Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Basic Fly Fishing Series , Article Two : Reading a Trout Stream

Our friend Jeff " Owl " Jones is back with another great article intended to help you catch more fish on your local trout water! Be sure to check out his websites linked below for more great info and also the forums if you want to get in on the trout fishing action!

                                           They Call Me Fishlips

Alright, who took all the trout? 

Getting into anything new has challenges and fly fishing is no exception. Especially when you choose to get into fly fishing for trout in rivers. The water looks confusing and intimidating, and the trout? Well, who knows where they are? Almost every angler feels this way when they stalk clumsily up their first trout stream. It's easy to find yourself standing in a river, looking around you at all the water and wondering just what in the world you're doing out there; not a clue where to cast or where the fish might be. I'm going to try and help you out with that aspect of the sport because although it's been a long time now since my early days on the creeks stalking trout, the frustration and "head scratching" seems like it was just last week. You'll frequently find me lamenting my lack of "good luck" on my blog - so don't feel like you're the only frustrated angler out there chasing trout, whether you're really new or you've been at it for decades. Every dog has his day, ya know? And now,....

The first thing you need to know is that trout always "face upstream." The second thing you need to know is that trout don't always "face upstream." You can count on 99% of the trout you're fishing over facing upstream, but if you get a "curl" or "backwards eddy" or "swirl pool" on one side of the river or the other, there may be trout facing straight downstream...yet still with their trouty little noses into the current. But let me stick to the old adage first things first...

When you look at a trout stream, what do you see? Flowing water - some of it forming bumpy "runs." Some of it forming long, slick pools. And some of it dropping it's way from rock to rock forming "pocket water." There's other types of trout water( including those back eddies), but for now we'll stick to these three. 

Assuming the trout are facing upstream, where you look for them - and where you cast - will depend on a couple of other factors including if there are any bugs hatching or fish rising, and what type of trout inhabit the stream you're fishing. Brook trout like slow water, and you'll rarely find them in the faster "runs." Rainbows love the faster, bumpy "runs" and pocket water, too if it's got enough spunk. Rainbows steer clear of the slow water that brookies love. Brown trout share the same love of slow water that Brook trout do, but (at least in the Southeast) seem to hold closer to the "seam" where fast water and slow water meet. ( Usually in the area of a "run." )

If you want to, you can use the old saying " think like a fish" to determine where they might be with this knowledge. Let's assume there are all three species in your river or creek. You step up to the first pool and notice it's a slick, deep pool but it's upper end is a little bumpy and faster flowing. You can tell by the speed at which the water is leaving the shallow shelf and flowing down into the bumpy head of the run that it's moving fairly fast at that point and slowing as it spreads out into the wider pool. 

Where would the rainbows be? That's right, along the banks in the slower water. ( If that was your answer, you should avoid playing the lottery this week. ) Of course the rainbows will be in the faster water, even if it's only marginally faster than the water 1/2 way down the pool. They like it deep and fast, like a southern fried chicken meal. The browns and brook trout, if they're there - will be along the edges where the water is slower, but where they can still pick off aquatic insects tumbling down through the fast water. That is, unless it's late spring, summer or early fall when both browns and brookies may line up along the banks in wait for the buffet of beetles, ants and other bugs that fall into the water. They could even be near the back, almost at the "lip" of the pool as it flows over into the next area...so be careful stalking the pool and run! Don't forget to try and get a cast or two into the back end of the area before casting further up into the pool. Casting over a trout with a fly line is a pretty good way to make them "nut up" and go streaking up the run...warning every  other trout in the pool that there's danger nearby! 

The other thing I want to touch on is something I mentioned earlier - "seams." A "seam" is where faster water from a run or short pocket beside a rock runs alongside slower water to form a sometimes nearly invisible edge. The trout like to hold near these seams, sometimes(to our eyes) right under them....they can spend less energy holding in a feeding area, but zip out to get anything passing by that looks like it might make a nice meal with little effort. The seams are where you'll find the fish that are looking up also as insects hatching and dying in the water will naturally be pushed toward the edge of this faster water where hungry trout are waiting just out of bounds to dart in for the kill. 

