Posts Tagged ‘Nebraska’

Flies Over Nebraska is proud to announce the completion of a successful “hit”…

The hitlist has been appropriately updated.

I’ve been wanting to blog about why fly fishing is special and comforting to me… but the fishing the last few days has been way too good!

In an attempt to keep the awesome momentum from Friday’s catfish bonanza going, I decided to target a fish on the my hitlist. Along the interstate in central Nebraska lays one of the state’s best kept secrets; a series small lakes that are at almost every single exit on I-80 as it winds along the Platte River. They were created as part of the construction of road… fill dirt was needed to create the overpasses, so large holes where dug next to the overpasses. Due to the high water table in the Platte River Valley, the holes eventually filled in with water. The state stocked them with a variety of different fish and now we have a smorgasbord of awesome little fishing lakes every 10-15 miles through the central part of the state. Crystal clear water, incrediblely low fishing pressure, and you can literally put a line in the water within seconds of getting off the interstate. Talk about hiding in plain sight.

And all of you out-of-state travelers think there is nothing to do or see in Nebraska…

The water was so clear, that when I put my float tube in, I attracted the attention of a school of panfish who came right up to feet trying to figure just what had plopped into their home…

I have fished a few of these lakes over the last two years of fly fishing. But today I went to one I had driven by my whole life, but never took the time to stop at: War Axe State Recreation Area, near Shelton, Nebraska. I knew there were smallmouth bass in the lake, but I had always gone to the other lakes in search of their larger cousin, the largemouth bass.

I discovered what a mistake that has always been…

I tried a few different flies and presentations out, but it didn’t take me long to officially cross smallmouth bass off my list.

Okay… so admittedly not a record breaker. But the “hit” was complete. It’s a smallmouth bass legally hooked on the fly… even though “smallmouth” might be the under statement of the year…

The “hit” may have been completed, but I was just warming up…

Number 2:

Number 2 was a fighter. He hit strong, pulled line right out of my hand despite his small size, and leaped 12 inches out of the water to throw the fly.

Number 3:

No one told me these were flying fish. Number 3 went airborne multiple times.

Number 4:

Back to the awesome!

Then, the best of the day hit last. Number 5:

These fish might be a little smaller then their more famous cousins, but they sure put up a hell of a fight. Number 5 here went airborne twice, spent a lot of time at the bottom of the lake, and became officially the second fish that I have ever “put on the reel”. At 14 inches, he still pulled line off my reel and got the drag clicking, just like my catfish two nights ago.

These guys are fighters. They might not be the prettiest fish in the lake. But they are fighters.

I would still say my favorite fish is the rainbow trout. Nothing matches their beauty in my mind…

But to thanks today, I have a new favorite species to actually fish for. Smallmouths are the best fish-for-fish fighters I have caught yet.

If you are traveling down I-80 in central Nebraska, look to the north. If you see a yellow “dingy” looking boat in the lake, it will probably be me chasing the smallmouths…

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You never know what will be at the end of your line when you go fishing… that is one of the best parts of the experience. Last night, I caught something that you are not suppose to be able to catch on a fly… at least not very easily…

Last night, while taking a break from blogging, I tied on a new bass fly that I found on the internet, blew up the float tube, and set out on the Bowling Lake. The weather was nice and it had been a while since I landed a bass, and I wanted to break my losing streak. After a few minutes, I cast into a “bassy” looking spot and let the fly sink…

The first thing I felt was a small tap on the line, so I instinctively jerked the rod tip a few inches to attempt to set the hook. If the line goes limp after the jerk, you missed. If it goes tight and stays tight, you have a snag. If it goes tight and starts to vibrate, you have a fish.

My line went tight and started to pull away from me…

As I felt my fly line pull through my hand I knew I had a nice fish. When that line started to accelerate out of my hand faster and faster, I nearly fell out of my float tube.

Something special was at the end of my line…

My throat got a lump in it… my heart was beating uncontrollably and pounding against my chest… my hands and fingers started trembling… I sat straight up in my float tube and was instantly aware of anything that would cause me to lose this fish.

All at once, everything I have ever heard or read about fighting a big fish on a fly rod came back to me at the same time… keep the rod tip up… let the fish have line if he wants it… paddle the float tube out to open water to keep the fish from snagging you up… maintain pressure so he can’t throw the hook… but don’t put so much pressure on the line that it breaks… remember, you tied on 2x tippet and it breaks at about 6 pounds; which is only one big yank from you or the fish away… and the knots will break far before 6 pounds of pressure…

While feeding the fish line with my index finger on my rod hand, I slipped the slack line under my pinky finger. I started frantically reeling my slack line off the water with my free hand. Under my breath, I politely asked the fly line not to knot up like it does so many times when I pick up slack line; giving the fish something to break off on.

As the line went tight on the reel, I realize I have never needed to put a fish “on the reel” before. This was new ground for me… And for the first time I heard the drag on my fly rod try to stop a running fish…

CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK

Thoughts continued to race through my mind…

Adjust the drag, it’s not giving out enough line and it is going to break… Slack line, start reeling in… Crap, he’s running again; let him have the line… Oh shit! I turned the drag down too far; He’s taking too much line… He turned, start reeling in again…

For an instant, I looked at my fly rod doubled over in a way I had never seen before, and got caught up in the moment… should I get my camera and take a picture of this… Then the fish brought my mind back as he went on another run and my fly reel’s drag screamed out again…

CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK

Pulling, reeling, giving line… pulling, reeling, giving line…

As my leader emerges from the water, I knew that I was getting close. Finally after about six minutes of fighting I could see him come to the surface about 15 feet from my boat. A great big catfish! Holy cow, why did he take a fly?

