Sunday, December 6, 2015

Early Winter Carp on the Fly

Looking for targets

While it doesn't look like much, there are about 100 carp under the ripples.
The conditions were perfect, the lake was smooth as glass and I easily saw my prey at 75 yards.  I quietly paddled into range and grabbed my 6wt.  Two false casts to gauge my distance and I laid my fly right on target.  It sat there for two seconds and then vanished as it got sucked under, a hard strip set and Carp On!

While most folks are chasing stripers this time of year, I take every chance I get to throw flies at carp.  On this day the carp were cooperative and I landed several fish in the 20-25 in range, with most of the fish hitting my 4wt.

This one fell for a small dry fly

Why do I like carp fishing?  Carp are great fighters and a real challenge to get on the fly.  This is all about sight fishing; I do not waste a cast unless I have a good visual on a specific fish or a small school.  To see the fish from a distance you need calm conditions and you have to be able to stand.  I love my Coosa HD for this type of fishing since it is super stable and quiet.  Carp spook easily, any noise or even a shadow will send them quickly out of range.  I prefer to place my yak up wind and silently drift into range, if I can keep my shadow behind me even better.   False casts can also spook the school, so make as few as possible.

A Carp sucking in a dry fly

Once you are hooked up, hang on.  Carp will test your gear and skills, quickly dumping your reel into the backing.  I have never had a carp run for structure, but if you are over soft bottom, they will burrow down into the mud.  If this happens you will snap your tippet if you try to yank them out, just keep steady pressure on them and they will eventually swim out.  Another trick you can do is to tickle the fish with your stake out pole.  Just follow your line and poke the mud, but be ready they will fly out like they are being launched from a cannon.

So if you want to catch some big fish on the fly, go target some carp.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Summer Mixed Bag

Dog days of summer have settled in and summer fishing has taken off.  Both saltwater and freshwater fisheries have been producing consistently and I have taken advantage of both.  With a good weather forecast, my Dad I loaded up the Kraken and Cuda 14 and headed to explore some new water looking for redfish. We paddled close to 10 miles and found some good water.  I was throwing a topwater over a grass flat when it was crushed by a big fish.  The fish made a long run and I could tell that it was a good redfish.  It dragged my all over the flat and I enjoyed the ride.  Once I finally landed the fish, I could tell it was nice.  It measured out to 35” and it was really healthy.  The fish was released and I went back to fishing.  Not long after my dad hooks upon a big fish, but after a short fight it broke off.  I had a few more blow ups, but the action had slowed down.  We started working our way back to the ramp when my Dad saw a nice red cruising the flat.  He pitched a wake bait in front of the red, and his bait was inhaled.  He fought and landed the fish, and it measured out to 34”.  We called it a day, and paddled back to the ramp.

I took the Kraken out to one of the bigger lakes in the area on Sunday. My target was gar and catfish.  I caught my bait and set up on a drop-off into a deep hole looking for a catfish.  I caught one 22in fish, but the action wasn’t what I was looking for.  I was moving to another drop-off when I found a large school of gar working a bait ball.  I could see them on my fish finder and I watched them roll on the surface.  Set out baits and the bite was on.  In a few minutes I had a 37in gar in the kayak, and shortly after releasing it I had another 34” on the line.  I fished 3 rods at a time and I had several double and even triple headers.  I caught a total of 23 gar and 7 of them were over 40” and large enough for Virginia Trophy  Citations. 

I went to another lake a few days later trying to repeat my success.  I caught several gar, with a few double headers thrown in.  I was retying one of my rigs when my live-bait rod was nearly ripped out of my rod holder.  I set the hook and could tell that this was a bigger fish.  After a good fight I landed my biggest gar to date. The fish measured out to 47” and after some pictures, was released unharmed.  After that fish I switched to catfish and landed one decent one. 

Landing a 47" Gar

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Back to the Saltwater

This year, I have spent most of my time freshwater fishing, and it has been awesome.  I have had some great days, but I could feel the saltwater calling me back. The saltwater scene has been hit or miss here in VA but down in NC the bite has been consistent. I was super excited for my yearly vacation to the Wrightsville Beach area of NC.  I had seen promising reports from my Werner Paddles teammate Will Ragulsky weeks in advanced, so I loaded up the Kraken, Cuda 14 and the SUPerFISHal and went on down. 

