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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
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
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".
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 caughta fair number of fish, but again it was with great effort. ~jc
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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:-)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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.
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.
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
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 from Kelly Neuman in the car on the way home 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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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. If it keeps up like this I'm heading for Michigan for huge Smallmouth in the lower Au Sable River and Summer Salmon in the Betsie with my buddy Kelly Neuman. ~ Jeff Conrad
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:-)
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
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
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. We rushed home after a fun day of fishing to get pictures of my sweet daughter and her friends all dressed up for prom. Great kids! ~ Jeff Conrad & Ed Devine
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
My daughter (blue dress) and her friends headed for prom.
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:-)
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Conditions and timing we perfect for a trip to Erie, PA to fish Steelhead on Elk Creek. My buddy Mike had never fished Steelhead. It was about time to get him into some big fish. This was an "emergency medical fishing trip"... like a trip to the emergency room without the bills or some doctor telling you you're too fat. We left at 4am, drove the 6+ hours to Erie, PA, hit Folly's End for some flies, tin shot, and some wading boots for Mike, and were on the river by about noon. The water was lower and clearer than I have ever seen over there. There were fisherpeople everywhere and few fish to be seen. The fish that were visible were visibly "beaten" and suspended in that way Steelhead do when they just don't want to be messed with anymore. We did finally find a pod of fish in moving water that were somewhat active. We each landed one Steelhead and hooked several more, while fighting off the advances of some rude and pushy fishermen we ended up calling "The Red Horde". I am not shy about telling someone when they are infringing on my fishing territory, I just didn't know how to say it in whatever langauge they spoke. At least we got the skunk off of us and Mike got to feel his first "freight train" pull of a Steelhead. Off to dinner and early to bed to hit the river bright and early and find some untortured fish.
The next morning (in the rain, of course) we found about 15 fish laying in a deeper run in a pocket about the size of a backyard swimming pool. The fish were fairly fresh, un-pestered (un-pestered that day... it was 8am) and ready to play. We took turns in that hole for about 2 hours, and by the end the fish had all been caught/photographed/released and re-warned about those human things that come by and yank you out of the water. Once we started catching the same fish over again and they came swimming right for the net, we moved on and found another pod a mile or so upstream, repeating the action there. By 2pm we had caught all of the Steelhead we needed to catch to keep the shack-nasties off of us for awhile and headed back to Indy.~ Jeff Conrad
With our 2011 smallmouth guiding season nearing an end, Eddie and I headed off to northern Michigan to see 2 old friends and fish the Au Sable with them. We drug my boat along so we could take them fishing with us and not impose on their hospitality by expecting them to guide us. On Monday we grabbed Kelly Neuman (a good friend and a great guide) and floated the Au Sable from Mio Dam all the way to McKinley... a 15 mile float. We were banging big streamers on 350gr sinktips, looking for trophy trout. It's not a high numbers game, but when it works you can find yourself tied fast to a real pig of a Brown trout. That kind of fishing is a crapshoot and you have to stay true to it and try to make it happen. It is easy to get discouraged and think about switching to a nymph rig and catch a bunch of fish, but when you see a 2 foot Brown follow your fly back to the boat and take a swipe at it, your interest in the process heightens. Even if the fish doesn't eat the fly, the prospect of having one do so is pretty engaging. The float yielded some nice chases but the biggest fish caught that day was 19" brown that Eddie caught using a black/chartreuse Gartside Beastmaster.
The next day we were planning on taking our other old buddy Bob Linsenman floating with us. Bob is a well-known guide/author/flyshop owner/big streamer guru and Michigan stalwart. He is also a pretty savvy guy, because when we met for breakfast and he looked at the sky, he suddenly had 10 vague things he had to do that day. Some of his excuses for skipping our float trip included: The dog isn't feeling well. My sister needs some help. I have an article due. It may rain and my firewood is gonna get wet, etc. Turns out he was pretty smart! It rained 2 inches on us in the 7 mile float from Comins to McKinley and we caught 2 smallish fish (12" & 15"). Everything looked perfect; Dark skies and water going just slightly off-color to mask our presence, rising water to wash lots of food into the river, and nobody in front of us on that stretch of river... first shot at all those pigs lined up to kill something. Oh well. The boat got an excellent "rinse off". We ended up soaked and had to lay everything out in the motel room to dry.
Day three: Eddie had never floated in one of the long Au Sable riverboats they use on the upper Au Sable (the "Holy Water"). So, since we were already up there, I booked a 1/2 day with Gates Lodge. It was bittersweet to be there. I hadn't been up since Rusty passed away. It was weird to walk in and not see him there grinning like a cat that just ate your best dry fly neck. Rusty's successor, Josh is a great guy and is making a go of the lodge and fly shop, keeping up Rusty's tradition of great flies (locally tied and reasonably priced), excellent guides, friendly atmosphere, and comfortable lodging. Anyway, after some confusion about which guide was gonna get stuck with these 2 old fat guys, young Matt Gerlac drew the short straw and off we went to float Stephan's Bridge to Wakeley Bridge. The river was up from the nearly 3 inches of rain the day before, the sky was gray an the day looked perfect for streamer fishing. Eddie and I both really enjoyed being "guided". We let young Matt tie on our flies, retrieve our snagged flies from the incredible amount of brush that has piled up along the banks, and land our fish. Within 10 minutes I had a 20" Brown and we expected more of the same action. Although we did catch some more fish, the sky lightened and the fishing turned slower. The Au Sable is where you go to learn to fish "suicidally"! Because usually only suicidal casts have any chance of cathcing fish. (The Au Sable is home to the "credit card drift"... if you can slip a credit card between your fly and the log, the fish won't eat it.) Well, it is also home to the suicidal streamer cast. For example, you may have to shoot your backcast between trees with low brush all around them and then drop your cast in the "V" between 2 downed trees (pointed downstream) and then let the fly sink in under the downstream tree, while keeping it moving and twitching and then pulling it out at the last second before it snags the next obstruction. Definitely not for the faint of heart or cheap people who hate losing flies.
