Monday, March 21, 2011

Outfished by a girl... again (3/18 or 1/6 Bass Slam mission accomplished)

Kelly and I finally made it back. It was a long week of driving and fishing. We drove well over 1500 miles, fished in three states (Florida, Georgia, and Alabama), but only managed to catch a handful of fish in two states. Georgia was a total bust. The fishing report is best told in reverse order since the fishing conditions we encountered seemed to ignore that old "save the best for last" thing. Our best fishing was experienced very early in our adventure.

So... first, I'll show our method for attaching kayaks to the roof of the new Subaru Outback adventure wagon... and then I'll get back to the fishing. We didn't spring for the Subaru factory accessory kayak rack (sorry, Subaru), but instead used four ratchet straps and two pieces of square 1" aluminum tubing (with some eye bolts attached) wrapped in foam pipe insulation. I'll probably improve on the foam wrapping before the next long trip.

Adventure Wagon all packed and ready to go.

For those that may be interested... the Outback averaged around 27 mpg with the kayaks strapped to the roof... not too shabby. Kelly has gotten close to 34 mpg on a "kayak-less" highway trip... which the Subaru dealership in Memphis is now advertising on their television commercials after she sent them a photo of the dashboard readout. The two kayaks are a Crow Wing 1080 Pro-Angler (the olive one) and an Emotion Glide Angler (mustard colored one in back).

Before I left Memphis Friday, I went to Bass Pro to pick up some of that mystery bargain Cortland fly line that Owl Jones told us about. Well, it's still a bit of a mystery, as it was packaged specifically for the Spring Fishing Classic sale event. The 8 wt lines look like they could be some type of Cortland Precision since they are two-toned, but who knows?

"PREMIUM FLY LINE"?

I picked up four lines total, one 5 wt, one 6 wt, and two 8 wt. If it really is as valuable as they advertised, I guess I got about $240 worth of fly line for about $40.

Now, for the fishing report in reverse order...

We stopped at two places in Alabama on the way back to Memphis. First we stopped and camped at DeSoto State Park (Thursday) in hopes of catching a Redeye Bass. Unfortunately, the west fork of the Little River in the park was too high, too swift, and mostly unwadable. We tried in vain to catch a fish from the few spots where we could cast from the overgrown banks. We didn't catch any fish, but I did capture these photos of calling male American Toads (Bufo americanus) back at the campground just after we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire.



The frogs and toads calling from the vernal pool in the campground were a nice treat for the nocturnal naturalist.

The second place we stopped in Alabama on the final leg of our journey (Friday) was at one of our favorite fishin' holes, Cypress Creek near the town of Florence, but it was pretty slow fishing there too. The water was high and a little cloudy (for what is usually a crystal clear stream). Kelly caught one small Spotted Bass and a Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris) while I managed only one Rock Bass (see title of this post).

So, as I already mentioned the fishing in Georgia was pretty much a total bust. (We did catch a few Bluegills and one small Largemouth at the state park lake where we camped.) To be specific, the Flint River at Sprewell Bluff State Park was blown out from heavy rain the day before we arrived... which meant we did not catch our Shoal Bass. We casted from shore to some likely looking spots, but we were pretty much wasting our time. We camped in the area for one day and waited for the river to go down and clear up... but it actually looked worse after the second day. Time to move on. There must have been a lot of rain further upstream. We never actually encountered any rainfall on our trip... only it's ugly aftermath.

The second half of our fishing mission in Florida was to catch Suwannee Bass from the Suwannee River drainage. We apparently arrived just after a cold front moved through that put the fish off. We fished the afternoon we arrived (Monday) and the following morning (Tuesday) and between the two of us (actually just Kelly- again, see title of this post) only managed a couple of sunfish. I can't say exactly what this fish is. A field guide (and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) would tell you it's a Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus), but I have my suspicions that the taxonomy of these fish is not fully resolved. These fish don't look much like the Redbreasts we catch in Alabama or ones that I have caught in east Tennessee.


It is a very cool looking sunfish whatever its true classification.

So, now we're back to the beginning of our journey on Saturday evening. We had planned to camp at Lake Louisa State Park on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida. Little did we know, they lock the park gates at dark and you can't register for camping "after hours." We didn't make reservations so we didn't have the secret code for the automatic gate they give you if you plan to arrive late.

We ended up staying at a really funky motel. The sign says "deluxe," but I found no evidence of this in the room where I had a hard time sleeping.

They've got PHONES... that's DELUXE.

Sunday, after we finally got into Lake Louisa State Park, we set up our tent, ate lunch, and then promptly got our kayaks in the water. Kelly quickly caught the first Florida Largemouth Bass on a woolly bugger.


