Summer has generally been my least favorite time of the year to fish. This Summer was definitely one of the more enjoyable ones I have experienced. I found a new hobby; rock climbing. While I wasn’t out rock climbing, I had some great days on the water. Fall was epic, as it always is, and still remains my favorite time of the year to fish. The second half of 2013 is what really sticks out in my mind when I think of some of my most memorable moments.
Summer was very hot this year in Eastern Idaho. We hardly got any snow last winter, which didn’t help the situation at all. Many of the rivers I would normally spend my summers on had very high temps and were running significantly lower than normal. The last thing I wanted to do was accidentally kill a bunch of fish because of fighting them in terrible conditions. With that said, July definitely had it’s moments. A trip to the yellowstone back country provided some of the best dry fly fishing I have ever experienced. Exploring new water with new friends also opened up other opportunities I wouldn’t have expected to find in July.
One of my Favorite Fish of the Year
Having Fun in the Yellowstone Backcountry
August was quite similar to July. When I wasn’t rock climbing with friends, I was out chasing big wary ‘bows and carp.
A Healthy Carp
School starts again in September and once again life got busy. I spent a lot of time this year looking for water closer to home that had carp in it. I had heard rumors on the internet of a place within 30-minutes of my front door that supposedly had a healthy population of carp. Bad news was that access was very limited due to bow fishermen shooting the carp and leaving their carcasses lying around (freaking rednecks). Whoever the land owner was did not like that and decided to shut down public access. Luckily, I am blessed to live in a state that has incredible public access laws. I decided to explore another area close by and was able to find a few carp. I remember the first time I located a pod of carp in this area. I spotted the pod of 8-12 fish lazily sunning themselves. About 200 feet away were a couple guys that were bow fishing. Slightly annoyed, I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible. As I worked my way down to the water, they saw me and started to come over my way. I asked them politely to please stay away while I made a couple casts to some fish I had just spotted. Instead, they ran over as fast as they could and started shooting at the pod of carp I had just found. I was mad but decided to keep my mouth shut and just shook my head. The stupidity of some people never ceases to amaze me! I decided to walk down the shoreline a few hundred yards in hopes of finding some more fish. Most rednecks in Idaho are lazy, so I figured they wouldn’t follow me once I got some distance between me and the parking lot. I worked my way through and opening in the bushes and caught sight of the water. To my surprise, there were carp everywhere, but once again most of them were sunners. Anyone who fishes for carp regularly knows that sunners are not the most ideal target.
Almost Scaleless Mirror
I decided that my best chance at catching one of these fish would be to sit around for a while and hope that a cruising fish would come by. It didn’t take long for this to happen. A decent sized fish began working its way towards me and was obviously in feeding mode. I slowly lobbed my fly in front of the fish, gave it a slight twitch, and he charged and inhaled it. Fish on! I eventually brought the fish in, snapped a few pics, and sent it on its way. I had finally found a place close to home that held carp. Previous to locating this spot, the closest place for me to fish was carp was almost an hour and a half away. After releasing the fish, I immediately went back to fishing. The problem was that most of the fish were still sunning. On top of that, this isn’t what I’d consider “ideal” carp water at all. Deep lava chutes and deep pools averaging around 30 feet deep were where these carp preferred to hang out. Most fish hang out 30 to 40 feet from the shoreline, and your back cast is very limited. Simply put, it makes fish that are already challenging to catch extremely difficult fish to catch. I continued to fish to the sunners but soon realized I had a slight problem. Even my lightest flies were too heavy. The fish would follow the fly down for about five feet, but would soon realize it was sinking faster than any natural food source would and they would spook. I later developed a lighter version of the fly that works perfect for picky sunners. The drag and drop technique proved it’s worth many times over when fishing to these spooky buggers!
I continued fishing my new found location as frequently as time would permit. The extremely picky nature of the carp here is what kept me going back. The entire area is under a foot of ice at the moment, but that isn’t keeping me from day dreaming of getting back as soon as the ice melts off.
Fall is my favorite time to fish. October is when fall fishing really starts to shape up in Idaho. Places that have been unfishable for weeks are once again a viable option. One of my favorite fall activities is night fishing for big brown trout. Over the past year, Chris and I have scouted out a lot of different places that we thought would produce a monster brown in the still of the night. Earlier in the summer we got some advice from my buddy Kyle on a place he thought would be good to try. We night fished it a couple of times in September, but still hadn’t found the monster we were searching for. Night fishing is a bit of a goofy thing. The more I do it, the more I realize I know very little about fish behavior once the sun goes down. Anyone who fishes with me knows that I am usually in a rush to get to the water. When it comes to night fishing, I’m all about taking my time and just enjoying the experience. Early in October, Chris and I decided to head back to the spot and give it another go. School was in full swing and I had a lot of homework to get done. I also had my first accounting test of the semester and needed to get some studying in. I had big browns on the mind and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that. We got to the water around 10:30 PM, a few hours after the suns had set. Chris gave me one of his mouse patterns he created (Best looking mouse pattern out there in my opinion) and we went to work. It’s often easy to tell where the fish are feeding at night because you can hear them slurping off the surface or you’ll hear the occasional blow up. I heard some noises on the water’s surface and decided to go throw a few casts in the general area.
