Indiana Flyfishing Guides

Indiana Flyfishing Guides Report

Flyfishing Guides in Indiana

Fly fishing guides in Indiana offering guided float trips for Smallmouth Bass in Indiana. We fish rivers such as Sugar Creek in Crawfordsville IN, West Fork of the White River in Indianapolis, Tippecanoe River near Lafayette IN.

2017 Indiana Fly Fishing Reports

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6/11/2017 - Upper White River

Flow: 400 cfs on the Raible gauge - Temp: 68-70 - Color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility

I have NEVER seen so many people on the river. Easily 200+ "floaters". Mostly nice folks, but that is just too damn many people. I floated a fellow from Arizona named Jeff. He was a small creek trout fisherman and had never had to move a fly of any size or weight, so the casting was completely foreign to him. The crowds were foreign to the fish and pushed them back 5 feet under the wood. We never saw a single fish out in the current all day! Normally, when the river is crowded with tourists, they are all gone by about 3pm. But on this day, people were grouped in large flotillas of blowup rafts, pool toys, etc. and just rolling along slower than the current speed and having a big ole time with their beers and boomboxes. It was 6pm before we had any quiet water to fish. Anyway, we did manage to find several brave fish that would eat a topwater later in the day and Jeff caught his first bass ever on flyrod. He was a really good sport about all of the traffic on the river and enjoyed his day anyway. I'm taking him pond fishing tonight to help him learn some better casting habits and get him some more bass. I'm floating again next Sunday... and I'm hoping last weekend was some kind of anomaly, but if the river is crowded to that degree again, I will not be doing weekend trips again until the weather cools off. ~jc

 

6/4/2017 - Upper White River

Flow: 650 cfs on the Raible gauge - Temp: 66 - Color: Turbid with 2 feet of cloudy visibility

There is still alot of water in the White River drainage. The river is droppng slowly and many farm fields drain pipes are still flowing steadily. I did my first float since mid-April, and my first float of the season on the upper stretch. The flooding moved some stuff around considerably. There will be 2 or 3 new riffles where I'll have to drag the boat in low water, which of course means that there are now some new or deeper holes where all of that gravel came from. Fishing was spotty and the fish we did move were tight to wood or in natural ambush points. The Conrad Sculpin in chartreuse on a floating line took several average fish. Other flies that got attacked include Cecil's HellBoy, Conrad's Deerhair Diver, and the "Eat The Baby" in Smallmouth colors. Flies that did not catch fish were the Ultrasuede Dying Minnow, Purple Darter, pink/white Clouser and Kreelex Minnow to name a few. So, larger profile flies are still the ticket until the water drops/clears some more. We're coming into Summer now and I'm looking forward to the next 5 months of great fishing. ~jc

 

6/2/2017 - Upper White River

Flow: 720 cfs on the Raible gauge - Temp: 64 - Color: Turbid with 1.5 feet of cloudy visibility

I think the Smallmouth spawn started a few weeks earlier than "normal" this year due to the warm weather. I noticed fish making beds and spawning in earnest in late April/early May. Unfortunately, the flooding started right after that, so we won't know until July or August when we start seeing baby Smallmouth loitering around in the shallows (or not) whether they got busy and were able to make some babies. Often, the flood waters wash the beds out and the polluted water causes the fish to abandon their beds to conserve energy. So, finally, the rivers are dropping and clearing after nearly 6 weeks of being in flood state. The White still looks like crap throughout the entire upper stretch from Indy to Anderson, but now that the crops are in the fields and the rainy season is (hopefully) coming to an end, we should find ourselves enjoying decent water and good fishing. I am planning float trips for next week. I know... eternal optimist. Fortunately, the ponds have been a lifesaver during the flooding... and man are those largemouth dumb this time of year. Also, my addiction to the Ultrasuede Dying Minnow (spoon fly) is in full swing. I must have caught 200 fish on that thing in the last month. BTW... this year the mosquitoes are THICK and big enough to stand flatfooted and f@&# a turkey! (Thanks for the graphic metaphor, Eddie:-) Take your bug spray with you. ~ jc

PS: I was supposed to float my buddies Joe Smith (Project Healing Waters) and flyfishing guru Joe Mahler on June 1st. (The calendar entry said "float the Joes"). The water was still ugly so we opted for dinner and a pub crawl in Zionsville. Fun night... and big plans were made for August!

 

4/16/2017 - Upper White River

Flow: 800 cfs - Temp: 56 - Color: Turbid with 2 feet of cloudy visibility

After playing 2 church services, Easter dinner with the family, and then biting the head off a chocolate bunny, there was no better end to the day than a wade on the upper White. The fish are in pre-spawn mania and ready to kill just about anything, although the larger fish seem to prefer a larger meal. I started out throwing a Kreelex Minnow (by Chuck Kraft) and took a few Rock Bass and Crappie immediately, but no Smallmouth, so I switched to the venerable Clouser's Purple Darter. Several fish pounced on the darter fished slowly in sandy bottom areas. Never satisfied with the fly I'm catching fish on, I tied on my "Eat The Baby" pattern in smallmouth colors and started hammering big fish. The fly is a big gob of material and has lots of enticing action. It's my favorite early season fly, or anytime there is high water or poor visibility. (The Eat The baby is essentially a Clouser-style fly with a rabbit strip bottom and heavier body. Holler if you want tying instructions.) After landing several nice fish on the Eat The Baby, I switched to a 3.25" version of the Dying Minnow made with Ultrasuede just to see if I could get anybody to chase it. Several small fish were trying to play with it when a good smallmouth crushed it as I tried to pick it up for another cast. I swear that fly catches everything I throw it at:-) It is just too much fun to fish! ~jc

PS: I'll be presenting a Smallmouth seminar this Saturday 4/22/17 at noon at the Orvis store in Clay Terrace. Come on by.

White river smallmouth bass

Eat The Baby - Smallmouth
"Eat The Baby" Smallmouth version.

 

4/11-12/2017 - Brookville Tailwater

Flow: 185 cfs - Water temp: 51 degrees - Water color: clear, but tons of loose algae floating

Eddie and I gave up on work and headed to Brookville to see what we could scare up. Conditions (according to the data sources) looked perfect... and they were good conditions excpet for an amazing amount of algae floating downriver; big clumps of algae and so many of them that you had to cast between them and hope your fly made it through. I thought that was odd to see that much algae when the water is 50 degrees, but there it was thanks to Indiana's questionable water quality. Anyway, we got there at 6:30pm and Eddie rigged up for nymphing and was immediately into fish, with a good number of holdover rainbows in jumbo sizes. He was a happy man:-) I didn't feel like rigging 2 flies, weight and an indicator and watching it all float. Since my rods are inevitably rigged with streamers anyway, I just started casting. I missed several fish to short strikes (or my own stupidity) on a white tungsten-head wooly bugger. I suspected that a color change might be the trigger to full-on attacks, so I switched to a light olive tungsten-head fly and it was on. The first fish was hiding in the roots along a fast run and pounced as the fly sped by. It was a nice 15-16" fat brown with a bad attitude about being hooked. The next fish was plenty for me to end the day with. He was over 20", but I'm not sure how much over 20" because I landed him alone and could only shoot a photo in the net. He was stationed at the tailout of a fast pool. I had seen him swirl and he moved lots of water, so I threw a cast past and above him and gave the fly one twitch. This fish wasn't shy. My TFO BVK 10ft 4wt wasn't much of a match for this critter but it did protect my "too light" tippet and I eventually got him in. ~jc

Brookville trout flyfishing

 

Welcome to 2017!

This Winter has been a busy time for me, so I've only fished a handful of times so far. During the record warm February I fished local ponds several times, as well as the upper White and Brookville. I also took a trip to Tampa to fish with my good friend Rob Walters. Rob and I fished the first day with a young, energetic guide named Ethan Kiburz in the flats and mangroves around Dunedin, FL. There had been a red tide in the gulf as well as exceptionally warm water. The fish were hard to find and spooky, so we didn't do much that day other than the occasional trout and a few shots at Redfish, one of which I hooked and then lost on the last cast of the day right across from the Marina. The next day we fished the mangroves around Boca Grande with my old friend Pete Greenan of floridaflyfishing.com. Pete has been guiding down there for 38 years. His knowledge of the area and fish habits/location based on tide, temperature, available light, etc. are astounding to me. He put us on fish after fish... Snook and Reds. Being a "structure fisherman" I understand fishing the mangroves... they give me something to cast at and something that I have faith will hold fish. Again, the Dying Minnow (the one made from UltraSuede) was a killer. Snook and Reds came charging out of mangroves and sand holes to kill that fly. We threw it in white, tan, gray and pale blue. They ate all of the colors with equal savagery. We had a great day! Our third day was spent wading the flats in Tampa Bay. We got out to the green water edge at dead low tide. Very suddenly, without any notable amount of tide coming in, we were surrounded by fish. It was a "confused tide", because some fish were still going out while others were coming back in. There were primarily Redfish and Black Drum wandering around the flat with their noses down. We each put several good casts on fish with small shrimp patterns and the flies were ignored. The fish didn't spook, they just had no interest in the fly. Rob had told me about a little white worm that the fish key in on sometimes and I had tied a saltwater version of the San Juan Worm using white ultrachenille. Rob tweaked the fly a little and calls it the "Sand Juan Worm":-) We both put those on and immediately hooked up... Rob with a Redfish and me with a big honker of a Black Drum. It sure is nice to have good friends in Florida! ~jc

2016 Indiana Flyfishing Reports

 

11/5/2016 - Tippecanoe River below Oakdale Dam

Flow: 900 cfs - Water temp: 58 degrees - Water color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility

Ed Devine, Eric Simpson and I headed out on the Tippi for a float before the massive leaf drop that will happen once we get a hard frost (which is really late this year). We pushed off at 10am with Eddie rowing, and Eric and I throwing a variety of flies. I was throwing a 4" version of my Ultrasuede Dying Minnow in a blue/gray. Eric was throwing a blue and white shad pattern. We both (suprisingly) hooked up pretty quickly. I caught a "regular" (fish between 10-14") and Eric hooked but lost a pretty good fish. A couple of jumps and rolls revealed its size in that 18-20" range. Then, at the "ugly white wall" (a bank stabilization system), I threw the dying minnow into the slow water next to the wall. The water boiled with something quite large and toothy and I instantly drew back a bloody stub of 1x. We don't know what it was, but it was long-bodied and lightish green in color, so I suppose it could have been a big walleye or perhaps even a muskie. After that, fishing slowed down for quite awhile. But, later in the afternoon we had a little more action on shad and minnow type flies, including the Ultrasuede Dying Minnow, blue over white articulated shad, blue over pink over white Clouser, light crayfish,and the Purple Darter. Eddie picked up a couple of nice Smallmouth and Eric caught a pretty portly Buffalo. A great day to be on the water with 2 of my best friends. BTW... the Ultrasuede Dying Minnow is the most snag-proof fly I have ever fished. It seems to roll away from obstructions... even the leaves. Holler if you want a pattern sheet. ~jc

 

 

9/16/2016 - Upper White River

Joe Smith, project lead of Project Healing Waters, and renowned flycasting instructor and all-around good guy, Joe Mahler jumped in the boat and we headed off down the White. Fish were caught on the Wiggle Minnow, Predator Drone, Purple Darter, Stealth Bomber, Conrad's Deerhair Diver, and Joe's Strawboss. Mid-day, a storm brewed up and drenched us. We waited until the worst of the storm had passed and the only thunder was rumbling way off in the distance. The fishing turned on pretty hard after that. We put on topwater and fished it "loud and hard" in the drizzling rain and the fish responded. Again, I was lucky... Joe Mahler wanted to row the boat like he had done on last year's trip with me. Only this time he wanted to do more of it and do some of the trickier spots, not that the White is too tricky, but there are a few places that offer a challenge in low water. Joe did great on the oars and I got to fish AGAIN:-). We caught alot of fish... nothing over 16-17", but alot of fun was had. Joe Smith "joke blocked" me when I was telling Mahler one of my famous "bullshit" stories. I'll never forgive him for that and may drown him next time:-) ~jc

Joe Mahler and Joe Smith flyfishing Indiana's White River

Joe

Joe Mahler flyfishing Indiana's White River

9/15/2016 - Upper White River

I finally got to take the "Orvis Boys" on a float. Ben Harris is the manager of Orvis at Clay Terrace and Jason Sandlewick is the manager of the flyfishing department. Great guys and good anglers! I highly recommend Orvis products and the people that work there. We pushed off about noon from Lafayette Trace and rowed upstream a little ways. The water and air temperature had dropped quite a bit over a few previous days, so topwater wasn't a good early day option. A few Rock Bass ate sunken flies immediately and then the Smallmouth started to turn on. Jason hooked a nice fish below the boat ramp and we began the process of picking pockets all the way down. I was lucky... Jason wanted to row a bit, so I got to fish for a little while. We spent the day picking our way from hole to hole, switching to topwater later in the day. Many fish were caught, much fun was had, and we pulled out in the dark after catching several fish in the last 30 minutes of the float. ~jc

Ben Harris flyfishing Indiana's White River

 

9/8/2016 - Upper White River

Dr. Steve Mangas has been my chiropractor for 25 years now. He is a good friend and great chiropractor/kinesiologist/acupuncturist and has saved my "biscuits" many times. (mangaschiropractic.com) He loves to hunt and fish, so over the last couple of years I have been getting him into flyfishing. I think, on this trip, it finally "took". His casting and presentation continued to improve all day. As a result, he was rewarded with a couple of very nice fish. A real pig pulled out at the net and then this fish made it into the boat along with many other smallmouth and rockies. ~jc

Dr. Steve Mangas fly fishing the White River in Indiana

 

9/4/2016 - Upper White River

Greg Zoeller was in the midst of his White River Adventure... 5 days spent exploring the entire range of the West Fork of the White River from the headwaters in Randolph County to the confluence with the East Fork. Some of his days were spent mostly kayaking, but Sunday 9/4 was reserved for fishing! Greg uses these yearly adventures for a brief respite from his duties as Indiana Attorney General, a job that requires him to manage 160+ attorneys. We pushed off from Perkinsville and headed down through the masses of canoes, kayaks and "floaties" on the river. (I can't believe what some people float on... we saw a guy weighing in at about 350lbs floating on a kids pool toy:-) Anyway, we stayed in the upper river for as long as possible (and then longer) to let the hoards push on by. The day was ultra-bright bluebird and there was ZERO topwater activity, even in the shade. Greg did catch a big carp on a purple darter. Finally we were getting some peace and quiet and Greg was fishing very well. He is a good caster and a lifelong fish hunter who fishes frequently... not a weekend warrior. We pulled up on a hole with a rock garden in it, and fishing was on! The little fly that was killing it is what I call "Not Even A Murdich". Tungsten bead on a size 8 streamer hook. 20 strands of olive bucktail. One or two pieces of copper flash. Olive estaz wrapped sparsely up to the bead. We floated along "picking pockets" one after another and having a great time. We switched to topwater around 5:30 and started hammering fish. The Stealth Bomber first and then the Boogle Bug popper. The fish were where they were supposed to be, doing what they were supposed to do. Huge fun!!! No big fish, but plenty of the 10-14" fish that think they are Tarpon! We rushed through the slower pools, only fished the prime water, and still pulled out in the dark. 8 miles might have been a bit aggressive for low water. ~jc

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller fishing Indiana's white river

Greg Zoeller fly fishing Indiana's white river

Zoeller flyfishing

Jeff Conrad guiding on Indiana's white river

 

9/2/2016 - Tippecanoe River at Oakdale

Scott Gobel and I did a 2 boat trip for 4 clients on the Tippi. I had Mickey Maurer (of IBJ, National Bank of Indianapolis, Sedretary of Commerce under Mitch) in my boat as well as his friend Nate, whose last name escaped me. Through a misunderstanding, the duration of the float wasn't communicated, so we had to rush the 9 mile float in about 7 hours. That's a hell of alot of rowing and skipping good fishing water. We managed to get them on a few fish and still make their deadline. ~jc

Mickey Maurer flyfishing on the Tippecanoe River in Indiana

 

8/26 and 8/30/2016 - Upper White River

Two attempts at flolat trips. Both interrupted by "pop-up, not on the radar, not in the forecast" thunderstorms. On the 26th, Marty Schaffer was with me for an instructional float. He's an excellent self-taught caster and a natural fish-hunter. We'll get out again another time and wipe this drenching off the books. On the 30th, Eddie, Eric and I took off, half expecting to get wet, but it was the only time we could fish together. Torrential rain again. A few fish were caught, anyway ~jc

 

8/7/2016 - Upper White River

Project Healing Waters is a favorite program of mine. I had the honor of taking Son Tao and Clyde Angel on a float. Clyde is the Head Chaplain of the VA in Indianapolis. Son is a veteran who served 5 deployments in the middle east and is still active duty. There is no adequate way to show appreciation to this man for what he sacrificed, but I hope taking him fishing helps a little. We pushed off mid-afternoon for a 6 mile float intended to end in the dark, as usual. There was a fair amount of canoe/kayak traffic on the river, but everyone was poilte and seemed to be in a great hurry to get downriver. I like that:-) It was a bluebird day, and the fish were a little shy about coming to the surface, altho we did pick up a few that way. Right at dark, about 100 yards from the ramp, Son hooked a real pig that broke him off. We pulled out in the dark as planned. ~jc