We always time our vacation so my Dad and I can fish in the annual TJM Kayak and SUP Charity Tournament.  I have fished in this event four times and it is always a blast.  There are 4 divisions (redfish, flounder, speckled trout, and slam) and the longest fish for each division wins.  Hook, Line, and Paddle puts on the tournament every year and do a very good job.  This tournament is a lot of fun and there are a lot of great anglers that fish it.  Check them out at

I only had one day to pre-fish, but I was confident in my spot.  Tournament day came around and I was incredibly excited. At 6AM I launched and within 10 minutes I was at my first spot.  I throw out a popping cork rig and after a few pops the cork was gone.  The calm water was stirred by a big school of red drum.  My fish pulled the Kraken around I could tell that this was a GOOD redfish.  I worked the fish to the kayak and leg swinged it in.  I was stoked.  The redfish filled my footwell and when I laid it on my hawg trough, the tail reached just past 30”.  On my first cast I had a big redfish, and the rest of the day I had a huge smile on my face.  I couldn’t find a flounder or a speckled trout to complete the slam, but I was hoping my redfish would place.  After a few hours of anticipation the results were read.  My 30.25” redfish had tied with another fisherman, but I won the tie-breaker. 

The rest of the week, my Dad and I went back to the same area and everyday we caught 10-15 redfish between 20-28”. We would use lipless crankbaits and topwaters to find the schools of redfish each morning, and catch them on an assortment of lures.  I even took the SUPerFISHal out and landed a few on it.  The final day of vacation was a little slow.  We had caught a few smaller fish, but couldn’t find a good school.  I was throwing an Egret Baits Vuu Doo Shrimp when it was nailed by a big fish.  I could tell this was a better fish, because it took off for deeper water and pulled a lot of drag.  I brought the fish into the kayak and it was even bigger than the one I caught on tournament day.  This redfish was 32” and very healthy. 

The SUPerFISHal is a sweet platform for the flats,
especially when paired with the Orion 25.

Throughout the week I used two rod/reel setups.  The first one was an Ardent Apex Grand paired with an Ardent Denny Brauer Crainkbait series rod.  I used this for my larger topwater, popping- cork, and crankbaits.  I also used an Ardent Wire 2000 paired with an Ardent Edge rod.  Even though this is a small reel, the drag is super smooth and it is what I used to catch my 32” red.  I highly recommend both of these combos if you are in the market for a new rod/reel. 

32" Red on my Ardent set-up.

When I got back from vacation I prepared for the Catchin' For Kids Club Challenge Tournament.  (Catchin' for kids is a great charity, for more info go to ) This tournament allows the seven local fishing clubs to compete for bragging rights.  TKAA is the only kayak club, however, and the rest of the clubs are in powerboats.  It is normally a challenge to beat the boats, but this year was especially challenging.  The weather forecast was 25-30knt winds out of the Northeast.  Even with bad conditions our kayak club beat the boat clubs for the second time in three years. 

TKAA's Winning Team

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summertime Gar

42" Trophy Gar 
Summer has arrived and now that I’m out of school, I have been able to fish a lot.   The last couple of months I have been thinking about fishing for gar, and now that I had time I loaded up my Kraken and went gar fishing. 

I saw several gar while fishing for bass last year, so I had a good idea of where to go.  I got my livebait, loaded up my Kraken, and went down to the lake.  It didn’t take very long for me to find the fish.  I paddled into a large cove and found fish rolling on the surface and gulping air, just like tarpon.  On the first day of fishing, I landed two gar with one of them measuring out to 40 inches, enough for a Virginia trophy fish citation.  After the first trip I went back out several times, catching them with livebait and sight-fishing for them on bass tackle.  My Dad joined me one trip, and caught a 41in gar.
My first Gar at 40"

Dad's 41" gar 
41" on a jerkbait 

My last trip was by far my best one.  I set out for a new location with bigger livebait, hoping to catch a really big one.  I was in a large creek off the main lake and gar were rolling all around me.  I put out my biggest bait and when it went down  I set the hook.  I could tell that this was a better class of fish,  it made long runs and stayed deep.  When I finally got the fish boat-side, I saw that it was a BIG gar.  I grabbed the fish and pulled it in the kayak.  It took up the whole foot-well because it was so long and I was stoked.  I beached the kayak and measured the fish out to 45 inches. I took a few pictures, removed the hooks, and released the big fish back to the lake. 

