Monday, December 21, 2009

Annual Holiday Hunt

Older daughter Leah is home from school in North Carolina, and we were able to get out for our annual hunt together. This year we decided to chase pheasant and chukar at the the Conneaut Creek Club. Here is a regular ringneck and a black hybrid that were part of this year's Holiday Hunt harvest. The birds will be part of our holiday fare and the skins are being treated for fly tyer friends.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gearing Up for Winter Fishing

Patagonia's Sticky Rubber Shoe was one of the original rubber-bottom wading shoes and still has to be ranked as one of the best all-around wading shoes available. I finally wore my original pair out after almost three years of heavy use. This shoe is extremely lightweight, a pair of them weigh about the same as one of most other rubber-bottom wading shoes on the market. The Sticky Rubber shoe is super comfortable, has great foot protection and support, drains rapidly and picks up minimal water weight. It works well on most regular stream bottoms and will not pick up snow in the winter.

To give added traction on ice and flat, slimy rock, I have added a series of 3/8" sheet metal screws into the raised "star" portion of the tred. Nothing is worse than taking a spill during cold weather (I am speaking from experience here!). This little trick only takes a few minutes and a few dollars and can help keep you high and dry.

Cold As Ice (Almost)

Steelhead fishing in the Great Lakes area in mid-December can be a real challenge. The lakes themsleves create their own weather and most winds from west, northwest, or north pick up moisture as they cross the warmer lakes and deposit either rain or snow when land is reached.

Jeff Liskay swings a fly on Rocky River last sunday during a usual mix of December weather on Ohio's North Coast. The day started with air temps in the 20's and slush on the river, but "warmed up" to break the freezing mark with a mixture of snow, sleet, and rain, just to make it interesting. These conditions can be tolerated if the angler is dressed correctly. Patagonia developed the concept of layering to keep warm and dry during extreme conditions and has been a leading supplier in the clothing needed for this. The shelf ice along the bank gives a pretty good indication of the water temperature.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

When searching for steelhead in big water, or when the water is off color, a reliable strategy is to put on something big and bright and start swinging. Having a visible fly and keeping it close to the bottom will give a chance to locate active fish, ready to eat. Use a sink tip that allows the fly to touch bottom periodically, don't dredge the bottom constantly. You want the fly up a bit and able to be seen. After finding an area that is holding fish, you can then slow down and fish more carefully.

Bruised Steel

This Grand River (OH) male hit Jeff Liskay's blue and black tube in off-color water. After several short strikes, Jeff rigged his tube fly with the hook farther back and promptly hooked this fish. Having the ability to adjust hook position in the fly is one of the advantages of tube patterns.

Little Guys Eat Big, Too!

This bright-colored river brown was a bit outmatched when it hit a big, flashy streamer being swung for steelhead.

All Fogged Up

Dr. Mitch Nahra prepares the two-hander for some shoreline swinging on a foggy Michigan morning.

Just What The Doctor Ordered!

Dog friend, Dr. Mitch Nahra, shows a hefty Muskegon River steelhead caught while doing a float with Jeff Liskay in the StealthCraft Sniper drift boat. Mitch and Jeff, fished a day with Kevin Feenstra and then ventured out on their own and managed to strike silver a number of times. Swinging big streamer on two-handers was the method of choice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Great Lakes Atlantic

Long-time dog friend, Scott Rod Pro Staffer, Patagoniac, and Michigan river guide, Russ Maddin, shows a male Atlantic salmon in full fall regalia. Russ caught this fish in a small northern MI river. There is an active stocking program for Atlantics on the St. Mary's River that connects Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. Some of these fish "get lost" and end up in other waters.

Russ is based in Traverse City and works with Hawkin's Outfitters.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Da Guy From New Jersey

A double dog "woof" to our newest dog friend, Malcolm Tytell who traveled from New Jersey to spend a few days with JD chasing Ohio steelhead. Despite tough conditions- low water & high sun, Malcolm landed a number of fish including this brightly-colored male from Lake County's Grand River. This fish hit a #12 green Ice Dub caddis larva.

Late Season Muskie

Wendy Williamson of Hayward Fly Fishing Company holds a late-season muskie tken on a recent float on Wisconsin's Flambeau River. JD joined the Hayward Fly Fishing Co. crew and Rick Kustich for the day. Two Esox maskinonge were boated with several more lost. The fish were hitting sailfish-sized streamers.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunshine Bass on a Cloudy Day

White Bass/Striped Bass hybrids are called Sunshine Bass in some areas. In most places, they are just referred to as hybrids or wipers. They can reach weights of close to 20 pounds and are found in many places accross the lower midwest and into the south. They go on a feeding spree as the water cools in the Fall and can be found busting bait on top. This fish ate a Gummi Minnow for Marc Dixon of Eagle Creek Kayaks.

