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Mother’s Day Shad

Those of you who have followed this blog for a few years will recall that hooking a Shad on the fly has been one of my goals for a few years. Rewinding to 2014, I missed some Hickory Shad on the fly but was unable to land one. I did not attempt to shad fish in 2015 or 2016 due to time constraints and/or work commitments along with the low water levels that made for a poor season. Early 2017 has progressed and the drought has lifted from the Delaware River watershed. This weekend after having Mother’s Day events with the family, I found some time to check the Shad Reports. It was clear to me based on the reports that I should go out and try for some shad on the fly.

My first American Shad and first Shad Fly Fishing!

Fly Gear

I had previously acquired the proper gear for Shad Fly Fishing prior to my earlier Fly Fishing adventures therefore, I had all the necessary equipment and some flies tied up on deck ready to go. I used my St. Croix 7WT Bankrobber Streamer Rod strung up with Rio Sink Tip line and a 8LB test Bass tippet material. As for a fly, I used something called Al’s Shad Fly #4. This consists of a size four or six hook, dumbbell eyes, yellow hackle, yellow hackle tail, yellow yarn and silver tinsel. I also tried out some others but this seemed to get the most attention.

My version of Al’s Shad Fly #4

Where to Look

Using the Fly Rod puts you at a slight disadvantage to a spin fisherman when seeking Shad. On the Delaware, through Warren County, where I typically fish for Smallmouth in the summer there are no major dams for the Shad to “stack up” like they do in Deer Creek, Maryland. Therefore, you must seek out pools downstream of major runs or those created by tributaries. Swinging the fly into slower water pools on the side of fast water or before a major obstacle in the river should yield results.

With some luck, they will still be in the river next weekend an I’ll find some time to target the Shad in between the guide trips I will be running.

Post Spawn Bass

Lunker Bass on a fiberglass fly rod.
Lunker Bass on a fiberglass fly rod.

Yesterday I caught this lunker Bass post spawn on my parent’s farm pond using a Woolly Bugger. It was the fight of a lifetime considering I caught it on a 4WT 8’6″ L.L. Bean fiberglass kit rod. Good fun and after a long and action filled fight, she was reeled in and released safely.

As Fine as Fishing Line

There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.

-Steven Wright

 

 

I do a lot of both. But standing around looking like an idiot is typically how I catch most of my fish. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

 

If you ask certain members of my family about me, they will tell you that I came out of the womb with a fishing pole in one hand and a beer in the other. The beer part, I’m not sure about, but also wouldn’t doubt. The fishing part, however, is stretching the truth just a little.

 

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Randy taking Sarah’s fish off of her line

 

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Sarah reeling in baby bass at the ripe age of 4

 

This is Pop and I. Pop, known to most people as “Randy” and to a few as “Floyd,” was the greatest fly fisherman to ever live. I love the members of Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing, I grew up with most of them. But despite their talents, no one can cast like Pop. Some people describe the particular cast used in fly fishing as an art form. If that is the case, then Pop’s cast could have been in the Louvre, right next to “Mona Lisa.” And he was lucky. Luckiest man I knew. Being lucky and being a fisherman can be a deadly combination. But whether it was a scratch-off lottery ticket, a Ducks Unlimited Silent Auction, or a fishing competition, Pop always came out on the winning side. He is the reason why a lot of my family members, myself included, love fishing. And because my mom and I were the favorites, we inherited his very large tackle box when he passed away in 2008. My dad refers to it as “The Suitcase.” And it is pretty much just filled with magic and awesomeness. Rubber worms, top water plugs, flies, semi-floaters, shad darts, hoolapoppers; you name it, its in this box. I will even admit that there are some things in the Suitcase for which I do not know their purpose. But I intend to find out.

 

I’ve always loved to fish. Dad and I would go every chance we got when I was younger. Then, as horrible as this may sound to the outdoorsmen/women reading this, we both became busy. Too busy to fish. But this summer, I have all the time in the world. And so does Dad. I graduated from college this past December. And after moving home, applying to 67 jobs, not getting any of them, and coming to realize that, financially, I would be fine, I decided to take the summer off before starting law school this fall in Syracuse, New York. And Dad and I have been hitting the ponds every chance we get. So, like, I said, I’ve always loved to fish. But this is the first year that I’ve really started to document it.

 

I’m not big on the selfie craze…unless I can take a selfie with a bass.

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Pictures of my dad catching huge fish? Definitely a favorite of mine.

