Monday, April 6, 2015

Floating in Florida in search of Shoal Bass



My wife and I decided to get out of the dragging Midwestern winter and head south for a little beach time with our new baby and break from the endless cold and snow.  We had our sights set on Destin Florida, which fit the pocketbook and the weather for the trip looked great.

Most fisherman heading to Destin have dreams of the countless saltwater fish available from offshore boats and the inshore harbor, but I had have always been drawn to rivers and a unique bass species would only be a short drive from our resort.  I brought along my mohawk solo 14 for the trip, which can handle any river florida has to offer and it even did nicely surfing a few small breakers! 


Normally crystal clear, rain the night before the trip had the river up and off color, and the water color was tannic and an almost blackish brown color; something that is rarely seen in well drained farmland of the Midwest. Spanish moss hung from the trees, and cypress, tupelo, palm, sweetgum, and pine trees climbed from the river banks. The river was so different that what I am used to, and much different than other Florida streams.  It is fed by over 60 springs with a year round temperature of 68 degrees and has several rocky limestone shoals.  The Chipola river arises in Alabama and is a tributary of the Apalachicola, and contains a species of bass that I have not had the chance to fish for, the shoal bass.  Shoal bass inhabit the rocky limestone shoals in fast moving water throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.  The Chipola contains a good population of shoal bass but they are only relegated to the areas of fast water around limestone shoals, but due to limited habitat all anglers are encouraged to release shoal bass.


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The high water had washed out the shoals, so I had to focus my efforts on any moving water I could find.  After about a mile and a half  I hooked into my first shoal bass.  It was  a fighter, and reminded me of the smallies I catch back home.  It took a crankbait fished in fast water and tried to take the rod away from me with about 15 feet of line out. It pulled drag and jumped at least twice.  A great way to start the trip out.


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I caught several more shoal bass, always in the fast water around the fast dropping shoals.  Most were small, but I caught a few above 15".

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Farther downstream in a long skinny slow water pool, I threw a cast against cypress trunk and my bait ricocheted off the trunk and behind a stump that was invisible to my line of site.  The lure landed in a pocket of 2-3 feet deep water surrounded by cypress roots.  As I began my retrieve it was engulfed by a huge bass.  I set the hook, and I did not expect the fish on the end of my line.  It was HUGE!  Another bass species to check off of the life list, a Florida strain largemouth bass...from Florida no less.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It's been awhile




Well, it's been quite a long time since my last post.  My family size has increased by one and I welcomed my first child this past summer.  While my fishing time has declined, my happiness has increased tenfold.  I can't come to explain what an amazing feeling it is to have a child, it has made me a better person and I can't wait to show him what I have learned about this amazing world we live in.

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I have still found time to fish, but I haven't had the opportunity to travel as much as I have in the past.  That has given me the time to focus on some local water more than I would in a normal year.  Most of my time has been spent chasing bass and hybrid stripers out of my small bass boat but I have found some time to chase some trout and smallies.  I did get to spend a week straight chasing trout and smallies with my oldest brother for a week in May, and the fishing was fantastic but the weather was miserable.  40's and rain nearly every day, but I was not complaining!



Get out there and fish whenever you can; be it rain, snow, wind, cold, hot, humid, frozen or fast.  Enjoy every moment on the water and make every single cast count, as there could be the fish of a lifetime waiting to pounce.


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Saturday, August 31, 2013

An ireland fishing adventure

My wife and I spent the past 8 days in Europe for our fifth anniversary.  We spent the first 4 days in Paris doing the tourist thing, then flew into Ireland for some pub crawling and sightseeing.  I was able to slip away for about 5 hours one morning to do a little fly fishing for trout in one of the local trout Irish streams.

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 This has been a dream of mine for a very long time, so this was a rather rewarding fishing trip.  I packed my 4wt with a double taper and a box of buggy nymphs with a couple of small streamers, along with some basic nymphs and dries.

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The stream was small and brushy and casting was going to be tough but it looked like it opened into some good pools in the section I could see from the bridge access.  As I waded into the pool below the bridge I saw 3 wakes move out of the head of the riffle into an undercut bank.  I heard that the fish over there could be tough to catch but that didn't seem to be true on this morning. I caught a lot of trout, mostly around 5-10 inches long and they were all over the place.

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This little creek was beautiful (much like the rest of Ireland), so I was driven to cover ground and quickly took off the prince nymph and tied on a wooly bugger and did my best to roll cast it to every good looking cut, riffle drop, and stripped it in the deepest parts of the pools.  I also stripped a streamer in some of the better pools.   This worked just as good as the smaller nymphs and I hooked two better fish that were in the 12-14 inch range.  It was a hell of a good time, can't wait to do it again someday.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

First road trip of the year

Man what a trip this turned out to be.  Great water levels made for some great fishing and paddling. Everyone caught great numbers and fish over 16" were common. These streams tend to have more ledges and quick drops than others that I have paddled in the ozarks, and it made for some great quick water runs. It felt great to get outside and enjoy some of the incredible places I have found in the ozarks. Pictures turned out pretty good too!

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Giving back

Every year I make a trip over to southeast Missouri with my wife to meet a group of friends for our annual stream team cleanup.  Some friends from the Missouri smallmouth alliance meet for some floating and fishing, and and we cleanup a good chunk of river and have some great times around a campfire.  This year was one of the best so far in terms of turnout, and we picked up around 1000lbs of trash along 25 tires. The company was great and it is always nice to get a group of good friends together. It can be somewhat depressing to see what people are willing to chuck in the river.  The amount of oil and grease buckets, aerosol cans, paint, and stryfoam that we find makes me sick.   If these people could only realize the resources they have surrounding them. 

