Where Time Stops

Time moves fast. Every moment seems to pass by faster and faster than the one before. New distractions are always at our fingertips: one buzz and you are linked into a whole virtual world. We daydream of far-off places, wondering how we could ever match the experiences posted by everyone else. Counting the reasons why our life isn’t following the same ‘perfect’ path that we see on our screens. So caught up in trying to manicure our lives that we never stop to live our own.

There is beauty in disconnection. Wonder in the unknown. An excitement in accepting that there isn’t any one path. There is contentment in doing exactly what makes you happy, no matter how crazy people may think you are.

So here I am. Staring up at a limestone bluff. A lush, deciduous forest bursting with life above it. Below trickles a slow, wandering creek. It follows the low spots of the rock bottom. On rare occasions, it narrows, creating deep holes teeming with life.

Unnamed Creek

There I stand. A four-foot collapsible fishing rod in my hand. A hook so small, reading glasses are required to bait it. An image belonging in a kids’ book: a man so obsessed with fish he would search even the smallest puddles. The truth is each of those puddles are magic. The longer you look into them, the more life you can see. Creek Chubs scurry about, fighting one another for any scrap of food. The other minnows mine the bottom, searching for the rare morsel that escapes the chubs.

Creek Chub

These scavengers are careful. They graze around each tiny rock. When you are still, you can get lost seeing the small schools systematically search each quadrant of the pool. Watching in amusement, my curiosity gets the best of me. I drop my comically miniscule hook to the bottom. The minnows scatter. (A reasonable response for a creature on the bottom of the food chain.) I leave the bait resting on the bottom. They feed in a pattern, and I know they will return to this area soon. I carefully watch my hook as the minutes pass. The first brave minnow returns and finds my bait. The tiniest tug on my line and suddenly I’m happily holding one of these bottom-grazing beauties. A quick glance and I recognize a familiar face. It’s a Bluntnose Minnow! They are thriving in the creek this year.

Bluntnose Minnow

My curiosity isn’t so easily sated. The occasional ghost of a larger fish dances around the Bluntnose Minnows. This fish is different. I stand there huddled over the creek, dropping my bait down over and over again. Pulling up one Bluntnose Minnow after another. I’m starting to question my sanity when a silver flash happens as my bait drops. Could this finally be it? A small, silver fish wiggles at the end of the tiny hook. I don’t recognize the fish. It’s something new! My 107th species of fish caught on hook and line. The Silverjaw Minnow!

I sit on the sand beside the creek and smile. Life is simple here. It is a place a where two-inch fish can make a person’s day. The sound of singing birds surrounds me, harmonizing with the babbling creek. A vibrant forest breathes. Time has no meaning in a place like this.

Silverjaw Minnow

A Blue Jay flashes, letting me know I have over-extended my welcome here. I wade down the creek. I walk slowly to see what minnows will make themselves visible. Creek Chubs dash left and right. The Bluntnose and Silverjaw Minnows retreat to the deepest pools as I pass. And then I see something unique and pure. The creek narrows to a foot wide. A single pool the size of a basketball cut into the rock floor. The water rips through here. A perfect habitat for an amazingly unique fish. I get down on my knees and shade my eyes with my hands. At first, all I see is the water rushing over smooth brown rocks. I focus harder. An odd, triangular shape points out of a crack between two stones. There it is. The queen of this creek. The humble Spottail Darter, perfectly camouflaged. This tiny pool is thriving. Darters are resting on the bottom against the rocks, just waiting for a snack to wash down. A wee insect floats down and one zips out from the bottom, the meal vanishing in a heartbeat. I get my fishing rod back out. How could I pass up such a perfect opportunity? My little hook touches the water and a darter shoots out of the rock. A quick picture and it is back safely.

Spottail Darter

Content with the time spent wading in the creek, I make the slow walk back to the car. The distractions of the ‘real’ world can’t touch me here. I smile as the Blue Jay scolds me one last time. One last long look at the limestone bluff. The trees a vibrant green contrasting against the blue sky. I close my eyes. One last deep breath of the pure forest air, imprinting every detail of this place until I return.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

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2017: What a Year

2017 has been one of the most difficult and rewarding years I’ve ever had. This year started with my last semester of college. After 4 years of hard work I graduated from college with big dreams of moving across the country to California. I worked hard and made that dream a reality and moved out to Los Angeles. I quickly discovered that big city life just wasn’t for this Midwesterner and return back to Indiana. A disappointing discovery, but something I would have always regretted not trying. Life seemed to speed up from there on, I found a full time job that I absolutely love and have been working on getting settled back here.

