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Fishing, Hunting and Outdoor Blog for Stories, Tips and Reviews

Fishing, Hunting and Outdoor Blog for Stories Tips and Reviews from Outdoor Men and Women.


Visions of an Angling Artist

Troy Thomas

A few years ago, we featured the artwork of Sarah Lauridsen, a Vermonter who is both an avid fly-fisher and artist. Today, out of the blue, she emailed me the brook-trout painting above, which blew me away. This time of year, the brookies are decked out in their spawning finery, and Sarah’s painting nails the colors. As you can see from the paintings below, she’s a master of colors and texture.

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Bass Fishing Myths

Troy Thomas


By: Steve Quinn

The late Al Houser, former director of the Oklahoma Fisheries Research Lab, made a comment that’s stuck in my head for 30 years. “The problem isn’t that anglers are ignorant,” he lamented, “it’s that they know so many things that just ain’t so.”

Every angler group has its widely held fallacies, perhaps none more than bass anglers. That’s perhaps surprising, given the volume of research directed at black bass. Moreover, superbly skilled professional anglers often offer commentary on fishing and fishery management topics. Yet, despite their talents and big winnings, many pro anglers are as guilty as anyone else of clinging to myths. Here’s a selection of firmly held beliefs that just ain’t so.

Bass Become Dormant in Cold Water

With the fall season approaching, we’ll undoubtedly hear how bass fishing will be bountiful, since fish stock up prior to their long winter of inactivity. No doubt fall is a fine time to fish, and big fish seem more active. But this shift has as much to do with altered habitat and prey movements as with bass seeking their last meal in months.

As poikilothermic animals (blood the same temperature as environment), the metabolic systems of fish adjust to temperature changes to maintain life in the same conditions they’ve evolved in. Members of the sunfish family undergo physiological changes in chemical balances and size of the heart that prepare them for cold. Relative movement of bass declines and digestion slows, but bass bite well in northern waters as lakes approach the freezing point.

Largemouths strike lures jigged below a hole in the ice and eat large suckers and shiners set on tip-ups. In northeastern states, many of the biggest bass caught each year come through the ice.

Few North Country anglers target bass on frozen lakes, and that may be a good thing from a conservation standpoint. According to Roger Hugill, Minnesota DNR fishery biologist, a contingent of ice anglers sought to block catch and-release regulations on a local lake. The reason, they argued, was that winter was the best time to catch the bass they liked to bake, those juicy 5-pounders!

Physiological models suggest that at 40°F bass need consume only about one third as much food to maintain nutrition as they do at 70°F. Preyfish abundance is lowest in winter as well. But bass still eat. In some systems, particularly rivers, bass tend to be sedentary during winter, mostly because critical habitat is limited at that time. In lakes and reservoirs, however, underwater cameras show bass cruising along shallow and deep, often approaching the camera for a better look.

Bass Strike Red Hooks Cause They Resemble Blood

Manufacturers have rushed to capitalize on the latest craze by offering lures with red hooks, red sinkers and blades, red line, even red reel spools. I’ve heard pros state in seminars that red hooks or a red highlight can attract extra bites by stimulating the blood of a baitfish, gills, or perhaps a crawfish.

Studies of bass vision indicate they detect red easily, and can discriminate among shades. No research shows, however, any instinctive attraction to it. While anglers might reason that blood is red, bleeding baitfish are vulnerable to attack, so fish should attack objects with red markings; bass don’t think like that. They lack the neurological processes to come to any conclusion.

Bass are capable of quickly learning to bite what brings a reward, ignore what brings no benefit, and avoid dangerous stimuli. But the idea that bass can associate reddish markings on baitfish with red on artificial lures is far-fetched, according to what we know about their learning process.

Myth #3: A Bass is a Bass…

While most knowledgeable anglers recognize the differences in behavior, habitat, and prey choice between largemouth and smallmouth bass, many accept the adage that largemouths behave similarly everywhere you find them.

