Florida

2013 Year In Review

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…

Driftless Trout

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”.

Rugged country in the Driftless "backcountry"

Rugged country in the Driftless “backcountry”

Driftless brown trout on a frenchie ptn

A small spring that gurgled out from the bluffs

A small spring that gurgled out from the bluffs

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.

South Branch Root River wild brown with some great colors

South Branch Root River wild brown with some great colors

Another wild brown Braden got on the MTMN

Another wild brown Braden got on the Trout Snatcher

Braden got this Driftless brown on a micro tubing mayfly nymph

Colorado

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

mountain lake in coloradobraden's colorado rainbow troutcutthroatSAMSUNG

Mountain Whitefish! Noah stuck this whitey on a midge that he tied while fishing the Elk River.

Mountain Whitefish! Noah stuck this whitey on a midge that he tied while fishing the Elk River.

Florida

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.

Small spotted seatrout that ate Norm's Crystal Schminnow

First fish in the salt!!

Sanibel Island spotted seatrout on the fly

A pod of three dolphins swam over and checked us out while boating in a bay.

A pod of three dolphins swam over and checked us out while boating in a bay.

sunset on the GulfOne 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!

Don't harass the gatorsgator staring us down in FLIMG_3765

Bass Opener

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.

Noah stuck this nice 18 incher on a "Stupid Tube" rig

Noah stuck this nice 18 incher on a “Stupid Tube” rig

Five pounder

Five pounder

Another pig!

Another pig!

Hungry little guy

Hungry little guy

3 pounds 11 ounce bass on a fly rod in Minnesota on meat whistleBraden's bass up at the lakesunrise on the bass lake 3

 

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….

First walleye on the fly! A nice 23 " fish that slammed a Meat Whistle up in the shallows.

First walleye on the fly! A nice 23 ” fish that slammed a Meat Whistle up in the shallows.

We also did some trolling in deeper water and Noah launched floating Rapalas on a shallow flat after dark. Both methods produced some gold...

Grandpa's walleye

walleye after dark on a Minnesota lake tossing floating rapalas100_4779

Toothy critter

Toothy critter

Boundary Waters

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….Noah's monster Boundary Waters pikeNoah's 36 inch pike on Basswood LakePike!

Boundary Waters bronzeback on the fly

Boundary Waters bronzeback on the fly

Lake Fishin’

We fished up at the cabin a few times this summer…

27 incher

27 incher

 

Nailed this largemouth on a chartruese meat whistle at the culvert

Nailed this largemouth on a chartruese meat whistle at the culvert

 

Grandpa caught this nice crappie while trolling for walleyes

Grandpa caught this nice crappie while trolling for walleyes

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

Braden stuck this huge 20" largemouth right up in the shallows! Definitely one of the best fish of the year and his personal best bucketmouth.

Braden stuck this huge 20″ largemouth right up in the shallows! Definitely one of the best fish of the year and his personal best bucketmouth!

 

Lake Pepin

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…

100_4913100_4906100_4918

Hunting

We did quite a bit of duck hunting this year. Braden and I also got into bowhunting and hunted a few times this fall….morning in the duck blindoctober goose mn

Ice Fishing

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…

bluegill and crappie dinner icefishing sunset on the ice bass through the ice

Fooled this crappie with a TUNGSTEN Slab Spike ice fly

Fooled this crappie with a TUNGSTEN Slab Spike ice fly

bradens crappie in the dark

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

Gills and Gators – Florida Farm Pond Fishin’

“Sure, just watch out for the gator.”

The words resonated in my head as I walked toward the pond that reportedly held some bass and panfish. Moments earlier, my ears perked up when I heard the owner of the small citrus-picking operation mention a little pond in the corner of the grove – and a gator. I couldn’t help myself. I just had to ask.

“Any fish in that pond?”

“Yeah, there are some bass, and a few tilapia,” she replied.

“Mind if I fish a little?”….

