Sunday, January 22, 2017

Big Brown Kind of Day

We couldn't have scripted it better for what we wanted to do. Late winter is prime time for big browns on Arkansas' White River, and we had heavy cloud cover and plenty of current, with four of eight turbines in Bull Shoals Dam turning. We wanted to throw Rogues and had an excellent jerkbait flow. We also were fishing with Cranor's Guide Service, which specializes in targeting big trout on the White and Norfork rivers.

Jumping straight to the outcome, nothing about the day disappointed. Throwing nothing but Smithwick Rogues, we caught at least a dozen browns in the 16- to 24-inch range, plus two that would have stretched past the 25-inch mark on a measuring tape. The two biggest fish, which both came late in the day, probably weighed 5 and 6 pounds, and both were males with beautiful color and big crazy-looking hookjaws. We also caught a couple dozen stocker rainbows and smaller browns.

The top-producing color, without question, was Avocado Shad, which, as the name suggests, is sort of an avocado green on the back with opaque white sides. It looks an awful lot like a stocker rainbow in the rainbow, which certainly might help explain the appeal to the big brown trout.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Kenneth & Barbie

As I suspect is prone to happen occasionally in homes where children reside, someone at my house recently decided that a Barbie doll needed a haircut. Actually, I think it was a Barbie head that had lost it's body. Either way, the haircut resulted in a nice little cluster of straight, black synthetic hair strands, and it wasn't long before Barbie's clippings were in a little bag on my tying table.

I've played with a few designs with different lengths of Barbie's hair, buy my favorite so far combined it with a cluster of fur from our dog Kenneth, along it a few peacock quills and a bit of peacock dubbing. Barbie's hair, which I cut to a about twice the length of Kenneth's fur, is in the middle. Kenneth's contribution is frizzy, so it flares nicely around the straight tail. I haven't seen the Kenneth & Barbie bug in the water yet, but I like the way it looks in the vice.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Only One Catfish?

For starters I'll should acknowledge that another post about 2016 indeed means that I've not yet been fishing this year. Not good. That should be reconciled by Tuesday at the latest, but for now please endure one more blog about last year.

It struck me today that while last year's fish tally of 38 species is the largest since I began keeping annual lists (five years), it only includes on species of catfish. My job that I began last year does have me fishing mostly with lures, which doesn't lead to as many cat catches, but I normally take one of my children to a catfish pond, slip in a weekend day for big blues, or at least catch a channel cat or a flathead on a bass lure during a year.

The one catfish I did catch, the big topsail catfish that is pictured above, took an artificial lure while I was fishing for redfish in Venice, Louisiana with tournament angler Keith Bird and his son. We actually caught a few cats that day, including both hardheads and sails, and a couple of them even hit topwater lures. I didn't catch any of the hardheads, though.

My smile is all genuine, by the way. I'm a huge fan of catfish, and when I catch one when I am fishing for something else, I'm never even a tiny bit disappointed. I see it as a bonus, like icing on the cake. Slimy icing. I'll admit that (especially with saltwater cats). But icing nevertheless!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

White River Return

First of the week, I'm loading up the fishing car and pointing it toward the Ozarks for a few days of chasing trout in the White River region. It's a bit of a haul -- 11 or 12 hours -- but a very familiar route. There's no practical flying option to the region, so I almost always drive, and I'm sure I've driven there at least 20 times. Predictably good fishing and very good services for anglers make this area a chosen destination for many media events, and it's somewhere I gladly drive to on my own because the fishing is outstanding and simply because I like the rivers, the people and the culture.

I fished the White last year around this time with a team of guides headed up by Donald Cranor, who I'm fishing with next week, but conditions were radically different. Last year's weather was classic January. Next week, highs are forecast to be in the mid-60s. We also had flood conditions last year, with eight spill gates at Bull Shoals Dam running around the clock, forcing some innovative drifting tactics. This year it's more likely to be unusually low for the season, based on what they have been doing with the water and on the mild forecast, so I'm guessing we might be casting Rebel Tracdown Minnows.

I don't actually know whether we'll fish the White, the Norfork or both from the boat, but I'm certain Donald will pick the best section for conditions. I'm also to plan a little fishing on my own the day I get to town and the morning before I start toward home, so I'd be surprised if I don't spend a little time on both rivers (plus maybe the Spring River, along the way).

