Similar Fly Fishing Tactics Catch Speckled Trout & Bass

Approaching quiet water on a warm and muggy Gulf Coast morning, early risers in brackish backwater are slashing at pogies.  Instead of observing the aggressive behaviour of bass feeding near and on top, I overcomplicate the strategy and focus on baitfish skipping for their lives.  After an hour of failed attempts with minnow fly patterns, I switch over to a topwater foam fly.  By the third cast, the line is tight with the first of several small to medium-sized bass.

Bass on PopperFast forward six weeks to a 40F cold November morning.  The water is silent.  No sign of fish feeding.  The anticipation isn’t quite as high, but I know bass are close by, and maybe even a salty species since I spied blue crab on the feed in shallows the day before.  Topwater and dry flies are my favorite method to catch fish, and since dawn is breaking, and the water I am fishing is relatively protected, I tie on a bass popper fly.

Popper

Bass popper fly chewed on by saltwater speckled trout

The fish seem almost sleepy, but as the sun rises the water slowly comes to life.  The first sign of activity is the increasing frequency of nervous minnows rippling the surface.  Then as it often happens, I’m distracted from my current retrieval pattern while scanning the water for the next cast.  GULP..tight line…then it goes limp.  It’s one of those mornings when every bite counts, and that may just have been the one I regret.

Not long after, I make a short cast to structure at the mouth of an outflow, twitch the fly erratically, and let it rest.  CAWOOOM!  Fish on, and it feels like a heavy bass.  A real good bass!  But then I catch a glimpse of the light blue and silver hues and realize this is no largemouth.  What might just be the largest saltwater speckled trout I’ve ever hooked is putting up a fight that I fear may be over quickly.  Speckled trout have relatively thin facial cheek skin behind lip, and yet I need to put some serious pressure on this fish or lose it in the wood.  She runs underneath my kayak, and for several reasons I’m not in a position to cross over to other side of the vessel to continue the battle.  The only choice is unfortunately grabbing the leader by hand, and encourage the fish to turn and run.  I somehow lose tension and the fish runs.  She’s still on!  After two more runs, several head shakes, and teasing views of the trout just beneath surface, I am in near disbelief upon netting a fat 23.5″, 4.88 lb saltwater speckled trout on a topwater popper fly!

Speckled Trout 23_5

Author, Aaron Rubel, with a 23.5″ saltwater speckled trout caught on a bass popper fly

“Walking the Dog” is a popular technique for luring saltwater fish to topwater on the Gulf Coast.  It is not a tactic that I have been able to emulate with a fly.  So, after a couple years of futile effort trying to do so led me to re-think the strategy.  What I began to contemplate and eventually experiment with changed my perception that saltwater speckled trout and freshwater bass are species worlds apart.

Speckled trout are aggressive when on the feed.  Bass feed angry on topwater.  Speckled trout also like it on top early in the morning, especially on glassy water.  So, I tied some red and white gurgler flies that I had caught bass on prior.  On a November evening a couple of years ago, I cast to structure just like I would to bass.  This time though, it would be in the open salty waters around abandoned piers of Mobile Bay.  Fishing that evening wasn’t on fire, but I caught three trout, with one going 19″.  On a gurgler topwater fly!  The method used was by twitching the light fly with finesse I typically use to target bass.

Since then, the theory that speckled trout will react to smaller than typical patterns on top like those used for bass species have proved effective.  Next time you venture out to target sea trout, take along a two inch popper or gurgler fly, add action that evokes a predatory response to a struggling life form on the surface, and be ready on every cast to connect with a nice salty speck!

For more details on this technique and the exciting day that resulted after catching this personal best speckled trout, visit a story run on Kayak Angler Magazine at link: http://www.rapidmedia.com/kayak-fishing/categories/departments/4017-fly-guy-beats-them-all.html

 

 Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

 

 

Kayak Loading Made Easy

My back and neck aren’t what they used to be.  I have to admit that after a few car accidents affecting my back in combination with shoulder reconstructive surgery, loading and unloading a kayak isn’t my favorite part of a fishing trip.