This year has made me realize the parts of my life that I am grateful for. I’m so grateful for my ever understanding girlfriend, my family, my friends and those peaceful moments spent by water. There are countless more things I’m thankful for, but those four things were what made this year a success for me, without them there is no knowing what this year would have turned into. I know this is fishing blog and that is probably what you came to read about, but I felt like I couldn’t write this in good conscience without acknowledging the things that made a year like this possible.

As I searched through my photos to try to pick the pictures that best represented this year, I found it very difficult to narrow it down. I tried to narrow it down to just a few species, but then I realized that just isn’t what appeals to me about fishing and that isn’t what this blog was made to be about. So instead of a long explanation here are a few highlights from the year.

I hope you all had a fantastic 2017 filled with many days spent by the water. Here’s to hoping 2018 holds more new and great adventures!

Tight lines, 

– Isaac

November is a Fisherman’s Dream

I love fishing in all the seasons, each one holds something special that appeals to me. But I have always been partial to fall. The combination of the weather, the colors, and the purely ridiculous number of fish that can be caught make it an anglers dream. One of the things that is captivating to me most about fishing in the fall is the constant flux of the weather and water conditions. One day it can be in the 60’s with great water visibility, and then the next it’ll be in the 30’s muddy and rainy. I like the daily challenge and unpredictability of this season, it helps force me to test new tactics for fish and forces me to explore different methods of fishing than I am not already comfortable with. November has been a wildly successful month, I’ve been fortunate enough to get in a good amount of fishing in all sorts of locations, ranging from the Ohio River down to small public ponds.

It seems that my fall fishing always starts at Garvin Park, for some reason I’m still a sucker for the stocked trout. I would rather the funds being used for these fish be put into the native species for this area, but since I’m not in charge of making that decision I’ve decided to just go with it and enjoy the opportunity to catch them. Plus it is always a good excuse to break out the 5 weight fly rod.

Rainbow Trout on the Fly

Rainbow Trout on the Fly

The stocked Rainbow Trout don’t seem to be too smart and have been willing to bite almost anything that falls right in front of their faces. Early in November I was lucky enough to stumble across a feeding frenzy happening in the shallows. You could see small groups of trout hunting in the shallow water by the shore and as soon as anything touched the water they would all start attacking it. I was armed with my ultralight that day with a small jig and lost count of the number of trout I caught. It was actually such good fishing I ended up keeping my limit, a very rare thing for me to do (though I will admit this was mostly because they are stocked fish and can’t survive the summers so I don’t feel bad taking them).

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

I caught a lot of trout in November, but one of my biggest goals was to capture some good images of these fish. Last year I was so excited to just be catching trout that I didn’t do them justice in the pictures I took. One of the images I was happiest with was an oddly proportioned Rainbow Trout, but the combination of the colors on the fish with the fall leaves in the background captured the season well.

Rainbow Trout

Humpback Rainbow Trout

But I can’t let all the attention go to these seasonal invaders of the lake, I was able to catch a number of the common species that call this lake their home. You can’t fish in the fall without enjoying how greedy bass get. I don’t usually spend much time bass fishing, much less at this park. But I figured with the way the fish were biting I may as well embrace it and managed a few above average from this lake.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth Bass

One of the reasons I like the lake at Garvin Park is the large population of Warmouth that live there. The shallows are full submerged timber, the classic ambush point for this fish to hide in. I usually have a very difficult time hunting down Warmouth once it starts getting cold, so you can image how happy I was to still be finding them in the shallow structure.

Warmouth

Warmouth

No fishing trip at Garvin Park would ever be complete unless you accidentally caught a catfish. This tends to be the fish species people are most commonly fishing for here, and there doesn’t really seem to be any shortage of these little Channel Catfish.

Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish

One thing I’ve always found interesting about this lake is the ratio of Bluegill to Redear Sunfish. For some reason a lot of these smaller urban lakes have really large populations of Bluegill, and very small populations of Redear Sunfish. And this lake follows that pattern, though I was lucky enough to manage to hook a few of them while jigging for trout.

Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish

As November started passing by I knew my window for wading Pigeon Creek was starting to close (and it did occasionally flood enough to be unsafe to wade). I know how fickle this creek can get once it gets truly cold so I wanted to make sure I spent some more time here before winter starts to set in. As you would expect with me I can’t go to a creek without microfishing, I wasn’t able to find any new species this month. But I was happy to see some familiar faces. I caught a ridiculous number of Emerald Shiners this month, with a much smaller number of Mimic Shiners mixed in. Occasionally a small catfish would find my bait first, which is always a pleasant surprise.

