Post by darrelln09 on Jan 16, 2018 20:32:08 GMT -6
New year. New thread.
The Lower Illinois River was graced with my presence on Sunday afternoon. Lol! It was the day before the holiday, MLK Day, but the parking lot at Watts W.M.U. was overflowing. Surprisingly though, the fishermen were scattered all over the place so there were plenty of good spots to fish, even in the riffles. The water has cleared up nicely since early December so it was much easier to see the little buggers zipping around after their telltale rises. I was surprised to see slime on the rocks in various places though, and I assume that’s what gives the deeper water a warm green hue. Also, the fine work by the crew during the December 9th clean-up was very noticeable and thus the river really presents itself well to us mere mortals. Many thanks go out to all those who volunteered on that day! Let’s keep it that way. I also noticed some new disposal tubes for spent leaders and fishing line. Let’s do our part there as well.
Fishing-wise, I managed to net 8 rainbows in about 3 hours so the action was pretty decent. Three were good size, from my experience on this river, at about 14 inches. Funny thing though, it was the smaller ones that fought harder and jumped much more on the uptake. And I smile every time my barbless hooks pop themselves free inside my net and allow me to get those colorful beauties back in the water within a matter of seconds.
Fly-wise, all of my hook-ups were on a single chartreuse Sexy Walt’s Worm tied on a #16 Hanak H450BL jig hook. Those are great hooks, btw, but should be for the price they command. No action on soft hackles, black Brass Ass midges, or Poison Tung Zebra midges. None. Notta. Nil. I’ll have to try those again and some other midge patterns I’m working on next weekend when I have more time.
Last Edit: Jan 17, 2018 0:49:33 GMT -6 by darrelln09
I was there Sunday Darrell -- hate that I missed ya! I did well with a #20 dark olive w/copper wire zebra, though I think I caught more of the little browns (one of them a WHOPPING 9 inches LOL) than rainbows. I mainly fished the long hole above the upper riffle at Watts. I did manage to land 2 nice rainbows from the lower end of the stocking tube hole just before I left that evening. Hope to catch you over there sometime!
I’m sorry I missed you as well! I’m sure I saw you but it was just from a long distance. We need to work out a system ...
It was a spur-of-the-moment visit for me so I didn’t fish my normal MO. I like to fish the riffles in the morning and then move up to the deeper stocking tube channel or the rock garden in the afternoon. I started late this time so it just didn’t work out that way. Bummer.
I’ve hooked some of those little browns in that channel before so I know what you mean - so small they slip through the holes in your net! Still fun though, no doubt about it. I just wish those things would grow up a little.
Hopefully, I’ll catch up with you next time.
Last Edit: Jan 17, 2018 0:52:13 GMT -6 by darrelln09
Another interesting day on the Lower Illinois on Saturday (1/20/18). By 8:30am the parking lot at Watts W.M.U. was even more overflowing than last weekend. Lots of fly fishermen and women, the most I've ever seen, scattered everywhere but this time some bait chuckers taking fish out as well. That being said, the fish were scattered everywhere as well. There were some risers and jumpers in every stretch of the river I went to - basically all of the Watts Blue and Red Zones. Strangely though, the bite was hot and cold for me over and over again. It took most of the day to net 8 rainbows and it took at least a dozen different fly patterns to do it. That was definitely the most fly changes I've ever made in one day.
0 Simple Midge Larva, various colors 0 Mercury Midge Pupa, various colors 1 Chartreuse Sexy Walt's 1 Higa's SOS Baetis 0 Black Wooly Bugger (tried this because someone was hammering them on a black mini jig) 2 Cream Adult Midge Dry (there was a brief midge hatch during the windiest time of the day. Tough casting with a size 20 and 6X!) 0 Red/Black Quill-bodied Nymph 2 Pheasant Tail Flashback 2 Olive Krystal Bugger 0 Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle 0 Partridge & Purple Soft Hackle
Looking back at my list, I am noticing that most of my strikes were on flies with “flash” - either Krystal Flash or Flashabou - except the midge dry fly. Even the Higa’s SOS has Krystal Flash legs, although they are black. Yes, an interesting day for sure!
Last Edit: Jan 22, 2018 14:54:36 GMT -6 by darrelln09: Looking back ...
Post by darrelln09 on Jan 27, 2018 17:38:23 GMT -6
Fished the Lower Illinois again today (1/27/18) with some of my new, and some of my old, flashy fly patterns. The nymphs were all dead-drifted under strike indicators in the riffles. The streamers were all thrown downwind and stripped back against the current well down into the flat areas of the Watts Red Zone. It was a rare day where the wind and current were in the same direction! That flat section really has a lot of risers and jumpers in it right now. I would have loved to try more dry flies but it just got too windy.
7 Turbo Midge 10 Sexy Walt’s Worm, Chartreuse 4 Copper Zebra Midge 0 Zug Bug (although this was used as an attractor pattern above the Zebra Midge) 2 Rainbow Warrior 4 BH Pheasant Tail Flashback 2 Midge Dry Fly, Cream (sadly, one got away with my fly and a short piece of 6X) 3 Krystal Bugger, Olive (on three consecutive casts!) 2 Krystal Bugger, Black/Green 1 Amber Caddis Pupa
Yeah, it was a really good day!
Last Edit: Jan 27, 2018 17:52:00 GMT -6 by darrelln09: Added dry fly sadness
Post by darrelln09 on Jan 27, 2018 18:50:30 GMT -6
Thanks! The Sexy Walt’s seems to be a big hit with the stockers. Maybe it looks like a food pellet, I don’t know. I tie them on a jig hook with Davy Wotton’s SLF Bug dub in Natural Hare color and with pearl Flashabou ribbing. I think small UTC Opal Mirage tinsel would work just as well for the ribbing. It’s not the most durable fly out there but it still seems to catch fish even when it’s falling apart!
