bluegills

2012 Year In Review

2012 was probably the best year we’ve had as fly fishermen. It was our first full season fly fishing southeastern Minnesota’s Driftless Area. We fished a ton, camped, and caught some great trout. Here are a few pics and highlights from the season.

Driftless Trout

80 degrees and wet wading in mid-March!

 

Noah with a nice brown trout

 

We found a great new brookie hole...

Fat brookie that crushed Braden's hopper

Another trout on the hopper

Camped on this awesome creek during the fall C&R season

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smoky Mountains were amazing. We fished Great Smoky Mountains National Park for almost a week in late October. Endless miles of beautiful, trout-filled streams cascaded through the park. While the weather didn’t cooperate on the first few days, we still got some awesome small stream fishing. I landed a 17 ” rainbow, the biggest I’ve caught on the fly.

Lake Taneycomo

Warmwater

The warmwater fishing was great this year. We started throwing big, heavy flies for bass and it payed big. I caught my first pike on the fly, and Braden and I also caught our first smallmouth on a fly rod. Noah terrorized the local panfish population with his glass rod and some Noah’s Minnows. Highlights include a camping trip to the St. Croix River, lots of fishing at the cabin, and finding some small, quiet rivers loaded with fish.

First pike on the fly

Bucketmouth that slammed a big yellow deer hair bug way back in the weeds

Braden caught this smallmouth on his Braden's Crayfish fly

Braden's first smallmouth.

Bass-filled granite quarry

Early morning mist on the St. Croix River

Hunting

We duck hunted a few times in central MN with our cousin Andrew. It was a blast…

Ice Fishing

We brought in the new year with some hardwater fishing on Gull Lake.


Tight Lines in 2013 and thanks for reading!

Hardwater Walleyes

For those that have never experienced it, ice fishing conjures an image of a guy sitting on a bucket for hours in subzero temps in the middle of a frozen lake freezing to death and maybe pulling up a few small bluegills. For most fly fisherman, its hard to believe that enduring extreme cold while dredging live bait on a tiny jig can be fun. Fly fishing for trout is one of my absolute favorite things, but when winter rolls around and the lakes start freezing up, I get pretty excited about ice fishing. When the bluegills or walleye start hitting, action can be fast and furious, and even a bluegill can put up a great fight on an ultralight ice stick. Wrangling 18″ walleye and angry pike through a little hole in the ice adds some chaos and excitement. If you’ve ever fished big bluegills through the ice, you know they can get just as persnickety as a trout, disdaining even the most convincing offering. The challenge of consistently finding walleye through the ice will keep any fisherman on the edge of his game. And after a long day on the ice, a fresh shore lunch (or dinner) of walleye or bluegill is hard to beat. Ice fishing has its own charm and unique draw to it, kinda like catfishing. Its just awesome.

This past week found us in search of walleyes, bluegill, perch, and pike through the ice on northern Minnesota’s Gull Lake, known for producing big walleye. A huge cold front made fishing tough. Temps plummeted almost twenty degrees overnight, putting the fish in a lazy mood. However, we still managed to scrape out a few walleye and some nice bluegill.

The Sno Bear

We fished with Walleye Dan on Monday. If you are ever looking for a guide or ice house in the Brainerd/Gull Lake area, we highly recommend him. He’s a great guide, and a ton of fun to fish with. We hopped in his Sno Bear in the pre-dawn hours of the morning and made the half mile run to his fishing spot. Within seconds of dropping his minnow-tipped jigging spoon down the hole, Braden hooked a little walleye (his first ever!). The first few minutes of dawn produced the best action, with a few hookups and one more walleye landed by Braden. However, the weather was against us, and the fish just weren’t moving.

The fishing continued to be tough on a brutal New Year’s Day. 2013 brought temps hovering around zero, with windchills hitting the negative numbers. It took a lot of hiking to find the fish, but we persevered, and Braden and I caught some nice bluegills in the few hours we fished.

It warmed up a bit on Wednesday, so the bite was a little hotter. Again, the best action was right at first light. Braden started the morning by hooking a big walleye that popped off at the top of the hole, and a few minutes later landed the fish of the trip, a 16″ walleye that slammed his green Swedish Pimple. The fish were biting on and off throughout the day, and we ended the day with five walleye iced.