Step one was to lower the height of transporting my kayak.  Although I prefer a relatively low profile and cost efficient vehicle, loading up onto the roof still required lifting above the shoulder.  This effort put stress both on my shoulder and neck.  Days following fishing trips made my chiropractor very happy, but left me feeling regretful in pain.

After some time, I changed to a Malone trailer with a Thule Glide and Set 883 pad system.  In my opinion, this has been one of the best investments, albeit not cheap, that I have made since starting in the sport of kayak fishing in 2006.  The lower height of the Malone trailer limits lifting to below the shoulder, virtually eliminating stress on my neck and compression in my shoulder joint.


The concept of the Thule Glide and Set 883 system uses a pair of felt pads on the aft bar of the trailer that are manufactured with a flexible joint.  This flexible joint takes on any shape change of the kayak hull as it is pushed up onto the trailer.  The thick felt on the pads allows the kayak to glide effortlessly into position.

Aft mounted Thule Glide pad

Aft end of kayak on Thule Glide pads

For the front bar of any trailer, Thule has designed an adjustable set of pads that feature a rubber material and articulating joint that allows the angler to change the fillet arch, matching that of any kayak hull shape.  The rubber resists fore/aft movement of the kayak in combination with tie-down straps.  Even in wet weather on long trips, I haven’t had any issues with the kayak sliding out of position.

Thule Set pad

Front mounted Thule Set pad

Front side hull of kayak on Thule Set pad

So, if you’re looking for a way to ease the effort of kicking off or concluding a kayak fishing trip, check out the Thule Glide and Set 883 system in combination with the Malone trailer at your local kayak shop.  I’ve had this system for two years now, and I love it!

 Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Reef Madness in Kayak Angler Magazine

I am thankful to Kayak Angler Magazine for extending the opportunity to share a view of the article I wrote in the 2014 Summer/Fall issue of the publication with those of you who read my blog.  I hope you the readers will take the opportunity to either purchase a copy for yourself at a local newsstand or online at the link below.

While reading the article, you will learn how kayak anglers are joining up with local conservation efforts across the country to restore oyster reefs that are so vital for marine habitat preservation.  These improvements in turn benefit the quality of fishing opportunities!

KAv8i3-26Kayak Angler Magazine offers some great deals on subscriptions too, so check it out!  In this issue there are skills tips from some of the most knowledgeable anglers on the water, and even a story about kayak fishing in Scandinavia!

KAv8i3-1-1

To obtain your copy of the latest edition of Kayak Angler Magazine or subscribe, click here!  http://www.rapidmedia.com/read-the-current-issue-ka.html

Photographs shown protected Copyright 2014 by Rapid Magazine Inc.  All rights reserved.

Upper Peninsula Michigan Smallmouth Bass

There’s a place north of the 45th called God’s Country.  It’s a place my father and I have trod many a mile through forest, swamp, and highlands searching for whitetail deer.  It’s a place where most fisherman’s thoughts turn to brook trout.  It’s a place where moose, wolves, cougar, and black bear roam the wilderness.  It’s a place not easily reached by car, plane, or train and for good reason.  The Upper Peninsula of Michigan (termed “the U.P.” by native Michiganders) is a special and wild place.

Cross north over the Mackinac Bridge that connects lower and upper peninsula’s of Michigan, and it’s difficult to believe you haven’t entered another state.  The topography suddenly changes and colorful flowers obviously not planted by man grow on both sides of what seems nearly every country road.  Table fare of various whitefish recipes, a delicious pasty, and strawberry shortcake can be found in out of the way, yet memorable restaurants.

Roxane's Smokehouse Restaurant in Strongs Corner, Michigan makes the best strawberry shortcake with a homemade sweet biscuit.

Roxane’s Smokehouse Restaurant in Strongs Corner, Michigan makes a great strawberry shortcake with a homemade sweet biscuit.

The state fish is the brook trout and romance species of the great white north.  Yet my favorite species to pursue in this range is the smallmouth bass.  Our family has a cottage on an eastern U.P. lake that had been taken over several years ago by bullhead catfish.  Since then, careful management techniques to reduce the population of bullheads and balance it with smallmouth, largemouth bass, and bluegill game species have been successful.  During a recent trip to the lake we caught all three species of game fish, including juveniles up through well established adults.  The early morning alarm clock is anticipated in the form of a yodel from loon, signaling good fishing in an unparalleled wilderness backdrop of tall pine and hemlock surrounding the lake.