Last Edit: Jan 27, 2018 18:56:41 GMT -6 by darrelln09: Opal Mirage
Kind of a disappointing day today (2/3/2018) at the Lower Illinois. I arrived before the dawn loaded for bear and the midge hatch I’d seen the last two weekends ... and there wasn’t one. Didn’t see any clusters of adult midges coming off anywhere. Didn’t see many out on the open water either. Went with my favorite nymphs but had very few bites until mid morning. Later in the day I did try some of my freshly-tied March Browns but didn’t net one. Had three strikes but no hookups. If at first you don’t succeed ...
2 Pheasant Tail Flashback 1 Turbo Midge (a very slow start) 25+ Sexy Walt’s Worm (lost count when I ran out of fingers and cold toes) 3 Top Secret Midge (didn’t fish it much but had a lot of action on it when I did. Seems very promising as a dropper) 0 Olive Krystal Bugger (one light strike, nothing else) 0 March Brown Dry (three strikes, no hookups. Too much time in between, lulled me to sleep)
Forgot to try some of my new Midge CDC and soft hackle patterns! Dang. I guess I’ll have to go back.
Last Edit: Feb 3, 2018 22:56:07 GMT -6 by darrelln09
Thanks! The bite was just phenomenal for a good four hours midday. Caught my personal biggest and smallest rainbows today as well. One about 18” and one under 6”. Really had to play out that 18 before getting him into the net.
Made it back to the Lower Illinois today for a full weekend of fly fishing. Fished about 4 hours in a pretty stiff breeze, and eventually, under the beautiful gray skies of winter. Pulled out some flies that I tied several months ago but hadn’t fished with lately. The plan was to use those heavily weighted nymphs to sink some of the new flashy midge patterns I’ve been working on. They worked for that purpose and then some. In a word, my day was “squirrelly”.
5 Flying Squirrel 3 Top Secret Midge 8 Sexy Walt’s 10 Red Fox Squirrel 2 Morgan’s Midge
Both the midges were rigged as droppers off the hook bends of the squirrels. Definitely had good action on those droppers. Quite a few “misses” on hook sets today though, more than usual it seemed. My suspicion is that most were on bites on the droppers. Also had the dropper line snap off twice, losing the midge each time. Gonna try tying those midges on the next larger size hooks and then use heavier tippet for my droppers. Might try a different knot than an Improved Clinch as well. Could also try a tag dropper unless I forget (due to CRS).
Last Edit: Feb 4, 2018 21:29:46 GMT -6 by darrelln09: CRS
Post by darrelln09 on Feb 10, 2018 18:18:31 GMT -6
Today was a challenge. The temp was supposed to rise from 30 up to a balmy 35 but instead dropped to 25. And I’m sure most know what that means ... iced up rod guides. It also means an empty parking lot - 3 or 4 cars at most. Oh well, winter fishing isn’t for the average bear. Even the bald eagle was hunkered down in its nest and rarely came out all morning.
Plenty of fish rising and jumping about again but not quite the biting frenzy of recent weekends.
1 Bird’s Nest + Barr’s Emerger (quite a few missed hook sets though, probably on the tiny Barr’s) 3 BH Pheasant Tail + WD-40 (all hookups on the PT) 8 Sexy Walt’s (still my top fly) 2 Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear + Morgan’s Midge (both on the MM but a few missed hook sets here as well)
I fished all my droppers off the tags of the point flies using Orvis Knots and that worked really well. It’s an easy knot to tie with a long tag because there’s no wrapping around the standing line. I will definitely try that again.
Post by darrelln09 on Feb 12, 2018 13:16:18 GMT -6
Yesterday (2/11/2018) ended up being another cool but very enjoyable day of winter fly fishing on the Lower Illinois. I fished the afternoon with danimal and he put on quite a clinic, out-fishing me by at least 2:1 and maybe near 3:1. It turns out he has his own “Top Secret” midge and he was quite successful with it. Well done!
Here is my tally for the afternoon:
0 Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear 0 Morgan’s Midge 10 Sexy Walt’s 0 Red Fox Squirrel 3 Higa’s SOS 3 Sexy Walt’s 0 Jujubee Midge Emerger
Post by darrelln09 on Feb 12, 2018 15:56:50 GMT -6
I’ve been tying my Sexy Walt’s mainly on size 14 and 16 Hanak H450BL jig hooks. Definitely get good hook sets in the upper lips with those hooks. The fish rarely get off during the retrieve in spite of being barbless. Fluorescent Chartreuse has been the best color and I’ve been double-dubbing and double-whip-finishing to try to make the fly more durable. A nice problem to have as those teeth really tear them up!
Swinging is a bit of a challenge on the Lower Illinois right now because they pinch the water flow down so low when not generating at the hydro plant. The water in the flat areas just doesn’t move very fast at all. It’s a little bit better when the wind is assisting the water flow because you can let your line get out in front and pull your fly into the swing. There are some areas just above and just below the riffles that will swing better but it’s a little shallow in some spots, especially above the riffles. The water is exceptionally clear right now so that makes fishing shallow water that much tougher.
Last Edit: Feb 12, 2018 17:10:29 GMT -6 by darrelln09
Darrell's giving me a bit too much praise. I got a jump on him starting out, but I think it was just luck of the draw. He walked into the river in one spot, so I walked into the river in another and there just happened to be A LOT of fish right there. After that initial burst I'd say our numbers were pretty even, and from a distance it appeared that he was catching somewhat larger fish on average. Either way, it was a fun (but COLD) day on the water with good company. It was good seeing you Darrell!!