Get Organized

What do you do when it is too cold outside to cast a fly?  You get organized of course!  Organizing your fly boxes is also a great time to take inventory of what you have and what you need to tie more of.  Can you ever have too many flies?  I don’t think so.  Everyone has different ways they like to organize their things.  Here are a few of my boxes that I got around to straightening up during our most recent period of subzero temps.

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Dries and Nymphs

While getting organized, I often like to think about the places I would like to fish throughout the year.  I think about what time of year certain flies work best.  Sorting through my still water patterns got me excited for kicking around in my float tube, chasing tasty perch and chunky ‘bows.

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Still Water

Sorting through my hopper and salmon fly box reminds me of much warmer days.  Every spring, usually in late May or early June, the Salmon fly hatch goes off.  Fishing the salmon fly hatch does not require a lot of technical skills, but it can be a lot of fun.  It is one of the few times of the year that big browns will come up from the rivers depths and actively feed on the surface.  As summer really starts to heat up, throwing hoppers can provide some of the most exciting fishing to be found.  There is something awesome about watching a big trout slowly rise from the depths of a pool and inhale your hopper.

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Stoneflies and Hoppers

My carp flies remind me of walking the flats in search of a good mud line.  My first carp of 2012 came during the first week of March.  I am hoping to catch one even earlier this year.  I plan to focus a lot more of my time this year on chasing carp and really improving my carp fishing skill set.  More than anything, I’d like to land a carp over 30 lbs this year.

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Carp Treats

The temps here in Eastern Idaho are finally starting to warm up a little and I have been able to get out and do some fishing again.  Thank goodness the trout don’t mind the cold.  Cabin fever seems to set in all to quick when I am not able to be out on the water.

No Off Season

I’ve always had a hard time understanding what people mean when they use the term “off season”.  The last two nights have been well in to the negatives, and that has helped me understand a little better why people clean up their fly rods and put them away for the winter.  As I write this, it is currently -2 here in Rexburg, Idaho.  When it that cold, I usually will not go out and fly fish.  First and foremost, it can be very dangerous, especially if you are fishing alone.  If you take a spill in the river when it is that cold out, you can get yourself into a troublesome situation very quickly.  Secondly, exposing fish to subzero temperatures is not good for them.  I don’t usually keep wild trout that I catch while fly fishing, so I always do what I can to safely release them.  If the temp is -10 outside, that gets a whole lot harder to do.  Eastern Idaho has some of the harshest winters around, but I am still a firm believer that there is plenty of good fishing to be had.  The metabolism of a trout slows way down in the winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want or have to eat.  Temps in the teens can be enjoyable to get out and fish in if you dress the right way.  A couple days ago, Brent and I decided to head out and hit the Henry’s Fork.  The forecast called for warmer temps (32 above zero vs -20) but it also called for a big snowstorm.   You’ll rarely hear me complain about a good blizzard.  A good water year makes for some excellent fishing, as well as healthy fish.  When we arrived at the river, we quickly noticed it was littered with shelf ice.

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Brent with a Beautiful ‘Bow

Brent was the first to hook in to a fish.  As he retrieved his wooly bugger along the shelf ice, a willing trout came out and struck.  Landing fish with the shelf ice can be a little tricky.  Brent’s net made things a little easier.  We continued fishing a while and eventually started working our way back down river.  I hooked in to my first fish of the day, a little 14″ ‘bow.  It wasn’t the big brown I was looking for but it sure felt nice to feel the tug on the fly rod again.  It had been a while.  The fishing was slow so we decided to head up to the Box.

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Little ‘Bow…My First and Only Fish of the Day

The hike in encompassed so much of what I love about winter fishing.  You are able to enter a world that few people ever get to experience.  The solitude is refreshing.  The snow was deep, but not to the point that it was uncomfortable.  Brent brought snow shoes and that certainly helped the situation.  We made it down to the river and there was not another soul in sight.  We were both a little surprised considering how nice the weather was that day.

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Hiking in

It didn’t take Brent long to hook into a fish.  Small streamers were the name of the game.  Over the next couple hours, the snow continued to fall, and Brent continued to catch a fish here and a fish there.  I missed one small ‘bow but was unable to hook or land any more fish that day.