Hooked Up!

On a blustery Indiana afternoon, Marc Dixon of Eagle Creek Kayaks in Zionsville, IN, checks out the new Freedom Hawk FH 12 on a farm pond clsoe to the shop. The Freedom Hawk boats are the only kayak on the market where you can comfortably stand, cast, and fight a fish. Here Marc tangles with a sizeable white bass/striper hybrid.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Steelhead Candy

I'm an admitted steelhead addict and fly tying junkie and am always on the lookout for new materials to work with. At the recent Fly Fishing Retailer Show I came across RealFlyColor Beads and NymphHead Beads from the Flymen Fishing Company. These products really floored me. I am a real believer in color change and contrast when fishing steelhead. Based on these concepts, I tied up a series of attractor nymphs from the various colors of beads they have. Initial results have been very positive. With names like Tangerine, Black Licorice, Blueberry and others, these flies truly are steelhead candy.

Spey Day

Spey casting specialist, Jeff Liskay, forms a D loop as he finishes up a Snap T cast on Ohio's Grand River. Jeff is also a Patagonia Fishing Ambassador and tests new product for the company during his 150 plus days on a river somewhere chasing steelhead. On this day, Jeff and JD were tuning up some rods with Scientific Anglers Skagit, Compact Skagit, and Supra Skagit lines. Skagit casting is a recent development in the Spey world and is very applicable to many waters throughout the Great Lakes. It allows the angler to make long casts where needed and with minimal backcast space and turn over heavy sink tips and weighted flies.

To find out more about Skagit casting check out the DVD Skagit Master featuring Ed Ward. Will Turek of the Midwest Spey School is our local "skagit master".

Monday, October 26, 2009

Swinging Steelhead

Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders Club member, Dave Craddock, holds a chunky fish he caught on a swung fly during a Spey casting lesson with instructor, Jeff Liskay. Not a bad way to kickoff the Fall season!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Real Hard Heads

You see some unusual sites when you get off the beaten path. Here is the Wisconsin Concrete Park, just south of the town of Phillips. It consists of several acres of concrete figures of all kinds. Looks like someone had too much time on their hands.

A Dock on the Bay

Lake Superior's, Chequamegon Bay, is famous for its' smallmouth bass fishing, but all kind of angling opportunities abound close by. Nearby tributaries host runs of steelhead, salmon, and even some coaster brook trout. Inland, there are both trout and warmwater rivers along with countless lakes having plenty of fish.

Here is view looking from US Rt. 2 north past the breakwall to the Apostle Islands. Angler's All in Ashland is operated by Roger LePenter, who can dial you in to local fishing or set up a guide trip for you. You can reach Roger at 715-682-5754

Thursday, October 22, 2009

By the Shores of Gitchee Gumee

OK, I may not be Longfellow, but I have now paddled on Lake Superior. On my recent swing into Wisconsin I was able to try the new Freedom Hawk 12 Kayak on Chequamegon Bay just outside of Ashland.

Here is a shot of the boat loaded and ready to fish at the mouth of the Soiux River. Sorry no fish that day as wind drove me off just after I floated down to the lake.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dog Tired

The Fish Dog chills out on her favorite resting spot after a hard day out. Aspen is getting to be an old-timer in dog years, but still has a lot of zip and is always ready to hit a river to chase smallmouth or steelhead, her favorite fish.

Muskegon River Speyfest- Take 2

Dec Hogan, a well-known Pacific NW steelhead guide and Echo Rod Company pro, gives a presentation at the Muskegon River Speyfest. Dec is author of the book A Passion for Steelhead and was the headline attraction at the Speyfest. Over 100 Spey-crazies from all over attended the event that was hosted by the Great Lakes Spey Shop.

Muskegon River Speyfest- Take 1

Dave Pinchkowski, our favorite cheesehead, drove down from Milwaukee to attend the recent Speyfest on the Muskegon River. Here he launches a cast while Echo Rod pro, Dec Hogan, looks on. As usual, Dave won the distance competition with a cast of about 120'.