Below is a simple illustration of the different parts of a stream that I've been talking about and where you should expect trout to be. Hopefully, this will help you to identify the areas on the streams you fish that will hold the most trout. And if they aren't there, then you might want to just tie on a "searching fly" like a Stimulator and cast all over the place until you can put together a pattern - because they aren't always where they're supposed to be. But that's why they call it "goin' fishing" and not "goin' catching!"

By Jeff " Owl " Jones from They Call Me Fishlips

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading the Beach

A big reason some surf anglers are so successful is that they are able to " Read " the beach to find fishy looking areas. The sheer size of the ocean is almost always intimidating to beginners when they are first learning to spot some of the features that make certain spots good for fishing. It takes a lot of practice and a trained eye to be able to find productive holes every time. There is also a whole lot of trial and error involved until you learn to read the beach well. It's also possible to find a good looking spot that just isn't holding any fish.

One good way to learn is by asking other anglers you see on the beach. I certainly don't recommend setting up and trying to fish a hole that someone else has found , but most fishermen will be happy to point out some of the features that made a particular spot look good to them. Some smaller "holes" can be ruined if too many people try to fish them , resulting in tangled lines and flaring tempers.

There are several things you can look for that will increase your chances of finding the fish. It's always a good idea to scout for holes during low tide , because the sand bars and outflows will be easier to see and you can get a better idea of where to place your bait when you're ready to fish.

To get started , you'll need to figure out where the sand bar is. The location of the bar plays a critical role in figuring out where the fish might be. If it's in close fish are likely to be behind it chasing bait fish into the shallow water on top of the bar , further out and fish could be holding between the bar and the beach. Waves are constantly rearranging things and holes can show up and then disappear over the course of a week , especially if a storm system comes through that really churns the surf up. Most of the time you can locate the bar by paying close attention to where the waves begin to break as they come in. As the waves cross over the bar , the shallower water causes them to cave in on themselves once the base of the wave can no longer support the top. Wikipedia has a fairly decent article about wave dynamics here , if you're interested in the science behind waves.

Once you have a general idea of where the bar is you can start looking for other features that might make the area more appealing to the fish. When the bar is farther out , it creates an area of deeper water between the bar and the beach that can often hold fish. Another important thing to look for are the outflows. Outflows are areas where a break in the bar allows water from the surf to go back out to sea. Also known as rip currents , these breaks are where fish will come in to feed in the surf. Fish will also lay to the right or left of an outflow feeding on smaller fish and crustaceans pulled out to sea by the current. It is often very productive to place your bait on either side of an outflow. A good indicator of a stretch of beach with a break in the bar is an area where the waves aren't breaking , but are breaking north and south. This usually indicates a break in the bar.

You can also look at the sand on the beach to get an idea of what's going on underwater. Areas with coarse , almost gravel like sand and lots of pieces of seashell washed up are often near deeper holes that may be holding fish. You can also look up and down the beach and find areas where the wind and waves have created points that stick out into the water a little bit further than the beach on either side of them. Sometimes the more subtle differences will have a big effect on the fishing.

Hopefully that will help you get started. I am by no means an expert on reading the beach , but that covers some of the basics. You can find a good article that covers some more of the features you need to look for here.

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving

I'd like to wish all my regular readers a Happy Thanksgiving from Something's Fishy. I hope your day is filled with good friends , good food and good times. For those of you traveling over this long holiday weekend , be safe!

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. First and foremost would be my amazing wife and my beautiful children and all the other members of my family. Second would be all of the great friends I've made over the years. Third belongs to something that's fairly recent in my life , I'm very thankful for all of the wonderful people who have taken time to read what I write here on the blog. I honestly don't think I would continue to post these articles and ramblings if no one read them. I sincerely hope everyone enjoys reading them as much as I enjoy writing them and tinkering with the blog. I'll get back to the meat and potatoes of my blog starting next week with more articles that (I hope) will help you catch more fish.