What I do know is that I'm look forward to getting back to the White River area and catching some trout! I don't leave for a couple of days, but my gear is already gathered and ready to toss in the car.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Well Traveled Fishing Car

Folks sometimes like to tally of how many states or countries they've visited or something more specific, like the number of states where they have caught a fish. Not long ago, my 12-year-old son Asher wondered aloud how many states our Ford Fiesta has traveled through in the 2 1/2 years since I bought it used. Asher has helped me log a lot of miles in quite a few states in the Fiesta, so it makes sense that he would think about that question.

I tried just tallying in my head, but that got confusing pretty quickly. So I printed a simple map of the states and starting thinking through travels and coloring in states. When I was finished, I had colored in 39 of 50 states. Two of the blank ones, not surprisingly, were Alaska and Hawaii. Also uncolored was Rhode Island, which is one of two states I've never visited. (The other is Hawaii.) The remaining blank states were in clusters it the upper Midwest and the Southwest and included some states where I've spent plenty of time -- just not in the Fiesta. Maybe someday.

I've admittedly been looking at bit at something with 4WD or AWD, more clearance, a bit more space, and a roof better suited for toting a boat for fishing expeditions, so it's hard to say weather the Fiesta will find it's way to those other regions. That said, the practical space it offers for being so small is astounding, it's comfortable to drive, and I sure like that 40 MPG when I'm logging a load of miles.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Five New Species Catches

Looking back at my 2016 fish species list (which ended at a tally of 38), something noteworthy to me is that I caught five species that I had never caught before. I always like catching new species, and to me five seems like quite a few in a year, considering how much as I have always fished and all the places I've gotten to fish over the years.

I've actually mentioned a few of the species and posted photos of them in my most recent couple of blogs. Two were part of my back bass crawdad slam (Guadalupe bass and Suwannee bass), and another was my first snook, which I caught just last month while fishing in Jacksonville.

The other two were a butterfly peacock bass, which I caught in South Florida, and the lizard fish pictured above, which came from North Carolina. I had caught peacock bass before on two different trips to Brazil, but not butterfly peacocks. I'd never even seen a lizard fish and didn't know such a thing existed. The guys I was with told me the one I caught was a big one. I just know it was delightfully ugly and I really enjoyed catching it and adding it to my all-time species list.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favorite 2016 Fishing Accomplishment: Crawfish Bass Slam

Guadalupe bass, Guadalupe River, Texas, Teeny Wee-Crawfish
2016 provided many amazing fishing opportunities, including chances to fish in a few states where I had never fished before and a few new species catches. I'll have to think more about specific favorite destinations and specific catches, but my favorite fishing accomplishment of the year is easy, and the story began in February with the bass pictured above. It's a Guadalupe bass, a black bass species found only in select Texas waters, and I caught it from the Guadalupe River in a state park of the same name. I only caught one and it wasn't very large, but I was thrilled because it was a species I'd never before had the opportunity to catch.

Suwannee bass, Santa Fe River, Florida, Deep Wee-Crawfish
In March, I got the chance to fish for Suwannee bass in Florida's Santa Fe River and to catch a few on Deep Wee-Crawfish. Having then caught two black bass species I'd never caught before by March and having caught both on Rebel Crawfish, I wondered how far I could carry that in a year. To shorten the story, I ended up catching seven species, which at one time would have been considered  true black bass slam, all on the Rebel Crawfish. Biologists have fairly recently defined a couple of other bass that are very similar to spotted bass a distinctive species in select watersheds, but the seven I caught represent what traditionally has been seen as a slam.

Interestingly, the last one I caught, which came late in the summer, was a shoal bass, and it came from the section of the Chattahoochee River that is less than 1/2 hour from my house. See photos below for species three through seven, each with a caption telling the species, location and kind of Rebel Crawfish.
Largemouth bass, Ouachita River, Arkansas, Middle Wee-Crawfish
Smallmouth bass, Ouachita River, Arkansas, Middle Wee-Crawfish
Spotted bass, Ouachita River, Arkansas, Middle Wee-Crawfish
Coosa redeye bass, Chattooga River, South Carolina, Deep Teeny Wee-Crawfish
Shoal bass, Chattahoochee River, Georgia, Wee-Crawfish