Sunday, June 26, 2016


Hit the river with MK for a smallmouth stint.  Then, the gar arrived...
What a cool fish.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Crash...let's be clear.

To watch a young guy, start a guide company and take a section of water (that you've been fishing for a long time) and completely dial it in...would probably frustrate a lot of anglers.  I'd be frustrated too except that this guy has given it due diligence,  put his time in, paid attention, took notes and figured it out....and taught me a lot.

He calls it "The Crash".

"The Crash" is Kyle Zempel's term for the crazy behaviour that smallmouth bass exhibit while foraging for baitfish on this river.  An East-coaster watching bluefish feeding in this manner would call it a "blitz".

It's magical and it's incredible.  Back in the early part of the 2000's I went with another guide to this river.  He knew a spot where this happened and he shared it with me.  We fished and giggled and we caught fish.   I was stunned at the wolf-pack nature of these bass and how they worked in schools to dismantle and destroy the baitfish.

I vividly recall late night conversations with Shox McSteel, trying to figure out if this one spot was special, or if perhaps, there were other places on the river where we might find this incredible fly fishing opportunity.

As I daydreamed and theorized about these watery sweet spots, Kyle Zempel launched his boat and found them.  He guided clients to the various locations and while catching fish, I'm certain he also blew minds.

I spend some time on social media and I've seen, in the past couple of years, others using the term "The Crash" to describe their days and successes on this river.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear...You aren't fishing "The Crash" unless you are in a Black Earth Angling Company boat.


You might find surface oriented fish and you can call it awesome, or incredible or insane or the best freshwater fly fishing of your life.  Call it a "Blitz" or "Small Mouth Slashing" or call it whatever you want.  If you decide to go out on a limb and call it the "The Crash" it best be followed by Kyle Zempel's name and at the very least a nod to his company...Black Earth Angling Company.

Chances are high that the only reason that you floated this section of river and know about the exceptional small mouth fishing is because a young gun of a guide put his time in and figured it out for you.

If you want to see what I am taking about, I invite you to take a look at Kyle's video of the fishing.  You'll have to forgive the colorful language because even after 26 years of fly fishing, some things take me over the edge.  After you are done watching, forego your desire to get on google maps and look for shortcuts.  Call Kyle and experience "The Crash" first hand. He has a sweet Jet sled that will take you where you need to go AND he knows where the fish are CRASHING.

OK, The video... Click HERE.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

LMB's and the death of a(nother) camera.

I hit the local lake mid-day.  The water was a little green so I full throttled to the inlet and found clear water running in from the river.  I haven't been here for a long time.  I climbed up onto the poling platform and pushed up past the park, through the trailer/campground, under the bridge and into a tree-lined section that looked just like the nowhere I wanted to be in.  I picked a 400 yard section of bank to fish, poled up past it and then dropped the anchor.  I cast my baitfish pattern into the bank and then stripped and paused, stripped and paused.  The silver flash of the fly was visible until it was in the maw of the fish.  It's pretty cool how camouflaged they are.  You can't see a largemouth in this water until they get really close, hit a surface fly or inhale your subsurface offering.

The fish weren't giant but they were decent.  15 and 16's.  Every dark pocket, overhanging tree or submerged log held one.

I was attempting to snap a photo of the 5th or 6th fish when I noticed that my camera stopped working.  The lens was messed up and my heart sank.  It looked bad and later, after an attempted repair, It turned out it WAS bad.  The waterside death of another camera.  I guess there are worse places to expire...

After the 400 yards were dissected, I climbed back on the platform to pole downriver to the outlet.
When I got to the trailer/campground section, I offered up a wave to some of the locals enjoying an afternoon of grilling in their backyard.  "I've never seen a gondolier in Wisconsin before!" came a yell from a middle aged guy in his dirty sleeveless T-Shirt. 

I guess that's about what I looked like...A Largemouth Gondolier.

Friday, June 10, 2016

June 10th 2016

You gotta love when your wife knows you well enough to say, "Honey, there is a mayfly on the door."
She knows me too well.

Also, no fishing tonight either...same story, different day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Not Much to Report

Marker sized walleye

Impatient white bass

Rigging in the Boathouse

KZ had a custom grab bar manufactured and pulled the boat in for installation.
What seems like a 90 minute project always ends up taking 4 hours.
Luckily, working on boats is so much damn fun.