Mimic Shiner

Mimic Shiner

Emerald Shiner

Emerald Shiner

Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish

I still haven’t ever gotten over my obsession with sunfish, for some reason no matter what species I’m after I tend to return back to them. And Pigeon Creek is one of the places that I really enjoy fishing for them at, I like the added challenge that current gives. I have waded enough of this section of the creek to have a decent idea of where my best chances are to catch them at and have been lucky enough to catch a good number of fish. One of them being a surprisingly large Bluegill, he fought so hard I wasn’t really sure what I had hooked until I landed the fish.

Bluegill

Bluegill

One of the cool catches I stumbled across while wading for sunfish was the first Hybrid Sunfish I have ever caught from this creek. I figured they would be around, but in all the years I’ve fished here I had never managed to hook into one.

Hybrid Sunfish

Hybrid Sunfish

And the fish that always likes to steal the show has been still showing some surprisingly bright colors for this late in the year. The Longear Sunfish have become harder and harder to track down as the water temperatures have dropped, but each time I find one they seem to still be carrying some brilliant colors.

Longear Sunfish

Longear Sunfish

I suppose one thing I should point out at this point is that when I’m wading the creek I’m always using my ultralight rod rigged with 4 pound test line. So you can imagine my surprise to find a large drum on the end of my line while fishing for Bluegill. After putting up a hard fight, and using the current to its advantage I was lucky enough to be holding a gorgeous copper colored Freshwater Drum.

Freshwater Drum

Freshwater Drum

I really haven’t fished the Ohio River much since returning to Indiana, so I decided to dedicate one evening to fishing it. I took my usual approach to fishing the river, I found a good current break by a boat launch and set up my rods there. I quickly microfished up a few small Emerald Shiners to use as live bait. I cast those out to the deeper water on the edge of the current and let it drift into the calmer water and simply waited for a bite. It didn’t take long before the first fish bit and I was holding a lovely little White Bass.

White Bass

White Bass

As the sun started to set the bite started to pick up and I managed to catch my first Hybrid Striped Bass of the evening. I’ll be honest when I set the hook and reeled it in I didn’t really realize I had a fish on the other end of the line, I guess that was the downfall of using a slightly heavier river rod.

Hybrid Striped Bass

Hybrid Striped Bass

I think it should be no surprise that using this tactic also resulted in a few small Channel Catfish. I’ve found over the years that my luck with catfish at the river is mostly just bound to Channel Catfish. I still haven’t managed to catch my first Blue Catfish of the year…and I’m almost out of days in the year to make that happen.

Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish

As it got dark the bite slowed down to a crawl but I didn’t want to give up until I had caught a few more fish. I caught a larger live bait and cast it back out and waited. As I was starting to get chilled to the bone my line twitched and I set the hook into the first Striped Bass of the evening. Nothing helps warm you up like catching a fish.

Striped Bass

Striped Bass

As I was microfishing for Emerald Shiners to use for bait I had the pleasant surprise of stumbling across a number of very small Freshwater Drum. I even broke my personal smallest Freshwater Drum (a thing only a true microfishing nerd would say). It was cool to get to see them at this size, I usually find them when they are at least hand sized.

Freshwater Drum

Freshwater Drum

No fall fishing is complete without visiting the State Hospital Park to do some crappie fishing (though I feel like I’d say that in about any season, simply because I really enjoy the challenge of crappie fishing there). Plus this lake produces some of the prettiest White Crappie I have ever seen.

White Crappie

White Crappie

I’ve fished this lake almost all of my life, and it still seems to bring the occasional surprise. This time it was in the form of large Golden Shiner! I have never once seen a shiner in this lake, much less one this size. So that was a very exciting catch, though it will be something I’ll be keeping my eye out for. I’d be curious to know if this is a lone escapee from a bait bucket or if there is an established population.

Golden Shiner

Golden Shiner

One of the highlights from November was getting the opportunity to fish a private lake that sees very little fishing pressure. We were asked by the landlord to thin the crappie population, which was something my fishing partner and I were more than willing to do for him. The cool thing about this lake is not only does it have Black Crappie in it, but it has Blacknose Crappie in it. This fish is the result of a recessive gene and is the only location I’ve found with them in Indiana so far.

