Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bream Fishing with a Pro

I had the good fortune of fishing with Steve Gibson of Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing this week. Steve has been fishing the west coast of Florida for many years and provides a wealth of knowledge on all types of fishing found in our area. He offers kayak fishing charters targeting many different species, and his website can be found at

We set out to target bream on the Coco Plum waterway in North Port. We used fly rods exclusively and struck early with #10 poppers. My largest bluegill of the day came right after sun up, and measured in at 9 and 3/4 inches.

Paddling along the way and exchanging information with Steve, I kept pointing out a specific palm tree on the shoreline that I had caught my personal best bluegill for this body of water underneath. Slowly but surely I made my way there, and like clockwork had a nice hand sized fish swallow my popping bug on my first cast to that spot. He measured 9 and 1/4 inches.

Almost immediately after that fish I hooked up with my only largemouth bass for the day, a small but scrappy fish that put up a fun fight on a light fly rod.

After the topwater bite subsided, the fish became very selective. Steve found good success after downsizing to a #14 scud. I had a hard time being convinced to downsize as I generally tend to stick to popping bugs and wooly buggers and other various #8-#10 size flies for bluegill. However, the proof was in the pudding when Steve continued to catch fish while I struggled, and finally I joined in on the finesse tactics with a #14 bead head nymph. The fish got smaller throughout the day but still kept our rods bent consistently. 

I finished the day with 26 bluegill, 5 stumpknockers, 1 shellcracker, and 1 largemouth bass for a total of 33 fish. Steve had an even better day than I did catching more of the same assortment of species plus one surprise tilapia. Schedules permitting we will be taking a trip in the next few weeks to fish along either the Manatee River or Lake Manatee targeting all of the same species, so look forward to a report on that! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

A few of my favorite things...

Went out this morning with a new fly reel spooled with sinking line. This was my first time using a sinking line so there was a bit of a learning curve. An olive colored wooly bugger variation that I tied was the ticket today. I managed to snap a photo that captured the kayak, my fly rod, and hand a sized bluegill, three things that make for a good morning no matter where you are.

The tally for the day was 15 bluegill to 8.5 inches, one small largemouth bass that hardly pushed 5 inches, and I added a new species to my fly rod catch list with a 4 inch spotted sunfish. I enjoyed using the sinking fly line and am very excited to try it in various applications in the future.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Myakka Morning

I set out yesterday morning to fish and drift the Myakka river. I put in at the Carlton Reserve kayak launch which is located on Border Rd. in Venice. This was the first time I have fished this section of the river. My plan was to paddle up river and fish and drift my way back to the launch. I brought my fly rod with intentions of targeting bream and bass.

I made it about 3/4 of a mile before I decided I wanted to start fishing. The current was slow if not non existent, but I still did manage to catch a few fish. I found this one cruising a rocky edge along the west side of the river bank.

I paddled on picking off bream here and there from fishy looking spots. There wasn't much surface action as far as boils or bait movement so I had to rely on intuition as to where to cast. Being in the kayak forces me to be more thorough in each spot as the ability to rapidly motor on to the next spot is non-existent. I had to pick and choose my spots. I found that most of the fish I caught were hanging out in the shade under overhanging branches. The biggest fish came where there was cover over the river as well as submerged branches. I did manage two small bass today. The larger of the two struck my bug ferociously along a weedy stretch of shoreline.

It wasn't a large fish but did manage to startle me by striking right as I looked the other way towards a mullet splash. All of the fish except for one were caught on a #10 BoogleBug popper. These are rapidly becoming my favorite topwater fly. The fish are rough on them but they hold up very impressively. I purchased two to test out, and I will definitely be buying more.

Most of the bluegill were in the 6-8 inch range with about six of them over the 8 inch benchmark. The bass liked a faster popper retrieve while the bream seemed to prefer a motionless popper twitched on about a 10 count.

I really enjoyed this stretch of river and spent just as much time enjoying scenery as I did fishing. I saw turtles, pileated woodpeckers, many species of wading birds, and a few raccoons. I surprisingly did not see a single alligator, likely due to the colder weather. Overall I managed two small bass to go with around two dozen bluegill in 4 hours of fishing/sightseeing. 

