First Rainbow Trout of 2022…

We have a winter storm approaching but the weather was going to be decent for the first half of the day, so I drove an hour and a half over to the Illinois River to try my hand at catching some trout.

We had scoped out the Simp and Helen Watts fishing area last year and I wanted to return so that’s where I went. Cloudy skies, 59F, windy and high humidity greeted me when I arrived. There was only one other car in the parking area so I was excited. I was flying solo since the wife had to work so I packed light.

I donned my waders and laced up my wading boots. My rod of choice for the day was the Apia Grandage Lite 61 with the 2021 Daiwa Presso LT 1000S-P reel. I wanted to use a fly rod but chickened out due to the wind. With this major front approaching, the wind was steadily building.

I started with a jighead and a B-vibe and didn’t get so much as a bump. I then switched to a trout spoon and received the same treatment. Next up was some inline spinners. No takers either. I dug out my swimbait box from the Yeti Panga and selected a Lucky Craft Humpback Minnow 45SP-Suspending and attached it to my swivel. First cast and I hooked up. I gave the trout too much slack and he slipped the hook.

The hero of the day!

Second cast and I hooked into another trout, only to lose it at the riverbank trying to get a picture. Third cast and I’m onto another one. I put the boots to this one, never letting up until it was in the net. That’s the little trout in the first picture. That’s when I realized how hard it is to get photos when you are fishing by yourself. From that point on I didn’t even try.

Next thing you know I have two guys up on me. Literally one standing almost next to me and one in the water wading and casting right in front of me. We exchanged words and I held my ground ready to square off. I can’t stand when fisherman do that! They moved off shortly after and I continued to fish. Damn near a mile of riverbank to fish and you have to try and wade and cast right in front of me. That’s a JACKASS move if there ever was one.

Anyway, I ended up losing 4 and catching 5 before the bite turned off. One of them went 16 inches. I released them all, not even taking them out of the water. I decided to call it a day and head home before anything happened or got out of hand.

I took my time getting out of my wading gear as there were several Bald Eagles flying over the river hoping for an easy meal. They tend to over-winter in this part of the state and it is always good to see them.

The Apia Grandage Lite 61 rod allowed me to cast to the other bank.
Relatively peaceful.

For the record…I’m not really into “Hero Shots” when the trout are stockers. Seems kind of lame in my mind, but that’s just me.

I took the scenic route home so I could relax and enjoy the outing. I did miss fishing with my wife and felt guilty about going, but she assured me she was fine with it since she had a pile of work to do and couldn’t get away. Believe me, I tried talking her into going!

Until next time…

Quick Outing With the Tailwalk Troutia 55L…

I managed to get out for about 2 hours today. I was using the Tailwalk Troutia 55L with the Shimano Stradic 1000S-L. For a “Light Action” rod, this one is pretty stiff and makes for a great stream rod. And I’m going to have to call it a DRAW! I hooked a bass and got it to the shore but upon grabbing the bottom lip, the fish whipped around and ended up embedding the hook in my thumb while making its escape. It’s only fair afterall. Well played my friend!!!

The temps were in the upper 40’s to low 50’s and partly cloudy. The wind was up and I could feel the chill.

Below are random shots I took:

Nice curves!
Shells…Then and Now.
Fossils everywhere.
Rusty Gig.
Lazy Pigs Were Here.
Ended up filling four by the end of the outing.

This is the last day to fish for a bit. We have another front coming through tonight and temps will drop. It is always good to get out and I definitely got my exercise in today. Thanks for reading…

First Bass of 2022…

I decided to try and go fishing again this morning. With the wife helping me, we adjusted the wrap on my left elbow to make it more comfortable. There were 2 pieces of wadded up gauze that were rubbing against my sutures. The impetus to go was the weather. High temperatures today were forecast for 65F but windy. A cold front is rapidly approaching and we will get snow tomorrow. It was now or never.