An orange grove was the last place I expected to be tossing a fly in southwest Florida, but the prospect of catching a big Florida bucketmouth sent chills of excitement down my spine. Only about a hundred feet long and half as wide, the pond was small, if not tiny, easily in range of casting a fly to the other side. A little grove of palm trees hung over the water, breaking up the grassy bank. I imagined a largemouth lurking in the shade, waiting for a helpless baitfish to wander by.

Then I spotted her. Eight feet of massive gator was sitting on the opposite bank sunning herself — out of reach, but still far too close to be comfortable. With one eye on the beast, Braden grabbed a #4 rusty brown Meat Whistle and tied it on with a Rapala knot.

I was on gator watch while Braden probed the depths. The murky water was full of tiny minnows. Occasionally, something would erupt on the surface, sending the minnows scattering and fueling our excitement even more. One restless corner of our minds was always on the gator, no matter how much we focused on the fish. Braden ran the Meat Whistle through the middle of the pond and along the shore, but nothing showed any interest. After a few minutes of fishing, he decided to shift gears and switch to a panfish fly. He tied on a #12 Flash Bugger and repeated the process, hitting every little fishy spot in that corner of the pond.

A few minutes later I took the rod and headed over to the other side of the pond. The gator kept an eye on us as she lazily sat on the bank. The uneasiness was beginning to wear off, but it’s hard to be completely comfortable (or at least it should be) with an apex predator staring you down. I cast my flash bugger deep into the shade, and started stripping it back. The line tightened up, and I set the hook on a fish! As soon as the gator saw the rod bend, she launched herself into the water and started cruising right at us…I stripped in line and yanked the 6-inch bluegill onto the bank, using the backbone of my eight weight to my advantage. The gator was getting closer with every moment. Braden snapped a quick picture before I fumbled with unhooking the fish, chucked it back into the pond, and took off in a hurry! We tried to fish some more, but every time Braden started casting, the gator would slowly sneak toward us, forcing us to get out of there before she got too close. Today was an awesome experience that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Tight Lines,

Conner

SW Florida Pics

Mangroves

We kayaked and fished a little in Charlotte Bay. I caught a baby snook, my first on the fly.

One of the many bass-filled canals that cut across Florida's inland. Cold water put the bass in a mood the day we fished it, but I managed a small bass and Braden got a bluegill.

Seatrout with Norm's Crystal Schminnow in his upper lip. Definitely the hot fly of the trip.

 

Sanibel Seatrout on the Flats

Saltwater fly fishing has always been a bit of a challenge for me. I’ve fished the salt three times in the Florida panhandle and South Carolina, but only hooked a redfish that popped off after a minute of powerful runs. I was completely out of my element on those first couple trips, staring across a vast bay and into the pounding surf, not having the least idea of where to start or what to tie on. After battling that red, I was hooked, and landing a fish in the salt became a goal that I was bent toward reaching.

Sanibel Island sits about a mile off southwest Florida’s Gulf coast. The long, skinny island is known for its healthy population of snook, but spotted seatrout, redfish, and tarpon all swim the waters around the island. We fished Sanibel twice on our week-long adventure in southwest Florida hunting anything that would inhale a fly.

Before hitting the water, we stopped at Norm Zeigler’s Fly Shop on Sanibel Island. Norm runs a great full service shop with lots of gear and fly tying materials, along with bait and tackle. I picked up a few materials to tie his Schminnows, a fly he invented seventeen years ago that is deadly on the island’s fish, especially snook.

Our first stop was a tiny causeway island between Sanibel and the mainland. A shallow, grassy flat extended from the beach out into deeper water, a perfect spot for seatrout.  Within minutes, Braden had a fish take his #2 Schminnow, but no hookup. I waded knee-deep out into the grassy flat, and the cold, gentle waves lapped against my legs as I searched for signs of life. My six-weight flexed with the strain of the fly line, and I became absorbed in catching a fish, oblivious to the surrounding world.

After a few minutes of pounding the water without any results, I pulled my fly in and started moving down the beach. I noticed a baitfish come flying out of the water, not more than ten yards away. I quickly ran down the beach, stripping out line in preparation to cast.

