Iowa Fly Fisher

 Yes, fly fishing in Iowa 


Chad's online fishing journal. Look here for angling notes that will help you catch more fish around Iowa with fly tackle.

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Water Quality in Iowa 2

Posted on August 16, 2017 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)
An explanation of amendment 1 and break down of funding outlays from a hypothetical 1% sales tax increase - all while catfishing.

Ft. Dodge, Deer Creek area II

Posted on August 14, 2017 at 2:05 AM Comments comments (1)

Launched at Deer Creek access on the Des Moines river above Fort Dodge.  Went downstream.  The area below Deer creek has rock bluffs and some nice off-current pockets.  Right at the mouth of Deer Creek, this little pike hit.  I don't think many large pike inhabit the river between Frank Gotch park and Ft. Dodge - the structure isn't conducive, too shallow, rocky and fast and a lack of major, deep, off-current eddies.

Downstream in the Ft. Dodge impoundment or upstream at the Frank Gotch impoundment, or further up in the Humboldt impoundment and on up to Rutland an its impoundent are better pike areas we've covered in previous years.

Along the rock bluff in the the background above I caught 3 smallmouth and 2 catfish.  With so many good spots it takes time. The #14 tan caddis reached blizzard proportions.  The visibility subsurface was down to a foot, with a little rain earlier, but mostly due to quite a bit more planktonic algae vs. last weekend.  Even this far north the river can and is going green and probably won't improve until we get prolonged cloudy weather or Fall arrives.  It wasn't going to be a good carp day. Carp, in pockets along the bluff browsed alternately on the bottom, the surface, and the middle of the water column.  Literally, every time I changed flies they changed feeding modes, keeping me always a step behind.  Got one follow, but eventually left in frustration.  Slippery groundwater seeps, loose, crumbly rock, omnivorous feeding modes, chasing carp here really tests your skills.

Upstream from Deer Creek the river straightens into a series of low riffles and long, flat carp runs.  Broken limestone covers the entire river bed. It's shallow, fast and in places you could probably wade across and never be more than knee deep.  Carp spooked from the boat along either bank and even mid river.  Finally I got out and stalked a series of rocky pockets below the C56(120th st.) bridge.  Another catfish (pictured below), but between loose rock, bad casts and low visibility, I spooked carp after carp.

To the right of the right side of the picture above several large rocks formed a partial riffle and a carp tailed in the fast current there, but I crept past it in favor of easier targets tailing in slower water.  I hooked one which ran out a bunch of line, wrapped it around a boulder and shook free.  Eventually I spooked the rest of the carp along entire bank and came back to the one still tailing in the riffle.  A ways out in fast water, but I cast, a furtive movement...   and a smallmouth stole the fly.

My chances slipped away, the visibility closed down as the sun set, it was over, but then the carp started tailing again this time close enough to reach mend.  A quick cast just above it, reach mend the line and leader upstream, let it sink, an excited swoosh of the tail, set the hook, Fish On!  A big one, strong in the current, the fight went on and on as the light faded. It didn't run out to the main channel, but kept diving into a knee deep, rock lined hole and spinning around fraying the leader, eventually I waded into the hole - keeping the fish out of it, up and down the bank it ran, again and again, but finally it tired.  There are differences between individual carp and this one looked like a confirmed riffle feeder, a big gnarly mouth, big hump on the shoulder, one pectoral fin missing, and a broom tail - quite a fighter and after all the long odds and frustration I felt incredibly pleased with it.


Des Moines river, Fort Dodge

Posted on August 6, 2017 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (5)

Put in at D14 access just north of Fort Dodge.  Very rocky - along both banks and the entire river bottom - generally shallow with many riffles. Right away I caught smallmouth, further down an off-current flat below a gravel bar showed silt trails of feeding carp, but not the actual carp. Recent rains reduced visibility to 14" in spite of a stable level just below the recommended range.

A little further down, by the Becker area the river slowed and deepened, things looked a bit pikish, but gave up another decent smallmouth instead.  I figured I was within the impounding effect of the dam a few bends downstream, but no, it was another large riffle. Turning upstream, the kayak surprised me, ascending most of the riffles.  If I found a tongue deep enough for the whole paddle, the dihedral hull kayak ascended it. On the way up I passed 2 empty, plastic bottles moving against the current.  Jug lining is popular between Frank Gotch park and Fort Dodge. One held a nice channel cat, the other a carp. With so much rock, the fish find food anywhere, even midriver.  While still casting parrallel to the bank much of the time, there were perpendicular situations. A second rod with a microskagit outfit helped, a switch rod might have been even better. Ground water from recent rain gurgled down the bank in many places.

Spooked a few carp, snagged a buffalo, but finally spotted a tailing carp, hauled out, stalked the bank, got the fly right in front of it.  A furtive movement from the side and a smallmouth stole the fly.