Clyde Angel with an Indiana Smallmouth

 

7/24/2016 - Brookville Tailwater

3 guys had requested a nymphing class at Brookville... 2 of them in preparation for trips out West, and one of them just because he is "ate up" with flyfishing. I combined them into a group class. We sat in the gazebo and talked leaders, tippet material, rigging, strike indicators, holding water, water column dynamics, etc. Then we headed out to do some fishing and work out the dead drift, tip mending, full-line mending, mending with slack, reach casts, reading water, etc. All three guys got the hang of nymphing and eventually caught fish, even though there were tons of people on the water, minimum flows, bluebird skies and mid 90's air temps. ~jc

 

7/21/2016 - White River

Jeff Pierson and his son fished the White from 146 to 116 with me. That stretch of river has not been producing much for me this year. We dug as hard as possible and found fish, but it was not one of those fun days of easy fishing that we always hope for when taking a float trip. Jeff is an experienced flyfisher and had a fair amount of success on Purple Darters, and later in the day on topwater. ~jc

 

7/9/2016 - White River

Michael and Beth from Goshen joined me for an instructional float. Wonderful folks! We had a fun day on the river, improved some skills, caught some fish and dodged some jetboats:-( Recently, Michael sent me some pictures of the fish they caught on a trip on their home waters. ~jc

home waters
Beth on their home waters near Goshen, IN

 

7/7/2016 - White River

Dr. Watkins (I presume) joined me for a float. We did the normal mid-afternon push off and spent 4 hours looking for any sign of fish. Kevin is a good caster and a good fisherman, but it looked like it was setting up to be "just one of those days". The sky kept going from blue to cloudy, changing the light on the water. Rather suddenly, the fishing turned on and 3 nice fish were landed in under a mile of river and within an hour. All on topwater. Then, just as quickly as it had turned on, it turned back off. Fishin! ~jc

Flyfishing Indiana's White River

Smallmouth Bass on Indiana's White River

Indiana's White River

 

6/16/2016 - Upper White River

Flow: 650 cfs - Water temp: 67 degrees - Water color: 2 feet of cloudy visibility

When we had that drenching rain on Wednesday night, I texted Mike and Shelly and told them I thought we were screwed for our Thursday float. My jazz quintet was playing at the Jazz Kitchen Wednesday night and I was driving through torrential rain and 6-10" of water on Keystone and 54th St to get there. It turns out that most of the rain fell south of Noblesville, with only a more normal storm falling on the upper drainage. I looked the lower river over Thursday morning and there was about 3 feet of cloudy visibility to the water. So, I called them back and said I thought we could still fish. They were in from St. Louis and looking forward to it, so we were on. We pushed off about 3:15, but the visibility had gotten worse... down to 2 feet of cloudy visibility. Probably farm run-off coming from Stoney Creek and Cicero Creek fouling the river. So, we started by testing topwater to see if anyone was looking up. We saw a couple of noses, but got no takers, so we added a dropper behind the topwater. One 10" fish fell for that but no other takers, so we switched to mid-column streamers. No takers. So we switched to the Wiggle Minnow. No takers. So we switched to the venerable Purple Darter with heavy eyes to get down deep. Mike has a good cast and a nice way of teasing a deep streamer. That was the ticket. Mike caught several fish, including this nice 17". If you are Smallmouth fishing, the Purple Darter is like the Amex Card... never leave home without it. As the evening progressed, a front came in. Not exactly a cold front... more like a "weird front". It got a little cooler, but the pressure changed and the fish turned completely off. Shelly was along to improve her casting, which she did... and she would have caught fish if the topwater bite had been on. Nice people and a fun evening. ~jc

Indiana white river smallmouth on fly rod

 

6/12/2016 - Brookville Tailwater

Flow: 200 cfs - Water temp: 68 degrees - Water color: Cloudy

The Army Corps of Engineers that run the dam have an on-going puzzle to assemble: How do we meet minimum flow requirements, keep the reservoir at the proper level for their flood control plans, and keep the water temperature in the tailwater at reasonable levels for the trtout to survive? They do it by mixing water from different levels of the lake, using gates at various levels. This can sometimes create a water chemistry that is not too friendly to fishing. Such was the case on Sunday. It was hot out (90), the fish were sullen, and it didn't seem to get better as the sun got off the water. Of course, having hordes of people tramping through the water didn't help, but that's Sunday fishing. I took Carmelo to Brookville for an instructional wade. He had never spent much time nymphing and wanted to add that to his skill set. We arrived about noon and found the concrete hole empty, so we dug in there and started the process of learning rigging, casting an unwieldy 2-nymph rig, and mending to get a drag-free drift. Carmelo caught on quickly to the urgency of mending before you think you need to, and got good at the full-line mend and the tip mend. He was rewarded with two decent fish... a brown and a rainbow. By 2pm it was blistering out and we needed AC, liquid and sustenance, so off to El Reparo for lunch. After lunch we headed back to the park and worked the day out fine-tuning presentation and catching the occasional fish. ~jc

Brookville trout fly fishing

 

6/7/2016 - Upper White River

Flow: 800 cfs - Water temp: 64 degrees - Water color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility

Eric Simpson, Joe Smith and I headed out for a 1/2 day float on the White only because it's the only time we had to fish together, and bad fishing is better than no fishing. The day and the water both looked good. However, the fish had just fisnished their spawn and were in a funk. I know better than to fish after the spawn but we all just needed to be on a river and cast a line. Joe picked up one fish on his favorite topwater... the "Stealth Bomber", but other than that, topwater activity was nil. Later, Joe got a couple of White Bass on a mid-column streamer. Eric "search engine" Simpson started digging deep and pulled several small to medium fish out of the deep on files such as the Clouser in Smallmouth colors and the Purple Darter. We had a great day in spite of the slow fishing. ~jc

 

5/22/2016 - Brookville Tailwater

Flow: 282 cfs - Water temp: 63 degrees - Water color: 3 feet of clear visibility

So many people contact Eddie and I for guided trips at Brookville that we thought we would make it easier for all of us. Good anglers that know how to cast and rig their own rod don't need a full day of guiding to figure out Brookville. They just need some guidance on flows, tactics, flies and holes. So, we have put together a 1/2 day option for an instructional wade. It's 4-5 hours of fishing assistance and instruction and a small Brookville "essentials" fly selection for $200. That way the client gets a good start at understanding this odd, productive little tailwater and gets to fish a full day, and we get to guide 1/2 day and fish 1/2 day. Good for everyone:-)

Yesterday, 2 anglers took me up on my offer. I fished Nate from 9-2. It turns out Nate and I played in a band togther in the late 90's but lost track of each other. We had a ball talking music and fishing. Nate learned to nymph quite well and stuck around all day catching fish. He wrote me a nice note:

"Hey thanks again. The nymphing lesson was super helpful, and definitely caught me some fish. Brown trout on a size 20 egg fly on 7X tippet drifted across the bottom of the deepest hole?!?! Damn those fish are tricky."

Then, in the afternoon/evening I fished Mark. He is an avid flyfisher that spends lots of time fishing the Mad River in Ohio. His streamer skills are formidable and his nymphing was quite good. A few minor tweaks to presentation (as outlined on the Flies/Tactics page) had him into several fish. He also wrote me a nice note:

"Thanks so much. I can't believe how much I learned in just a few hours."

I love helping anglers succeed at this sport we love so much. ~jc

Brookville trout fishing

 

5/20/2016 - Upper White River

Flow on the Noblesville gauge was 650cfs - water temp ran from 60-63 - Water color was 3 feet of cloudy visibility.

Sorry for the lag in fishing reports. I've been busy with other things (such as playing lead trumpet for the Johnny Mathis show... great fun:-) and the only time I had openings to float were when the water was high and off-color. It was a pretty wet April and early May. I did get out myself to enjoy the pre-spawn fishing on the White, and it was great, but it's now over. I floated the upper White yesterday with old friends and clients Randy and Bob. The Smallmouth and Rock Bass are on the beds, so we studiously ignored the obvious spawning beds and spent our day catching mostly male fish in the 9-14" range. It looks like spawning conditions are excellent this year. Let's hope for a big year-class of Smallmouth. It was a gorgeous day to be on the river. Since the spawn has just begun, I'll be staying off the river for the next 2-3 weeks to avoid the beds (for the fish's sake) and then avoid the post-spawn funk (for my sake... these fish like a nap after sex... who doesn't?). Let's hope for a continuing drizzle to keep the water color murky. I saw several guys "hunting" for spawning beds so they would have easy fishing for big fish. Of course, they were running around in jet boats. Brookville is fishing well. I'll be heading down there. ~jc

Fly pattern resurrection: Anyone remember the old Spoon Minnow made of ultrasuede and epoxy? I have figured out a similar pattern, not tied as complex or fancy as the original, but I think it actually fishes better. I call it the "Dying Ultrasuede Minnow". The fish that eat it don't seem to be able to "not" eat it. They go crazy on it. Tying instructions are on the Flies/Tactics page.

dying minnow spoon fly for fly rod

 

5/19/2016 - Upper White River

Randy is an old friend and one of my favorite fishing clients. He brought Dr. Bob along for a float. It was a gorgeous day and the fish cooperated in pre-spawn fashion.

fly fishing white river in Indiana

fishing noblesville indiana

 

4/9/2016 - Current and Upcoming Fishing

Experienced anglers already know this stuff, but I get lots of calls from beginning anglers about where to fish in central Indiana in the Spring. Here's a quick overview:

If you see yellow flowers, it's time to be fishing the ponds. Low and slow presentations with lightly weighted leeches and small baitfish patterns should produce largemouth and bluegill even during this cold snap. I use a "one feather leech". On a size 6-8 streamer hook, tie a feather of black or dark brown marabou with a light, flexible stem with the tip off the back of the hook to form a tail. Wind the thread down tightly and move it foward to the hook eye. Spin the marabou in your fingers to create a "chenille" with the remaining marabou. Wrap it forward in spirals up to the hook eye and tie it off. That's the whole pattern. Add a small bead if you want it to fish deeper. For small baitfish, I use another simple pattern. Slide a small tungsten bead onto a 6-8 streamer hook. Wind thread from the bead back to the hook bend. Tie in 15-20 strands of bucktail about 1.5 times the length of the hook shank. Tie in 1 piece of flash extending back through the bucktail. Tie in a piece of estaz or other sparkle yarn. Advance your thread to behind the bead. Wrap the estaz forward in spirals to create a thin body. Tie off. Olive, pearl or gray are my favorite colors for this simple fly.

Brookville is currently running at an ideal flow of 275 cfs and an average temp of around 48 degrees. White or light olive streamers stripped through deep water are a great choice. For nymphing, try size 16-18 Prince, Psycho Prince, Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tail, cream or chartreuse egg, San Juan worms, or gray scuds drifted drag-free through the deeper slots. Smaller nymphs in the 22-26 range can also work. Watch the surface for risers. There may be some midge activity bringing fish to the surface, but be prepared to fish tiny dry flies, wet flies, or an unweighted nymph.

White River, Sugar Creek, etc.: As soon as this cold snap ends, the river water temps will warm into the 50s, inspiring the food chain to get moving and the smallmouth to put on the prespawn feed bag. Streamers and crayfish in the lower to mid water columns should get bit. Topwater should become a viable tactic as the water warms closer to 60... at first in the late afternoons as the water warms to its warmest temp of the day.

Late April through May is the time for the White Bass runs in streams that flow into reservoirs such as Eagle Creek in the Zionsville area and downstream, the East Fork of the Whitewater River near Connersville, Cicero Creek above Morse Reservoir, Raccoon Creek, etc. These are school fish that hold up in deeper holes. You will seldom see these fish, so if you can see the bottom they usually aren't in that hole. Small Clousers in white, gray/white, yellow/white, chartreuse/white, olive/white or other small streamers crawled across the bottom usually get them to eat. Fish long leaders with heavier flies and good mending or a sink tip with a 4-5ft leader and lighter flies.

Hybrid striped bass/white bass nicknamed "wipers" move into the shallows of Monroe Reservoir (and probably other reservoirs where they have been stocked). They come into the shallow bays and shorelines (maybe 3-10 feet deep) chasing shad and yellow bass when the water is between 50-60 degrees. Cloudy days are best but they can be pretty active the last hour of the day even on bright days. At Monroe, we fish the face of the dam and the bay at Fairfax SRA. Again, a Clouser selection or possibly a half n half or deceiver or Puglisi style baitfish. ~jc

 

3/17/2016 - Equipment Report - TFO Impact Fly Rod

TFO has a new rod out called the "TFO Impact". I picked one up at the recent flyfishing show at the state fairgrounds and immediately wanted one (or two, or five). I think the Impact is the biggest advancement I've seen in flyrods since the advent of dampening technology used to minimize tip wobble and the resulting waves in the flyline when casting. Since then, it seems to me that most flyrods have only become lighter and easier to break. The Impact blank is extremely strong and yet has a very slim profile. When I first picked one up off of the rack I thought I was picking up a 6wt, based on the diameter of the butt of the rod. I was wrong... it was a 10wt I had picked up! Because of the slim profile, I notice alot less wind drag when casting it. The 6wt I bought looks like an average 4wt in the butt and casts like a rocket. However, these are not extremely fast rods. They tip cast 20ft of line comfortably and roll cast smoothly, but when you put your thumb into them they turn into high line-speed, tight loop machines. Lots of butt power makes fighting fish easy. The burl cork grip is more "grippy" than plain cork... I like that. The way this rod delivers power, I have not felt the need to overline it. We'll see what happens when I get around to throwing big streamers or topwater, but so far, paired with a TFO Prism 7-8 reel and TFO 6wt flyline, this new rod graciously does everything I ask of it. They come in 4wt thru 10wt, 4-piece, 9ft length. Retail price is $325 to $375. Here are some other reviews from Flip Pallot, Brian Flechsig and Blane Chocklett. ~jc

UPDATE 5/20/16: I love this rod even more now that I have fished it for a couple of months!

TFO Impact fly rod

 

3/15/2016 - The Ponds

The pond fishing is lighting up! I've caught several largemouth, bluegill and crappie. Low and slow with a small, slow-sinking light olive or white baitfish imitation has been working consistently. I've probably caught 35-40 bass between 1 to 3.5lbs in the last few days. Get out there! ~jc

Indianapolis Spring pond bass

 

3/6/2016 - F3T Fly Fishing Film Tour at the Jazz Kitchen

The 2016 F3T fly fishing film tour was produced by my friend Todd Settle/Zionsville Insurance and sponsored by Wildcat Creek Outfitters and Central Indiana Trout Unlimited. Lots of donations were received for the silent auction and the raffle. The proceeds this year are being split between our 2 favorite flyfishing-related charities: Casting For Recovery and Project Healing Waters. Overall the event raised just over $7,000! Good job, everybody! ~jc

 

In other news...