45" BIG Gar 
 I caught three more fish in the creek, and two of them were over 40 inches, the other was in the upper 30 inch range.  So far this year I have caught eleven gar with five citations.

42" citation Gar

Gar haven’t been the only fish I have caught lately.  I caught a lot of bass up to 21.5 inches on deep-diving crankbaits, Carolina-rigs, and jigs out on deep water ledges. 

21.5" Bass on a crankbait 

I have also caught several big sunfish up to 10.5 inches

Summer time is an awesome time to get out and catch fish.  Just remember to stay hydrated in the heat and stay safe out on the water. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Few Hours to Kill...

Hooked up on the SUP
School, soccer, work, and finals have kept me really busy the last couple of weeks, and I haven't been able to get out on the water in a while.  This Saturday I had a few hours before Prom, so I loaded up the SUPerFISHal and went bass fishing.  A few weeks ago my Orion 25qt cooler came in the mail.  This cooler is the real deal, from construction, size, and over all sweet look.  It is the perfect size for the SUP and with YakAttack tracks built onto it, it was easy to rig up.  I filled it with a few tackle boxes and bags of PTL plastics and launched the SUP in a local lake.

The Orion is a perfect standing platform for a SUP or small skiff

 I started throwing a popper first thing, and after the first cast I already boated a 17in largemouth.  I worked down the bank alternating between a frog, squarebill, and popper.  Each bait produced bass, with more of the hits coming off the crankbait.

First fish of the day
Once the sun came up, I left the bank and started fishing offshore structure.  This time of year, many of the post-spawn females move towards the deep summertime holes, and stage on shallow ledges.  I tied on a PTL stonedragger football jig and went to work picking apart these shallow ledges.  The first one I found quickly produced several decent bass.  I caught plenty of 16-17in bass with a few larger ones in the 19in range.  I caught most of my bass on the jig, but also caught a few on a Carolina-rig and deep-diving crankbait.  
The Ardent Apex Grand is the perfect reel for ledge fishing 
The biggest bass of the day, a hefty 19in largemouth, had a small turtle in his throat.  The color of my jig matched the turtle exactly and the fish had inhaled both,
Small Turtle inhaled by a Bass
It was awesome to get back out on the water, and even better to find hungry bass! I called it a day at 11:30 and was ready for Prom by 3:30.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spring Time Trophy Pickerel

23.5" aggressive pickerel

School is out for spring break and that means I have even more time to do some bass fishing.  The weather for my first day on break lined up for a perfect spring day, so I loaded up the Cuda 14, and went to the Suffolk Lakes.  I wanted to try some new spots, so I geared up for a long paddle and left at sunrise.

I absolutely love my new Kokatat Gortex  Full-Zip Jacket

I got to my first spot, and after only a few cast, my chatterbait was inhaled by a solid fish.  I wasn't sure what it was at first, but after a glimpse of a missile-like body I could tell it was a giant pickerel.  I carefully brought the fish to the boat, and landed the beast.  This was the biggest pickerel I have ever seen.  The fish measured out to 24.75in and and was really fat.  I snapped some pictures and went back to fishing.

24.75" Citation Pickerel

I kept with my plan and hit all of the spots I had found in previous research, and all of them produced fish. I caught several more big pickerel with the smallest being 23in.  Most of the bass I caught were small males, but I picked up a few thick pre-spawn females.  My biggest bass of the day, came on a 6in hard-plastic swimbait slow-rolled over a secondary point.

Chunky Bass on a square-bill

Another good Pre-spawn largemouth 
Near the end of the day, I had one more flat the fish.  I pitched a lipless crankbait up near a stump and started burning it back.  I saw a flash and my rod was nearly jerked out of my hand.  I saw another massive pickerel break the surface, and it had inhaled my bait.  I carefully fought the fish, and landed it.  This fish was a little smaller than the first pickerel, but still a giant.  This one was 24.5in and was really fat.  I took some pics, and released the beast.

Last fish of the day, 24.5in pickerel 
It was an awesome day on the water, and almost everything I threw produced fish.  The baits that seem to work the best were square-bill crankbaits, chatterbaits, and swimbaits.