And just like any good catfish, as soon as he saw the light, down he went again on another run.

Over open water he swam circles trying to get away from me. I paddled the belly boat after him; continually trying to keep him from making a break to the shore, the rocks, the weeds… anywhere he could hide.

Ten minutes in, he came to the surface for about the third time. He was exhausted and his struggles against the line were lessening as he lost the ability to maintain the fight. I pulled him as close to the boat as possible, reached out as far as I could with my landing net, and scooped him out of the water.

As I sat there in my belly boat staring at the fish on my lap, I realized I have been trembling with excitement the entire time… and I was still trembling…

I grabbed the camera and tried to take pictures… if there are no pictures, it doesn’t count according to my wife. And this one needs to count after all that…

As I tried to take pictures, I realized that I couldn’t get the whole fish in the frame and get a good picture. I looked around and found a young couple bank fishing. I paddled over to them as quickly as possible and thankfully they agreed to take a picture for me…

After the picture, I had all I needed. Some people would have wanted to take him home… but he had given me enough so I would remember him for the rest of my life. 15 minutes of one of the best fishing experiences I ever had… right up there with catching a 22 inch rainbow trout on an ice fishing rod…

I didn’t need to take his life too.

I carefully put him back into the water and started reviving him. After a minute or so he regained his strength, gave his tail a waggle, and returned to the depths from which he came…

Thank you to “Natalie” and “Joe”, if I ever see you again, for taking the pictures… I really did mean it when I said you have no idea how much I appreciate this.

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The weekend is coming… that means lots of time to hit the water!

It also means that I need time to fill the fly boxes! I usually take 5 different fly boxes with me to the lake. They are quasi-arrange based on the type of fish they are intended for and by which fly rod would cast them best; the 3wt, 5wt, or 8wt rod.

Since there are so many different situations that I could find myself in on Nebraska waters, I normally have between 300-400 flies with me on a trip. Excessive? Yes. But it does make for some pretty fly boxes. One of my immediate goals is to catch a Master Angler Bluegill (10 inches), Crappie (15 inches), or Largemouth Bass (20 inches) on a fly. And you never know what it will take to get on of these monsters to bite…

The variety of flies used is a big attraction to the sport for me. Then you start making them yourself… and eventually you end up with boxes full of your own flies.

Fly fishing is about observation; and taking the little details you observe to make the proper fly selection and presentation at exactly the right moment. Fly fishing has taught me to slow down, look around, and appreciate exactly how amazing everything little detail in life is… right down to the tiny flies crammed into a box…

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The drought ridden perennial flower is of course the most cunning, elusive, and dangerous of all the fly fishing targets in my backyard…

Who says you even need water to fly fish?

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5 years ago today, one of the two best things that has ever happened in my life took place… my wife walked down the aisle at our at our wedding.

She has been the biggest influence on my life. She also “tolerates” my addiction to fly fishing… and many other annoying habits that I have.

She is truly the most amazing woman I have ever met.

Happy anniversary sweetheart!

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Finally! Instead of 105 degrees, it was a much nicer 85 tonight! A chance to get on the water! The score?

Pawnee Lake: 2 flies – Me: 20+ Fish

Now, most of those fish were White Perch… and catching White Perch is no challenge in Pawnee Lake.

Even though it wasn’t a challenge, it was nice to be false casting over the water… and having a tight line at the end of my pole…

Who cares if it wasn’t a challenge. It was fishing. And it was awesome.

It also gave me some time to think about the voice that I would like to take with this blog. And I have some ideas with where I would like to go with it.

After the sun went down, I did manage to catch one game fish. I pulled a White Crappie up right before I came home.

I guess it pays off to keep pressing through the perch. Eventually a nice fish will come up.

Funny, I could say the same thing about writing… keep writing and a gem will arise eventually.

Right? Right???

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The heat wave in Nebraska continues… It’s too miserable to fish in this heat.

In the mean time, I found this picture on an old cell phone while looking for a different picture…

This is the first Rainbow Trout I ever caught… from the dawn of my fly fishing days. I believe I caught it on a green woolly bugger. Nebraska Game and Parks stocks trout in Holmes and Bowling Lake a couple times a year when the weather cools off. This picture was taken sometime mid October 2010 a couple of days after the stocking…

I remember looking at this picture on my phone every chance I got. Part of me was amazed I even caught the thing… the other part was amazed that I caught something so beautiful. Rainbow Trout have been my favorite fish ever since…

It’s kinda neat to see how much my fly fishing has evolved in the last two years… and how much better I am documenting my catches. This picture is horrible! I remember holding on to this trout so tight, because I was scared he was flop out of my hand before I could get a picture… he went airborne a couple of times in the process of landing him. I caught many more since and they put up a great fight!

Now I take time to properly stage a picture. The Blackberry I had at the time was a horrible camera, and my iPhone takes way better pictures (long live the iPhone!). Not to mention that I catch way more fish now! Hopefully the blog improves at the same rate!

Even though it is a bad picture, it brings back some great memories of that day…

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