Tag Archives: frog

Feeding the Peasants

imageAs I paused to wipe the mud from my eye, I remembered all those glossy fly fishing spreads depicting the Test and Itchen, their manicured banks, and the stream keepers who trimmed weed beds and mowed pathways to the wading pools – in full tweed.

What the magazines failed to show was those same stalwarts having to endure his Lordship’s boorish house guests, or worse, rented “beats” to the nouveau rich so that they might make sport of ceremony, proper field attire, and insist on clubbing the life out of anything brought to hand.

My home water is the opposite of all that chaste decadence, and its roman-nosed “peasants” are as needful and hungry as Salmonids, only they lack the social graces of mingling in deep water, preferring to pounce from ambush rather than a frontal assault.

In even shorter supply are those wanting to tend to public lands to ensure all those “peasant” fish are as pampered and pedigreed as their silvery cousins, and why my sanity is in question.

Trimming weed beds being a noble pursuit, but it won’t cleanse the sin of all the fish kilt in your youth prior to your conversion to catch and release. Only helping fish or improving the watershed can erase that stain. I consider it payment on the Karmic Debt incurred by your super-consumer self – by ensuring what few fish that survived your youth are now bloated and obese ..

It was the rumor of a dwindling watering hole that was home to a massive frog population that set events in motion. Frog being an essential protein to my fish, and the notion that several hundred pounds of that delicacy was liable to expire with the receding water galvanized us into activity.

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I figured the game warden would frown on the proceedings, simply because Fish & Wildlife are devoted to the “high dollar” piscatorial fisheries and lack the funds or the desire to assist “peasant” fish. Their rationale would likely involve anything moving from one pond to another may introduce something unwanted – despite both being man-made and neither being connected to any waterway, and they’d let the entire lot expire out of their scientific version of Political Correctness.

With only a couple of long handled nets we were able to retrieve several thousand frogs and pack them away for relocation. In addition to the frogs, the act of scraping the bottom of the pond also yielded thousands of trapped dragon fly nymphs, water striders, pond beetles, and water boatmen, all suitable table fare for the bass that would be beneficiaries.

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I’m sure the egrets and herons were much disappointed on their return, but both birds enjoy a following of marsh organizations intent on promoting their well being – and can afford to lose the occasional battle for groceries. I didn’t feel any remorse in removing most of their trapped food supply.

After transporting all that protein to permanent water, I had the pleasure of releasing handfuls of squirming wildlife into every nook and cranny that lined the bank. Once freed, most burrowed into grass, wood piles, plant debris, and anything else that would shield them from predation. I was careful to spread them over the backwaters of a 15 acre impoundment – rather than empty the cooler into the deep end and watch the ensuing festivities.

Knowing that I’ve added many unwanted pounds to the native fish is liable to make me restless all Winter. Naturally I’ll have to exercise those fish thoroughly next Spring – via popper and handful of Gink.

I think I can live with the guilt until then – but am running low on Olive Deer hair …

Drought, thorns, and Branch eating Frogs

The problem with declining water levels and the increase in exposed bank is finding out the floral equivalent of the Common Cockroach, the Blackberry vine, actually thrives in drought.

Drought is supposed to be the Great Equalizer, and any thoughts of a soft landing when skidding down the bank, is quickly dashed by the gaping holes in waders, the streaks of blood on palm and exposed flesh, and the sickening reality that cockroaches thrive in adversity, and are immune even to my curses.

Drought and receding water levels has made the journey between foot path and water’s edge uncertain, and in many areas, outright daunting.  Even if you’re lucky enough to gain the water’s edge upright and intact, back casts are nearly impossible due to the height of the exposed banks and their liberal cover of fly eating foliage.

Skinned knees and shredded waders are now commonplace, and I’m tired of fragile breathables and shredding heavy plumber gear, and have opted to swap out my gear entirely.