When looking for a good fishing lake in the U.P., seek those that have variable depths, with some natural and protective shoreline.  These lakes will provide shelter from the harsh winters.  There are lakes in the range that are shallow, and as a result freeze several feet thick in the winter.  Deep freezing in shallow lakes will reduce potential for game fish survival. Heavy snow pack in the U.P. can provide a layer of insulation, preventing fatal freeze depths in these shallow lakes and yet block valuable sun rays from reaching through the water column.

Once finding a lake that has characteristics friendly to smallmouth bass, cast to structure, drop offs, and transition areas such as pinch points that combine the two.  My favorite flies to catch adult smallmouth bass on lakes are top water concave foam poppers. I like to use a primary color of black with red accent at dawn and dusk, then switch over to chartreuse with black accent as the sun rises above the tree line.  I know sub-surface flies such as crayfish patterns are great for enticing smallies, but as an angler can’t resist experiencing a football shaped bronzeback rolling on a fly off the surface, doubling over a medium flex fly rod and on into a battle royale!

This 18" smallmouth bass was caught by Aaron Rubel on a U.P. lake. Photograph by: April Rubel

This 18″ smallmouth bass was caught by Aaron Rubel on a U.P. lake.

Smallmouth bass are beautiful creatures with hues of gold, brown, and black.  Keep them in the water when you take pictures.  Keeping the fish wet while snapping a photo will help to maintain protective slime and at same time share what kind of habitat you caught it in with those viewing the picture.

The beauty of smallmouth bass and the habitat they reside in.

The beauty of smallmouth bass and the habitat they reside in.

Releasing adult smallmouth bass is important.  Smallmouth take several years to reach lengths of 18″ and greater, and these fish are prime brood stock for promoting future generations of the species.  This smallie was released back into the lake that our family cottage is located on.  It is a testimate to the results of what careful conservation management techniques are capable of.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources have put together a great resource to the angler in providing maps of hundreds of lakes throughout the state.  Many of these lakes will take some effort to get to, but it’s part of the adventure of fishing the U.P.  You can find maps of Michigan lakes here:  http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-67114_67115-67498–,00.html

Photography by Aaron Rubel, and April Rubel

Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

 

A Day Fly Fishing the Huron River

Upper Huron River, Michigan

The Huron River in Southeast Michigan

The Huron River in Southeast Michigan is well known for quality smallmouth bass.  Last Saturday was my first time fishing these waters holding smallies and other great warm water species.  What I didn’t realize though was the charm of the surrounding area.

Nestled to the west of the hustle and bustle of Ann Arbor and Detroit is a small village named Dexter.  I’m not sure whether it was the pride evident by the natural preservation of Mill Creek that runs through this village, the sight of a vibrant downtown cast in a unique shape defined by the triangulation of the creek on the west side and the Huron River to the east, or the sight of an old fashioned music in the park event on Friday evening, but as I drove through this quaint community it felt like a place I wish more of America were like.

Music in the park on a Friday evening in Dexter, Michigan

Music in the park on a Friday evening in Dexter, Michigan

This past Friday afternoon and evening I drove along the entire length of the stream between Ypsilanti and Portage Lake.  I decided my day of fishing on Saturday would be enjoyed in the area around Hudson Mills Metropark.  The 47 miles of public land surrounding the Huron River is a great example of how the watersheds in Michigan are for the most part open to recreating and enjoying with good access.  By no means did I cover even a portion of the hiking trail system that runs through the parks, but I was impressed with the 1.5 miles of trail I did traverse during my Friday afternoon scouting adventure.

As fog rose off the head of a pool early Saturday morning, so did a smallmouth bass to a chartreuse popper fly cast to the center of the stream.  A promising start to a delightfully productive morning of fishing.

Thank you to River Bassin Tournament Trail for granting permission of use of this picture of this smallmouth I caught on Saturday, July 26th, 2014 on the Huron River.

A smallmouth bass caught by Aaron Rubel.  Thank you to the River Bassin Tournament Trail for granting use of picture.

