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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...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Another day another walleye

I catch very few walleye in our rivers here in Southwestern Ohio. Mostly just saugeye and sauger so it's very odd to catch a walleye on back to back days and twenty miles apart. Today's fish was a bit smaller and on the Great Miami probably thirty five or forty miles up from the Ohio. I also caught a big "Ohio River sized" drum as well. The river is down from the last few days but still up a bit and very muddy. I used the very biggest curly shad on a 3/8 ounce jighead.

Southern Ohio Walleye

Fishing a kinda muddy trib mouth where it meets a high and muddy trib to the high and muddy Great Miami. A couple sauger, a walleye, a crappie, two small largemouth and a goldeye. Or at least I thought it was a goldeye but there are no records of one in this stream so maybe it was a really pretty mooneye.
 All on a clear with silver grub. Just goes to show you never know what you're going to catch next in a river or stream.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Down to the Wire

Again on a stream somewhere in Southern Ohio....

I got on the water by four thirty, what's that like five hours till dark? Plenty of time to catch a good one. I was at one of my better big fish spots. You know the kind you don't even tell your Mom about but you still worry a little anyways. After all there it is right there on Google Maps for any one to see. It is protected by one thing and that's a biggie. It's just not easy to get to and takes a little getting to. Hmm, ya know maybe that's why it's a big fish spot.
Today I didn't have to worry I didn't see a person. The only company I had was a groundhog digging a hole up on the bank while keeping a serious eye on me.
Catching fish it turned out wasn't a problem. I was catching fish right and left on a clear with gold flake grub swam pretty fast as a search bait covering ground. Just one problem my big fish wasn't one of them. I'd come here just for a big girl. I always caught a big girl here that's what made it worth the effort to get here. Oh well five hours to go. No problem. One hour gone. No big fish. Two hours gone. Nope. Three hours Nada. Four. Zip.
By now I'd changed colors several times. Changed size. Changed from a grub to a curly shad. Tried Aa square bill. A spinnerbait. An X-rap, Four inch worm. Some funky made in China crankbait I dug out of the bottom of the pack. And then back to original clear with gold 4 inch grub.
By now I'd given up hope for a good fish and was happily catching one little smallie after another when I noticed it wasn't so hot any more. The shadows stretched way out over the pools and the first fireflies of the evening were beginning to blink on and off. It would be time to go soon.
One last hurrah for a good one. Down in the bottom of the pack I found a big triple wing buzzbait, on the hook I threaded the clear with gold grub I'd been killing the small fish on for good measure. A few casts and a halfhearted swirl behind it. A bat was out early fluttering above the last of the evening's swallows as they zipped about like fighter jets.
I threw the big buzzbait right up below the riffle feeding into the hole. Too fast really for the buzzer but just as it hit the slower water of the pool a fish creamed it.I set the hook and a dandy smallmouth went airborne. End over end in a cartwheel leaving me cussing like a sailor and cranking like a madman trying to keep slack out of the line. A few nice runs and then as she came up to jump one last time right at my feet I slid her out right out on the gravel. A bit over nineteen and a half according to the tape. The yak trip down the dark river with fireflies blinking was pretty awesome. As I loaded the yak in the truck up in the woods a barred owl called. I'm pretty sure I smiled all the way home.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Somewhere in Southern Ohio this weekend....
The old jon boat I kept chained to a tree.  I unlocked it and drug it the seventy yards or so down to the river and began to unload my stuff from the truck. Trolling motor and battery, food and water filter, two rods, a tarp, some nylon rope, a minnow seine, bucket, and the old pack with everything else stuffed inside. An hour later I was where I wanted to be. The jon boat beached on a rock bar, not a house in sight, the only sound that of the river.
Camp was simple and quickly made, The tarp strung lean-to fashion between two trees, everything piled underneath and a pile of driftwood gathered from up and down the rock bar for the fire.
The river itself was up just a bit and off color. Not enough to be unfishable, just not perfect. I waded in and began fishing. Here the water isn't one of those stretches where you can just get in and wade all day. Instead there are three or four specific spots and you fish each slowly. Dissecting each completely with a variety of tactics before moving on to the next. But this was water that had produced in the past some very fine fish and was well worth the effort. The fishing was slow with the heat and the muddy water. I caught a few fish though, some small bass and a good channel cat that hammered a willow leaf spinnerbait. About an hour before dark a pretty good smallie thumped a four inch clear with gold flake grub. It was a fine fish, fat and pretty with a ragged tail. I don't know really how long, I quit measuring all but the very biggest fish a year or two ago. Does it really matter that a fish was 17" or 18"?  Does it make it worth less than an 18" if it was 17"?  I think I'm pretty close to leaving the tape measure at home for good, there's more to fishing for me than keeping score. After snapping a photo and releasing the fish I headed back to camp. I gathered the seine and bucket and headed up stream to a small channel behind an island. I seined a few shiners and two darters which I admired for a second before letting go. The shiners went into the bucket for the nights fishing.
Behind the rock bar was an old overgrown tractor path leading back thru a grove of very big sycamores. Once I walked in a hundred yards or so you could hear high in a sycamore tree the cries of great blue heron chicks hollering to be fed. I imagine they are getting pretty big by now but I couldn't find them in the treetops without wading thru a sea of nettles to get below the rookery. I could see parents coming and going every now and then. A few more steps and I spooked a doe that had wandered out into the tractor path while I stood still watching the birds. She bounded off with her tail bright in the darkening woods. I headed back to the river.
I threw out a shiner on one rod. The bail open with a small flat pebble on the line to keep it from coming off the spool but a fish could yank free.
Back at camp, I filtered water into a bottle and started the fire. It was a fine night. Across the river thousands of lighting bugs began flashing on and off. It was more fireflies than I've ever seen. I wandered down to the waters edge and sat on a log. It looked like to entire opposite river bank was covered in Christmas lights flashing on and off. I sat for a long time just watching and listening to the river. Finally I wandered back to camp in the dark and dug out my headlamp by the glow of the dying fire.
I walked down to find a decent channel had taken the bait. I unhooked the fish and carried it back up to the rock bar to clean it. I sprinkled the fillets with some pepper and spices from a zip lock bag and wrapped them in heavy duty aluminum foil. Cooked over the coals from the fire it made a grand feast. I caught and released several more channels thru the night.
The next morning I fished for a couple hours till the sun got above the trees and the heat began to set in again. I caught a few more smaller bass and a small shovelhead on the gold grub. All in all it was a fine trip.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The past few days in fish....