 

 

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Dad

And being on the right lake at the right time of day? Also a favorite of mine.

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Johnsonburg, NJ – Father’s Day
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Johnsonburg, NJ – June 16, 2014

 

Now that I’ve filled you in, its time for the real story. About how I caught a hog bass, weighing in at 7.4 lbs, while I was standing around on the dock looking like an idiot.

 

The Tale of the Tail

 

It took me a really long time to write this story, because time writing was time I actually wanted to spend fishing. You can’t tell me that you, the reader, has never come down with the “Fever.” You know, after you catch that monster fish? You pretty much just want to set up camp on the dock, bank, or in the boat, and you want to bring in enough provisions for a small army so that you never have to stop fishing. Because you just want to catch a bigger fish than the monster you just reeled in. Well, I’m slowly getting over the “Fever,” but recovery is slow going.

 

When Dad and I started fishing this summer, we were reeling in one and two pounders left and right. Every cast we threw off of the dock produced a bass at the end of our pole. No matter the size, Dad and I always catch and release. This may be the one thing we have in common when it comes to fishing. Otherwise, we’re quite different.

 

For example, Dad does research to find out what other fishermen are having success with when it comes to fishing tackle. I, on the other hand, typically either buy the last bag of whatever color rubber worms are on the shelf, assuming that if its working for other people/selling out that it will work for me, or I just buy the ones that look the coolest. As a matter of fact, my monster of a bass was caught on super cool purple worm with blue glitter, made by YUM and costing a whopping $2.68 per bag. And I bought them because they looked super cool. Dad likes to reel his fish in, take them off the hook(s), and throw them back. I talk to my fish, I name my fish, and I make Dad say “hello” to my fish before I throw them back in the pond. This last part tends to frustrate him, especially when he’s got a fish on his own line, he’s trying to steer the boat, or he’s packing a lip. Or better yet, when all three of those things are happening at the same time. But, we always agree on a catch and release policy. Its not about how many scales we can mount on our wall or feeding our family. And its not about the number of fish we catch in general. Its about the fun of the sport and the time that he and I get to spend together.

 

It depends on the day as to what works. I usually start out with my Rapala CountDown lure, dubbed “Old Faithful,” because whether its a sunny or a bass, I always catch something when I throw it out.

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Rapala CountDown Lure – F7, Firetiger

 

Dad seems to love using Zoom lizards, sticking mostly to either the chartreuse pepper or the pumpkin color.

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Zoom Lizard – Chartreuse Pepper

 

But as far as worms go, it not only changes by the day, but by the minute. I could start with a watermelon worm with a black spec and catch five or six fish. A few casts later, after not even a nibble, I’ll switch to a watermelon worm with no spec, but silver glitter, and catch another five or six fish. Or it may be a more drastic change, like a bright purple Gulp! sinking minnow. But either way, its usually a trial and error process. We just keep trying to see what works. Now that we’ve been using the boat more and, therefore, casting in towards the bank, Dad has been experimenting with top water plugs/jitterbugs. Some days those work and some days those don’t. Like I said, trial and error.

Now, onto the tail…

The date was June 3, 2014. For the past week or so, the little guys had been eating our worms alive. So, on my third trip to the bait shop in five days, I decided to try out a cheaper brand of worm. Especially if the fish were going to continue biting like they had been. That’s when I found my super cool looking purple worms with blue glitter from YUM. More specifically, YUM Dinger, Color: Junebug.

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YUM Dinger – Junebug

 

The day before hadn’t really been that great, even on the boat. So after catching the tiniest bass I had ever seen (who I named Archimedes), I didn’t really expect to catch anything, let alone the biggest bass anyone I knew had ever seen.

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Archimedes

 

After picking up some cheap worms, and other essentials like hooks and swivels, I headed home to wait for Dad’s F250 Diesel to roll in the driveway and pick me up. Decked out in my Syracuse Law t-shirt and and Dad in his Binghamton University t-shirt, we headed to the pond.

 

About 10 minutes had gone by, and the catch had been the usual. Nothing to report. Then, what happened was nothing short of a miracle.

As I said, the day before hadn’t really been anything magical, for me anyways. Dad had caught some decent sized fish, but I was reeling in the little guys. I know I said that size doesn’t matter and number doesn’t matter. But every once in a while, Dad and I become slightly competitive. So after his third 3.5-4lb fish, accompanied by a “Sarah, look at my fish!” comment, I got a little frustrated. And said to Dad, “How much you wanna bet Mom and Pop are both up there right now laughing at me? Heck, they’re probably the ones who keep sending me the tiny fish so you can reel in the big ones. Whatever, Mom and Pop. Have your laughs and be done.”