During the first few hours of fishing, the river gave me four smallmouth bass, and a largemouth.

A 14" largemouth bass caught on a chartreuse popper fly.

A 14″ largemouth bass caught on a chartreuse popper fly.

When looking for largemouth bass, I found this one in a slower section hidden among a natural stream bank wooded structure above a river bottom lined with grass.

The Huron River isn't all about bronzebacks.  It has healthy largemouth too!

The Huron River isn’t all about bronzebacks. Healthy largemouth abound too!

All fish landed except for one were caught off the surface.  A rock bass pictured below went after a hopper imitation in the early afternoon.  After the sun came out, one smallmouth was caught in the shelter of a riffle on a sub-surface brown and gray crayfish fly pattern.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first day on bass waters of the Huron River. I especially appreciated spending a day on water that is protected for conservation.  Next time you visit Southeastern Michigan, take some time to visit this scenic and accessible river.

I also had opportunity to meet some other anglers as part of the catch, photo, and release format of the River Bassin Tournament Trail event that I was participating in at the same time on this beautiful Saturday.

Competitors who caught qualifying fish in River Bassin Tournament Trail - Saline event from left to right:  Kyle Moxon, Cameron Simot, Chris Lemessurier, Richard Ofner, Aaron Rubel, Paul Biediger, Mike Hurst

Anglers who caught qualifying fish in the Saline, MI stop on the River Bassin Tournament Trail from left to right: Kyle Moxon, Cameron Simot, Chris Lemessurier, Richard Ofner, Aaron Rubel, Paul Biediger, and Mike Hurst

Results of the July 26, 2014 River Bassin Tournament Trail event in Saline, Michigan:

1st. Cameron Simot – 53.5″ (Adjusted vs. website reporting for late to check-in penalty)

2nd. Richard Ofner – 51.0

3rd. Kyle Moxon – 48.5

4th. Chris Lemessurier – 46.5″ (Adjusted vs. website reporting for late to check-in penalty)

5th. Mike Hurst – 40.25″

6th. Paul Biediger – 39.25″

7th. Aaron Rubel – 33.0″

8th-14th. (Did Not Catch Qualifying Fish):  Michael Dusseau, Michael Heckman, Ashley Kuilema, Andrew Newcomb, John Ricciardi, Chris St. Pierre, Kevin Williamson

Team Results:

1. Cameron Simot & Chris Lemessurier (Yeah Buoy)

2. Richard Ofner & Kyle Moxon (Canuckbassers)

3. Mike Hurst & Paul Biediger (Wolverine Lake)

Click here to find out more about the Saline event of the River Bassin Tournament Trail and how you can get involved in an event near you!

Thank you to the Kayak Corral kayak shop of Saline, Michigan for hosting the tournament.

 

Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

 

Grab Your Fly Rod & Let’s Go Snorkeling!

River  640Thank you to the publisher of Great Days Outdoors Magazine for granting permission to post this article to my blog that I originally wrote for the June 2013 edition of the publication.

It was a warm June night a few years ago along the shore of a productive Midwest trout stream.  I was resting in between a spinner fall of spent wings and the hatch of duns during the fabled Hexagenia Limbata mayfly emergence.  These mayflies are famous for blanketing the river surface.  Large trout like to feed upon them.

I caught a few trout on dry flies over the span of two nights on the river.  However, another memory remains vivid from the first evening.  There was a couple sitting alongside me on the bank enjoying the quiet night, interrupted only by brightly twinkling stars and the fluttering sound of large mayflies.  They had fished one bend upstream of me.  I asked the gentleman what they had caught that night.  An hour before, I had heard some excitement from upstream where the couple was fishing.  He told me a story about catching a 23” rainbow trout that fed in the exact location where he had seen it the week before.

His answer intrigued me, so I prodded a bit more to understand how he had discovered the specific location of the large trout.  This was a rather wide and winding river with a lot of woody debris on the river bottom.  Not a river that easily gives up life that’s underneath what only eyes can see from above.

