2012: A Year of Learning

When I think about my fishing experiences this past year, the first word that comes to mind is learning.  Throughout this year, I was able to learn so many different things about fly fishing and how to become a better fly fisherman.  I made a lot of great friends along the way and was lucky enough to find a few nice fish as well.  This post is a little picture heavy ,but it consists of some of my most memorable catches of the year, as well as fish that helped me learn important lessons.  Before I forget, a lot of these pictures were not taken by me and I want to make sure my friends get credit for their great photos.


I learned how rewarding throwing big meaty streamers can be


I caught my new personal best mirror carp.  I also learned that carp can be caught very early in the year if you fish the right places.


I learned how fun and effective throwing eggs can be


I spent many days on the flats in search of carp and learned many new techniques


This is the most beautiful brown trout that I have ever caught in my life.  The amazing colors a fish can have never cease to amaze me.


I landed my personal best cutthroat and learned that heavily pressured rivers can still put out some great fish


I landed my personal best brook trout and learned how hard they fight when they are bigger than 6″


I had the chance to fish with John from “Carp on the Fly” and Jim from “The Mr P Blog”.  I learned from them that the carp we have in Idaho are far more aggressive than most carp elsewhere.  I also learned that most people do not blind fish for them like we do.


I learned to always expect the unexpected.  There are not supposed to be brown trout in the river this fish was caught.


I learned that big fish can be found in rivers that are only supposed to have little fish


I learned that summer evenings are a great time to throw streamers


I learned how useful a canoe can be for covering a lot of water in smaller rivers


I learned to never take myself too seriously.  Fishing is all about having fun!


I learned how much harder it is to catch carp post spawn vs pre spawn.  I also learned how much harder they fight during the middle of summer vs spring.


I learned that a girthy trout will fight much harder than a snaky trout


I learned that contrary to popular belief, spawning Kokanee Salmon can be caught on the fly rod.  In fact, they love chasing down big streamers.


I learned that night fishing brings out the big boys



I learned that whitey’s need lovin’ too, especially the big ones


I landed my personal best brown trout.  I learned that stinger hooks help solve  the issues that short strikes can create.


I landed my first lake trout on the fly.  I learned that they like flies that have some pretty crazy colors to them.

B2Qc7loKr6YVr02gGskrUD1U2imX15XSJrmfTYRV76UI caught my personal best hybrid.  I learned that even if a fish has been hooked before, he’ll bite again.  This poor fish had a couple copper johns in him from other anglers who had broke off.


I caught my first ‘bow night fishing.  I learned that a camera flash in the dark and a little excitement can lead to me making some pretty ridiculous faces.

IMG_1479 - Version 2

I caught my personal best ‘bow.  I learned that big fish can be caught and landed on little flies, even if it takes a little more effort.


I caught the biggest sucker fish I’ve ever seen in my life.  I learned that even a sucker can’t resist the swing of a streamer. 


I caught my first Salmon River steelhead.  I learned that steel heading requires a lot of patience.


I learned to always carry a net with me when I decide to go exploring a good distance from whoever I’m fishing with

Another year has come and gone and I am already looking forward to what 2013 will have to offer.  I’d like to thank everyone who follows and supports the blog.  Have a safe and happy new year!

Big ‘Bows: Hooked on Streamers

While out fishing last week, I was talking to my friend Brent about how I was thinking about writing a couple short posts about some of my most memorable catches of the year.  2012 is coming to an end and it has been an exciting year.  The fish have been fat and healthy, and the fishing was the best I’ve ever experienced.  This first fish I’m writing about is the trout that got me addicted to throwing big meaty streamers.  Chris invited me to tag along on a trip to go chase some early season carp and I jumped on the opportunity.  A few minutes into fishing, Chris found of pod of carp hanging on a ledge above a steep drop off.  He stalked in and made his first cast out.  While retrieving his fly, the line became taught and he set in to whatever was on the other end of the line.  A few minutes later, a beautiful and hefty ‘bow was brought to hand.


