Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fishin with the Shem-ster


Shem Carlson is my cousin-in-law.  I don't think that is a legal name for our relationship, but that is what I call him!  He married my uncle Tom and aunt Glenda's daughter Carly, my first cousin, so it has to be a cousin and it has to be an in-law, so he is my cousin-in-law.

We went ice fishing today and invited Shem to come hang with the boys.  We actually had all of my six kids, two of Matt and Sarah's, uncle Seth, and of course Shem.  That made three girls and............lots of boys.  There were already three guys on the ice when we showed up and they got a little nervous when we all piled out of the vehicles!  Especially when I started looking for places near them to drill nine holes.  They relaxed when we headed down the lake to our alternative spot and made camp there.  Once they left we split up and took over both places.

I think this was Shem's first time ice fishing.  Unfortunately it was a little slow, but we caught fish and had fun.  It was Christmas Eve; what better way to spend a holiday than freezing to death on a lake of ice with family?

Since this was his first time out we were "showing-him-how-to-do-it", so this is a "how-to" post, very unorthodox, for sure, but a "how-to" none the less.

FIRST drill a hole.  This was a problem because none of us own an auger.  I always meant to buy one when we lived in Wyoming, but I didn't need to........all my friends had them, some were even gas operated.  Today we borrowed one from a friend.  We found out when we picked it up that it was quite dull and required two to run it. 


I am providing this photo for those of you that have NEVER had the pleasure of using an ice auger of this caliber.  The guy on the bottom had to be fairly tough, because every third or forth revolution of the handle clubbed you in the back of the head.  Here Shem and Tyler drill another hole.  Needless to say we didn't do much exploring today.  Thankfully Seth caught some nice fish and really enjoyed himself so maybe he will buy one.............that would be great, because now that I need to buy one I can't.  Kim has put a hold on my fishing purchases.  The other day she actually asked me, "really, how many tackle boxes does someone need?"  What kind of question is that?  You can't answer!  It all depends on the type of lures, baits, jigs, beads, flies, spinners, spoons, and trolls one accumulates!  Honestly the question cut me deep!  

Find a suitable bucket to sit on, rig up your rod with your favorite colored jig, tip it with bait (if legal), smear it with smelly jelly, drop it to the bottom, reel up a foot or so and wait..............this is the fun part!  Ice fishing isn't like other types of fishing.  You need room to fish on open water so you can "work the clock" casting to all the minutes of angle around you.  When limited to a vertical column of water under a six to eight inch hole, fishing gets cozy.  It's time to eat, drink, and be merry, because if the fish aren't biting your going to have to find some way to take your mind off the numbness slowly entering your feet and making its way to your brain. 


This is Jared, he is six and already has the fishing disease.  He stayed out on the ice all day, catching only one fish and believing it was a BLAST!  We can safely assume he is a little dangerous, but probably fairly harmless in his young and tender age. 

Catch fish!  Uncle Seth was the first to hit pay dirt with this 18 inch rainbow.  I love to listen to Seth giggle when he fishes.  Its an infectious laugh that warms the half frozen body of an ice fisherman.  The older kids made camp around uncle Seth to "hear-his-words-of-wisdom".  It was fun to listen to them banter and laugh across the ice.  Shem finally got bored of me and made his way to where the fun was at.  It also helped that he really wanted to catch a fish and Seth was the only one doing it. Of course once everyone started moving in on him we all had to hear about the scum we were for hording in on his honey hole. Tyler actually had the audacity to ask Seth to move his bait to the furthest left side of his six inch ice hole so he could drop his in on the right.  Seth got a good laugh out of this and then threatened something only he can come up with!

Jared was the next to catch a fish.  Shem had just left us, Matt was driving away, and the once thriving camp had dwindled to just Jared and dad.  I looked over, just in time, to see the pink rod tip bounce once, twice, then bend in full.  I set the hook, handed the rod to Jared's outstretched hands and watched the battle.  I recorded the last of it for you.   We were only in about 15 feet of water, so it doesn't take long to get the fish to the hole and through it.  By the time I had the video on, Jared had pulled the fish through the ice and was yelling for all to hear. 

