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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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.,-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,-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.



Davis City to I-35

Posted on June 27, 2017 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (1)

Thompson Fork of the Grand river; launch point Davis City park.  Access to the Tommy Grand is never easy.  At Davis City Park a 6 ft. mud bank drops into an even slipperier pool.  Level was 1.1 ft. - fish becoming concentrated in the pools immediately above and below Davis City.  Below the launch point the bottom changes to solid limestone then on the other side of the hwy. 6 bridge drops into another deep pool, didn't visit that one this time, but it's featured in the longnose gar scene near the end of "Flood of 2014" on our videos page.  

The pool above (area A below) held some gar I caught 1 then moved up to the sand flats (area B below) where black buffalo did not respond to drag-and-dropped dumbell carp flies or dead drifted nymphs, but spooked from a leader touch.  Along the sand bar where the current slows and minnows school,  gar patrolled and I caught a few more.  Above the sand flats a sharp bend with a deep pool on the outside and sand on the inside gave up the most interesting gar of the day, dark bronze with black spots (lower right below).

At the head of the pool where the sand drops off (area C above) the clarity was great - 2 ft. or so.  I cast a flashy beadhead woolly bugger to the drop off, felt a light tap, cast again and saw a small goldeye pecking at the fly.  When it didn't return I tried a larger minnow with a small nymph in tandem and a large goldeye, as in fly rod P.B., burst from the depths swiped at the fly and dove.  I spent the next hour trying to catch it, saw it a few more times, but no hook up.  Meanwhile I noticed a group of fish in a logjam pocket across the river, which I assumed were silver carp, begin tearing cottonwood leaves from a small floating branch - grass carp!?  I didn't have the right flies on hand and the most I got was a curious look at the nymph.  That's the Tommy Grand to a T - unexpected, taunting, frustrating.

It's a long sand run from the sharp bend up to Slip Bluff county park.  I found more gar, but no carp around the rocks at area A above, hoped for tailing black buffalo on area B above, but a fan boat roared past terrorizing fish and cutting visibility in half.  I continued up hoping they'd turn around at the riffle(area C above) just below Slip bluff - they didn't.  Along the appropriately named Slip Bluff is a deep pool lined with fallen trees - lost a gar in that mess.  Above the pool a sand bar covered in discarded tires, another riffle (area D above) the bottom changes briefly to solid, slippery limestone (area A below), then the interstate bridge.  Above the bridge an extensive riffle has pockets (B and C below) the fan boat returned reducing visibility in half again.  On the way back down I'd hoped for an evening rise in the sharp bend pool and targeting goldeye with dry flies, but that didn't happen what fish i saw fled from the slightest sound - the day was over.

P28 to Panora

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (1)
Middle Raccoon river; launch point - P28 access;  Nothing happening at the first bend pool, the rocky run, and the island pool (area A below).  Almost turned around, but remembering the 7 carp I caught in 1 day in the sand run above the island pool I continued up, suddenly carp scattering everywhere I plopped the fly in front of one that hadn't seen me yet, hard take, violent surge, popped the leader to tippet knot, pandemonium.  By the time I parked the kayak, retied a new tippet and fly, and stalked down through ankle wrenching mud (area C below)  they calmed down and started feeding again and I got 1 (lower right corner below).

Many fallen trees from the erosive effects of recent high water, a few looked bassy like B above, but nothing took.  However, I saw small bass chasing minnows on the sand flats, minnows and crayfish seemed fairly abundant. free living caddis nearing plague proportions the adults swarming around me the entire afternoon.  One gravel hump recently exposed by falling level but still damp was almost covered with wriggling caddis larvae, but I also saw a tiny hellgramite attacking a wee cranefly larva.  Also some overhanging mullberry trees in this stretch, I'd decided to kill any carp I caught for the sake of the struggling smallmouth population and those I cut open had stomachs full of mullberries and free-living caddis larvae.

A rocky pocket above the sand flats (area A below) gave up this 15" smallmouth.  I cast to a carp nosing around who looked at the fly curiously then a second unseen carp bolted in, slurped the fly and blasted downstream for the branches of a nearby fallen tree.  Almost into the tree, I clamped down trying to turn it and the tippet to fly knot broke.  But a little further up the rocky shore (area B below) I landed the stout carp below.

Across the river (area C above) several small carp worked the shallow flats and I got the 2 below.  Further up is riffle D the white arrow indicates where 4 or 5 carp tailed just above the riffle - a tricky proposition and I wound up leader touching 1 which spooked the rest.