Anyways, the weather was crazy.  It was snowing when I left on Thursday afternoon. It would be nearly 75 degrees by the following afternoon.  Caught fish in the snow, but went fishless on a 75 degree afternoon on a much better stream.  Still great to be out in the weather, and giving back to mother nature will surely benefit me in the long run.  Here are some of the better pictures.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Creekin

Throughout my life I have found some incredible places while looking for good fishing holes. This creek is one of those places.  It is a hard place to plan a at trip because it can be incredibly flashy and is dangerous at high levels, but within a couple of days it will be back to base flows.  Giant bluffs rise more than a hundred feet at bends in the river and wildlife is abundant.  In the summer time it can be great fishing, but most of the fish move out of the creek in the wintertime.  Anyways...the pictures turned out to be pretty good, and looking back on them makes me wish it was April.   Several bald eagles were grouped up during this trip, and at one point I floated directly underneath one in a tree about 30 feet over my head. 




Enjoy.





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Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunburst ranch and the North fork of the white river

Every fall or early winter I make a trip over to the Missouri ozarks to do some trout and smallmouth fishing.  Most times I will head to places that I know well, so I can assure myself that I will do well.  This trip I opted to head somewhere that I have only seriously fished a single time.  That was shortly after I had begun flyfishing, and I had little success.  I made arrangements for a car shuttle and made the 5 hour drive over to Sunburst ranch on Thursday morning.  After setting up camp and getting my rods rigged and ready to go, I had about 3 1/2 hours of daylight left.  I rigged up with a stonefly imitation and hit the water.  The first thing that I noticed is that the river in front of the campground had some great fishing water, and beautiful scenery.

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I landed a small brown almost immediately, then went fish less for about 2 hours.  That is the typical experience I have had on this river...tough fishing.   These fish are not your typical trout.  The rainbows are stream bred and they require long drifts, good mends and flies that are deep.   I gave the river a rest for a while and made a sandwich and had a couple of brews. I tied on a streamer pattern and decided to just go with something that I know how to do well. I made it back down to the creek with about an hour of daylight left, and the fishing was epic.  In about an hour I landed an 17-18" brown, a 15" rainbow, and several small rainbows and browns.  In that hour of fishing, I caught more NFOW trout than I had in a full weekend of fishing on my last trip. 

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I was feeling pretty good after that hour.  If I didn't catch a fish for the rest of the trip, it would have been worth it.  I was up early to get ready for my car shuttle in the morning.   I took down camp, ate breakfast, and packed the car and had about an hour to kill before Justin ran my shuttle.  I headed down to the river with my streamer rod rigged.  I fished for about 30 minutes with nothing to show for my efforts.   Right around 8 am, a giant brown charged my streamer from the far bank.  It didn't take, but it hovered over some lightly colored sand and I could see it plane as day.  I made another cast and it charged it again, this time right up to me feet.  I made another cast and it made another lazy follow and disappeared back to the far bank.  I thought that I wouldn't get another shot at it, but tied on a different pattern and made a bad cast.  As I was picking up my slack line I saw the brown rush out and destroy the fly as it was sinking. I set the hook and the battle was on.  The fish somehow rolled and lassoed itself, so the fight wasn't that amazing but it was a hell of a fish.

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What a start to a trip.  I still had a full day of smallie fishing, a night gravel bar camping, and a full day of trout fishing ahead of me.  I picked up some flies and Justin ran the car shuttle for me.  I put in a twin bridges and kind of just soaked in the scenery for an hour or so.  It was a cold morning, and the fishing was slow.  The scenery made up for the slow fishing.  The NFOW is beautiful in this section.  Big bluffs and complete solitude.  I didn't see any smallies until about 4 miles into the trip.  They were grouped up and really skittish.  When I found a group, I could usually only catch 1 or 2 fish before they would scatter.  When I set up camp, I had only caught around 5 fish.  I did pick up a few more around dark.



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I wake up the next morning well before the sun was up.  I took down camp, packed the canoe and started fishing.  Smallies were eating even before the sun was up.  I caught a bunch from the pool that I camped next too and few after I started floating.  Biggest was 16.5".


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I made it down to the trout water, and didn't catch anything for a while. Then it happened.  I was deep nymphing a fast riffle and I had a take.  I set the hook and a giant rainbow cleared the water and took off downstream.  I cannot begin to describe how hard this fish fought on my 5 wt.  It took me nearly to my backing and I thought that I was never going to land it.  Luckily I did.  The picture isn't all that great, but it gives you an idea of how big it was.  I am guessing 18-19". 

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So I am feeling really good right about now.  I decide to cross the river and fish the riffle from the other side.  I switch rods and throw a big pat's rubberlegs onto my 7 wt.  No more than 5 casts in, and get another big fish on.  It made a giant run and then came charging back upstream to me.  I could barely move it, and for a while I thought I was wrapped around some obstruction.  It just turned out to be a HUGE rainbow.  This was was over 20" and was the biggest rainbow I have ever caught. Again, not the best pictures, but I was just focusing on getting the fish landed rather than getting my camera set up.


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At this point, I was pinching myself to make sure I wasn't still sleeping.  This trip will go down as one of the best of my life and I have a full day of fishing ahead of me.   I didn't catch anymore monsters, but I caught lots of fish and a couple of good ones.   I made it back to the campground around dusk.  I enjoyed some chili and beer around the campfire with some folks from Kansas city and I hit the hay around 10 pm.   What a trip it was.  


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