Thursday, August 15, 2013

Big Rapids, Big Fish, & Big Fun

 Last week Bill emailed me saying that some folks who work with Biovex baits would be in the Raleigh area on their way to Hatteras for vacation.  They had a free day to fish on Sunday and wanted to do something out of the ordinary.  For them, "the ordinary" is fishing heavy grass mats, lily pads, and flats - catching big bass, redfish, and other species.  After some debating, we figured what would be better then taking them out on a small river for an adventure off the beaten path.  Since their time was limited, we only had a few options that would fit the bill and get them back to their hotel then to the beach before dinner time.  To complicate matters further, the isolated storms again had the gauges all over the place.  We ended up heading toward Raleigh to fish a flow I had only fished once before.  It was a river that I knew would hold some fish, but I wasn't sure what it would look like because it doesn't have any gauges close to where we were launching.  We arrived to find the water nearly 3.5 feet higher than normal and I wasn't sure how it would turn out.....but we left smiling.


Pedals and paddles unite for a river adventure


Bill and I's guests were Christina and Troy Weber.  They currently live in Orlando and have a diverse fishing background.  They rep Biovex Baits, among other companies in the fishing and kayaking realms.  As with anyone you meet via mutual friends or online, there is the intial, "feeling each other out" period.  This involves things like finding out if you can swear around them, whether they were going to need a lot of instruction, and making sure they aren't serial killers.  Thankfully, Christina and Troy got thumbs up across the board.

The launch at this spot is kind of tricky.  It involves dragging boats about 40 yards, then maneuvering a sloped boulder field to the river.  We got the two Malibus and their Hobies down to the water and pointed the noses upstream.  Despite the high water and increased flow, the water wasn't overly dirty, which was a pleasant surprise.  It didn't take long before Troy got on the board with a chunky river bass that ate a topwater.

We got to know each other as we slowly fished our way up the banks.  Then, before I even realized what was going on, I heard Bill yelling to get the net.  Since I was the only one with a net, I assumed he was yelling in my direction.  At the time I was helping to retrieve a lure and by the time I got to Bill the fish was already in the boat.  It was a beast.  The fish had nailed a black worm that Bill had cast to a rock bluff.  We snapped a few photos and weighed the fish - around 6 lbs.  I think we were both a little torn about how to feel.  We were stoked to have caught a 6 lber, but when you get one that early in the day, especially on a day with crazy conditions and on a river you don't know overly well, you don't want to give the impression that there are 6 lbers all over - leading to getting hopes up only to be crushed throughout the day.

BK with his 6


Shortly after Bill caught his fish, we learned that the Webers were in a friendly competition with two friends back in Orlando.  The friends were out on renowned big bass spot Lake Kissimmee in central FL.  They were also fishing out of a bass boat.  The competition was most weight in a 5 fish limit.  No pressure.

The next bit of the day was a little slow before I landed a 14" bass on a crankbait.  Then we came to a spot that threw a wrench in our plans.  The river was narrow and raging through the small channel.  Above the chute, you could see what were normally calm pools that looked more like a wave tank.  I beached my yak and scouted the pools.  I figured our options were either to a) portage the yaks around the chute and fish the pool areas, b) turn around and try fishing downstream from the launch (where we had never fished before) or c) pack up and go to another river.  The group voted to go the adventurous route - portage to the pools and if it stunk we would try down from the launch.

The portage went well.  I got within about 20-30 yards of 4 bucks - one of which was a very, very nice 12 point.  Unfortunately the fishing was not as hot.  Troy caught 2 bowfin on a jig and I caught 2 catfish on a Premier Leagure Lures River Series spinnerbait.  The high water had made it so that there weren't any real areas in the pools to get out of the current, so the bait and bass were spread all over.  I finally managed 3 bass - all around 2 lbs - by drifting a black stick worm.  I also managed to lose a couple fish on a dropshot.  We ended up catching a bunch more catfish before we decided to head back down river.