Babcock/Webb WMA

I recently made a trip to the Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area with my brother to fish Webb Lake for bass and panfish. While it is more touted for its hunting grounds and shooting range, this Wildlife Management Area is home to a very productive lake that holds bass and panfish among other species. Three boat ramps speckle the west side of this 395 acre lake, which east to west is no wider than 1500 feet at any point. We launched our kayaks (no gasoline motors allowed) at the middle ramp and had luck with bass 1-2 pounds early on topwater plugs. The water level was very high so good shorelines to fish were hard to find. I also had luck with my fly rod, casting a #10 BoogleBug popper I managed two bass to two pounds and a half dozen or so bluegill. I only managed to snap a picture of the first bass of the day before we had camera issues...

This is definitely an area I would visit again. For those interested, the park requires a daily use permit for access, which is paid at the entrance of the park. Fees and other info can be found on the link I included in this post to FWC's WMA page.

Catching Up

I haven't had too many memorable fishing trips of late, a lot of catching but nothing unique or unexpected. Mainly smaller trout from 13-17 inches with a few touching 20. The trout are easy to target this time of year, soft plastics fished in 4-6 feet of water with grassy bottom in the vicinity will keep a rod bent most mornings. Otherwise I haven't had a great deal of success in my saltwater excursions, mainly because I have been focusing on flyrodding for bass and panfish mostly of late. I did manage my first snook in a few months however.

Friday, September 16, 2011

DIY Fly Turner

Many popular flies call for use of epoxy. This can be messy and time consuming as most epoxy flies need to be constantly rotated to assure an even finish while drying. The obvious solution is a to use a fly turner, but they can retail for anywhere from 75-100 dollars. The DIY addict in me decided I could make something just as functional for a fraction of the cost, and thats just what I did.

The first and most important part I had to take care of was a motor. I needed something with a very slow spinning rate. Most commercial fly turners spin between 3-7 RPM, so I wanted something that fit in to that range. I found a few inexpensive motors that I would have had to wire myself, but I chose the easy route by purchasing a disco ball motor that was already wired with an AC plug. Not only was it already wired, but it came in a housing that had holes for mounting. I was able to get the motor for $15.99 shipped.

To mount the motor, I found a scrap peice of 1x4 about 10 inches long in the garage. I used a metal shelf mounting angle ($1.79) as a vertical support from the base to the motor. This allowed me to mount the motor with the spinning shaft aligned horizontally.

The last step was making a wheel to connect the flies to while they spun. I purchased a wooden circle from a craft store for fifty cents. However, I had to find a way to make the spinning shaft more apt to connect to the wheel. To do this I used a brad hole T-nut. First, I marked the alignment of the holes on the center of my wooden wheel. I then coated the spinning shaft in epoxy and slid the T-nut over it and let it set. I drilled out holes where I marked the wooden wheel. Instead of searching for micro sized bolts that would fit through the brad holes on the T-nut I came up with the idea to feed nails into the holes and cap them on the other side of the wheel with a foam block. This makes it very easy to remove the wheel when necessary, but is still sturdy enough to keep the wheel in place while the flies are turning. To complete the wooden wheel and make it seat flies, I used a strip of mounting tape around the edge to connect a strip of 1/4 inch thick foam ($1.19/sheet).

Overall I spent under $20 to build a very functional tool, saving me at least $50. Here is a short video clip of the turner:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Plum Crazy on the CocoPlum Canal

Made it out to one of our area's lesser known freshwater paddle fishing destinations, the CocoPlum waterway in North Port. Some may also know it as the 9 Mile Canal. This is an easy spot to get to just off of US41 via North Port Boulevard. There is a very seldom used boat ramp located on the site of the North Port YMCA that I used as my launch. I had yet to fish this canal until this morning, but after today I will definitely be back.

Here is a map:

As you can see, close proximity to US41. There was ample parking when I got there at 7:30, but the parking is shared with the YMCA which had become fairly busy by the time I arrived back at the launch. I backed the truck down the ramp and slid the kayak out before I parked, no need to haul your kayak over any distance. 

I used fly tackle exclusively today, throwing a #8 popper on a 5 Weight setup. I was targeting bream with the hopes of a possible bass mixed in. Not 5 casts in I had a mini explosion on my popper and played tug of war with this guy:

That was the average size of the bream I caught today. Most were a healthy 6-8 inches, but I did have a GillZilla just over 10 inches that managed to hit me with a spine and flop out of my hand while I had him posing for a picture. I used the old adage of following the birds to locate most of the fish today:

Using the #8 popper weeded out a lot of the smaller gills. I don't doubt that I could have had a 50 fish day had I downsized. I had more missed connections than craigslist via small bream mouthing the rubber legs on the popper. One of those little guys realized his eyes were bigger than his stomach though:

