Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DIY Ice Fishing Spring Bobbers

One of the biggest obstacles anglers face to catching fish subsurface is detecting the bite.  I am convinced that most anglers get more "bites" than they realize.  During the winter months, when lakes and parts of rivers cap with the cold hard stuff, detecting the bite can become difficult.  Fish feel protected under the ice, the cold water slows their metabolism, and they are in no great hurry to eat.  The sluggishness increases as the ice grows thicker and the winter season wears on.  That is why anglers, especially ice fishermen, have to take steps to recognize even the lightest of bites.

Spring bobbers have been around for a long time.  They are basically some kind of indicator (bobber) attached to the end of a spring (or wire) that allows the angler to see even the softest of bites/movement.  The thicker the wire/spring, the less sensitive the indicator, and vice versa.  Basic spring bobbers don't cost too much in stores.  You can often get a pack of two for 99 cents.  The nicer ones can cost a few dollars for one bobber.

Here's a really brief tutorial showing how you can create your own.  They won't save you millions of dollars, though they will save you some.  They also allow you to make spring bobbers with various sensitivities, according to your needs.

Needle nose pliers, with a wire cutter.

Guitar strings (used/old is cheapest, usually free)
Corkies (Whatever color you feel is most visible) (I prefer a small size)
Masking tape (or whatever tape you prefer, to attach bobber to rod tip)

If you have any helpful tips or improvements, please share!  Good luck, and be safe on the ice.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Epic Day

Traditionally the word "epic" referred to a long story surrounding a heroic main character.  Today the word expresses wonder or awe at the overall awesomeness of something.  When the word first gained modern popularity it was almost annoying how often people were using it. Epic fails, epic wins, epic stunts, you name it and you could find it being done, epically.  Fortunately, the "epic" spouting has calmed down.  The word has been changed forever thanks to the flexibility of the English language.  There are some word trends I wish we could forget. "Porn" this and "porn" that. I may sound like a prude, but I would be glad to see that word stay a red-light district term and keep away from the world of angling, but that's a whole other topic.  As for the word "epic", it was overused for a time, but I'm okay with it being around today. And sometimes things are just... well... epic.


I awoke to the unobtrusive sound of crickets issuing from my phone.  "Text me when you leave your house" was the message I sent Shane the evening before.  Rubbing my eyes, trying to read the text, I made out "Wakey wakey." Ha ha, good old Shane.  Groggy but determined I forced myself out of the bed I had crawled into a mere three hours previously. With determination I had stayed up till 3ish in the AM to ensure a whole homework-free day on the water.

I pulled into the gas station parking lot, threw stuff into Shane's pickup, we grabbed some breakfast, and headed out for some unseasonably warm, winter fishing.  The sun crept over the hills, slowly illuminating the sparse cloud cover with hues of pink, red, and blue.  Good vibes were in the air as we pulled up to the water. That new fishing trip excitement is infectious. There's something about a whole day full of angling possibilities that gets me giddy. I think most serious anglers can relate.

Suited up, we started beating the exposed riverbed with our wader clad feet. The best fishing spots require foot work (without a boat), and we put that theory into action most outings. Ice cracked underfoot. First casts... Shane's indicator sunk, set, fish on!  My indicator moments later... dunk, set, fish on!  A double on the first casts of the day.  It was as if the Beach Boys were singing their immemorial tune "Good Vibrations" in the background. It was a sign of good things to come.

And so it went throughout the day, the weather was great, the flies did their trick, goodhearted banter with jokes went on, and the fishing was productive.

The fly that did the trick for almost all my fish was a white bugger-like fly tied on a Gamakatsu 211 Jig hook (tutorial to come, eventually).  Jig flies are something I have been experimenting with for about a year now, with great success.  They're nothing new to tie flies with, but rarely seen being fished on a fly rod, especially under an indicator.  Apparently it works.  I fished white in tandem with a hotwire hare's ear trailer the whole day, and Shane fished olive with a san juan worm trailer.

