Thursday, 24 May 2018

Bigmouth Buffalo

My first year living on the La Salle was a mixed bag with many fish caught but desired fish missing. I was determined to unlock the secrets to large rock bass and bluegills which the river holds but apparently determination just isn't enough. Bluegills were entirely elusive and rock bass catches were sporadic and the fish small. Success came unexpectedly from crappie and carp with many crappie over 12" and carp up to 28". Other species caught were walleye, sauger, pike, perch, drum, channel cats, mooneye and several species of sucker.

Fast forward to my second year and the news is disastrous. The river winter killed and dead fish littered the banks and eddies. Most of the floaters were carp with the odd channel cat, walleye and crappie in the mix. In normal years, river reaches between dams and weirs can be replenished when spring flows allow fish to move upstream from the Red River but with the low flows of this spring that recovery is unlikely.

Yesterday I drove down to fish near the confluence of the Red and La Salle rivers and hooked two fish. One, a pike, bit me off almost immediately and this bigmouth buffalo. The buffalo is only the second I've caught on a fly and the first on the La Salle.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The Briminator or some of my favorite flies.

The warming temperatures and earlier sun are diverting fishing dreams from ice to open water again, a seemingly seasonal occurrence. Fly tying material boxes are being opened and forgotten treasures rediscovered. Already over three dozen recently tied flies are sitting on the fly tying table, awaiting their storage boxes and books, both old and new, are being examined for other possible fly patterns or new ideas.

Last year I fished three patterns, when they were working, almost exclusively; two newer patterns that I discovered in Texas and an old local standby, the leech. Since the two patterns from Texas seem to be unknown up here I thought I'd share the instructions for tying and fishing them. The first I'll describe is called the briminator and is mainly used as a sunfish fly down south. I've caught many different species with it here in Manitoba, including some pretty big trout. The fly is very buggy looking, requires only one feather and generally imitates a number of different forms of fish prey.

I used a #8 Mustad 3906B hook and tied on bead chain eyes about 1/4 shank length back. The eyes are tied on with a figure 8 pattern and fixed in place with some CA glue. A portion of  quill fluff taken from a pheasant cathedral window feather was tied in as a tail.

Using the rest of the fluff from the feather, a dubbing loop was formed and the material twisted into a material "rope".

The resultant fluff noodle was then wound down the hook shank until it rested against the eyes. The end was then tied in with a few turns and the tag cut off.

The cathedral feather, minus all the fluff, was tied in just behind the chain bead eyes, concave side down.

Using hackle pliers, two turns of the feather were made behind the bead eyes and then tied off .

Using the fingers pull back the feathers and lay down a couple of "soft" turns to keep the fibers facing backward. Then move the thread forward, using normal tension to hold the thread.

I like to add some ice dubbing using an appropriate color to the thread to form a neck and head.

Using a toothbrush or a velcro brush, comb back the head, feather and body fluff into an interconnected mass of fibers.

I've tied this fly in several sizes, usually in the range of #8 to #12. I've also used different feathers, usually ruffed grouse or gray partridge. The size of the bead eyes should be varied to reflect the size of the hook.

It can be fished any way you like. My preferred method is to fish it like a dragon fly nymph or small crayfish near the bottom by giving it short, quick pulls followed by a rest.

In my next post I'll describe the other fly, an un-named emerger pattern that really works well when the fish are looking for something smaller. The fly was shown to me over lunch by a gentleman whose name I've forgotten but to whom I've been extremely grateful since tying up a few of these. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

My new home and river

The move from the Assiniboine River to the La Salle River was made last fall, after 20 years of cutting 2 1/2 acres of grass. The new house has a much smaller lawn which naturally translates to much more fishing time. A long winter followed by an impatient spring of waiting for the fishing season to open has finally passed and my exploration of new waters has begun. While the dam at La Barriere  Park will remain my mainstay, much time will also be spent exploring new regions of the river. I spent some time at the dam, some time at new locations and significant time in my truck since the season opened 3 days ago. As most new explorations go, there was much fruitless searching with both fly and bobber mixed with the odd surprise, nice catch and adrenaline rush. First the surprise.