A #14 tan caddis flitting about in dense numbers.  Along the back of this foam covered eddy carp fed at the surface and I tied on a bushy caddis dry built on a #10 forged baitholder.  Would've been perfect for Chad's nymph and indicator rig, but I left the indicators at home.  No carp found the dry fly in the foam until I put it right in front of one, it gulped, the line twitched and I set the hook.  Big fish! and it shot for the strong current, wrapping the line around something on the way.  Splashing in thigh deep I poked around with the rod tip and freed the line as the backing knot zipped through the guides. Stumbling out past the chute on the left of the image above, I found good footing and made a stand, the fish bulldogging broadside in the current, the rod bent to the very cork.  The fight went on and on, when it finally came to hand, I found the fly snagged under a pectoral fin - disappointment, but still an awesome fight.

I hoped to reach Deer Creek access, but was nowhere near it as the light faded.  So many good spots - a few more smallmouth landed, one jumping 5 or 6 times.

Then a tailing carp - a cautious stalk along the slippery bank, the carp always moving a step ahead just as I came within range. Oh wait, here's another one idling in a shallow pocket, will it eat? Yes!

It does get local pressure (even saw another fly angler), but the smallmouth are doing ok. Waders and a good pair of wading boots would be a big improvement over the slippery old Crocs I wore.

Chad puts his finger on the problem

Posted on August 1, 2017 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (2)

Follow this link, or watch it on our "Videos" page.

I don't have all the answers, but I'm sure of one thing - "a stitch, in time saves nine", conservation is always easier than restoration. 

Hard times on the Mississippi/Driftless

Posted on July 30, 2017 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (1)

Though I eyeballed Spring Lake (a big waterfowl refuge on the Mississippi) many times on Googe-Maps with so many good fishing venues between Des Moines, Iowa and Savanna, Illinois I never actually made it there, before now - with every river on the eastern side of the state running high and dirty - this time it was Spring Lake or bust. The Wapsipinnicon overflowed its banks wherever I crossed it, the Iowa and Cedar - barely contained, the mighty Mississippi also up, not looking good around Sabula. The Plum river at Savanna, out of its banks, but just over the dike, Spring lake lay crystal clear. Granted it's a shallow waterfowl pond and a light wind could muddy it, but for the dense weeds. Lots of lotus, but plenty of other areas with plants more easily fished through.

The Cermele Slop Buster performed really well - of course, the fully emerged lotus (top image) is impenetrable, and unfishable, but it crawled right over everything else, however no fish struck it.  I saw a bass follow and a big shortnose gar covered with black spots swam under it  - everywhere and at all times schools of baby bass and panfish scattered from the boat. Parralleling a dike separating the large lake from several ponds, I reached the control point and climbed up the dike.  Water flow from 2 ponds under 2 bridges into a central channel then through the control point into the main lake. https:[email protected],-90.1394829,1579m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

At the bridge on the left, an opening with a school of bass - some of them FishnDave style big - and 4 or 5 big bowfin.  Shivering with excitement, I cast the Slop Buster and every fish fled in terror.  Ahhh - so these are educated fish in gin clear water, Plan A was out the window. To make a long story shorter, I caught several small bass (and the clarity must be good most of the year because all these bass were so dark green their backs were nearly black) on a V-tie (natural looking) shad pattern with heavy weed guards.  Between that evening and the next morning, 3 bowfin struck flies and they all shook free after a brief, violent thrashing.  Was it me? setting the hook too soon, maybe? - I don't know, I tried striking to the side, and various fly styles.  I thought about it in the tent all night, but had no answer.

Camping on the Mississippi is not good.  The Mississippi "Gorge" begins just north of Savanna and I camped at Mississippi Pallisades park, more spread out and quieter than Bulger's Hollow and some of the other places I've camped along the river, but no matter where it's throw up the tent as fast as possible and get inside before the mosquitos drain the last drop of blood from your veins, and then come the trains, every hour, all night long. Whichever side of the river, you're so close to the railroad tracks the ground shakes and of course they blow the horn at every road crossing.

I don't recommend camping on the Mississippi, but i would recommend Spring Lake in spite of the challenges, spooky fish, clear water, and choked with weeds, but it is the ideal Mississippi backwater experience.  Fly fishing doesn't seem as out of place as elsewhere on the Mississippi.  Spring could be good, depending on conditions, I think all the weed-spawners, like pike, gar, largemouth bass, bowfin, and panfish spawn there.  Early summer as preemergent weeds clear and settle the water is probably best.  Late summer is tough, but I came closer to landing a bowfin on fly than I have in years around Lake Odessa, and Princeton WMA and all the other places I've tried for them.  In those places bowfin feed by following scent trails in the water, but by sight in Spring Lake - with only the fin rippling, cruising through the vegetation, eyeballing flies and small bass so curiously, they don't seem capable of that sudden blast of power, but believe me it's there.

Back in Iowa, I checked out the Green Island complex https:[email protected],-90.3055105,123m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en - a lot more like you'd expect (dirty and full of duckweed), but with bowfin rising every few minutes I had to try the Slop Buster again - still no luck.

Went up to Big Mill creek, everywhere I saw evidence of recent and quite severe flooding.  Even bank collapse in a few places too, but there were a few stocked rainbows and some striped shiners, green sunfish and such.  Again my hooked to landed ratio was less than stellar, but the 12' 3 wt. which I shortened to 10 ft. worked well with several different techniques and it let me stand further off the creek and still mend.  Only in one place with a couple large overhanging branches did I want a shorter rod.