While working my fly back to the bank, I heard a huge slurp around where I thought my fly was and set the hook hard. Immediately the water exploded and I knew I had set in to something bigger than normal. I hollered to Chris that I was hooked up and he came over immediately. He asked if I could tell how big it was and I said, “I’m not sure yet, but I’m using my 8 wt and it feels really heavy.” I’ve caught a lot of carp on my 8 wt and know how it feels to have a solid fish on the end of the line. We flipped our head lamps on and began scanning the water for any glimpse of the fish. At this point the fish had been on for a couple of minutes and we still had no idea what it was or how big it was. Eventually it made a run toward me and I gained some ground in the battle. I ran down the bank and into the water and was able to catch my first glimpse of the fish. I let out a yell of excitement and told Chris to grab the net. I had had a huge brown on the end of my line. Chris jumped down into the water and when the opportunity presented itself, scooped the big gal up.
Mouth Full of Mouse
Chris quickly snapped a few photos and we sent the fish on her way, back to terrorizing any mouse that was unlucky enough to fall off the steep banks and into the water. We celebrated for a bit and I worked on taking it all in. I had finally accomplished a goal that I had set many years ago. A 30″ brown…on a mouse…in the middle of the night. It couldn’t have been any better! My heart still gets going when I think about it! We continued fishing for a couple more hours but I was perfectly content. Thanks again to Kyle and Chris for helping catching the biggest trout of my life!
Fishing in November is typically even better than October. Despite a busy class schedule, I had my routine dialed in and was able to make plenty of time for fishing. Chris and I headed out to one of our favorite rivers in early November with hopes of catching some nice trout. The day turned out to be one of the best days of fishing I’ve had all year. It didn’t matter what we did, we couldn’t keep the fish off. It was text book streamer fishing at its finest. I’m not sure what the final fish count was, but Chris and I had to have landed close to 60 – 70 fish between the two of us, with a handful in the 24″-25″ range, including a solid brownie. The rest of November continued to put out a number of nice fish and every day on the water was enjoyable.
Bitter Cold is the best way to describe this December. Winter came overnight. Temperatures went from almost 50 degrees to -16 in less than 48 hours. Talk about a shock to my system! Towards the end of November every year, I start to get excited about ice fishing, so I was excited when the first big cold snap of the year came through. Henry’s Lake is one of my favorite places to ice fish. It puts out huge numbers of fish, and the average fish size is phenomenal. Many people have complained in recent years that the size of fish has gone down, but I was never around in the “good ol’ days”, so I’m not really sure what it used to be like. Any place I can go and catch 20″+ Brook trout and 5+ lb Rainbow/Cutthroat Hyrids is a winner in my book. The last day to fish Henry’s Lake this season is tomorrow, and I already have plans to fish elsewhere. I’m already looking forward to next year on the ice at Henry’s Lake!
Beautiful Brook Trout
Although Henry’s will soon be closed for the year, there is a plethora of other options available to the ice angler. One of my favorite things to do each winter is explore new water. Reservoirs and lakes that are unfishable without a boat become accessible to anyone crazy enough to venture out onto the ice. Exploring usually yields great rewards. Chris did a little exploring earlier this season and found some great new water that has put out some dandy brown trout. He had invited me to join him a couple times, but finals week was coming up and I needed to focus on school. School finally got out and we made plans to hit the water…or ice I should say. Chris and his son William were already there when I arrived but had not yet caught anything. I popped a couple holes and got to work. I tied on a big white tube jig and dropped it down the hole into somewhere around 30-40 feet of water. Immediately I felt a hit and tried to set the hook. Nothing was there, so I dropped back again and started jigging. This time the fish hit hard and I set into it. Fighting a large fish through the ice is one of my favorite things about ice fishing. You really have no idea how big the fish is going to be until you get it up and out of the hole. I could tell it was a heavy fish and didn’t want to push my luck, so I played it pretty lightly. Slowly but surely the fish made its way up to the surface and made a run under the hole. Chris and I both saw that it was a nice brown and tensions rose a little. Getting the fishes head through the hole is the most stressful part of the fight. So many things can go wrong! Chris is a great friend and reached into the water to help the fish out. I was excited to see nearly 2 feet of brown laying in front of me on the ice. I quickly tailed the fish and put its head back in the water while Chris got the camera ready. We snapped a few pics and sent her on her way. Sometimes you get lucky and catch a nice fish on your first “cast” of the day. This was one of those days!
Releasing a Beautiful Brown
2013 was and incredible year for me. I made great new friends, and strengthened relationships with those I already knew. Thanks to everyone who made this year so great. A big thanks to everyone who follows and supports the Fish Hunter Chronicles. Those of you who follow the blog probably noticed I took a bit of a break from September to December. I needed a little hiatus to help me focus on what really matters to me about fishing. It’s easy to get caught up in the blogosphere and get distracted from what really matters. I needed to get back to my roots and remember why I fish…because I love it! Here’s to hoping 2014 will be even greater!