Salmon on the Swing

It doesn't happen too often, but here is a MI salmon that hit a swung fly. JD was fishing a SA 350 gr. Streamer Express line matched up to his trusty Scott E2 959 and Nautilus CCF 10 reel- A great big fish outfit for anywhere.

Fall fishing is in full swing in western MI, with one of the best salmon runs in years. Loads of salmon are present in all the rivers, trout are feasting on eggs, and steelhead are starting to filter in.

Time for Kings!

The recent, much needed rains have fish on the move in all Great Lakes tributaries. Jeff Liskay shows a king salmon from MI's Pere Marquette River. An all-day rain had thousands of fish on the move upstream. Jeff and JD were hppy to interrupt a few fish on the way.

Streamers for Salmon

JD fishes a streamer for kings on the lower Pere Marquette River in Michigan. The Stealthcraft Sniper boat proved to be a great mode of transport to get into fishy water.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pacific NW Steelies Eat OH Tubes!

Jeff Liskay, Patagonia Fishing Ambassador and member of Team Fishdog, had a chance to check out the record steelhead run on the Deschutes River in Oregon recently. Jeff was well stocked with a supply of OH tube patterns that Deschutes steelies had no problem hitting. This fish ate a no-name pattern of black and chartreuse fur, feathers, and scale mirror flash with a Eumer Monster Cone in front.

Jeff was fishing a Scott T2H rod with his favorite Nautilus reel. The line was a SA Supra Skagit with a length of Express 14 in front.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A New Face At ACS!

A double-dog woof to welcome a new face with ACS. Ted Heitman lives in the St. Louis area and will help JD keep track of things in MO, KS, and other far reaches of the ACS umbrella. Ted has years of experience in the fly fishing and outdoor industry and is a long-time Scott rod fan. We are looking forward to having him help spread the word!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Turkey Trot

I went over to my buddy George's place to work on the drift boat, and found two turkeys eating grapes in his little vineyard. I sent the Fish Dog out for turkey recon and one flew up into a tree and this one ran, actually trotted, up the hill and into the woods.

This is in Hinckley, OH, about 15 miles from downtown Cleveland. Hinckley is known for it's festival each year that celebrates the return of turkey buzzards each spring. Obviously, wild turkeys have found their way back, too!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A New Site To Watch

I just received word of a new fishing site of interest to OH anglers,

These guys will report and promote kayak fishing around the Buckeye State. They are also organizing PaddlePalooza: The Ohio Camp and Watersports Expo next Spring at the state fairgrounds in Columbus. Kayak fishing is still in its' infancy in OH. The possibilities are endless and interest is just beginning to grow. Here Jeff Liskay holds a January steelhead taken during a float on the Grand River. The boat in back is a Freedom Hawk Freedom 14, great where an assortment of gear is needed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This!

A surface hair bug and cooperative smallmouth bass are about as much fun as there is with a fly rod. Depending on their mood, smallies may sip in a surface fly gently, roll on the fly and eat it, blast a dish pan sized hole in the water as they smash the fly, and even come out of the water on the take. This fish took the bug when it was cast behind a rock while floating through a stretch of fast water. Smallmouth also hit topwater at night. They will also eat Hex and Ephron mayflies at night if they are present.

Fly Rods and Fred Flintstone

Dog Friend, Jim Oates, pulls a Fred Flinstone move and casts out of his Dry Fly Float Boat having his feet on the bottom. With its' open frame, it is easy to stand and fish or pick up the boat and walk it over shallow stuff. Jim showed JD a stretch of the Menominee River. The fish cooperated, bald eagles flew by, and it only rained a short time. Jim has a great philosophy- "never put off a day's fishing (canoeing, kayaking, skiing, or any outdoor activity) expecting you'll do it another time". Good words to live by.

Meat and Cheese

Here is a solid bass from the Menominee River in Wisconsin that ate my old reliable Meat Wagon streamer. A good portion of the Menominee forms the border between Wisconson and the UP of Michigan. It is a beautiful river, tea colored with plenty of fast water and pools begging to be fished. On this Sunday in August we floated 5 miles and didn't see another angler. The M is loaded with smallmouth and has plenty of toothy critters, i.e., muskies mixed in. These are the hardest fighting smallmouth bass I have encountered. Tight Lines Fly Shop out of DePere, WI, specializes in floating the Menominee- check them out!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A New Article

An article I wrote about tube flies for warm water use is out in the Sept./Oct. issue of American Angler magazine. This is an area where many fishing situations are perfect for using tubes. A special double dog "woof" and thanks to dog friends Tony Pagliei, Rick Kustich, Steve Wascher, and Greg Senyo for their help with the article. Here is a pic of the Ballhead Bunny fly that has tying directions and photos in the article.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bluegrass Bronzebacks

While working my way through Kentucky, Dick Haas of Foward Cast Fly Shop in Louisville, was kind enough to show one of his favorite creeks not too far from town. The water still had not come down completley from the deluge of rain in the area the week before. Despite the high water we caught a few fish and had a fun afternoon. We just beat another big rain back to the car after finishing fishing.

