Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home Waters

A fishermans home waters holds a special place in their heart and soul. It could be a local farm pond, tiny spring creek, or large lake...wherever it is, it always reminds a fisherman of where he came from and how far he has come as a fisherman. You can travel all over the world to fish all the exotic and legendary waters that this world has to offer, but there's just something about coming back to a place where you know every hole, pool, riffle, stump or brushpile like the back of your hand.

What I consider my home waters is a lake in northeastern Oklahoma called Grand Lake O' the Cherokees. Five generations of my family have wet a line in this beautiful lake. My grandfather built 4 different fishing docks on this lake many years ago, two of those we still own to this day and visit regularly. Hell, my father has retired to one of these docks and lives the dream by fishing almost every day for largemouth bass on this lake. I cut my teeth fishing on this lake with standard tackle. All the way from catching bluegill with a cane pole from the dock walk-way to chasing largemouth bass in my small 10ft Pelican boat that I took all over our wing of the lake with 2 marine batteries and a Minn Kota trolling motor. We've caught 1000s of crappie from under our docks over the years...and filled our stomaches with fried crappie many, many times. This lake will always be a special place to me. I can't wait till my daughter is big enough to start catching bluegill...and the cycle will start all over again.

As far as trout waters go, its hard to say what I'd consider my home waters. I'd almost have to say that it would be Roaring River in Missouri. The lower section of that little stream I know like the back of my hand. Althought the MDC has manipulated the stream with "improvements" over the years, the fish still stack up in the same old spots and I still find myself standing on the same rocks that I did when I was a young boy.

But recently, I've began fishing the Lower Illinois River below Tenkiller Lake extensively for trout and stripers. Its a small tailwater fishery that is stocked regularly with rainbows and browns. Its not a world-class tailwater fishery like what you find on Taneycomo, the White, or the Norfork tailwaters but its a solid fishery that always produces fish when I go. Its a joy to fish, to be honest, as the quality water where the trout stack up is few and far between. This makes them rather easy to find and easy to catch. Its not technical fishing by any means at all but its quite satisfying to be able to drive just over an hour from my front door and be on some good trout water.

Now being from Oklahoma, I can't claim that my home waters are some great bass lake like Lake Fork or some legendary western trout river like the Bighorn but the waters that I do have close to home offer some great fishing, great stories, and great memories to last me a lifetime.

Home waters is where the fishermans heart is...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rain, Rain....Go Away!

Well, it has rained something like 16 days straight here in NE Oklahoma. I feel like I'm in Seattle. Its quite depressing. The local waters are flooded and most of the tailwaters are generating almost 24/7 to get the lakes to power-pool level. Its getting out of hand. I'm hoping for a break in the weather this weekend to hopefully squeeze in some fishing on the lower illinois monday morning, but we'll see how that goes. All a man can do is cross his fingers and pray...

On a more positive note, I've got a Cast n' Blast trip scheduled for next weekend in Missouri. The plan is to shoot geese in the mornings and catch trout in the evenings on Taneycomo...lets just hope the weather holds out for us! Its getting close to when we start seeing those monster brown trout run upriver to spawn. I can't wait! Hopefully there's a few big fish already upstream, as I'm hoping to get some night-time streamer fishing in while we're at Taneycomo.

Only time will tell....but a man must hope for the best!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Get Funkified!

Just some photos that Brian Wise edited for me. Nice job Mr. Wise, appreciate it!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lazy Sunday Afternoons...

Well its one of those days when you've slept in, had a late breakfast, and are just relaxing the day away. I spend days like today by spending time with my 2 favorite girls (my wife and daughter), mowing the yard, playing golf, tying flies, or watching fishing videos while getting some seriously needed "couch time" in.

Well, in such cases, below are some really good fishing movies to pass those lazy days away...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's hopper time!

Last weekend, I made a pilgrimmage back to the stream where I learned to fish for trout and where all the madness began for my fly fishing addiction. I actually swore this place off last year during the catch & release winter season because I was tired of all the dumb people and because I almost got my butt kicked by some "dumb" hatchery fish. It's a trout park in Missouri...and oh how we love the trout parks in the Ozarks. I'm still not quite sure what my opinion is of them because the fishing was so good this trip....

Anyways...I made it down to the stream around 1:00 and tied on a foam hopper pattern that I'd tied up earlier in the week. Now if you have never fished with foam hoppers for trout when its late summer/early fall...you just don't know what you're missing. It was an absolute blast! Trout were just murdering this hopper pattern....no slow, hesitant rises on this day! No sir! The tactic was very simple...find some over-hanging trees and make a cast just below the trees. Make sure the fly lands with a nice "plop" on the surface. The strikes were almost instant. Anyways, I lost count of how many fish I caught...it was ridiculous to say the least. Another positive note was that the river was actually rather empty in Zone 2. I fished which holes I wanted and never had to worry about someone trying to squeeze me out or any of the other stupid stuff that happens at a trout park. It was a great day, indeed!

