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Des Moines river, Fort Dodge

Posted on August 6, 2017 at 1:50 AM

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.

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5 Comments

Reply iowaflyfisher
8:54 AM on August 7, 2017 
Nice! I floated the river between Fraser and Boone yesterday with YouTuber "River Certified." (Actual name is Spencer.) Totally dead sea. Water very green with visibility about 8 inches. We were mainly hunting catfish. I caught only one channel cat of about 2-3 lbs. We found no flatheads. We did a lot of casting to rock bars and current seams in and below riffles with paddle-tail swimbaits, hoping for a smallie or white bass. Never had a strike. We were on the river from 3 PM to 9 PM. Spencer said he rarely fishes that stretch of river, despite living in Boone, because he always has the same results. The only exception, he said, is in the fall. He has done fairly well on walleyes in the fall.
Reply FishnDave
9:52 AM on August 7, 2017 
Excellent report and results, Mark! Those are REALLY healthy-looking Smallies!
Reply backwatergallery
11:59 AM on August 7, 2017 
Thanks, and I only covered from the Becker area to just above the airport. I wish I'd spent the night there and covered more water - the forecast was for overnight rain, and it kept looking like rain so I figured that would color up the water, but I don't think it ever materialized.

Chad - thanks for the Boone are report, it looked like it might go green, hopefully that doesn't work its way down river. Did you guys cover the bluff and pool by E26 bridge and the former Boone WW. dam? That's where I caught the small flathead on fly and accidently snagged a larger one lurking near some feeding carp - was hoping if things stay dry to try that again this Fall, but that was before the dam conversion and there's been a lot of flooding in the intervening years.

Checked Fifield point on Lake Red Rock yesterday although the late summer winds aren't blowing yet. Got a 14" white bass on blade bait and was surprised by water clarity nearly 2 ft. Ran back to the car for the fly rod, they were busting the surface when I returned and I got a smaller one on fly before the school moved out of range. I turned my attention to carp, but the cloudy sky made them tough to distinguish from rocks and I wound up spooking 4 of them, but came close. If the wind picks up, the white bass may move closer to shore, but mudlines will take fly fishing off the table.
Reply iowaflyfisher
5:59 PM on August 7, 2017 
We didn't fish at the rapids/former dam. We did fish all along the base of the bluff at the E26 pool at dusk. That boat ramp was our take-out point. There was another guy fishing that pool when we arrived, and he hadn't caught anything, either.
Reply backwatergallery
8:28 PM on August 7, 2017 
Yep, that bluff and pool was my spot, have to look elsewhere now, I guess.