Even though we didn't find the classic Fall trophy trout streamer fishing we were looking for, it was nice just to escape with my buddy Ed and have 3 days of fishing uninterrupted by life's minutae. Of course, the day we floated the upper Au Sable, Kelly had a banner day on the lower Au Sable where we had floated with him on Monday. He caught he largest Brown trout he had ever caught in the river... a 30.5" monster. Typical fishing guide... "You should have been here tomorrow." But then we weren't paying clients... just ne'er-do-wells that showed up with their own boat and handled 2/3rds of the rowing. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow: 160cfs. Water temp: 55. Air temp: 70. Water clarity: low and gin clear
I had a few hours of downtime on Sunday, so I let the cool water flow around my legs. Flycasting can be so engaging... so therapeutic. I lost myself in thought... what could have been... what should have been... what is. Great old friends... thank God for them. Careers come and gone... what's next. Things I want to do, places I want to fish, music I want to play. It was nice... then this guy woke me up! That was nice, too. (In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn't drink tequila and then write fishing reports :-)
Flow: 525cfs down to 350cfs. Water temp: 61-65. Air temp: 65-80. Water clarity: 2-3 feet of cloudy visibility
Since the White was so low and clear, I decided to take Eric & Barbara Simpson up to the Tippi for a float. I don't know that river very well, having only floated it 5 or 6 times, but this was an exploratory trip with friends, so I didn't feel compelled to be "a guide" as much as fellow explorer (except I brought a kick-ass lunch including peaches in port and fresh eclairs... Eric felt I had reached a new high in my culinary splendor!). We left my house at 7am, met the spotter at 8:45, pushed off into the river by about 9:15 and headed off on our exploration. The river was running at 525cfs, which I thought would be minimum flow for the day. Within the first 1/2 mile we found fish in the faster rock gardens as usual. The long, slow pools didn't produce any action, so with 9 miles of river to cover we began just targeting the faster water and rowing through the slow pools unless they looked especially good, which many of them do, so perhaps we didn't move as fast as we should have. 9 miles is alot of water to cover... especially when the joker running the dam decides to turn the flow DOWN to 350cfs! Mid-afternoon I noticed that I was rowing harder and that the mid-current rocks had higher "wet marks" on them than I had noticed earlier. Soon, the current slowed to a crawl... the slow pools were covered with leaves and they weren't moving! The 100 yard wide riffles suddenly had 3 inches of water in them and we were in for a long slog. We did continue to catch fish in the faster water... not a banner day by any means, but slow, consistent fishing. We caught average smallmouth and Barbara got a freshwater Drum (Sheepshead) of about 5-6 lbs. The winning flies were chart/white Half & Halfs, Purple Darters, my deerhair diver, and some crawdaddy-looking thing that Eric picked up somewhere in his travels. The last 150 yards to the takeout at SR18 was a real drag, as was getting the boat up onto the trailer without being able to back the trailer into the water, since there wasn't any! What wasn't a drag was the company, the beautiful day, and the fact that we were out fishing when other people were being hard-working, productive citizens. I don't mind being a deadbeat. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow: 160cfs. Water temp: 61-65. Air temp: 75-83. Water clarity" 5 feet of gin clear visibility
On a beautiful, bright early-Fall day, my buddy Scott brought his brother-in-law Chris out for an instructional float. Not Chris' first time flyfishing, but his first time casting from a drift raft, stripping streamers, etc. We rowed upstream, anchored up in "the spot", also now fondly known as the "Rock Bass Hall of Fame". We got Chris casting a small popper just to work on his presentation, but a smallmouth had other ideas, so we also worked on his fish landing skills. After that, I had hopes for an easy fishing day, but no such luck. The fish were buried deep in cover... not even in the deep holes, but hiding in cover. After digging as hard as we could I finally asked the guys to just try to lose their flies... to throw them so deep into wood cover that we might not get them back. After all, we weren't gonna need them to catch fish anyway! We did manage to pry a few fish out from under heavy wood cover. We finally found some fish that were in cover (under a tree in some dead fall) but were visible to us from the downstream end, so we did some "teasing the cat"... casting into the cover and luring them out. A few fish came from that hole and the sight-fishing was entertaining. Of course, we saw one monster smallmouth in there that just ignored us. As usual, right at dark as we were nearing the boat ramp the topwater finally turned on and a few decent fish were hooked. It was a fun day as it always is when Scott is in the boat. Chris did really well learning to cast from a boat and did get several fish. No explosives were used, but the tactic was considered. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow: 200cfs. Water temp: 57-61. Air temp: 50-62. Water clarity: 3-4 feet of visibility
Two good friends joined me for a float... Eric Simpson and Bob Smith. Eric and I fish together all of the time, but I had been meaning to get Bob out for a float for several years since I met he and his sweet wife, Mary, at Casting For Recovery in 2005. Bob and Mary are among the kindest, most generous people I know, and I was honored to take Bob fishing. (Mary, your'e next!) We met at 10am and headed up to the put-in. The air temp was 48 but warming quickly... around 50 when we pushed off at 10:30. The water temp was a brisk 57, and I started to reconsider my decision to wet-wade, but too late... the waders were at home. I am never quite sure what to do this time of year. The water is low and clear, the skies are crystal bright, and the fish are schizoid! They are stuck between not wanting to eat because their metabolism is slowing due to the colder water, while at the same time having an instinctual urge to beef up for the coming Winter. I hope I am not perceived as insensitive, but I have to think this might be something like menopause for fish... I'm hot, I'm cold, I'm hungry, I'm stuffed, I love you, I hate you, I need you but get away from me! Wow.
So, to get started, we hit a big rock garden and took a chance on my topwater deerhair diver and a mid-column "BeastMaster General"... a Jack Gartside pattern that pushes water when retreived and then "swoons and dies" when left to drift. Surprisingly to all of us, two small bass hit the flies and we had the skunk out of the boat right away! However, the topwater action didn't continue after that. Once the sun rose high the fish ducked for cover. We picked up fish subsurface on various standards such as Clouser's Baby Smallmouth, Purple Darters, olive Schminnows (on sinktips), and tried unsuccessfully with lots of other flies. Eric is a great angler and always a willing "search engine", so he did lots of switching flies and tactics and helped find fish. Finally at 3:30 we pulled over for lunch. Lunch is frequently a day-changer. We relaxed in the shade, although the sun might have felt better... the wind was up and it was a bit brisk. After lunch I figured that the water was about as warm as it was going to get for the day, so we committed to topwater flies and started banging the banks with deerhair poppers. Although it felt like "Popper O'clock", nobody came calling on our offerings and Eric moved back to the Schminnow on a sinktip and started hammering fish again. About 6pm we came upon some Rock Bass and Smallies busting bait and the topwater action began... slowly at first, but as the sun dropped behind the trees, action increased. As usual I was STILL 2.5 miles from the takeout with about 2 hours of light left, so I jumped on the sticks and we skipped some slow pools that seldom produce fish (probably because I never have time to fish them properly). Once we hit the last 1 mile stretch, the topwater action increased as the light decreased. Bob hit me with a fish, but I forgave him. It was a small fish and it wasn't moving too fast as it had flown 40 feet from where he hooked it rather forcefully :-). That was great laugh! The twilight fishing was like a Summer night, with the biggest fish of the day caught in fading light, straining to see (or hear) the gurgle of the popper and the attack of a smallmouth. I wish I could have days like this with all of my friends. ~ Jeff Conrad
Casting For Recovery is one of my favorite events of the year, flyfishing or otherwise. CFR is a national organization that provides retreats (based on flyfishing) for survivors of breast cancer. The retreats are really more of an opportunity for the women to get together with others who have been through a similar frightening, life-changing experience. Flyfishing is really just the theme to give the participants something new to learn... something to focus on. As we all know, flyfishing will take you mind off of just about anything, so it has ended up being very therapeutic for many of the CFR participants from the 9 retreats that have taken place in Indiana since 2005.
"It was Grandpa who told me that nothing in life could be so bad that fishing wouldn't make it better, or, if not better, then bearable, or, if not that, then at least it was a way to pass the time while you waited for your luck to change." ~ Anon
Indiana CFR was originally started by Barbara and Eric Simpson with a great deal of assistance from Mary and Bob Smith. Last year, Barbara took on the role of Executive Director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation, and Mary stepped up to be the director of Indiana CFR... thanks to both of you for who you are and all you do to make the world a kinder place. They have pulled the retreats together, found the facilities (Wooded Glen), contacted the volunteers, and did everything they could to make a wonderful, healing weekend for the "ladies". We had a great retreat and I got see several old friends including Jim Williams (of Royal River Flyshop and Gander Mountain), Junior Burke, Cecil Guidry, Wayne & Tracy Woods (yep, she's still married to that guy!), Jeremy Weber, Bruce Neckar (who is the resident artist and does some magnificent illustrations for the event), Meredith Wilson, Desi Shidler, Eric Lee, Nelda Wert, medical facilitator Dr. Patricia Rae Kennedy, psychology facilitator Dr. Christine Ward, CFRs "sweetheart" Erica Sheets... a survivor/participant at the first CFR retreat who has since become an integral part of the volunteer team, and many other people who give unselfishly of themselves to help make the retreats possible. (Sorry if I missed anyone :-)
Flow 180cfs. Water temp 72-75. Winning flies: Clouser (tan/white), Schminnow (white), Conrad's Deerhair Diver, Bumblebee popper.
Author Jeff Stone has been taking flycasting and flyfishing lessons with me and has really progressed well. He fishes avidly and usually everyday at some point. We had fished ponds together and he had begun wading local rivers. So 9/21/11 was the day for him to try his hand at flyfishing moving water from a moving boat... a whole new experience for him. We set off on an 8 mile float at 9am. The water temp had warmed somewhat due to the warmer rain that had fallen for the 3 days before our float. We worked on fishing all of the water columns to give him experience with topwater, mid-column (floating line) streamers, deep-water streamers (sinktip line) and indicator nymphing. We dug hard all day long, doing our "9 to 5" work and catching a few fish. The fish he did catch were incredibly tight to wood cover. He'd have to cast suicidally into the wood and then let it sink before stripping. Jeff pulled a few fish out that way. Suddenly, at 5:30pm we rounded a corner into a run that I normally think of as "frog water". It looks good but has never fished well. Not this time! The run was on fire with smallmouth crashing bait. Jeff threw a bumblebee popper in and caught 3 fish on 3 casts. Then we rowed back up, got a few refusals, changed flies to one of my deerhair divers and picked up several more fish. By that time it was after 6pm and I had lingered in the upper stretch too long, so with still 3.5 miles of river to the takeout and 2 hours of daylight left, I started humpin' the boat downstream, only fishing the tried 'n' true spots along the way. We got into more topwater action as the day wound to a close and Jeff hooked the biggest smalmouth of the day. Having not yet experienced the fight of a big smallmouth, Jeff held on a bit too tight and dropped his rod tip a bit too low and the hook pulled out. Fighting big fish is more like a "handshake"... a little give, a little take. Not dominant, but firm and confident. Oh well... everyone has to lose their first big fish to learn how to fight them. ~ Jeff Conrad
I must have a screw loose! I don't seem to be able to go downstream until I have rowed upstream as far as humanly possoblie. I drug Ed into my insanity and convinced him the help me row (and drag) the boat upstream over a mile to see water that can't be reached easily any other way. We found some lovely water and a few decent fish. The river is narrow in this stretch so you are on top if the fish before you know it. We learned to fish from far upstream or bury the boat back under the trees and roll cast or just cast suicidally to reach the fish. It was a nice evening float with my buddy. A bottle of good tequila (Corzo) was a nice finish to a evening of fishing. ~Jeff Conrad
Flow 110cfs. Water temp 64-67 (ouch!)
A 20 degree drop in water temp in 3 days had me offering Scott and Max a "pass" on our float trip, but they held my feet to the fire and made me take them fishing.Tough life! A drop of temperature that drastic ALWAYS changes the fish's behavior as it slows their metabolism, alters the water chemistry, and changes behavior of the food sources they rely upon. Sometimes when the weather changes that quickly you can float and never see a fish... even the rock bass ("sorority girls") go into hiding. We pushed on about 10:30am in 64 degree water that was clearer than it has been all year (most algae dies in colder water), 57 degree air, and gusts to 25mph. The low had been 48 degrees just hours before and my expectation for the fishing was in the dumps. We rowed upstream to our "spot" and started out fishing a Clouser and a Schminnow, covering the bottom and mid water columns. Happily, a few small fish ate the Clouser (olive/orange) right away and we knew that fishing deep should be the answer to catching fish. But once we left the rock gardens in that run, aggressive fish were non-existent. We moved slowly, staying in the upper river to save some good water until the fish woke up. Meanwhile, we went through several fly choices, testing everything including a stonefly nymph under an indicator (which did catch a few fish). After lunch we put on 2 venerable flies, Clouser's Purple Darter in size 4-6 and Kelly Galloup's Conehead Wooly Sculpin in Tan (size 4), and started catching fish in the oddest places. We actually went out of our way to fish "unlikely" or grade B water and found smallish fish. As the water warmed to around 67 (5pm) the fish woke up a bit, and while no big fish were seen or landed, we ended the day with an acceptable 25-30 fish dug out through sheer determination on the part of Scott and Max. My shoulders are still sore from pushing the boat around in that wind, but I'd do it again to fish with these guys! ~ Jeff Conrad
Scott Brown /Jeff Conrad
PS: Max caught plenty of fish... he's was just camera shy!