Again, I'm still not sure how I feel about trout parks. Maybe this is the snobby fly fisherman in me coming out? Maybe I feel like I'm too good to fish trout parks? Whatever it is...it was put on the back-burner last Sunday because the fish were eating hoppers. As my good friend and fishing guide, Brian Wise, put it..."I don't care if you're fishing in a mud puddle, when they're eating hoppers, it's always freaking sweet!"

I concur...yes, indeed!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fly fishing...and why?

Fishing has long been a staple in my family. My father does it, his father did it, and his father even was known to wet a line when he wasn't working to feed his family. Its just something you do in my family. Its a family tradition, as the cliche goes.

I've been fishing for as long as I can remember. My early fishing experiences were on the Illinois River, fishing for smallmouth bass. There was no Snoopy or Mickey Mouse pole ever in my early childhood. My dad put a 6ft Ugly Stick rod w/ a Johnson closed-face spin cast reel in my hands and sent me on my way. Mepps spinners and Road-Runners, as I recall, seemed to do the trick on the smallmouth back then. I always called them "brownies" back then, which was way before I even knew what a brown trout was.

Fast forward a few years and I'm sitting in the floor at our lake-house on Grand Lake, watching a fishing video. It was entitled: "The Babine Steelhead". It was an old '80s fishing video about 2 guys going to British Columbia to fish the Babine river for steelhead with a fly rod. I was fascinated with the way they fished for them and wanted to try it out. Later that week, after a quick stop at the local pawn shop, we came home with my 1st fly rod and reel. It was a 8 1/2 foot fiberglass rod (unsure of the brand to this day) w/ a Shakespeare reel loaded with an old floating line. I think the rod is at least a 5 or 6 weight rod...all I know is that it was a handful for a 11-year old. I learned to cast on my own at our farm pond and at the lake. It was a big learning curve for me, but I watched a few fishing videos over and over again so I finally kinda figured it out. The following years were spent chasing bluegill with small popper flies that you could buy at WalMart or any decent bait shop. I still have that rod and reel today as it hangs on my wall in the living room, paired with another old Shakespeare rod and reel I came across at a pawn shop.

A few years later, we started to vacation to a little place called Roaring River State Park, just outside of Cassville, Missouri. This was where I had my 1st encounter with trout. I fished with spinning gear in the beginning as my attempts to catch them on my fly rod were futile to say the least. I was pretty successful with Mepps spinners, rooster-tails, road-runners, and glo-balls fished under a bobber. But I continued to see other anglers catch those trout with their fly tackle and was determined to figure it out.

This was about the time that we started buying our tackle and licenses from a fellow by the name of Tim Homesley, owner of Tim's Fly Shop. It was all downhill from that point on. I like to say that Tim was my mentor in fly fishing although I've never actually fished with him but I spent a lot of time in the fly shop and watching him fish when I was young and learned a lot just from doing that. With his recommendations, my dad bought me a new fly rod and reel to better suit where we were fishing at. Tim helped me hone my casting skills a little better and showed us a few methods to use on the trout at Roaring River. I never picked up a spinning rod EVER again for trout.

That was 12 years ago and things have really came full circle in my fly fishing endeavors. I put the rod away for several years during high school and college as I was too busy playing baseball or racing motocross all the time to worry about fishing. It wasn't until my senior year in college that I picked the rod back up and started fishing seriously again. It took a few trips to Roaring River again to really get dialed back in but I was hooked once again. I realized how much I really loved fly fishing and how rewarding it could really be. Over the next year, I started fishing new waters in the Ozarks. I floated the North Fork of the White for wild rainbows, chased trophy brown trout on Lake Taneycomo, and got the Grand Slam on the Norfork tailwater in Arkansas.

I am ate up with fly fishing now so much that my wife thinks of it as a disease. I've bought rods, reels, waders, gear bags, more tying materials, etc, etc etc...and I've not even scratched the surfaced as to the money you can get tied up in fishing gear. I want to fish all the time and I'm always trying to plan the next time I'm going to hit the water. I've chased all kinds of fish now with the fly stick. From largemouth bass to catfish to stripers to carp....I've landed them all with the fly rod. I prefer to fly fish for whatever species I'm after now, I don't really remember the last time I picked up a baitcaster or a spinning outfit.

Fly fishing can and will consume your life if you allow it. There's just something about it...maybe being part of something that is rich in tradition and history. Maybe its the ziiinnnngggg of the reel when you hook into a big fish. Maybe its the beauty and art of the whole thing. Or just a combination of all of the above. Whatever it is....I love it.