Tyler was the next to hook a fish.  He was playing around on the ice, laying down, joking around with Seth, when his rod started dancing.  He slipped and slid his way to his rod, grabbing it as he slid past it, setting the hook as he fell.  He quickly rolled up onto his knees and fought the fish through the ice.  He bought this rod in Wyoming and hadn't christened it yet, for himself.  Everyone else had landed a fish on it at Guild's, but he just couldn't connect with a fish until today.   

It was such a nice fish and the jig he was using so bright, we decided it warranted some extra photos. 

These fish are really healthy and put up a good fight.  The reservoir is shallow, mostly 10-15 feet deep and the high desert environment grows football shaped rainbows in just a few short years.   I can't wait get back out here this spring with the fly rods and tangle with these fish on a sinking line and a wooly bugger.  

Shem was the next to connect to a fish.  I'm not sure he understands how big his fish is.  Seth couldn't stop talking about the size of it on the way home.  I was impressed and took quite a few pictures of it.  The big, hook jawed male, was dripping milt.  His dark back and rose colored sides are beautiful.  Seth's first fish was 18 inches; we measured it when we got home.  This puts Shem's fish between 20 and 22 inches, a real brute.  Fish of this size just have an awesome look to them, like a big, mature mule deer buck.  A 20 inch trout is pretty magical, it represents a fish that's been around a few years, a trophy. We had a nice photo session with it.

This is Tyler helping Shem get a hold of his fish for pictures.  They are a little slimy on the ice and you just can't hold a 20 inch fish like you can a pan sized trout.  They require "the-steelhead-hold", you know, tailed and supported.

Seth and Tyler were making some pretty fun comments and Shem was having fun.  This is a great picture, a little washed out, but still a great picture.

I want to make these two pictures extra large, but you loose some of the picture, so I'll have to be happy with "large" only.  I love the crimson gill plates, the cutthroat like coloring under the jaw and the big, dark, sparse spotting of this fish.

We had to have a picture of the day ending even though we weren't done fishing.  We still had a few more fish to catch, but the sun was dropping, all the other fisherman were headed home and we were late.  Every time we tried to leave someone caught a fish.  It's impossible to pick up and leave when there is the possibility you have just entered the magical time of day when all the fish in the reservoir want to eat your jig NOW.  So we had to fish another 20 minutes to make sure we didn't miss it.  The fishing was slow, but consistent, past 2 O'clock.

While these guys posed with their fish, Corey landed another one.  It was a keeper and his first for the day.  Abbie had "stolen" his rod earlier in the day, so he pouted most of the time and didn't fish until everyone else had left.  HE IS SUCH A DRAMA QUEEN!  Even then he was just a vulture, circling the rods, waiting for someone else's work to pay off for him, which it finally did.

Corey's keeper.  He caught another one after this one, but it was only six to eight inches long.  He released it back to the reservoir to be caught next year when it's 14 inches of crazy fish.   Jared was walking between camps and actually saw a really big fish cruising just under the ice.  He said he walked right up on it.  We asked him how big it was and he held his hands out wide, that fish would have scared a salmon had they been swimming next to each other.  His guess on length might have been off, but it doesn't surprise me he saw a fish swimming around under the ice.  It's only six or so inches thick and pretty clear.  

This is Tyler's last fish and the last one of the day.  We got some extra photos, cleaned up the place and headed to grandma and grandpa's house for a turkey dinner and present opening. 

I had to finish off this post with Jared landing his fish.  He isn't excited at all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Eve of Christmas Eve

Tyler was wrestling in the Best of the West Tournament today in Tri-Cities, Washington, Kim had some Christmas things to do and I had an itch to hunt Jesse.  I called uncle Tom this morning to see if he was up for some company and a duck and goose hunt by his house; we are planning an ice fishing trip tomorrow and so bird hunting would have to be today or not at all.  Corey, Cole, Jesse and I headed for Baker County around 9 AM.  We were  late, but today was about fun, not keeping time schedules.