The lake was down quite a bit.

It started sprinkling after I had been fishing for 20 minutes and the wind picked up. Forecasts called for 10-20mph winds with gusts up to 30mph. I decided to pick up trash and wait for the gusts to die down a bit before continuing.

4 bags to start with. Ended up filling 8 bags before I left.
I opted for my ultralight setup this morning. Shimano Soare Ci4+ 500 and a Major Craft Finetail Works Tune Area Spec FTA-582UL.
More discarded fishing line picked up.
A few lures that I found.

It was a short outing but fun and productive. The bass was small but fought well while using the ultralight setup. I’m not looking forward to the snow but on the plus side…I can fish afterall. Progress I suppose!

Addendum: a little off-topic but I am always trying to repurpose items and this was no exception. I found an old pair of safety glasses that had a neoprene cover and decided to make that into a super small pouch that holds two Walmart bags for the trash round-ups I always do.

I turned the neoprene sleeve inside out and used my Juki to sew one end shut. Super simple.
Clips onto my fishing bag. Low-profile and compact. Works well.

Thanks for reading…

Went to a Local Trout Pond…

The weather forecast for today called for temps near 65F so I decided to hit a local trout pond. With it being a week out from surgery I wasn’t expecting to be able to do much.

The sun was shining and the temps were nice but my elbow said “NO WAY” and I quit attempting to fish after about 10 casts. But that gives me somewhat of a benchmark to work from.

At that point I opted to walk the shoreline and pick up trash. I only had 6 bags with me but found somebody’s dinner trash still in the bag so I used that too.

I pulled as much trash out of the water as I could reach and threw it up onto the shore.
Before…
And After. Yes, there is still a styrofoam cup in the water but I couldn’t reach it. Sorry
7 bags total. See the big green dumpster in the background???
First line pick up of 2022.
An appreciative local.

I take my role as a steward of the land seriously and even being unable to fish, I still try to be productive and help keep our waters clean. I needed the fresh air and exercise so why not combine them.

Have a GREAT DAY…

Local Lake Outing 12 Sept 2021…

I was talking to my Dad last night via Facetime and he was giving me a little grief about not fishing. He said, “you say its too hot yet you’re running around all over doing other things.” He was right! We were trying to come up with something to do today so opted to hit both of our local lakes. We got up early to beat the heat and headed out.

The first lake was a bust since it is completely overgrown now and fishing from the shore is virtually impossible. We caught zero fish after walking all the way around it. As usual I was on the lookout for plants. Here is just a few of what we ran across.

After getting skunked and picking all of the burs and stick-tights off of us, we opted to try the other lake near us. As we were driving down the gravel road we were witness to a Bobcat crossing the road carrying a rabbit in its mouth. We watched as it loped across the road and coursed up a steep hill. We thought that was pretty cool…especially with how big it was.

We reached the next lake and chatted with a local. He was out on his 4-wheeler with the grandkids and was letting them burn off some energy. We know the feeling all too well.

Managed to catch a Crappie here.

All told we caught 5 largemouth bass, a perch and a crappie. I wanted to get a few pictures for the blog and quit fishing after an hour. Remember me mentioning that this area was covered by the Western Interior Sea during the Cretaceous Period 145 million to 66 million years ago? I took some pictures of the fossils that cover a large portion of this area.

As we were roaming around the area just looking, we ran across this guy!

Eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
It was pretty docile despite the flared hood. They come in a remarkable range of coloration.

After interacting with the snake we decided to move on and see what else we could find. As usual, there were numerous plants in bloom in the area.

Field thistle flower.
Winged elm (Ulmus alata Michx)
Common whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) When reeling in I hooked some weeds and it rode them all the way in.

We had fun with the few hours we were out. We tend to free-range the chickens on the weekends so we decided to head home to let them out for the day. As I sit here typing, I’m surrounded by foraging chickens. There is shade at the moment and a breeze blowing through the tree tops.