We needed to shoot some photos, so we stopped near a big eddy to do some glamour work.  Christina started casting along a current seam with the Biovex lipless crankbait.  She was yo-yoing it when her rod doubled over.  She played it cool, but I could tell it was a good fish.  However, the longer she kept a straight face, the more I thought it wasn't as big as the bow in her rod made it appear to be.  Then it came out of the water and all of us dropped simultaneous f-bombs.  I grabbed the net and Bill started snapping photos.  The lure was lodged squarely in the corner of the mouth and we got the fish to the net with ease.  After taking all sorts of photos we put the fish on the scale.  It was another 6 lber.  I was stoked that we had got into another good fish and the brute put our 5 fish weight at 18 lbs.  I don't have a pic of this fish.  I think it is going straight to the Biovex catalog.  *Update* - below is a shot from Bill Kohls, although it does the fish no justice from that angle.



After running some rapids, we headed down to the next big eddy.  I tied on a flat sided, silent, balsa crank with a coffinbill - the kind they just don't make anymore.  I cast along a seam and barely turned the handle before the bait got crushed.  It was a solid fish that put up a nice fight before I could wrangle him in.  He pulled 4.5 lbs on the scale and would cull out one of the 2 lbers from our limit.  We were up to about 20.5 lbs - a more than respectable weight.  I didn't even bother with a picture.  In fact, this summer has been so good, I haven't even bothered taking pics of 4 lbers the entire time.  We have caught so many big girls that there just isn't a reason to.


The Stealth 12 handling some rapids like a champ

We continued to work the area and managed 5 more bass on cranks and buzzbaits.  The rest of the float was fairly quiet other than a couple short fish.  We got back to the launch where Christina and Troy decided to call it a day.  We shot the bull for a while longer and then Bill and I decided to explore down river.  Over an hour later, we got back to the car, exhausted from fighting the current (both paddling and wading) and with only a couple small bass to show for it.  We packed up, exhausted from fighting the flow all day, and headed for home. 

I am not sure how our total weight held up against the Floridians, but I can tell you that even if we lost, it was a lot of fun.  The awesomeness of the kayak fishing community is vast and Sunday was the perfect example.  It was a great learning experience for me and although the day didn't go as well as I had envisioned, I really can't argue much with the results.

A big thanks to Bill Kohls Media, the Webers, and Biovex for a fun day.  The Malibu Stealth 12 handled rapids like a champ and continues to impress me as an all-around fishing machine.  If you would like to get out on a river, chase some big fish, have some fun, and let us pass our knowledge on to you, head over to Froggy Waters Outdoors and give us a shout to book a guide trip.  There will be some river giants caught this fall - mark my words.

Until next time, tight lines!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

One Insane Day of River Bassin' on the Deep

The wacky weather here in central NC has continued into August.  It started this spring and early summer as seemingly constant rain.  As noted in previous blogs, it greatly improved my high, muddy water skills and produced some sweet fish.  Lately the weather has turned into isolated storms.  The weird thing is that one basin might get an hour of high intensity rainfall while another basin, not 15 miles away, doesn't get a drop.  This kind of random pattern was reflected in the USGS river gauges when I looked at them on Saturday.  Rivers varied from normal level to within inches of flood stage.  But I picked out a few that looked intriguing then pulled up Google maps to do some virtual scouting.  For the second trip in a row, we settled on a river that we had never been to before.  The levels looked good, the satellite imagery looked interesting, and location worked for us both, so we rolled the dice.  Our risk turned into a huge reward - an amazing day of bass fishing on the Deep River.


A little artsy action from Bill Kohls Media



I fully expected to show up to a river with a bit of stain and a decent flow.  But, to my surprise, the river was fairly clear and lower than anticipated.  It was also a smaller river than I expected, often no more than 50 feet across.  Bill and I were both happy to get to fish some clear water for a change, even if we knew it meant a little more dragging over the low water rock gardens.  We re-tied our baits from dirty to clear water colors, prepped our gear, and slipped the yaks into the water.  It was a cool, comfortable August morning as we started the trek up-river.  It didn't take long before I got on the board with a solid 2 lber that ate a weightless worm skipped under some vines.  The fish put up one heck of a fight as it ran circles around me - exactly why I love catching river bass so much.

