2013 was an awesome year for us, and looking back I think we can say it has been our best year of fishing yet. The bass fishing was on fire this spring up at the cabin, and each of us added personal bests for multiple species. We fished quite a bit with both fly and spin gear, and were truly blessed to have the opportunity to catch some great fish in awesome places. A huge thanks to everyone who reads our adventures and tight lines in 2014! Here are a few of the highlights, in no specific order…
We didn’t make it down to the Driftless many times this year, but we did bushwack into an awesome creek deep in the remote “backcountry”.
September found us on the South Branch of the Root river for our annual Driftless fall camping trip. This trip is one of our favorites, and this year we hit a good trico hatch and caught plenty of wild browns.
I caught my first few trout on a fly in Colorado, so I was excited to go back in 2013. High, cold water and snow made things a little tough, but we managed to scrape out a few fish, including some fat rainbows, a cutthroat, and a grayling…
In January I added a few new species to my list and reached a big goal in my fly fishing ventures, catching a fish in saltwater on a fly rod! I caught a few little seatrout on Sanibel Island on a Schminnow while wading a grassy flat. They weren’t monsters, but they were fish! Braden also hooked a few, but they unfortunately popped off before he could land them.
One of the more memorable (and crazy) catches of the year also came in Florida on a small citrus grove pond, where we got chased out by a gator!
2013 was easily the best year of bass fishing we’ve ever had. With the late spring and colder, cloudy weather, Opening Weekend here in Minnesota was just awesome. The fish were in the shallows and hungry, still fat with eggs. Noah put three fish over 4.5 lbs on the board in the first afternoon of fishing, beating his personal best on almost three consecutive fish! The fishing was amazing, and we caught lots of fish on both fly and spin tackle.
The walleyes were also in the shallows searching for a meal around low light. I landed my first walleye on a fly rod and my personal best, a 23 incher that hit a Meat Whistle right after dark….
We also did some trolling in deeper water and Noah launched floating Rapalas on a shallow flat after dark. Both methods produced some gold...
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the MN/Canada border is one of the best fisheries in the Midwest. We trekked up there at the end of July for a week of canoeing, camping, and fishing in the rugged wilderness. To put it lightly, the weather was less than ideal, with record low temps approaching freezing, heavy wind up to 20 mph, and a constant cold drizzle all week. Whitecaps hammered the lake we were on, leaving us shorebound for most of the trip. We toughed it out, however, and caught some awesome fish. Noah landed a MONSTER of a 36 inch pike that will probably go down as the best fish of 2013….
We fished up at the cabin a few times this summer…
In the spring we made the trip down to Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River to chase some walleyes. It was a great day of fishing, and we boated lots of fish, including some white bass, plenty of walleye and sauger, and a few smallmouth…
We ended the year with some hardwater fishing on the “crappie hole”, a small local lake that has produced some slabs for us in the past…
On the fly tying side of things, our flies are now available on Fishinggear.com. We’re offering hand-tied flies and ice flies including some signature patterns that we tie and fish.
2013 was a great year for us. We all learned lots as anglers and spent plenty of time in God’s awesome outdoors. A few personal records were broken, and we caught some great fish. Thanks for the support and tight lines in 2014!
3 Brothers Flies
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8).
“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” “(John 18:37)
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ ” (Luke 2:27).
Tight lines and thanks so much for reading! Have a great Christmas!
I slid the canoe into the lake and stared out at the white caps. Across the bay, the pines were bending and straining to stay upright in the 30 mph gusts of wind. A light rain started to fall as Braden and I shoved off and headed for the tiny island a hundred yards off the campsite. Canoeing, let alone fishing, seemed downright ridiculous in the fierce, heaving lake. For the past two days, we were stuck in our tents as the wind howled and rain pounded our tent as temps approached record lows (in the high 30’s), weather more conducive to curling up and reading a book rather than fishing. But it was the last day. I couldn’t handle it anymore.
At first, the wind seemed manageable as we started out from shore. But when we reached the open water it was obvious that it would be all I could do to paddle and keep Braden in position to make a few casts before we were swept to the opposite shore. I figured the pike would be patrolling the reeds off the windswept little island, gorging themselves on minnows blown in from the lake. Braden pulled his spinner from the hook holder as we blew over to the island. Fly fishing was impossible in the wind. A few casts produced nothing. We circled it, pounding the shoreline with spinners, crankbaits, and even jigs, but not a bite. Confused, I switched to a diving Rapala and paddled out to deeper water. Trolling out to a point, we dragged our Rapalas through the rocks. The rain was still falling sporadically and the wind kept pounding the canoe. Just as I was about to get discouraged, Braden’s rod bent over. The fight wasn’t very long, and he pulled in a little walleye, just big enough to fry over the fire. It was all of twelve inches, but at this point we didn’t care. It was a fish, and we were pumped to get out there overcome the challenges that the lake threw at us when our instinct told us to crawl back into the tent.
