Sunday, January 26, 2014

Building for Another

Working at the lathe
This was my eighth go at rod building, and I really think this is the best one yet. Just before Christmas the brother of a fishing buddy of mine asked how much it'd cost to get a rod built. I was kinda in the middle of a couple of projects, and told him that, but he gave me the go ahead to build a rod for a gift even though he knew it wouldn't be ready for Christmas. Just so happened that Hook & Hackle had a sale on some green Matrix blanks that would fit the bill excellently. With free reign to build whatever I thought would be best I selected a 9 foot, 5 piece, 5 weight blank with reverse half wells grip, green wraps with silver trim, custom reel insert and silver hardware. The rod really came together and now I hate to see it go. Oh well, here are some pics from the build.
Ended up with some nice options

Think I picked the best one for this build

Sure is nice to see it coming together

First coat of Color Preserver, man it looks dark!

All five pieces

I'm getting better at my penmanship!

Did a decorative wrap at each ferrule 
Test casted her this morning and I think he'll get a lot of mileage out of this rod. Can't wait to get it delivered. Hope you can get out and enjoy the water.
- Kidder

I'm Learning - pt. 2

This is a continuation on some information that I've been looking into about fisheries management. Part 1 can be found here

One of the many myths out there is that it takes a really long time to grow a trophy trout. But in most cases it's a fast growth rate that makes for large fish, not necessarily an older fish. For example, in some Southern Utah streams Brown Trout often grow from fingerlings to the 18-20 inch class in as little as 3-4 years. Brook Trout, also in Southern Utah, have reached the 5 pound mark after surviving only 2 winters (3 Summers). With these fast growth rates it means that even if 80-90% of the 16-18" trout are introduced to the dinner table they will still be replaced each year. The left over 10-20% will still be around to potentially grow even larger. 

Great! But what if we only harvest 50%? That'd mean that the other 50% of the population would be left to grow larger and there would be even more large trout to catch admire and release right? Unfortunately, it doesn't work this way. Remember that pounds per acre decides how much any system can sustain. More simply put, there's only so much room in our bucket. If there are a lot of 16-18" fish the growth rates would slow. Sometimes harvesting fish can actually promote fish growth. With fewer fish, we can fill our bucket with less fish of a greater size. This all applies to a point, since no one wants fisheries to be over-harvested either.

Limiting Factors

There are four main limiting factors when looking at fisheries: Water temperature, water habitat, sport fish harvest, and size of holding pools. These limiting factors can prevent fish from attaining potential growth. 

These seem simple, and they are, but the real trick is in identifying which factor is limiting your fishery. Improving an attribute that isn't the real source of your problem doesn't help the situation. Just like when the doc gives you the wrong prescription (pain meds instead of more cowbell). 

Two scenarios that have been played out around my home state are the "low pounds per acre" and the "high pounds per acre" stories. Automatically we assume that high pounds per acre is good right? But if that population is made up of small fish that aren't in good condition is that really a better fishery? Of course not. In this case habitat improvement wouldn't necessarily help out much. What's really needed is an effort to reduce the overall population density. There are a few options here including a rotenone treatment (after which a different species could be introduced to the fishery), the introduction of a new predator and/or sportfish harvest increases. All of these options are an attempt at taking some fish out of the bucket so the ones left can grow bigger and/or grow faster.

Low pounds per acre with a potential to improve conditions usually calls for habitat improvement projects. These projects basically increase the size of our bucket. Then we can manage the fishery how ever we'd like to fill that bucket.

These posts are meant give you some info, or at least something to think about. They don't seem to help much with the shack-nasties and seem to make me want to get out even more. Hopefully you can get out and enjoy the water, I know I need too!

- Kidder

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Warm Ice

We were up at 6 and out the door 11 minutes later, so yeah, we might've been excited. It's always great when you can get out fishing, but it's even better when you can get out with someone you enjoy fishing with. My Bro-In-Law Courtney from Zip Dog Fishing is definitely a fisherman. Meaning he's someone that will go no matter what, in pursuit of whatever, and understands why we call it 'fishing' and not 'catching'. This makes him an enjoyable person to fish with, and the fact that he's family doesn't hurt either. 

We arrived on the ice at Fish Lake in Southern Utah at about 8:00 in the morning, and after wondering about the sketchy looking ice, we were quickly set up. The first hole drilled showed about 10 feet of water to the top of the weed bed, and Court started trying his luck there. I drilled mine about 6 feet away, but a more towards the middle of the lake, and found about 15 feet of water. Quickly I was into fish while Court was struggling to buy strikes. Instead of changing rigs/bait/presentation he changed location to a similar depth and quickly started hammering the Bows. It was near constant action for a mixed bag of Perch, Bows and I even hooked into a couple of Splake.