On 2/13/2016 I purchased a new (used) car... a 2004 Honda Element and passed my old Honda Cr-V on to my daughter. On 2/28, nature had a different idea for my new car... After $5600 in repairs she'll be better than new. ~jc

 

2/21/2016 - Brookville Tailwater

Flow: 350cfs • Water color: Steelhead green • Water temp: 38

Rob asked me to help his son Michael learn to flyfish. Michael has been an avid angler since he was a little boy. He has an "angler's heart", the enjoyment of fishing (not just catching), and patience. All I had to do was teach him some knots and the basic cast and he was off and running. We went to Brookville on a bright Sunday morning to get him fishing moving water, nymphing, streamers, and see what we could scare up. There had been a severe pop-up storm early that morning and the ACOC had opened up the dam quickly to let some water out and then shut it back down to normal flows. Apparently lots of water as the grass along the bank was matted down and the river was full of dead or dying shad. The big fish were having a field day, "rising" to dead shad like they were popcorn caddis. There were 5 of us (old friends and new... Todd, Joe, Jason) stacked up in a hole sharing the water and everybody was hooking up. Michael, dealing with slack and drag for the first time, missed several fish but persevered. I hooked one of the largest Browns I've seen at Brookville, live or in photos. Michael did a great job netting him, but I screwed up the grab from the net and off she went without a proper photo. I'd like to believe she was about 24"... one of those big fish that doesn't really run, but rather just digs in and stays right where they are and it's your problem to get them to move. ~jc

Jeff Conrad with a Brookville Tailwater brown trout

 

2/4-7/2016 - Tampa, FL

As usual, my first report of the year is not an Indiana fishing report! Every Winter I head down to Tampa to fish with my buddy Rob. We had postponed the trip originally scheduled for the first week of the year due to unseasonably warm water and absent fish. I arrived Thursday night with a plan to hit the flats the first thing Friday morning. We got to the flat at 7am and it was 46 degrees and a cold wind was blowing out of the north at a steady 20mph. We walked out to the green water edge of the flat and posted up to wait for the tide to come back in and bring the fish with it, which we expected about 8:30am. The wind blew so hard that the tide was held out in Tampa Bay and didn't come in until 1:30 in the afternoon! When it did come in it came with whitecaps as he wind continued to blow. However, fish were spotted and hooked. Redfish and Black Drum. Rob had called me before I came down and described a little white worm that the fish were keying in on. "It looks like spaghetti" he said... "same size, same color. And it needs a little weight to get down in the holes." So I tied up a little pattern out of micro-chenille and a tiny cones on a #8 34007. Both the Redfish and Black Drum ate the odd little fly. No big surprise that the Reds ate it, but Black Drum hardly ever take a fly according to Rob... at least in Tampa Bay. The next day (Friday) we drove down to Placida and fished with my old buddy Pete Greenan of floridaflyfishing.com (a web site I built for him). Pete has been guiding down there for 38 years and has serious knowledge of the area and great stories. We ended up only fishing 1/2 day and then getting absolutely drenched by a pop-up storm. (BTW... the LifeProof phone cases really work). Fun was had and fish were caught in spite of the drenching. The highlight of that day was dinner with Joe Mahler after the trip. Joe drove from Ft. Myers to hang with us. Joe and Pete are old friends, Joe and I met last Sumer when Cecil Guidry brought him on a White River trip with me, and Joe and Rob had never met, but Joe had illustrated an article Rob did for Flyfisherman Magazine on a clever knot/rigging tip. So, the seven degrees of separation thing came together and we consumed frothy beverages and had a ball. Sunday the wind was blowing 30mph out of the northwest. We attempted fishing a flat for awhile, but again, the wind blew the water out of Tampa Bay and we headed for a cut to catch whatever was swimming by. Ladyfish and Seatrout cooperated. My flight back was at 5:30, so about 3pm we headed in. I even got a shower before the flight. That wouldn't have happened if the fishing had been good:-) ~jc

2015 Indiana Fly Fishing Reports

 

11/5/2015 - Erie, PA

Eddie and I headed over to Erie to fish Elk Creek. We stopped in Cleveland on the way and picked up Rob Walters, who flew in from Tampa to meet us. Long story made short... There were 3 fish in the river and 3,000 anglers looking for them. Rob, Eddie and I each got one. Eddie photographed mine and then wen't off to catch one on his own (which he promptly threw back like it was a bluegill because he has caught so many of them in his life), and then just at dusk, Rob hooked up. It was a lot of wading and trudging to try to escape the crowds, but we did find that a few fish had the same idea and moved into extremely fast pocket water that most guys wouldn't wade into. Sometimes, weighing on the high side has it's advantages! While we did hook several fish in the fast pocket water, landing them in that stuff on 4x was another story. ~jc

Rob Walters and Ed Devine with an Erie Steelhead

Jeff Conrad with an Erie Steelhead

 

10/23/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 175cfs • Water color: gin clear • Water temp: 60

Karl Glander and Al Fish wanted to get out one last time before the weather turned ugly and the leaves fell. We floated an afternoon/evening trip. It was mostly a casting exercise, but, through Karl's dogged adherence to his favorite topwater fly, Rick Osthoff's Power Diver, he managed to land the largest Smallmouth he has ever caught... and Karl has done some fancy Smallmouth fishing in Minnesota, Maine, etc. The fish turned out to be about 23". Al Fish is credited with the photography. ~jc

Karl Glander with an Indiana Smallmouth Bass

 

10/12/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 200cfs • Water color: gin clear • Water temp: 64

After a couple of cold nights, Eddie, Eric and I hit the river for a quickie float. The water was getting critically low, cold and ridiculously clear. We didn't expect much, but managed a few fish. ~jc

Jeff Conrad flyfishing on Indiana's White River

 

10/9/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 220cfs • Water color: gin clear • Water temp: 66

I picked up two convicts along the river and took them fishing on a work release program. Actually, my friend Kevin and his work partner Drew jumped in for a 1/2 day just before the leaves fell. These guys are both fine casters and diligent fishermen. Fishing was slow but they each found one real nice fish on my version of the Spoon Minnow, which is nothing more than a piece of UltraSuede cut into the general shape of a fish with a hook epoxyied into the fat part of the body. It is a soft-landing, subtle fly that wobbles, sinks very slowly, seldom snags and looks helpless. Great for spooky fish and slow presentations. ~jc

White river

 

9/7/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 150cfs • Water color: gin clear • Water temp: 70

Labor Day might not be the smartest day to push out on the river. My friends at White River Canoe Company were having one of the busiest days of the year, but that is the day we could fish, so off we went. Cecil Guidry brought his good friend Joe Mahler along for a float. Joe is a fabulous casting instructor and illustrator that does lots of illustrations for the flyfishing magazines and teaches flycasting in Florida. He is originally an Indiana boy, so he comes around every Summer to visit family. We had a banner day on the water! After pulling over in the shade and waiting for a massive flotilla to pass, we had the river to ourselves by about 3pm. Joe started out with his Straw Boss fly pattern and caught fish immediately and consistently on this wobbly, attractive fly. When Joe hooked his first fish a look of joy came over his face and he was "a kid again"... back home again in Indiana catching the fish he grew up on. Cecil was hard into torturing fish with his Hell Boy pattern. Everything worked and there were fish in every good looking piece of water. We ended the day in the dark with Joe attached to "something" that fought him to a standstill until the hook pulled out. ~jc

Joe Mahler smallmouth fishing in Indiana

 

9/4/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 300cfs • Water color: gin clear • Water temp: 72

My chiropractor, Dr. Steve Mangas, has saved my life more times than I can remember. For the last 25 years, he has kept my family in great health and rescued us from our own foibles. A few years ago I built Steve a rod and outfitted him with a reel. It was time to get him out on the river. He brought his friend Ron Bontrager along on a cloudy day and we headed out for an afternoon/evening float. Ron took the front of the boat and immediately connected with a good number of average Smallmouth in the 9-13 inch range on what I used to call a Murdich Minnow but now refer to as "NEAM" (Not Even A Murdich). Bill Murdich's minnow is a great baitfish pattern, but even with it's thin profile I feel it can be too much fly in the low clear water of Fall. The NEAM is so simple that it would be a good "first fly" for anyone to try. Size 6, 8 or 10 streamer hook, tungsten bead, 15-20 strands of bucktail and 1 piece of flash out the back, and sparkle chenille palmered thinly forward. Tie off. Anyway, this little fly produced all day. Steve worked out the casting and caught his first few Smallmouth on the fly and even some on a topwater called the Stealth Bomber. Mission accomplished. ~jc

Dr. Steve Mangas flyfishing on the White River

 

8/31/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 330cfs • Water color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility • Water temp: 76

Karl and Bob joined me for a float on the lower section of the White above Indianapolis. It was hot and bright when we pushed off about 2:30pm for a 1/2 day evening float. Bob dug deep with a Murdich Minnow in olive and got a nice 16" fish out of a rock garden. Karl stuck with his favorite topwater fly, Osthoff's Power Diver, and stuck several average fish right out in the bright sunlight and sometimes out in the middle of the river! As the sun dropped behind the trees on the western bank, Bob switched to topwater, and based on the fact that we caught fish on the surface in the bright sun, we assumed that "popper o'clock" would be pretty good. Bob did hook and lose a very good fish that charged out of a wood pile and inhaled his popper, and several decent fish made short strikes but failed to connect.Popper o'clock was overall a disappointment. A pop-up storm brewed up and we heard it rumbling just a few miles away and felt a push from the gust front. Also, a jet boat came by twice, which ALWAYS puts the fish down for awhile. We got off the water at 8:30 with a good day of fishing and an average day of catching. ~jc

 

8/29/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 330cfs • Water color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility • Water temp: 76

Eddie has been so busy at Grand Park that he hadn't had a day to fish yet this season. The only time we could find was a Saturday morning. So, Eddie and I and my friend and occasional spotter David pushed off from 146th at 7am. With hopes of early morning topwater dashed within the first 1/2 mile, we headed deep. David got the first fish on an olive Murdich Minnow... a 3lb Largemouth. Eddie soon followed with a nice Smallmouth on a streamer I tie called "Eat The Baby". While Eddie was rowing I had several chases to my "Predator Drone" pattern but ended up only hooking a white bass on it. The day was hot and mostly cloudy and had that look that says "topwater", but the night had been cold so we resisted the urge and kept catching fish subsurface. Once we entered a slow pool section with deep banks and lots of wood cover we switched to topwater and caught several nice fish at around 2 in the afternoon. David had first water and hung a nice pig on some funky looking little foam mouse pattern in red. We all had plans for later in the day/evening and we rowed out. ~jc

Ed

David

 

8/28/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 330cfs • Water color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility • Water temp: 76

As part of teaching flyfishing, I sometimes take students on their first float trip. Honestly, it's a tough job, but somebody did it for me and tolerated my inexperience and incompetence, so I feel like I should pay that back. And it is very gratifying when a student progresses and really learns the sport as so many have done and have become my "fishin' buddies" now. This day I took my friend Jeff out for his first float. Jeff is a brilliant and accomplished guy at many diverse things from mechanical engineering to whittling and lots of other disciplines in between. He has decided to add flyfishing to his stable of talents. We worked hard on casting and line management in a boat, working a fly to get a fish to eat, setting the hook, landing fish. A productive day of learning and another student "gut-hooked" on flyfishing. ~jc

 

8/22/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 200cfs • Water color: Gin clear • Water temp: 74

Since this uncommonly cooler weather, the fish have started the beginnings of Fall behavior. Lots of schools of Redhorse and Northern Hog Suckers are gathered up and seem to be either migrating upstream or just milling around thinking about it. Such were the conditions for this Saturday float with Project Healing Waters Veteran Joe Wildridge and his PHW host (and super-volunteer) Jerry Koons. Great guys and good fishermen. Joe throws a beautiful line and immediately took to fishing from a boat, doing a good job at casting and line control in and out of the boat. The water was so low and clear that we spent the day in the upper river "picking pockets"... fishing every little wrinkle that was more than 2 feet deep with small flies and lighter tippet and digging deep under log jams. Fish were "earned". As the sun dropped behind the trees we transitioned to topwater and finished the day with several above average (but still not big) fish. Fun day! Also, a big thanks to Rich LoBianco, Jerry Koons and all of the volunteers that help with the Indianapolis chapter of Project Healing Waters. ~jc

Joe Wildridge - Project Healing Waters veteran

Jerry Koons - Project Healing Waters volunteer

 

8/21/2015 - Sugar Creek

Flow: 110cfs • Water color: Gin clear • Water temp: 72

Mike Goriszewski lives in central Illinois and had heard of Sugar Creek for years. Primarliy a trout fisherman, he wanted to try his hand at Smallmouth on Sugar. We had to postpone hsi trip several times due to high water. I scheduled him out as far as I thought was possible to fish Sugar. I hit it on the head! The day we floated was the last day we could float without dragging the boat and spooking the pools downstream. We fished topwater all day to fairly aggressive fish. Mike mastered the somewhat more forceful casting with large/wind-resistant flies, and the mend-twitch to both move the fly and keep it from dragging in one simple movement. As his skills improved, his catch rate increased. We finished the day about 8:30 after several smashing takes of a deerhair diver in the last 1/2 mile. ~jc

Sugar Creek flyfisherman

 

8/12/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 225cfs • Water color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility • Water temp: 74

Randy and Bob came back again, this time for a float on the upper White. Randy got the skunk off the boat by catching 2 fish on one lure within sight of the boat ramp. Bob followed with a nice Smallmouth on a Murdich Minnow. The day fished pretty consistently, with the normal mid-afternoon doldrums and then a topwater bite in the evening. ~jc

Randy Wilson

 

 

8/8/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 350cfs • Water color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility • Water temp: 72

I had the privilege of taking one of our Project Healing Waters veterans (Tom Neffle) and his PHW host (Doug Frailey) fishing on the upper White. We pushed off about noon in some of the biggest crowds I've seen up there. Canoes, kayaks and tubes galore. So, we found a few holes in the upper river to park on in the shade and wait for the crowds to disperse. We caught fish, ate an early lunch, caught more fish, worked on presentation, and generally had a great time. The crowds moved on through and we set off down the river. Tom has eagle eyes and pointed out fish that he could see from his perch up front that I couldn't see from the rowing seat. Streamers such as Murdich Minnows and Schminnows took fish, as did the Purple Darter. Topwater activity kicked on about 5:30 and we never looked back. Doug caught his first Smallmouth on fly rod that day. I was a nice way to honor the contribution Tom made in service to our country. ~jc

Tom Neffle

Doug Frailey

 

8/5/2015 - White River

Flow: 800cfs • Water color: 3 feet of cloudy visibility • Water temp: 74

Steve Meyers came down from Chicago to fish his old haunt. Originally from Indianapolis, Steve had fished here all of his life but hadn't been down in quite a while. I learned that Steve's father was one of the original founding members of the Indianapolis Flycasters. His name was Charlie Meyers. So, while we were floating I called my old friend (another IFC founding member) Karl Glander to see if he remembered Charlie. He did... and that brought back alot of old memories for Steve. We're planning a float trip with Steve and Karl together one of these days. Anyway, hte fishing was as the fishing has been... lots of smallish fish. Not sure what the massive floods did to the river, but the fishing is just sort of "off" these days. Hope it gets better. ~jc

 

7/31/2015 - White River

Flow: 1100cfs • Water color: 2 feet of cloudy visibility • Water temp: 72

Randy and Bob wanted to do a morning float so they could bug out of town in the afternoon. I don't like morning floats as much as evening. For one, I'm a late-nighter and don't particularly care for morning in general. Also, while there may be a hour or two of hot fishing in the morning, it's usually over by the time the sun gets on the water. But, since the stretch we were fishing was a primarily north-to-south route, I reasoned that the eastern bank would stay in the shade longer and hopefully the fish would stay active until the sun got in their eyes. Not many fish went along with my theory. After realizing that topwater was not gonna do any good, we dug hard with deep streamers and crawfish imitations. Eventually, the fish started wo wake up and take the deeper presentations. By no means a fast day of fishing, and no picture-worthy fish were caught, but we got the skunk out of the boat, had a nice day, and were off the water by 2pm. ~jc

 

7/26/2015 - Sugar Creek

Flow: 350cfs • Water color: Clear with a tinge of green • Water temp: 70

Dr. Glander and his son, Dr. Glander joined me for the first float trip since May 9th. We have had the wettest Summer on record with about 8" of rain in May, 11" in June and now 15" in July. The rivers throughout Indiana have been blown out and off-color 95% of the time since the rain started in early May. Anyway, calendars, water and weather finally coalesced into a day when we could fish together. We shoved off about 12:30pm, on a slighty hot, humid, but cloudy day with great hopes for topwater fishing. Our hopes were realized within a few hundred feet of the boat "ramp". The topwater action continued throughout the day, with a lot of average fish and the occasional larger specimen taking Rich Osthoff's "Power Diver" and my deehair diver, and later in the day, a Boogle Bug popper. As the day went on the clouds became more threatening and we felt the cool gust front of a coming storm. 100 feet from the takeout the sky opened up and drenched us. The rainstorm that hit dumped an incredible amount of water in the area and the river (which we started floating at 350cfs) is now up to 6,850cfs again and just topping out. I guess this just isn't our year... yet. Anyway... a nice day of fishing and a very rough takeout dragging the boat 40 feet up that bank. ~ jc

PS: Fortunately, the worst of the storm went south and didn't hit the upper White River watershed, so the White took a small bump, but nothing catastrophic. The float trips scheduled this week should happen unless the rain that is predicted for Wednesday turns into another gully washer.

PSS: For those who float the stretch down to Rock River Park, don't plan on yanking your boat up the bank there anymore. The campground/canoe livery installed steps there which have eroded and large metal spikes protrude from the steps.

 

6/19/2015 - Nowhere...

Flow: We're screwed. • Water color: Chocolate milk • Water temp: Who cares

For the 4th week in a row we are getting hard rain. The ground is now saturated and flooding has begun in the area. Even if the rain stops now I'd bet the rivers won't be fishable for 7-10 days. I have cancelled 11 float trips in the last month. Thank God for ponds, and Largemouth Bass and Bluegill.

From a more positive perspective, the full water table should keep the normal Summer river flows higher than during the drought years of the past. Maybe we'll be able to float Sugar Creek for a month longer than normal. Fingers crossed. ~jc

 

5/31/2015 - Brookville Tailwater

Flow: 144 CFS. Water temp: 62 degrees.

Eric Simpson and I met our friend Ben Harris (Manager of the Orvis store in Clay Terrace) at the tailwater for an afternoon of trout fishing. We had planned to float, but Mother Nature had other plans when she dumped 2+ inches of rain on all of Indiana on Saturday. The rivers are STILL rising! Anyway, we were into fish immediately on my new fav, the Psycho Prince. During the course of the afternoon/evening we caught fish nymphing, throwing streamers and finally on #14 caddis. Probably 25 fish in all between the three of us. Fun day. The water is pretty loaded with algae... it's time for a blowout to clean some of this stuff out of the river. However, it didn't make it too tough to fish. ~ jc

Brookville tailwater trout caught ona  white streamer

 

5/24/2015 - Sugar Creek

Flow: 190 CFS. Water temp: 63 degrees. Water color: Clear with a green tinge and lots of cottonwood seeds.

