Monday, March 30, 2009

Ahhh - Springtime

I love spring - every year is filled with dreams of new adventures, hopes of big fish, ...

The warm weather coaxes out the spring blooms. Choruses of spring peepers fill the air.

Doves dig through the snow to find some bird food in the wind driven snow???? Welcome to sprintime in northern Illinois. Photo taken Sunday morning 3/29.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

March 28, 1979 - Three Mile Island

Today is the 30th anniversary of the TMI meltdown in Middletown PA. I grew up 25 miles from there in Lebanon, PA, so the potential meltdown had a lot more personal attachment to it than watching as an outside observer. We were being warned of the possibility of evacuation as the drama was unfolding.

But the thing I always remember about that day (and the significance to this blog) is that I was on Spring break from freshman year at college, and planned on going fishing that day. I had decided to go to Red Hill Dam on the Susquehanna River, one of my favorite early season spots to fish. Good for walleye and smallmouth in April, May. Anyway, something happened (I don' recall what) and derailed my plans for that day. Naturally, once everything started happening at TMI, everyone was glued to radios and TVs, and fishing was forgotten about.

Red Hill Dam is the small wing dam on the east side of Three Mile Island. It's literally a couple of hundred yards from the reactor.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I FINALLY catch some fish in 2009, and all is right with the world!

We finally had a few days in a row of nice, warming weather. That means, of course, lots to do around the house. And, finally, a chance to get out on the water locally. Northern IL has been slow to warm, and I've been going more stir crazy than usual for this time of year. It's an annual occurrence, but seems like a more acute case this year than usual.

Sat. and Sun. were beautiful days, and both days found us with some time between 5 and 7 pm. We went to a property where I have access to their 2 ponds and tried to start out the year on a good note. Like every year, the warm air belies the VERY cold water and lethargic fish below. I've done this enough to know that early season trips mean slow presentations, shallow, dark bottoms that warm quickly, and often small baits.

Well, things played out like they were scheduled. Fishing was slow, but enough fish hit to keep things interesting. I wanted my son to get in some practice with his gear, because we're going to Alabama in a couple of weeks for a few days of bass and brim fishing.

My son with our first largemouth of 2009

Saturday found 1 nice largemouth willing to bite, and enough smallish gills to keep us occupied. NOTE: there are 2 ponds on this property. One - the first one we fished - is shallow, about 8 acres, and full of bass to 4 pounds, and gills. the second - maybe 10 acres - is deeper. Max depth is around 15 feet. Lots of wood cover. Largemouth, bluegill, crappie, walleye, channel cat (to 15#) and rainbow trout. The rainbow trout are certainly not your typical fare in Illinois ponds. They are stocked in this pond in October and winter over. When the ice melts and spring emerges, these 'bows are in great shape and are great sport in the spring. They're also pretty big - 14 - 20". I've fished for wild rainbows all over the country, and, all things considered, prefer them over the stockies, but these are a viable substitute. They bite, and they pull hard, so in this instance, I like them!

Nice rainbow trout from the lower pond

Next we tried our luck on the lower pond for the trout or anything else that might be awake. It was the expected slow fishing, but we did hook and land 2 trout, 1 pretty nice one. Pheasants were cackling in the fields as the sun set, and deer made their evening trips to the fields.

Sunday we did the same routine. No large bass fell for our offerings, but the bluegills were more active after another day of the sun warming their water. My son and I had a "bet" to see who could catch the most, and we lost count. The lower pond yielded its first walleye of the year to me, and one more nice trout to my son.

Our lures on these trips were primarily Cubby Mini-Mites suspended under a weighted bobber. I wrote about them in my "Favorite things" post last year. I don't know what it is about these little nondescript plastic baits, but they flat-out catch fish - everything! They are effective fished dead slow under a bobber , with the only movement imparted by wave action, and they work with a fairly aggressive retrieve. I learned long ago how to fish a Blakemore Roadrunner (another great springtime bait) - you can't fish it wrong, as long as you fish it slow. The same applies with Cubby's.

A great overall weekend and , hopefully, a harbinger of a terrific season of fishing on the horizon.

Joey fishing on the upper pond

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring is almost here!

70 degrees two days ago, temps are now in the 50's on a daily basis. That can mean only one thing - Spring WILL actually make an appearance this year. I'm going to try tomorrow to get my first fish of the year at a local pond. That should also mean the end to the series of non-fish catching posts that comprise the Winter on the blog.

I wasn't sure I'd make it through this winter, but like a big batch of skunk cabbage, I feel like I'm rising through the muck, awakened by the optimism of yet another Spring.

Keep your eyes peeled for 2009's fishing adventures!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Traveling with your rods

This is actually a two part post, which I only realized when I sat down to type it. The original intent is to pass on a "Helpful Hint" about packing and sending rods in rod tubes. I'll get to that in a second. But I started thinking about something else, in the same travel vein.

When most of us begin fishing, we start with a 2-pc., relatively cheap rod. When we progress to a level where we can discern the difference between rods, we usually gravitate toward one-piece rods. If I have 50 spin and baitcast rods at home, 45 of them are 1 piece, and I don't think that ratio is uncommon. So - why don't we use 2 pc. (or multi-piece) rods? It used to be that the ferrule technology just wasn't up to speed, and the ferrule (connection point) was the weak point of the rod. If so, why are the most expensive fly rods in the world 3, 4, or 5 pieces? Fly fishermen - myself included - won't stand for rods that don't perform, especially at the price of a premium rod. So - why the reluctance from baitcasters and spin fishermen to use 2 or 3 piece rods? They ARE easier to transport.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that many fishermen buy a rod, put it in the rod locker of their boat, and don't have any other issues to deal with. If they go somewhere to fish, they take their boat. But what about the traveling fisherman - going to Canada on fly-in, Bahamas for bonefish, ... My thought is that they simply don't know that there are very good quality 3 piece rods on the market. They might not be easy to find, but they're out there. One company who makes terrific 3-pc rods (and I know from experience - I own 4 of them) is St. Croix. I've used their 3-pc rods for smallmouth, pike, bonefish, tarpon and had NO problems. The ferrules and rod flex not noticeable - unless someone told you, you would never know you were fishing a 3 pc rod. And - they are EASY to transport.

But back to my original thought - taking along 1 piece rods on a plane. There are a few pointers you should follow to reduce the possibility of the Airport Baggage Beasts ruining your trip. I use either a Plano 45102 or a Plano 6508 for my trips. The 45102 is 4-1/2" inside diameter and will hold up to 8 rods comfortably. the 6508 is 6-1/2" inside and will easily hold a dozen rods. It has wheels for ease of transport.

1) Put padding on the bottom of the tube, and some around the top of the rods. Split the rods in half, so the tips of half are paired with the butts of the other half.

2)Next I wrap the rod bundles with some clothing for the trip. Saves on room in the suitcase and protects the rods.

3) Have the tube extended 4"-6" longer that the bundle of rods. Have a dowel rod cut about 3" longer than the rod bundle, and put it in the tube with the rods. The worst thing that can happen to a tube is for the piece that secures the extension to fail, causing the tube to collapse and break all the rods. IF that happens, and you have the dowel inside, it won't allow the inner part of the tube to collapse and will save your rods.

4) Duct tape the collar noted in 3 above to further reduce this possibility (Part A in the photo)

5) After checking the tube at the airport, ask to secure the top after it is inspected, if they need to. I tape a half dozen long plastic security ties to the inside of my tubes. Take one of them out (or tell the TSA where you have them) and zip-tie it shut. (Area B below)

I travel with my rods extensively and have never (knock on wood) had a problem by doing this.

Hope this helps on your journeys!