I hit the ice solo on the last morning of the trip. I fished a smaller bay in fifteen feet of water on the outside edge of a weedbed. Fish were moving, and the action was pretty good. I had a decent largemouth swim through and eat my ice fly, but I missed the hook set. The bluegill action was pretty consistent. I tight lined a #14 tungsten jig with an ice fly dropper. A few fish took the jig, but most came up and inhaled the ice fly. I iced five bluegills up to eight inches for dinner, and released a few more.

Inside the Bear

Tight Lines,

Conner

Bronzebacks

Bronzebacks have become one of our favorite fish on a fly (at least mine and Braden’s), passed only by trout. Trips have been focused on these scrappy fighters to the neglect of other species. This was what happened this weekend up at the lake with Grandpa. Started off by day tripping on Thursday over to north western Wisconsin to check out some lakes. The water is crystal clear on these pristine northern lakes. We only fished for about half an hour, but managed to pull in a bunch of bluegills. The most excitement came when a huge bass came charging out from under the dock and tried to eat a little bluegill Braden had on. We got him to look at a few flies, but he wouldn’t eat under the bright sun.

On Friday, Braden and I fished the same section of the North Fork Crow River that we fished a couple of weeks ago. This spot is up in the headwaters a few miles before it empties into a couple of lakes, and is only ten to fifteen feet wide. The creek was starting to get pretty skinny and really needed some rain. The fish were stacked up in the deep holes, and they were hungry. I messed around with a few small nymphs for a while before I switched to a #6 black  Murray’s Strymph. A beast of a rock bass came up and  hammered it next to a log only a few casts in.

First rock bass on the fly

The smallies weren’t too hard to fool. Almost anything that looked alive got eaten by an aggressive bronzeback as long as it was around the right size. Just stick it in the hole, let it sink, a few twitches, and bang, a fish would usually hit it. A few casts after I released the rock bass, I tied into a decent smallmouth. As usual, he tried his best to break my 4X tippet and get me wrapped up in the logs. Finally, he got tired (if smallmouth can get tired) and I landed him. A great fish for this little creek, around twelve inches.

It needs some water, really bad.

I headed upstream and caught up with Braden, who was having similar luck. His little #12 “snack size” Braden’s Crayfish was getting attacked by the smallies, and he landed another good smallie around the same size along with a few smaller ones. By a lot of people’s standards, this isn’t a big smallmouth, but for the size of this little creek, its a good fish.

Braden's smallie

Braden fighting a pike

We hiked downstream into some more new water. I quickly hooked another twelve incher, but after a few jumps the fly popped out. Braden’s crayfish got sawed off by a little pike, and each of us caught a few more fish before the end of the afternoon.

Later that night we checked out another spot on the NFC a few miles below the lakes. The river was wider here, and had a lot of rocks and riffles and some deeper holding water. The water was crystal clear and it looked great for smallies. I tied on a black conehead bugger and was surprised by a nice crappie. The river was full of them. We found a honey hole next to a log jam and pulled them out on almost every cast, including some slabs. Noah rigged up his glass CGR 4 weight and caught a bunch on a new little fly he calls the “Pink Punch”. It was awesome. Surprisingly, there weren’t many smallmouth around at all. I only saw one little eight incher that gave a half hearted look at my fly. The river had a bunch of pike, too. My black bugger got chomped off, and I had a decent one on for maybe fifteen seconds.

The next morning we went back to the same spot. I started by catching a little hammer-handle pike on a chartreuse Meat Whistle. He flopped out of my hands before I could get a picture. The crappie action wasn’t as fast this morning, but we still managed to catch quite a few. The pink punch and snack size craw worked well again. I even hooked a little smallie, but he spit the hook pretty quickly. Grandpa tried fishing Rapala’s hoping for some pike. He had one on right up to the net, but it popped off. That’s fishing for you. Noah caught quite the variety of fish, including bluegills, crappie, a tiny smallmouth, and two suckers on the fly that put a big bend in his 4 weight, even though they were ten inchers.

Grandpa fishing. He caught a couple of nice sunfish.

Tight Lines,

Conner

8-3…Bluegills

Looking upstream toward the dam

Each summer the lake at the cabin turns a nasty green due to algae blooms and looks more like pea soup than a lake. However, if you hunt a bit, you can find some clearer water. That’s exactly what Braden and I did on Friday afternoon. The lake empties through a small dam into a little creek. I’ve always wondered if it was possible to put the canoe in and paddle down it, so today we did. The paddle across the lake was a little rough because of twenty mph wind gusts, but still manageable.