Blacknose Crappie

Blacknose Crappie

Plus this lake has some of the most aggressive Hybrid Sunfish I’ve ever seen, and with the lack of fishing pressure there is a good number of very large ones. This one was aggressive enough to attack a lipless crankbait!

Hybrid Sunfish

Hybrid Sunfish

I think we lost count of the number of crappie we caught that day, which is always a sign of a good time. We are both fairly stubborn people and we decided we were going to catch at least one fish on the fly rod even though it was cold and windy. To our surprise we were able to cast to deep enough water to reach the crappie. I stuck with a simple streamer pattern and found some very willing Black Crappie (a few that ended up being part of a Thanksgiving fish fry).

Black Crappie

Black Crappie

I know fall is starting to come to an end when Blue Grass FWA closes down for duck hunting. There was a one week break in the middle of duck season where the lakes were open to fishing and took advantage of it, knowing it would likely be February before I could fish there again. I didn’t have any big goals going there, I knew the conditions were going to make the bite difficult. But I really just wanted to catch a Longear Sunfish and then I would be happy. My first stop didn’t result in a Longear Sunfish, but rather a very aggressive Hybrid Sunfish.

Hybrid Sunfish

Hybrid Sunfish

I switched over to microfishing tactics at this spot thinking maybe I could catch a juvenile Longear Sunfish. Sadly this didn’t happen, but to my surprise a Green Sunfish found my tiny bait and managed to stay hooked! These little guys have a tendency to either brake my leaders or shake my tiny hooks.

Green Sunfish

Green Sunfish

While exploring around for potential spots for Longear Sunfish I came across the largest group of Blackstripe Topminnows I have ever seen. Without fear of exaggeration there were easily over 100 grouped up together in a shallow stretch of water that connects the lakes together. I couldn’t help but take advantage of this and catch a couple to get a good picture of the species for my records.

Blackstripe Topminnow

Blackstripe Topminnow

At my final stop of the day I finally found the habitat I was looking for and found the fish that I was after. The water was cold and this little guy didn’t have the brightest colors, but that didn’t matter to me. I was just happy to have found the fish I was after and being able to say farewell to Blue Grass FWA on a high note until the spring.

Longear Sunfish

As you can see my November has been a mixed bag of a little bit of everything. And honestly that is what makes fishing so much fun to me. I like that this season doesn’t let me get in the rut of fishing one specific way for a specific species. It gives that extra bit of encouragement to get out and try different styles of fishing at different places. I hope you all have been getting out and enjoying this last bit of fall before winter sets in.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

A Fish Per Day…

This month I decided to take on a simple challenge: catch at least one fish every single day. My work schedule allows me to stop at a lake for about an hour on the way home, so I thought I had the decent shot at accomplishing it. This is how my month went…

May 1st: Yellow Bullhead

May 2nd: Warmouth

May 3rd: Redear Sunfish

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May 4th: Green Sunfish

May 5th: Largemouth Bass

May 6th: Bluegill

May 7th: Redear Sunfish

May 8th: White Crappie

May 9th: Bluegill

May 10th: Largemouth Bass

May 11th: Hybrid Sunfish

May 12th: Channel Catfish

May 13th: Largemouth Bass (caught while micro-fishing)

May 14th: White Crappie

May 15th: Redear Sunfish

May 16th: Redear Sunfish

May 17th: Warmouth

May 18th: Flier Sunfish

May 19th: Flathead Catfish

May 20th: Bowfin

May 21st: Green Sunfish

May 22nd: Channel Catfish

May 23rd: Largemouth Bass

May 24th: Black Crappie

May 25th: Warmouth

May 26th: Grass Pickerel

May 27th: Striped Bass

May 28th: White Crappie

May 29th: Warmouth

May 30th: Bluegill

May 31st: Redear Sunfish

This has been a fun month of fishing, by the end of the month I was surprised to see all of the different species of fish I had caught. This has been interesting challenge, and it been a nice way to force myself to take a break after work before working on the projects I have going on at home. I think the best way to understand how rewarding this has been would be to do it yourself. So with that in mind, I challenge you all to give it a try too.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

Exploring Ferdinand State Forest

I’ve fished Ferdinand State Forest a few times when I was younger with my father, but these trips have always focused on catching Largemouth Bass and I’ve always wanted to know what else lives out in this park. So Friday after work I started packing up all of my fishing and camping gear so that I could leave first thing Saturday morning. When I go on trips like this I always like to set myself a goal to help keep me motivated, this trip I decided that my goal would be to catch 10 different species. Saturday morning I got up with the sun, packed the last of my food and jumped in my suv to start the drive. I got to the park before the ranger at the station did and was able to secure the best camping location in the whole park. After struggling with the tent for a half hour my campsite was set up and I unloaded the rods to do a little fishing.