Court with one of many of his Bows

Good to see some Splake

With the good fishing I felt confident that I would find some success with my newly acquired tip-up but I've definitely got some learning to do before this thing really starts paying off for me. I tried drilled a couple of different holes, and tried a couple of different rigs, but no fish wanted to play. Oh well, you can't have everything (though this trip we came pretty dang close).

Look at that ice!
I don't consider myself a wussy on the ice. In fact, there's been many times when I've wanted to stay even if others are spooked out there. But when the sun was up and temps were rising the sketchy ice was looking scary. Even so, we were sticking it out till a huge pop, crack, and shift in the ice had us packing in about 2 seconds. There was no discussion, no possibility of staying, we were gone. 

Once back at the truck we weighed our options. We thought about hitting the reportedly safer ice on the south end of the lake, but the crowds were really starting to look thick. So instead we decided to hit another lake not too far away in hopes of hooking into some nicer fish. Both of us understood that fishing probably wouldn't be as fast at the new lake, but we'd already caught enough fish to declare the trip a success anyway.

Now you've got to understand, I'm a fish nerd. When I'm not getting out I'm tying flies, building rods, and reading blogs/reports. So heading to this next lake wasn't a complete shot in the dark seeing as how I'd been reading how others were finding success here. When our first holes didn't produce in about 27 feet of water we knew that finding the right depth was more important than finding a magic jig or bait. A couple of holes later we found the 12-13 foot depth and the catching was on. Not fast fishing by any stretch of the imagination, but the size of trout definitely made it worth the wait.

After a couple of hours we each had caught some nice fish and it was time to make our way back home. Can't help but wonder how good the fishing would have been if we'd have started at the second lake, but we'll never really know. All we can do is make more plans to take advantage of the ice while it's here, and pull out the kick boats once it's gone. Hope you can get out and enjoy the water.

- Kidder

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm Learning

I've been really excited to be a part of a committee to help make some decisions concerning Fish Lake and what we hope to see that fishery turn into. While these meetings are on-going I won't be commenting on the meetings here, but will give a full report once we're done. 

So, why write a post today? Simply put, I'm writing because I've been impressed. Impressed with the time, effort and great biology that goes into our state's fisheries management. I'm not claiming them to be perfect, but I think they really do as best they can with the resources they're given. 

A great tool that the division has developed, not only for their implementation but also for helping the general public understand their decisions, is their "A Simple Four Step Method to Manage for Quality Fishing" (read it for yourself here). We'll be going through this method over the next few posts, so here we'll just look at the first couple methods.

1) Inventory Current Status with a Standard "Yardstick"

Now, if you look up info on some famous tailwater fishery they'll talk about fish per mile (and yes, we're all very impressed) but in order to not favor the larger rivers and instead find a level playing field the "Yardstick" used is the "pounds of fish per acre" measurement. You can take the pounds per acre measurement and compare rivers and streams across the west and come out with useable comparisons. The average stream across the west has about 50 pounds of fish per acre, while better streams have better than 100 pounds. A great stream would have between 300 and 400, while some crazy extreme cases have closer to 1,000 pounds though this is not the norm and usually not sustainable.

2) The Magic of Population Density and Fish Size

So, when you look at the first method you think "How can we increase the pounds per acre?", but through method 2 we learn that increasing pounds per acre isn't necessarily a viable option. Remember this isn't "fish per mile" where an increase is more fish, but this is pounds per acre. Meaning that there may be 50 pounds per acre, but it consists of 50 one pound fish. Most would agree that this isn't an ideal situation. Taking the same bucket capacity of 50 pounds per acre, we could potentially have only one fish at 50 pounds, which isn't necessarily a viable population either.

Some people would look at this and say, "but what if the genetics have changed within the population over time?" Fortunately this doesn't apply to fish! Fish have "indeterminate growth", meaning that they can get as large as their environment allows. Usually this translates to available food sources, dictated by competition and food present. 

Next time we'll look at some examples of Population Density and how that affects Fish Size as well as get into the limiting factors that play a role in method #3.

Till then, hopefully you can get out and enjoy the water. Personally I'm heading out tomorrow to do some ice fishing with my brother in law.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Quick Ice

Fishing on a work day just feels enough like cheating the system to be really appealing. Thankfully I live where this is a possibility without having to actually cheat. So on Friday, the boy and I took our buddy Ross and a friend of his to the local pond for a couple hours of fishing. 

Quickly, the boy began the clinic and was showing us all up. Somehow he managed this between snowball fights, running around, and just being wound up. I love this kid.

Everyone had several chances at fish, and everyone connected except Ross's friend who couldn't seem to figure it out. It didn't seem to matter what we were using, the fish would move from jig to jig till we hooked them - or - scared them off.

Good times out on the hard deck. Hope that you can get out and enjoy the water.

- Kidder

The fish aren't the only reason we need to get out

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Looking Forward

Seeing as how we're 8 days into this year and I'm tired of watching New Zealand fishing videos, I thought I'd tell you about some of the plans (hopes?) I have for the upcoming year. 