They do a good job of keeping the raised beds tilled up…so I don’t have to do it!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Shore Exploration 11 Sept 2021…

Both of us had a really busy week and wanted to get out and relax for a bit and stretch our legs. The high temperature for today was forecast at 99F so we opted to go early in the morning. This particular area is relatively close to our house and it’s generally quiet without too many people around. We ended up seeing more Whitetail deer than people.

When I’m not fishing, I tend to just roam and explore. As I’ve stated previously, I am always curious about what’s around the next bend or over the horizon. And both of us continually learn something new every time we get out and look around.

The shoreline is covered with Willow trees, Buttonbush and Cockle Burs. We like to pick our way through it all and see the animal tracks and anything interesting we might come across.

Heron track.
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Buttonbush flower.
Halberdleaf rosemallow (Hibiscus laevis)
Rough Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium)
Always observing!

We had fun even though we were only out for about 3 hours. We covered 4.91 miles and collected 8 bags of trash on the way out. I managed to find two other plants I wasn’t familiar with so didn’t include those as it will take me time to identify them. Below I will show 2 books that I use most often. If anyone from Oklahoma is interested-they are available from the Oklahoma State University bookstore.

One of the better books I have seen and used in relation to my area.
Taxonomic key. Not for the easily frustrated!
A few of the things we found (Knife is for scale).
A few feathers we ran across.
The belt-kit I was using. I really like the Maxpedition Roly-Poly Dump pouch. It’s perfect for storing things when exploring or even foraging.

Thank you for reading. When the temperatures cool off a bit we plan on doing more fishing…but until then, we’ll keep exploring.

Outing 5 September 2021…

Due to the heat, we haven’t been doing much fishing lately. Today was the first time in weeks that the temps were below a 100F. The high was slated to be 87F but ended up being 90F. No worries…we’ll take it!

We opted to hit a lake relatively close by and try our luck catching catfish. Spoiler Alert: We didn’t catch any. We each managed to catch a Drum and a White Bass so we still had fun. It was kind of nice to just sit there and watch a rod tip as opposed to wading mile after mile.

For bait we used a cast net to gather shad. It’s hard work and takes both luck and skill to catch them. We cast probably 50 times and ended up with 5, but it was enough to get us started. Later in the day I managed to spot and throw into a bait ball. I could hardly drag the net in because it was so full. We tried using slip bobbers but the wind kept blowing them by us way to fast. Plan B was to fish on the bottom or a little bit off of the bottom. Not ideal because this lake is full of turtles.

We fed a lot of turtles!
Is it a turtle or a fish??? Hmmm.
Early morning quiet with the sun coming up.

We arrived at about 0815 and left around 1315. Up until 1230 we had the place to ourselves. A nice quiet cove entrance, sunshine, moderate temperatures and a breeze. Then the Jetskiers and Kneeboarders showed up, making waves with their stereos cranked as loud as they would go. Time for us to leave. Besides, we promised our son that we would stop by his house on our way home to help with some carpentry work.

Sure beats working!

River View Cabins, Oden Arkansas…

With it being “hell hot” we opted to rent a cabin on this trip. We had been watching a YouTube channel named Dome Life and they had stayed at these cabins. We were curious about the Ouachita River so took their advice and chose this place to base our exploration forays out of. Included in this blog post are pictures from Cabin #11 which is a 2-person cabin. They have cabins that run the gamut from 2-people up to 16-24 people if I recall correctly. I will include a link to their website for those who are interested.

Cabin #11
3/4 wrap-around deck
Kitchen Area
All you need to bring is food!
The jacuzzi was a blessing after a day of canoeing or fishing!
Queen size bed!
Fire place and entertainment center. We watched movies during the evening hours. I brought 2 thumb drives full of movies so it was plug-and-play.