I started by exploring the overflow creek from the lake and tried to target some of the gar that kept surfacing. After many failed hook sets I gave up on that quest and put on my rubber boots and started microfishing my way down the creek (well as close to microfishing as you can get with a size 22 hook). My efforts were quickly rewarded with a lovely Blackstripe Topminnow.

Blackstripe Top Minnow

At the next pool I was happy to find a large number of creek chubs.

After working through a good number of chubs I found what I think is a Striped Shiner

At this point I switched over to the top lake and took the canoe out to target a few evening largemouth. It didn’t take long to find a Largemouth Bass willing to hit a top water lure.

As sunset approached I set out to find some firewood and get dinner ready. I had hoped to fish for catfish once the sun had set, but after making supper I was surprisingly tired so I went ahead and settled down in my tent for the night.

Once again I woke up as the sun was just starting to come up, I decided to go back to the over flow creek and see if I could find a few more fish species before it got too hot. I started by jigging around the rocks and as I was hoping was able to tempt quite a few Warmouth.

I then started tossing the jig into some shallower water that was at the back end of the pool I was fishing was able to find a few very colorful Green Sunfish

But I had heard rumors of that this overflow was home to some crappie and I just couldn’t seem to tempt them. Then I had the idea to start casting as far up the inflow pipe as I could. Surprisingly I started catching a lot of bluegill from this spot.

After working through a lot of bluegill I was incredibly excited to hook into a small Black Crappie (I may or may not have cheered when I landed this fish).

I tossed out a rod with some cutbait with hopes of a gar again, but this time I was lucky enough to hook into what I think is a Yellow Bullhead (I honestly have the hardest time telling the bullheads apart)

After this fish I returned to jigging, I found a small submerged tree branch and tossed my jig into it. I was incredibly excited to see this little Redear Sunfish come out of it.

The last thing I wanted to include were a few of the strange catches I had as I was exploring the forest. The first is the very oddly colored Warmouth, at first I thought it was a rock bass but it appears to have the wrong number of spines on the anal fin.

And while I was micro fishing I was very surprised to catch a frog in between the tadpole and the froglet stage!

Micro Fishing Bluegrass FWA

To start this out, I know this is going to be a post that really only relates to a very small number of anglers and that this kind of fishing goes against the typical fishing mentality. The first thing you need to know is what micro fishing is: basically micro fishing is where you try to catch the smallest fish possible on a hook.

My go to setup for micro fishing is my 5 wt Redington fly rod and Mustad size 22 hooks. I tie the hook onto my fly line and tip the tiny hook with a very small piece of white soft plastic from old lures. This gives the fish a specific place on the hook to strike and increases the hook up ratio significantly.FOT9603

The easiest place to target micro fish on lakes seems to be at boat launches, since it provides safety from predatory fish in the deeper water. However, it seems that you have to work through a lot of average size panfish before you can start targeting the actual micro fish. The first fish you tend to catch in these spots are more aggressive, in my case Green Sunfish.

After the Green Sunfish got spooked from my spot the next aggressive fish started hitting my fly: Redear Sunfish.

The last species you have to worry about is the occasional Largemouth Bass that will come up into the shallower water.

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Now the fish actually start to become micro, the easiest small fish to start catching is the bluegill. The fry tend to stay in the shallows and are fairly aggressive and will fight each other over which gets to eat the fly first.

If you start fishing in the very shallowest part of the water you can catch some of the truly small species. I focused my attention on trying to catch my first Blackstripe Topminnow. Turns out they are very easy to catch once you have downsized your hook to a 22.
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The last species that I was able to find was the Western Mosquitofish. This is a very common fish to find in the shallows, however due to their very small mouth they are one of the more challenging micro fish that I have caught so far.WP_20160702_18_29_41_Pro

I know this post will seem strange to a lot of anglers since this goes completely against the “catch the biggest fish possible” mentality. But I find that micro fishing is incredibly relaxing and very intriguing when you are trying to figure out how to identify the fish that you catch.

So give it a try, I’d love to know what you think about this very different form of fishing.

Tight lines,

-Isaac