Flow 90cfs. Water temp 84
Blake and I fished the White on Saturday. There is a saying that only mad dogs an Englishmen go out in the noon day sun, part of my heritage goes back to Wells (close enough) and I forgot to ask Blake his heritage, but we were out in record setting heat of 100°. I can't think of a better place to be in these types of conditions than on a river somewhere. As long as you have plenty of cool water to drink, some occasional shade and good company, it ain't so bad. Blake lives in Washington, Indiana along the White River there. He was in town visiting family for the holiday weekend and wanted to experience the White River closer to its source. Jeff is the normal White River guide but he was otherwise occupied with another obligation so I took Blake on his maiden upper White float. Jeff has been having banner days on the White here lately and I was glad to horn in on the action. Blake was quite amazed at the different character of the water here as compared to Washington, Indiana. The water was low and clear so the rocks, the gravel, the shelves and other structure were quite visible. We started the day about 11:00 A M with some quick top water action and a average smallie got the skunk out of boat no more than 100 feet from the put in. The sun was high so we didn't stay on top for long. We switched to some subsurface flies and they produced and produced and produced. With the water being so clear Blake had a blast watching the smallies chase and then attack the flies. We had an exceptional day with more than 25 smallies, a bunch of rock bass and the occasional crappie. The biguns eluded us but what the fish lacked in size they more than made up for in numbers. We spotted some bruisers on the move but we didn't get any good consistent shots at them as they were a bit spooky. We ended our day back on top and took a few more fish on poppers but the clear winning fly on the day was the Schminnow with a few of the bigger fish coming on clousers. ~ Ed Devine
Flow 100cfs. Water temp 82-87
My old friend and client Randy Wilson and I had a great day on the river. We were fishing by about 7:30am and back in Randy's driveway by 3pm, but we packed alot of fishing in those 6+ hours. Randy is a great angler, both fly and traditional,and really fun to fish with. He reads water very well and never stops fishing. Those 2 attributes make him "deadly". His shoulder is bugging him and he's scheduled for surgery soon, so flycasting was ruled out after about 5 casts. He broke out his spinning gear, his large collection of BARBLESS spinning lures, and off we went. A Pop-r produced a 17" fish within 100 feet of the boat ramp and the day was on. While topater didn't continue to produce, a variety of other lures did. Randy took fish on spinners and crankbaits. The real winner was some sort of Bill Dance fast-diving crawdad crankbait. It caught fish in every kind of water from 2ft to 8ft, slow/medium/fast. The highlight was the 22" Smallmouth that attacked the lure in a fast run... the largest smallmouth of his life. It was a real "goat-ropin" to get that fish landed, but Randy played him perfectly. The day goes down as one of the best fishing days I've seen on the White since 2007. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow 120cfs. Water temp 82-87
Jazz guitarist Bill Lancton and vintner Steve Thomas hopped in the boat around 10am and we took off for a "low-water" float. The river was at 120cfs and the boat was at max-capacity with 3 hefty fellows on board. We rowed upstream about 1/4 mile to a nice rocky run that is one of my favorite places on the river for a few reasons, one of them being the fishing. We anchored up in the shade of an old sycamore and immediately found the "Rock Bass Hall of Fame". Bill must have caught 10 decent-sized goggle-eye in about that many casts. Conrad's Deerhair Diver strikes again! Once the leaders were tuned up and fishing well, we took off down the run and got a few smashing topwater kill strikes that set a happy tone for the day. Bill and Steve were casting well, the flyrods were balanced correctly for easy presentation, the guide chose the right flies, the water had about 3 feet of visibility, and we weren't working (well, I was). Once we fished down through the deeper water with topwater flies, the river flattens out for quite a while, so we switched to lightly-weighted Schminnows to hit the rocks in the shallow runs. One olive and one white to test the color preference... there wasn't one. Both flies took many small fish as we rowed through the shallows. Fishing slowed down as the sun rose high overhead, so we pulled over for lunch. When we started back down the river, Steve was fishing a Todd's Wiggle Minnow and getting hilarious chases and smashing takes. I love the way that fly pisses off Smallmouth! Soon both anglers were throwing those flies and raising fish that we might not normally have seen in the bright sun. As the sun dropped we switched back to the deerhair diver and fished the day away on the surface with lots of takes and plenty of fish landed. A good day for all. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow 160cfs. Water temp 80-85
Tim and Joe joined me for an float. Tim is the CEO of Merchandise Multi-temp Warehouse and a long-time friend and client. We put on around 11am with a goal of fishing until dark. We had a "bluebird day, approx. 2 feet of cloudy visibility and enough water to float the boat with 3 of us in it except through a few of the skinniest spots, where we all had to jump out and drag the boat through gravel. Fishing proceeded at an acceptable pace... not a banner day, but somebody was catching a fish every 15 minutes or so. Schminnows, Murdichs, small hard-body poppers and deerhair divers were the succesful flies of the day. Due to bad timing on my part, we had to rush through the last mile of the float and only lightly fish some excellent popper water in that last mile. (Man, are we losing daylight quickly now!) By that time everyone had caught plenty of fish and had a fun day anyway. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow 200cfs. Water temp 80-84.
Jack and Jim are members of Indy Flycasters and volunteers for the Project Heaing Waters group here in Indy. They're fun guys and avid anglers... we had a good day. The river is dropping and clearing quickly now and we're heading into our normal Summer drought and low, clear water. The fishing was spotty through the high-sun parts of the day, but we did manage to hoist some fish out mid-day with Clousers, small Half & Halfs, Schminnows and some nice terrestrials that Jack had tied. Strangely for this water clarity (3 feet of cloudy visibility), we caught lots of small-to-medium fish in the fast, shallow water on Schminnows. It's fun to watch them attack. Later in the day... around 5:30 we began to notice more surface activity and set Jack to the task of testing the topwater bite. It only took about 200 feet of river to figure out that the topwater action was heating up. So we put everyone on top and started catching Smallmouth in the most fun way on the planet... gurgle, gurgle, SMASH! My version of the venerable Dahlberg Diver brought alot of fish to the boat, as did Jack's terrestrial/popper. For the last 2.5 hours of the float the surface bite continued and didn't come to an end until we ran out of water! The end of the day brought fish for both anglers on their last cast. Uncommon fun! ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow 280cfs. Water temp 75-80
I had the pleasure of spending the day with 2 of my favorite people on the planet! Eric & Barbara Simpson joined me for a float to celebrate their 42nd Anniversary. (Barbara was not yet born when she was betrothed to Eric!) We had a great day on the water. Since the air temps had dropped to the low 50s for a few nights before, and cooler days (in the low 80s), the water temp had dropped approximately 10 degrees in those few nights. That tends to "postpone" the active feeding until later in the day. The water was an "opaque green" with about 2 feet of cloudy visibility. However, we still managed to find some willing fish on deerhair divers and Clousers (on floating lines), Murdich Minnows and Schminnows (on sinktips). Fishing was slow but steady most of the day until the last couple hours of light, when the topwater bite turned on like a light. Eric & Barbara probably caught 20 fish in the last mile of the float! ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow - 765cfs- steady flow all day. Water temp - 82-86
After nearly a month of record air temps and very little rain, the Summer weather has settled into a more normal pattern. Since the White has been so dirty looking, we took a trip up to the Tippi and floated Oakdale Dam to SR 18. The water color was not much better than any other water I have seen in Indiana recently, but we were there, and damnit we were gonna fish. (Plus the "Spotter" had already left with the car... more on that later.)