I've been fishing a lot actually. So much that I'm a bit behind on posting. Mostly smallie fishing with a hybrid trip mixed in. I'm in a tiny bit of a slump for the two best fish of the last week have both gotten off. A hybrid that felt much nicer than the one in the photo that I never saw and an absolute giant of a smallmouth that came off right at my feet. No coming off on a grand leap or anything. The thing was just about whipped and the hook just popped out. Simple as that. I'm going to be pretty sore about that for a while. The smallies have been biting very well on three inch grubs, square bill crankbaits and curly shads. I'm still learning the ropes on this hybrid thing being a lifelong smallmouth guy. I'm not used to not fishing well but I find myself doing it over and over while hybrid fishing. But I'm making progress. I'm starting to fell pretty comfortable in the tribs but the Ohio is taking a lot of learning. And heaven help any one around if I try to cast one of those launcher rigs, I'm a menace with one. At least it's an excuse to get more tackle. I got a seven foot Fenwick with a Pflueger Arbor for most hybrid fishing and I guess I'll break down and get a launcher rod eventually. I also caught three shovelhead in the last three days, two today. All three were on a curly shad fished on a 1/4 ounce jighead fished for smallmouth. The two bigger shovels were both pretty skinned up from being in the rocks. I'm always amazed at the injuries flatheads inflict on themselves this time of year.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

6/6 smallies

Finally the local rivers are getting back into shape. Caught several smallmouth today on Vic's new toy, the underspin. You can fish it like a normal grub or swimbait but you can also use it as a searchbait. Chucking it out and bringing it in not unlike a conventional spinnerbait. Which was what I was doing today chucking and a winding covering ground and looking at an old favorite stretch of river I hadn't seen in a while.

the hybrid sniper

So Rob and I set out to pretty much ruin Chris. The poor bastard seems to have a great life with a swell family and a good job. The last thing he needs is to be spending time on the river with misfits like Rob and I. But Chris's personal best hybrid was something like 19 inches. Now 19 inches is an okay smallmouth bass, a 19 inch hybrid you don't even even take a picture of. I think Rob had to pretty much pretend he didn't know him if they met out in public. For Rob, along with Greg and Seth is part of the trio of guys who pretty much are the kings of Ohio striper fishing. I might know a couple things about catching smallmouth bass but I'm a babe in the woods when it comes to stripers compared to these guys. So the goal was to get Chris a respectable hybrid striper. To that end Rob had brought a surf rod, a launcher rig and a spotting scope. This wasn't that spot everyone thinks of when launcher fishing in SW Ohio is mentioned. No...this puppy was WAY out there. I think Rob said 102 yards or maybe it was 120. It might as well have been 1200 yards as far as most people were concerned but not Rob. If you haven't met Rob, he is fast on his way to becoming a legend around here on the striper scene. Mention any hybrid spot within a reasonable drive of Cincinnati and chances are Rob has been there in the last week. And every striper fisherman you run into knows the guy. Anyways back to the story. So I'm just hanging out watching, Chris is on the rod and Rob is working the spotting scope. "Okay now let out two feet of line. now reel, reel, reel, let out a foot" All the while giving running commentary on what the fish are doing out there in that infectious excited way that only Rob can. "let out a little more line, a little more...SET THE HOOK!!!!"  It was easily the most fun I've had in a long long time. If you thought listening to the Marty and the Cowboy doing the play by play on the Red's game is awesome wait till you hear Rob call a cast. Anyways I think we got the job done in getting Chris a hybrid, I just hope the guy isn't ruint....

Greg on Noland Creek

Mountain Time

Spent a few days on the North Carolina side of the smokies with my friend Greg. I first heard of Greg thru a mutual friend who said "that guy's fishy". Which describes Greg perfectly. Whether it's catching tiny brook trout out a mountain creek, giant hybrid stripers out of the river or doing wacky stuff like developing a night time fly rod saugeye river pattern he just gets it done. I think while sitting around the fire and on the long drive we came up with the ideas for a half dozen future trips and brainstormed another half dozen out of the box fishing techniques. Definitely my kind of people.
If you have never gotten out of your car in GSMNP and walked far enough into the woods that you cant hear the road noise do it as soon as possible, it is absolutely one of the best places on earth. Like on any trip to the smokies it's not so much a matter of will I catch a fish, that's pretty much a given. Instead it's a question of how many and how big. Which in our case was a whole lot and not very. The smokies are such a special place though that it's the one place that at least for me the fishing is almost secondary, an excuse and a reason to spend a lot of time knee deep immersed in a world that's pretty much heaven on earth for a guy like me.