I ended up catching 5 or 6 mooneye at one location so obviously a small school was present in the area. In all my previous years of fishing the river, I had only caught one mooneye and that was in an area of the river with direct access to the Red River. These fish were caught well upstream of the Red and may indicate another species that has established itself on the La Salle.

The nice fish that came along was a 12 1/2 inch crappie. The fish was caught in the same area the mooneyes were holding, a nondescript area in mid river with no apparent structure. After this fish was released, I fished all the crappie type structure nearby with no luck. Go figure.

Next up, the adrenaline rush.  I was worm dipping along the shoreline with an ultralight rod and 4 lb test line to see what might be living there. I felt a slight tap, set the hook and almost went into shock. The line started peeling off my spool at an alarming rate and despite tightening up the drag as high as I dared the line kept peeling off at an undiminished rate. After what seemed like 5 secs I realized I was about to be spooled and I took off down the river after the fish, frantically reeling up some valuable line. I eventually got the fish under control and back to where my net was. I couldn't really net the fish but with its head in the net and the rod on the ground I was able to lift the fish out. A carp just over 30" and still swam away strongly after being released. I had forgotten how fast and powerful these fish are.

I also caught some pike, walleye, channel cats, and drum. Conspicuous by their absence were members of the sucker family. This is usually the best time of the year to catch them.

It's been a while since I've been this excited about an upcoming season and with this quality of fish within 5 miles of home I expect to be on the water a lot. Stay tuned.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Dam dinos...

Cal and I spent three days fishing at Pointe du Bois, in the tailrace of the Manitoba Hydro power station. The new spillway has dramatically changed the structure and patterns that I remember from the eighties and nineties but the sturgeon fishing has remained the same. Over the three days we  managed over 40 sturgeon, many sauger, a few pike, a smallmouth and a large sucker.

This trip we were only targeting sturgeon and the fish were co-operating. The largest fish caught was 51 1/2"  with many others between 40" and that length. Within this range the fish all came to the boat relatively easily and the size of the fish determined how long it was before they tired enough to be brought up for measurements, photos and release. We wondered if that was the case for all sizes, even those well above 50" long.

If these fish ran like trout or some of our other line stripping game fish, they could become one of the most desired fish on our bucket list. Something like the 5 lb. bluegill that bluegill fishers dream about. But they just sulk on the bottom and I'd imagine those rare specimens over 60 or 70" inches would tire out most anglers with their typical catfish rods before being boated.

Most of the sturgeon had one or more lampreys on them that quickly dislodged themselves when the fish were boated. We wondered how they might work as bait but decided to leave that experiment for another day. Also many of the fish were tagged but we were unsure about the value of collecting the numbers so didn't record any. Cal had built a cradle to land the fish which I'd think was less stressful on the fish than a landing net, particularly smaller nets. All in all a memorable trip, one that warrants future repetition, perhaps when the mooneye bite starts.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

2 wt. fun...

How did I forget about the blast I had fishing my little 2 wt last year? Maybe a case of "out of sight...out of mind" since it had slowly slipped to the back of my rod box. On what was my second trip to my favorite river I threw in the rod as an afterthought and boy, was I glad I did. Conditions were perfect and the low water kept the meat fishermen in their vehicles. A few slowed to watch the action but during those times there was nothing happening. Strange. As soon as they pulled away the rod dipped and the fight was on again. I caught about 20 walleye/sauger, a number of pike, a 25" carp, a few suckers and a nice 10.25" rock bass.

Four of the walleyes hit the ice in the cooler but will be warmed up again in the fry pan tonight.

Friday, 20 May 2016

A quillback and #33

Good friend Cal and I went on the hunt for some trophy white bass, drum and carp and managed a few good ones including this nice drum. Also caught some nice MA white bass wading in Lake Winnipeg and carp up to 29.5" in Lake Manitoba. When he caught a quillback on a small jig and worm I ran for the fly rod in my car and started fishing. They were in the current in significant numbers and I eventually hooked one close enough to the mouth to call it a new fly caught species. This beauty fought as hard as any 20" trout I've ever caught.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Fish Cat Scout Review

 First things first. On this inaugural voyage of the Fish Cat Scout I did catch fish, if only barely. This 19 1/2" male brown graciously accepted my offering and turned a poor day of fishing into a slow day. As is evident, my fish photos need tuning but more on that later.

