Friday, December 26, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Blue Ridge Beasts
As the weather cools here in Virginia, Grant and I look forward to the unique opportunities that occur with cold water. With the temperature dropping steadily most fish migrate toward deeper pools to wait out the winter. While most anglers hang up the rods for the year and wait for warmer days, we however do not. Braving frigid mornings and dealing with frozen rod guides is just the price you have to pay for capitalizing on these concentrated fish patterns.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are where we like to stomp around in winter. Although the weather is always colder and the winds more bitter than anywhere else in Virginia; Appalachia is the perfect place to chase fish through the colder months. The reasoning is simple; the mountains stay cooler longer throughout the year allowing for more cool water species such as Muskie, Trout, and Yellow Perch to thrive. Where most warm-water species become sluggish and difficult, often times these cool-water fish heat up as the temps drop.
That being said, Grant and I recently took our annual trip to the New River in hopes of landing a few Muskie like we had the previous year. With the truck loaded down for a weekend full of monotonous casting and relentless determination…. We hit the road. It takes a certain type of mindset to pursue these fish. One must not expect too much all the while staying confident in your abilities; it’s truly a nerve wracking experience than is only accelerated by attempting to do it in a kayak
Day number one was as cold and frigid as it was entertaining. We started the day out with temps in the mid-teens and 5-10mph winds that spit a good deal of snow on us for most of the day. Though it was difficult to leave the comfort and warmth of the truck, the mythical lure that the toothy beasts possess is simply too much to ignore and we hit the water. As if the weather wasn’t enough to burn this day into our memory it quickly got more interesting the farther we moved up the river. No more than 200 yards from the ramp we managed to see two stellar Whitetail bucks, one of which I’m certain would have been Boone and Crockett class, and if that wasn’t cool enough we we’re suddenly subject to the roar of an Air Force fighter jet as it shot directly over us what seemed like mere feet before it disappeared straight up into the clouds that came from. Anyhow, enough with the longwinded storytelling, we quickly began seeing our subjects in the clear New River water and before we knew it I was hooked up on a good sized Muskie. After t-boning my Savage Gear line thru swimbait she put up a brief fight and was in and out of a photo-shoot before she knew what hit her. The weather on the first day made fishing difficult and other than Grant having a fish come unbuttoned on the way back to the ramp, that’s all the Muskie action we had for the first day.
(My first Muskie in my brand new Jackson Kayaks Big Tuna from Appomattox River Company!)
Days two and three were completely different ballgames all together. On the second day we were met with clear skies and temps in the 40s, little to no wind. The resulted in perfect conditions to spot the fish we were chasing, and that we did. Where we only saw 7 fish all day the first day, this time up the river we saw 7 within the first few hundred yards. For those of you who are aspiring kayak Muskie fishermen seeing these fish can be just as exciting as hooking into one, it’s an adrenaline rush unlike any other in the freshwater field. Like I stated previously, chasing these fish is always a challenge, however, we aided our efforts this go around by adding some live bait to the mix. Absent on day one, dropping live fish down to the depths for these predators almost always puts the advantage in your favor. It wasn’t long until Grant stuck one under the boat and after a few stunning aerial displays he had the ‘Ski subdued. It wasn’t long before I followed suit and landed a fish out of the same stretch of water, almost identical in length at about 37-38 inches one could swear it was the same fish if he so did please.