Instead of watching cars turn left (and occasionally right), Cecil Guidry, Bob Miller and I took off down Sugar, pushing off about 2:30pm. There were lots of people enjoying the upper river near the campground. The spawn is mostly over. I saw baby smallmouth in the water but also saw a few males still guarding nests under center-current wood piles. The day was very bright and the fishing was slow, as a majority of the fish are resting after the spawn. We stayed in the upper river, finding the occasional juvenille (9-12") on topwater (Cecil's HellBoy) or a wiggle minnow. As the day wore on, we found ourselves about a mile from the takeout. We anchored up and waded a bit to cool off while waiting for the sun to drop behind the trees. About 8:30pm we took off on the final leg of the float and picked up 3 nicer fish in the 15-17" range on topwater: 2 on Conrad's Deerhair Diver and one on a Fruit Cocktail Whitlock Bug. This time of year is fun but frustrating. The weather is psycho, the water goes off-color in a heartbeat, the sun shines, the clouds cover the sun, and the fish are crazy aggressive one day and sullen the next. If you hit it just right it can be the best fishing day you'll have all year. Other days, you dig hard for a few average fish. I'm looking forward to the hot, stable days of Summer. ~ jc

Sugar Creek smallmouth bass caught on fly rod with topwater fly

Sugar Creek smallmouth bass caught by Cecil Guidry flyfishing with a topwater fly

5/8/2015 - Brookville Tailwater

Flow: 225 CFS @ 64 degrees in AM increased to 492CFS @ 45 degrees in PM.

I met Scott and Jeff at 10:30 in the park and we headed off upstream to fish a deep run. Scott is an experienced flyfisher, so all I had to do was rig him up, show him the drift and leave him to his own devices. Jeff is an experienced spinangler but not yet proficient with the flyrod. So, I waded down to him to get started teaching him the casting stroke. Now, that's not my favorite way to teach casting... standing in the middle of a river with all of the inherent problems, but Jeff had a willing spirit, so we forged ahead. He caught on quickly once I gave him an overlined rod, and hooked a couple of fish on streamers. Then we switched him to nymphing to round out his experience. He caught a trout on his first nymph drift! Since Scott and I were wet-wading, and rather deep, we were "particularly sensistive" to the almost instantaneous drop in water temperature and the increase in depth and force of the water. We never heard the horn, but they had opened up the lower gate and increased the flow to 492CFS. The water temp had dropped to 45 degrees and the algae on the riverbed was being freed by the harder flows, making fishing impossible. So, we abandoned the river and headed into town to El Reparo... a nice little Mexican restaurant on Main St. After a nice lunch, we did a driving tour of "the holes" so I could show the guys where to fish on their own if they came back. In the lower river, the algae was still coming hard, so we headed back up around the 101 bridge and fished there. Nymphing was unsuccessful in the colder water, but some nice fish were chasing streamers, so we ended our day with Jeff hooking (and eventually losing) and very nice pig of a slad-sided Rainbow on a tungsten conehead olive wooly bugger. He wasn't to happy about losing the fish, but I comforted him with the fact that most everyone loses their first big fish on flyrod. There are just too many things to do, what with line management, keeping pressure on the fish, trying to steer the fish away from cover, recovering line to get it on the reel, etc. Nice fish, tho. Wish we could have netted him. ~jc

Nymph caught trout on Brookville tailwater

streamer caught trout on Brookville tailwater

 

 

5/1/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 1200 CFS. Water temp: 56 degrees. Water color: 2.5ft of cloudy visibility.

Wayne from South Carolina wanted to see some Indiana water while he was in town on business. While I was bit skeptical about finding many fish except with deeply-sunken flies fished slowly, we headed out on the White for a 1/2 float. My prediction was correct, but Wayne did catch fish both on sunken flies fished on floating line and long/light leaders and while nymphing. A variety of Smallmouth, Largemouth, Rock Bass and Crappie kept Wayne busy. His favorite thing of the day was watching a Wiggle Minnow dance in the water. He kept having visions of what would happen to that fly in his South Carolina waters. ~jc

White River smallmouth in Indiana

 

4/12/2015 - Local Stillwaters

While every river in Indiana is high and muddy, the ponds that I have hit are in great shape and the fish are active. An olive Schminnow, a Clouser in chartreuse/white or olive/tan, or any small wooly bugger in olive or white have been producing large numbers of LM Bass and Crappie. The bluegill seem a bit preoccupied with making spawning beds. When you see yellow flowers in the Spring, it's time to fish. ~ jc

PS: I got a nice little rig from TFO. A 7'6" 3wt Finesse with a Prism 3/4 reel and a 4wt TFO line. Sweet little rig for the ponds and should work out pretty well for trout.

 

4/4/2015 - Upper White River

Flow: 900 CFS on the Noblesville gauge
I snuck out between rainstroms to see what the water temps were and to gauge the general "readiness" of the fish. Water temp was 48º. No smallmouth were willing but I did catch largemouth bass, rock bass, and the juvenile carp were doing their silly porposing and darting around and foulhooking themselves on anything I threw. Once the rain blows through and the water drops and clears we should be fully into mid-Spring, pre-spawn fishing. The ponds that I have fished have given up largemouth bass and crappie, and the bluegill have been posting up, ready to make their spawning beds. It's on. ~ jc

 

1/23/15 - Brookville Tailwater

Flow: 300 CFS
At least we do have some fishing opportunities in Indiana in the Winter. Eddie and Todd went to Brookville on a fairly mild Winter day. Flows were perfect and the fish were willing. Both stocked fish and some holdovers were caught. Rainbows and Browns. Nymphing (as usual) took the most fish and streamers took the largest fish. Nymphing under an indicator with small eggs, Prince, Psycho Prince, scuds, Hare's Ears, Pheasant Tails, etc. For streamers, you can't beat a conehead wooly bugger in olive or sometimes white, although people have reported catching fish on other colors including purple and red. With streamers, make sure you are deep enough and that your fly is animated and looks "alive but in trouble". Using mends to move the fly and then stripping to recover slack line animates the fly better than simply stripping it back toward you. ~jc

Ed Devine with a Brookville Tailwater rainbow trout

 

1/20/15 - Tampa Bay, Florida

I guess it only makes sense for the first Indiana fishing report of 2015 to take place in Florida. Let's face it, Indiana is not the Winter fishing hotspot we would like it to be! My old friend Rob Walters (former owner of Royal River Flyshop) invited me down to crash at his place, be well fed and cared for by his sweet wife, play with his beautiful little boy and fish the flats of Tampa Bay for Redfish. Tough to turn down. I didn't. I arrived on a Sunday morning, Rob picked me up at the airport, dumped my stuff at the house and were on the water by noon. The cold front was just letting up (the cold front you guys were stuck in) and the wind was cool and coming out of an undesirable direction for flats fishing, plus the tide wasn't quite right. So, we went to a channel to just hunt and blindcast, but to no avail. No complaints here, tho. Just being in 70 degree weather and stretching casts out as far as I could reach was pure therapy. The next day was stacking up to be perfect... warmer night, wind out of the north, low tide at 8am. We were psyched... Up early, great breakfast and off we go to get on McDill AFB water that only military personnel can access. (Rob is "Colonel Walters"). We waded across a deep cut (which we would later have to use a float tube to get back across) and headed out onto the flat about 7:30am. The flat is expansive and was nearly devoid of water in most places. I noted the places where there was water, because those would turn into the deeper holes once the tide came in and the flat flooded. We walked a good mile out to the green water edge, Rob explaining all the way what we hoped we would find out there. It was fascinating to learn about the "very specific" details of this species in this location. Saltwater fishing is a detail sport. As the tide turned, we posted up about 80 feet back from the drop-off and watched for shapes to appear. Visibility was difficult as it was cloudy. The clouds reflect off of the water and turn the water surface "shiny gray", so seeing through the water is tough. Add a little chop to that from the wind and you're looking for ghostly gray shapes that move under the shiny gray water surface. But not the ghostly gray shapes that don't move (the grass and seaweeds). Occasional blindcasting is ok, but if you do too much of it the fish will move off to the side of you and pass you by, never to be seen until it's too late. So we wait and scan the water for moving shapes. None appear. The tide is coming in. We wade back to the left toward the cut we crossed, scanning for schools of Redfish or the telltale nervous water they create (which Rob says looks like "jello"... the water smooths out a bounces up and down like jello on a plate when a pod of Redfish are posted up in deeper water, digging in the grass for shrimp and crabs.) Rob picked up a marauding Snook that swam by him and then took up position in a sand hole about 50 feet away. Finally, Rob motions me over. I wander his way to see what he's found. A school of at least 200 large Redfish are in tight squadron formation swimming fast in what seems to be figure eights in front of us. We cast in front of the school. No eats. We cast to the stragglers at the back of the school. No eats. We cast to the edge of the school. No eats. They have lockjaw and are just messing with us. They finally fly off to the far edge of the flat. Rob follows them while I cut up into the flat to see if there are any tailing or boiling fish visible. Neither of us had any luck. We headed back across the deep cut, which is now much deeper and can't be waded. Rob brings a tow-behind ski tube and a kayak paddle, which he ties up in the mangroves. That's a real vision... my big butt perched in that thing, paddling across the cut in waders. Go ahead a take a laugh break... I'll wait. We did make it safely across the cut and went to another flat. This one less pleasant to fish due to the interstate and airport nearby, but there were fish there. No Redfish, but we found a cut and caught Seatrout and Ladyfish for a couple of hours just to get a bend in the rod. The next day, we headed back to the interstate/airport flat for a 9am low tide. We waded out, and posted up near the drop-off and waited. Visibility was easier and the wind was coming from a favorable direction. A blindcast revealed the presence of fish just over the drop-off, so we waited quietly for the Reds. We stayed near 2 troughs that Rob knew about that tend to be "highways" onto the flat. They finally appeared. Gray, ghostly shadows that actually did move. Quite suddenly, mullet were "stirring the soup", baitfish were nervous, and boils and even a few tails appeared. I looked to my right and saw that Rob was hooked up. I reached for my camera to take a video but my selfish demons got to me and I put the camera away when I saw fish within 50 feet of me boiling and tailing. One cast and I was hooked up just as Rob landed his Redfish. Rob, being not nearly as selfish, waded over and took a picture for me. I saw the relief on his face... after 2 hard days of fishing and no Redfish, we were finally on them. Even when you're not officially "guiding", you feel responsible for making sure the person you drag along has a good time and catches fish. We did. I hooked 4 and landed 2. Of the 2 I missed, one was inexperience and one was complete stupidity. The "inexperience" one was a late hookset after watching the fish inhale the fly and not believing it happened. The "complete stupidity" one was a big fish that I thought I could horse to the right to keep him from spooking the school of fish that were tailing 100 feet to the left. I pulled right. He pulled harder to the left. He won. I retied. Great trip. Thanks, Rob! ~jc

Rob Walter with a Tampa Bay snook caught on fly rod

Jeff Conrad with a Tampa Bay Redfish caught flyfishing in January 2015

 

 

2014 Indiana Fly Fishing Reports

10/11/14 - Upper White River

The annual Eric & Barbara Simpson Anniversary Float... a little late because Barbara was gallivanting around Montana with friends on their real anniversary. We took a blustery Friday and hit the river to find slow fishing. The river was very low and very clear, and the fish were certainly in "Fall mode"... scattered around in places they don't normally hang out... and with lockjaw! As we dug deeper and slower, we finally started to find fish. And as the day warmed the fish warmed up to our flies We stopped for lunch and a "wee dram" and got a few beautiful Fall pictures. Nice day with some of my favorite people. ~jc

Anniversary flyfishing float on the White River in Carmel, Indiana

Eric Simpson with a nice smallmouth bass caught flyfishing on Indiana's White River

Flyfishing guide Jeff Conrad with client Eric Simpson on the White River in Carmel/Fishers, Indiana

 

8/9/14 - Tippecanoe River at Oakdale Dam

Flow at 550cfs. Water temp 76. 2 feet of cloudy visibility.

Eddie and I took our old friend Mike Elkin to the Tippi to put him on the oars for the first time. His son is a whitewater rafting guide in Colorado and is buying his own raft. Mike has eyes on putting a frame on it (similar to mine) and using it for fishing. Now, low water on the Tippi might not be the friendliest time to learn to row, but it does present the most challenges... exposed rock gardens, "silent" rocks (rocks that don't create any noticeable surface disturbance), slow to no current, Summer winds, spooky fish, etc. But, you buy your ticket and you take the ride. With lots of laughter and and only a few spinning circles, Mike began to get the hang of "rowing backwards" and sensing every little shift in the wind and what to do about it. As for the fishing, we had a pretty good day and caught some nice fish. Successful flies included the Clouser in blue-over pink-over white, the purple darter, this ugly crawdad-type thing Eric Simpson found, tied with blue-green estaz, ranch brown marabou tail, bucktail wing and orange rubber legs (pictured), white Murdich Minnow on a sinktip, Conrad Deerhair Diver, and Osthoff's Power Diver... but the real pig-hanger was the Gartside's Beastmaster General in tan. I caught several large fish on it and the attacks were smashing. One of the fish that we landed was 23". Everytime it jumped I swore it was a carp.The middle and lower sections of the float produced more fish, perhaps more because of the time of day, but also because of the character of the water... as in more current. We caught fish consistently in moving water and never in the big, slow pools. Long float... fun day. ~jc

 

8/3/14 - Upper White River

Flow at 120cfs. Water temp 76. 2 feet of cloudy visibility.

Eric and I took off for a test float. I had decided that if the White didn't start fishing better I was gonna float elsewhere. The temps had been cooler and the I expected the water temps to have dropped even farther than they did, but a drop of 6-8 degrees was all we got. The river had a funky green color to it, like there was a stringy algae suspended in it. We did catch fish and they looked reasonably healthy... not stressed or off-color, we just didn't catch too many. Now, it was a busy day on the river... the canoes and kayaks just kept coming (I'm happy that my friends at White River Canoe Co. had a good day!), so that could have put the fish off a bit, too. As the sun dropped and the canoes disappeared, topwater activity picked up and we each caught a few decent sized fish. ~jc

 

8/1/14 - White River

So… last Friday (8/1) I was taking some people flyfishing on the White River. One guy lives in Carmel and the other lives in Fishers right on the White River at 116th St. We put in under 146th St. bridge about 4pm and started down the river. We fished until about 9pm and were around the water treatment plant when I began rowing us out. We arrived at the boat ramp under the 116th St. bridge at precisely 9:25pm (right at dark). My car was waiting there. I backed the trailer down into the river and loaded my raft. I was done loading the raft and strapping it down within about 8 minutes. I left the boat ramp and turned onto 116th St. at 9:35, headed westbound. It was then that I saw several Carmel patrol cars coming east. As I crossed the bridge, one of the patrol cars pulled up on the bridge and stopped. Then 2 more patrol cars came, lights & sirens, toward the bridge, followed by an ambulance and a fire truck. I commented to my friend that they were probably going to assist Fishers Police with a big accident on I-69 or something.

I turned north on Hazel Dell to take my fishing buddy home. Just then the other fisherman who lives there by the river called and told me that someone had called 911 and reported that a car had driven into the river. He had talked to one of the officers to see what all the commotion was and explained to the officer that we had been down there and had backed a trailer into the river to load a boat. We immediately realized what had happened and laughed our butts off. I heard from a Carmel cop friend yesterday that they closed the 116th St. bridge for awhile as they looked for the "car in the river".

 

7/26/14 - Upper White River

Flow at 140cfs. Water temp 82. 2.5 feet of cloudy visibility.

I took Karl and Mike for a float on the upper river. I am really worried about this river. My non-scientific diagnosis is that the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in the watershed, Anderson CSO (combined stormwater/sewage outflow) and the perhaps runoff from the agricultural practice of mixing pig crap with water and spraying it on farm fields is causing extreme algae blooms in the White River. Anyway, the river has fished poorly this year so far (early August) and the water "color" has become more of a "texture". We floated 6 miles and worked hard for the fish we caught. They are both excellent casters and fishermen. Mike did some nice work with subsurface flies and caught several fish. Karl is a topwater guy to the the end. He will fish subsurface if necessary, but his faith in topwater runs deep. Both anglers caught a fair number of fish, but again it was with great effort. ~jc

 

7/17/14 - White River

After returning from a long family vacation (we drove 2600 miles), I needed a float. Eddie and I headed out for an last minute (emergency medical) afternoon on the upper White and took our buddy Karl along. The trip was conceived at 1pm and we pushed off by 3pm. As has been the story on the White more often than not this season, the fishing was spotty. The occasional visible chase, a few short-strikers, a dink here and there, but no fish of any size. 1/2 hour before dark as we were about to push out, we pulled up on a log that is know to hold fish. Karl and I each took a 15-16" fish, mine off the upstream end on my deerhair diver and Karl's on the downstream on a Fruit Cocktail. We weren't skunked, but we worked for our fish and rowed out in the dark. ~jc

 

6/29/2014 - Sugar Creek

Flow at 125cfs. Water temp 82. Slight tinge of color to the water.

