My Henyr’s Fork Marathon will be tomorrow July 1 meeting in the Last Chance lot around 7.
You might remember last year when a couple old customers/good friends from my fly shop times traded some fishing days with me. They said take us fly fishing for carp and we’ll take you to Bolivia for golden dorado. I really had to think hard on this but I decided to do it – HA!
Tom Hansen and Skip Brittenham are in Jackson Hole this week for the 4th of July so I took them carping today and will again on Thursday. Last year I tuned them on to carping on a small lake with numerous easy to catch mirror carp. Today we went straight to the bull infested more difficult to fool monster carp of Blackfoot Reservoir.
I met the guys in Alpine at 8 AM to clear skies and relatively no wind. Carp is a sight fishing venue so sun and little wind are essential. It takes about 40 minutes to get to the lake from there and then you drive along looking for tails and muds. If you find one mirror carp you’ve found a bunch and usually you can stake up on them for the entire day. But when we arrived it was already windy.
In 2014 it seems the wind never stops no matter where I go. Some of you see me on the casting ponds demonstrating at the Fly Fishing Show in the winter telling you wind is your friend. It can be but not when it’s blowing a steady 25 mph day after day. My boys toughed it out but for the most part it was miserable at Blackfoot Reservoir.
That being said however, giving up isn’t really in my DNA. I have one small stretch of Blackfoot that is almost always sheltered from the wind. Sure enough it was and the guys got into some fish!
Next on the agenda is one of my favorites – The Henry’s Fork Marathon!
I’m sore from all the paddling I did today. Naturally it was windy as all get out and I did most of the day by myself – actually the perfect way to end a great trip on the home waters. The fishing wasn’t spectacular but I managed a couple nice smallies, one largemouth and a decent chain pickerel. This was a great trip that might become an annual. It’s back to Idaho in the morning. I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from the trip.
Montana Currier with a nice pumpkinseed sunfish
Granny relaxing in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
A New Hampshire largemouth bass
Fly fishing for chain pickerel
Fly fishing Back Bay for bluegill sunfish
“The” pumpkinseed sunfish
I absolutely wanted to get Granny an epic bass on the fly day like I enjoyed yesterday. Due to the fact that my canoe was still in Dads truck I decided to take her right back to the lake Don and I ended on yesterday with the smallmouth and largemouth bass.
We got there at 6 AM. Conditions were glassy calm and the temperature was already in the 70s. I paddled and Granny threw poppers on my 5-weight Winston. She was into fish almost immediately.
Granny got her amazing day. I did something I rarely do; I kept track of every fish she caught. Granny landed eight smallmouth bass and twenty-one largemouth. Like yesterday, none were big but many were respectable bass like the one she’s holding below.
We left the lake before 11 AM and spent much of the day relaxing, swimming and getting better on the paddle boards. We also took a trip into town to enjoy a few brews at our favorite lakeside restaurant, Garwoods. Afterwards we walked the docks of Back Bay and I spotted a remarkable pumpkinseed sunfish.
This pumpkinseed was so big that I ran back to camp, grabbed my rod and returned. Granny remained behind and kept an eye on this monster who evidently called this particular dock his home. I flicked a Chernobyl ant around the dock hoping to entice him but to no avail. He came out and looked but he would not rise to it. Then I put on a nymph and that was the ticket. This amazing pumpkinseed devoured the fake then posed for few pics with me. Pumpkinseed sunfish are one of freshwaters prettiest!
We’ve yet to have decent bass fishing this trip. Sure we’ve picked up a few, but not like I’m used to here in my old stomping grounds on Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. This morning it looked as though this trend was to continue. Again the wind was blowing at 5 AM making it difficult to get to my favorite smallmouth bass grounds in the canoe. Granny and I tried but we were forced back near camp to the sheltered Goodhue and Hawkins Boatyard area.
At 7 Granny gave up and I figured I would also. When we got to camp my sister Becky was there getting ready to fish from shore. She suggested the wind was dying and talked me into going back out for another look.
Becky was right and I finally got into the spot I’ve wanted to fish all week. The wind was down to a light breeze. This is perfect because the slight chop hides the fly line on the water and the breeze blows the canoe along at the ideal speed so that you can cast rather than continuously paddle. On my second cast this spectacular smallie sipped my popper like a Henry’s Fork rainbow sips a Pale Morning Dun.
I felt the magic when I released that first smallie. Off he went from one side of the canoe and I launched my popper back out the other side. Immediately another sizeable smallie sipped my popper and I landed him also.
In two hours I landed an amazing nine 14” to 18” smallies. Every fish came on the popper and they all sipped the fly in memorable fashion. I love nothing more than seeing their ghostly figure materialize beneath my popper between pops. The experience is like no other. Unfortunately Becky got blanked. I guess she needs to read up on my smallmouth bass tactics on my website!
Late afternoon brother in law Don and I loaded the canoe up in dads F250 and drove to a small lily pad covered lake. I wanted a change of scenery from the big lake and Back Bay. Don and I caught another thirty bass – a nice mix between smallmouth and largemouth. The largemouth below was the biggest, but every fish came on poppers.
Today was that one you hope for on every week long fishing trip. The day where the weather cooperates and the fish are hungry. I’ve fly fished for bass all my life and this was one of the best!
We picked up some hitchhikers on the way back from my parent’s 50th anniversary party yesterday – my nieces Sammy and Montana. My brother and his wife headed to Wisconsin for the weekend so Granny and I (and the rest of my family THANKFULLY) were babysitters. Naturally they wanted to see their cousin Sierra and spend some time with Uncle Jeff.
There’s only one thing to do when hanging with Uncle Jeff and that’s fly fish. All my nieces have the cute pink Ross Youth Outfits. They’ve been fishing them with me for three years now. While Sammy, the oldest, opted to do her own thing, Montana and Sierra were up early on this longest day of the year, ready to torment the local fish from our dock as well as our neighbors dock, Goodhue and Hawkins Boatyard.
They each spent the morning racking up huge numbers of rock bass and pumpkinseeds. Granny and simply kicked back and smiled. Both girls can cast, fool the fish, and best of all, they can take them off the hook themselves.
Sierra and Montana are both very aware of the blog. Therefore they made sure to pose with almost every fish they caught. Obviously I had some fun as well with some of the poses.
For the evening I organized a very special event. I took Montana in my canoe and my brother in law Don took Sierra in his. We took them to Back Bay for their first evening fish there. As you know by now, Back Bay had a huge impact on me as a kid and I can only hope my nieces learn to enjoy the place as much as I did. My guess is that after tonight they did.
Montana got a nice bluegill on her first cast. She proceeded to catch a few more as a bullfrog started to croak. She couldn’t believe it when I told her the soothing sound was a frog and of course then I had to find that monster frog. He was easy to find but although I’m a good turtle catcher, the slippery frog slipped through my fingers.
The girls caught a lot of fish and a witnessed a beautiful sunset. Then the air chilled. However despite being cold we took the girls to the famous Wolfeboro Bubble and got them ice creams.
Unfortunately Sammy and Montana head home in the morning so it was a short but sweet visit. I recon I’ll look into a morning of smallmouth around the point from Wolfeboro Bay before sunrise tomorrow. Stay tuned. . . .
The wind doesn’t seem to want to stop here on Lake Winnipesaukee this week. It was so bad already at 5 AM as well as colder than I could believe that I stayed in my sleeping bag until well after 6. Then I headed out and struggled in the canoe trying to maneuver myself popping for smallies. I lucked into two small ones and called it a day before 9 AM.
I called it a day because we had a surprise 50th anniversary party for my folks. My sister gets most the credit for organizing the superb party that was held down in Newburyport, Massachusetts. More than thirty of my folk’s longtime friends (many they haven’t seen in years) came. The surprise absolutely blew their minds! Great times back here on the East Coast!
Undoubtedly I’ve experienced the best of the best when it comes to fly fishing during my worldly adventures the last thirty years. But if I could turn back the clock to the late 70’s and early 80’s to relive the hot summer nights from my canoe in Back Bay under the bridge behind Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, I would.
I was a kid then that only cared about fishing. Almost every time out I had a new experience. Often I’d break my personal size record of a fish (usually a chain pickerel). One time I snapped off my favorite hard bodied popper on a huge bass but a week later I caught the 4lb largemouth and retrieved my fly. My most memorable experience was watching a common snapping turtle snatch a full grown hen mallard off the surface by the foot in the very lily pads I was fishing. It was a thrashing carnage battle but finally the enormous snapper won. There was always something astonishing that happened and I never knew what it would be.
The wind continued through last night. I slept on the screen porch of our cottage in the same place I did every summer night when I was a kid. The breeze keeps you cool when it’s muggy and helps you sleep. Last night we had a small storm that blew rain through the screens and got me wet causing me a little Bhutan flashback. All was good though as the squall was long gone by 5 AM and actually took most the wind with it. I got Granny up and we headed for my home away from home, Back Bay.
I had several rods rigged for Granny starting with my Winston Boron III SX 6-weight and a Ben Byng bass popper. Although I was eager to get right to Back Bay, I have several smallmouth haunts along the way. None were happening so we eased into Back Bay with sunrise. Granny cast to the base of the original Yum Yum Shop building and she landed three rock bass for a warm up.
My sister Becky and her husband Don joined us today. They paddled into Back Bay around 9 after they got their kids to school. My sister is the angler of their family. She nearly followed the fishing bum lifestyle that I did but after two summers in Jackson Hole she went back to school and became a physician’s assistant.
Don has become a serious angler. If this is the first you’ve heard of Don be sure to visit my blog for November 2013 when he joined me for the tigerfish in Tanzania. That trip was a life changer for Don!
As we all worked our way deeper into Back Bay Granny continued to pop around every lily pad and blades of protruding grass. She continued to pick up rock bass along with bluegill and pumpkinseeds until her popper got smashed horizontally. Granny had herself one of my old favorites, the chain pickerel.
Unlike his close cousins the northern pike and the muskellunge, the chain pickerel doesn’t get very big. The biggest I ever caught was a 23” when I was a kid right there in Back Bay. But they are scrappy, toothy, and cooperative and smash a popper with vengeance. Those ingredients are no doubt why I learned to love them so much as a kid.
Despite their teeth, even the chain pickerel rarely gets big enough that you need wire shock tippet to handle them. I use a 6’ leader with a 16lb tippet. After I land a nice one I’ll run my fingers along the tippet for damage. If it’s roughed up I retie it but that’s about as much care as you need.
It got hot by 10 AM. I’ll bet we were already in the mid 80°s. Granny and I tucked in some shade and kicked back for a few minutes. As we were sitting there I could see a musk turtle walking on the bottom in a couple feet of water within an arms length. If there’s one thing I was good at as a kid, it was catching turtles. For the second time since I’ve known her, Granny doubted my turtle catching skills. But I launched myself over the side and came up with this unique species. See turtle catching March 2010 & May 2012.
The true catch of the day however would have to be the lesser known and rarely caught on fly, brown bullhead – better known in the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee as the hornpout. I night fished for hornpout with my grandfather all the time as a kid. Occasionally I’d see one cruising in daylight and catch them on flies. All you have to do is antagonize them. When Granny spotted this one and doubted my ability to catch yet another critter today, I honed in and coaxed him into eating a chartreuse streamer I already had rigged for perch.
It was a wonderful day of warmwater fly fishing in Back Bay. Unfortunately the strong west wind returned in the afternoon and shut down our canoeing and fishing. Instead it turned into a relaxing beer sipping afternoon at Garwoods. Tomorrow I might get out in the morning for smallies near the camp but a special event will keep me off the water most of the day.
I couldn’t wait to guide Granny to my old smallmouth bass water this morning out from our family camp here on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. But all night long I could hear the west wind picking up speed. At 5 AM, the normally placid Wolfeboro Bay was covered in whitecaps.
I pressed some coffee and got Granny in my canoe by 5:30 anyhow, rigged with a popper on my 5-weight. My top smallie spots are outside Wolfeboro Bay towards the broads but as we rounded the point the wind spun my Old Town canoe out of control. It didn’t matter how hard I dug, there was no way we were continuing. We paddled chaotically back to camp disappointed.
Even the protected Back Bay was screwed by high wind. By mid morning wind gusts were reported up to 30 MPH. There was no sense in trying to fish from the canoe anywhere. We hopped in my dads old F350 with my sister Becky and drove to several small ponds looking for crappie and pickerel. After hours of trying various spots, all we caught were some tiny bluegill and baby largemouth. Serious angling wasn’t in the cards today.
My sister’s family lives in Wolfeboro near my folks. My niece Sierra got out of school at 3. Sierra has been on the blog many times catching fish on her pink Ross Youth Outfit (today she had the luxury of using my 4-weight Winston LS). After a visit with her I could see she was anxious to wet a line so I took her down to the Back Bay docks where we’d be protected from wind.
The Back Bay docks of Wolfeboro hold heaps of warmwater fish species. If you ever find yourself here and you’re without a boat, don’t hesitate to hit these docks. I put on a Chernobyl Ant for young Sierra and watched her go to work.
Sierra quickly figured out casting wasn’t necessary and she dapped her fly off each and every dock. If you want to get a kid into fishing, this is the way to do it because with a set of polarized glasses they can see each fish coming for the fly. And the smaller sunfish species are relentless. Most come until they are caught. Sierra landed a bunch of the non native rock bass that have taken over Wolfeboro and some bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish.
We salvaged today. The wind was extremely bad. Not only that but temps have dropped to the 60°s. We can only hope that conditions improve tomorrow so Granny and I can get the canoe back out on the water.
Granny and I flew across country yesterday. We’re in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My parent’s official day is on Friday but Granny and I thought we’d make a nice vacation out of it with some serious warmwater fly fishing on my old stomping grounds, Lake Winnipesaukee.
Indeed I love my trout fishing in Idaho. Days like Sunday on the Henry’s Fork for the Harriman Ranch Opener are events I can’t live without. But as I get older I find myself thinking about where it all began. For me it was popping for bass, smaller sunfish, chain pickerel and anything else that would take my concoctions. This is why I’m so dang excited to be here.
We had errands to do this morning including getting our New Hampshire fishing licenses so we didn’t get an early start. But Granny and I made a mid day assault on the fish near our family camp then went out tonight to Back Bay. All I can say is it didn’t take long for Granny to realize why I love this place and these fish so much. She poppered up a lot of fish including this dandy of a largemouth bass on my Winston 5-weight and my old Ross Gunnison.
Expect more warmwater fly fishing reports throughout the week!