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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Zen and the art of Jig Fishing

  Jig fishing can be a bit like the rabbit hole, you can go deep. So lets drag out our inner Alice for a few minutes and go deep.

  In fly fishing just about the most effective technique you can employ is to nymph fish with a "dead drift". That is a drift where you try to let the nymph drift along freely with the current. Not sinking like a rock but not being pulled along by the line either. But instead floating along like it was unattached to anything at all. But in conventional fishing there are very few ways to do this effectively.

  This is what I strive for when fishing a grub in deep runs. That is, a free and natural drift down the run. I stand not upstream nor downstream but roughly across the stream from where I expect a fish to strike. I then make a short cast across and upstream. I then flip closed the bail and do not reel, or at least reel as little as possible. Instead of being retrieved the grub should sweep down and across from me on a tight line. Well not really a tight line. Instead try for a line with no slack but not tight. If the lines tight it will pull on the grub and it won't drift naturally. But if the lines too slack you will not be able to detect the strike. Reel just enough to maintain a taut but not tight connection to our jig.

  Now a jig's by definition a hook with a big hunk of lead attached so it's going to sink not drift right?
Well, we have to stop for a second and at least subconsciously match the size of our jig head to the force of the current we are fishing. Too light and the jig will zip along too fast over the fishes heads. Too heavy and your jig will just hang up on the bottom. In most medium sized rivers something in the 1/8 to 1/4 ounce range will let you fish the faster deeper runs that often hold the very best fish.

  But I will often search out the deepest fastest water in miles of river. Here I might even go to a 3/8 to 1/2 ounce jig head. It's amazing how often these spots hold trophy fish. And how little these areas are ever fished. After all, a huge smallmouth is still only twenty inches long. It doesn't take a very big spot to shelter it from the current, a calm spot barely bigger than a shoebox in all the turbulence is all we are trying to find. A single big rock or a pile of smaller ones is really all we need. A place where a big fish can lay and then murder any unsuspecting prey floating along in the current. Or even better our jig.

  Now I know it's hard to fish a jig like a curly tailed grub wrong. You can just chuck it out and reel it back in and catch fish. Or better yet slow your pace and swim it back just off the bottom. But a grub fished like that is almost a completely different lure than our dead drifted one. Our grub is drifting along with the current. The tails working but because of the current, not our reeling it in. Just drifting along just like a helpless juicy delicious minnow being swept down the run. For me this is much more effective than bouncing a heavier lure along the bottom of the run. I think the look is just more natural. Not only does the size of the jig head effect your drift but you can also change the quality of your drift by the soft plastic you use. Sometimes quite dramatically.

  As a general rule I try to match the soft plastic I use to what I might expect to be swimming there. But it's sometimes better to forget that rule and instead match the size and shape of the bait I'm using to the drift I want. If you put on a three inch grub you get one drift. If you put on a four inch one you get another. I carry a couple sizes of grubs, A couple sizes of paddletail swimbaits and a curly tailed swimbait like the curly shad. If you jig fish long enough you can tell which style is giving you the freest drift in the particular run you are fishing.

  Different sizes and styles of bodies will also change the depth in the water column you are fishing. Often instead of tying on a lighter jig head I will instead go with a bulkier bait like a curly shad if I'm dragging bottom instead of drifting. This lets me still fish a heavier jig which in turn lets me feel the bait batter.

  Pretty simple isn't it? Cast across and let the bait sweep down on a tight line? Reel in and repeat. Nothing to it. Well, the problem with this is staying connected and yet unconnected to the lure at the same time. I'm not sure there is a shortcut here for experience and time on the water. The good news is that the lures soft plastic body will often feel lifelike enough that you will catch some fish you didn't even hook. Fish that just hung on long enough till you felt a weight on the line that eventually turned into a fish. Try this different twist on an old favorite. It might just completely change the way you fish many parts of the river.

Mushin: a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of "no-mindness". That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.

That's really what we are after. Nothing other than the lure floating along down there.

The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull's-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art..." Eugen Herrigel.

That paragraph on archery may be the best paragraph ever written on jig fishing. Use that big mind of yours to decide where to fish. What seam you need to set up on. Where to stand, what to use, etc. Then just let all that flow down the river. Take a deep breath and the slowly relax and exhale. And let it all go. Flip open that bail and cast that jig and then lose everything. Don't think about about how your buddy might be doing, how your marriage is going, work, none of that bullshit. Just be in the moment with that jig. Feel the calm spots in the current, feel the bottom, feel the lure free floating.

Sometimes, if I think no one is around. If I think no one is around to see me that is, I'll cast, take a deep breath close my eyes and just imagine my lure down there. I know it's more effective to watch your line, watch the river, watch everything. But sometimes when I'm having trouble getting that connection with my lure it helps. Close your eyes and picture that lure down there on the end of your line. Lose everything but that lure. Once you have that your ready to fish.

Hopefully then our Mushin becomes Zanshin. Zanshin refers to a state of awareness – of relaxed alertness. The literal translation of zanshin is "remaining mind". Like a deer feeding in the woods. Watch a deer which thinks it's alone in the woods. Even though that deer might be completely relaxed it is still totally and completely in the moment and aware. This is what allows a deer to react to the twang of a bowstring so well that the deer is no longer there when the arrow gets there. Too tight, too keyed up, too much wanting to catch that fish gets in our way. I know I've been there. Just relax, exhale, lose everything but the jig and the rest will take care of itself.