Dr. Glander, Mr. Latimer and I did a "make-up trip" to try to wash away a really bad day on the upper White (on 5/31). We decided to change rivers as the White has not been fishing very well up to this point (early August). We had a decent day on Sugar. Although the fish were somewhat sullen, we did catch fish fairly steadily and in the normal spots. Dr. Glander's favorite fly... Osthoff's Power Diver brought several fish to the surface, as did my foam-wing deerhair diver, and later in the evening the Wiggle Minnow. We made a half-assed attempt at subsurface fishing but nobody's heart was really in it. It was a nice, relaxing Sunday float interrupted by the occasional fish. ~jc

 

6/18/2014 - Sugar Creek

Flow at 200cfs. Water temp 78. Slight tinge of color to the water.
Eddie, Todd and I did an afternoon float on a hot, steamy day under partly cloudy skies. I needed it bad as I had been teaching alot of beginning flyfishing lessons... and while that is rewarding, it is hard work and progress can be slow. It was nice to be on a river with 2 other good anglers where casting/mending/retreiving/knots, etc. are second nature. The slight color to the water had Todd and I a little concerned but Eddie held the faith and he was right. Within the first 150 feet a nice Smallmouth rose slowly to the surface to munch a Conrad Deerhair Diver. The take was slow, easy and confident but the fight was spirited. Eddie was throwing a wiggle minnow and getting lookers but no takers so he switched to the diver and was soon into a beautiful 20" fish. Action was steady throughout the float with one break while we waited out a thunderstorm. After the rain, topwater wasn't doing the trick so we switched to wiggle minnows and the fish turned on again. Lots of average to average+ fish were caught, but Eddie's was the winner. ~JC


 

5/31/2014 - Upper White River

Flow at 300cfs. Water temp 68+. Water color - 2.5 feet of cloudy visibility.
Karl Glander and Bob Latimer are about as good a couple of guys as you'll ever meet. They are also excellent Smallmouth anglers, which is why I was surprised and frustrated when we couldn't buy a fish! We set out about 9am on a float from Perkinsville to Strawtown with the intent of making it a long day and fishing the topwater bite in the evening. Plan foiled. The fish had just finished their spawn and were laying back, shagged out, having one last sip of scotch before a much needed nap. We dug hard for about 3 miles and were rewarded with 4 small... no, not small... TINY fish. It was hot and bright and windy, and the water color was very fishable and clearing but still had quite a bit of suspended solids as well as a fresh crop of cottonwood seeds to foul our flies. After trying for too many hours I offered the guys a "do over"... a "Mulligan". They jumped at the chance, so I put my shoulder to the wheel and started rowing us out. Of course, hope springs eternal in the twisted mind of the flyfisher, so we slowed down occasionally to hit what used to be "hot spots" before the fish decided to have sex and then sleep for 2 weeks! Eventually I just rowed, put on some mellow jazz, and Karl got the right idea. ~ JC

 

5/9-11/2014 - Tampa, Florida

Many of you may remember Rob Walters. He was the original owner of Royal River Flyshop at 96th & Keystone in Indianapolis. The shop was subsequently purchased by Eric Simpson and was "home away from home" for many of us. Rob lives in Tampa now and we have stayed friends all these years. For some reason beyond comprehension, he invites me to come down and crash at his place and fish with him. It may be my good looks, but it's most likely my fabulous sense of humor coupled with my humility... or possibly that I never say "no" to fishing:-) Anyway, Rob is incredibly generous with his home, time and formidable saltwater knowledge. He has a very analytical mind and he has put it to good use figuring out the many things there are to know to become a competent saltwater fly angler. I arrived on Friday 5/9 at 5:25pm. We were wade fishing before 7pm and by 11pm we had caught redfish, snook and trout within a 60-70 foot cast of shore. A great way to start a mini-vacation! Rob's wife and son were out of town, so we were on our own to fish, eat, shower, drink, etc. We did fish (alot), eat (fast food) and drink (consistently)... showers were optional. The next morning we arose early to head out and post up on a flat as the tide was coming in. This particular flat is both hard to get to and a long walk. For those reasons, Rob has great success there. However, I learned something valuable this day. A south wind is not the friend of the Gulf Coast fisherman. It blows some pretty big tides into the Gulf and generally scatters the fish, meanwhile making it a bitch to cast. As we got out on the flat, the wind came up... really up... and blew some pretty heavy and discolored water in. I did manage to catch a small snook and a catfish, but the water kept getting more roiled until visibility was nil. We slogged out of there and headed for a spot that Rob hoped would be shielded from the wind and high tide a bit better. No such luck. The water was high, the wind was tolerable but persistent, and the fish were elsewhere. After a short nap, we headed back out to fish the evening for giant snook that hang out around bridge pilings... 3-4 foot long snook that Rob had spotted. They lay in the bridge pilings until the tide starts to come in and then move out onto a deep sandy flat facing the tide as it comes back in. We cast and cast for them and Rob did manage to hook 2 of them. These are serious alpha fish and the chances of landing them on fly tackle that close to the bridge pilings is minimal, but damn is it worth it! On both fish, Rob's rod just doubled over and then involuntarily bent toward the bridge. Both fish came unbuttoned, but awesome fun was had anyway. As Rob said, "this is the stuff that makes us stay out too late." I did manage to land a bluefish and Rob got a pretty big trout that night. The next day Rob had booked a hungry young guide (Ethan Kiburz) to drag us out hunting tarpon. We cruised the beaches and cuts watching for the giant silver goldfish for 7 hours. In that time we saw one school of fast-moving jack crevalle. No tarpon. 2-3 foot seas. Lots of other "users" of the resource. The guide shared a few acronyms that he and his friend use to describe these other users:

Rob and I dubbed ourselves FRAFI (fly rod-assisted f#%@$#*& idiots). It was rather amazing that, with an entire ocean to cruise, people would come within 50 feet of us on all of the above water craft.

Once we accepted the fact that the tarpon had also gone missing, we pulled into a backwater flat to wait for something... anything to happen. There were fish moving at dead low tide, but getting near them to get a cast off was a challenge even when being poled. The water was only about 6 inches above the turtle grass and the fish were spooky. As the tide came in the flat flooded pretty quickly and the redfish began tailing. They were still spooky, but we could get a cast on them from 60-70 feet. We got several to turn and follow, but nobody would munch the fly. It was still delicious to be out there spotting their knife-like tails slicing through the flat, mirrored water. At dark we pushed across a cut to the marina and called it another 12 hour day of fishing. ~jc

And while Rob's flat didn't produce that day in the heavy south wind, he's had a few good days out there before!

 

5/7/14 - Sugar Creek

Eddie and I hit Sugar and towed my darling older daughter along to ride in the rear seat and sunbathe. The flows were already nearing summer levels. 125 cfs that day and gin clear with a temp around 62 and fish making or already on spawning beds. Lovely river! We saw a beautiful big water snake at the boat ramp, hundreds of gar, and lots of other good evidence that the water is in pretty healthy shape. We caught our first fish on topwater (deerhair diver) immediately after pushing off from the ramp. The first mile or so fished well with topwater. Then the 3pm doldrums hit and fishing slowed, so we switched to streamers but got no meaningful fish throwing subsurface. So, we decided if we weren't gonna catch any fish we might as well at least fish a fly that is fun to watch... enter the Wiggle Minnow in yellow with a white tail. I tie my wiggle minnows on heavy hooks (Mustad 3366), cut the front angle a little more generously than the commercial version, use thick marabou for the tail to stabilize the action, and bend the hook until the fly runs really true. The things are pure sex in the water. The fish responded immediately and forcefully. We picked up fish out of deep pools, off of rock walls, in fast runs, and even directly downstream of the boat. No really big fish for the day, but lots of 13-16" fish. I'll take those anytime! ~ jc


 

4/26/14 - Upper White River

Eric Simpson, Mike Elkin and I headed down the river from 146th to 116th for a quick 1/2 day just to check the river out after a long winter. The river looks good through that stretch, but a cold front had put the fishing off. We caught some fish in the smaller/average category on Clousers and Purple Darters, but since the trip was mostly reconnaissance, we blew on through and didn't spend the time necessary to dig deep and find more fish.

 

4/19/14 - Upper White River

Friends Brian (White River Canoe Co.) and Kevin (Indiana Smallmouth Alliance) joined me for the first float of the season. The flow registered on the Noblesville gauge at 1080cfs and the water temperature was between 52 and 56 as the day progressed. Air temp was a high of about 67 and the day was bright, sunny and sorta windy. The water clarity was at my prerequisite of 2 feet of cloudy visibilty. I figure that if we can see 2 feet into the water the fish have to be able to see alot farther than that. We got the skunk out of the boat right away with a largemouth for Kevin (on gear), a smallmouth for Brian (on gear) and a smallmouth for me on a black Conrad Sculpin fished on a sinktip line. The fish were scattered throughout the river and a bit sullen even though the water temp was what I usually consider to be within tolerable range for this time of year. Brian picked up several smallmouth including one big girl on an eddie seam adjacent to fast water. Kevin held out for warmer water and cleaned up with 2 nice fish back-to-back on a west-facing, deep bank at the warmest time of day. My Winter workouts doing SuperSlow weight training sure helped in the rowing strength department. I'm usually pretty worn out for the first few weekes of guiding, but not this year. Not a bad start to the season! ~jc

White river smallmouth

White river smallmouth

 

2013 Indiana Fly Fishing Reports

 

10/27/13 - Brookville Tailwater

Eddie, Todd and I went to Brookville. Although the Army Corps of Engineers is usually blowing out Brookville Reservoir this time of year, dropping 8 feet of water out of the big pond, for some reason the river is still flowing around 400cfs. Water temp was about 50. Eddie did well on streamers, including going "Pennsylvania Old School" with a Muddler and 2 split shot. He dug out a fish he's been trying to catch for 3 years! Todd picked up a couple of fish on nymphs and streamers. I got skunked, but I enjoyed fishing my new TFO BVK 10' 4-piece 4wt. Excellent nymphing rod with enough backbone to chuck a weighted streamer a good distance and then mend to control the drift.

 

10/12/13 - Upper White River

Recent rains made the upper stretch of the river easily floatable, so Eddie and I took of to see what the river looked like up there after nearly 2 months of fishing the middle White. The river and fish were fully into Fall mode. Every breeze dropped a load of leaves into the river and leaves were throughout the water column, so most casts ended up fouled at some point. We were lucky and snuck some casts through the "flora" and found some willing fish. Later in the day, as the wind died down, so did the leaves and we found some fish willing to smack a topwater. It seems this year that the leaves are just gonna torture us a little at a time instead in one big deluge. Something in my bones tells me we have a long Winter ahead of us. It's time to turn my attention to Trout and Steelhead. I'm headed to Brookville soon and Erie in November!

 

9/28/13 - Tippecanoe River

Eddie and I took a float from Oakdale Dam down to SR 18 on this "warmwater tailwater". The flow was at 525cfs and had been stable at that level for over a week. I expected low, clear water and long casts to spooky fish. Instead the water was murky and kind of disgusting with about 2 feet of cloudy visibility. We pushed off around 9am throwing heavy streamers on long leaders to get some depth without having to use a sinktip. Nothing much happened in the first few miles of the float, but as the sun warmed the water, the fish became more active. I had some great chases to the BeastMaster in white, but those fish turned away before killing the fly. We ended up taking several fish using large white Schminnows fished with a slow twitch. Late in the day some topwater action turned on. Not a fast day of fishing for the Tippi. I threw the TFO BVK 7wt for the first time and it is a rocket!

 

9/21/13 - Middle White River

Neal Upton is one of my oldest friends. I know he doesn't look that old, but he is:-) I took he and his friend Tom on a float as a thank you for helping me with the CFR pond project. Again, it was unseasonably cool at night and the fish were fully into their "Fall schizophrenia". We dug hard to get them to eat on a bright, cool day with water temps that had dropped precipitiously and was quite low and clear to boot. The Purple Darter to the rescue again! If I had to choose one fly for Smallmouth it would be the darter. Tom was spinfishing and did get one nice fish about 17" on a silver Rapala out of a heavy run against a rocky, steep bank. But overall, flyfishing won out as the more productive method. Neal picked up fish consistently through the day with some nice topwater action once the sun dropped. After the float trip I had the honor of playing the Indy Jazz Fest with my good friend (and fellow flyfisher) guitarist, Bill Lancton. We played the main stage at the Jazz Kitchen with a quintet consisting of Bill on guitar, Steve Allee on piano, Scott Pazera on bass, Gene Markiewicz on drums and me on trumpet and flugelhorn. Tough life I have, eh? Flyfishing and Jazz!

 

9/15/13 -TFO News

I have been accepted into the Temple Fork Outfitters Guide Program. This will give me access to TFO products to stock my boat with great rods and reels for my clients to fish. TFO makes high-quality, affordable flyfishing equipment designed and endorsed by some of the biggest names in flyfishing such as Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, Gary Loomis, etc. I got my first shipment of rods in and I have to say that I'm impressed. The 6wt Mangrove is a medium-fast rod with a lot of backbone that kicks in at about 25 feet when it's overlined with a 7wt line and continues to have power out to 70+ feet. Its a good looking rod with a nice brown finish and a TiCr coating to help protect it from damage by errant weighted flies. They feel solid and durable, like they won't snap easily like so many of the new lighter (and much more expensive) rods do. They retail for $250. I also got two BVKs... a 10' 7wt and a 10' 4wt. They are light in the the hand and really throw a beautiful tight loop when you put your thumb into them. I'll report more as I continue to fish them, but so far I'm pleased. Again, a nice rod with a high-end feel and nice components for $250. I have a hard time paying $750+ for a rod. Maybe the high-end rod makers have gotten out of hand with the "lighter and more expensive" thing. It seems that every one of the high-end rods I have owned has snapped multiple times under seemingly normal fishing circumstances. I snapped 2 high-end rods in one week on a trip to Montana and finished my Madison River float trip using a 15 year old Orvis Silver Label that had never broken once in 15 years. I'm not sure who told the rod companies that weight was such an issue. It seems to me they invented the problem of flyrods being too heavy so they could "solve" it with an expensive product. I don't know about you but I can barely tell the difference between 3oz and 4.5oz, but I can sure tell the difference when the 3oz rod shatters in my hand and leaves me standing there wondering how I'm gonna keep fishing. I know... I'm grumpy:-)

 

9/14/13 - Middle White River

Rob Walters is an old friend and former founder/owner of Royal River Flyshop. We did a float to celebrate his son's graduation from high school and acceptance into the Navy. We had some unseasonably cold nights and therefore got on the river a little later than I like, but I knew that the predominantly south heading float was going to be in deep shade until at least 11am. So, we pushed off at 10am and started trying to figure out what these fish were going to eat with the water temp dropping so much over the last few nights. As usual, the Purple Darter kicked the day off and by noon or so we were fishing higher in the water column with the BeastMaster General swooning just under the surface on a sinktip. A few average Smallmouth took it and one big Carp took a swipe at it. as the day progressed we continued to test the topwater bite. No recognizable pattern ever emerged and the day was a hodgepodge of topwater, mid-column and deep flies with water type more than fish behavior dictating the tactic. It was great to spend the day with Rob and Michael and be part of that event where Michael heads off on his first real life adventure as a Navy MP.

 

9/4/13 - Middle White River

Eddie and I took my friend David out for a quick aft/eve float. David lives near me and has been kind enough to act as my spotter a few times, saving me the hassle of shuttling cars before or after a float. David is a fairly new but already quite accomplished fly angler. And a day watching Eddie fish was just what he needed to cement several essential skills like the reach cast and mend/twitch. We took off from 146th around 3pm with a target of being off the water by 8 or so. It's the better part of 5 miles, so we had to keep moving, which isn't always the best way to fish Smallmouth. Often times, hopping from prime spot to prime spot is more productive, but that's life. They Feast On The Beast! Gartside's BeastMaster General in natural brown/tan was a killer early in the float, and the visible strikes were a ball to watch. Later in the float Eddie hung a pig on an Unsinkable Deerhair Diver. I don't think we quite made the 8pm takeout target, but we did have a nice night and topwater was the winning tactic.

Dave Hyman white river indiana

Ed Devine with a big smallmouth from Indiana's White river

 

8/31/2013 - Middle White River

Chris and Sth Bakke jumped in the boat and we enjoyed a day on the water. Chris lives in Arkansas and fishes the big tailwaters down there frequently. His son Seth is a youth pastor in Indianapolis. They both absolutely love to fish. Chris is an experienced angler and Seth is a relative newby, but hungry to learn. We had another odd day on the water... low and clear with spooky fish that wanted 50-70 between them and the boat or they wouldn't eat much. As the sun dropped behind the western treeline on our south heading float, the fish did aquiesce and started being a bit more cooperative.

 

8/25/2013 - Middle White River

My old friends Hank and Matt Rossman joined me for a (long) 1/2 day float. They had never flyfished and brought along their spinning equipment but graciously agreed to mash down the barbs on all of their lures. The water was LOW and CLEAR... not ideal for spinfishing as every splash down of a lure sent the visible fish running for cover and kept the fish hiding in cover from coming out. They were skeptical about "this flyfishing stuff" and asked me to demonstrate. I complied and so did the fish. After 2 miles of river they had caught only 3 small fish. In the first 100 feet I caught 3 on flyrod and my Unsinkable Deerhair Diver. They were convinced that flyfishing was the way to go but didn't want to try it that day. Hank has TFO Professional that I built him as a gift several years ago. I think he'll be stopping by for a lesson next Spring.

 

8/18/2013 - Middle White River

Eric and Barbara joined me for the third year in a row to celebrate their anniversary on the river. We floated the White in town (Carmel/Fishers). The day was beautiful, and some nice fish were turned, but the short strikes and false attacks were the behavior that made me crazy. Nice Smallmouth would do drowning attacks rather than full-on "eats". The partial solution turned out to be smaller flies... we actually turned to bluegill poppers to get the fish to make a full eat. Anyway, the fishing was weird, as has been the theme this year, but we had a great day anyway.