We saw four coyotes along the freeway but didn't shoot them despite having the 7mm along.  We headed for the crick, hoping to jump shoot ducks and possibly geese.  We saw NOTHING along the crick, but ice.  It was slow to say the least.  But around the end of the walk we jumped a big covey of california quail that all landed in a big pile of hawthorn and wild rose bushes.  We waited for uncle Tom and Shem to rendezvous with us, shared the good news, got everyone through the fence, exchanged the heavy #2 duck and goose loads for the lighter low based #7 steel shot we'd brought, turned Jesse loose and headed for the the hidey-hole.

Jesse had a slight breeze working in his favor and he was fast to the bushes, locked solid in a classic point, his tail quivering, ears perked, and body tense.  I wish I'd taken a camera!  I strung Shem, Cole, and Corey along the frozen slew, spreading them out then headed around the bushes so I'd flush birds past them.   The quail held tight, flushing a bird or three at a time so that there were lots of birds in the air for probably a minute.  The shooting was fast and furious with the occasional bird dropping to the frozen ground.  Jesse retrieved them all and we headed for the tall grass, bushes, and teesle around us where we expected to pick up some scattered singles.

Our shots put up some ducks and geese further to our north.   The ducks flew up, circled, some drifted off to quieter mid day lies, but most dropped back to the oxbows of the creek.  We were planning a hunt on them when I looked up and saw 30 or so geese coming our way making for the meadows behind us. They were low and definitely going to be in range.  Shem and the boys had the shots with Tom and I flanking them.  Someone jumped early, flaring the geese.  The would be perfect shots were now long and rushed; we didn't get a bird.  But the ducks held, so we made our way north, the half mile, circling wide and coming in on them from the west.

We were spread out wide, covering as much of the oxbow as possible and still could have used another hunter or two.  Shem, Tom, and Corey held up short of the fence, waiting for the flush.  Cole I slid through the fence and he was the point man, sneaking to the edge of the crick.  The ducks flushed in waves.  The sound of 600 wings beating is impressive!  The whistling accompanied by a dull roar.  The shooting was fast with four drakes down.  I felt really bad for Cole.  He had the first shot, but his gun just clicked.  He frantically opened to action to find it empty.  We had taken the shell out of the single shot while crawling through fences and we'd forgotten to reload.  The poor kid had 300 mallards at 20 yards and didn't get a shot.

With the birds gone and the dog working to get the downed birds, Corey took a walk around the next corner to check out the noise he heard.  It was a common merganser that I guess didn't get the memo that duck season was on and we still had some empty spots in our limits.  I'll let Corey tell you the story.

The walk back to the cars was fairly uneventful until Jesse found the remnants of the scattered quail.  He had a real solid point on a broken down hawthorn bush.  As we walked up to flush the birds, Corey spotted the covey making a break for it, running through the low, grassy spot the hawthorns had grown up in.  He took a fleeing shot, but missed.  Jesse broke at the shot zig-zagging the area looking for casualties.  We were talking about what had just happened when a little rooster quail broke cover, circling us low and fast.  He was my bird and at my shot he crumpled, the #2 duck load did its job and then some.  ITS NOT RECOMMENDED WE SHOOT QUAIL WITH DUCK AND GOOSE LOADS AGAIN, but you don't have much time to switch sometimes.  We lost one leg and half of one of the breasts but overall it was a clean kill.  Shem got another one a little later ending out the day.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Corey Playing Hookie

Corey hasn't had many days with just dad.  He is #2 in the line up, with an older brother that loves to hunt and fish as much as he does.  I have a hard time saying no to one, so typically they both go.  But today, Tyler was headed to the Tri State Wrestling Tournament in northern Idaho, so I pulled Corey out of school for some dad time.  We got some errands run early this morning and then got our ice fishing stuff together and took off.

