Thursday, November 20, 2014

Disappointing Encounter

Today I was in the area of a special regulations creek that I sometimes like to visit, so I made a quick stop, fishing for maybe an hour or so. I didn't catch them today, but that was OK. I was happy to just walk beside the creek a little, and I had wanted to check out the action of a new lure.

As I was walking toward the truck, a fully decked out fly-fisherman passed going toward the creek. I greeted him and he nodded and asked whether I'd caught fish.

"I didn't get 'em today," I replied.

"That's good," he answered, with no hint of joke in his voice.

Maybe it was straight-toned humor that I didn't quite pick up. Maybe I misunderstood.

I don't think so, though. I think he was glad that I didn't catch fish because I was carrying a spinning rod. If so, I find that disappointing. Stream regs call for catch-and-release and single-hook artificial lures only. Although the stream most popular with fly-fisherman, it's not a fly-fishing only stream. I not only had a single-hook artificial lure, but my hook was barbless, which is not required by the law.

It believe it can only be bad when we start deeming our own way of fishing as superior to someone else's. Hopefully my perception was wrong, but it did cause me to think a little and to be careful abut how I come across to other anglers and non-anglers alike. So maybe that's a good thing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making it Work

When FLW Tour pro Jonathan Newton realized his boat compartments were frozen shut and went to work trying to get a lid open, outdoor writer David Brown immediately reached for his camera. David and I were meeting Jonathon early to get a different set of photos, but things like frozen lids are realities of fishing, so Jonathon's solutions spelled story material for David.

I've watched a lot of innovation and determination this week at the TH Marine media event at Pickwick. We all expected a fall-like trip when the event was planned for mid-November in Alabama. Instead we found snow at the ramp yesterday morning and low 20s this morning, all with a good dose of wind. Pros and writers alike came to do a job, though, and everyone's doing what it takes to get good photos and story material.

At the moment we're all refueling and warming up for another afternoon of cold but productive fishing and photo work.

Monday, November 17, 2014

First Bass in a New Boat

Any time your first bass of the day is a 4- or 5-pound largemouth, that's a good thing, but for B.A.S.S pro Ott Defoe, today on Pickwick, that first bass was extra cool. Not only was it his first bass of the day, it was his first in a brand new boat. I was along for the ride and got to join to join in the celebration.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter Travels

When I planned mid-November travels to Alabama, I envisioned a late autumn sort of trip. I anticipated cold mornings, but it looks like I'm heading full force into winter. That's not a complaint. I'll never grumble about fishing and writing fish stories for a living. I just think it's interesting.

At the moment it's 41 degrees and raining in Rogersville, Alabama, which is where I'm headed, and there's a winter weather advisory in effect. Seems there could be a spits of snow tomorrow morning, and lows for the next couple of days are forecast to be in the low 20s, with strong northwest winds.

I'm well packed for the weather. In fact, seems every time I look at an amended forecast I add another layer of clothes to the pile. I haven't gone as far as grabbing the ice-fishing suit (yet).

It will be interesting to see what the fish think about the weather. Keep an eye out for reports.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Species 27 & 28

The sun hadn't fully broken the horizon on morning one of my recent Rend Lake trip when my species tally for 2014 grew. My first white crappie of the morning (one in photo is probably about the sixth or seventh) was species No. 27 for this year, according to my records. Not long after, I caught the first of several yellow bass, which was No. 28.

It's odd for me to add a white crappie so late in the year. That normally occurs early in the spring. It just happens that everywhere I've crappie fished this year, black crappie have been the main attraction.

Black crappie actually made the list really early this year. I caught my first one (actually my first several) in January, through the ice in Pennsylvania. I recorded five species from that trip to start this year's list, but I'm not really sure of the first-catch order. My first fish of this year was either a black crappie or a bluegill.

My next trip is to the Tennessee River in North Alabama. If we do any tailwater drifting, I could catch a freshwater drum or a buffalo, either of which would be add to the 2014 list. I think I've already caught most of the sport fish we'd be likely to encounter, but that's a diverse fishery, so you never know. Between that an early ice trip to Minnesota, it seems at least somewhat likely that I'll be able to bump the tally to 30 before the year ends and it becomes time to begin a new list.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday Tips: Hands-On Approach

When the B'n'M Poles pro team of Kevin Jones and Billy Don Surface slow troll, they always hold their hands so that at least one finger is touching every rod.

"I'll feel a lot of strikes that I would never see," Jones said. "And I usually feel the strike before I see the rod tip move."

If either angler feels anything, he sets the hook. Sometimes that means coming up empty, but with slow trolling, you simply drop the bait back into place so nothing is lost, and they catch a lot of fish that they otherwise would have missed simply by staying in touch with their rods.

If you watch the hands of top anglers, you'll notice similarities in casting and jigging approaches. It might be a fingertip on the rod blank or on the line or something about their hand positioning that aids sensitivity. For some, it's highly intentional. For others it's more intuitive. Either way, it's something worth considering and imitating in many situations and something that can help you catch more fish.

Unrelated to this specific tip, I sort of forgot about Thursday Tips and intend to regain consistency with posting a specific fishing tip once a week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tiny Floats & Fussy Crappie

"Anytime fish get fussy. Like cold front conditions. Like we have today, in fact," Russ Bailey said, as he explained when a really small float can make a major difference. Sometimes the crappie want the bait just hanging there or barely moving, and the bites are so light that you never detect them with a traditional float. That's where Bailey's tiny pear-shaped floats come into play.

I asked if there was somewhere he could show me the presentation, even with the wind whipping pretty hard, so I could get photos and see it for myself. He said that was easy as he idled toward a nearby riprap bank and said that we'd probably catch some fish doing it.

That was an understatement.

Three anglers aboard, three float rigs and at times three fish hooked. Excepting when we paused for photos, at least one of us was virtually always setting a hook or landing a fish from the time we picked up Russ' signature B'nM Poles until the sun was gone from the sky.  I don't have any idea how many fish we caught in a short time and between photo sessions, but it was a bunch.

Making the fish bite and hooking them wasn't just a given, though. At least not at first, for me. Drawing strikes took a very understated presentation, jiggling the rod only enough to make the little float rock and maybe move just a bit and then leaving it suspended. And when the fish bit, they almost never took even those tiny floats all the way under. If the float move sideways an inch, changed angles or bobbed ever so slightly, you had to set the hook immediately.

I'm convinced we wouldn't have caught most of those fish swimming jigs over the same rocks or even float fishing with bigger floats. Russ' point was very well illustrated, and the lesson made for a fun afternoon on Rend Lake.