A few days earlier, we decided to make a last minute trip to the Boundary Waters. The BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) is a huge canoe-only wilderness area in the northeast corner of Minnesota. The hundreds of lakes have some of the best warmwater fishing anywhere. Most are filled with smallmouth and pike and walleye that reach monstrous sizes in the large, clear lakes. Some have lakers and even stream trout. Besides a few of the entry lakes and motor routes, the pristine lakes are lightly fished and the fish can be quite aggressive. Canoes and your back are the only way of transportation in the BWCAW, so it tends to weed out the city slickers once you get a few portages in. It is one of my absolute favorite places to fish. The deep wilderness and the stunning solitude provokes a feeling of awe and reverence.
The only permit available (that didn’t require a 300 rod portage) the day before entry was the Fall Lake route. The unmistakable smell of damp pine forest greeted us as we reached the end of the road out of the canoeing town of Ely. Ely is a quiet little town, yet full of excitement and anticipation as it is the last stop before the wilderness. We launched our canoes from the Fall Lake landing on Wednesday and paddled across the lake and made a quick portage around the rapids. After paddling through Newton Lake, we portaged into Basswood Lake and set up camp.
The three of us launched the canoe the next morning at a lazy ten o’clock after some scrambled eggs over the fire. The scenery was breathtaking. Pines and cedars and birches towered over the lake. A few stark rock faces jutted out from the clear, deep waters, rising steeply above the lake. To cover some ground quickly and get an idea where the fish were we tossed some hardware and started trolling for pike. It wasn’t long before my rod was bent over and I had a little pike in the canoe. He swallowed the spinner, so we kept him for a little shore lunch.
A tiny island rose out of the middle of the bay, surrounded by reeds and cabbage. It wasn’t much more than a few rocks and scraggly bushes, stretching only a few canoe lengths long. But it was one of the most fishy spots I’ve ever seen. A light rain began falling on the quiet northwoods as I paddled closer to the shallows. Braden started casting his new eight weight toward the island, landing his Meat Whistle right up under the bushes. Only a few casts into the day, a pike came flying out from the rocks to intercept the fly, engulfing it as Braden started stripping.
“Got him” he said as his line went tight. The pike, a decent fish of about twenty inches, bursted out to deeper water, but Braden pulled him up to the canoe after a short fight. Just before I could land him, he shot out of the water, severing the line with his sharp teeth, leaving us with a shredded leader and a grin on our faces. This was gonna be good.
I strung up my eight weight and tied on a llama fur clouser minnow. It only took a few casts to the edge of the weeds before I hooked up with a strong fish. At first I figured it was a big pike from the hard run it made when I hooked him, but the water flashed bronze and I landed a solid Boundary Waters smallmouth of about sixteen inches. It wasn’t a monster, but even the smaller bronzeback put up quite a battle and had my eight weight throbbing and took line a few times. This guy was very fat and muscular, obviously gorging himself on the abundant crayfish that are a staple food source for the fish up here.
I landed another smaller bass and Noah caught a little pike on the spin rod. Braden landed his first fish on the eight weight, a pike that smashed his Hog Snare. A thunderstorm started to roll in, so with one pike on the stringer we headed back to camp.
The storm lasted for a few hours, and after dinner we hit the water again. A loon’s eerie laugh echoed over the calm lake as we paddled out to the island. Braden and I fly fished while Noah launched a spinner at the weeds. One small pike on the spinner was all we could manage after a full paddle around the island. The fish had seemingly turned off with the storm. But not completely.
Noah tossed his spinner up into the cabbage and it got nailed. He set the hook into what looked like a decent fish. The pike rolled on the surface, betraying its true size. It was a beast of a northern, at least ten pounds! Then all chaos broke loose. Noah’s little ultralight stick doubled over, his drag squealing almost as loud as he was as the monster pike shot off. Braden and I immediately calmed him down, and he fiddled with his drag until he got it right. It seemed like an eternity, but miraculously the six pound test held through the battle, enduring some powerful bursts and dives near the boat. I slid a hand under the monster and got her in the canoe for a quick hero shot. She taped at 36” and would’ve been close to twelve pounds according to a weight conversion. I revived her, and she slid back into the depths.
We fished a bit more before heading back to camp and crawling into a warm sleeping bag. The next two days were just miserable. The rain poured and the wind howled, gusting up to thirty mph. It was cold, too, more like weather you’d find in October than the end of July. I did brave the squal and tried a little shore fishing Friday night. My first cast into the surf I hooked another big pike on the spinner. I battled the fish, a few inches shorter than Noah’s, right up to the rocks, but it popped off before I could get a picture. I stuck a couple hammer handles in the shallows before the fishing shut off and I couldn’t buy another bite.
The walleye was the only fish we managed to catch on Saturday. The weather was just as bad as Friday, keeping us in our tents for practically the whole day. On the paddle out Braden and I trolled Rapalas in a last ditch attempt to pull in some fish. I caught a little bronzeback and a hammerhandle pike, and Braden LDR’d a big smallie. It looked like a salmon jumping way out on the horizon with all the line he had out. Despite all the rain it was a good trip and it was great to get up there again. There’s almost nothing better than a few days of camping and fishing up north.
We hit the lake last weekend for a couple days of chasing some bass and panfish. The fish have moved into their summer patterns but there were still a few bass to be had in the shallows.
I caught this bowfin on a variation of Rich Strolis’ Hog Snare just before dark in the canoe. He put up a great fight on the fly rod.
Braden and I got out in the rowboat and fished docks for bass with spin rods later in the morning. He thought he snagged a log on his Rattle Trap, but then it started moving….he managed to land this beast of a 20″ bass after a good battle in the weeds.
We paddled up the creek a few times to the outlet of another small lake searching for some bluegills and bass. Moving water always seems to attract fish, and despite the crazy pressure from the local bait fisherman, the little hole below the culvert produced lots of ‘gills on the fly and a few bass. The bluegills were thick and ravenous. Braden rigged up a homemade tenkara rod with a stick and hammered the fish. He got some curious looks from the locals :)
Largemouths have started to move to deeper summertime haunts, but there were still plenty of fish in the shallows on the docks and shorelines, especially in low light. Fish jigs slowly crawled along the bottom in clear water or crankbaits in the murky water
Crappies were in the weeds in 3-8 feet of water
Water Surface Temp was 74
Pepin is a huge natural lake on the Mississippi that straddles the border of southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin. Revered for its prolific walleye and sauger fishery, the lake also produces lots of bass (both smallmouth and largemouth), big crappies, and plenty of catfish. This is big water – Lake Pepin is around 21 miles long and encompasses nearly thirty thousand acres of water. The influence of the Mississippi makes it very productive and brings in some interesting fish, like white and yellow bass, sheepshead, gar, and sturgeon.
We hit Pepin for the first time today. We launched late in the afternoon and hopped over to the Wisconsin side. Started trolling a little point with Lindy rigs, and it wasn’t too long before Noah hooked the first fish, a little walleye that popped off right at the net. Dad put the next fish in the boat, a sauger of about fifteen inches. Sauger rarely get much bigger than a few pounds (the average fish is around twelve inches), so it was a nice fish. We kept trolling the points and steep breaks, gradually moving shallower as we found more fish. The action was steady, but not crazy. We picked up lots of little walleye and sauger over the next few hours, but nothing too big.
The sauger were a new fish on our species list. These guys are closely related to walleye, but prefer murkier, shallower water and are usually smaller than their walleye cousins. (typically under eighteen inches).
Pepin is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever fished. It sits right in the middle of the Driftless Area, bordered by towering bluffs. The lake rubs right up against the steep limestone cliffs, with creeks slicing through the valleys and spilling into the lake. Many of these little streams hold trout, and the cold water at the mouth creates a hotspot for all kinds of fish. The bluffs jut right out into the lake, producing lots of interesting points and bars to fish.
We headed back to the MN side and grabbed a quick walleye sandwich from a lakeside restaurant. As we were waiting for our food, Noah and I pitched jigs and crankbaits into the shallows hoping for some bass. Nothing on the jig, but I did manage to pull out a walleye on the crankbait in only about six feet of water! After we downed our sandwiches, we took a drive downstream. We stopped and hit the shallows with lipless cranks and jigs. A creek poured into a shallow, weedy bay with lots of brush, a perfect spot for bass. Sure enough, Braden hooked into a feisty smallmouth that put up quite a battle, leaping straight out of the water four times before making it to the net! I was surprised to find a bronzeback in such a weedy spot, but you never really know what to expect on Pepin.
Just before the sun fell below the horizon, we ran into a school of fish crashing bait on the surface. We were motoring around another creek mouth when a fish jumped only about twenty feet from the boat. Braden was right on him, casting his Rattle Trap slightly beyond and to the side of the rings. His Trap got nailed, and after a short but exciting battle he landed his first white bass!
After that it was pure chaos. Fish were erupting on the calm surface and minnows were flying everywhere in the shallows. All of us were furiously throwing our baits into the fray. I switched up my crank for a Rattlin’ Rap in light blue to better match what might be shad swimming in the shallows. My Rap got nailed after I cast it to a wake, and I pulled in another smaller white bass, my first. The fish were still frantically pounding the minnows in the shallows. Noah’s rod bent over, and a big smallie thrashed on the surface. He played him perfectly and soon had him in the net, a nice bass around 17″!I kept casting my blue Rap into the brawl. Right in the middle of the retrieve my line stopped, a good fish on the other end. I played him for a minute before landing a nice walleye of 20 inches. All of a sudden, it was dead. Just as quickly as it started, it was over. A few fish sporadically jumped, and we kept tossing our Raps, but we didn’t get another bite. As we motored back to the launch, a spectacular sunset ended a great day of fishing.
Walleye and Sauger were anywhere from three to eighteen feet of water, but the most consistent depths were about twelve to fifteen feet. I would fish the shallows at first and last light, and hit the deeper water during the day. We got most our fish on Lindy rigs and crawlers.
Creek mouths were hot for bass and had some crazy action right at sunset.