I fished yesterday and brought home my limit of rainbows between 14 and 20 inches.  The ice was thick....ish, the wind didn't blow, the fish were pretty active and I was with good company (Larry and Kyle Carpenter).  We had a nice day.  Larry taught me a new filleting trick and shared one with him.  I brought home a load of nice, pink trout fillets and we decided we needed another day on the ice.  Kim wasn't too excited about me fishing two days in a row, but consented so Corey could have a day; what a sweet mom she is.

The fishing was pretty good the first 20 minutes.  Corey's rod dipped after just a few minutes and he lost a brute at the ice-hole.  The head was out when the hook came free.  Kyle hooked another right after that and Corey was able to land it, a nice 16 inch football of a rainbow.  But the bite died shortly thereafter and we went exploring with the ice auger.

Kyle finally found some willing fish off a point.  We moved down to fish with him and Corey caught another nice fish almost immediately.  Kyle missed a few and I walked over to the dam to look down river.  I watched a Bald Eagle circle and land in a big willow below the first good run under the dam.  A few trout rose, some ducks flew by, and then I heard the yelling.  I had left my rod unattended and unanchored at the edge of a hole.  Corey was watching his rod when mine dove into the hole.  I had taped a stand, made from welding rod, onto the handle when we first got there, and it was precariously hooked to the edge of the ice-hole, the rod was visible under the ice. Corey jumped on it, pinning it to the ice, fished the rod out of the hole and landed the fish.  It was a nice 15 incher; fat and sassy.  We missed a few more bites, had another rod get pulled into the hole (but this time it was hooked on a bucket), but didn't land another fish.

I had promised Kim we'd be home early to help with dinner and so we headed for home around 2:30 PM.  On our way out the door this morning, I had Corey grab the .270 Winchester for coyotes.  We see a lot in the area we were fishing and he hasn't killed one yet.  We were making good time, headed through cow country, when I spotted a coyote hunting mice in a pasture full of cows.  We turned around and headed back to the ranch we'd just passed.  Two guys were out talking along the road, their trucks full of hay.  I asked if my son could shoot the coyote below the house amongst the cows.  I didn't really think they'd say yes, but we must have looked pretty trustworthy.

We made our way back along the fence, lining the coyote up with the biggest patch of cowless pasture we could.  Ol' Wiley spotted us and started to run, bounding high, looking back over his shoulder trying to decide if the afterburners were going to be necessary.  Corey's shot cut him down, flipping him end over end.  It was one heck of a shot!  We headed back to ask if we could get it out of the field for pictures and to skin, if the .270 didn't break the skin too bad.  The shot was high, the pelt ruined, but Corey was still all smiles.  Corey's first coyote was pretty sweet!  I think the best part for Corey was calling his older brother to tell him he was one-upped and behind in the count!  It will be fun evening up the score!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Anticipating the Spring Steelhead Season

Its the beginning of December and I'm really missing spring!  I wanna fish so bad; I wanna feel the take, set the hook, feel the head shake and then battle a steelhead; I wanna be covered in the sweet stickiness of fresh, uncured roe; I wanna drift a slinky, eggs and yarn over cobblestones, float bobbers, and cast my new spey rod with bright flies and I wanna battle big fish!  It's been too long and the fall fishing I've missed because I've been hunting too much!  I know, cry me a river!  

My brother-in-law, Matt, just downloaded these photos and this video, off his camera.  It been almost a year; by our standards he hasn't procrastinated this at all, he could have waited another few years before doing anything with them and he'd still have beat us.  Anyway, it was good memories and exciting to relive, so I thought I'd share it.  
This picture is of a 31.5 inch native buck I quickly released after a good reviving--mouth to mouth is really weird on a fish!  Matt landed a much, much, much bigger native right after this one.  We hit a pod of pigs (big fish for you layman) that afternoon and reveled in the bent rods and smokin reels!

This particular day Matt and I headed for the river; an unplanned lazy day.  No getting up early, no beating people to "the spot", no concerns for anything but a relaxing walk down river and fishing where ever we wanted.  Our goal was to try new water, fish what we have never fished, and try something different, just to see what would happen.  We caught very few fish from new spots, but we did have quite a bit of success; lots more than the other people we ran into on the river.  

It seems we left the car around 11 AM.  We walked slow, talked and stopped often to fish a promising bit of structure, a deep, fast run, or an obscure corner with no trails leading down to it.  We reached our typical water after an hour or more and set up in one of my favorite spots.  I explained the hole to Matt, the guys down river hadn't touched a fish, and turned him loose.  He put on his bobber and jig and landed a 30 inch keeper buck in 2 or 3 casts.  I wanted to throw him in!  He always does this to me!  

To make me feel better and to stop the whining and pouting, he let me have a pictures with his fish.  I looked downstream at the other fisherman to see their reaction.  It was fun to watch the envy flow out of them, but it was so thick and acrid there was a major fish kill for the first 100 yards downstream from their position.  The rest of the river was fine as the river diluted its concentration only stunning the fish below that were unfortunate enough to get caught in its oily currents.  The most disgusting part of the ordeal was when the fisherman took off their waders!  Birds that flew over fell stone dead into the river and along the banks.  It was HORRIBLE!  When we left, after fishing for 30 or 40 minutes they raced for our spot.  I guess they had been there all morning and hadn't touched a fish.  Funny, we only fished for 3 minutes and had already out done them, well Matt had, I was still fishless.  

Another mile of river, a few fishless spots, and I was on the edge of Cole's Run.  Its a great place to fish and I love reliving Cole hooking four steelhead and landing two in minutes.  We landed 8 or 9 fish that day from the same section of river in an hour or two.  The backpack full of fish weighed 60-80 pounds!  We brought a packframe down the next day so we could "pack out" our fish; it was like deer hunting!  Anyway, I finally hooked and landed a nice 22-23 inch keeper.  Not a big one, but a keeper; the best part was Matt and I were tied, one to one.  

We started back up river and stopped on an outside corner I have never caught a fish out of.  The year before we fished this spot and fished it and fished it.  We were so confident it was fishless the kids threw rocks in.  We were sprawled on the gravel bar talking when two guys came up and asked us if they could fish.  We said sure, so they cast out, hooked 3 fish, landed 2 of them, and left.  It was embarrassing.  It was just after that Cole's Run got its name.  

Matt and I started on the lower end.  I hooked a 29.5 inch keeper hen almost immediately.  The next cast was the 31.5 inch native buck with the awesome hooked jaw.  (See the photo at the top).  Matt was losing, I was up 3 to 1.  He put on some drift gear, cast out, asked me what to feel for, because he had never used drift gear before, and hook a fish of mammoth proportions.  No kidding!  I hadn't finished with my explanation of a "heavy-swimming-feeling" and he was hooked up.  The fish was a bruiser and pulled him all over the river.  When I finally tailed it I couldn't get my hand around the fish.  It was SO deep and thick and heavy and strong and BIG!  I guessed it at 34-36 inches.  It's adipose fin was like a sail.  It pulled free at the waters edge and I fought it, hand to fin combat, for a few seconds before it cheated, kicking water up into my face with its massive tail and departed for deeper, darker spots in the river.  We never got a picture, but I can still see its massive "shoulders" above the water and feel its hefty body.  WHAT A FISH!  I was pretty torn up over not getting a picture, but Matt didn't seem to care. 

We fished our way back to where we caught the first fish.  Everyone was gone.  So we started at the bottom of the hole and worked our way up.  I didn't touch another fish.  Matt was still trailing by one, but he pulled a head by 2 before we left.  He was into fish on almost every cast, there for a little bit.  We had worked up to the middle of the hole when we heard someone coming.  It was my mom and dad.  
Matt had just hooked up and I asked him if he could hand the rod over to my mom as she had never landed a steelhead before.  You can watch the epic battle between my mom and her first steelhead.  It was a native hen, so we gently released her, after the pictures.