Here’s to a great summer…

As school starts and families settle back into their routine, we say “goodbye” to another summer of fishing. The summer of 2013 was a great one for fly fishermen in Iowa, our streams, and Driftless on the Fly.

We saw a nice rebound this summer from the drought that plagued us in 2012. Remember back to weeks of 90- degree-plus temperatures, little rain, and tall, invasive weeds? Possibly the only good thing to come from that was the month-long hiatus from mowing the lawn, but even that got old after a while. We started this summer with some torrential rains in June, raising water levels in streams and rivers to flood stage, flood towns that seemingly shouldn’t (Waukon), and delay (or ultimately prevent) farmers from planting. It was a rough start, but those rains helped to literally flush away a year’s worth of sediment and sprout new life in our streams and begin a renewal of sorts. It’s been fun to watch the streams come back to life over the past 3 months; new vegetation, aquatic life, new hides and structures, and thus new challenges to the small stream fly fisherman.

The high, sometimes off-color water meant different tactics and opportunity to throw some new flies. A few days after a rain, the higher, stained water allowed for some great action on streamers- from buggers to articulated patterns. Pulling a big fly across a run- evoking a big yellow or silver flash-can be a heart-stopping rush. It makes you realize how big trout can get in a small stream. Through the summer, caddis and assorted nymphs were the name of the game as fish looked for a quick and simple meal. On a recent trip, fish were keying in on hoppers, one of my favorite times to fish all year. No worries- this is just the start. Many of the hoppers we found in the field were small, meaning the best is yet to come.

On the warmwater side, smallies on the river have been eating aggressively from May on. See some of Jared’s pictures from early summer. The top-water action has been great, and a few trips to local ponds has provided some equally great hard-fighting bluegill and bass.

Our Driftless on the Fly crew got to reunite this summer in West Yellowstone, MT for 4 days of fishing the local water. See our past post “A trip West” for the story. Lots of memories made and fun to be back to together. Back in Iowa, we had the opportunity to introduce some wonderful people to fly fishing in the driftless through classes and guide trips. We appreciate the support of our followers on social media and the blog, as well as the great contacts we are making in the state- especially Clear Creek fishing gear, High Horse Fly, Rod and Rivet, Red Cedar Lodge and Pine Creek Cabins. Check them out- they are all wonderful people who are committed to promoting outdoor recreation in Iowa.

As we turn to fall, we’re extremely excited about the future. Fall means cooler weather,  hopper fishing, walleye runs, and our annual steelhead trip. The best is yet to come! We have a passion for fly fishing and are anxious to share it with you.

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Fly fishing local warm water

We spend a lot of time talking about our cold water streams and species (trout), tactics to fish them, flies that work, and recent water conditions. This is also a prime time of the year to be fishing warm water species (large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, etc.). These can all be great fish for the fly angler to pursue, and often the location to fish for them may be closer than trout. With that in mind, a few compelling arguments to fly fish warm water follows…

Walleye on the fly!
Walleye on the fly!
  • It’s exciting. Pulling a popper or stripping a streamer across a body of water is triggering a killer instinct in a fish. They view this as a possible meal, maybe something a little different than usual, and aggressively seize the opportunity. Takes can be explosive, and depending on the fly rod you are fishing and the fish, it can be a heck of a fight too.
  • Warm water fishing can give you an opportunity to hone your skills. In the Driftless region, our trout streams are often tight with a lot of dense foliage, sometimes requiring a fine cast.  Finding a wide open pond or riverbank with plenty of room behind gives you a chance to really air out that cast and try some skills like a reach cast, big roll cast, or double haul that you’ve been itching to practice (as well as setting the hook!) In that sense, ponds are often great places to learn or take beginner fly fishers.
  • It doesn’t always require the finesse that trout fishing does. Bass and bluegill are opportunity feeders, do not spook quite as easily, and can be fished easily from the shore. With trout, it sometimes takes a long leader, some stealth, and a very accurate presentation. What I like about warm water is I can use a chopped-up leader from my last trout trip, and fish more aggressively. That said, you do have to be careful of algae beds that bloom in the summer, sticks, and tall grass that may snag your fly as well as watching your footing. A little precaution and planning as to where you’ll fish will help.
  • Often the local river or bass pond is a short drive. We’ve had some great nights of fishing within 10 minutes of where we live. Depending on the time of year, we can find walleye, smallmouth, pike, or even carp on that are willing to take a fly.
  • You can fish a range of patterns. Warmwater fish tend to take on a variety of different patterns depending on where and when you are fishing. Pond fishing with simple foam terrestrials can be effective, as can big poppers fished close to weed banks. In rivers, clousers, mini poppers for smallmouth, crayfish, and a variety of streamers are always good choices.
  • Accessibility. For the angler that may have difficulty walking long distances over rough terrain, ponds are often an ideal choice. Only a few years ago, I was able to fish a local pond with my grandfather. The pond had a wooden public access dock that he was able to walk out to. He had his baitfishing pole and I had my fly rod, and we could share the pond, enjoying that time but fishing the way we wanted to fish.

Grab some friends or family, some bugs you’ve been wanting to try, and head out the pond or river. It’s worth the trip!