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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Concrete ships???

During world war II the world was running low on steel and the US needed ships to supply it's fleet fighting the Japanese. Part of  the solution came in the form of the amazing McCloskey ships. Built out of rebar and concrete these ships traveled all over the globe supplying the navy during WWII.
Also in the era before the construction of the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel cars relied on a ferry to cross the Chesapeake. If you have ever been to the Chesapeake you can see what an ordeal that must have been. And the dock for the ferry was exposed to the forces of nature. Well after the war the government had more ships than it knew what to do with so nine of the concrete ships were partially sunk out in front of the ferry in 1949. Half in the water and half out to protect the landing from the waves. Then the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was opened in 1964 and the ferry was no longer needed. But the ships remain off the coast of Kiptopeke State Park. Spooky ghost ships with plants growing on their bridges and sea birds nesting on them.
Kayaking among these sleeping pieces of history was pretty high on my bucket list of adventures and it didn't disappoint in the least. Kiptopeke itself uses the old landing as a fishing pier and I spent one night there catching one sea trout after another under the lights. Baitfish by the thousands were attracted to the lights and even in the near 100 degree heat fish were biting at Kiptopeke. Even blue crabs swam around under the lights trying to get their share. I imagine at certain times of the year the fishing must be pretty spectacular at this place.
When one morning broke calm we loaded the Yaks and made the trip from First Landing and spent half a day exploring the concrete ships. A kayaking adventure I'd highly recommend to anyone.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The search for the ultimate swimbait...

So I dunno, I guess the closest thing to a title I'd have with the Vic Coomer Lure Company is field tester. I'm the guy who fishes 150 plus days a year, writes a bit about it and hopefully gives reasoned well thought out private feedback on different prototypes, colors sizes, etc. That involves everything from color or size changes in already established product to "hey this guy in Iowa says he has a mold to make 89 of this thing at a time, see what ya think". You wouldn't believe some of the weird things I've got stashed out in the garage.
Thru all of this has been the never ending search for a great paddletail swimbait. Not just a good one, a lot of guys sell a good one, but a great one. I've probably thrown more different versions of a soft plastic swimbait the last couple years than anyone alive. Some good, some okay, some not so good, some downright awful. Swimbaits with ridges, swimbaits that were round, swimbaits that were flat.
And the whole time comparing, taking notes, well this one does this well, that one does that well, and everything seemingly a compromise. This one swims well but doesn't look realistic. This one looks realistic but it doesn't fish as well. Like I said, everything a compromise.
Until the USB came along. It's pretty much bits and pieces of all we have learned about soft plastic swimbaits all rolled into one package. Not too big, not too small, ultra realistic profile, as perfect a set of eyes as you are ever going to find. And, drum roll please, just absolutely wonderful action. Slow along the bottom or throw it out and reel it back as a search bait, it doesn't matter that paddle just keeps thumping at any speed. Perfection in motion. As good as it looks in pictures or in your hand, it looks even better swimming back to you in clear water.
The last few versions Vic has left on the front porch this summer for me to try out when I get home of an evening. And I'm like a kid on Christmas eve, I can't wait to get home and see them. Yeah, I get way too excited about fishing, is there such a thing as a lure nerd? Come to think of it maybe that's my title instead of field tester, lure nerd.  I've been fishing this thing for a while now and it's been killing me not being able to talk about it while Vic built up inventory and ordered special packaging. ( they will come in a special stiff plastic insert that protects them that slips inside the normal plastic bag) But finally the gag order is off and I'm allowed to finally talk about it.
It's called the USB because that's what we have been looking for the whole time, the USB or Ultimate Swim Bait. And I think this comes closer to being just that than anything out there offered by anyone. I'm kinda a little bit excited about it can't ya tell. Like I said, a lure nerd. And it catches everything that swims, so far I've caught largemouth, shovelhead catfish,  hybrid stripers, channel catfish, and oh yeah, it's fast become my go to lure for big river smallmouth.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sometimes a fish doesn't have to be large to be big...

Early morning mist over the local Wildlife Area. Big Gills on a little fly rod. Thanks fishing gods, I was needing that...

Got the muddy water blues....

With the rivers blown out I did the best I could to find a few fish in the mud. I finally located a few fish in a quiet but still muddy backwater right where it met the raging mess that was the river. Three white bass, two largemouth and four hybrids on a grub. Nothing spectacular but considering the considering the conditions I was pretty happy with myself.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

little water

Had a wonderful couple hours on a tiny little creek that feeds the Little Miami River.  Hardly anywhere was much past knee deep and I couldn't find anywhere that water reached my waist. But it's delightfully hard to get to and full of spunky smallmouth that felt big in such tiny water. On a prop-r topwater which made things twice as fun.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Time not spent on the three rivers...