Until then , take time to enjoy this holiday with your family and friends and show your loved ones how much you appreciate them.

A Virginia Beach Sunrise
On Hatteras Island Fishing Pier in Rodanthe, NC 2010

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Deciding When to Go Fishing

I've heard the question " When is the best time to go surf fishing? " many times. The simplest answer is : go when you can , but there are several factors you can use to determine when you might have a greater chance of success , just in case you have a tight schedule. Keep in mind that what follows is my opinion based on my experience and observations. Most anglers have their own theories on the best times to go and there are a wide range of opinions on this subject.

Perfect fishing conditions for me would be an overcast day with a slight chance of rain , winds out of the northeast at a steady 5 miles per hour and high tide occurring somewhere between nine and ten o'clock in the morning. I'd also like the moon to be somewhere between new and half , but I don't worry about the moon phase as much when I'm fishing in the ocean. On a day like this , I would arrive around seven o'clock , catch bait and have everything rigged and ready to go ASAP. I would definitely fish until noon and maybe later , depending on what the fish were doing.

Overcast days have always worked well for me. I think there are several reasons why , but I can't prove it. Your line is harder for fish to see when it is overcast and it minimizes shadows that can spook the fish. Most overcast days are also associated with a nearby low pressure weather system. I've heard theories about weather and fishing that go something like this : low barometric pressure makes fish feel less full so they are more likely to eat , high barometric pressure makes the fish feel full and less likely to eat. I'll let you make your own judgments about that , but I have seen first hand that fish will bite on rainy days and not at all on the following day after the storm has passed and high pressure has started to move in.

I've discussed the wind here on the blog before , but to sum it up northeast winds push warmer water and fish towards the shore. At speeds over 5-10 miles per hour it becomes increasingly difficult to cast and the surf will get noticeably rougher , making it harder to keep your bait in place.

Tides have a pretty significant influence on fishing conditions in my opinion. High and low tides are the result of the moon's gravitational pull on the water , so the position of the moon during its orbit around Earth dictates surf conditions. You can find out more here , but basically there will be more water in your fishing hole during high tide and less during low tide. Fish seem to come in during high tide. I don't know why exactly , but more water equals more fish. Regardless of the reasons behind why fish do what they do , I've always had good luck starting two hours before high tide and fishing until two hours after. There are some people that like to fish low tide the same way and I'm sure certain species of fish have a preference for feeding during low tide.

There is a great deal of information regarding fishing and the phases of the moon. The Old Farmer's Almanac and several other sources that offer calendars with " Best Fishing Days " use the lunar calendar to predict when the fish might be biting. I'm not much on fishing at night , but it can be really productive when the moon is full. This is the reason behind my statement above about preferring a new moon. Species of fish that are primarily sight feeders are less likely to be actively feeding at night under a new moon and more likely to be caught in the morning.

The bottom line is go fishing when you can. I wouldn't let the absence of any of the conditions discussed above stop me from going , but I would try to fit a trip into my schedule if the conditions were forecast to be just right.

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Antique Fishing Reels

Today I'd like to share one of my favorite websites with you , AntiqueFishingReels.com

I have a fascination with antique reels and this site has some of the most amazing pictures of antique reels that I have ever seen.

I love to hear a good fishing story and some of the exploits of Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey were truly legendary. AntiqueFishingReels.com features the type of equipment these guys used in what was probably the golden age of big game fishing. Seeing the reels and knowing that they were necessary to land the fish people caught back then makes it even more awe inspiring.

I'll let the web site speak for itself , as it is truly one of my favorites. I've spent a lot of time drooling over some of those beautiful , hand made reels. Be sure to check out the photo galleries!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Check Out Our New Pages!

I'm currently expanding the blog to include more content and make some of my more useful blog posts easier to find. I've made a few new pages that I think will improve the site and offer my readers more information.

If you're new to the blog or to saltwater fishing you should check out the page Getting Started. That's the quickest way I know of to get you started catching fish in the big drink and it will save you a lot of time because the really important articles for beginners are all in there.