This phrase may boost an angler’s confidence when fishing a new body of water but is biologically groundless. The largemouth is generally considered a single species divided into two subspecies, Florida and northern largemouth. But further genetic studies show variation in the DNA of fish even from nearby watersheds within the same state. And differences in diet, water color, and cover type also make bass from different lakes behave differently.

In some, topwater lures work all summer while they zero in other lakes. Night-fishing is fine some places and a waste of time elsewhere. Lure color preferences can be pronounced as well, and feeding and spawning behavior can also vary.

Local experts and guides are tuned to bass behavior and can teach visitors their tricks. For this reason, tournament anglers often hire a guide or consult renowned locals when researching for an upcoming tournament.

Modern Livewells Make Fish Care Easy

Gene Gilliland is a veteran bass biologist at the Oklahoma Fishery Research Lab in Norman, an epicenter of U.S. bassin’ fervor. Moreover, he’s an accomplished tournament fisherman and fishing industry analyst. For nearly 20 years, he’s been trying to teach tournament anglers to take better care of their catch. In 2002, he and Dr. Hal Schramm published Keeping Bass Alive: A Guidebook for Anglers and Tournament Organizers.

Too bad so many avid bassers don’t like to read, and have for years failed to heed valuable advice that promises to add bonus ounces to tournament tallies and at the same time save bass from delayed mortality. “When I give seminars on this topic,” Gilliland says, “I still get the comment, ‘Well, how am I supposed to know how much air a bass needs?’

“Too many anglers simply put their catch in a livewell, turn the switch to auto, and forget about them until weigh-in time. While that amount of aeration may be sufficient for a modest catch in cool water, limits of bass weighing in the teens are oxygen-deprived in 80°F+ water. Anglers need to take measures to improve conditions: Run aerators constantly to add fresh water; add ice to lower livewell temperatures 5°F to 8°F; or run pure oxygen into the well.”

While today’s bass boats are longer and heavier, many models have not substantially increased livewell volume. Some manufacturers are to be commended, however, for taking fish care seriously, sacrificing a bit of storage and adding aeration features that work.

Deficiencies in livewell design and angler behavior were evident when Bassmaster Elite pros sacked limits of huge bass at Lake Falcon this spring, and both immediate and delayed mortality ran high. TV coverage of tournaments often exposes pros depositing their first fish in a dry livewell, then turning on the pump. That’s beyond poor handling practice, and less experienced anglers might copy them.

You Need a Big, Fast Boat to Fish Efficiently

Boat manufacturers and the pro anglers they sponsor sometimes seem to imply that the craft makes the angler. In fact, it is the angler’s craft, as in being crafty, rather than boat choice that prevails. As in past times, many of the best bass fishermen still use small, underpowered boats.

Small boats are suited to small waters where giant bass dwell, from Florida to Iowa to California. Full-sized bass boats can’t get into key shallow zones and have trouble maneuvering through dense timber or vegetation. When they do, the commotion often spooks lunkers.

Even on large waters, small, slow boats force anglers to slow down and concentrate on the fish and its environment, always a boon to good catching. Witness the many huge bass taken by shorebound anglers up to their elbows in the bass’ environment.

Big, fast boats are way cool and mighty comfortable, allowing us to haul untold hundreds of bass baits, few of which get used in a year, let alone in a day. Even in tournament competition, I know anglers who always score high, yet fish from small boats that make them the last guy to a given spot.

Tournaments Harm Bass Populations

Despite booming bass fisheries in recent decades, this myth refuses to die. Anglers and managers opposed to tournaments, for one reason or another, propagate the idea that excessive mortality hurts fishing quality. In defense of competition, one need only check the weights caught at waters fished incessantly by tournament competitors for decades—Grand Lake, Oklahoma; Kentucky Lake, Kentucky; Lake Seminole, Georgia-Alabama; Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota; and Sam Rayburn, Texas, to name but a few. Catches today typically are as good as they’ve ever been.