I’m normally not one for staying in fancy places. I much prefer to rough it and go on the cheap. However, the A/C was REALLY nice and worth it to us. Plus, staying in a cabin means we didn’t have to bring as much gear with us and gave us a comfortable base to explore the area.

River View Cabins and Canoes-Oden Arkansas website: http://www.riverviewcabins-canoes.com

Ed Banks Access and Brushy Creek Access on the Cossatot River 30 July 2021…

We woke up early and packed camp quickly. Our first planned stop was the Ed Banks Access point. We wanted to fish further downstream this time. We drove through a clear cut area along the way and also ran into a work crew who were prepping the area for replanting.

Clear cut area.

The Ed Banks Access area is one of our favorite spots. There are two primitive campsites, one on each side of the low water bridge. The Ranger told us that they were free to camp in, but we had already set up camp back in Cossatot Falls. Had we known, we probably would’ve camped there.

Ed Banks Access downstream side.
Fishing in shade was nice.

We ended up catching 50 fish in the 2 hours we were here. About half of them were perch, but they were fun nonetheless.

To reach the Brushy Creek Access Area we had to drive out of the Forest Area and take Highway 246 west a little ways. This is a really nice Day Use Only area that tends to be a major swimming hole during the summer months. We opted to head downstream to avoid the swimmers and also because we had never fished this section of the river.

Bring your “A” game!

This section required a lot of wading across slippery rocks and lots of boulder hopping. You WILL get a helluva workout. We fished downstream for about a mile and a half before the heat really kicked in and we decided to head back. The rocks were a killer due to being so slippery. You need to wade this section very carefully. Even the rocks that looked dry were sketchy with wet wading boots. You have to do it to fully understand.

We only caught 10 fish in this section before we decided to call it a day and begin the 3.5 hour drive home. We got home at 1635 and began the process of cleaning gear, doing laundry and getting everything put away. I updated my log book and we started making plans to do another trip. That’s how we roll!

P.S. We apologize for not taking many fish pics. Our cameras were stowed in our packs which made it time consuming to get pics. In this heat we generally release the fish immediately. Also, both of us were constantly leap frogging each other to explore and fish so we weren’t in close enough proximitiy to get pics of each other. Thanks for reading.

Fishing Trip 29 July 2021-Back to the Cossatot River

We rented a cabin for 4 days which left our checkout time on Thursday. Not wanting to head home yet, we diverted over to the Cossatot River. We really liked that river and wanted to explore it some more.

We pulled off to check out the Cossatot River Visitors Center since we didn’t bother visiting the facility when we were here in June. There are a bunch of exhibits explaining the history of this area. Besides, we needed a sticker for the cooler!

After camp was set up at Cossatot Falls Camping Area…we geared up and hit the river. It was already in the 90’s F at 10:30 and the sun was beating down. The river was about two feet lower than when we were here previously.

A section above Cossatot Falls.

We fished upstream to about a mile and a half above the Sand Bar Access Area. In this heat, you can’t drink enough water and staying somewhat cool was a serious issue. We fished until around 1430 and decided to begin the slog back to camp. We ended up catching 29 smallmouth bass with only one reaching 2 pounds. The rest were one pound or less. We didn’t bother with pictures since we weren’t catching the bigger fish we had hoped for. We were absolutely beat and overheated upon arrival back in camp so we climbed into the Subaru and cranked the A/C until we had cooled off a bit.

Camp Site #2
Trying to beat the heat

We called it a night around 2100 and climbed into the tent. It was still 93F but dropped to 72F by morning.

Recon Trip 27 July 2021…

We decided to recon as much of the river as we had time for on Tuesday. We looked at Access Points 1-6 trying to find a place to wade fish. Pine Ridge Access/Little Hope Road was about the only one that had a gravel bank that we could wade fish up and down stream. The Oden Bridge at Hwy 379 was another option. The rest of the access points were not conducive to our needs.

Gravel bank allowing us to fish from shore.
Any shade dropped the Temps by 10F.
Big chunks of quartz were everywhere.

