Pheasant Hunting the PQ Ranch with Jim Merten


While this is a fly fishing site, many of you who have followed for a while know that I have long been an upland bird hunter, pheasants to be very specific. Truth is that I find a large number of similarities between pheasant hunting-following a good bird dog…and chucking a streamer in search of a big smallie, trout, northern or musky. The puzzle is the allure. Pheasants and trout for example can be at times somewhat easy and at other times a true calculus problem. The game of figuring both out is what keeps me coming back.

I will even go a step further; I feel like I have a pretty good grip on two parts of this side by side love of mine, pheasant hunting and streamer fishing. I have for a long time built and then been very good at developing and reading my bird dogs. I have never owned a dog that I didn’t start with as a very young puppy, usually around 7-8 weeks of age. I know my dogs; their ins and outs and what makes them tick. I know when they are hot, bored and at times…ready to lose their minds. This innate ability has allowed me to use any of my good bird dogs like a thermometer. I know when they are hot and when good things are about to happen.
Pappi, my dog, pheasant huntingLikewise, I have developed over the past couple of decades, a real ability to read the water that I am fishing. I am not sure how best to put it…but I can ‘see’ where fish should be. The more I have honed this skill, the better fly-guy I have become. I waster fewer casts and in turn, waster fewer opportunities. I would like to say that this skill was also an innate skill…but I am not sure that was always the case. What I do know is that the more I catch, the better I get. The more often I can put a large trout in the net; the more frequently I am able to lip a big smallie…the more I retain and this is the critical connection…the more I recall my next time out in similar situations.

Today’s video, while short, was without question one of the most enjoyable two hours I have had in 2017. Why you might ask…didn’t seem like anything too incredible? Two or three hours, unencumbered by any phone call, deadline or student issues…when combined with one of the nicest and most enjoyable men I know in Jim Merten…well, believe me when I say this, whatever nirvana is, this was on the doorstep.
Jim Merten, pheasant huntingI hope that as you watch you can appreciate the beauty of the P/Q Ranch. Environs with incredible habitat like this just don’t happen, they are planned and there is a lot of what I like to preach to my students, “Sweat-Equity” involved. Hard work by good men who at their core have the very best interest of all of nature at hand. If I were a pheasant, I’d want to live on the P/Q Ranch; that is except for the times when me and my wirehairs and shorthairs come calling.

So, enjoy the video, I only wish I had a professional film crew at my beckon call so that you could watch as my pair of bird dogs, Pappi and Macy, comb, weave and bob their way through the chest high grass in search of America’s king of gamebirds…the ringneck pheasant.

Fly Fishing Catch and Release at Bennet Spring


Let’s be clear, anytime a person can get out in December, in The Midwest, to fly fish….is a good time. So it was that my friends, Frank Terkhorn, John Morgan and I left my home early on Friday, December 8th; we were headed west about 400 miles to one of my favorite places in this great land, Bennet Spring State Park.

We cruised into the park just shy of 10 am. Made our way to the park store to pay for our condo for the weekend, grab a few keys, slap on a pair of waders…and water was in our immediate future. If you haven’t yet been to Bennet or haven’t watched one of my other videos…Bennet is located just 11 miles west of Lebanon, Missouri and in the Ozarks. The state park is a rare combination of great fishing and incredible beauty with wild life that abounds.

It didn’t take any of us long to jump from wanting to fish…to fishing. 6 weight rod with sink tip fly line in hand I eased into what I call the ‘kiddie-pool’ above the waterfalls in zone 1, stripped off about 40 feet of line and made an across stream cast with a crème colored trout candy. I could easily see the fly in the crystal clear water of the spring and then I couldn’t as I felt a tug and without even thinking made a strip-set and I was into my first fish of the trip.

A couple of casts later and a few feet downstream, I felt the power of a big fish…as you can see by watching the video it was indeed a nice, 20 inch buck (male) rainbow that was in full regalia, his colors were exceptional and the morning was off to a flying start. By mid-afternoon my early breakfast had worn off and a quick walk back to the condo sitting at the head of the spring allowed for a quick sandwich before once again strolling downstream in search of more trout.