It was about this time that I mentioned to Bill that we needed to count our catches.  Counting fish isn't something we typically do, in fact it is a pain, but a couple folks messaged me after my last report (the 50+ fish day highlighted by a 6 lb 10 oz beast) who didn't believe we had caught that many fish on such a small river.  Little did we know, the comment about counting fish would kind of foreshadow things to come.

We were picking off fish in the 10"-12" range in isolated pools before stumbling upon a large set of two shoals that dropped close to six feet in total.  There were multiple plunge pools, resulting in numerous eddies and current seams.  We dissected the area with buzzbaits, crankbaits, and plastics and landed over a dozen bass.  It was a sign of the potential the river had.

We portaged the shoals and before we even got back in the yaks I took a cast with my buzzbait.  A fish blasted the bait out of the water, but didn't get hooked.  I tossed a weightless worm back at the spot (a trick every angler should know) - BAM...fish on.  Then I noticed other fish with him- they were in a wolfpack.  A wolfpack is a group of bass that cruise around together, often in the mid- to late summer.  Bill flipped a worm in their direction and - WHAM...we were doubled up.  Despite a little chaos, we landed the fish and snapped a few pics of the dual 3 lbers. 



A couple of hard fighting 3 lbers
(I know they look smaller than 3 lbs, but I promise it is only due to my poor photography)


Then came the part of the day that kind of changed it all for us.  We were fishing through what looked like great water and were barely getting bit.  We were grinding for the few bites we got.  I picked up a couple on a buzzbait and weightless worm while Bill struck with a popper and a buzzer of his own.  We both agreed that maybe we needed to start focusing on the center of the channel more rather than pounding the wood cover on the banks.

So I picked up my CP Baits Series 2, a bait which has been red hot for me this year, and started cranking the channel.  Almost immediately, I started catching fish.  I wasn't catching just one, but two or three per hole.  Bill had started with a squarebill, but switched to a deeper diver, the Biovex Amp Medium Runner, and began hooking up too.  It seemed like every eddy, hole, and boulder was holding multiple fish.  I made the comment that on the way back down river we needed to switch to texas rigged plastics and work the wood cover differently because it was just too deep to not hold fish. 



The Malibu Kayaks Stealth 12 in all its glory - awesome all-around yak


About that time, Bill switched to a jig with a craw trailer.  The jig was a mix of blue, green, brown, and purple with a june bug color trailer - a great bluegill immitator.  Instantly he started getting bit.  The change from a weightless to weighted offering had made the difference.  From there out, the bite just never stopped.
 
 
We began catching ten bass or more in every pool.  We would stand in the Stealth 12's and flip or make long casts through the deep channel.  When we got too hot, we would wade shallower sections with the yaks tied around our waists via straps.  At one point, Bill caught 6 or 7 fish in a row off of one small brush pile.  I was catching fish on literally every deflection I got with my crankbait  - including one deflection that resulted in two fish at once.  When we hit about 75, we realized we were going to catch 100 bass.  When we hit 90, we realized we were going to cruise past 100.  We hit a couple honey holes where we caught close to 20 fish without moving our feet.  We rotated between cranks, jigs, t-rigged creature baits, weightless worms, and buzzbaits for the rest of the day, although 70% of our fish came on cranks, jigs, and creatures.  When we hit our turn around spot, we were sitting at 110 bass.  We had them so dialed in that we knew we could surpass 200 if we had a little more time.  But we had to take some photos before we could head home, so we turned around and kicked it into high gear.