This boat is a serious fly fishing platform.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Going Deeper (again)

The wind was out of the west as I launched.  By mid-lake it became obvious that I needed to fish the windward shore.  The chop was heavy and forced me down to 1/4 throttle.  I turned west and got mostly out of the blow before taking a look at my phone for an alternate set of closely stacked contur lines to fish.

I found what I was looking for and motored over to a point, out of the wind, with a drop that went from 3' to 15' in fairly short order.  I heard the anchor hit gravel when it settled and figured that wasn't a bad sound.

The very first cast was smallmouth impaled itself on my clouser.  I was starting to feel pretty smug about my deep water fish finding ability.  10 minutes later and a second smallie ate.  Yes, I was pretty sure I was awesome.  The walleye ate just before the wind switched. 

The ego can be distracting, but almost losing my hat to a sudden gust of wind made me look up and realize that the weather had changed.  A bank of dark clouds that I was certain were tracking to the east now loomed nearly overhead and were on a southeast course.  Things were dark and creepy, but I decided that with the wind now coming from the north, my recently found crappie hole would be a safe spot to fish while this all blew over.

I hugged the windward shore and eventually dropped anchor with plans to showcase my talent for a few more hours.

The anchor wasn't holding on a short rope.  This, as many know can be easily remedied by lengthening the rope.  Easy, and I would have made this fix but the wind was screaming hard enough that my 8 weight line wasn't following the directions I was giving it either. 

Somewhere in the universe, the cosmic balancers of ego and smugness, called on the Njord, the Norse God Of Wind to settle me down.

So I had it coming to me. 
Fishing is over for the day....I get it. 
I will go home and try to regain my center and try my best not to be a dick.

Except that wasn't the end of it.  The landing was on the south shore.   A small fact that I overlooked as I started my motor and waved the white flag.  The crests built and the wind blew the tops off of them.  My 15' boat was highsiding on the waves and the prop was grabbing air as I attempted to navigate through.  It took me a minute to figure out how to adjust my speed to keep the prop wet.

I safely (if a bit wetly) made it to the launch ramp where waves crashed and new set of problems required me to dock, then spin my boat around so that the bow was into the oncoming fury.  I kinked my back, scratched my leg and almost broke the push pole.  The motor came dangerously close to being skegless and I was actually winded by the time I pulled the trailered boat out of the maelstrom.

As I finished strapping the boat down and stowing my gear in my truck, I noticed a small white cube on one of the wooden parking pilings.  It was a drinking game die and the message on the upside read:
"Drink 2 Cups"

I went home and drank 4.

Friday, June 3, 2016


JH has been hitting the white bass beat.  Sometimes with me, sometimes without.  It's been kind of a bust year as far as white bass go.  I heard recently that they go through population cycles.  Maybe that's our problem?

At any rate, we were out again tonight, hoping that we might meet head-on, the massive schools that we've seen in the past.

Instead of white bass, my first fish was a drum.  A drum eating a 3" deceiver a few inches below the surface.  Pretty Cool.

The second fish was a walleye.  Same fly, same drill.  Also pretty cool.

The 3rd fish walloped the fly so hard it kind of startled me.  When it stayed on the bottom and pulled line through my fingers, I started to mumble.  Once on the reel it pulled line back out and bent my 8 weight severely...that's when I started to curse. 

I thought maybe a decent pike or musky clobbered the fly and that I had hooked it somewhere that the sharp teeth had not yet made contact with my 15 lb tippet.  I tried to play it gingerly at first, but the scrappy nature of this fish made me doubt my assumptions.  After what seemed like 10 minutes (which is a LONG time to be fighting a fish when you were planning on white bass) I got it in close enough and switched on my headlamp.  It stayed deep and swam circles around me. On one pass I lifted and saw the fish about 15" down. 

"A walleye?  No.  What IS this thing?"

The Channel Cat's head broke the surface.  I was a little stunned, pleased and confused all in the same moment.  By this time JH (at my request) had waded over to assist.  He offered to lift it out of the water for a quick measurement and a couple of photos.

Later that night, when I got home I held a tape up to the mark on my rod and figured it to be 26 1/2".

A quick internet search and I came up with a conversion chart showing that the fish was probably between 8 and 9 lbs.

I'm now trying to figure out where I can catch these on a more regular basis.

(Big thanks to JH for being the hand model and for the assistance in landing this one.)