I threw a pattern of mine I had not fished in a while I call the Crawpin (Crawfish/Sculpin). Here's the recipe:

Hook: shortshank, widegap- size #1 or #Tail: A short piece of marabou
Back/Wing: Zonker strip extending 2"-3" past hook. un the hook point through the strip about an inch back and then tie down in front.
Body: Estaz with a pair of rubber legs on each side in front.
Head: Barbell eyes so hook rides upright, with a clump of deerhair over top. Trim the hair flat.

This day I fished brown. Olive, tan, and black are also good colors and OK to mix 'em up too.

A saltwater version of this is the Crimp (Crab/Shrimp) and works well for bonefish and redfish. Just go to a stainless hook, mix in a little pink or orange and you are in business! I love those multipurpose, multispecies patterns!

Summer of the Smallies!

Seems I can't escape smallmouth right now- but no complaints! I floated Dog Friends Buck Juhasz and his wife, Barb, down Ohio's Stillwater River a couple days ago. Air temps in the mid-90's kept the fish slow during the day, but the action heated up towards dark. Buck got a lot of grabs on a frog popper he was throwing. Here he holds a good fish that crushed the popper as it floated through a deep pocket.

The Stillwater is one of western Ohio's top smallmouth streams. It flows through a an area that is largely agricultural and nutrient runoff is suspected as causing a lot of grass beds to grow in the river that had not been there previously. The bass fishing doesn't seem to have been affected.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More Bronze!

The summer smallmouth fishing keeps on going! Will Turek and the Fish Dog admire a chunky smallie taken on a recent float. This was WT's first chance behind the sticks on Team Fish Dog's new Super Sniper driftboat. WT gve the boat a thumbs up- lightweight, quiet, and easy to row.

Streamside Observer

This whitetail fawn sat quietly while we floated past it on Michigan's Huron River. Not sure if it was lost, hurt, or just waiting for mama. This looks like a really young deer for this time of year and must have been born very. Youngsters should have lost their spots a while ago. the same float also provided sightings of an osprey and bald eagle.

Searching for Tailers

Jeff Liskay checks out a small bay on Lake Erie's North Bass island for feeding carp. A small group of fish were located, but none ate Jeff's offering.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mega Carp in Michigan

Bob Story of Feather Craft Fly Fishing displays a hefty carp taken on the flats off Lake Michigan's Beaver Island. Frequent wind and rain hampered sight fishing opportunities, but there were enough breaks in the weather to get some shots at monster carp cruising the flats. Carp are extremely wary when in the shallows. Careful stalking and accurate casting are needed to tempt them on a fly. Crayfish are one of their favorite foods and a matching pattern crawled on the bottom is favored. bob was fishing with Capt. Kevin Morlock of Indigo Guide Service.
Beaver Island is the largest island in Lake Michigan and has a colorful history of settlement. It lies 32 miles from the city of Charlevoix and is reachable only by air or boat.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Power Plus!

Smallmouth bass may be the most underutilized fly rod fish around. They are well distributed across the US and Canada, occupying much water that is marginal at best for trout survival. Smallies are normally less selective than trout and will hit a variety of fly patterns. They are also more tolerant of sloppy casts, making them a great target for beginners.

Smallies are well-known for thier fighting ability. Their broad body and wide tail give them plenty of power when they turn sideways. Pair that with an unmatched jumping ability and you have an A+ sport fish. If you haven't chased smallmouth with a fly rod, give it a try!

An Honorable Fish!

Capt. Leo Wright holds a hefty Muskegon river smallie caught in honor of dog friend Kevin Feenstra, who was finally hooked, landed, and hitched last Saturday, July 25. Leo and JD spent the morning on the river and then headed to the afternoon wedding and reception. A great time was had by all. Kevin and Jane Feenstra honeymooned across northern MI.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Winston, a golden retriever, is the main greeter at Baldwin Creek Lodge in Baldwin, MI. Here he does water watch on the Pere Marquette River seated on the front ledge of a 13 foot Stealthcraft Super Sniper drift boat. The Super Sniper is designed to float high and quiet, with maximum manueverability.