If you want to see some of the other things I've written and posted on other websites , check out Something's Fishy on the Web. Not much there for now , but I'll be adding more soon.

Just in case you've already caught a bunch of fish and need ideas for what to do with them , you can find my recipe page here : Fish and Seafood Recipes. I love to cook and eat fish almost as much as I like to catch them , so there will be more recipes on there soon. I'm also accepting submissions at forthefish2010@hotmail.com if anyone has any recipes they'd like to share.

I hope to have a more comprehensive list of links to sites I find useful and informative and also some that are just fun soon. The page is already up , but it will be empty for at least a few more days. You can find it here : Something's Fishy's Favorite Links.

Last , but not least , I have a new page where I'll keep my regular readers updated about changes and new features here on the blog. You can find it here : Changes to Something's Fishy

Thanks for being patient while I continue to add new things and improve the blog!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Basic Fly Fishing Series , Article One : Rod, Reel and Line

Today I'm featuring an article by trout fishing enthusiast Jeff " Owl " Jones. Owl specializes in fly fishing for trout in the southern reaches of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is a great deal of good trout fishing information on his website and also on his blog. Jeff has been kind enough to do a series of articles for us here on Something's Fishy that cover some of the basic equipment and techniques you'll need to get started catching trout with a fly rod. Enjoy!

Basic Fly Fishing Series , Article One : Rod, Reel and Line

An old, fat goat trout bum once said (ahem) "Fly fishing isn't complicated. Figuring out fly fishing is what's complicated." And just why do people fly fish vs. spin fishing or even cane pole fishing? What's the reason? Why the funny vests and long, thin rods? Well, I don't have time to cover all of that for you here, but I can break down fly fishing into it's most basic parts which should give you an idea as to whether or not you want to pursue this thing further.  If this article sounds complicated and not worth the effort, you should probably take up gardening or golf instead of fly fishing. And now, we begin... 

Why do people "fly fish?" Well, in the most basic of terms you fly fish because the fish eat aquatic flies or as some in the sophisticated world of grown ups call them " Aquatic Insects" For our purposes here, we'll just call them flies. Trout eat flies. Bluegills and bass will eat a fly too. And while tarpon and bone fish don't eat aquatic insects, some ingenious person started tying "flies" that imitate baitfish and crabs and there ya go. Almost every conceivable type of fish can be caught on a "fly." Flies are what the fish eat, so flies are what fishermen try to feed them, with a sharp pointy thing attached. (Examples Here) To that end, it's not much different from baiting a treble hook with chicken liver and tossing it out for a catfish. Ah, but there is where fly fishing's complication first rears it's ugly head. You can't toss a "fly" to anything with conventional gear. Sure, you can use a "'casting bubble" to throw a fly to fish with a spinning rod and reel, but even then after the fly lands on the water you have no control of it - and trust me you do not want to leave the success or failure of your day's fishing to the river currents.  You want control. Thus, the " fly rod ". Usually a 7 foot to 12 foot rod built for casting a somewhat heavy(compared to mono) line and controlling that line once it's on the water. In fly fishing you're actually not casting the fly to the fish, no matter what I said earlier - you're casting the line. The fly just happens to follow along wherever the fly line leads it. Usually into some low hanging tree limbs or the back of your neck if it's windy.

The fat, thick, colored fly line can be wiggled and giggled in a number of ways in order to facilitate different casts, and once on the water can be thrown around (called "mending") to control the drift of the fly. Of course, you can't just tie a delicate inch long fly made of feathers and floss right to the end of a big, bulky, bright yellow line - so you need a leader and tippet. The leader tapers to a point and the "tippet" is a small diameter mono-filament that can be replaced as you change flies during the course of the day. This way, you're not eating into your leader, which costs about twice as much (or in some cases more) than your tippet material. You can even use mono-filament designed for ultra-light freshwater spinfishing in a pinch. 
There is a reel in fly fishing and you can buy extremely nice ones that have $200 bells and $300 whistles, but for the most part unless you're fishing saltwater or for really large bass, the reel does one thing. Quite simply, the reel holds the line until it's ready to be cast. It also doubles as a tool to play a big fish, as most reels today have quite effective drag systems. For small panfish and trout though, you can almost always play the fish with your hand holding the line, letting the rod do most of the work. 

There are other necessary and not-so-necessary tools and gadgets that the fly angler needs and although some are designed more to catch the fisherman than the fish the list of useful gadgets is about 1/4 mile long. Forceps, scissors, thermometers, zingers, nets, split-shot, indicators, floatant...you get the idea. If you want to jump ahead of your fellow Something's Fishy reader you can check out the articles on gear and other things at the BlueRidgeTroutBums.com website. For now though, you've learned that a fly rod is long and thin because that's what's necessary to cast that heavy fly line and control it on the water - and that a reel is mostly just for holding the line until you need it. Next time, we'll get into where the trout might be in a river, how not to get around in a trout stream, and why in the world anyone would want to waste their time chasing 8 inch fish. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Choosing a Surf Rod

Anyone who has ever visited a Bass Pro Shops store or any other large retailer that sells fishing equipment is probably familiar with the dizzying assortment of rods for sale. There are tiny ultra-light rods for trout and panfish , giant surf rods that can be as much as fifteen feet long and everything in between. It can really be confusing for a beginner. Prices can vary from $15.00 to $20.00 for small generic rods all the way up to $1000.00 or more for handmade custom rods. It is possible to get nice rods that cast fairly well and hold up to the abuse most fishermen will put them through for a reasonable price.

When selecting a rod , the most important thing you can do is decide what type of fishing you plan to do with it. While it's possible to find rods that work well for several types of fishing , this is the exception rather than the rule. Most rods are designed for one particular style of fishing. Using equipment that is too small is a good way to destroy your gear and lose fish , and using rods that are too large can cause you to miss fish and take the fun out of fighting them.

I usually recommend that first time surf fishermen start out small by fishing with a bass rod from a pier. This allows you to get a taste of the way saltwater anglers catch fish without breaking the bank. With this setup it's possible to catch several different species on bait and also with lures.

Once you've decided that you just can't live without some dedicated saltwater gear , there are several factors that you'll need to consider. There are three general categories of surf/pier fishing. The first is just light duty bottom fishing for smaller species like the Spot , Northern Kingfish and a host of other species. Second would be the use of lures for Bluefish and fast swimmers like the Spanish Mackerel. Third and last would be the use of 10-12 foot rods to target large species such as Red Drums and sharks.

For light duty bottom fishing a good choice would be a seven to nine foot Medium or Medium Heavy action rod. I recommend going for a larger size rod simply because it is possible for larger fish to pick up your bait even if you aren't trying to catch them and the longer rod will be able to cast farther from the sand. You'll want a rod that is sensitive enough to pick up light bites from small fish like Spots , but with enough backbone to cast three ounces of weight.

Casting lures to Bluefish and Spanish Mackerels requires completely different gear. Because most lures for saltwater fish average 3/4 to 1 1/2 ounces , a lure rod doesn't need to be as heavy and bulky as a bait rod. I've had good experiences with $60.00 Shimano rods , but if it's in your budget there are a lot nicer rods out there. St. Croix offers several rod designs that would work quite well for throwing lures. These rods could also be used for light bottom fishing applications in a pinch , but personally I don't like to put my lure rods through the abuse caused by casting large sinkers. Whatever you decide to buy , make sure it is light enough and comfortable enough for you to be able to cast it for extended periods of time.

If you've decided to step up and try to catch something big , you'll need to invest in a " Heaver ". There are many different brands available and also a surprising number of shops that offer custom made surf rods. These rods are designed to cast up to eight ounces of weight and to handle fish that would ruin smaller rods. Even though the higher end custom rods can cost several hundred dollars , it's possible to get your foot in the door fairly cheap. A good choice for around $100.00 would be this Lamiglas Casting Rod . You can find them even cheaper , but I would be worried about their durability when casting heavy lead and fighting trophy sized fish.