Rayburn hosts more than 300 tournaments a year and has done so for decades. More than half the anglers there participate in tournaments, according to a recent analysis by biologists with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.* That tagging study found tournament mortality contributed from 1 to 16 percent of total annual mortality of the largemouth population, while non-tournament catch-and-release fishing were 2 to 17 percent of the total, and angler harvest (nontournament) comprised 16 to 38 percent of annual bass mortality.

Fishing pressure doubtless makes bass harder to catch, but blame cannot be placed solely on competitive anglers. All who wield a rod contribute. Social issues have always been with us, and we can only hope that etiquette, fair play, and sportsmanship prevail on the water.

Bass Abandon Areas Treated With Herbicides

I’m generally as opposed to herbicide treatments as the next avid basser. I’ve seen habitat damage from chemical applications and am concerned about disease breakouts. But in some situations, treatments may be necessary for navigation and recreation, and even for the health of bass populations. Excessively thick plant growth limits bass feeding and cuts the abundance of key preyfish like shad.

Scientific evidence suggests that bass are not negatively affected by correct application of herbicides. Nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Mark Bain and Suzanne Boltz of Auburn University tracked largemouths as herbicides were applied to their home areas on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.** Fish didn’t evacuate as the chemicals were applied or as plants dwindled, and collections of bass in treated and untreated areas were similar.

Recently, other Auburn researchers studied the reaction of bass to plant reduction by herbicides at another waterway where treatments have been controversial, Lake Seminole on the Georgia-Florida border. The Corps of Engineers treated the Spring Creek arm with fluridone at 6 parts per billion, which reduces hydrilla but is tolerated by most native plants. There, treatments didn’t change bass behavior in the short term but, as plants dwindled, bass moved into deeper water and switched habitat from hydrilla flats to standing timber.

Removal of hydrilla in smaller, shallower coves in another creek arm had contrasting results. Instead of moving deeper, bass moved shallower into floating and emergent vegetation that represented the best habitat once hydrilla dwindled. In both cases, however, changes in fishing strategy would be required to maintain catch rates. During summer, stable environments typically offer the most consistent fishing, and habitat changes may temporarily reduce catchability.

In a final experiment, the scientists applied herbicide directly on nesting bass and water onto others, as a control. Bass didn’t abandon nests, and reproduction in treated areas was similar to that in untreated ones. Vegetation removal should be viewed as a last resort by lake managers, but careful treatments in limited areas should not harm bass fisheries. Fishing pressure makes bass more difficult to catch, and studies show tournaments don’t substantially increase mortality.

The article" “10 Biggest Bass Fishing Myths” appeared first on In-Fisherman.

Multispecies Systems That Catch Fall Pike

Troy Thomas

Even when I drive to a pike heaven like Rainy Lake, a Canadian Shield lake on the Minnesota-Northwest Ontario border, I usually begin with tactics that allow me to test the waters for the happening fish of the moment. Could be pike, but could also be walleyes, and at times smallmouth bass. Then I tinker from there, switching tactics to more accurately target whichever species is hot and happening.

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When (and How) to Introduce Your Kid to Outdoor Sports

Troy Thomas

Kids also do best when they’re allowed to explore, instead of being cajoled into ever more challenging situations. “Too many parents approach sports with a fixed mindset, saying, We’ve got to get to the end of this trail,’” says Paul Dreyer, CEO of Avid4 Adventure, which instructs kids ages three and up at camps in Colorado and California.

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Top Five Fly-Casting Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Troy Thomas

Photo by Sandy Hays

Photo by Sandy Hays

By: Zach Matthews

Fly-casting is not easy. Like any skill worth knowing, casting expertise takes a long time to develop—in some cases years. The good news is that anglers pretty much make the same mistakes, and that means your casting flaws have probably already been tackled by someone before. Of all the ways we casters foul up the presentation of our flies, these five stand out. They are the most common, and the fixes for them offer you the biggest results once you make the necessary tweaks to your stroke.