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Brent with a Beautiful Hybrid

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Falling Snow (Photo Courtesy of Brent at Uprising Blog)

Despite the slow fishing, it felt great to get out and on the river again with my fly rod in hand.  There is something about standing in the middle of a river, casting a fly, and anxiously waiting for a fish to attack your offering.  Winter fishing is a great way to ward off the cabin fever during the “Off Season”.

New Year, New Week

The first week of 2013 has come and gone, but not without leaving its mark.  Some of the coldest temperatures we have had all year came through this week.  The temps dropped well into the negatives.  The coldest I saw was  -20, and the highs seldom reached out of the single digits.  Ice fishing in such cold weather is not for the faint of heart, but it can be very rewarding.  I had the opportunity to fish with Chris and his boys a couple times this week.  We tried a few different places around the area and none of them were disappointing.  Lot’s of fish were caught and a good time was had by everyone.

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Love Those Cutties!

One of the best outings of the week was on New Year’s day.  We hit one of my favorite spots that doesn’t normally freeze until a little bit later in the year.  We didn’t get there until the afternoon but that didn’t seem to slow down the fishing at all.  Within 30 seconds of dropping the ice jigs down, it was fish on!  It stayed this way most of the evening until we left.  The highlight of the day was when Chris and his son were able to catch a beauty of a brown trout.  I had never seen such a nice and beautifully colored brown come out of the ice before and I was pretty stoked about it, even if I wasn’t the one catching the fish.  Chris does a great job of passing on his love of fishing to his children.

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Chris and his son with a Beautiful Brown Trout

A little bit later in the day I also hooked into what felt like a pretty good fish.  One of the things I love about ice fishing is feeling the hit when jigging and knowing that you have set into a good fish.  The fish ran me all over the place and I eventually worked him up and out of the whole with some help from Chris.  It wasn’t a monster by any means, but it was a dandy cutthroat and was sporting some beautiful colors at that.

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My Best Cutthroat of the Day

The next day, Chris and I decided to venture a little further south in hopes of catching some big ‘bows.  When we left Idaho Falls, the temperature was well into the negatives so we knew it was going to be a cold day.  On the drive in , the lowest the thermometer read was -20.  I made sure to snap a picture because it was the coldest weather that I had ever gone fishing in before.  We made it to the parking lot and the temperature had gone up a whopping 2 degrees to only -18.  Undeterred, we went and set up the ice house and heater so that everyone could be nice and warm.  The first three hours of fishing were very slow.  Chris had a few light bumps and I had not even had as much as a nibble.  We moved around a few times until we eventually started to find some fish.  Chris caught the first nice fish of the day, a solid slab of a ‘bow.  That fish had restored our faith and we stuck it out a couple more hours and we even caught a few more fish.

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Brrrrr

My best fish of the trip came about an hour after we had set up shop in our new and more productive location.  I was jigging the ice fly when I felt that familiar tap.  I set the hook and nothing was there.  I was disappointed I had missed the fish but quickly noticed one of my other rods was getting hit.  I ran over to it, with my jigging rod still in hand.  As I reached down to pick the rod up and set the hook, my jigging rod started getting hit again so I set the hook.  The fish immediately came right up to the hole and I could tell it was a nice fish.  As soon as it saw me or the sunlight, I’m not sure which it was, it decided to take off and fight like a fish its size should.  My drag got a good workout and it was a blast.  Chris reached down and helped plop the fish out of the whole and we were able to land it.  It turned out to be one of my best fish this season (ice fishing).  We never did pick up any more big fish after that, but we did manage a handful of planters.  As we worked our way back to Chris’s van, it felt like it was finally starting to warm up and I even shed a layer because I was getting too hot from pulling the sled.  To my disbelief, the van said it was still only -3 outside.  On the way home we made a quick stop at one other location but it wasn’t even worth the time.  We saw a few fish on the underwater camera but they were just chubs and they weren’t even big enough to eat my small ice fly.

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Subzero Temps and Chunky ‘Bows

I fished almost every day this week and was not disappointed at all.  I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be another awesome year of fishing here in Idaho.