View the Body of Water as a Fish Does

The gentleman told me of his enjoyment of snorkeling and decided to put it to use to benefit his second love in life, fly fishing.  Typically, the June water temperatures of the northern climate I was fishing are much colder than our body temperature.  So the week before that glorious night of catching a large trout, he decided to put on a wet suit and snorkeling equipment to have a look under the river’s surface.  What he found was nothing like he had imagined.  He saw fish holding in current, aquatic life moving about, and the structure and cuts that dotted the river bottom.

There’s nothing more thrilling than watching a fish pluck a fly from the water’s surface.  But if I were to add up all the fish ever caught on my fly rod, I would have to guess that 95 percent of those fish were caught with a subsurface fly.

Whether we are fishing in a stream full of aquatic insects, crayfish, small baitfish, or an estuary populated by shrimp and crab, the vast majority of marine life remains suspended underwater.   Even when fishing a stream that has bugs visible on the surface, just imagine how many more insects, minnows, crayfish, and other life reside within the volume of the water in depths below.

Fly Rod Reel Clouser

Finding the Aquatic Food of Your Local Watershed

We as humans find refuge in our homes.  So does marine life.  Next time you’re in a river and see a piece of wood or rock that appears to have been in the water for a significant amount of time, pick it up.  Turn it over to look underneath.  Let the sun warm the rock or wood for a minute.  The once sterile looking piece of structure will come to life with wiggling insects.  When putting it back to rest in the water, be sure and place it in the same position that it laid in prior to lifting it from the river bottom.

I’ll always take advantage of fish feeding on top, but my first go to fly is subsurface.  So next time you go fishing, grab your snorkeling gear, fly rod and reel, and fly patterns that swim and crawl.  Uncover the mystery that resides beneath and you’ll catch more fish.

 

Copyright 2013, 2014 by icastinayak.com and Great Days Outdoors. All rights reserved

The Foundation of Fly Fishing

 

Foundation 1jThe following was originally published in the April 2013 edition of Great Days Outdoors Magazine.  Thank you to the magazine publisher for use of article.

The Foundation of Fly Fishing
by Aaron Rubel

One of my favorite aspects about the pastime of fly fishing is learning from those I accompany on fishing trips as well as casual contacts along the way.  Sharing what I’ve learned with others through my experiences is always rewarding.

There was a point in time when I wanted to start gaining detailed knowledge about fishing.  A friend suggested I consider fly fishing.  While researching, I found a lot of information available that was practical and creative.  I also liked how fly fishing enthusiasts regard the importance of watershed conservation and giving back to the resource.

I didn’t know anyone who fly fished at the time.  To get started, I purchased a video on how to cast, along with a starter fly rod combo.  Fortunately, the video was effective in demonstrating the basics.  During my second year of fly fishing, I was introduced to an organization named Trout Unlimited.

The roots of Trout Unlimited are based in conservation of North American coldwater fisheries habitat, and many members fly fish.  After establishing some relationships with a few of the members, my knowledge of the sport gained by leaps and bounds.  If certain skills are an art form, then fly fishing has to be one of them.  I began to think of fly fishing as art.

The first piece of advice I’d recommend is to connect with an experienced fly angler.  In our region (southeast USA), the International Federation of Fly Fishers (IFFF) is a great organization with the goal of educating anyone interested in the sport.

Your local International Federation of Fly Fishers club can recommend a qualified casting instructor who provides expert one-on-one advice.  Books and videos are good sources of information to supplement fly fishing knowledge.  However, personal relationships with people who can spend time on the water with you are invaluable.

Are you an experienced fly angler?  Then seek out someone who has shown an interest in learning the art.  Spend some time with them.  After all, introducing a beginner to the basics of fly fishing doesn’t require a certification in fly fishing.

As a mentor, you’ll even become a better caster and angler.  You’ll spend more time on the basics.  Plus, you’ll study methods so as to demonstrate the mechanics of fishing techniques.  It’s invigorating to watch a protégé develop.  It’s like seeing an art form reborn.

The greatest compliment to a teacher is the moment when the student starts contributing to the knowledge base of the mentor.  Besides, all of us need a few fishing buddies.  Art imitates life via fly fishing.