You really never know what you're going to get on your line in any given day, location, or run.  The fishing had already been great and it was not yet noon.  We came up to one of our favorite spots and began catching fish pretty quick.  After we had been there for a bit I decided to drift one right up close to the bank.  The indicator sank and I thought it might have been a snag. After the precautionary hook-set (because you never know) I felt a heavy, throbbing headshake.  A few moments later I could make out the form of a stout fish, doing what Adele would do if hooked, rolling in the deep.  I hollered at Shane, and being the faithful friend and fishing companion he is, he scooped up his net and hurried over to help.  Once landed we could see it was a beautiful hybrid.

A few casts later, a little more upstream, but in the same run, a similar thing happened.  This time it turned out to be a hearty bow.  This was one of maybe three fish that took the hare's ear the entire day, but I think that was because I fished it on a tag end a couple feet above the jig fly, so as to not hinder the jigs swimming motion under the indicator.  One thing I have noticed with these jig flies is that twitching your indicator is actually a good thing, where it gives the fly movement and the weight of the jig still keeps the fly "in the zone."  Often the indicator would tank immediately after a twitch, similar to fishing with chironomids.

I'm not entirely certain what is was about this day, but the big hybrids were out and hungry.  A little later in the day we were exploring some water that looked promising.  Shane's indicator did what we like it to do and he connected with another fantastic hybrid.

On one instance my indicator went down and I set only to find myself hooked up with what felt like a carp, or massive trout.  Carp have a distinctive bulldog fighting style and with their mass they do not move around as quickly as a trout does.  It fought well for being in nearly freezing water.  It was a wonderful surprise, and on a white jig fly no less.

There is something about trout colors in the winter.  They get so much brighter and the fish appear so much healthier.  It would be a crime not to take a picture of how beautiful some of these fish are.

Not much later in the day, and in the same place Shane picked up his dandy I set into another thick hybrid.  I have no idea why the hybrids were so active, but I'm not arguing!  

Shane stuck another beaut, unfortunately the camera's settings got changed when it was stuffed into a backpack, and I didn't think to check them.  I think you can still get a sense for the quality of fish it was from the pic. 

It was one of those trips that leaves you on a fishing high for days.  It felt like "indian summer fall" kind of weather and the fishing matched.  These are the kind of days you walk your tail off to get.  Was it worth staying up till 3 in the morning?  You betcha.  I can probably count the number of these kind of days on one hand.  Sorry to overwhelm you with pictures, but sometimes they tell the best story.  And what better way to show how a day on the water can be, than to show some beautiful fish pics and tell you it was simply... epic.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fly Tying: Hotwire Hare's Ear

The Hotwire Hare's Ear has proven an extremely effective pattern.  I nymph with it as well as use it to trail streamers.  The fish love to take it slow stripped, on the swing, and dead drifted.  I'm not sure if they think it is an emerger or tiny baitfish, but either way they seem to like it.  The "hotwire" rib seems to makes it pop in murky conditions too.  It's no great leap of innovation in the world of fly tying, but it seems to work.  I always have some in my box now.  It's a quick and simple tie, so have at it.

One of the recent goods it has produced...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Good, Better, Best, and a New Year

I had hoped to get out one more time before the end of the new year, but alas it did not happen. When the holidays roll around my schedule fills up pretty quick.  Budgeting time is the everlasting challenge. It's an age-old battle between what is good, better, and best.

“As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough 
that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. 
Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it 
the best choice of all.” -Dallin H. Oaks

That is sage advice with the beginning of this new year and solidifying our new resolutions.  As I look back at the fishing, family time, work, school, and church activities I recognize multiple areas I need to improve in. Despite the improvements I need to make, 2013 was a good year, a growing year.  I started working a second job at the EIRMC's Behavioral Health Center as a psychiatric technician, Bita doubled the number of her piano studio's students, William started school, Isaac started gymnastics, Elijah turned into an imp, we finally submitted applications for physician assistant schools (still waiting on the responses), I got shingles with some other wonky ailments that we are still trying to diagnose, the Lord taught me some lessons the hard way, and... the fishing was great!