Barbara Simpson

Eric Simpson

 

8/14/2013 - Upper White River

A fine gentleman from Seattle, WA... Mr. Bill Wheeler, found me on the web and booked a trip during a visit to the area. We had a great day on the river. Bill is a fine caster and a FFF Certifed Casting Instructor. He threw a gorgeous loop and was dead accurate. However, I don't think he had ever cast as much as you tend to cast fishing streamers and topwater. I've long believed that streamer fishing is the most demanding type of flyfishing. He started crapping out with his soft trout rod and normal weight line. I handed him one of my boat rods...a 6wt medium fast action with a 7wt bass taper line. That allowed him to eliminate most of the false casting and deliver the fly in 1 backcast. He caught a wide variety of warmwater fish including a nice crappie on topwater. We had a stellar day on the water and I look forward to seeing him again someday.

Bill Wheeler flyfishing Indiana's White River

White River

 

8/11/13 - Casting For Recovery Structure Project

Eddie and I have been very involved in Indiana CFR since it's inception and have been river helpers on most if not all of the retreats. We both love this cause and the ladies we take fishing. the retreats have long been held at Wooded Glen... a resort and conference center in southern Indiana. It is a wonderful veune for the retreat... beautiful setting, great facilities, killer food, but there was one problem... the fishing sucked. The pond we fished was basically a 2.5 acres kidney-shaped swimming pool, and with EXACTLY the same amount of structure as a backyard swimming pool. Consequently, the pond was full of catfish and a few very frightened and timid bass and bluegill... the ones that had managed to escape the catfish. So, with the support of Wooded Glen, we hatched a plan to improve the fish habitat and then put some fish in the pond. To accomplish this task, I sourced some free wooden pallets from J & J Pallets in New Albany, IN ( Thank you , Susan!). I went down and picked up the pallets and lots of concrete block and staged them at the pond. Ed Devine, Cecil Guidry, Eric Simpson and I went down on a Sunday morning and built and placed pallet houses and 11 PVC "anenomes" that Cecil built. Then 500 hybrid Bluegill and several punds of fathead minnows were stocked into the pond. At the CFR retreat a few weeks later, everyone caught lots of bass and bluegill and signs are good that the pond will continue to improve as the fish grow and begin reproducing. We plan another stocking for next April and the fishing should be stellar for our ladies at the May 2014 retreat.


 

 

8/4/2013 - Upper White River

I took the legendary Ken Langell and everybodys good friend Eric Simpson for a float. It's become an annual event that I hope will continue until I can't row anymore and I just push them overboard and feed them to the turtles. We had a stellar day of laughs, stories, a "wee dram", and feeshes. The fishing was, again, weird but good. It's a theme these days... fish in odd places eating odd flies... or fish extremely tight to wood cover and eating miniscule minnow patterns. Schminmnows in tan or light olive, or arctic fox clousers in size 6-8 have been drawing fish out. First water draws the strike. Second water sucks hind teat. Many times the back of the boat (second water) is more productive than the front. I think the fish get interested by what the first angler throws and then attack the second time something comes by. The first angler is "the fluffer" and the second angler gets the fish. Not today. First water ruled. Also, noisy poppers were not the answer. Not even the gentle burble of a deerhair popper pulled a fish. It was the chartreuse Sneaky Pete that won "popper o'clock" again.

 

7/28/2013 - Upper White River

Dr. David Osborn came in from Australia to help out a friend. He's a veteranarian with a specialty in large animals. He's also an avid flyfisher. He and his friends trout fish in Tasmania! Man, does that sound exotic to me. He brought a travel rod and the basics and I hooked him up with some flies and heavier tippet. We floated the Upper White on a very strange but lovely day. I don't think the temperature ever topped about 70 degrees and it was cloudy. The night before had been a record low. I expected the usual when that happens... no fish until about 4pm when the water has warmed and the fish wake up. That was not the case this day. We rowed up to the "Rock Bass Hall of Fame" and started by working the "trout cast" out of David's arm. After a few minor injuries (to me) we got him moving heavier flies and keeping them aerialized above the boat. The fish cooperated early on and David caught his first ever Smallmouth Bass within an few hundred feet of the boat ramp. As the day went on, David got better with fly placement, mending, stripping and hooksets. Each time he improved a skill, a larger fish would reward him for it. He dropped a purple darter into a hole next to some wood and was quickly attached to his largest bass of the day. There were never any signs that topwater was a possibility, but we decided to test the theory and caught fish in places I never expected on a chartreuse Sneaky Pete. Every fish we caught had a cicada stuck in his throat, so the topwater bite made some sense, but the chartreuse Sneaky Pete did not. We left it on and David caught fish after fish on it. He said "Crikey, I've never caught so many fish in my life." Later in the day we switched to deerhair as the light faded, and the gurgle was frequently followed by a splash.

The next day, Eddie took David out to Sugar Creek for an afternoon/evening wade. They had a good day and David got a look at what I think is one of the prettiest streams in Indiana.

Dave's first Smallmouth


Dave on Sugar

 

7/18/2013 - Boca Grande, FL

While on a family vacation in Siesta Key, FL, I hooked up with our old friend Rob Walters. Many of you may remember Rob. He originally opened Royal River Flyshop and then sold it to Eric Simpson. Rob is now living in Tampa, so this was a perfect opportunity to fish together. I booked a day for us to fish Boca Grande with Capt. Pete Greenan. It was cloudy, rainy and windy when we left the Placida boat ramp but the hard rain held off until later in the day. We first ran the beaches in search of tarpon. We did see a few and I got a fleeting shot at one as he swam by the boat, but the water color was off and the reflection of the gray sky on the water made spotting the fish tough until we were 30-40 feet from them and had already alerted them to our presence. With the tarpon hunt a bust, we headed into the back country to fish the mangrove islands. This may very well be my favorite type of fishing now... poling silently along, 60-70 feet from a mangrove bank, casting into the dark recesses in tea-stained water and never knowing what might attack your fly. Delicious. We spent several hours poling around, moving from bank to bank, hooking the occasional fish and having our asses handed to us by "who knows what" that just slashed the fly and tore off back into the mangroves. Finally, as the tide began to move out rapidly and the rain began to pound on us, the fish came out to play. Rob caught a baby snook and then a redfish. Capt. Pete was about finished for the day, but wanted me to get a fish before we left. This picture was from the last cast. I could hear the sigh of relief from Pete, both because I finally landed a fish and it also meant he could go home and get out of the rain. I am proud to note that all of the fish we caught that day were on the first 3 Puglisi style flies I ever tied. I never understood the value of the Puglisi flies except for ease of casting, but they really do fish very well and look realistic in the water. I have been using them for bass around here now and getting some good fish on them. I also morphed the style and tied a few with Hareline's "Baitfish Emulator Flash" material. Great fly.

Gear Talk... I used Pete's TFO BVK 8wt rod with a Rio Bonefish line (not the Bonefish QuickShooter... the regular Bonefish taper). Holy shit! The rod is very nice and the line really gassed me. It shoots like butter and holds the tighest loops I can make. I ordered one that day. I think it is gonna be a great warmwater line for the basses. Also, no need to overline with this one. The regular taper seems to have enough forward beef to load the rod quickly, plus the slick coating flies through the guides. I shot 25-30 feet of line on my first backcast and was instantly a fan. 80-100 foot casts almost seemed natural. Also, the line stretch is minimized by the mono core, which helps with long-distance hook sets.

rio bonefish line

Jeff Conrad and Rob Walters fishing with Pete Greenan in Boca Grande Florida

 

 

7/7/2013 - Sugar Creek

Bob & Mary Smith are dear friends and the sweetest people on the planet. They volunteer for "everything" and are always helping others. Mary now runs the Casting For Recovery retreats and Bob is always "in tow" and digging in as well. After all of their years living in Indiana, they had never fished Sugar Creek. We remedied that with a float from Elston to Rock River Park. The fishing wasn't fast, but it was steady enough to keep our interest.

Bob Smith on Sugar Creek

 

7/4/2013 - Sugar Creek

Ed and I celebrated Independence Day by enjoying our independence and hoping for a repeat of 7/2. No such luck, but the fishing was good and the company even better. Here's Eddie in his 4th of July sartorial splendor.

Sugar Creek - Ed Devine

Jeff Conrad on Sugar Creek

 

7/2/2013 - Sugar Creek

Sugar was on fire! Wiggle Minnows and my Unsinkable Deerhair Diver took fish after fish. While we're not really "fish counters", the estimate after the float was at least 80 fish between the three of us. Every year Sugar blesses me with freaky good day of fishing. Last year it was May 25th for me. This year 7/2/13. Fishing was too good to stop and take pictures, but here are 2 from when the fishing slowed down to a dull roar for a few minutes. So glad to be on the river with my buddies!

Sugar Creek Indiana

 

6/26/2013 - White River

Enough said...

 

 

6/8/2013 - White River

Eddie and I took my friend Dave for an instructional float on the upper White. Dave is the father of one of my daughter's best friends. He is a congenial guy who learns fast and really enjoys life. The fishing was pretty good for the average sized fish. The mosquitos were pretty bad. Dave's lovely wife Joan loaned him her hat.

Dave and Ed on the upper White River

Indiana White River flyfishing

 

5/1/2013 - Eagle Creek

Although I have been fishing a bit this year, this is my first report of the season. After an incredible flood that totally reshaped most of the rivers in Indiana, I did manage to get out on Eagle Creek. The White Bass run seems to be in pretty good shape. Eddie, Todd and I fished a few hours last night and had a nice time catching these "school fish". After much discussion we believe we have identified the primary feature that makes for a good White Bass fly... a hook:-) These fish will eat anything (subsurface). We had a wide variety of flies going and all of them produced. The key is to make sure you are fishing deep enough and bumping your fly along the bottom. You have the option of using a sinktip line, short leader and lighter fly (Eddie's preference), or a floating line, long leader, heavy fly (my preference). The White Bass don't seem to care. Eddie caught a few more fish in the faster runs, but with proper mending, I did just fine, too. White Bass are almost always schooled up in deeper pools or in slower deep runs.

PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION: I don't buy many flies. I tie my own because most commercial flies aren't as good as what I can make myself. However, I just bought some BoogleBug Poppers and I liked them so well I called to talk to the owner of the company to compliment him on his great product. Mr. Pierce Hayes is a very pleasant southern gentleman in Birmingham, AL that has a passion for making great poppers! He makes a cup-faced popper called the "Boogle Popper", a Sneaky Pete style slider called a "Boogle Bullet", and a tilted-face fly called an "Amnesia Bug". The BoogleBugs I purchased are well-tied, in great colors, with a super-durable finish that will last for a long time without chipping (Pierce tells me they have a total of 6 coats of primer, color, accent, and clear polymer overcoat). BoogleBugs are tied with the hook gape open so that hooking fish is easy, unlike many commercial poppers where the hook gape is obscured by the popper head. These are very much worth the extra buck or so. I bought mine from Mad River Outfitters.

 

2012 Indiana Fly Fishing Reports

 

9/22/2012 - White River

Anderson/Raible gage @ 160cfs and rising / Water temp at 58-62 / 2-3 feet of cloudy visibility

The heavy rains of Friday night (9/21) skipped around the White River valley towns of Muncie/Anderson, raining only about .5 to .75 in those areas, but dropped much more than that in the areas north and south of the river valley. The result was a slower rise in water levels as the feeder creeks emptied into the river, and minimal discoloration of the water. Plus, the crops are still in the fields, which helps minimize the muddy run-off. We started out about 10am on a blustery, very windy, schizophrenic day that was quickly shifting back and forth from blue skies to cloud cover. Those kinds of changes in light, along with low water temps (the water temp has dropped about 20 degrees in the last 2 weeks) made for a tough day of fishing. Chris is a good caster and handled the wind well. The wind did gust to 30-35mph a few times, which is a challenge for anyone. We fished streamers "low 'n' slow" and did get the occasional fish to eat a small Purple Darter or a light craydaddy pattern. Once we got into the later part of the day, we switched to nymphing and got some steady action from Smallmouth and big Rock Bass. Chris was a pleasure to fish with, but my arms are still sore from pushing the raft downstream into the wind all day. Now we wait for Indian Summer. When it all falls just right... warm, sunny days, aggressive fish, and low, clear water, it can be the best fishing of the year. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

8/26/2012 - White River

Anderson/Raible gage @ 82cfs - Water temp at 72-76 - 4 feet of cloudy visibility

Ok... the river is officially too low to float, but we did it anyway. It is a real slog trying to get down a shallow river that has virtually no current, but it is really interesting to see the bony skeleton of this waterway. I learn so much about the structure of the river channel by floating the low water of Summer. I remember holes and pools and rock gardens later, when the water is at more normal flows and I fish the river differently than I might if I hadn't seen it "naked"... and naked it was today. I took my old friend Jim Williams (of Royal River Flyshop) and his son-in-law Jim Shelton. (Yep... that was confusing a couple of times but they seem use to figuring out which "Jim" is being spoken to.) Jim Williams is teaching me handgun safety and range shooting so I took him on a float trip. (Jim is an excellent instructor and gun mentor). We floated from 10am to 9pm and dug very hard to catch fish. I warned them that this low water Smallmouth fishing is hard, but they had no frame of reference for what "hard" meant until they experienced it. It told them that we would be out of the boat alot so that I could drag it through riffles... and that they would have to stand up to rebalance the boat anytime it began scraping the bottom... and that the fishing would be pretty technical and visual... and we would be fishing small flies on light tippet... and have to make long casts to reach fish that hadn't been spooked by the boat. They chose to go anyway:-) We did manage to find fish pretty consistently throughout the day, with a nice suprise topwater bite around 5pm when the clouds rolled in and it looked like it was about to storm. Of course, at 5pm I was way farther upriver than I should have been. There may need to be an "intervention" to get me to actually row down the river when we are fishing. I can't stand to leave a good hole or a possible fish! Maybe I should guide in Alaska... the land of the midnight sun. ~ Jeff Conrad


 

8/24/2012 - White River

Anderson/Raible gage @ 100cfs - Water temp at 70-75 - 3 feet of cloudy visibility

My buddy Mike and I used to work together in an IT firm and have been friends for 15 years. I got him into flyfishing soon after we met and it "took". He has turned into an avid flyfisher and has a real love for the sport. Mike brought a friend along as a birthday gift to him. Randy had never really flyfished. So, we set off on our expedition of "spring creek smallmouth" with a rookie flyfisher. Randy has a good head on his shoulders and loves fishing, so the fact that his casting wasn't too developed didn't bother him. He kept fishing until his arm nearly fell off... and he caught fish in that low, clear water. Thankfully the fish seemed to be developing some of the Fall aggression and didn't spook too badly when we rolled up next to their hole. I find that their behavior heads that direction when the daytime and nighttime air temps start spreading out by about 30 degrees. In other words, as the nights begin to cool and the days begin to shorten. So, we rolled from hole to hole "picking pockets". Some holes gave up 1-2 fish, some gave up 5-6, and some sent us away empty handed. As the day turned to evening, I was rowing hard to get through a couple of miles of frog water that I don't like to mess with. Of course, we had to get out of the boat several times to drag it through shallows, so the trip downstream took longer than usual. Once we were into the last mile of water I could relax and dig in to find some more fish. Mike was fishing a small black McJagger popper of mine and Randy a bright chartreuse popper. Mike plopped the McJagger down next to a log and a 19-20" Smallmouth vacuumed it down. It was a nice end to the day. We pulled up the the boat ramp in the pitch dark. These shorter days are messing with my nearly famous inability to get off the river. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

8/15/2012 - White River

Anderson/Raible gage @ 115cfs - Water temp at 72-78 - 3 feet of cloudy visibility

Another anniversary, another float trip! Some of my dearest friends, Eric & Barbara Simpson, celebrated their 42 anniversary last year by taking a float trip. We had so much fun last year that they decided to come fishing again for their 43rd. It was so romantic... just the three of us floating down the river. Oh wait, that's for my other novel... the one under my non de plume:-) Anyway, we had a great day.The weather was beautiful and the company even better. I brought along the table and chairs, a bottle of wine, and a nice lunch and left them to enjoy it while I went wade fishing. The winning flies in this low, clear water have been the Schminnow in white (and sometimes olive), Murdich Minnow in brown, small Purple Darters, small Nearnuff Sculpins, and assorted hardbody topwater flies in bright chartreuse and in black. Deerhair divers have not been as successful as they usually are until right at dusk. Eric is my favorite "search engine". He will try any fly I ask him to, and always has a wide variety of interesting flies he has picked up around the country. Every trip he surprises me by catching fish on some fly I wouldn't have thought to use or one that I have never seen before. Through the 10 hour fishing day we brought at least 30 fish to the boat... nothing huge, but some very nice fish. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

8/7/2012 - White River

Anderson/Raible gage @ 130cfs - Water temp at 78-82 - 3 feet of cloudy visibility

Another rainstorm in eastern Indiana gave us a bump of water on the upper White. Also, the cooler evenings (30+ degree swings between day and night) dropped the water temps back into the normal range for this time of year. The extreme heat and drought had the river running low and REALLY hot until this much needed momentary relief. Sesie, Patti and I took off for an 8 mile float at about 11:30am. (The Friends of Holliday Park had given Sesie a float trip as a gift for her service as President.) Anyway, the fish were sullen and unresponsive to nearly everything until we got into the first fast run. We took several fish there on olive/white clousers and then knew that fish were going to be concentrated in faster water below riffles. So on we went, "picking pockets" and hitting the heads and tailout of pools. Fishing picked up gradually all day, with spurts of fast activity. Several fish came in quick succession to the Purple Darter, which is one of my "never leave home without it" flies. Since we were trying to cover 8 miles on what was still very low water, I pushed hard through the slower water and hit the more reliable spots. The evening popper bite was fun, with a Dahlberg-style diver getting the most action and a bumblebee popper taking it's share as well. We stepped out of the river at 9:30 just at dark, exhausted, sweaty and happy. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