The Dreaded Tailing Loop

All fly casts unroll in a “loop,” which has a top leg and a bottom leg. Normally, these loops stay open, like a stretched-out letter C, with the bend unrolling toward the target. The legs of the loop do not cross.

“Tailing loops” occur when the top leg of the loop drops below the bottom leg as the cast unrolls, making a closed loop. As the cast unrolls, this closed loop often tangles when the top leg of the loop tries to turn over and gets snagged on the bottom leg of the loop. Tailing loops are the true cause of what we euphemistically call “wind knots.”

Normally, when the angler pushes the rod forward into the forward stroke, the tip top guide of the rod will track a straight, horizontal line a few feet above the angler’s shoulder. Tailing loops form when the tip top guide instead dips down in the middle of the forward stroke, forming a U-shaped or “concave” path as the angler pushes the rod forward. When the tip top guide drops, it drags the top leg of the loop down with it, imparting the classic tailing loop shape. Two things actually cause the tip top to drop: “punch” and “creep.”

“Punch” occurs when the angler gets excited and hammers his rod forward, often holding the rod upright like the angler was delivering a punch with a closed fist. The sudden application of forward power flexes the rod into a bend, which pulls the tip-top guide downwards—a problem exacerbated by the angler’s death grip holding the rod high in the sky. When the angler finishes his forward stroke and releases the pressure, the rod rebounds, springing the tip top skywards and creating the U-shaped path. The fix for “punching” anglers is to settle down. Focus on applying power evenly as the rod strokes forward, with the greatest power applied right before the rod comes to a stop. Be sure to rotate the wrist into the forward stroke, pointing the thumb a few feet above the target. The easiest way to practice this fix is to try to throw the slowest loops you can. “Punchy” anglers often cast as hard as they can in a misguided effort to get the fly out there.

“Creep” is a little more insidious. The proper way to make a backcast is to accelerate the hand backwards, then stop and keep the hand fully extended at the back of the cast until the backcast finishes unrolling. That way, when the angler starts his forward cast, his rod will be in position to immediately “catch” all the energy of the backcast and convert it into “load” or power for the forward cast. An angler who “creeps” is unknowingly allowing his rod hand to drift forward while his backcast is still unrolling behind him. When the tip top guide drifts forward, the rod ends up being held vertically, like an antenna on an old truck. As soon as the backcast finishes unrolling, the rod catches that force as a hard jolt. This jolt flexes the rod and drags the tip top guide downward into the classic U-shaped path, just as the angler tries to make his forward cast.

The fix for creeping anglers is twofold: first, get a friend to record your cast on video, shot from the side. Creeping anglers rarely believe they are doing anything wrong (denial is the first stage in any recovery, after all). Second, open your stance up a little bit and stand slightly sideways, so you can turn your head and look behind you. Wait for the visual cue of seeing the backcast finish unrolling and mentally note the sensation of the rod when it receives the backcast load. Only then start your forward stroke. Done properly, the load on the tip top guide will remain consistent as you push forward, preventing the U-shape and, ultimately, the tailing loop. Once you are very familiar with the sensation of the rod receiving the backcast load, you can square your stance back up, if that is more comfortable.


Front and Back Fly Fishing Casts Out of Plane

An angler once asked me to diagnose the reason why he could never get his cast out beyond forty feet, even though he knew how to double haul. We went to a field, laid a long rope on the grass in a straight line, and I stood in front of him at seventy feet while he casted straight at me. Within seconds I knew the problem. The angler’s backcast was out of plane with the forecast, meaning his backcast loop was shooting out to the side (by a significant amount). Out of plane casts sloppily spray force all over the place, swinging the rod sideways like a golf club, instead of loading it in a straight, clean bend, like a bow and arrow.

I asked the angler to open his stance up so he could turn his head behind him, and focus on keeping the backcast loop directly over the rope, which made a nice straight line into the distance. He did so, and on his very next cast he shot his yarn fly right over my shoulder, adding thirty feet to his cast with one simple change.