I enjoyed reading back through the posts from this year.  Here is a catalog of the posts from the main adventures with pictures of some of the more memorable catches.

The new year usually starts on the ice, and this past year wasn't any different, though there was plenty of fly fishing intermingled.
Cold and Content

One pleasant surprise from the beginning of the year was how productive night fishing can be in the winter, if you find the right water.
Winter On The Fly

The winter night fishing continued to be good.
Night Fishing Does Not Suck

One of the best overall trips in recent memory happened this year on my birthday.  It was filled with gorgeous, hard-fighting fish.
Birthday Gifts and Bows

Winter fly fishing on the Henry's Fork can be phenomenal.  It produced magnificently during the winter months.
The HF, She Be Good To Me

Carping really starts to kick in during March.  The trout fishing is phenomenal, and night fishing remains great.
Evening Oddities

The pre-runoff river fishing was fantastic on both the North and South Fork of the Snake.  Some of the greatest streamer fishing happens this time of year with all the new fry out and about.
Faith, Focus, and a Few Good Fish

Spring steelheading is going on and as the fish move into skinnier water they can be more accessible with a one-handed fly rod.  I like to make a few-day trip in the early spring, but circumstances dictated a later spring trip.
From the Ocean to My Backyard

The Carp Classic is held every May, despite the (most times) temperamental/poor weather.  This year was no different, but one good fish was still eeked out.  The carping was immediately followed by some excellent night fishing for trout.
Bitter Sweet

The summer months get crazy with family activities and classes are in full swing.  This year was the busiest summer I can recall ever having.  There wasn't much time to get out on the water in June, but some trips were managed.
The Madness We Call Summer

I love exploring new water, though it is sometimes hard to break away from the trusty honey-holes. I have some excellent friends who make great co-conspirators with the exploratory expeditions.  We discovered some new waters on one of our favorite rivers.
A Day In Short-Strike City...

This was one trip I really looked forward to.  Some of the best dry fly fishing I have ever seen, with big foam dries and extremely aggressive fish.  The Yellowstone River is one of the true gems of our Western fisheries.
Yellowstone Trip

Most of August and the beginning of September was spent recovering from the shingles, blah. After I got my head on straight again and thanked the Lord for my blessings, life resumed. Mousing was a new frontier, but one where we boldly went and IT RULED.
Good Stuff Hidden in a Line Review

Fall was another busy time with school and other obligations.  I managed to sneak out a little here and there for some river therapy. Change is life, and we can choose to be happy despite the trying times. People say to roll with the punches and I guess that turn of phrase works, but I'd much rather roll like a river.
Like a River

This month was filled with sporadic trips, lunch break fishing, and night escapades on new water. It produced some excellent fish and was so much fun I didn't want this part of the season to pass.
Farewell Fall

Ice fishing began once the cold weather settled in and made itself at home.  There was some fly fishing as well.  All produced fantastic fish.
Ice Fishing

All in all it was a swell piscatorial year that went swimmingly. I hadn't set any fishing goals except to enjoy my time on the water.  I rarely measure or weigh the fish I catch, I just love fishing. New fish were caught, new flies created, my kids caught fish, new friends were made, old friendships strengthened, inside jokes developed, many pictures were taken, and I look forward to doing it all over again in the coming year. As far as New Years resolutions go concerning fishing, I plan on doing more mousing, exploring more water, taking more pictures, getting some kid-waders for my son William (and taking him out more), starting Isaac fly fishing when he turns 5, and being on time for fishing appointments (Shane and Brent know what I mean).

It's good to be fishing. It's better to be fishing when it isn't taking away from something more important. It's best to be fishing with people that matter to you. In the end it's not the size or weight of a fish that matters, it's the people you get to share the catching with. What good is landing a trophy fish if you have no one to celebrate it with you? That's not to say that fishing alone is not enjoyable or recommended, sometimes solitude is wholesome. In the end though, the relationships and shared memories are what last and can be enjoyed beyond our brief moments on the water.  Plus, selfies are a pain in the rear.

Happy New Year to everyone!  I hope it brings you much happiness and good times. Glad you stopped by.