Chris With a Hefty Rainbow

From that point on, my mind was no longer focused on carp, and had fully turned to catching a big trout of my own.  At the time, my streamer collection consisted of some wooly buggers and a few other random flies I had picked up at fly shops over the years.  Chris was gracious enough to lend me a couple of big articulated flies that he had recently tied up.  As the day went on, we continued to pick up a lot more trout, but none came close to the fish that Chris had landed earlier in the day.  We each also picked up a carp.  In fact, I caught my new personal best mirror carp that day.  I didn’t ever weigh or measure it, but it was one heck of a fish.  Nonetheless, I was still hyper focused on catching a big ‘bow.  We started to work our way back downriver as we prepared to call it a day.  Chris told me I should hit the ledge that he pulled his ‘bow off of earlier that day and I agreed it was probably a good bet at finding a nice fish.  I threw out, let the fly sink, and slowly began my retrieve.  A few strips later and I had hooked in to what felt like a heavy fish.  The fish continued to fight for a few minutes and when I caught a glimpse of him, I knew it was the fish I’d been looking for all day.  Eventually he tired out and was brought to the net.  We snapped a few quick pictures and sent him on his way.  The problem with big trout is that they leave you with a craving for even more big fish.


Hooked on Streamers


The Release

Because of the success we had that day, Chris and I decided to head back again two days later.  I was becoming sick, but I had one thing on my mind, and that was big rainbows eating big flies.  That trout is what got me hooked on throwing streamers.  Streamer fishing isn’t usually a numbers game.  A lot of the fish you catch on big flies will be fish that make your heart skip a beat when you catch your first glimpse of them.  They are the fish that make your stomach hurt when the line goes slack after a long battle.  They are the fish that lead to a life long addiction to fly fishing.


Winter has finally settled in here in Eastern Idaho and with winter comes the cold.  Fishing in the cold can be an enjoyable experience if you are dressed right, but it does beg the question, how cold is too cold?  This past week I had a couple opportunities to fish with friends that I have not fished with in quite some time.  First, I was able to get up to Henry’s lake with my good friend Kyle.  It was a great way to celebrate another successful semester of college and to welcome in the Christmas break.  We used to fish together all the time, but earlier in the year he moved to down to Utah.  We have been able to get out a couple times since and each trip has been one for the books.  This one was no different.  We made it up to Henry’s at first light and quickly set up shop.  Unfortunately, the first location we chose to fish was terrible and we decided to relocate.  My friend Chris had tipped me off the day before about one of his favorite places and we headed that way.  The fishing quickly picked up and we were able to have an awesome day of fishing.  The weather was very pleasant for mid-december in Eastern Idaho.  It snowed most of the day but not enough to make things uncomfortable.  Temperatures hovered in the upper teens to low twenties throughout most of the day.  This is my favorite kind of weather when ice fishing.


December Ice Fishing



Kyle With a Beautiful Hybrid

A few days later, my friend Kenny and I decided to head back up to Henry’s Lake again and give it another go around.  Unfortunately, a cold front had come through the night before and there was a huge drop in temperature.  Whether fishing open water or the hard deck, temperature drops always seem to put a damper on the fishing.  Undeterred, we headed up and once again were ready to go by first light.  Upon arrival, the air temp came in at -15.  This was by far the coldest weather that I have ever fished in before.  From the start, things did not seem to be going in our favor.  My auger that I normally use somehow got a chip in one of the blades.  This caused it to spin on its head and required a lot more effort than usual to dig a hole.  I always carry a backup auger with me but I do not particularly enjoy using it.  For one, it is an 8″ hand auger and that in and of itself requires much more effort than a 6″ auger does.  It is also a very cheap auger and like most cheap things, it does not work as well as its more expensive counterpart.  As I suspected, the fish did not seem to care for the massive drop in temperature and we only landed four fish in the two hours that we fished there.  We decided to head back down to some of the lower elevation ponds and lakes to give them a try.  Fresh ice and planter trout saved the day and by days end we landed over 70 between the two of us.  Even in the lower elevations the temperature never got above the mid twenties.  It will be a very long time before I consider going out and fishing when it is -15 outside.  It just wasn’t worth it.


Is -15 too Cold?

Fly fishing is easier for me to decide when it is too cold to go.  I hate having to deal with ice in the guides on every cast and if it is going to be a big issue, I will usually go ice fishing instead.  Brent and I met up early and headed out to the river.  When I left my house in Rigby, the temperature was 6.  I was not too concerned because it was supposed to warm up to the mid 30’s and it eventually did.  One of the benefits of waking up early to fish is being able to witness the beautiful winter sunrises.