 

The creek was a welcoming sight. It still ran pretty murky right at the outflow, but a short ways downstream the water was a lot clearer. There weren’t any boards regulating the water in the small dam, but the flow was still decent. The bluegills were thick back there. Braden and I indicator nymphed and caught a fish on almost every cast, not huge, but a good number of keeper sized gills mixed in. They fought well on a five weight in the current. We caught around forty each in a little over an hour.

I love exploring new waters. The sense of discovery and satisfaction that comes with finding a new honey hole, especially in hard to reach places is awesome. Once we got into the creek , you’d never know that you were minutes away from shorelines lined with cabins. Braden and I tried paddling farther downstream, but fallen trees made it tough in the short amount of time we had. The creek flows into a large chain of lakes that eventually empty into the Mississippi around 30 miles downstream. Catfish, which were stocked in the chain, managed to migrate upstream into the lake, so there must be some decent holding water. Next time we’ll do some more serious exploring, as you never know what’s around the next corner.

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

Evening Bluegills

Sunday was our last day at the cabin. Fished for a while in the morning and caught a few bluegills. After lunch we drove over to one of our favorite catfish holes and drowned some worms. Unfortunately, the catfish didn’t cooperate with our plans. Instead Noah landed this 25″ monster of a sucker/carp thing. It took him over five minutes to bring in! While it wasn’t fly fishing, its still fun to pull in some big fish on spin gear every now and then. I tried a fly for a while, but that didn’t work so well.

 

On to some prettier things…

Braden and I had some of the best bluegill fly fishing of our lives in the evening. We took the canoe back to the spot where I caught the bass. Braden caught well over sixty in two hours on dries and poppers, all thick slabs as big as my hand on nearly every cast. The little bay was just filled with fish. Just cast, twitch, and bang, a big bluegill would practically come flying out of the water after the fly. Not a bad fight on a five weight, either.

I still find it amazing how aggressive small bass are

First Pike on a Fly

For the past five days we were up at the cabin in central MN with Grandpa. The fishing this weekend was epic, the best I’ve had in a long time. All of us caught some big fish, and had non stop action with smaller bass and big bluegills.

We rolled into the cabin Wednesday night with Grandpa. It was good to be back up for the first time of the year. The lake holds a lot of memories. This is where I learned how to fish as a little kid, spending countless hours drowning worms for the plentiful bluegills off the dock. The lake is pretty green, especially during the summer. A lot of the bass in this lake are small, but you will occasionally find a big one. A 18″ incher would be absolutely huge. There are also good numbers of pike and a few walleye. The panfish in the lake are the highlight. Its filled with slab bluegills and crappies in the weedy shallows.

I was up and on the water just after sunrise on Thursday morning. The lake was perfectly calm and the sunrise reflected in the morning mist. Bass were crashing the surface all around the mouth of the river where it drains into the lake that the cabin is situated on. I threw a popper for about an hour and only got one half-hearted swipe. Then I noticed a bass chasing a minnow, so I switched to a brown bunny leech. That was the ticket, and I started catching some fish. They were small, as most of them are in this lake, but I did manage a decent 12″ largemouth.

A nice perch that Braden caught

After breakfast, Braden and Noah joined me out on the dock. The perch were really biting, and catching a bunch on small minnow patterns was easy. Braden and Noah caught a few nice ones, along with a bunch of smaller fish. Oddly, no bluegills were hanging around the shallow weeds. Usually there are a bunch this time of year, but we didn’t catch one. Although they aren’t quite as good as bluegills, perch are still pretty fun to catch. The bass fishing remained good into the afternoon. I took the canoe out and anchored off some docks, casting into the shallow water alongside. Docks always seem to hold some fish, and paddling along the shore casting to them is usually productive.

 

  Today was no different. I fished a brown Meat Whistle, a brilliant pattern from John Barr that is like a spin fishers pig and jig. I was slowly working the fly off the end of a dock when the line stopped. I set the hook into a good fish. He shot off toward deeper water. Right away I knew it wasn’t a bass by the way he was fighting. The fish made two fast, powerful runs before I slowly brought him toward the boat. He did the classic pike dive and tried to go under the canoe, but I got him in the net. Luckily, I hooked him right on the edge of the mouth, otherwise he would have shredded the 15lb. mono I was fishing. My first water wolf on the fly taped out at 23″, not bad for the first one. I caught a few more bass on the meat whistle, including a nice fat 12″.

 

I ended the day fishing for bluegills with poppers. Its fun to go after these beasts after casting 8 weights and big lead eyed flies for bass all day. Got a few nice slabs in an hour.

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