The canal itself flows into a finger of the Myakka river. There was a slow current today due to the fact that it has rained recently, and the water drains via a spillway. That spillway could be a destination in and of itself, a popular but hard to access spot for snook and tarpon certain times of the year. In the canal though there are a number of drainage pipes from retention ponds along US41. I found one with a slow trickle of water coming out of it and got excited that I might find a lazy bass slurping up minnows out of the runnoff:

I dropped anchor to combat the slow current, it was a couple of feet too deep to stakeout. I impressed myself with my casting skill (I picked up a flyrod for the first time two weeks ago) by planting my popper in the culvert and letting it fall out with the flow. After no more than 5 casts towards this culvert I picked up a nice two pound bass:

After that the bite subsided. I got a few more missed connections from smaller bream as I drifted back towards the ramp, but none stuck. If I was a wise man I would have switched to a wet fly, but like many I have a sort of addiction to topwater action. Overall I caught no less than 15 bluegill to 10 inches and a single two pound largemouth in about an hour and 20 minutes of fishing. 

Pond Hopping

I have been keeping the fly rod in the truck lately to make a few casts every time I stumble upon a new pond while running errands. It has helped me practice my casting more than anything, but has also lead to a couple of nice fish.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First on a Popper

Headed out in a light drizzle this morning to a spillway down the street. It tends to be a very fishy spot during and after rain storms. I tied on a popper in hopes of finally landing a fish on a topwater fly. Up until now it has been a story of many takes, no hooksets. A few casts in I connected with this:

Not only my first on a popper, but also happened to be the first fish I've fought with my fly reel, he struck the popper after the first strip and the line went taught. Unfortunately as I was making my next cast, the skies opened up and lightning started striking in the vicinity. I wish I could have stayed a bit longer, but not too bad for a 15 minute trip.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fly Tying Station

Like many before me have and many after me will, I decided I wanted to fabricate a custom work station for my new found hobby of fly tying. Google was my best friend for about a weeks worth of searches, everything from how-to articles for making a bench all the way to image searches of retail benches to obtain ideas from. I took notes and listed things I liked and didn't like about certain designs, as well as certain aspects I had to have and others I couldn't do without. I decided I wanted:

  • open space to lay all the tying materials for whatever particular fly I was to be tying
  • storage spots for my small containers (head cement, dubbing wax, etc) 
  • a type of tool rack along the sides so I could have a few bobbins ready plus all of my basic tools
  • some type of finish on the base so I could easily clean up any spilled head cement  

I finally settled with a mash up of at least a half dozen different benches and came up with my own plans. Off to the hardware store I went in search of three things, a veneer covered shelf of a workable size, an 8 foot length of 1x4 oak, and wooden dowel rods.

I found a roughly 1 foot by 2 foot shelf covered in a white acrylic veneer, perfect for my base and perfect for my budget around 4 dollars. I opted for 10 feet of oak to leave myself room for error, and that was 15 dollars. Two dowel rods, one size for support and one for thread spools brought the grand total to just under 20 dollars.

Excited about my frugality I got to work right away. I worked off the dimensions of the base and came up with this:

I began by building a frame of vertical pieces on the sides and back. I then measured and cut a piece to lay flat along the back wall with hole saw cut outs for head cement and other items. The side pieces were topped off with a series each of 5/16 and 3/8 inch holes to accommodate all the basic fly tying tools. Bobbins, scissors, bodkins, bobbin threaders, hackle pliers, and even wire cutters can all have a home. On the left I used one of the 3/8 inch holes and made another directly below it to accommodate my vice. Most vices have a 3/8 inch stem so when I upgrade vices it will essentially be plug and play. The side panels are screwed to the side and back walls, but also have a dowel running through them and through the base for added support. This offers extra storage space underneath the tool racks.  Last but not least I affixed dowels in pre-drilled holes along the top of the black walls to hold spools of thread, tinsel, ribbing, and lead.

All in all I am pretty happy with the finished product. It suits all of my needs as a novice/hobby fly tyer and was extremely budget friendly at under $20 dollars.

Friday, August 26, 2011

First Bass on the Fly

I first picked up a fly rod two weeks ago, and I have loved it every cast since. I started small by tying my own flies for bream, and I have had some pretty decent luck targeting bluegill from local canals and ponds. I expected that I may catch some bass while targeting bream, and I was very excited when I watched this fish flash from the depths and inhale my Panfish Charlie fly. I have caught easily 100 pounds worth of 5 pound bass on spinning tackle in my lifetime, but none left me as exhilerated as my first on a fly. For the record, he was 13 inches and probably weighed just under two pounds.