We fished fast on the way back, but were still getting a ton of bites.  42 bass later and we were back at the car - for a total of 152 largemouths in roughly 8 hours on the water.  That breaks down to 19 fish per hour, or 9.5 fish per person per hour, one fish (per person) every 6.3 minutes, or one fish (combined) every 3.1 minutes.  We also ended up with 11 "other fish", which included a few monster bream/bluegill, a yellow perch, a white perch, and a few sub 10" bass which we didn't count toward the official total.  Not to mentioned we had a pile of fish spit the hook.  Our biggest bass were around 4 lbs with plenty of 3 lbers thrown into the mix.  We also lost a couple brutes that were solid 5 pound fish.  If there was any downside to the day, it was that we couldn't execute on the big fish and they came unbuttoned, but any time you have a day like we did, the downside takes a back seat to pure happiness.  Although the other downside is that we were beat up.  We both came home with raw thumbs to go with a couple purple fingers, smashed shins, and other bumps and bruises.  We didn't take a ton of fish pics because we had cameras rolling for most of the day.  I can not wait to see the GoPro footage!

 


 
If there was one thing we learned, it is that the Deep River is not a place you want to be a baitfish - especially a bream.  Any bream colored jigs or creature baits we threw at those bass got annihilated.  My best set-up was a Deep Creek Lures Super Razor Beetle in the monkey grass color rigged on a 5/0 Owner EWG worm hook, Texas-rigged with a 1/8 oz bullet sinker.  I like to fish that bait on a 7' Carolina Custom Rods Jig & Worm rod that is great for flipping and pitching in close quarters.  I have a super high speed Abu Garcia Revo STX on the rod, spooled with 15 lb P-Line fluorocarbon.  The combo makes for a super lightweight, strong, highly sensitive set-up.

Shad and bluegill colored cranks got equally thrashed with reaction bite after reaction bite.  It was one of those crazy days that we won't soon forget.  Armed with a lot more knowledge of the river, we will be back to the Deep soon in search of a giant or two....and maybe the 200 mark.

Until next time, tight lines!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Grandaddy's Gun - My Story...Share Yours

Last week I was on my way to Duke for a Monday morning meeting and was flipping through radio stations as I drove.  I got to a local country station and heard the tail end of a song from Aaron Lewis talking about a gun his grandfather had given him.  Although I only caught the chorus, it was a song that hit home.  The first thing I did when I got home from work that evening was to look it up on YouTube.  I played it once, then twice, then three times.  As I wiped the (manliest ever) tears from my eyes, I knew I had found a song that had become an instant favorite of mine.  It was eerily similar to so many experiences and memories that I shared with my grandpa - who is responsible for me becoming a hunter and outdoorsman.  Below is the acoustic version of the song by Aaron Lewis (originally written by the Bone Collectors and Rhett Atkins).  I am going to grab a few lines from it and comment on them as we go.



Might have a man crush on Aaron Lewis


"That old man gave it to me on the day I turned thirteen,
With a half shot box of shells and a kit to keep it clean.
"
That is exactly when my grandfather passed along his shotgun to me.  He gave me a choice of three, actually.  I selected an old, JC Higgins, 16-gauge, double barrel.  He filled the pockets of my hunting jacket (another pass me down) with shells and we hit the woods.  That night, he showed me how to oil and clean it...right after he showed me how to clean a rabbit and a grouse.


Grandaddy's gun


"It sets above the mantle on a couple rusty nails"
Some day, one of the guns he passed to me will go above the mantle when I build a home.  The gun is not one I feel a ton of nostalgia about since we never hunted with it.  It is a very old 12-gauge, double barrel shotgun that I suspect was passed to him by his father or grandfather.  It is one of the coolest guns I have ever held with dual hammers and triggers.  For now, it is locked away.


"It ain't worth a lot of money,
And it damn sure ain't for sale
."
It turns out that Aaron Lewis changed these lyrics from "And it's worth a lot of money".  The 16-gauge so near and dear to my heart isn't worth much for an old gun, but I would sell almost everything I own before I parted ways with it.


"The good lord only knows all the stories it could tell"
My grandpa was a fairly quiet man, but he did tell some stories.  One of which I got a kick out of and I hope I remember all of the details correctly.  He and my grandma moved to be closer to us when we were kids, but when I was teen, we went and hunted the area where he hunted when he was a kid in Coatesville, PA.  We walked down a trail and sat along a field, hoping to have some deer cross our paths.  At lunch he told the following story.  Back when he was growing up, he had a cousin (I think it was a cousin) who would catch, trap, or hunt just about anything to eat or sell.  Right about where I was sitting - on the edge of a thicket overlooking the field - was one of his cousins favorite places to catch skunks.  My grandpa has claimed to have eaten just about everything - turtle soup, rattlesnake, and skunk - among other things.  And if I remember right his comment was, "I didn't care much for skunk".  Anyway, his cousin would sit out rotten watermelon and cabbage and wait for the skunks to come out and eat it just before dark.  He would sneak up on them and grab them by the tail.  Skunks can't spray unless they can push down with the pads of their back feet, so if he snuck up on them from behind and grabbed them by the tail before they saw him, he could hold them in the air without being sprayed.  Well, one day his cousin caught a skunk early in the evening and decided he would wait to see if another would come to the bait.  Sure enough, a little while later two more skunks came to the bait.  He crept in and grabbed one skunk, which was about 10 feet in front of the other.  Then he got greedy.  He now had a skunk in each hand, but what is better than 2 skunks....3 skunks.  So he switched both skunks to the same hand and crept toward the remaining skunk.  As he did the two skunks in his hand managed to twist and touch their feet against each other.  In fact, they were both able to push off of each others back feet, simultaneously, resulting in a double dose of skunk spray at close range.  The cousin, in a fit of gagging and coughing, dropped the skunks.  In the process, he alerted the third skunk, who also unleashed a stream of spray in his direction.  He went home skunkless and wreaking of skunk spray - an odor that took weeks to get rid of.  Whether the story is true or not, I don't know, but it made me smile then and now.

"He bought it new out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog"
The gun says 'Sears and Roebuck Company' right on the side.


"And it shot a many a shells over the back of an old bird dog"
My grandfather grew up hunting with beagles.  I vaugely remember them when I was very young.  In particular, I remember their kennels and the not so pleasant smell.  I guess he sold them before he moved close to us.  When I turned 14 or so, he bought a beagle to train as a hunting dog for he and I to use - particularly for rabbits.  She never panned out as a hunter and eventually when his health started to decline he gave her away.  Someday, I hope to have a bird dog of my own and you better believe my grandpa's gun will be with me for many a trip.

It may be old, but it still shoots straight

"There's a long beard hanging on the livin' room wall,
That I got with a box call...

 and Grandaddy's gun."
My granpda was not a turkey hunter.  He didn't grow up doing it and didn't seem to care much for it - I'm not really sure why.  We did go once when I was a teen, but we didn't hear or see anything.  Over the past two years I have been learning to turkey hunt via time in the woods and friends willing to pass along their knowledge.  We've had some close calls, but hopefully next year my grandpa's gun can add another species to the long list of firsts.


"It wouldn't mean what mean's to me to no one....
Cause I can still hear his voice when I put it to my shoulder,
A guns like a woman son it's all how you hold her.
He taught me a whole lot more than how to hunt,
And one of these days I'll pass it on to my grandson....
my Grandaddy's gun.
"
The gunshot injuries my grandfather suffered while serving in World War II took their toll over the years.  By the time I turned 18, he had trouble getting around.  But even when I had to help him in and out of the car and through the woods, he always wanted to go hunting with me.  It is an appreciation that I have a hard time putting into words, so I am glad songs like this are around to say it for me.  We had a lot of fun hunting together and I learned a lot about being an outdoorsman, a respectful hunter, and a good man.  Now he is in his late 80's and his health is growing more and more complicated.  I don't get to see him very often, but every time I get home, it is one of my first stops.  Thanks for everything Poppop!

Now I would love to make this blog interactive.  If you have something that was passed on to you by someone special, then share it here.  It can be anything and from anyone, not just a gun or from a grandpa.  Send me a blurb via email (drew@manpoweredfishing.com) with whatever info you want to include and feel free to send a picture as well.  Or you could simply comment below.  Or if you are a fellow blogger, then blog it on your site and send me a link.

Tight lines!