Let's face it. It's just fishing. We are going to let that fish go anyway. Why do think they call timeouts before free throws? To let that guy at the foul line think about it. Let him get in his own way and miss that shot he can make in his sleep. Don't put that pressure on yourself. Then we might fail. Just another failure we don't need. Let's face it your probably out here to forget that job you don't like, hiding from that life you never imagined for yourself at eighteen. Another failure is the last thing you need. But if you just let it all go and become the jig you lose all that. Even if you don't catch a thing you have succeeded. And at the same time opened the door for more. Opened the door to catching that trophy smallmouth you've dreamed about. But forget about that and become the jig. Then you'll step thru that door when your ready and not even noticed that you have.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A shovel on a lure


Life and Death on the LMR

So I'm heading down this rock bar and I see lots of creepy looking little legs rolling around in a ball. All over in a about a six foot circle I guess this thing was going. Finally the action paused long enough for me to see it was really two things. A big wolf spider and a huge wasp. A pompilid wasp if I remember my bugs right. So the wasp would hover around the spider which would roll kind of over on its back. Then in action too fast for me to follow they would roll all over the gravel. I'm guessing the long legs of the wasp kept the spider from biting it but like I said it was too fast to follow. I watched for a bit but didn't want to get too close. Supposedly spider wasps stings are supposed to be the most painful of any wasp, hornet or bee so I didn't want to but in too much. After the wasp stings the spider then comes the really creepy part. The sting doesn't kill the spider instead it paralyzes the spider. The wasp then digs a burrow, stuffs the immobile spider inside and lays a single egg on it. The egg hatches and the larvae gnaws a hole into the spider and feeds on the still living but paralyzed spider. Just goes to show you even for something as creepy as a spider there are monsters lurking out there...

Things took a less ominous turn after that as I saw a little green heron. This week I've seen snow white great egrets, cormorants and some terns. The birdwatching has been better than the fishing frankly.

Over the last couple weeks Ive caught the occasional smallie and ky spot but on the whole the stream bass fishing had been slow. I've actually probably caught as many shovelhead on lures as bass. I'm not sure what the deal was but I caught a shovelhead or two almost every outing. Nothing huge but some nice fish from three or four pounds up to maybe seven or eight. Finally today the cool weather seemed to have an effect on the bass. In a swift run on a paddletail swimbait I caught the best smallie I've had on in at least two or three weeks. It stretched the tape a bit past eighteen and a half. Hopefully a sign of things to come.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A nice cat on a lure

I caught this shovelhead today at 1pm. Yep right in the middle of a blazing 90 degree day. And the weird part was I lost another at least as big ten minutes later. Plus three decent sized smallmouth. So here's the scoop. They were all in like two or three feet of water. Two or three very fast feet of water in a sluice like four feet across and twenty feet long. . There was no way you could stand up in it as fast as it was going. My guess is the fast water had plenty of oxygen and food and the hot weather has their metabolism revved up. But who knows? It's all part of the mystery that keeps us going back. I tried most of the night a couple days ago to catch a shovelhead and couldn't catch one with dynamite then go out under a blazing mid day sun today and hook two. As Forrest Gump say's It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what your going to get...

Monday, August 25, 2014

The late shift...

It was late. I was going to have to hustle to get where I needed to be by dark. I quickly unloaded the yak and drug it to the waters edge. Threw in a couple rods, tackle and a bit of food and shoved off. It was now obvious I was too late but it was a quiet stretch of river I knew well so I set off upstream. It was beautiful watching night fall on the river. A nighthawk zoomed up and down the river picking insects out of the darkening sky. It was the first of several cool birds I'd see on this trip. Unfortunately like the others I saw it while paddling with the camera stowed away. Soon I was paddling in darkness, listening to the night sounds along the river. This is something I'm going to have to do more of, it was a great experience.
 The fishing at night was slow. Real slow. I was surprised after all the heat we have had. I managed one smallmouth and one stripey fish. I'd missed the river at night though and it was nice to be out there listening to the water and watching bats hunt against the sky.

Towards daylight though Things began to pick up. First I caught a channel and a couple saugeye on a grub. Then a few small bass,

As the sky brightened the smallmouth began to bite better. I caught most on a coyote hair jig in very fast water.

Once the sun was up things slowed again and I think the last bass hit about 9:30 even though I fished till 11. I slipped the yak back in the river and began to float downstream to the truck. The first cool bird I saw was a green heron. It flushed as soon as it spied me and flew away. Green heron's are brothers to fishermen. They drop tiny twigs or insects on the water's surface to lure in fish! I've never seen this only read about it but it's on my bucket list of wildlife behavior to see someday. The next bird was a real treat. Downstream I could see a cormorant. Yep the dinosaur looking fishing bird so hated by Lake Eire anglers. This guy swam ahead of the yak for a long time then turned and swam up within thirty feet or so giving me the best look I've ever had at one before spooking and splattering across the water in their clumsy take-off run. It was a great trip.