Soon (very soon) I'd like to head out and hit some tailwaters for some mid-winter nymphing and, with any luck, some midge action. Last year I had some great days in January and am anxious to get back at it. (Read the post here) I'd also like to take the winter show on the road and hit a big tailwater, if the funds allow.....

As soon as the weather warms up a bit I'd like to get after some carp like I did last year in April (Read the post here) and hopefully put the new 8 wt. to use chasing some Pike. I've never caught a Pike on the fly before but I'm hoping to check that off the bucket list early this year. I'm also thinking about going after some Largemouth Bass on the fly (that bucket list won't know what hit it).

May will bring warmer temps, run-off, irrigation flows, and hopefully a trip to the south in search of Brook Trout. Last year I found a nice lake that promised nice brookies, but all I hooked up with were Cutts (here) and I can't wait to get back to it. May into June should be pretty epic. 

As far as 'Resolutions' go I'm not too good, but I've got some things that I'd like to focus on in the blog this year. One this is, I'm going to try and get more creative with the camera. I like taking the fish pics, but feel like I need to mix it up. I'll keep working on underwater views, and different angles. I'm also hoping to add some short video clips and tutorial type stuff. 

I'm also looking forward to trying some different techniques. Mainly streamer fishing. I've done it at odd times here and there, but last year I was able to get into some night time streamer fishing and think I may have a new obsession. (here)

From there it should be a summer free from classes at the University. Looking forward to camping more and taking my sons out into nature. But for now I'll spin rods, tie flies and watch youtube angrily. Hope to get out soon, and hope that you can get out and enjoy the water.

- Kidder

Thursday, January 2, 2014

First Fish

After so much time indoors working on rods I just had to get out on New Years day to try and catch my  first fish of the year. The boy was game for a quick afternoon trip to our local pond so we loaded up light and headed down. Too light. Once we arrived I realized the gear we'd left behind and had to quickly drive home to retrieve it. Once we had EVERYTHING we needed we were back on the ice with just under an hour to try our luck before dark, and the dropping temperatures that go with it. Luckily we found the trout ready and willing play.
Not a bad start to the year

A pretty little tiger with a lot of green

Quickly we were both into our first fish of the year, plus several others. The boy said his hands were too cold to hold his for a picture...but still...mission accomplished! 

I know it's not fly fishing, but I still enjoy ice fishing. It's a great opportunity to get out with the young'uns even though its pretty cold out. This is going to be a great year, hope that you can get out and enjoy the water.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Rod for a New Year

Since I'm not really feeling up to a year in retrospect, I'll just tell you about the rod I just built, some hopes for the new year and include some pics from the year that I like.

This rod took a while to get started on. First off, the USPS decided to run over the first blank sent my way by Hook & Hackle so it was broken upon arrival.

Pretty Thorough, they managed to break every section

It was even sent in a PVC tube...
Luckily, Hook & Hackle is a great company to work with and they sent out another blank with no hassle at all. Unluckily, the time that I had to build this rod had disappeared into the black-hole known as my Masters Degree that I've been working on for the past 2-1/2 years. But now that the degree is done (and I had a break from work) I decided to get rolling on the neglected rod. 

This was to be my big game rod that I could use to further my pursuit of Carp, Pike, Bass and any other opportunities that come my way. I turned the handle myself, a little while back, along with a fighting butt, and used a Graphite reel seat from Janns NetCraft.

It's the one on top. The other one needs a little more
work, hopefully I'll get to use it soon.
I wanted to do a little more than I usually do in terms of the wraps, so I decided to do a modified Olive Branch on all the ferrules with silver trim wraps.

The ferrule wraps

Nice looking rod

A look at what I did at the guides
I've got the epoxy on and it looks great, just need a 8wt line (and I think a new reel is in order) to test cast. I'm really excited about this rod!

Now some of my favorite pics from the past year (in no particular order):

My favorite fishing buddy

Was able to take the boy out on the kick boats

Caught a surprising big rainbow on a small lake

Was able to do some fishing on the Firehole River

Firehole River

Caught some carp

Got some time in on a great stream

The Bro-In-Law showing off

I love this pic

It was a wet summer 

Had some great success in the back country

Found new places close to home

Pretty brown

Helped my brother get addicted

The old boy can still work it

Nothing like the first fish on the fly

Was able to get out with some great people

Caught some great fish

Got to get out and try new streams

He made a lot of progress this year

Snow and Fog

It was good to get out with my dad

Nothing like crossing tracks like these

Definitely my favorite fish of the year (even though it was
not the biggest) can't wait to get back to this little lake!
In the year to come I hope to do more hiking, camping, exploring and of course fishing. I've got lots of places scoped out for some recon work, and tons of places I hope to get back to. Hope you can get out and enjoy the water.

- Kidder