Shortly after Kelly caught that first fish, I got a follow from a Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) which I think is a big deal when fishing for toothy critters based on Clif's assessment of Musky Fishing. After about an hour or so of not catching much, we decided to wait until a little closer to sunset so that maybe we could catch a few on the surface. Before we got out of the water for the afternoon, Kelly snapped a pretty awesome photo of an Osprey.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Hammond Lake, LLSP, FL

Our plan to get in on the sunset topwater bite didn't work out for me, but Kelly did okay... pretty well actually.

Kelly's BIG Bass, Hammond Lake, LLSP, FL

21.5"... estimated around 5.5 to 5.75 lbs... nice fake Crocs.

Not only does this Florida Largemouth more than qualify for the Bass Slam, it was Kelly's biggest bass ever. I was very happy for her... and proud of her. I still am.

The following morning, I lost two good fish. One I know was over five pounds (it doubled over my 9 wt during the brief five seconds while it was hooked) and another that was probably around three. I'll give another report soon on the best flies we found for fishing among the lotus pads.

I managed only one (barely) qualifying 16" Florida Largemouth.


Outfished by a girl... always.

30 comments:

  1. Dustin has outfished me since we moved, but I hope to find more of Kelly's luck and prowess soon :)

    What a massive bass! Good for her. I bet that was a ball. Your bass is nothing to sneeze at either. Beautiful pics of you both with your fish...nature was definitely cooperating for the photo op!

    -stephanie

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  2. Monster bass! Congrats to Kelly!

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  3. Stephanie, your day will come. In truth, I usually catch a big fish or two while Kelly catches numbers. This time around she beat me in every way possible.

    Mark, no congrats for my pathetic little bass? You must not be impressed.

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  4. Kelly's bass is a pig. Holy Jebus!

    Disappointing about Georgia. If my memory serves me, Shoal bass are the most geographically limited bass. Am I right? If so, it'll be the biggest pain to catch.

    "taxonomy of these fish is not fully resolved." Is that some sort of high faluttin' college boy joke?

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  5. Clif, I think the Suwannee Bass is probably the most limited in range. The Shoal Bass is found throughout the Flint and Apalachicola River drainages which are both pretty good sized systems... but the places where they are known to be "easy targets" are rather limited... I guess it will be difficult to a degree.
    That taxonomy comment is a little biology nerd leakage... no humor intended... sorry about that. If you found it humorous, I'm happy to entertain. I would say "I'll try not to let it happen again," but I know it will.

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  6. Sounds like a fun trip! That 34 mpg figure caught my eye since I may be in the market for a new vehicle that will serve well getting me to water accessed via "unimproved" Forest Service roads while offering decent mileage on my commute. What model in the Outback line are you running around in?

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  7. Homey, that is a longear sunfish. Seriously :) More common up in these here northeastern parts!

    Your bass = my best on a lot of days (not shabby). Her bass = amazing. Very few spots in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic grow them that big.

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  8. Pat, it's a base model. They all have the same engine and CVT (continuously variable transmission) regardless of model so the mpg rating is the same. We opted for the base model because it was a couple thousand less, but still has pretty much all the bells and whistles. The nicer models have alloy wheels and some Bluetooth electronics gadgetry. The 33.9 mpg Kelly averaged for that one trip was impressive, but I would expect closer to 29 average. The car has a very cool mpg gauge and average mpg readout on the dash... constantly reminds you of how quickly you're burning your money in your gas tank.

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  9. Ha ha, I just checked and I'm wrong. That is a weird redbreast. Apparently one "race" of them has that ridiculous gill plate which is longer than a longear's gillplate. Go figure. Guess it's my turn to learn today.

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  10. Swamp thing, thanks for stopping by... and for the encouraging words about my less than stellar fishing.
    I have a nice photo of a true Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis) in a previous post. "Longear" may be what you call them in your neck of the woods, and that's also what they call them in TX from what I have gathered online, and it's a very fitting name. They do have an extended opercular flap just like a true Longear. I guess that shows the fallacy of common names.
    Check out a true Longear here:
    http://naturalistsangle.blogspot.com/2010/10/longear-sunfish.html
    True Longears have a white rear margin on the opercular flap.
    My comment about it being something other than a Redbreast was really about the fact that modern genetic analysis is revealing all sorts of genetically distinct species that have remained "hidden" in plain view. I think if someone was to analyze a little fish DNA from some of those populations, the FL "Redbreast" would turn out to be quite different from the ones found in the northeast and the ones I've caught in AL and TN. I think the true Longears need some phylogenetic analysis too... the ones I have caught in many different streams in four states (AL, AR, MS, and TN) have all sorts of variety... every watershed seems to have its own unique strain. I met a biologist in MS who is starting to look into the genetics of Longears, but only in MS... he works for the state wildlife agency. Nobody has done any wide ranging genetic analysis on these particular species groups... yet.
    Any bored geneticists out there looking for a phylogeography project?