As shallow tends to be lifeless, I’ve been bypassing my normal haunts in favor of anything deep that hasn’t had the oxygen boiled out of it, and may host a few fish willing to eat.

Deep water means lakes and impoundments, and neither plays to the strong suit of fly fishing – given how poorly our gear sinks. Water less than ten foot deep is about the limit of our fishing, and while that makes us productive in the shallow edges of bays and inlets, we rarely can compete with other tackle types when the fish are deeper still.

My “exploration” rig is now a casting rod and weedless frog – and hiking boots instead of fragile waders. A 5’ bait casting rod threads through Blackberry brambles more efficiently than a 9’ fly rod, and most of my overly warm water is covered in algae and weed, so my weedless frog is a huge upgrade from flies.

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More importantly, I can wing the frog from safety – and not have to fight my way down to the water’s edge to gain casting space. (Note the double hook riding up onto the back of the frog, imparting complete immunity from fouling on weeds and “cheese” mats.)

“Cheese” and wind-driven duckweed compound the fishing even further. Drought has reduced the water volume and summer temperatures cause the floating mats of vegetation (Cheese) to bloom sooner – and swallow entire waterways. Afternoon breezes push the floating duckweed into thick mats on the windward side of the impoundment – and flies simply bounce off the vegetation or are immediately fouled and useless.

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Normally this envelopment occurs in August, but the the absence of Winter and the unseasonably warm Spring have give the vegetation a couple months head start – and I’m running out of open water.

In the above photo, I can cast the frog over the Cheese and walk it back over the mat of vegetation without fear of snagging anything.

This spot yielded a couple of “tail slaps” from an unknown species, and in between picking my way through thickets of Blackberry, managed to observe one lonesome 3” bluegill along with what appeared to be something feeding on the vegetation, which I assumed was carp.

I returned the following morning with fly gear and the duckweed had closed the open waterways above. I managed a bit of fishing on the far side around the downed timber, but that was fruitless given the far bank is a ten foot drop to deep water.

While I had high hopes for Largemouth, this may be a bluegill only area – and they may be quite small to boot.

Dyneema and the Demise of Monofilament

The interesting bit of switching to conventional gear is learning of the changes in the tackle since last I tossed a plug in anger. The biggest change being Dyneema braid, which has largely replaced monofilament line in both casting and spinning gear.

The new braid is a learning experience given that 30lb test has the diameter of about 8lb mono. That means an unwary angler can  shatter his rod if he’s not pulling straight back to free a snag, or could slice fingers if he were a damn fool and wrapped it around anything but a stick.

This type of braid possibly brings new life to older, smaller capacity fly reels – as you can fit a hundred yards of 30lb or 40lb test, where Dacron’s thickness might not make backing possible.

The same line is used on spinning reels as well. Most of the spool is wound with the equivalent diameter monofilament, and the last 100 yards with the braided line. 

I re-equipped my conventional rod with 10 pound monofilament backing  and 100 yards of braided Dyneema rated at 30lb test. The mono backing lessens the strain on the spool the higher rated line is capable of adding. This material requires an Albright knot to join the mono to the braid, and a Palomar knot for tying lures and flies onto the end. The line cuts itself quite easily as if using conventional knots like the Clinch, or similar.

It’s a bit heady to drop the lure into the brush on the far side on an errant cast, rip the branch off the tree, then tow the entire mass across the pond to be sorted out without fear of harming lure or line.

Us fly fishing types are not used to announcing ourselves with such environmental authority …

… and if you’ve not bought bass tackle in awhile, you’ll understand the importance of these new braids. Lures cost $7 –$20 each, and it’s my understanding that hard core bass fishermen use 65lb test braid to ensure the hook straightens and the lure returns home safely.

What’s really needed is a weave of that same braid covering for my waders. While it’s nice to be dry and absent a pant’s leg full of cold water,  it would be nicer to navigate both snakes and thorn bushes in full Kevlar.