For more information on how you can subscribe to Great Days Outdoors Magazine, check out their website:  http://www.gdomag.com/

Great Days Logo

Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com and Great Days Outdoors Magazine. All rights reserved

Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman: Kayak Fishing

BOW1Kayak fishing enables everyone an opportunity for experiencing the beauty of nature.  Today was a special day, facilitating a class aimed at introducing nine outgoing women who were registered for the Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program sponsored by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation.

Elana Carson ClassElana Carson, area kayak angler, shared what she most enjoys about the sport and told a great story about catching a 26″ redfish during her first trip out on a kayak.

Hayes AndersonJohnson Outdoors Pro-staffer Hayes Anderson contributed to the effort of combining classroom instruction with an on the water experience by sharing his kayak setup and expertise from 30 years in pursuit of bass.

Launch BlogThe classroom setting is great for establishing a foundation to build upon, but the real reason some of the women drove four hours to the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort, Alabama was anticipating their initial launch into a new adventure beyond where they have been before.

Hobie Mirage DriveAn individual present at class brought a cool ride that goes back a few years…the Hobie Mirage Classic!

 

Brian CarsonMobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association President, Brian Carson, also joined us and mentored the participants with practical tips.  Two eager women even caught nice bass during the event.   

Bass in BOW

Many states throughout the country have the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, including a kayak fishing class.  Whether you are a woman who is interested in taking up this great way to experience the out of doors or maybe someone who can be a mentor, visit your state sponsored Conservation and Natural Resources Department website for more information.

 

Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Fly Fishing Early Spring in Lower Mobile River Delta

 

Mobile Delta 1Spent a beautiful afternoon on the lower Mobile River Delta today.  The contrast  between winter hungover Cyprus trees draped in Spanish moss, early spring blooming flowers, and palm lined backwater creek banks framed a tranquil backdrop.  Quaint river boat homes welcome anglers into a time warp of earlier and more simple times.

Mobile Delta 2Enjoyed spending a few hours on the water with a friend, Stacey Martin, who has depth of experience on the backwaters of the Mobile River Delta.

Mobile Delta 3We caught a couple bass and spooked 3 alligators totaling 25ft in length from their early spring slumber.

Mobile Delta 4A great fly to use in early spring is a gurgler fly pattern, which will bring out the predatory instincts of bass that reside in backwater creeks within the lower Mobile River Delta.

 

Mobile Delta 5

Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Mitten State Angler

Mitten State AnglerSeventeen years ago, my good friend Ed Roden and I went to a Trout Unlimited meeting in Clinton Township, Michigan.  I overlooked the fact he was outfitted in a Ohio State University Buckeyes sweatshirt that evening.  It was the beginning of growth in our friendship that took a path of fly fishing flowing streams, conservation efforts to the habitat surrounding them, and many hours in the board room developing watershed management plans with other like minded friends.

We’ve had some memorable moments up north.  One that comes to mind is breaking down in a Jeep Wrangler on a logging trail two miles off the beaten path, only to learn the tire wrench was rust welded to engine compartment of the vehicle.  Then there was our first Hexagenia Limbata hatch we fished together where I was so excited for the upcoming spinner fall, that I had to leave the river to visit nature’s restroom three times in last hour before sunset.  I’m known for mistaking crows for turkeys on fishing trips and we’ve also had some good floats on drift boats together.  Yet, the best memories I have of fishing with Ed are those when we sat on river’s edge talking about life, waiting for a mayfly hatch to emerge.  Maybe it was the day when we were enjoying lunch beside our tent when to our surprise large trout started feeding on an unusual mid-day Hex hatch!  We drove ourselves crazy trying to catch those browns that day, but didn’t so much as get a bite.  Whether talking about life or experiencing the out of doors, good times they are.

Ed has developed into quite a proficient fly angler, both for trout and even bass.  I look up to him more than he knows, and since moving 1000 miles south five years ago have missed his companionship casting flies among Michigan cedar lined streams.

He has recently launched a blog.  I think you will enjoy his stories and insights he has to share about the sport of fishing.  He enjoys kayak angling, and uses the paddle craft to pursue fish in streams and lakes.  Check out the Mitten State Angler at http://mittenstateangler.com/.  I know you will enjoy it.

 

Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved