Archive for the ‘Pike’ Category

Brad Bohen Tying up a Chunky Predator Fly   1 comment

Here’s my favorite Musky fisherman, Brad Bohen, tying his Hang Time Optical Minnow. His method of tying bucktail on backwards gives these flies that ability to pulse in the water like a squid upon retrieval.

Check it out!

Fly Tying with Brad Bohem (Hang Time Optical Minnow) from TheNewFlyFisher on Vimeo.

Milwaukee River Trip   4 comments

Stephen Rose and I visited the Milwaukee River yesterday afternoon. Look at that picture down there. Isn’t that a beautiful place? That could just a well be the West Fork of the Chippewa River in Vilas County. But it’s not. It’s in Milwaukee.

Stephen and I have talked frequently about what it means to have “non-invasive” non-native fish in our water system. I found out that the village of Grafton, which had a referendum on what to do with the dam in their community, voted to keep the dam in place, but to put in a fish way to allow fish passage up and down the river. The DNR, later on, determined that it would be a bad idea to allow fish to migrate upstream of Grafton because of the risk of invasive species like Asian Carp invading the upper Milwaukee River system. At some level I agree that it would be good, if Asian Carp were to make their way into the Great Lakes, for them to be prevented from invading the upper Milwaukee River. But I also think it would be a good thing for Brook Trout to be able to migrate from spawning areas in the Northern Kettle Moraine creeks all the way out to Lake Michigan and back. We’re not going to get anywhere in reintroducing native Coaster Brook Trout into the Lake Michigan Tribs if they can’t get from the lake up to the creeks at the upper reaches of watersheds like the Milwaukee River.

So, how do we all determine what’s best? How is the presence of large, non-native predatory salmonids in the Great Lakes appropriate? Salmon and Steelhead are certainly admirable creatures. Their migrations are awe-inspiring and spectacular. But how does their presence negatively affect the native Bass, Pike, Suckers, and Whitefish, not to mention Brook Trout and Lake Trout, both of which are also native?

These questions are larger than me. Many people don’t even care, or don’t even know. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe we humans are programmed to reshape our world to our liking, and introducing Salmon and Steelhead into the Great Lakes is just part of our role in the world.

Anyway, a couple of boys were fishing along the bank and were slinging lures at Salmon. They didn’t know what they were doing. They weren’t having any luck. One ended up snagging one in front if its tail and was having trouble getting it to hand. I asked if I could lend a hand, and waded over to collect the fish, pull the hook out, and give it to the boy for his buddy to take a picture. He was genuinely in awe of the creature, a large, toothy fish half his height in length.

He asked if I’d caught any and I said no, I hadn’t. He wished me luck and as I left he expressed his love for the Milwaukee River. So, did that Salmon get him to fall in love with the river? It probably had a lot to do with it. And that, to me, seems like a good thing. If people care about a place because of their experiences there, it makes sense to provide them with cool things to experience in that place. It’s hard to fall in love with a polluted and fishless river. But a clean, swift moving river full of big fish will draw a lot of visitors to it. Those visitors will want to see that the river is taken care of. So maybe introducing Salmon and Steelhead is overall a positive. It’s hard for me to say. Perhaps you have some ideas? I’d love to hear what you all have to say.

 

Milwaukee River, October 25, 2013

Milwaukee River, October 25, 2013

Musky on the Fly   1 comment

Last weekend I got to fulfill a dream I’ve had since I began fly fishing. A Musky on the fly.

Stephen Rose and I headed up north to Hayward Friday afternoon and after a long but pleasant drive we ended up at the Boulder Lodge.

 

Boulder Lodge near Clam Lake, WI

Boulder Lodge near Clam Lake, WI – Click the image to go to their website.

 

What’s great about camping at this place is they have a nice bar and grill, so camp meals are as easy as throwing ten or twenty dollars on the table and digging in. It’s also on Ghost Lake, as sparsely populated, tamarack-lined northern lake filled with Musky and Walley. You can rent a boat for the day and have at it if that’s your pleasure.

Saturday morning we met up with our guide, Brad Bohen. If you haven’t heard of Brad Bohen, you haven’t been paying attention to the art of pursuing Musky with fly gear. Brad grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin and spent a lot of time visiting a local fly shop there, learning to tie flies and getting after Trout, Bass, and other species with his fly rod. Summers offered him the chance to get up north where he chased Musky with traditional spinning gear. He learned to captain a drift boat in Montana, spending his college years in Bozeman. All of these experiences have added up to a man who knows how to get fish to chase whatever you’re throwing.

 

Brad Bohen with a toothy beast. Click the pic to go to MCO's website (and book a guided trip with Brad for chrissake's).

Brad Bohen with a toothy beast. Click the pic to go to MCO’s website (and book a guided trip with Brad for chrissake’s).

 

We stopped in Clam Lake for some breakfast at the Elkhorn Lodge, so named because Clam Lake is home to Wisconsin’s biggest Elk herd, one-hundred and eighty of them. And you can see signs of Elk everywhere. Literally. There are signs along Hwy 77 with blinking yellow lights warning you that there are lots of Elk around and that you’d be best served slowing down a bit so you don’t end up with one through your windshield.

Brad told us a story of working upriver with two clients one day and hearing Elk bugling up ahead. “How cool” everyone thought, that there were Elk nearby. They rounded a bend and heard the sound of antlers cracking together. “Wow, there are a couple of bulls fighting” everyone thought. Then they rounded another bend and into view came these two fully antlered rutting bull Elk, sparring with each other right in the river while a dozen cow Elk watched nearby. Incredible.

After breakfast with headed out to Brad’s truck, towing a sweet Towee Skiff. How cool is Brad’s rig?!

 

Brad Bohen's '88 Land Cruiser pulling a Towee Rivermaster Skiff. Click to go to the Towee website. Copyright Towee Boats.

Brad Bohen’s ’88 Land Cruiser pulling a Towee Rivermaster Skiff. Click to go to the Towee website. Copyright Towee Boats.

 

We headed off and Brad gave us a rundown of the plan for the day. Well, there really wasn’t a plan aside from “We’re gonna go to a boat landing and put in the boat and head up river and fish a lake or two, and we’ll drift the river for a while and see if we can run into any toothy monsters.” I paraphrased, but that’s about the jist of it.

And that’s just what we did. Except it wasn’t like we were just anywhere, we were exactly “nowhere”, for all intents and purposes. It felt like we were in Alaska, basically, motoring (with a jet outboard – Coolup a winding river bounded on all sides by reeds and bogs and forest, and starkly planted in what felt like wilderness. It was really something. I hope you get to experience it someday.

Musky fishing, as everyone has heard, takes a lot of patience. Trout fishing is fast-action in comparison. With trout you can have off days, sure. But once you get the hang of it, and learn where to fish and what to look for, chances are pretty good that after an hour or two you’ll find some fish.

Musky fishing is all about prospecting. The stretch of river we fished, which was described by Brad as some of the finest Musky water in the world, contained, in his estimation, around a dozen Musky per mile. Compare that with estimates of trout density in Wisconsin’s Driftless trout streams, commonly described as having 1,000 trout per mile.

That should give you some perspective.

Brad uses nine and ten weight fly rods that are nine feet long, and he throws flies that look more like Stephen Tyler hairpieces than insects. They’re made to mimic baitfish or small mammals or ducklings. Stephen and I hucked these flies for and hour, then two, in lakes, among lily-pads, riverbends, hidy holes, while Brad rowed and coached and talked of amusing and inconceivable anecdotes of guide-trips past.

And then, a big toothy maw rose from the deep tanin-stained waters to decimate Stephen Rose’s fly, mere feet from the boat. Stephen did a good job setting the hook, not with a trout set (lifting the rod tip) but with a quick backward tug of the line with his left hand. These fish have mouths made of tooth and bone, and to keep one on your line, a fierce hook set is required.

With Brad’s help, Stephen landed his first fly-caught Musky and was on the board!

 

Stephen Rose and Brad Bohen with Stephen's Musky, caught on a fly.

Stephen Rose and Brad Bohen with Stephen’s Musky, caught on a fly.

 

We drifted downriver a bit longer and then took the boat out and headed downstream to bigger water.

In Northern Wisconsin boat landings are sometimes suspect. The boat landing Brad used to put his boat in the water that afternoon could better be described as a series of steps about five feet wide, with bushes and signs on either side, terminating in a large, half-submerged boulder strategically placed to wreck your boat as you lower it from your trailer into the water. Below is a picture showing the general look of the place.

 

Nice Boat Landing!

Nice Boat Landing!

 

As he was preparing the boat for launch Brad was telling us how the highway department had put in a nice brand new bridge just downstream (upper right corner of the photo) two years earlier (right over a set of rapids), and why hadn’t they included a reasonable boat landing in the project. I was looking around thinking to myself “there isn’t a boat landing, as far as I can see.” But Brad started backing his boat up toward a gap between two bushes with a boulder at the bottom and I thought to myself, “Our day of fishing will be over soon, after Brad destroys his boat in a few minutes.”

Well, he didn’t destroy his boat. In fact it was an artful jig he danced, getting the boat in the water without batting an eye. It’s like he’d done it many times before. City slicker me should have known better than to be concerned.

We tooled upriver with jet outboard humming along and Brad positioned us in all the likely places. After a while, after fishing in a very likely spot for a spell, the water surrounding my fly exploded. I set the hook and pulled the fish in. A pike.

Only after I found out it was a pike did I feel even the slightest bit of disappointment. It was a predatory fish that looked a lot like a Musky. The take was all kinds of pissed off. There were plenty of teeth. It made my heart race. So I was happy to have had some action, but that happiness was tempered with the fact that I hadn’t caught a Musky.

 

Tom and Brad with Pike.