 

7/27/2012 - White River

Anderson/Raible gage @ 120cfs - Water temp at 78 - 3 feet of cloudy visibility

After a long break from fishing due to low water (and a family vacation), the Rain Gods delivered a rainstorm of about 1.25" in Muncie and Yorktown a few days before a trip I had scheduled with some guys from Indy Flycasters. Indy Flycasters had invited me down to speak to them in May when whomever they really wanted to hear cancelled out on them last minute. In appreciation of my presentation, the club bought a trip from me and raffled it off. The winners ended up being Paul Bhe and John Krukemeier. So, since we had a push of water and a slight cooling of the river, we were able to fish and shoved off at around 11:30am. We headed upstream to settle in, rig up, and catch some rock bass. The fish were concentrated in the deeper holes and eating baitfish imitations, but were rather sullen and didn't have the normal Summer aggression. Fishing was slow but steady as we hopped from hole to hole "picking pockets". The guys fished well and caught on to fishing streamers slowly using small mends to twitch the fly rather than strips that move the fly too fast when the fish aren't aggressive. John was rewarded with a nice fish of 16-17". Then came the rain. The 30% chance of rain turned into 100% when a gust-front blew in rather quickly and soaked us to the bone. There was some distant lightning but we seemed to be on the edges of the storm with the body of it to the north. After the rain passed (mostly) we switched to Wiggle Minnows to go down through a very rocky area where sunken flies are usually lost instantly. The guys ended up with a double and then we rowed back up to run through again and picked a few more fish. We stopped for lunch and watched a small jonboat with 6 people come by thinking they were headed for Noblesville, which was at least 10 miles (and one dam portage) downriver. We never saw them again. I'm guessing they developed some common sense and jumped out at the 37 bridge. Our day went on with a lull in the fishing between 5 and 7. The evening topwater time wasn't explosive, but fish were caught and fun was had. All in all, an average day of fish-catching but an excellent day of fishing. We pulled out of the river right at 10pm with happy anglers and a tired old guide. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

7/1/2012 - White River

Anderson/Raible gage @ 140cfs - Water temp at 80 - 2 feet of cloudy visibility

I'd like to thank the Smallmouth Chamber of Commerce for providing me with big fish at exactly the right time to make me look like a genius in front of other fly anglers! I am however, not a genius of any sort and must confess to them now. The story: I walked up on a favorite spot to fish, but there were 2 guys flycasting there, so I waded into a rather awkward position in deeper water with trees and other obstructions blocking easy casting, water snakes swimming all around, baitfish chewing on the hair on my bare legs, and floating detritus fouling my flyline. Within the first 10 casts I had caught 2 good Smallmouth: a 19" and a 17" on a chartreuse/orange/white Clouser. These guys seemed impressed and I tried to act like it was "nothing", but I probably did still walk with a bit of a swagger after that. They turned out to be real fine guys, Brandon and Gary. We talked for awhile, made friends and I gave them some flies from "the collection". I continued to fish in that general area for about 5 hours and must have caught 25 fish including a channel cat on a white Schminnow, and lots of big Smallmouth up to 20" on a variety of Clousers including the aforementioned color, chartreuse/hot pink, arctic fox, and a fly I saw on Mossy Creek Anglers web site called a Chuck Kraft's Kreelex Fly, made completely with Kreinik flash. Weird fly, but it has caught some fish lately.

SOAPBOX ALERT: Notice the corner of this fish's mouth abused by some "barb-arian" who ripped the fish's face apart getting his 6-hooked, barbed lure out. I catch fish all day with a single unbarbed hook and hardly ever lose one due to fishing debarbed flies. I will never understand why people don't see the damage they are doing to these animals by using barbed hooks and then ripping the fish apart. I watched a guy across the river from me work on a good sized Smallmouth for at least 5 minutes trying to get his lure out and then just chucked him back into the river without reviving him at all. I'm sure that fish died. Also, while fishing, I watched a guy with his 2 sons climb right over a fence posted with a no trespassing sign. I asked him if he saw it and he tried to ignore me until I reached for my cell phone to call the owner. Then all of a sudden he wanted to talk. I tried to explain that when you own private property and someone trespasses on it, you are now responsible for them if they get hurt while trespassing on your property. He didn't believe me, but it is true. Here's an example of how it can go: Imagine you are trespassing on someone's property and fall and break your leg. You go to the hospital and give them your insurance card. They submit your card for pre-authorization and payment. The insurance company calls you to find out how/why/where you broke your leg. When they find out it was on someone elses' property they assign their staff of lawyers to find out if the owner has anything they can sue him for to avoid paying for the medical bills you caused by getting hurt. The property owner gets a letter telling him he is being sued for negligence because you trespassed and then got hurt on his property. Now, they seldom win these cases, but the staff of lawyers is already being paid and may as well go on a "fishing expedition" to see if you will agree to a settlement. That process cost one friend of mine 5K in legal fees to defend himself. Ridiculous. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

6/26/2012 - White River

Anderson/Raible gage @ 115cfs - Water temp at 80 - 3 feet of cloudy visibility

Ed, Todd and I headed out for a float about 2pm to see how low the water was, how clear the water was, and to see how many times we would have to drag the boat. The water is low, no doubt, but since we are all pretty "svelt" guys the boat floated through most of the riffles:-) We were out for a "boat drag" maybe 5 or 6 times, including one section where there is a quarter mile of shallow rocks. I didn't even try to row that. I just got out and started walking the boat. Fishing was pretty good, really. Wiggle Minnows, small Schminnows, arctic fox Clousers, and small shiny stuff kept rods bent. Once the sun was off the water, the topwater kill was on for awhile but ended much sooner than I expected. We were busy fishing and didn't shoot many pictures, but this one fish did deserve to get his picture on the web. He ate a small black McJagger Popper, which is an invention of mine intended to imitate a flyrod version of the Hula Popper (since I can't find flyrod Hula Popper anymore). It has a wide, cupped lip on the front and produces several different effects on the water depending on how you strip it. Anyway, we finally got off the river at 10:40pm. In the words of our old friend Bob Linsenman... "It was darker than 6 feet up a wolf's ass." Good thing my friend Eric gave me that headlamp. ~ Jeff Conrad

And, in case you have absolutely nothing better to do, here's a photo from my other life as a musician. Playing for Michael Feinstein, Barry Manilow and Clay Aikin at the Palladium in Carmel.

 

6/22/2012 - No Water!

Anderson/Raible gage @ 130cfs, Sugar Creek @ 38cfs, Tippi running between 150 and 500cfs.

I have had to cancel several float trips due to the low water... and there is really no relief in sight. It rained for a few minutes a couple of nights ago, but stopped short of dumping enough rain to make any difference except to my lawn, which I now need to mow! None of the rain that came through the region had any meaningful impact on the rivers. I have been doing some wading on the upper White, and have been successful with small topwater and with a gray Clouser tied with arctic fox fur. It is translucent in the clear water and catches more fish than a bucktail Clouser when the water is low and clear and the fish are spooky. Until we get some much needed rain, there won't be any float trips... maybe just a few "drag the boat" trips. That makes for a pretty hard day, but there are still fish to be caught and they are concentrated in the deeper holes. With the high sun and bright days, sinktips with tiny streamers, or nymphing are the most reliable ways to catch fish during the high sun hours. Sometimes you can find a fish or two willing to hit a terrestrial or other small topwater in the shade. These are the Dog Days of Summer, which is all of 3 days old. It could be a long year. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

White River - 6/11/2012

Anderson/Raible gage @ 150cfs / Water clarity - clear / Water temp - 73

Randy floats with me regularly. He's a great fisherman and we always have a fun day together. For their 46th anniversary, his sweet wife Rae suggested they take a float trip. What a cool wife! Randy and Rae were neighbors who started dating when they were in 7th grade, married in college, had kids, careers and lots of interesting experiences, and now have a raft of grandkids. Sweet, fun people!

We put on the river about 1pm and had a great day. Randy threw the fly rod and fished small Schminnows in the low, clear water. Every wrinkle in the river with enough water in it that you couldn't see the bottom had a fish or three in it. Fishing was steady throughout the day. We pulled over for dinner about 6pm. I set up the table and chairs, Randy got out the champagne and we toasted their long, happy marriage. Rae fished a Pop-r on a spinning rod (barbless, of course) and got several fish to attack it in the shade. She was a real trooper! About 9pm she said she was amazed that she was still having fun fishing after 8 hours on the river. In the last stretch, Randy was throwing a deerhair diver and getting smashing takes and Rae was still on the Pop-r. Their last cast in the fading light yielded a double. I guess they do everything together after 46 years. We should all be so lucky. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

White River - 6/9/2012

Anderson/Raible gage @ 170cfs / Water clarity - clear with a slight stain / Air temp - #$@%$#&* Hot! (90)

Dick and Ryan jumped in the boat about noon and we headed off. I normally don't fish on weekends to avoid the crowds, but Ryan had a birthday and Dick wanted to get him out on an instructional float as a gift, so off we went. I rowed upstream to a favorite spot and parked the boat in the shade to let some canoes and kayaks move on by. Soon we were joined by DNR conservation officers Kyle Goff and Bill Doss. Kyle used to be one of the Hamilton County COs but has been promoted to detective, so Bill is the new CO joining the team with John Gano in Hamilton County. They checked licenses and enjoyed talking with Dick, who is involved in an advisory committee to the DNR, so they talked environmental politics, and Dick asked for suggestions on what the COs think would help with their efforts in the field. The answer, of course, was more COs and responsibilities focused solely on outdoor sport monitoring/enforcement. There are only 2 COs per county, so they are already stretched pretty thin, but on top of their CO-related duties, they get tapped to do basic police work as well, which pulls them away from watching their turf. Anyway, good guys doing a worthy job.

I knew we were in for a long day because of the low, clear water and the amount of traffic coming through, spooking the fish. We started the day with a gray Schminnow on one rod and a small olive Murdich Minnow on the other. Ryan caught a Rock Bass on his second or third cast, but that wasn't indicative of the day ahead. We ran down the river, moving slowly and "picking pockets" as we had done the day before. Fish were caught, but every one was earned. There were no "lucky catches" and no easy fish. It was great for Ryan to see, firsthand in that clear water, how to "tease the cat" to get Smallmouth to eat, and then see how fast these fish can spit a fly. It gives the angler a healthy respect for the speed of these fish. As anglers, it is wise to constantly remember how fast these animals are and how incredible their eyesight and other senses are. I developed a sense of awe over this when I fished the Roaring Fork in Colorado. We float-fished through Class 3 rapids with size 22 midge nymphs and the fish would see and eat the flies right at the edge of the rapids, flying by at breakneck speed. (That is where I also developed an appreciation for Orvis Mirage Flourocarbon tippet material, which was scraped through the rocks frequently on that trip and held up admirably. Good stuff.) Anyway... we stayed in the upper river to let the traffic settle out and let the sun drop on the horizon. We found fish here and there along the way and worked on Ryan's presentation. His casting was working well, but the devil is in the details... line handling once the fly is out there. We worked on the reach cast, the full-line mend, the tip mend, the mend/twitch retrieve, and on keeping the rod tip down to stay directly connected to the fish. About 6:30pm we started banging the banks with poppers with increasing success as the light faded. Hard body poppers got more attention than deerhair. Something about the plastic "chirp" of a hard body was more attractive on this day than the organic "burble" of deerhair. Some days it's just the opposite and I would never go Smallmouth fishing without plenty of both in a variety of sizes and colors. We finished the float at 9:30pm with 2 tired, happy anglers. Ryan had caught at least 20 fish and his final fish was a 16" fatso. I pulled the boat out in the dark and drove home feeling like I had done a good thing. I like taking people fishing. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

White River - 6/8/2012

Anderson/Raible gage @ 185cfs / Water clarity - clear with a slight stain

Eddie, Ken Langell and I floated the upper for a quick one. We put on about 3pm and headed down. Topwater seemed like it was gonna work initially but once we left the pool at the boat ramp, topwater takes slowed to a crawl. The winning fly turned out to be a Clouser-style fly tied with gray arctic fox and dark eyes. It has the same translucency as the millions of baitfish in the river, and undulates much better than bucktail Clousers. In several places it would take 3-4 fish in a row out of the same small hole. We were "picking pockets"... just rowing from hole to hole and skipping over the shallows. When we found a wrinkle in the bottom with 2-3 feet of water in it we'd usuallly find a fish or two. About 7pm we made a commitment to topwater and started hitting a few nicer fish. We fished the surface as the day turned to night and made it to the boat ramp around 10pm. We caught over 50 fish between us, and had some great laughs. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

Sugar Creek - 6/5/2012

Gage @ 100cfs / Water temp at 68-72 / Water Clarity - Grey Goose with just a touch of olive juice (dirty martini)

Scott & Max had requested that we do a trip to Sugar before the water level dropped below floatable levels. We missed. 100 cfs is really not enough water to "float" Sugar... however with a little creativity we got through. We'd fish the pools to the tailout, then I'd send the guys wading into the riffle and the head of the next pool to get a few casts in before I'd walk the boat down. It worked and the guys caught some fish on topwater, wiggle minnows, and Schminnows in gray/white. It certainly was not the fast day of fishing I was hoping these two stellar guys would enjoy, but sometimes you have to be satisfied with just fishing well even if the fish don't seem to appreciate your skills. After sevral nights of cooler temps, the weather was weird that day. In the morning it was cool and cloudy, rained on and off and was generally gray. The guys were happy to be wearing waders. As the day progressed, high pressure pushed the pop-up storms east and we were into a serious bluebird day. High, hot sun and low, clear water do not usually make for good river fishing, but we continued to dig fish out of the deep shade on topwater, pool heads & tails on streamers such as the Schminnow, and deep runs bu nymphing small, light-colored crawdads. I was laying for "popper o'clock" and had timed the float to save the last mile+ for 6pm. I'm not sure what happened, but the bewitching hour never came. That "low light, sun-off-the-water" topwater time slipped by with not a single fish noticing. We got to the takeout (if you can call it a takeout when you have to tow the boat 50 feet up the bank!) shaking our heads and wondering what happened. We had thrown topwater, small streamers, and nymphs on that last run and didn't turn a single head. We didn't even see any fish of any kind after 6pm. So goes fishing. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

Sugar Creek - 5/30/2012

Gage @ 130cfs / slightly off color, 78° water temperature and a 78° air temperature (bright sunny day).

Went to Sugar Creek creek for an evening float Wednesday after work. Jeff and I had floated it last week and I wanted to see if it was still acting like it had then. The smallies were not quite as aggressive as they had been however they were still on. We got on the water about 4:00 p.m. and Todd had gotten the skunk out of the day with four smallies before I got back from spotting a vehicle at the take out. We started playing with a few aggressively feeding fish straight away but after a couple on/offs we headed on to see who else maybe wanted to play. We started with deep flies like clousers as the sun was still high in the sky. However, the fish were acting more like they wanted something higher in the water column so we soon went to a subsurface flies like wiggle minnows. We had a bunch of fun watching the fish come up from behind and attack these flies as they only run inches under the water and are a quite visible and very connected way to fish. We picked up fish on these until the sun started to come off the water. They didn't really stop working and they were fun to fish but it was popper time and popper time is why you fish of an evening to start with. We started with a smaller bumblebee colored deer hair popper that produced until it kinda fell apart from use. Then we switched over to Jeff's, "deer hair snack!" and the familiar gurgle, gurgle, caplush was how we spent the last two hours before dark. I lost count but we boated more than 20 average size smallies like the one I'm holding and several better ones like the one Todd is holding.~ Ed Devine

 

White River- 5/27-28/2012

Gage @ 350cfs / water temp 75 / water clarity - Shrek's bathwater (this river is in trouble)

After 2 days of wading the White, I can report that the river looks like pea soup but the Smallmouth don't seem to care. I caught lots of Smallmouth in the last 2 days wading at 146th St and north of Noblesville. The hatch of bait is intense this year and the Smallmouth are taking plenty of advantage of it by filling their bellies with gusto! It can be tough to catch fish when they are so focused on a few specific food sources such as Shad hatchlings (3-4 inches in length) and some smaller baitfish of which I do not know the name (1-2 inches). As far as general baitfish go, I take the approach of not really knowing (or caring) what specific species they are. I just carry thousands of flies in the hope that I have something to "match the hatch". This weekend I did. The shad are large and relatively easy to imitate in size and color... olive over white Clousers seemed to work on the smaller fish. But to get any big boys to eat I had to go with a larger profile with my Baby Smallmouth. The smaller baitfish were difficult to imitate... they're translucent... so I tied on a synthetic Clouser and got nothing. Then I tried one of Junior Burke's craft fur style Clousers and again... zip, zero, nada. So I tied on an all-black Clouser and the Smallies hammered it. So much for matching the hatch!