It's best to shop for rods at an actual store instead of online unless you are buying a duplicate of a rod you already own. For me a big part of the decision is how the rod " feels ". There are several things that you just won't know about a fishing rod until you are able to get your hands on it.

Sensitivity is one thing that cannot be explained. If you can , tie a piece of fishing line to the rod tip and have a friend flick it. The most sensitive rods will transmit the vibrations from this to the palm of your hand. I really like sensitive graphite rods if I'm going to be fishing lures for fish , especially something like a bucktail or jig.

Another important thing to consider is the way the rod " Loads ". This is what happens when you begin your cast. As you start your cast , the tip of the rod loads from the weight of the lure or sinker. When you cast , the loaded tip of the rod whips forward adding distance to your cast. Lighter action rods are better if you plan to fish with small lures or light weights.

Just remember to choose your rods carefully. If you love to fish as much as I do , the purchase of good quality gear should be considered an investment.

The video below should give you an idea of how tough some of the more expensive heavers are and what they are capable of. It certainly explains why they can be so expensive.

The video is from the guys over at Hatteras Island Fishing Militia , you can find them here : FishMilitia.com. There are several good videos there and also a wealth of information and reports about surf fishing. Be sure to check them out!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Love This Time of Year

Cell phone pictures are horrible.

Pictured above is a good friend of mine holding a nice Smith Mountain Lake Striped Bass. We got a chance to fish Saturday and even with brutal winds and heavy boat traffic we managed to catch the fish above. We also had several good runs , but lost the fish for whatever reason. The bait of choice was small Gizzard shad fished on down lines and free lines. Larger bait was holding deep and nearly impossible to catch , so I think the fishing would have been better with bait over six inches.

I have another trip planned for tomorrow and I'll try to get a report up Wednesday.

Now for some housekeeping. Many of you have probably noticed some changes to the layout and design here on the blog. I hope you've enjoyed the new pictures , I think the blog looks a lot better than it did without them.

Another thing you'll notice are orange links in the text of my posts. I'm going to start linking to products from amazon.com and other sites that are relevant to whatever I'm discussing. I find that it is really helpful when trying to explain things to have an embedded link in the text to a picture of what I'm talking about.

I've also set up an Amazon " Store " that you can find here. It's certainly not going to rival Bass Pro Shops , but it is there as a resource for newcomers to saltwater fishing. Most of the products in there are things that I have used  , but there are a few that just caught my eye.

After I get this Striped Bass fever out of my system , I'll get back to writing about fishing. I have several articles planned that I think will be fun to do and helpful for beginners.

I'll be on the Gun Boat , if anyone needs me!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Stripers

The fall Striper fishing here on Smith Mountain Lake has really been picking up over the past few weeks. The water is perfect right now at around 62 degrees and schools of bait and fish are everywhere. A good friend of mine just brought me a fish and a report.

This fish is just barely under the slot , but a good eating size. My friend reported that slot sized fish were busting on shad all around him for most of the morning's trip. Several schools of fish that went under his boat today were thick enough to " Black Out " his depth finder , a phenomenon that occurs when a school of fish is packed close enough together to make the depth finder read a false bottom. I expect these conditions to last well into December.

You can find out more about how we catch these fish here.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Changes Here on the Blog

I'm shifting gears here on the blog for a while. I'll be working on the design and layout over the next few weeks. Now would be a great time for any of you who have experienced any difficulties with broken links or page loading problems to let me know here : forthefish2010@hotmail.com

Another project I'm working on is hosting " Guest Posts " here on the blog. I've been working with trout fishing enthusiast Jeff " Owl " Jones and he has agreed to do a few articles about fly fishing basics. I'll also be doing a few about saltwater fishing over on his blog . In addition to his blog , Owl has a nice website with information about trout and fly fishing that also includes a good dose of humor. You can find it here : Blue Ridge Trout Bums. Keep an eye out for his first post here on Something's Fishy.

I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to check out my site and remind you that questions and comments are always welcome on any of the posts here.

Have a great week!