bottom line - I got lucky.

Final tally on our little bet - Jim and Billy - 86". Andy and I - 85". Billy got a 39" pike in the last 15 minutes to better his previous best for the day by an inch - the winning difference!

The baits we used that caught the most fish on the trip were: Rapala Jointed X-Rap 13 in Hot Steel, Burt jerkbait - Orange/ black spots, Rapala SW X-Rap, Vibrax #6 w/ white tail. I DID use the lure sent to me by Lizzie over at Fisherbabe - the "Hammers" she loves to use. Cabelas Canadian Casting spoons, 7/8 oz. orange and brass. You can see from the picture that it was hit hard - a bunch of the paint was torn off. But I didn't get any BIG fish on it. Unlike Lizzy's group. If you pay atention to th epicture, you'll see some fabric wrapped around the hook. My guide - Laurent - liked the spoon, too, but wanted it to have a little bit of trailer action. He cut a strip off his shirt and tied it onto the treble base. I caught a few fish with it afterwards (it DID look good in the water!), and I'll keep that one "as-is" as a memento. The Hammer was the only spoon I caught any fish on during the week.

A selection of good lures from the trip

I always try to take along a few new baits to try. The best of these on this trip was an Optimum Double Diamond swimbait, seen above. The one in the picture above is the SMALLER of the 2 sizes I used . The bigger, and better one was almost 8" long. The action is tremendous and the profile big enough to entice the biggest pike. You need a substantial hook for these big baits - I used an 11/0 weighted Mustad swimbait hook, and it is barely big enough for the bait. The only downfall is significant one when pike fishing - the base of the tail is very thin, allowing the "wag" of the tail to be extreme, and gives the bait its great action. But - little pike (or big ones) short strike it and remove the tail very easily.

All in all - another memorable trip to Blackmur's Athabasca Lodge. We're already planning our return trip.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shallow lakers - in early August??

On the way to Poplar Point

Our third day - Tuesday - came clear and calm. The decision was made for us to go "west of Fond Du Lac" to try for lakers in the morning, and, based on the success or failure of the morning attempts, go for more lakers in the PM, or pike. Fond Du Lac is the village where all the native Deni guides live. They commute (by boat) daily to work as guides for Blackmur's. The area where we fish for lakers is known as Poplar Point, and is the end of the eastern arm of the lake, where the lake opens up into a freshwater ocean. When the waters are flat, as they were this morning, it is a 1 hour and 30 minute run, wide open, to reach Poplar Point. When the water is rough, it can be a very unpleasant 2 hour run - most of the time, trips to that end are postponed in bad weather. As you can imagine, the guides - with years of experience under their belts - are expert boat handlers.

This is the only element of the trip at Blackmur's that I find a little frustrating -when you fish the far away areas, your amount of actual fishing time is reduced due to the extending running times. When you factor in the run each way, and the shore lunch, you may only have 4-1/2 hours of actual fishing time left.

Typical day 3 laker

When we planned this trip, there was no plan in the works to do ANY lake trout fishing. Typically, in the first week of August, the lakers are seeking their comfort zone with regard to water temps by hanging in the 100 - 120 foot deep range. You can catch them by pulling a 3-way rig with 6 - 10oz. weights, but I don't care to do that usually. However, this year has been different. The cold water temps that have stifled the weed growth in the bays have had a different effect on the lakers - they never went deep! Cliff mentioned that some people in camp the week before caught lakers trolling lures on unweighted flat lines - that is unheard of for early August. Also, some of the lakers caught had been big ones - around 40". So - we decided to give a morning to the lakers.

The calm waters allowed us to get to the point a little bit earlier than anticipated, and the 2 boats rigged up and started fishing. I flatline trolled a T-55Flatfish while Andy opted for a spoon. We were into fish immediately. I could see that the other boat had fish coming in as well. Bottom line - the 2 boats combined for 20 lake trout in the morning. All about the same size - great eating size. One interesting sidebar: Billy was in the other boat and, in late morning, had still not landed a trout. Jim had 6 or 7. We got a call on the radio, and Billy noted that he was being "Wolfed" [referring, of course, to my last name, and the fact that I couldn't buy a fish for the first 2 days]. In the same breath, he asked to borrow a 3-way weight, as he had lost his on a snag!! The nerve! Of course, we gave him his weights, along with a Williams Whitefish spoon, and he caught 3 lakers in the next 20 minutes.

The beginning of a Fire Fish lunch

10 minutes later - Fire Fish is served!

Lunch was the fresh lakers, cooked as "Fire Fish". The Deni usually do this one per trip, using either pike or lakers. The side is taken off the fish, skin intact, and not de-boned. The pieces of fish are placed directly over the open fire on a grate, skin down, and turned once. The pieces are then cut so there is a section with bones and one without bones and the meat is peeled off the skin. It is so simple it's scary, and the meat is delicious. This shore lunch took place on a classic windswept rock at the mouth of a bay. It is so beautiful out there that words can't do the spot justice. The rock striations are vivid, the moss vibrant green, and you wonder how anything - like the few trees and shrubs - can possibly live there. The pictures don't do the area justice, but they're better than my words.

Misc. Shorelunch pics

The afternoon was spent looking for pike in the bays on the north side of the eastern arm. We had steady, if unspectacular, action. No trophies fell to our lures this afternoon, and the big fish of the day was actually my 36" pike. Every cast in these waters might result in a trophy pike but, on this day, we had to be content with the normal-sized fish and their aggressive strikes.

On a positive note (for me), we won our team bet - 70" to 60", reducing the lead to 2:1