Our final day on the New was a heartbreaking one. Not only were we leaving this angling paradise for who knows how long….. it managed to keep a piece of my sanity there with it. The day started out wet and rainy, overcast, not great for seeing the fish but overall good conditions for clear water Muskie hunting. We were pleased with how the trip had gone up until this point. We had our brand new cameras along, filming all of the catches with pleasing detail for our upcoming series of episodes to be released in 2015. We were just missing our grand spectacle, a trophy quality New River beast. A video on Muskie isn’t complete without one, even if you are filming from a kayak. We got a few glimpses of some hefty fish soon enough, just couldn’t get any of them to commit. The sand was running out of our hour glass and it was beginning to look like we would go home with just three fish…. almost. Zero hour was approaching and I got a promising tug from my live bait rod deep underneath the kayak. Grant got the camera fired up and I ambushed the ambusher with a stiff hook set. I could feel the enormous weight of the fish and both Grant and I simultaneously had the same thought, “there’s no way this is a Muskie”…. It’s just too heavy. Well that thought quickly flew by as I got a glimpse of the beast that lay before me, a Muskie I can only describe as an upper 40s fish, around 48 inches I’d say. There was only one problem; my treble was in the very tip of the fish’s snout. After a few defiant, drag ripping dives the fish came straight at me, and with one powerful headshake she threw my only connection between a good memory and a nightmare I’m not sure that I’ll ever forget. After crying about it for about an hour we turned tail and headed for the ramp, soaking wet and broken. Although the rain darkened the skies, it wasn’t completely dark yet… that being said, neither of us are ones to quit so we continued to fish our way back. Wouldn’t you know it we both hooked up within minutes of one another, mine on live bait and Grant’s on the same style swimbait I had success with. As the sun faded we couldn’t help but feel pleased, yet, unfulfilled.
Although landing five average size Muskie is nothing to shake a stick at, we could help but feel disappointed in what we left on the table. Five may be good, but seven with a monster kicker is better! All in all it was a great trip to the New. We got a few good fish on camera for our new series and that’s more than what we truly expected. The New is always a memorable and fun time… although I can’t help but think we’ll be back soon to restore our sanity. That’s part of the game we play and sometimes you just have to pay the Pied Piper.
Fish Hard or Stay Home,
Appalachia Mini Trips
Although its not enough content for a full report, Grant and I both made separate runs up to the mountains for Trout. I went up first with my good buddy Wayne Tu from Yakattack to chase some healthy stocked Rainbow Trout. It was my first time casting a fly rod at live fish and I managed to score with a nice little chunk Rainbow.
Grant ran a little more remote the day following and managed to get on some absolutely beautiful native Brook Trout. Native Brookies are becoming harder and harder to find these day with the effects that man and Mother Nature have on their environments. That being said, catching these stunning wild trout is something that is held in high regard not only in Virginia but across the country as well!
Fish Hard or Stay Home,
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
This Alligator Gar trip, as well as the video, has been a long time coming. A lot of work and meticulous planning went into this adventure and I'm glad to say I achieved a bucket list goal of mine. I would like to sincerely thank all of my sponsors for this trip along with everyone who helped and encouraged me along with way. Without further ado I present to you one of my greatest tests of ability, will, and accomplishment....."Gargantuan".
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Tying My Favorite Crab Pattern
The reason I call this my favorite crab pattern is because I haven’t come up with a name for it yet. I have been fishing this crab for a year now and I have had incredible success. I have yet to have a Redfish refuse this fly pattern. Well, every Redfish I have made a GOOD cast to has not refused it. I will admit I have bonked a few on the head with it and they were not too pleased. Either way, this crab has caught me more Redfish than any other fly in my box, and it quickly went from “should I throw this…because it’s probably gonna fail like the others” to “Hey man tie this on, he WILL eat it.” This fly is a mashup of about 15 different patterns and it took about 12 prototypes before stumbling upon this combination. Give it a shot, and I’m confident it’ll be responsible for bringing a few flats species into your hands!
- Hook: Gamakatsu SC15 (or similar style hook) #1 – 2/0
- Orange Crystal Chenille or Estaz
- Medium or Large Lead Eyes (depending on the depth you fish)
- Pearl Palmer Chenille
- Mono Crab Eyes (I have a how to on making these in a previous post on the site)
- Craft Fur (Sand, Tan, Olive, or Orange to match the body)
- EP Fiber (same colors as the Craft Fur)
- Gold Krystal Flash
- 40# Mono (weed guard)
- 210 denier thread to match body color
Attach your led eyes right behind the eye of the hook, then attach your orange crystal chenille a little past the beginning of the bend of the hook. I usually do 3 tight wraps of crystal chenille.
Tie in your palmer chenille in front of the crystal chenille. Wrap 2-4 wraps close to one another so that the palmer chenille surrounds the crystal chenille.
