Meat Whistle

Bluegills, Bucketmouths, and Bowfin on the Fly

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.

fighting a largemouth bass on the flyI 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.

One mean-looking fish

One mean-looking fish

I caught a good sunrise–but not much else– early the next morning. The mist and the super calm lake made a very picturesque morning.101_5099

101_5104 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.

20" bucketmouth right up in the shallows

20″ bucketmouth right up in the shallows

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 :)

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill


Nailed this 17″ largemouth on a chartruese meat whistle at the culvert

fly-caught largemouth

Grandpa caught this nice crappie while trolling for walleyes

27 incher

27 incher

The Bite:

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


Tight Lines,



Day 3…Chasing Gold – Walleyes from the Deep

May 27, 2013

After two early mornings and some hard days of fishing, I was beat. I slept in a bit today and hit the water almost an hour after sunrise. The clouds had returned. Hopefully the bass crept back into the shallows with them, I thought as I rigged up my rod. I lazily tossed a small black/silver Flicker Shad on the spin rod from shore, slowly working the scraggly new cattail stalks and the flat adjacent to the river mouth. The familiar tap of a strike abruptly interrupted the steady wobble of the Shad, and a bass struggled at the other end. I pretty quickly landed a fat sixteen incher that inhaled my crankbait. As I released him, I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if I’d been out at sunrise.

I caught one more decent bass on the Float-Tail Worm bass fly before heading in for breakfast. A few hours and a cup of coffee later the four of us piled into the old row boat and headed toward deeper water looking for some walleyes. We puttered out to the dropoff with the old electric trolling motor, dropping Lindy rigs armed with nightcrawlers into the depths. We trolled the flat just off the dropoff, Noah keeping us in about eighteen feet of water. As we drifted just off a tiny point, Grandpa’s rod bent over.

“Got one?” Braden asked.

“Doesn’t feel like a weed,” Grandpa replied as he reeled it in. The water flashed gold behind the boat, and Braden put the net on him, a nice little fourteen-inch walleye! Not a monster, but it was a great start.

I’ve never really caught walleye from a boat before. Honestly, before the one I caught on the fly the only ‘eyes I’d ever caught were through the ice. Besides a few short bouts of drifting somewhere in the middle of the lake over “deep water”, I’ve never pursued them very seriously. For most anglers in Minnesota, a few walleyes wouldn’t be anything special, but we were pretty excited to get one on our first serious attempt at targeting these fish. Finding good structure, picking the right rig, and Grandpa putting a walleye in the boat gave me a great feeling of satisfaction.

We trolled for another hour without another bite. Later in the afternoon Braden and I trolled around the entire lake. For the first hour of our trip we dragged Lindy rigs along the dropoffs, over a few points, and through the flats but failed to interest any fish. Near the end of our float, we came to the same point where Grandpa pulled in his walleye earlier in the day. I picked up a baby twelve inch ‘eye and Braden caught the fish of the trip:)

Needed the net for this monster!


Nice fat largemouth

Bassin’ was pretty good tonight. Grandpa and I started the evening by soaking some nightcrawlers at the river mouth. Yeah, it was straight up bait fishing, but it was nice to just slow down a little and relax. A lot of (fly) fisherman get so intense in trying to match the hatch and stalk the fish that they often forget to slow down and enjoy the moment. Fishing this way allows you to do that and really enjoy the peacefulness and experience of the lake. Grandpa pulled in a nice largemouth, and both of us lost a few more worms. I fished a Meat Whistle and caught around eight in an hour. Nothing huge tonight, just bass around a pound that put up a good fight on the fly rod. I also landed another baby walleye, a cute little guy only about five inches long. Just after sunset I got perhaps the oddest catch of the trip on a fly, a little yellow bullhead! Bullheads don’t have great eyesight but rely primarily on their sense of smell to find their food, so I was surprised to find this guy on the end of my line.


Noah launched floating Rapalas into the dark of the night hoping for some walleyes. The fish have been coming up real shallow at night, taking advantage of the darkness to sneak onto the flats. He wasn’t disappointed, and caught two fish almost an hour after the sun slipped behind the trees, a solid sixteen incher and a smaller walleye.

Floating Raps are deadly on walleye in the shallows. This one ate a 4" monkey puke (chartreuse/fire tiger)

Tomorrow is our last day…should be another good one.

Tight Lines,


Day 2 – Sunrise on the Bass Lake and More Walleye on the Fly

I was up at five again this morning. Unlike yesterday, the clouds had thinned a bit, so we actually had a sunrise – and it was awesome. Standing knee-deep in the shallows of a lake or stream at the break of dawn on a cool morning is one of my favorite times to be outdoors. The lake is usually dead calm, yet frantic with feeding fish. Trout are rising in the creeks, bass are jumping, and every fish in the lake seems to take advantage of the relative darkness to snatch an easy meal.