Seriously, I am worried about the condition of the White River this season. It seems that in their enduring wisdom, in 2006 our government suspended the "run-off regulations" for 3 years to attract more Confined Animal Feeding Operations to Indiana. Then when the suspension was about to expire, IDEM extended it. Based on the way the water quality has been decreasing yearly, I'm guessing that the enforcement hasn't started again (if it ever existed). Between farm run-off, Anderson and Elwood contributing massive sewage spills everytime it rains, and now suspended regulations for CAFO run-off, our river is in trouble. I just can't believe this State. Number 49 in environmental quality just isn't good enough... these morons want the number 50 slot. They want Indiana to be "the best at being the worst." ~ Jeff Conrad

 

Sugar Creek- 5/25/2012

Gage @ 125cfs / water temp 78 / water clarity - clear with a slight "tint" / air temp 90+

Happy Birthday to me! Last week I got older. There aren't alot of good things about getting older except that you have still avoided the "dirt nap", young girls start to think you're cute in that "old guy" way, and you still get to fish. To celebrate, Eddie and I headed out to Sugar Creek for a float. We hit the river about 2pm and were instantly into fish... "big" fish... "aggressive" fish... "not shy in the least" fish... "smash the fly while they're 25 feet away looking right at you" fish! I don't trust days when the fish are this easy! I KNOW I'm gonna have to pay it back. But I do love this tendency of Smallmouth to ignore all evidence of danger and eat like pigs even after their neighbor has just fought a valiant battle right in front of them. But imagine if Smallmouth had their predatory instincts, their appetite, their ability to survive in a wide range of water temperatures, their ability to survive in a wide range of water "qualities", but had a trout's natural shyness and fear of predators. I wonder if there would be any other fish besides Smallmouth Bass if they "spooked" like trout (which they only do later in the Summer/Fall in low, clear water). I think so many of them might survive and thrive that they would starve out all other species... or eat them!

Anyway, the river was pretty low, and we had to get our lard butts out of the boat several times to get through riffles. We used those opportunities to wade the water below and managed several fish for the effort. Around 4pm the fishing shut down but a weird looking holographic "Schminnow" on a sinktip kept the action going during the afternoon lull. I wonder if this is the "shift change" when the evening fish come on duty?... because "come on duty" they did. By 5:30 Eddie was throwing a deerhair diver affectionately known as "the snack" and turning fish after fish. He caught so damn many fish he was embarrassed to keep fishing and took back over rowing so I could be embarrassed as well. As the light faded, big fish after bigger fish smashed "the snack". And there was an early warning system before each topwater attack... baitfish would shower out of the water around the fly, signaling the presence of a predator. Within seconds of "the shower", the fly would disappear into a swirl and the tussle was on. Man are these fish strong this year... or maybe I'm just getting older. It was a hell of a birthday! ~ Jeff Conrad


First fish of the day (except for the 3 Eddie caught while I was shuttling the car!)


Eddie as he started to feel embarrassed by all the fish he caught on "the snack".


How to make a big fish look bigger Jimmy Houston style... shove him into the camera lens:-)

 

Tippecanoe River below Oakdale Dam - 5/17/2012

Gage @ 825cfs / Water temperature of 67° F / Water clarity - 3+ feet of cloudy green visibility.

Old friend Randy Wilson and newer friend Dave Hyman split a float on the Tippi. They didn't know each other but both wanted to go fishing this week so I put them together and they got along like peas 'n' carrots. Since we all live on the north side, I picked them up at home, drove to the Tippi, hooked up with the spotter and were fishing by 10am. The upper few miles of that float are not my favorite section, so I blow through the pools and just fish the faster water. Partially it's a survival thing, I think. That water is probably just fine, but as soon as I shove off I start thinking about the next 9 miles of water back to the car and panic quietly to myself. So, I lay for the faster runs and row slowly through the pools, staying close to the bank so my guys can take shots for any aggressive fish that might be in the slower water. This day the fishing was "weird" like only the Tippi can be weird. It's a warmwater tailwater and it has it's own twist on tailwater tendencies. Also, the dam operators are a little twitchy on the switch and you never know what water level you might be getting from the dam. For example... on May 16 (the day before our float) the dam output was at:

Needless to say, the fish are just the tiniest bit schizoid. However, on this day, they left the water alone. It ran at 825cfs all day. On the Tippi, sometimes every condition can look perfect yet not a fish can be found... then 2 hours later you almost can't NOT catch a fish of some species... then the fishing can suddenly turn back off like a light switch! Very scary for a guide... we like those days when, at the very least, we can find ways to catch average fish without going to extremes, and of course, we love those days when the clients catch lots of "pig" fish and we look like geniuses. Not so on this trip. In the first 4 hours I don't think we caught more than 3-4 small fish, saw no chases, no surface attacks, nothing. Then around 2pm our sunken presentations suddenly started producing and we started seeing a little bit of topwater action. Randy was throwing spin equipment (barbless). He caught several fish on Rebel Craws and then switched to Pop-r's on top and got several fish on fast retrieves when the lure was skipping over the surface. David was throwing flies. We tried fly after fly for subsurface and the only fly that produced consistently was the venerable Purple Darter. Also, one nice fish came to a deerhair diver. It was a long, fun day. We left Carmel at 8am, fished from 10am until 9pm, and rolled back into town about 11pm. My shoulders are just a tiny bit sore today! ~ Jeff Conrad

 

 

West Fork of the White River - 5/13/2012

Gage @ 670cfs / Water temperature of 57° F

While driving over from Iowa, Mark Delzell, an auctioneer at the Class Car Auction at the Fairgrounds, searched the web for a flyfishing guide in Indianapolis and found me and called to book a day on the river. I told him I didn't expect fishing to be too good because the water color was ugly and the fish are in their post-spawn funk. (The good news is it looks like the Smallmouth had a pretty good spawning season.) He said he didn't care, he just wanted to get out on the river on his last day off before the auction (and its 14-16 hour days) started up. We hit the water really early to try to avoid the traffic I expected on the river on a beautiful Mother's Day. We put in and were into fish immediately, but mostly juvenile Smallmouth and Rock Bass, with the occasional Crappie mixed in. Once the sun hit the water, activity slowed and we were out for the float trip I promised him... slow... with the occasional small fish. Mark is a realy good angler and his girlfriend Lauren is also a tenacious flyfisher and lover of turtles, so we did some turtle-spotting and rescued one baby turtle that was surely about to become lunch. It was a beautiful day. I'm sure my Mother was glad I was out fishing since she was in Vegas spending my inheritance! ~ Jeff Conrad

 

Brookville Tailwater - 5/5/2012

Gage @ 46cfs (2.75 on the gage)/ Water temp of 60° F /Water Clarity - about 3 ft. of cloudy visibility / Air temp 80° F

It has been a tough week for lots of Indiana flyfishers. Our old friend Dick Skooglund passed away after a long illness and left his family and many, many friends feeling lost. Dick was one of the good guys and will be remembered and missed for a long time to come. On Friday night we went to gathering and enjoyed lots of stories and photos of Dick throughout his life, and met parts of his family that came in from across the country for his services. Special credit goes to his wife, Suzanne, for the incredible care she gave Dick in his last year, and to Eric Simpson for being the kind of friend who never turns his back.

Tough times require tough solutions! In honor of Dick, Eddie and I felt the need to fish. After the gathering we drove up to the White to see if it was going to be fishable. The color was bad but improving, and Eddie immediately caught a Smallmouth off the boat ramp, so we hatched a plan to float the next day. But, that evening when the skies opened up yet again and dumped 1/2" of rain on Muncie/Anderson in less than an hour, we knew the White was out and decided to fish Brookville. Eddie had taken Dick to Brookville in 2009 and put him on a bunch of trout, so we returned to the scene of the crime (where Dick had caught several fish and had done some fine trout juggling) and slayed 'em. The water was low (minimum flow), but had some color to it... cloudy green. I immediately began throwing small streamers on a sweet little Orvis 3wt and Eddie was fishing a dry with a PT dropper on his Sage Z-Axis 10ft 5wt. The fish responded to both and we ended up with 20+ fish in our 5 hours of fishing. The most popular fly was the Brookville Clouser. Lots of holdover browns and newly stocked rainbows ate it aggressively, although nymphs, eggs and small dries also kept rods bent. ~ Jeff Conrad & Ed Devine

Dick Skooglund
Richard Duane Skooglund

The "Skooglund Memorial Smallmouth" - the first fish Eddie ever caught while wearing a tie


Dick "trout-juggling" in 2009


Fell victim to a small Brookville Clouser

 

West Fork of the White River - 4/17/2012

Gage @ 500cfs / Water temperature of 56° F

Well... we finally got Bruce Neckar off of the perch in front of his easel and out on the river. Bruce is an incredible sketch and oil painting artist from Noblesville who has been very generous to Casting For Recovery (and many others) with his time and talents. Since the inception of Indiana CFR, Bruce has been creating an original illustration and doing many other works of art, as well as being a river helper. Eric Simpson and I took him for a half-day float on the upper White very near Bruce's home/studio. He saw the river from a different perspective. We got into a wide variety of fish including, Smallmouth, Rock Bass, Crappie, Sauger, and Red Horse Suckers. The highlight of the day was Eric's 20" Smallmouth on a small olive/brown crayfish pattern. The take was so subtle you would have thought it was a trout eating a size 24 midge. Now, if Eric could learn to use his computer as well as he uses a flyrod, we could get the pictures up here:-)

 

West Fork of the White River - 4/6/2012

Gage @ 600cfs / Water temperature of 57° F /Water Clarity - about 3 ft. of clear visibility / Air temp 45-62° F

I took Scott and Max for a float on the Noblesville stretch. We hit the river about 9:30 and got into fish right away. Max caught his first big smallmouth nymphing a black wolly bugger with tungsten beadhead under a large indicator. Scott caught a couple of good smallmouth and a good-sized sauger... the first I've seen in a couple of years. The fish weren't too aggressive, so moving the fly by doing small mends to twitch the fly and then doing an occasional escape move (stripping about a foot) was triggering fish to eat. I assume their lethargy was due to drastic drops in water level over the last few days, the cool water temp, plus the water clarity kept them closer to the bottom on this bright, blustery day. It was chilly and stayed that way, with a cool breeze, although the sun was strong and gave me my first burn. Fishing overall was slow but steady, and we had to fish pretty slow and deep all day to stay bent. We did find some deep holes with pods of fish and anchored up on them. Purple Darters (small but heavy), and Whitlock's Nearnuff Sculpin in olive were the most productive flies. Max did throw a topwater for awhile and got one half-hearted roll, but not enough interest to keep doing that when fishing slow and deep was producing. I tried to get the fellows to try a popper/dropper rig but no one wanted to throw that rig in the wind. I don't blame them. We pulled out of the river about 8pm. ~ Jeff Conrad

PS: White bass are running in the East Fork of the Whitewater above the reservoir and a few have been caught in Eagle Creek in Zionsville. Probably in Cicero Creek above Morse, too, but I haven't heard any reports.

West Fork of the White River - 3/28/2012

Gage @ 1200cfs / Water temperature of 57- 60° F /Water Clarity - about 2.5 ft. of cloudy visibility / Air temp 56-72° F

First float of the year! Eric Simpson and Bob Miller, 2 excellent anglers, joined me for a float on the Noblesville stretch of the White. We jumped in the boat about 8am and the day started out fast... with both anglers into fish in the first few casts. The early fish came to a blue-over-pink-over-white Clouser. Once the sun moved higher in the sky, fishing slowed down and the wind picked up. We had steady winds of 15-20mph and brutal gusts up to 35mph. Not a good thing on my first float trip of the season. My shoulders are still sore from shoving the boat around in that! The wind made it a tough day for all of us, but the guys hung in there and continued to catch the occasional fish. Eric and Bob each picked up a very large fish and Eric hooked a real hog of about 22" that came unbuttoned. Bob got a fish around 20" on my Baby Smallmouth pattern, and Eric got one around 18" on the blue/pink/white and hooked the giant on a sparkly crawdad pattern. Another successful fly for the day was a Baby Bluegill that I tied the night before. A simple pattern... #2 or #4 wide gap hook, lead eyes, cover the hookshank thickly with Caddis Green Ice Dub from the hookbend to behind the eyes. Tie in yellow bucktail on the bottom, but just tied down in front of and behind the eyes... not along the entire hookshank like a Clouser. Turn the fly hookpoint up and tie in copper flash, and then bucktail in orange, olive and black. The fly has good color, a broad profile, and a nice jigging action. It's a good early season/high water fly. I found a similar pattern called "Hanson's Stay Hungry Streamer", although it appears to be tied with fly fur rather than bucktail and also have some saddle hackle tied in to emulate a barring effect. Either should work nicely. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

Eagle Creek - Zionsville - 3/21/2012

Gage @ 30cfs. Water temperature of 62° F. Air temp 82° F.

I was in Zionsville on business and decided to hit Eagle Creek for a few minutes after work. The water was very low and clear. I started with a gray/white Clouser in search of some White Bass. No "whities" showed up, but a few fat Bluegill took the fly. I saw a couple of spawning pairs of Smallmouth swim by in search of adequate spawning beds. They were moving pretty quickly on through. I switched to a Brookville Clouser. It's a simple pattern I came up with after a frustrating day of streamer fishing at the tailwater, where trout were chasing streamers right to my wading boots but wouldn't eat.I figured that the fish were in "chase mode", but then spooked off by the standard Clousers being to bright in color and too big in profile. The Brookville Clouser is tied with red squirrel for the bottom color, gray squirrel for the top, dark eyes, and no flash. I tie it on a longer hook than a normal Clouser to help it pick up some of the "short-strikers" common at Brookville. Anyway... it also catches Smallmouth in low, clear water. This 16" lady hit the fly on the drop. With the water temps reaching into the 60's already, keep an eye out for spawning fish and leave them alone. If we get a good spawn this year (after several years of challenging water levels) it will mean better fishing for everyone. ~ Jeff Conrad

 

Upper White River - 2/29/2012

Gage @ 680cfs and rising. Water temperature of 48° F. Air temp 71° F.

Yesterday was just too beautiful (and too rare an occurence) to not hit the river for at least a few hours. Even on the warmest Winter day, I like to wait until as late in the day as possible to let the water warm, so I got in the river about 5pm, throwing a weighted streamer (Olive Nearnuff Sculpin), and caught my first Smallmouth of 2012 within 15-20 casts. It wasn't a big fish... maybe 12", but a small victory anyway. Usually we would be pecker deep in gray snow this time of year and paying $300 heating bills, so Smallmouth fishing on February 29th is great, but Smallmouth "catching" is even better. I continued to fish the Nearnuff for awhile to no avail, so I set my sights on a really deep pool with my 10ft 7wt Sage TCX, a great Cortland 250gr "Quick Descent" 15ft sinktip line, and my Baby Smallmouth pattern. The Baby Smallmouth is one of my favorite early-season streamers (along with Half & Halfs in pumpkinseed colors, all tan, or olive/yellow). Anyway, the first cast put a fish on, and over the next hour or so leading up to dusk, several more Smallmouth "ate the baby". Nothing over 15", but great fun. They were aggressive! I was pulling fast and very jerky strips, and that seemed to stimulate their attack instinct. Good fun! ~ Jeff Conrad

PS: I had the pleasure of sharing my Baby Smallmouth pattern with the Reel Women-Reel Men fly tyers on Tuesday night 2/28. I hope they all get out and try their new flies during the early season.


Conrad's Baby Smallmouth - Tying instructions

 

Brookville Tailwater - 2/18/2012

Gage @ 3.5 and water temperature of 40° F.

The tailwater has been fishing terribly this Winter for the most part. There have been very few days when the flows have been fishable, and when they have been, the fishing still hasn't been consistently good. Saturday 2/18 was no exception. The river was flowing at 500cfs when I left Indy, but by the time I arrived in Brookville the flow had been cut down to around 250cfs and the water was apparently flowing from 2 different gates, which messes with the water chemistry, makes it cloudy, and gives it a weird smell. The fish don't seem to like that. Up and down the river, anglers were complaining that the fishing was off, and Steve and I experienced the same thing. I normally don't fish when I have a guided trip (except to demonstrate a technique occasionally), but Steve and I ended up fishing together and changing flies/tactics frequently to try to find something that would turn the fish on. We had a couple of half-hearted nymph takes and streamer "short-strikes", but the day turned out to be a bust. Steve and I will head back there another day to "wash the skunk off". ~ Jeff Conrad

 

Brookville Tailwater - 1/6/2012

Gage @ 4.97 and water temperature of 42° F.

Every Fall the Army Corp of Engineers drops the level of Brookville Lake by 8 feet to make room for Spring rains, giving them some degree of flood control for the areas below the reservoir. Since middle of October, the lake has been dropping, but the rain has kept refilling it! It rose nearly 4 feet during the rains before the holidays. Friday 1/6/12 was the first day that I had a chance to fish the tailwater since October. The flow was a little high but fishable. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day in the beginning of January... sunny with a high of 60° and a nice warm breeze out of the south! The only down side I could see was water was going to drop to one half of the flow of the previous day. This can have an adverse affect on the fishing (we call it a "Drop Day") as the trout seem to take several hours to adjust to new water levels in the stream. The day started out kind of slow but everyone caught fish and things turned on just before sunset. We caught trout on nymphs and streamers with the better fish for me coming on streamers late in the day. ~ Ed Devine


Mysis shrimp (the white goo) and scuds pumped from a trout's stomach.