Tom and Brad with Pike.

 

We fished enjoyably for an hour more, maybe two, and then it was time to get back on the road. Brad was heading out of town but offered to set us up with two rods to use for the evening and into Sunday if we were inclined. Yes, we were.

Back at the campground we said our farewells with promises to keep in touch and fish again together sometime. Thanks a bunch, Brad. It was a super cool outing and I’ll never forget it!

Later that evening, after a great dinner at the Angry Minnow in Hayward, Stephen and I went back to the Boulder Lodge and decided to fish the creek below Ghost Lake. We did everything Brad had taught us that day, and look how it worked out…

 

Tom's first Musky, caught on a fly.

Tom’s first Musky, caught on a fly.

 

Lake Wingra Hardwater   1 comment

John, Stephen and I went to Wingra on New Year’s Eve to chase lunkers. Suffice it to say, we didn’t catch any.

John did have a flag go up only to find that his shiner minnow was gone, so that may have been something, but for the most part the experience taught us how nice a shelter of some kind would be to have.

Hope you enjoy the photographs! There’ll be more throughout the winter, hopefully some of which will have us holding some nice fish.

 

Sunrise on the Ice - Lake Wingra, December 2012

Sunrise on the Ice – Lake Wingra, December 2012

 

Good Ol' Beaver Dam Tip-ups

Good Ol’ Beaver Dam Tip-ups

 

Stephen Rose working the hole

Stephen Rose working the hole

 

Flag Up! for John Jackels

Flag Up! for John Jackels

 

Gloves off. The worst part of it.

Gloves off. The worst part of it.

 

Hook Set - Nothing there.

Hook Set – Nothing there.

 

Stephen Rose considers what it means to be a man.

Stephen Rose considers what it means to be a man.

 

Waiting for the spool to turn

Waiting for the spool to turn

 

Six tip-ups marching toward Vilas Park, Madison, Wisconsin

Six tip-ups marching toward Vilas Park, Madison, Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking Trout in Winter   1 comment

Tom and I have discussed a midwinter outing to the Wisconsin northwoods to scout out some trout.   We’d planned our visit for late January.   I decided to call upon my families fishing lineage to find out about the possibilities in Minocqua.  I contacted Rick Domini, my wife’s uncle.  I’m not exactly sure what that makes me?  A nephew-in-law?

Rick is a longtime Flambeau Chain muskie fishing guide.   All I’ll tell you is that I have seen some pictures that do not require a back story to understand that Rick knows what he’s doing.   I’m not sure I would swim anywhere near where Rick Domini is fishing for fear of being eaten by a freshwater monster.

I told Rick about our plan.  I believe his second word (via email) was ‘insane’.   Oh yeah, his first word was ‘definitely’.

Now Tom had worked the DNR’s Managed Lands website pretty hard looking for a possible trout camp destination and had discovered a stream called the McDonald Creek, just south of Hwy 70 in Oconto County.    It’s listed as a Class II trout stream on the DNR’s website.

The idea was to find a nice spot in a state forest to fish and camp and rusticate with the boys.   Rick informed me that a long range plan to seek trout in this part of the state is probably a losing proposition.  The streams are just not conditioned the way they are in other parts of the state.  Brackish, sandy bottomed and featureless, with very few fish.  Tom was told much the same thing by a colleague.   So much for trout seeking.

Tom and I had planned on doing some ice fishing on our visit so that we might add to our winter larders back home (filling the freezer with some tasty winter fish).

When I mentioned this to Rick he said, “great idea, I just guided last week and we caught 55 northern”.   “You did what?”, I said.   “Yep, I also caught a 10lb. 31″ walleye, my biggest to date.”

Just what does this information mean?  Well, I’m still processing it.   Here’s a pic of a pike:

Just another day at the office.

Compliments of Rick Domini http://www.ricks-fishing.com/index1.php

I could live with just one of those.  If I caught 55 I’d be concerned that I’d upset the natural order in some way.  Like I’d opened up another dimension made entirely of fish flesh.   Rick told me that lots of those fish were keepers.   Were they fishing a frozen hatchery?

Tom and I will probably reconsider our trip but with fishing like that I think ice fishing has a huge upside.   If you like a big sky view you can hardly do better than standing on a frozen lake.  It’s beautifully quiet as the snow absorbs all the sound.  You can throw a football or cook some franks.  I’ve been in ice fishing camps that felt not unlike real communities.  People exchanging pleasantries, swapping stories and fishing tips.  And the fish are big and taste better than they do all year long!

Who knows, we may go up there anyway.   I think we’ll find our trout Valhalla somewhere closer to home.   If you’re ever interested in being on a trophy fish you could do a whole lot worse than Rick’s Fishing.  Rick isn’t big on maintaining his website.   I’m pretty certain he’s already got a client list that is rock solid.   But here’s the link anyway:

http://www.ricks-fishing.com/index1.php

If anyone has ideas about seeking trout in winter I’d love to hear about it.   Thanks.