Float And Be Stealthy

Check out this new drift boat from Mike Batcke and crew from Stealthcraft Boats! JD and Jeff Liskay went to Mike with a particular boat in mind- it needed to be as light as possible, hold 3 people, float high, be easy to haul around places without launch ramps, and be rugged enough to take river abuse. Stealthcraft was able to build the boat. Team Fishdog will now have a Super Sniper model to work with. At 13 feet long, this Super Sniper weighs in a little over 100 pounds. The hull is made of plascor laminate for extra strength with reduced weight. The bottom is coated with UHMW (ultra high molecular weight) plastic so it will slide easily over river rocks and up and down banks. Built in hand grips will be a big help. The interior has been left open to provide maximum versatility in adjusting to the passenger load. Just in time for prime time summer smallmouth and the start of Fall fishing!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Love Those Smallmouth Bass!

Ya gotta love small stream smallmouth bass. These are a native game fish in many moving waters of the Midwest and have been widely distributed across the U.S. They are subject to the same environmental stresses as trout are. Smallmouth can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures and overlap with trout in many areas. Growth rates in smaller streams can be quite slow, taking 6-8 years to reach a length of 12-14 inches in the northern part of their range. This healthy specimen came from a stream in southern Indiana. Take a look at the width of the tail in relation to the body. That is one strong fish! Smallmouth bass are tough fighters no matter where they are found, but stream fish really take it up a notch. In the "Book Of the Black Bass" published in 1881, Dr. James Henshall, a Cincinnati resident and recognized as the father bass fishing says,"inch for inch, pound for pound, the black bass is the gamest fish that swims." It's hard to argue with that.

Lake Erie Fun

JD joins in on some hot drum action on the big lake. A favored outfit for Lake Erie is an 8-wt. Scott X2S rod, a Nautilus CCF8 reel, and a SA 300 gr. Streamer Express line. Finish off with baitfish and crayfish patterns for a good time!

Hot Action On Lake Erie

Jeff Liskay leans into a hefty freshwater drum along the Lake Erie shoreline a little west of Rocky River. Drum go onto a big feed after spawning and can provide fast action on a fly rod.

Drum are often found chasing baitfish high in the water column. This day the fish were hitting emerald shiner imititions around 10 feet down in 20'-24' feet of water. A Streamer Express line was the perfect tool to present a fly to these fish.

Bangin' The Drum

Meet the Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotis grunniens), known in my neck of the woods as Sheepshead. This is one of the most widely freshwater fishes being found from southern Canada down into Mexico. Maligned in the northern part of its' range as a trash fish, it is valued as both a sport and food fish as you head south.

Drum are strong fighters when hooked and can be taken on a vriety of baits and artificials. They commonly reach 5 to 10 pounds and unlike many freshwater fish make strong runs when hooked. Unknown to most anglers, drum hit flies readily and often do some knuckle busting when first hooked. This fish hit a tube pattern tied by Dog Friend Jeff Liskay on a Eumer Ball Head tube.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A New Friend of The Dog

We love fish dogs and here is our newest friend. Winston, a 5-year old Golden Retriever fishes regularly with Mike Batke, of Baldwin Creek Lodge in Baldwin, MI. Mike guides on the Pere Marquette River and is also the owner of Stealth Craft Boats. Winston helps to supervise all activies and is official greeter for guests at the lodge.

Small Stream Fun

A double Fish Dog "woof" to Matt Dunn from J.L. Waters in Bloomington, IN. Matt was kind enough to share some of his favorite water and we enjoyed an evening of small stream surface action for smallmouth. Smallmouth bass, and a variety of other species are the native stream fish across much of the United States and are subject to many of the same environmental impacts as trout are. Agricultural runoff, loss of habitat, and overfishing are several of the stresses on many small river and creeks across the Midwest.

Pretty As A Picture!

One of my favorite sunfish species is Lepomis megalotis, the Long Eared Sunfish. Rarely over 8 inches long, this fish is found through much of eastern North America from the Great Lakes to northeastern Mexico. It is common in slower moving streams and rivers where it feeds on a variety of insects and crustaceans. This one was caught in southeast Indiana. Trout may get the top billing for color, but most sunfish species are also multi-hued.