I double hauled into the cold, ever-present Gulf wind, landing my fly about fifty feet into the bay. I started a slow, rhythmic strip-pause retrieve, swimming my Schminnow across the grassy flat, hoping that a trout or snook would intercept it. My line tightened slightly, and I strip-set into a fish. I played the small trout for a moment before beaching it, my first fish in the salt! His spots glowed in the gentle surf, and I admired them for a minute before sending him back into the bay. The fourteen inch spotted seatrout didn’t put up much of a fight, but I didn’t care. I was pumped to land a fish.

Small spotted seatrout that ate Norm's Crystal Schminnow

My fly was quickly eaten by another trout of about the same size. I landed the frisky little trout after a short battle and pulled out the Schminnow that he inhaled. I cast my Schminnow back onto the flat, and halfway to shore it got jolted. I hooked into a nice fish, and quickly got him on the reel. I endured a few short runs and headshakes before landing a nice trout around seventeen inches.

Seatrout look almost like a brown trout, but aren’t actually related to trout at all. They are a type of drum, in the same family as redfish. These trout had some cool spots and wicked canine-like teeth. Just like that the fishing shut down. We tried the same techniques and spots but to no avail. One of the highlights of the day was seeing a dolphin cruise along the beach not more than 30 yards out. It was pretty cool to see a dolphin in his own element, chasing the same fish we were after.

A few days later, we fished the estuary along the Wildlife Drive in the J.N. “Ding” Darling wildlife refuge. Nothing took our flies in the hour or two that we fished in the evening, but it was still a great day out in Creation.

Tight Lines,

Conner

Spring Break

Spring break this year was a blast, although the fishing was a bit tough. Over forty hours in the car brought us to the Smoky Mountains, South Carolina, and Florida. I wish I could say we caught tons of fish, but it was great just to go fishing.

For some reason, ever since I started fly fishing I have wanted to fish in the Smoky Mountains. The videos of brookies smashing dry flies, and the pictures of small mountain streams with pockets and pools just begging to be fished captured my mind. When we drove through them I just had to stop and fish, even for just a few minutes. The weather was not on my side, as it rained almost all day, just enough to prevent fishing. However, there was a brief window of opportunity when the rain lightened as we drove by a stream. A small bead head tempted one small trout in the fifteen minutes I had to fish, but he popped off.

South Carolina brought saltwater fishing in tidal pools and creeks adjacent to a jetty. Redfish would go into these creeks and pools at high tide to escape the dolphins. One problem. It wasn’t high tide when we had time to fish. There were still some fish, but it made for a tough day that ended without any fish caught and only a small pod of reds tailing at the other end of a pool for a few seconds.

The fish gave us the hard treatment again on our second day of fishing and kayaking in a salt marsh, but it was not as harsh as last time All three of us tried dredging the creeks and channels with no luck, but I did manage to hook into a hard fighting redfish. I was dragging a rabbit pattern along the bottom of a pool when all of a sudden the line came to life. A strip set later the reel was screaming with a refish on the other end. However, my luck was about to change. After two minutes of runs and hard pulls the line went limp just as I was tiring the fish out. Nothing seemed to be going our way.

The next time I picked up a fly rod was on a brackish lake in the Florida panhandle. Braden and Noah chose not to fish, but to hang out on the beach and I can’t blame them. The coastal “dune” lake connects to the ocean for part of the year, but had been closed off for some time. Near the ocean the water was brackish, but it became fresh as it got farther inland. Dredging flies near the outlet didn’t pan out, so Dad and I drove farther inland to try another spot. A deep, narrow channel bordered by shallow flats and partially submerged grass greeted us. This looked good. After an hour of fishing various flies the only action was a lazy swat at a small popper. Things were looking grim. At this point I was desparate. Even a small bass would be awesome. I tied on a yellow deer hair bug hoping to catch one. After several casts along the weeds I was rewarded with an explosion on the surface. A frisky one pound largemouth had inhaled the bug. It wasn’t the redfish I was hoping for on this trip but it sure beat getting skunked.

 

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