 

But on this particular day, I was rewarded. Mom and Pop had had their laughs up there on their clouds, and now it was my turn to catch the bigger fish. After switching from “Old Faithful” to a Junebug, I felt a tug on the first cast. This tug was a little bigger than most tugs I had felt, but I was also using a lightweight pole with six-pound line on it, so even a sunny feels like the Great White Whale. It wasn’t until he jumped that I realized that I had a fish of “proper” size on the other end of my pole. I reeled him in, had my usual conversation with him, then put him on the scale. 5.3 lbs!! Score! Finally! What a fish…compared to Archimedes at least.

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5.3 lb bass

 

Next came Dad’s fish. He too, using a lightweight poll, had no idea what he was in for until the fish jumped , hook in lip, about ten feet from the dock. After reeling him in and getting him on the scale, we recorded a good 6.2 lbs. Dad looked at me with a gleam in his eyes that reminded me of Christmas morning and said, more like screamed, “THEY’RE GETTING BIGGER.”

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Dad and his 6.2 lb bass

 

What a day. We’d been on that dock for maybe 15 minutes. Oh, by the way, did I mention that these monsters were caught from the dock? Yeah. That’s right. I couldn’t believe it either.

 

Thinking that this was the highlight of the day, Dad and I began to relax. I started being my usual goofball self, acting in a way that some people, particularly Steve Wright, may have categorized as standing on the dock looking like an idiot. Then, my life changed forever. Or at least until I catch a bigger fish.

I felt the tug, I waited just a moment, I set the hook, and began to reel. And then my face went as white as the White Pilgrim’s tomb stone (which, if you’re not from around these parts and/or have never visited it in the Johnsonburg Cemetary, is white). Dad brushed it off, saying “everything feels heavy on a lightweight pole, remember?” But all it took was a look. I turned my head towards my father, with my rod tip up and my reel clicking away, and he realized that I had hit the jackpot. It felt like I had been reeling forever. And ever. And ever. Until finally, the fish reached the side of the dock and rolled in the water. “Holy fish, Batman!” was the only thing I could think of to say. Because of my excitement, and my hootin’ and hollerin’, and my jumping up and down, Dad took the fish off of the hook, and when he held him out for me to lip him, it required more than one hand. I had caught a monster bass. The biggest my father, 66 years young and raised in the Catskill Mountains with stories of fishing out the wazoo, had ever seen. When placed on the scale, I thought the needle would never stop. But it did. At a whopping 7.4 lbs.

 

After that, nothing could wipe the smiles off of our faces. That had been the greatest fishing day we had all season. Not in the quantity of fish, but definitely in the quality. I know I made a big deal about the size of these fish, mostly because I still can’t contain my excitement. But it really wasn’t about the weight of the fish. And it still isn’t. Fishing means a lot of things to a lot of people. You feel a lot of different emotions while you’re fishing. Frustration, joy, sadness, anger, anxiety, hope, longing, loss, excitement, terror, and the list goes on and on. Fishing isn’t about the quality or quantity of the fish. Its about the quality of the time you have while fishing. Its a wild ride.

Steve Wright believes that there’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the dock looking like an idiot. But as far as I’m concerned, looking like an idiot is a big part of fishing. Whether its a big floppy hat, or your favorite t-shirt, fishing line and worms pouring out of your pockets, hands covered in a combination of scales, fish goo, and possibly some fish blood, hootin’ and hollerin’ and jumping all around when you catch a fish, yeah. We all pretty much look like idiots when fishing. But as far as I’m concerned, there is no line between fishing and having some of the best days of your life.

 

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Batman – the 7.4 lb bass.

 

Brant Lake Expedition

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Nick and Jess invited the MKFF Crew up to the Adirondacks for Zach’s 25th Birthday weekend. On Friday evening, we departed New Jersey. The rain was terrible, fortunately we made it up to Brant Lake safely. Saturday’s weather was cloudy and warm, perfect for Bass fishing. I was able to catch Crappie, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Pickerel and Rock Bass on a Wooly Bugger with dumbell eyes. The next day, the sun shined through. Nick killed it on the Schroon using a Minnie Muddler and Slump Buster leveraging a Wet Fly technique. Overall, a great celebration combined with Rippin’ Lips.