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  11. Swamp Thing, thanks for your comments. I didn't mean to nitpick the details, but I don't mind clarifying my view of the picture when needed.
    I think the real problem is that the two species we are discussing aren't really encompassing all of the variation out there... that and the fact that the little fishies don't seem to mind hybridizing... and displaying all sorts of phenotypic plasticity within species... keeps us all pretty confused.
    I certainly don't have all of the answers, but it's fun to discuss.
    Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

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  12. Well Jay, welcome back. Beautiful pictures and good reading. Tell Kelly that I'm sorry she has to drag your butt around while she seriously works on the slam! Love the frog pictures. Maybe Kelly will give you some lessons so you're competitive.

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  13. Howard, she's giving me lessons all the time... I'm just a horrible student.
    Much like in public education, I think my performance as a student should be no reflection on her excellence as a teacher.

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  14. Nice post of what is a good trip.
    Great looking healthy bass.

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  15. This reminds me of an article that the trout underground linked to a while back about how women always seem to outfish their male counterparts. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/outdoors/7610251/Fiona-Armstrongs-fly-fishing-tips.html?sms_ss=email&at_xt=4d592ef6a8c54585,0

    Thanks for pointing out the fakeness of her crocs. The presence of that pig in her lap distracted my normally discerning eye from identifying the faux crocs.

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  16. Ivan's comment about the fake crocs made me laugh! Too funny. Regardless of who got the "bigerrfish", it looks like both of you had a good time. And that is what counts... Nice to have you back.

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  17. Ivan, I'm happy to point out "bobo" shoes whenever you need me to. Those are actually the Airwalk (at Payless) version... I don't know if the real Crocs ever made any in the psychedelic rainbow vomit tie-dye color scheme.

    RD, I'm glad to be back. We had a blast... even though the fishing was only good for about the first 24 hours of our adventure.

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  18. Jay forgot to mention that while he got a follow from a pickeral I actually hooked one but couldn't land it. It put a gash is my foam fly while it thrashed about.... Would have been cool to catch it, but I'll take my big bass and be happy. It was a really fun trip, and we shall return soon for the species that escaped us this time.

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  19. K, I'm glad your big bass was enough to make you happy. I just hope your expectations aren't too high now for our next trip.

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  20. Jay, nice fish, osprey, toad, and pictures. I don't tell when I get out fished by a girl, I go in the corner and cry like a girl. Ha Ha, great post!

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  21. Thanks, Larry.
    I didn't cry about her catching the big fish, but when I lost the one I hooked into... and fought for about five seconds, severely bent over a 9 wt fly rod so I know it had some serious hook setting pressure, no broken tippet, no explanation, just rolled off the hook... I admit that I threw a fit in my kayak and said a few choice words. I easily could have cried then.
    I was especially proud of the second toad shot. The ripples he was making in the water by the vibration of his calling were just perfect. I think it's one of the better frog calling pictures I've ever taken. The Osprey pic was all Kelly.

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  22. No high expectations here... you know I just like to catch fish and here you say from down or up stream..." keep your rod high." Even though I've gotten much better about casting.

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  23. Nice bass Kelly, and that is a great osprey pic.

    Great job

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  24. RE: Subaru Outback- my wife picked out the exact same make, model, and color! last summer. We love it too. Indeed makes a fine fishmobile- borrowed it for my last San Juan trip, she had to pry the keys out of my hand upon return. mike

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  25. Wow, what a great trip Jay. An excellent read with some stellar pics. I'm jealous as heck.

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  26. Mike, I'm glad I get to drive the Subaru occasionally too... Kelly actually let me have a key of my very own.

    Ty, thank you for the kind words. The only thing to be jealous of would be Kelly's Florida lunker.
    I was really bummed about all of the high water at DeSoto State Park... which, as you know, is just upstream of that magical place known by the initials LRCNP. We didn't even try going down there because we knew from the high water in the West Fork in DeSoto that it would be even wilder downriver. It would have been even more heartbreaking to go there and find awful conditions, so we just avoided it altogether.

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  27. Wow. That's an awesome bucketmouth. And great pic of an osprey.

    Great attitude, Jay. I'd be proud of my girl if she caught a fish like that, too. But damn jealous.

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  28. Sweet ride. The fish aint bad either. Kelly rules, despite the Bobos.

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  29. Jay
    I would love to be outfished by my wife any day. If I could only get her to go. This trip you and Kelly made was stocked with ups and downs, but the important thing here is you did it together. I don't have to tell you that you have a fishing partner for life in Kelly. I have been into the gill fishing for the past week and have not been on Smith for almost 3 weeks because of high water. The lake water has been in the parking lot at the dam. It will be getting right soon and I will give let you know when the daylight fishing is best. Thanks for sharing this great trip with all of us.

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  30. MN Angler, thanks for stopping by. I was a little jealous, but it was definitely her turn to catch the big fish of the trip.

    Mike, we're happy to have joined the Subaru club. Those bobos have a little comic value in just how ugly they are so I think that makes them acceptable.

    Bill, the ups and downs are what make trips like that more memorable. I'm looking forward to lower water everywhere as spring moves along.

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