Attach your crab eyes so that they lay down. I like to tie them in so that the eyes are just past the bend of the hook. It helps to tie these in so that the mono stem of the eyes is on the side of the hook. Cut the tag end right behind the lead eyes. (this will help even out the body)
Take a clump of craft fur about the width of a pencil and tie it in so it extends about 2 hook lengths past the bend of the hook. If you want to add bars to the fur, it is easiest to do so now.
Tie in a decent size clump of gold crystal flash (about 15 strands or so). You can pull out 5 strands and fold them over 3 times to save crystal flash. Cut them so they extend about ¾ of a hook length past the bend of the hook. It wouldn’t be a redfish fly without a little GOLD!
Take a clump of EP fiber about 3” long and about half the width of a pencil, DON’T USE TOO MUCH. If you use too much EP fiber, by the time you get to the eyes the fly will be too thick and won’t swim right. Tie the clump in figure 8 style as shown. Tie it in as if it were a pair of led eyes. Make sure you get it tight against the crystal flash tie in point so there aren’t any gaps. It helps to add a drop of glue to this tie in point, that way the EP fiber won’t pull out and it won’t twist on you.
Repeat step 6 all the way to the lead eyes of the hook. Tie in clumps of EP fiber one in front of the other until you reach the lead eyes. When you reach the lead eyes, capture about a 3” piece of 40# mono behind the eyes. Pass it over the eyes and through the eye of the hook. (this serves as the weed guard, this is an optional step)
I like to call this the rule of thumb. Trim the EP fiber off of each side so that it is symmetrical and circular. Trim so that the fly isn’t much smaller/larger than a quarter or in this case for me… the width of my thumb.
And you’re all done! You can trim the weed guard so when it lays down it just barely nicks the hook point. I sometimes dirty up the body of the fly with a brown sharpie just for effect. You can tie this fly in many colors, my favorites are Tan, Olive and Blue. It’s a fun and easy fly to tie and it doesn’t take too long. Most importantly… IT CATCHES FISH. Cast this fly in front of feeding fish, passing fish or use it as a search pattern. Swim it, hop it or drag it. It hasn’t seemed to matter to0 much for me, fish see it and fish EAT it.
Making Mono Eyes for Crab and Shrimp Flies
Crab Eyes. Do they make a difference in the fly for this fish? Who knows, but I know they look good and I know I always hated paying 5-10 bucks for a dozen 2” long pieces of monofilament. As it turns out… they are really simple to make, and in the long run you can save a ton of money depending on how many crab flies you tie!
- 40 pound test Monofilament
- Red Nail Polish (or whatever color you wish the base color of your eyes to be)
- Black Nail Polish
- Hard as Nails (Clear Nail Polish)
- Clear Cure Goo Thin or Loon UV cure Epoxy
- UV Curing Light
Place a small amount of your UV cure epoxy onto a sticky note or a piece of paper of some kind (just so it doesn’t get all over everything)
Dip the tip of your monofilament into the Epoxy and allow it to begin to drip off of the end of the mono. Right as it is about to drip, light it up with your UV light and it will harden up and form a solid ball on the end of the mono.
Take your red fingernail polish (or whatever color you chose) and brush the epoxy ball until it is fully covered in the color. Be sure to try and keep the polish only on the ball of epoxy and not down the mono. Let it dry.
Take your black fingernail polish and just barely brush the tip of the colored ball, making pseudo pupil just to contrast against the other color. Let it dry.
Take your clear nail polish and brush over the entire epoxy ball. This serves as the seal and keeps the colors from scrapping off and also removes any excess tackiness from the epoxy. It may help to do 2 coats just to make sure, but I usually don’t. It also gives the eyes a nice shine.
And that’s it! You can make up a bunch of these at a time and it actually helps to do each step with multiple different pieces instead of only making one at a time. That way you can make hundreds of these things in about 30 minutes! Quick, Easy and they come out looking just as good if not better than the production ones you buy. Also you can choose the colors! I like the red/black, chartreuse/black, pink/black and orange/black.