Out-of-plane casts are easy to diagnose because they cause the fly to kick sideways when the casts turns over. If your fly is consistently landing with a 90-degree bend in your leader, your casts are out of plane. Turn your head and pick out a spot directly behind you, opposite your target, and line up the front and back casts. This fix is usually as simple as recognizing the issue, and most anglers can correct it right away.


Double Hauling from Your Hip

Most anglers over-estimate the advantages of the double haul and underestimate the drawbacks of out-of-plane casting. Nonetheless, the double haul is the key to both control on windy days and to true distance casts over eighty feet. Learning the double haul is a step on the path to becoming a complete angler, but too many of us learn the technique badly.

The most common double-hauling error is hauling from the hip, rather than from the base of the rod. Properly, the double haul should begin with your hands close together and the line hand near the butt of your rod. As the rod moves into the backcast stroke, the line hand should haul down a few inches—then return to the butt of the rod, in some cases moving back up by the angler’s head. This is the part many anglers neglect; instead, they correctly haul away from the rod, but then let their line hand drift down by their hip, dragging feet of slack across their chests as they wait for the backcast to finish unrolling. When the time comes for the forward haul, they are mostly pulling on slack, and their line hands have nowhere further to go anyway.

The key to the proper forward haul is to let the backcast draw your line hand along with it as it shoots backwards, thus pulling your hand into position back up by the butt of the rod. If the haul into your forward cast starts with a tight, short length of line and your hands start out close together, the amount of force you can generate will be massively increased. Your hauls will be more effective—especially in punching into wind, and as an added bonus, your hauling hand won’t be trying to pull your rod sideways and thus out of plane.


Failing to Shoot Line

Almost every angler knows the concept of shooting line, but a surprising number of us think this fundamental casting technique is only for distance casting. Shooting line—allowing a weight-forward line’s head to tug the thin running line out through the guides as the cast unrolls forward—will not only make you more accurate, but will also leave you less tired. Shooting line dampens the effects of turnover, softening the forces that cause the fly to slap the water as it unrolls and making for a more delicate (and quieter) presentation. In distance-casting or saltwater applications, shooting line is absolutely necessary, as few anglers can “carry” eighty feet or more of line in the air.

A lot of anglers avoid shooting line because they dislike having tangles of running line at their feet. You can correct this with some basic line management. First, always keep your running line wet; in a boat you can throw down a wet towel or splash some water onto the floor or line tray. Wet running line is less apt to snag itself and form a knot. Second, always stretch your running line when you first pull it from the reel. Simply grab two points of the line a few feet apart and gently pull it like you were pulling out a piece of taffy. Work your way down the line until it is all stretched. Finally, stack your line in an orderly pile. Running line tangles when loops at two different parts of the line cross over each other. This forces the nearer loop to slide out from under the further loop as you shoot out line, often resulting in a knot.

To prevent this, stack the line from the back of the line to front as you lay it down. This means the most distant part of the line (the part that actually contacts the reel) should be laid on the ground first, with loops closer to the tip of the line stacked, in order, on top. If you make a habit of this as you retrieve line, the line will almost always shoot cleanly, because the front-most part of the running line will always be at the top of your pile.


Crashing Casts

There comes a point in every angler’s life when he decides to try for the big cast, throwing the fly as far as he possibly can. Most of the time, this attempt fails, because the fly fails to turn over and “crashes” while the line is still formed into a loop, instead of unrolling all the way to the fly.

Two things cause fly casts to crash: first, the cast lacks sufficient power to turn over the fly. Second, the shooting line can overrun a wind-resistant fly, even when the power to turn over the cast might have been there.

If you lack sufficient power to deliver that fly as far as you want to deliver it, you may not have enough rod. Five weights wilt when you ask them to throw huge saltwater flies at huge saltwater distances. Often though, the problem is not your gear, but you. Seeing a cast crash out should prompt you to review your checklist of casting errors to see if any of them might be monkeying with your delivery. Are you throwing a tailing loop? Are your front and back casts in plane? Are you hauling from the hip? Ultimately, all of us could stand to get better at these fundamentals – even the best casters in the world. You can make an old fly line into your “grass line” and practice with it in any open area. Just tie a piece of yarn to the end to serve as a practice fly.

Practice on the lawn is a great long term cure for crashing casts, but it won’t solve the problem right now, and that’s where the final tip comes in. Sometimes you just need the added inertia of the cast hitting the end of the line to force the last bit of energy into the fly and cause it to turn over. Some anglers practice what they call a “triple haul,” imparting a small tug to the line just as the fly turns over to make sure the cast straightens out. This is difficult to do when you’re shooting lots of line, because you may not keep your hand on the running line as it flies through the guides. However, you can duplicate the effect by tucking a loop of line (from the section nearest your reel) into your pocket or under the belt of your waders. As the cast finishes unrolling it will tighten up against the loop you tucked away, plucking it free but giving just enough tug to help the cast straighten out.

This article first appeared in Orvis News

Most Famous Big Game Hunters That Ever Were

Troy Thomas

In the annals of big game hunting history, there are a lot of very famous names out there. But some hunters just left a bigger mark on history than others.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most famous big game hunters to ever live and exactly what made them into the legendary outdoor figures they are today.

This was not an easy list to narrow down, as there are many big names in hunting. In the end, we went by some of the most recognizable, both in name and action.

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Wenonah and Northstar Sue Feds Over Boundary Waters Mining Company

Troy Thomas

Borrowing a page from Patagonia, which recently filed a lawsuit against President Trump as well as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other members of the federal government to protect Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, Wenonah Canoe recently took a similar approach to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA).

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Catching Late Summer Pike on Live Bait

Troy Thomas

When it comes to a natural presentation for pike, nothing rivals livebait rigging. Even under adverse water or weather conditions, lockjawed pike can be coaxed into eating a well-placed sucker or chub. These baits react instinctively to the presence of nearby predators. They swim harder and dart about in search of an escape route. This behavior gets the attention of pike and triggers strikes in a manner that lures can’t duplicate.

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Worst Night in the Woods - Camping Horror Stories

Troy Thomas

In the woods, the night works like a megaphone, magnifying small sounds into big sounds and big into bigger. And there are so many things that can go bump in the night, from bears to thunder booms. However, night frights can make for frightfully good stories. With nods to well-known works of literature, here are some of those stories.

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Trolling for Walleye During Summer

Troy Thomas

Trolling for walleye is one of the most effective ways to find and trigger them in July and August. From the Canadian Shield to big rivers, prairie potholes, and the Great Lakes, pulling a variety of presentations helps cover water in search of active, catchable fish at a time when walleyes are scattered and forage is abundant.

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Tactics for Summer Crappie and Bluegills

Troy Thomas

It’s always surprised me that as the spawn season wraps, a lion-share of anglers forget about crappies and bluegills—at least anywhere panfish vacate shallow water in favor of deeper, less-conspicuous haunts. Deep water has undeniable appeal to the lake’s largest specimens. Every time I’ve crossed paths with crappies in basins or bluegills on deeper flats and humps, they always are hefty, healthy animals, tails spilling well over the palms of our outstretched hands.

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The Greatest Largemouth Bass Crankbaits

Troy Thomas

If you grew up in a fishing family, your Grandpa called ‘em plugs—wooden lures with a metal bill that vaguely looked like local preyfish. Along with topwater lures, crankbaits have been in our bassin’ arsenal far longer than spinnerbaits, jigs, or soft-plastic baits.

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The Effects of Cold Fronts on Bass

Troy Thomas

I admit my past skepticism about the effects of cold fronts on bass. Some of my hesitancy to buy into the mother of all excuses for not catching bass is that I’ve enjoyed some memorable catches under post-cold-front conditions, even classic conditions with a high barometer, bright blue sky, sharply colder temperatures, and a strong north or northwest wind.

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