We shoved off at 1:30pm with Eddie rowin' and me throwin'. I prospected with a popper/dropper rig to see if anybody was looking up but still maximize effectiveness in my presentation.. The popper never got a sniff, but the Spoon Fly behind took 2 smallmouth... nothing big, but they ate! So I switched to a white Clouser and several fish took the fly. Almost all of the fish we caught were in rock gardens in faster water. The long pools didn't give up many fish except when there was a mid-current rock to throw at. After fishing the White and Sugar so much, it is temporarily disconcerting to ignore the banks and fish mid-river, but a few fish later it seemed natural, and roily mid-river water became the target. The killer fly of the day was Clouser tied blue-over-pink-over-white with a little bit of silver crystal flash. We probably took 18-20 fish on that fly. Nothing big... 12"-16", but nice healthy fish that would fight you to a standstill. I love Smallmouth Bass!
As our "bluebird" day progressed, the sky turned "interesting" and then "scary" and about 1.5 miles from the takeout the "gust front" before the storm blew us back upstream about 1/4 mile to Camp Tecumseh. There was no use rowing against it... I tried and could only keep the boat in place, never making any downstream progress. So we sat on the boat ramp at Camp Tecumseh and waited it out. About 20 minutes later the wind died down and we headed to the takeout in a drenching rain. We had contracted a local canoe livery to shuttle our car back downstream. When we arrived at the livery, we found that my car had been whacked by a very large falling tree limb, which broke the mirror and antenna and left a few minor dents. Then came the adventure of backing down a 60 degree boat ramp in the pouring rain and pulling the boat out.
Just another in a long series of "life adventures" caused by the deep, irrational need to flyfish. I know you understand. ~ Jeff Conrad
The upper White has been so dirty and disgusting looking since the extreme hot weather hit. For 3+ weeks, the river has been green/brown/gray and had only about 6 inches of visibility... certainly nothing I wanted to fish in, float in, take clients on, and especially not STEP in! (I have cancelled 15 trips... all but 3 of my float trips on the White this year!) So, on July 29th, after driving the upper river from Strawtown to Mounds State Park upstream from downtown Anderson, I called the IDEM inspectors to look the river over and see if someone had spilled something in it. The river below Anderson was ugly "pea soup", the river at Raible Ave 100 yards above Andersons sewage treatment plant was still quite ugly, the river 4-5 miles upstream in downtown Anderson was STILL ugly, so I drove to Mounds SP and saw that the river was fairly clear and looking good even though there had been over an inch of rain earlier that day. Final analysis... something is happening to the White River in downtown Anderson that is affecting the whole river system. Anderson is only one of 108 cities in Indiana that still has a CSO (combined sewage outflow) where sewage and stormwater share the same pipes, so evertime it rains, raw sewage flows into nearby rivers. Last year Anderson "contributed" 890 million gallons of combined sewage spilled into the river due to rainstorms and occasional equipment failure. The other cities that pollute the West Fork of the White River with CSO are Elwood (into Big Duck Creek and then into the White River), and, of course, Indianapolis with 5-6 billion gallons of CSO annually. Wanna know more? Watch this... http://www.wthr.com/global/story.asp?s=9260797 or read this lovely weekly sewer bypass report from IDEM... http://www.in.gov/idem/5105.htm. these will both give you something to think about in terms of how we allow our cities to treat the water we drink, fish in, and send downstream to our neighbors. If you get your hackles up about this like I do, contact your State Legislator and give 'em an earfull.
On the brighter side, I drove the upper White this evening (8/14) and saw that the water color was greatly improved from a few weeks ago. I'll float it this week if we don't get any significant rain and report later on how it looks. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow - 320cfs, Water temp - 74 to 76
Warren Vander Hill is a Muncie flyfisher, former Provost of Ball State and teaches the flyfishing course at BSU. He is a fun guy to fish with and is a "guide's dream"... he brings his own lunch! We set out for an 8 mile float and rowed upstream to a favorite hole. His 3rd cast produced a nice Smallmouth on a Deerhair Snack... my version of a Dahlberg Diver with a foam wing to help keep it afloat long after the deerhair is saturated. We fished the same 2 Deerhair Snacks all day, with a short intermission to fish a beadhead Murdich Minnow when the topwater bite slowed down. Warren has some serious endurance and fished hard all day. He reads water very well, casts very well, and knows his way around landing a fish. The end of the day brought an estimate of 40-45 fish, 1/2 smallmouth (up to 16") and 1/2 rock bass. No complaints! ~ Jeff Conrad
Gage: 3.07cfs, Water temp: 62
James is relatively new to fly-fishing and wanted to shorten his learning curve. This one of the primary reasons to take a guide as well as access, safety, local knowledge and experience. In fact, the way we see it is that after a trip you should be all that much more prepared to do it on your own. We kind of had the perfect storm of day to accomplish this as the morning was thick with fog, that broke to sunny hot weather and then they dropped the water on us. This gave us a chance at some early streamer action that lasted a little longer because of the fog and low light conditions. When the sun did pop out it brought with it a midge hatch that lasted until the CORPS dropped the water down on us. A drop day, as we call, almost always puts the fish in a bit of a funk as they adjust to the new flows, pressures and temperatures if that changes too. After that we took a little break had some lunch and waited for things to settle down before we went to nymphing. James caught fish on all three tactics and we has us quite a good day with better than 15 fish to hand and quite a few long distances releases that were no ones fault but more a function of the tinny flies we where using when they occurred. James is originally from Liverpool, England and as I had lived in England for several years (back in the 90s) we traded war stories of each others faux pas in the respective countries and had a bit of a laugh at each others mistakes. All in all a good day to be in the water. ~ Ed Devine
Flows 295 cfs rising to 433cfs
I was supposed to fish Eric Simpson and his wife Barbara Friday evening however Barbara had a last minuet obligation that prohibited her from coming along. Eric found himself another fishing date for the evening... our old friend John Freeland. John was fishing poppers and Eric fishing subsurface flies. It was "popper time" because John started the show shortly after he started popping along. We switched back and forth as poppers were not the only thing working... just the most fun. The count on the evening was 20 or so fish to the boat with a couple long distance releases. We also got a bit of a surprise when Eric tossed a clouser minnow into some roiled water and 20+ inch channel cat smashed it. At first we thought it was a huge smallie until we got a look at it but it was a fun surprise none the less. The winning fly of the day was Jeffs' Deer Hair Snack that he developed for the White River but, like most good ideas, it works just about everywhere, Sugar creek included. ~ Ed Devine
Flow - 400cfs, Water temp - 72 to 76
I had the pleasure of fishing with Karl Glander and Al Fish... members of Indianapolis Flycasters. These guys are the young at heart, great fun to hang with, and excellent anglers. We floated 6 miles from noon until 9pm and enjoyed topwater action most of the day, although the big fish of the day (18") came on Al Fish's tie of the "Schminnow" in white. Karl fished deerhair divers all day while Al switched back and forth. It has been interesting to note that topwater action has been steady mid-day, mostly in the shade and then there is a lull in the popper bite at the time it would normally start picking up. So, from 4-6pm I have been moving away from topwater and having success with wonderfully simple flies such a the Schminnow and the Murdich Minnow, both in olive and white. I really apreciate simple flies that catch fish and only take 3-5 minutes to tie! BTW, I have been tying Murdich Minnows with a tungsten bead and fishing them on 12ft 4x leaders on floating lines. This gives it enough depth while giving the fly a nice jigging action. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow - 310 cfs rising to 1,030 cfs
Todd Settle and I Went for a short float on Sugar creek on Saturday. It being the Forth of July weekend I figured it would be a bit of a mad house with campers, swimmers, canoes, rafts, inner tubes and all manner of floatable devices especially in the middle of the day. It had rained north of where we were Friday evening but the flows looked good so we went for a quick float to see what was going on. Well it was going on despite the flotilla of people on the river. We found some less than crowded areas and the smallmouth were cooperating. We caught no less than 25 average fish on sub surface flies and probably would have doubled that amount had we'd been fishing more than one angler at a time. That was until the water started to catch up with us. We noticed that water seemed to be changing colors and rising but it wasn't effecting the bite much at first so we fished on in hope that the last part of the float would keep producing and maybe giving up a few bigguns. We went to bigger more colorful flies towards the end and picked up a final fish close to the take out but the bigguns eluded us. Had the water stayed at the 310 cfs flows at the beginning and not gone muddy it could have been a float for the history books. Oh well that's fishing and still a good day. ~ Ed Devine
Gage @ 3.16 and water temperature of 61°
Steve and Sid are members of Indy Fly Casters club where I did a presentation at one of their meetings early this spring. They are both experienced anglers, a pleasure to fish with and have fished the tail water before so it was a fairly easy day for a guide. The nature of guiding is that more of the clients are closer to the novice side of things and want to learn, so instruction can be a big part. These guys didn't need any of that so we got to fishing and hook ups quickly. We started the day with streamers and the fish cooperated, starting (as with most fishing buddies) a friendly competition. That being said I have to confess something in that when Sid caught his first rainbow Steve said to measure it so he couldn't lie about it later, but in our haste to get it back in the water I forgot to measure it, so Steve... when I told you it was 13 1/4 that was an estimate. It could of been that or a bit bigger but no more than 14. Now that the air is clean I'm sure the razzing can continue. Anyway they picked up over a dozen fish with a bunch of long distance releases as the fish have been taking flies more gingerly than normal and there was no clear winner on the day. ~ Ed Devine
Steve Burkett at Brookville on 6/25/11
Gage @ 3.2 and water temperature of 61.5°.
Kirk Gibson and I fished Friday afternoon/evening at the tail water. Kirk and I have been trying to fish together since late January and the weather had zapped us in one way or another every time we had tried. It seems only fitting the we arrived at the tail water to get rained on soon after we started. It wasn't anything threatening or dangerous so we put on the rain gear and fished. The fish are already wet and sometimes trout turn on with a change in weather. Kirk is fairly new to fly-fishing and lives fairly close to the tail water so he wanted to get to know the stream. We fished until dark thirty and tried to cover all of the stream for future reference. We would have covered the entire stream had it not been for interruptions of hooking up with a dozen or so fish. We had as many long distance releases as we did fish with the bulk of the landed fish on streamers. Nymphs were working too, however the fish didn't seem to be taking them with the normal gusto accounting for most of the long distance releases. ~ Ed Devine
Tail Water gage @ 3.2 and water temperature of 63° F.
Jeff and I Hit the tail water Sunday and I went again on Wednesday evening of this week. The rainbows have seemed to have settled in nicely and the high waters from the recent record discharges has helped to disperse them from their stocking sites. We have been catching bows from the beginning to the end of the tail water. They are eating well, have grow a bit from when they were stocked (a month and a half ago), are in good health. Most of them are kind of carbon copies of one another as they are fairly fresh from the hatchery. We have also been catching browns although not quite as many as usual. I think the new bows are grabbing flies a little quicker than the more wiley veteran browns that have been there for at least a year and are fussier about what they eat or how it is presented. This too shall pass, as it already seems that the bows are getting more selective in what fly and drift is working on them. Nymphs have been the ticket with a few coming on streamers. We have seen a few caddis plus some midges in the evening however not enough risers to justify changing over to dries or at least not yet. Ed Devine
Flow = 100cfs. Water temperature = 62
I was joined by Andy and Dave from Cincinnati for an instructional wade trip. Just as I arrived around 11am the water dropped from 250cfs to 100cfs. "Drop days" are usually pretty tough... at least for the first several hours after the water drops. This one was no different. The fish run to the only deep holes left, so if you're not in one of 3 or 4 key spots there aren't even any trout to fish to. We fished in the sun, rain, hail, fog and then sun again as the day went on. About 4pm the fishing turned on like clockwork and the guys landed a few fish each, missed a bunch more, and learned a whole lot about nymphing and presentation, including stack mending. The day ended up a success after a slow start. Nymphs were the answer of the day. Only 1 fish came to a streamer. One angler that shared his hole with us (thank you, sir) was cleaning up fishing a midge emerger under an indicator. ~ Jeff Conrad
Flow = 550. Water temperature = 72
We hit Sugar Creek for a afternoon/evening float. I hoped the popper bite may be starting with the warmer weather we have had as of late. Todd Settle and I got on the river about 3:00 P. M. with the plan of floating until dark. Things started out as usual with a few average fish on streamers. We saw a few fish busting the surface and chasing baitfish out of the water, which brightened our hopes for some fish on poppers. The popper bite never developed but we cotinued with streamers and they produced as usual. In fact they produced a little better than usual with a 20 plus inch fish for Todd.
Noblesville guage at 1200cfs - water temp 70
After 2 MORE WEEKS of rain, the White is finally dropping, although I can't say t is clearing. The water color is still ugly... more brown than green... but the fish are voracious. The water temp is rising and turning on their metabolism. I waded the Noblesville stretch for a few hours and picked up this lovely fish on a Clouser Darter tied in crawdad colors. Jeff Conrad
Noblesville guage at 1800cfs - water temp 58-60
I couldn't take it anymore! I didn't care if the river was running through the streets of Noblesville, I was gonna fish some moving water or die trying! I'm sick of ponds. The river has been blown out since the day after my last report (4/3). The river still has significant color and the flows are pretty high, but the water temp was 60 and the fish were actively feeding in the eddies and side channels. I fished from 5-8pm and cleaned up on the White River grand slam of Smallmouth, Crappie, Rock Bass, Largemouth, and Carp. A heavy olive/white clouser with orange eyes was a good choice, but then later in the day the Purple Darter was a good selection as well. Let's hope the rain holds off so we can FINALLY get some Spring fishing going before Summer is upon us.
(The rod pictured below is a boat rod I built as an extra for guide trips. It's a 9ft, 4pc, 6wt loaded with a 7wt line. An inexpensive kit from www.jannsnetcraft.com. The whole rod was less than $120. Quite a good fishing tool for that price.)
Water temperature 44.6
Todd Settle and I hit Sugar Creek for an evening float. The rains that affected everything else didn't hit it so much and the water was fine (350 cfs) albeit still a bit chilly for smallies (or at least I thought so). The warm weather must have got the smallies going because we had a rather productive evening with better than 20 fish to the boat and a long distance release or two. It looks like spring is beginning to spring and time to start thinking about smallies as the weather warms. Ed
Water temperature of 48-52°.
I waded the Upper White in 2 spots today. The look and feel of the water and the healthy looking fish gives me hope for the 2011 season. While the fishing was slow I did manage to find 12 fish from 9" to a hefty 17". All fish took a tan/brown conehead Wooly Sculpin. I found the fish mostly laying in 3-5 feet of water in slower pools with dark bottoms. They were holding over the dark bottom to warm themselves up and in the slower pools to avoid fighting current. I did cast through some heavier water, but had no takers. If the water keeps dropping and clearing the way it has been we'll have a banner early Spring of fishing.