So what do I think of the Scout?  My experience started with trying to stuff a partially deflated frameless pontoon boat into a somewhat inflated (I lowered the back seats) Santa Fe SUV. After much wriggling, pushing and letting more air out, I was able to shoehorn the Scout into my vehicle for transport. 

Would I do this again? The jury is still out on that one. If I had a truck or larger vehicle where the scout would fit into the bed/trunk area without any fiddling...definitely!
Given the effort involved it might just be just as easy to carry the boat deflated and then inflate onsite. I do have an electric pump that will go much of the way and then only require a slight firming up by hand. Then again, carried the way it was, only a few hand pumps had it full.

I added a number of accessories I thought would prove useful and I wasn't disappointed in most of my choices. First up was a fish finder, using a float tube adapter commercially available. I found it a bit clunky because of the enclosed battery pack and wished I had gone a different route, perhaps with a Scotty adapter and remote battery pack.

Another addition was the Scotty anchor lock. I had used one on my previous fishing kayak and loved it. Easy to operate with one hand and with a vinyl covered 5 lb weight, perfect for lake fishing. I suspect for river fishing a larger weight would be required to hold the Scout in current. The Scotty mount is attached with two straps through the small hole at the front of the tube, behind the seat.

The rod holder is self explanatory and proved useful for several methods of presentation and temporary rod storage.

The Scout comes with a storage bag that includes a simple system to secure a spare rod. I almost always carry a second rod if only to avoid changing spools; something best left to on-shore breaks or larger boats. Having said that, I did change out a spool by just standing up in the Scout near shore to re-line the rod. It can be done.

And then the camera mount. I had bought the Scotty mount, intending to use it on the rod holder when required but ended up not liking that option. The camera angle was wrong and of course, I lost the use of the rod holder. The kit came with a tubing adapter which I attached to the cross tube at the front of the Scout. Not sure I like this setup either and other options will be explored.

With only one day on the water, I can say I really like the Fish Cat Scout so far. Some of the things I liked were:
  1. Oars. Despite being fairly small, the oars bite enough water to make the boat very responsive, both in a straight line and when turning. The oars easily lock out of the way when not required and quickly engage when needed.With this boat I wouldn't be afraid to head out anywhere, knowing I could return even against a fairly stiff breeze. I don't have any experience in strong winds and can't comment on how it would handle those conditions.
  2. Kayak seat. This boat is even more comfortable than my last fishing kayak which had a high-end seat. The seat is fully adjustable and combined with sitting on an air mattress, is one of the most comfortable seats I've found. I have a bit of a wonky back and by moving my legs around, both on and under the front bar I was able to maintain a high level of comfort all day.
  3. Dry storage. The front of the scout, the area behind the seat, is dry and ample so storage of everything you bring along is easy and secure. The area is also easily accessed, unlike the smaller float tubes. I was easily able to rummage through my tackle bags and cooler to locate what I needed.
  4. Electric motor possibility. I think it would be relatively straightforward to build a portable motor mount that could handle one of the small Minn Kotas. There is certainly room and enough support for a battery. For now I found the oars adequate but should an electric motor become advantageous, I wouldn't hesitate to try adding one.
  5. Portability. This boat compresses to a package not much bigger than the much smaller float tubes. And its frame-less. Those of you with framed pontoon boats know what I mean.
As far as things I don't like, I can't really think of any right now. I hope the vinyl bladders hold up, and if not, will wish they had inserted urethane bladders instead. A bit more built-in storage would have been nice but was really not missed. Perhaps a nicer colour; I've never been that fond of our military colours. Oh yeah, I often took the stripping basket couldn't rest your feet on the bar with it on. It was easy to throw it into the area behind the seat until required.