I spend an inordinate amount of time fishing three rivers here in SW Ohio for smallmouth bass.  They are pretty much my home waters. Let them be unfishable for a week and I'm okay. I love fishing below the big dams on the Ohio but they are too far away to fish every evening. Same with mountain trout streams. I'm okay with wading tiny creeks with the fly rod or fishing a farm pond or gravel pit for big bluegills or largemouth. But that seems a bit like a bachelor party at a strip club, fun at the time but not something a gentleman (or a river rat) spends a lot of time on.  This is all coming from a guy that fishes a half dozen states most years. But time after time, three or four days a week year round I can be found haunting these three rivers. And once they are unfishable much past a week I start to feel it. Just this morning I turned the alarm off and slept in on a perfectly good morning rather than hit the pond I'd planned on fishing.
But a fisherman has to fish. I'd rather spend an evening trying to catch minnows out of a ditch with sewing thread than attend a birthday party or go out to dinner with too large a crowd or any of a thousand other indoor activities that don't involve water but instead too many people.
Like I said a fisherman has to fish and with my smallmouth streams not cooperative I did find a way to spend some quality time on one of my favorite rivers by catching catfish. I caught six. Two nice channels, three small ones and a shovelhead. Unlike many of my smallmouth fishing addicts I don't look down on catfish at all. If pressed to name my favorite fish I'd name smallmouth first and then hybrid stripers and shovelheads tied for second. In fact I've written before on how I think your average nice channel cat has much more in common with a 20 inch smallmouth than a 10 inch smallmouth does. And it shows in how I caught these. I was hoping for a nice smallmouth so I hit a favorite stretch of one my rivers. Just one problem it was a up and muddy and still rising. Not so perfect conditions to catch a big smallie but perfect for cats. Six cats, all on Vic's paddletail swimbait. Zero smallmouth.
Then a trip to a pond for some big bluegill on the fly. Which got a bit exciting when a big largemouth hammered a small bluegill on the way in. I began stripping line off the reel like crazy feeding line to fish as it slowly swam off with my bluegill. After what seemed like forever I tightened down and set the hook. The little 4wt bent into the cork with the weight of a fish way too large for it. After having the fish on for over a minute and thinking I might actually have a chance the hook just came free. Or at least out of the bluegill. It's hard to say if a tiny fly in a bluegill in a bass ever actually made it into the bass.
I think we are now at about two weeks without a smallmouth bigger than 18 inches. It's probably been January since that's happened and it's getting old quick. But the water on a favorite stretch of nice fish water should be perfect in a couple days so maybe we can fix that....

Friday, June 30, 2017

Ten carp a clooping....

It's THAT time of year...

So I fish pretty close to a couple hundred days a year most years. But I don't post anywhere near that many reports because I like to have a good fish to report on. Or maybe I've just gotten skunked. Or caught bluegills. Or I've been doing some off the wall thing like wasting the entire trip chasing clooping fish....

What the heck is clooping?? Well if you google clooping you will get two definitions. Definition number one is where your buddy walks up and hits you in the groin while you're not looking. That's not the one we are talking about. Definition number two is when a carp (or hopefully a whole bunch of carp) is sitting mostly in one spot and sucking food down off the surface.

In the summer most of our rivers have a decent mayfly hatch or two. And many many summer days and evenings there are huge hatches of tiny midges. Well I dunno if they are a midge or not but there are huge clouds of tiny insects on the river this time of year. And what happens is most of these guys end up in the river. Find a big eddy and look closely at all that junk slowly circling. In the summertime there are a lot of days where the vast majority of the "junk" is rafts of tiny dead bugs floating on the water. Floating by the millions even, if you look close you will sometimes be amazed at just how many there are. And most of the floating "junk" that isn't a tiny bug in summer is often plant material like fluffy seeds. An all you can eat smorgasbord if you will for hungry carp. In big eddies below riffles or below lowhead dams there are sometimes pods of a dozen carp slowly swimming almost in place gulping mouthfulls of floating bug filled foam off the surface.

All summer I keep a fly rod behind the truck seat for when I run into clooping carp. While I've done it, I usually don't do a lot of "normal" fly fishing for carp. You know the spot and stalk of tailing carp in small streams and rivers. Not because it's not fun or cool but because if I'm wading a stream fishing you can bet ninety percent of the time I'm chasing smallmouth. But let me find a pod of clooping carp and I'll drop everything.

If there is a pod of clooping carp you have a big advantage. All those carp milling around and sucking things off the surface gives you a bit of cover. Unlike a single carp feeding by itself, a carp in a herd of cloopers has a lot of distractions. He's a lot less likely to spook if your presentation isn't absolutely perfect. And If your careful you can usually get a bit closer to clooping carp than you can to tailing carp which adds to the fun. And there is the big plus that it's a surface take and so much more visual.

I've found that most of the time if carp are clooping all I need is one fly. Daclooper I call it. It's pretty much a small white marabou and chenille streamer with a gold bead head. But it's not a normal bead head. Bead heads are supposed to flash and add a bit of weight to help the fly sink right? Well on Daclooper instead of a normal brass bead it's actually a plastic one painted brass. So it's flashy and buoyant instead. I use a nine foot leader and put floatant on the leader up to about ten inches from the fly.  Then I cast to edge of the pod leading a fish and just let the fly set there. It sorta just hangs there in the scum right at or just barely under the surface. The carp is just barely moving so there isn't much of a strike. Mostly just a tiny twitch of the leader or just as likely you will raise the rod to cast again and find a big carp on the other end of the line. If you haven't ever had a big carp hooked on the other end of a fly rod you have been missing one of the funnest goat rodeos around. Just a minute of pure chaos followed up by pure power.

It usually takes ten minutes or so for carp to resume feeding after you've busted up their party by hooking one and most of the time it's never quite as many fish as you first saw. What I'll do most of the time is wander off smallmouth bass fishing but check back in after a half hour or so. Sometimes doing this you can catch several carp in one evening.

What I haven't done and haven't heard of anyone doing if someone wants to invent a new twist on niche fishing is fish for cloopers at night. Some years I've did a lot of another pretty out there fishing technique which is chase shovelhead catfish at night with big swimbaits and rattletraps. One good place to do this below lowhead dams. And I can't tell you how many times at night I've seen the heads of big carp up clooping the foam below the dam. I'd say that almost every summer night you sneak up to the eddies below lowheads where all the foam and bugs and "junk" circles if you look close there will be a few carp feeding off the top.

Carp clooping. Try it sometime you just might like it...