We did stop for lunch at El Diamante’s Mexican restaurant in Mt. Ida Arkansas. A lot of food for a reasonable price. After, we stopped at Bob’s Food City to replenish a few supplies. It was quite the eclectic grocery store offering some outdoor camping gear too. Managed to grab some souvenir T-shirts as well.

Driving back to the cabin on Hwy 88, I noticed a Forest Road (#274) and we decided to see where it went. There ended up being a turn off that led to a small lake.

Fished all the way around and caught nothing. Lots of algae in it.

We drove several miles of the Forest Roads (#274, #274A and #274B) just to see where each branch led. Lots of washed out low water bridges that really needed some repairs. Most of them ended in places that the Subaru Forester couldn’t safely go. We had fun irregardless of the outcome. We love driving down roads just to see where they go.

After returning to the highway we opted to head back to the cabin. It was after 1600 and we decided we wanted to fire up the grill for dinner and try to clean up and cool off. And true to form…like each day we’ve been here…the heat caused clouds to form which produced thunder and lightning in abundance but didn’t give us any rain. At least it blocked out the intense sunshine!

Ouachita River Outing 26 July 2021…

We had been looking over maps while camping last month and settled on an exploratory trip to the Ouachita River in Southern Arkansas. All we had to go on were some brief fishing reports, some paper maps and Google Maps satellite images. We were unable to locate anyone we knew who had ever actually been there.

Due to the summer heat we opted to rent a cabin this time as opposed to staying in a tent. We chose to stay at River View Cabins in Oden Arkansas.

Monday morning bright and early, we made arrangements to rent a canoe for the day to take a 10 mile trip. Our plan was to paddle and wade fish as much as possible. We were on the water by 0820 and immediately I was having issues with the canoe. The right side of my seat was broken and hanging down so I had to paddle to shore and tie it up into place with some paracord I always carry. This is nothing new with rental canoes and we’ve experienced similar issues in the past. With the seat fixed, we were on our way. I noticed we were slowly taking on water but it wasn’t of great concern since I figured we would be stopping often and we could empty it out. We were never in danger of sinking, it was just an annoyance.

Typical rental canoe…beat to hell and beyond.

First thing we noticed was that this river was definitely a canoeing/kayaking river and wade fishing would be available only in a few spots.

Most of the river was like this with very few places to pull over and fish like we wanted to.

As the day progressed, the sun was more and more intense and the heat really kicked in. By noon it was showing 94F with a heat index of 110F. We took every opportunity to submerge ourselves to cool off. As it turns out, we were the only ones from the canoe rental place to complete our chosen route. Everyone else quit at the 4 or 6 mile mark due to the heat. Can’t say as I blame them!

It was HOT!

We tried to fish the riffles and rapids every chance we could. The slower sections never produced for us which was expected so we avoided them.

We always have fun catching Smallmouth.

We always had to be aware of where we were on the river. Neither one of us had canoed this river before so we were always on alert. I’m comfortable in a canoe but the wife had never paddled through rapids before. Most of her time has been spent canoeing on lakes. We had a few Class I/II sections and I could tell she was really nervous. She did great and became a lot more comfortable with it as the day wore on. It probably didn’t help her psyche seeing a destroyed tandem kayak in the parking lot from a couple who failed at navigating correctly under a low water bridge. Yikes! Just hope whoever it was managed to come through OK.

We stopped for lunch around 1330, and after, we realized that the pick up was scheduled for 1530 and we had 4 more miles to go so we needed to get moving. We managed to catch a few more fish before paddling the rest of the way to the take out.

The Cave at the 6 mile mark.

We ended up catching 19 smallmouth between the two of us with one going 2 pounds. We had fun despite the blazing sun, the “beater” canoe,and the oppressive heat and humidity. I did a blog post entitled “The Thin Blue Line” and this was a classic example for us. We saw it, researched it and decided to give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained…