glass fly rods

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

Big Bucketmouths in Skinny Water

I’ve never had much luck fishing in the river above the cabin. Its usually too shallow, too weed choked, too warm, too something. Dad once caught a nice bass out of a sunken tree on a big bass bait, but that was it for all the years we’ve been going up there. Then again, I’ve never really explored it. Until today.

 

The early morning had gone by rather uneventfully. I managed a few small bass at the mouth of the river, but even they weren’t really biting. On a whim, I decided to take a paddle up the river to check things out. The high water had flooded some grass and cattails, creating a big pocket of water that was previously unwelcoming to fish. Then I saw him. A three pounder lazily swam away at the flash of my paddle. That was the one I wanted.

Bass heaven

Grandpa’s old Wenonah glided through the cattails. This was perfect. Submerged cattails in two feet of water with plenty of cover. Small bluegills and minnows darted around in the weeds, giving the bass plenty to munch on. I wedged the canoe in a clump of weeds and tied on a big yellow popper. It only took two casts. Two bloops and a pause. No explosion of water, just a subtle slurp, more like a cruising trout than a bass. The fight only lasted a few seconds before he broke me off. He demolished my leader, leaving me with only a sad looking stub of 30 pound mono and a sinking heart.

I recovered and paddled over to a new spot. The lake was almost perfectly calm. I dropped the anchor on the outside of the cattails. Another big yellow popper went sailing into the cover. This time it got nailed. I set the hook and held on for dear life. This was hand to hand combat. I was way back in the thick of it, and if I let him go he would just get hopelessly wrapped in the weeds, get that split second of slack, and spit the barbless hook right back in my face. I had no choice but to hang on and hope my 0X tippet would hold as he thrashed wildly. Luckily, it did. It felt like forever, but honestly the fight didn’t last more than two minutes. I wrassled him into the boat and got this self portrait by balancing the camera on a canoe paddle.

Later in the morning Noah and I paddled out to the same spot and did a little bluegill fishing for dinner. The bluegills were thick in there. A fly didn’t survive long. Noah caught eight fat keepers on his glass rod and twice as many smaller ones in an hour. Fried in a little lot of butter, they sure tasted good. I also got a chance to test out some jigs on a spin rod. I felt really guilty, but it was actually kinda fun. I cranked in a few nice perch and Noah caught a big crappie. No more bass tonight, but we hit  the bluegills hard. Its a great way to relax after throwing big flies on a six weight all day.

A Broken Rod, Bass, and Granite

Friday morning started out with a bang. Noah and I were fishing (and catching a few) bluegills from the canoe, and Braden was picking up a few small bass from the shore. I put Noah into position to cast to the end of a dock, and I turned to see Braden’s little five weight doubled over.

“Big bass!” he hollered.

 

I hopped out of the canoe, and ran over as Braden landed this dandy. Snapped a few pictures and Braden removed the big black leech pattern from his grizzled jaw. By northern standards, this is a nice fish, especially in this lake. The impaired water quality, short growing season, and lots of meat fishers takes its toll on the big ones. The majority are under ten inches. So when you find a bigger one, enjoy it.

The next part of the day brought us to a favorite spot, a large nature preserve full of abandoned water filled quarries. The biggest one is barely an acre, and over a hundred feet deep. Half a dozen of these ponds are stocked with trout, but the draw is the big bass. Huge bass up to five pounds that thrive in the shallows. I honestly wonder how many stocker rainbows survive their first year. The quarry hasn’t changed much since it was active. Huge grout (big blocks of rejected granite) piles still adorn the shore, and a derrick, complete with fly catching cables, towers over the ponds. Despite all this, the area is still has a somewhat pristine air to it. Aspens and oaks are thick between the quarries, and the water is crystal clear.

 

The first quarry we stopped at is filled with an over eager population of big green sunfish. Grandpa, Braden, and Noah each caught around twenty in a short time while I tried to coax a large bass to eat my fly. Not hungry. The visibility was amazing, down to around twenty feet. I could almost count the spots on a small rainbow that swam by. The next pond was a bit larger and shallower, and where we’ve had our most consistent bass fishing. There is a cliff on one side where you can cast easily and sight fish to bass all day. I caught a respectable twelve incher and a smaller one on a big articulated streamer. Then tragedy struck. The fly became snagged deep on a rock, and I pulled a little too hard trying to free it. Snap! My eight weight cracked in half. Huge bummer. It wasn’t amazing quality, but it worked to throw the bigger flies.

We stopped by two more quarries without any fish worth mentioning. At the last one I tried dredging for trout with streamers. I walked out on a cliff and peered into the water. I could see the boulder strewn bottom, about twenty feet down. I let my streamers sink, a big conehead and a Noah’s minnow. I started bringing them in and a big rainbow came out of nowhere and flashed my flies, only to retreat to the depths as quickly as he appeared. I had similar experiences with three more fish, but no eats under the bright mid-day sun.

In the evening I got a chance to play with Noah’s new 4 weight Cabela’s Custom Glass Rod. I had a blast fishing with this tiny rod for big bluegills. The bluegills attacked my gurgler with fury. You can feel every pull and tug right up through the cork. The fish put a great bend in it. For its size (6′ 6″) it cast pretty well, although it can’t handle much more than a big dry or cast very long distances. The roll casting was amazing. I can see why some guys are really into glass.

 

 

 

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