Brisk Morning Sunrise

The air temp was 24 when we arrived, but once you calculate in the windchill, it was still pretty dang cold fly fishing weather.  One of the reasons it is so much easier to stay warm when ice fishing is because you are not in the water like you are when fly fishing.  Leaky waders don’t help the situation either.  The fishing was very slow at first to say the least.  We were both throwing streamers and the fish were flat out not interested.  Because of the cold, we both decided that the fish might have moved deeper and decided it would be a good idea to throw on a sinking line.  I started fishing much deeper and was able to entice one fish in to biting.  It was a beautiful hybrid and it felt great to get the skunk off.  It also was the only fish that hit a streamer all day.  It became obvious that the fishing was not going to be good at this location like we had hoped so we decided to do a little exploring.


Hungry Hybrid

The move paid off and we were able to find a few willing fish.  Nymphing was the name of the game.  It was cold out and the fish did not want to move very much for a meal.  They wanted it delivered and put right in their face.  The fish were also holding much deeper than usual.  When we finally found where the fish were holding, mother nature decided to turn the tables against us and the wind started howling.  Detecting bites began to be very difficult and the fishing also began to slow down.  At this point in time, Brent and I looked at one another and without saying a word decided it was time to call it a day.  We both had numb toes and fingers and were content with the fish we had caught.  No monsters were brought to the net that day but it was a good time.


One Last Run

There are a few important things to remember if winter fishing is your thing or something you are interested in getting in to.  Most of these tips are in reference to winter fly fishing.


Always remember the importance of layering.  If you do not wear enough layers, you will freeze all day long.  If you wear too many layers, then you  will sweat all day long and in the end also end up freezing.  By wearing just the right amount of layers and you can stay warm all day long.  I will generally wear a light jacket as my base layer and a heavier insulated jacket as my outer layer.  Even when it is -15 outside, you can stay warm if you layer correctly.

Hats, Gloves, and Socks:

A good beanie can make a huge difference in your comfort level on a chilly day.  Your face, especially your ears, can be very sensitive to the wind and to the cold.  Wearing a beanie or other winter hat can help alleviate this problem.  A good pair of wool socks can also make a big difference in how warm you will be throughout the day.  Whether ice fishing in your snow boots or fly fishing in your waders, wool socks will help keep you warm.  Gloves can make a difference depending on how sensitive your hands are to the cold.  I personally cannot stand wearing gloves unless I absolutely have to.  I prefer neoprene gloves that cover my hand all the way.  Some people prefer a glove that has the finger tips cut off so they still have some feeling of what is going on.  Choose what is most comfortable for you.

Slow Down Your Presentation:

When the water temperatures cool down, so does a fish’s metabolism.  They do not want to use as much energy as they will in the spring or in the fall to get a meal.  Nymphing will often be the name of the game if you want to consistently catch fish in the winter.  With that said, fish can still be caught on streamers but it will take a little more work and a little more patience.  When conditions are right, fish can also be caught on top with Baetis and Midge imitations.


Say “Ahhhhh”

Be Smart and Use Your Head: 

One thing to keep in mind when winter fishing is that simple mistakes that could be no more than an inconvenience in the summer time, can quickly become dangerous when winter fishing.  One example of this is taking a spill in the river.  In the summer, falling is not really a big deal (as long as it is not in a dangerous location).  If you slip and fall in the winter, it is important to quickly  get back to your vehicle and into a warm change of clothes.  Always bring an extra set of clothing if you plan on fishing in the winter.  Use your head about where you choose to wade.  Places that are a bit challenging to get to in the summer are not worth struggling to get to in the winter.  River flows are generally lower in the winter and there are plenty of places to fish and explore.  Don’t over do it.  If your body is telling you it is cold and that it is time to go, then you should probably call it a day.  Exposing yourself to the cold for too long can lead to other problems.

Have Fun:

Fishing should always be a good time.  Like I have said before, fishing in the winter can be one of the most enjoyable times of year to get out.  Low water will often force the fish to congregate together and in turn lead to big number days.  Most of the time you will not have to deal with the same crowds that hit the rivers in the summer.  Get out there and enjoy the solitude!