Unfortunately, along with the sun came slower fishing. Despite pounding the river mouth and surrounding shoreline, I managed only two fish on the fly the whole morning, a decent largemouth that ran about fourteen inches and a smaller “pounder”.

Later in the morning, we hopped in the old van and scouted a new spot on a lower stretch of a favorite smallmouth creek. All the recent rain we’ve had put the stream running high and muddy, so it was a little tougher to figure out where the fish were holding. We tossed a variety of flies, but came up empty. The river was quite a bit wider here and very close to the confluence with a large lake, so there were undoubtedly some fish hanging around, maybe some bigger bronzebacks and pike. We backtracked and hit a favorite spot farther upstream. The creek here was unrecognizable from the last time we were here when low summer flows reduced it to practically a trickle. I only fished for a few minutes before heading back.



Late May

Once we returned to the lake, we set up at the mouth of the river for the evening bite. I nailed a nice 3 pound, six ounce largemouth on the Meat Whistle, my largest fly-caught bass of the trip. Fishing was a bit slower tonight, but all of us got some fish, mostly bass around the twelve inch mark. I also caught another walleye on the fly rod, a baby eight incher that smoked my Meat Whistle.

About 17″ on the fly rod

Gold on the fly

Overall, it was another great day of fishing. Tomorrow we’ll pull out the old row boat and hit some deeper water looking for some ‘eyes.

Tight Lines,



Day 1 – Bucketmouths and a surprise on a fly

May 25, 2013

Bass Opener is to fisherman what Christmas Day is to little kids. It’s one of the most highly anticipated days of our fishing year. To those who don’t have closed seasons or “Opening Day”, it might seem odd that you can’t just go out and fish whenever you want and why one day of fishing is such a big deal, but for those in states like Minnesota that has managed seasons, Opening Day becomes like a sort of sacred holiday. Opener has a way of generating incredible excitement. Weeks before Opener, we decide what flies or lures we’ll toss that morning, muse on what the weather might be like, and wonder if the big ones will be shallow. Flies and jigs are tied, leaders are checked, and strategies are made and revised for the big day.

Bass are hands down my favorite warm-water fish, so when Opener rolls around near the last weekend of May, I naturally start to get pretty excited. Largemouths hit a fly with passion, and usually put up a good fight complete with acrobatic, gill rattling jumps. Typically, the bass have already spawned out, but are still hanging around the shallows in good numbers, making them particularly vulnerable to a fly rod.

The bass were still shallow this weekend for the Opener. The crazy late spring (which we practically never had here in Minnesota) pushed back the spawn, so the big females were still right up in a foot or two of water, fat with eggs, and ready to nail a well presented bait.


Morning came quick with a five o’clock alarm. I rolled out of bed and stumbled half-awake into the pre-dawn darkness. The crisp spring morning air and the prospect of catching some unmolested bass quickly woke me up. I rigged up a small crankbait on the spin rod and the trusty brown Meat Whistle on the fly rod. I figured I’d try for the aggressive fish with the crank and go back later with the fly for the finicky ones. Second cast and a bass choked it. I forgot my bass net at home, so I ended up thumbing her after a somewhat lazy battle, a solid 17 incher. With only a slight feeling of guilt about catching her on a spin rod, I cradled the bass in the shallows before she shot off, leaving my arm soaked. I kept tossing the crank into the calm shallows, eventually switching to a fly. I caught two more smaller bass, one on the Meat Whistle, and another on the crank. The weather was perfect for a day of bass fishing, one of those soft, sleepy days where the clouds hung low and the lake was calm, the ripples only occasionally interrupted by the ker-sploosh of a jumping bass. Fisherman develop a kind of sense for these days, where somehow it just feels right for fishing, an urge inside you, pulling you to the water. I kept working the opposite shoreline with the Meat Whistle, but the fishing slowed, so I stopped for a much needed coffee break.

I rigged up a “stupid tube” with a 3.5″ brown tube and had a few bites on the spin rod, but nothing stuck.

Braden and I were deep in a heated wiffle ball game when I heard Noah half-excitedly, half-trembling, yell for the net. I booked it over there to find Noah’s rod deeply bent with a good fish on the other end. At this point, my poor little trout net just wasn’t going to get the job done. The fish jumped, which was more like a lazy flop due to the fact of its pure fatness not allowing it to get more than halfway out of the water. After a few tries, I managed to get a thumb in her lower lip and landed the big bass, a fat female that taped to 18″, his personal best largemouth!

The fish really started hitting, and Noah and I had fast action for another half-hour. I grabbed the fly rod and a Meat Whistle and caught a bunch, including a nice 16 incher. Later in the afternoon, we pulled out the rowboat and hit the docks, tossing plastic worms and tubes in every likely spot, but ended with only a few small fish to show for it.

Largemouths love the Meat Whistle

Hungry little guy

The great weather held through the afternoon, and so did the fishing. Noah kept tossing the stupid tube, and hooked up with another beast. After a few heart-pounding jumps, he landed a monster 20″ bass that tipped the scale at just over five pounds!

20″, five pounds!

Evening found the three of us still working the river mouth, Noah and Braden with the tube, me with my six weight and a Meat Whistle. It wasn’t long before Noah’s rod was deeply bent, a good fish thrashing at the end of his line. This one was just shorter than the five pounder, but one of the fattest fish I’ve ever seen. Another great bass!

The action stayed pretty consistent, with plenty of smaller “pounders” to keep us busy. Braden hooked and landed a nice seventeen incher on the tube, his best bass of the day. The biggest fish of the day came late in the evening. Almost a half hour after sunset I was hopping my Meat Whistle along the shallows when my fly got hit hard. As soon as I set the hook I knew it wasn’t a bass, no deep headshakes or bulldogging, but an excited, nervous tug tug flowing into a quick run toward deeper water. The purr of fly line coming off the real cut through the stillness of the night, a good fish at the other end. My first thought was pike, but it wasn’t quite quick enough for that. Not knowing what I had on, I slowly eased the fish toward shore, Noah waiting with the net. He scooped, but came up empty, a flash of fish rolling on the dark surface. The second try proved to be the end of the battle. A second later, I had my first walleye on the fly! I was stoked. Catching a walleye on a fly rod has always been one of my crazy ambitions, but I never dreamed I’d actually land one! The fact that it was a solid 23″ inches was a bonus. Braden snapped a quick pic before I got it back in the water, its golden sides illuminated by my headlamp before it disappeared into the darkness.

First walleye on the fly!

Knowing I really couldn’t top that fish, I called it a night. Today was just amazing. All of us caught some solid fish. Noah nailed some huge bass, and the walleye was icing on the cake. Tomorrow should be another great day on the water chasing bass.

Tight Lines,


Bass Opener Weekend 2013

Just got back from a weekend of epic fishing on bass opener up at the lake. The bass were in the shallows and hungry. We landed some great fish on both fly and spin gear, including some nice fat females like the one pictured above. I’ll post a full report soon, but meanwhile here are a few pics from the weekend…

Float-Tale Bass Worm fly

Meat Whistles (and any jig/creature bait crawled slowly along the bottom) were hot this weekend

Bass, Brown Trout, and Summer Fishing

Fun weekend fishing and exploring at the cabin. We got up there Friday afternoon and dug out Grandpa’s old fishing row boat. This little boat was pretty awesome for fly fishing. It was nice and stable and had a deck for casting, without any extra hinges, rings, or obstacles for fly line to get caught on. So we launched it and started casting for bass around the lake.  Lately I have been using a Meat Whistle attached with a Rapala (non slip loop) knot for my bassin’. The Rapala knot gives the fly a bit more action, which I think is sometimes necessary for getting fish to strike. Fishing was pretty good in terms of size. We started at the mouth of the river and hit some submerged cattails. Noah took the oars while Braden and I fished. I caught a few little guys and then hooked a what felt like a decent fish. He swam off and came flying out of the water. Thats when we realized it was a big fish. I really thought I was going to lose it when it buried itself deep in the weeds, but I was able to get it toward the top and Braden made an awesome net scoop. Taped out to 17″, around 3-4 pounds, biggest bass on the fly I’ve caught so far A few minutes after I released it Braden tied into another good fish on a crazy new fly he tied. After that we caught a few small ones but nothing else of any size.

Braden’s bass


On Saturday we explored a small trout stream. In some spots you could jump accross. The weeds were high and the brush made for some tricky casting, so often the best approach was to get in the stream and wade up to the pools. The stream was very winding, almost doubling on itself many times. We started fishing a short meadow section, and Braden and I each got some action. The brown trout were tiny, but still fun to catch. It is ridiculous how much they can fit in their mouths. We caught all of them on #14 hare and coppers. We then hiked into a wooded section where the stream opened up a bit and had some sweet pools. For some reason we didn’t catch or see anything above five inches, although I’m sure there are some bigger fish sitting in impossible to reach snags and pools. Minimalist fly fishing and wet wading on small streams like this is a ton of fun. All you really need is a small fly box, floatant, and a pocket knife, no waders, vest, or other junk. Very clean form of fishing. Ended the morning with one trout, Braden three. Grandpa and I checked out a river on Sunday. We had been there once before, and I had caught a pike on spinning gear few years ago. A cold stream dumps into the river there, so it is a natural hot spot for fishing. I hooked a beast of a smallmouth, but he jumped and spit the hook. Grandpa had a pike follow his Rapala right to his feet, but that was it. The bass fishing really slowed down at the lake. They have moved into their summer patterns, cruising the deep weed lines. Grandpa hooked up the trolling motor to the row boat, so that made it a lot of fun driving around the lake. Much easier than paddling.

Pig sunfish that ate a #4 saltwater Meat Whistle. Hungry little guy.

We should be doing some serious trout fishing in the next week or two, so stay tuned. Hopefully the hopper fishing will be starting up. Nothing like trout hammering the big bugs.

Tight Lines,


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