My second day, Saturday, was more of the same with the exception that I made the long walk to the river, The Niangua, and turned right, downstream where I fished my way below highway 64 to the first river takeout. I would love to report that I did well, but that wasn’t the case as the river would only give me one small-smallie. Late in the afternoon I returned back to the spring and experienced some fast and furious fishing with an olive wooly in size 8.

Sunday, our final day would find me up early and off to zone 1 just above the dam. As you can see from the video, I have provided some narration as to how I was fishing along with a casting pattern of upstream that proved to be very successful. It is a beautiful thing to have the stream all to yourself…and that can and does happen while fishing the catch and release season at Bennet.

If you are looking for a nice weekend getaway, try the beauty of the Ozarks and the good folks at Bennet Spring…oh, and make sure to pack a few flies!

Fly Fishing Upper Wisconsin in October


What is it they say…”The best laid plans of mice and men”; for over 6 months I had been planning a trip to do some fly fishing in upper (northern) Wisconsin over my fall break from school. Down to the minutia I made sure that camper, vehicle, rods, reels, lines, flies, etc…were all lined up, planned out and ready to go. Seems like I forgot one item…I didn’t communicate with Mother Nature! The week before arriving the Hayward area received 8 inches of rain; in fact we drove in on the tail end of those 8 inches. Sunday, our first day to fish, well, it was beautiful. Yep, a high pressure area followed the torrential rains and left us with a double whammy of rain and high pressure. If all of this sounds like I am leading up to an excuse, well, maybe, probably….nah, not really.

The fishing wasn’t awful. It wasn’t like we fished all week and didn’t catch any fish (as you will see by watching the video)…but I was disappointed. The rivers and streams were all up and the flow was heavy. If you have ever tried much fishing for toothy critters like pike and musky then you know that these conditions made an already tough task, even tougher. At one point we talked to a group of guys from Iowa, nine of them. They had been on Moose Lake for 3 days and in total had caught just 3 fish!

So, as you watch the video….keep the weatherman in mind as we were not fighting a fair fight. Ah, but quit isn’t in my DNA and through the week I managed to catch a few very nice largemouth bass, a few browns, one gorgeous brookie and several pike. As I said, the weather was perfect for sightseeing….just not for fly fishing for a 50 inch musky. We persisted and in fact did fish all three sections of the upper Namekagon River; from the outflow at Namakagon Lake all the way to the confluence of the river with the St. Croix. We also fished a number of small to large lakes.

In the end…it was an enjoyable and very educational week. I know more now than I did before the week began. That is how you get better…you learn from mistakes and tweak those along the way. For sure…can’t do anything about the weather.

One more note; if heading north to Hayward…don’t pass GO and don’t collect your $200 dollars until you go and visit Larry at The Hayward Fly Fishing Company. Not only is he (and his wife Wendy) just a really nice guy; but he is for sure ‘The Man’ when it comes to northern Wisconsin. He can point you in the many directions you need to go and probably save you some time and money along the way. Each time I visit I enjoy his company more and more and wish I were a few hours closer.

How To Set Up A Fly Reel


MidCurrent, a very informative fly fishing web site, has an excellent video from Tim Flagler on “How to Set up a Fly Reel”, explaining how to load backing and fly line onto your new fly reel. Not only does Tim show you how and how to determine how much… but along the way he shows you some neat shortcuts that will speed up the process and honestly, this is one of my favorite things to do. I take great pride in doing all my own reels and making sure that the line, backing, etc…all match up, look nice and most important…are functional. The last thing you want is to do your own work and have it look awful or even worse….not be functional. So, give this video a view and if you haven’t yet started to put together your own reel/line/backing combo…you can really have some fun with it….and save some money!

Video courtesy of the Mid Current web site …

The Big Walnut- Late September – Low Water


Fly fishing in low water conditions can sometimes be a tough gig; truth is I have found that usually it is all or none. The water while being low…can create a ‘fish in the aquarium’ situation, making for potentially easy fishing; it also adds a definite level of difficulty as the water is usually clear and the fish can detect your presence. The solution is to make long, accurate casts into viable water. Such was the case on this, the last day of September, 2017. I would be traversing a familiar piece of water…but one that I hadn’t been on for over a month. My buddy Frank, would do the top portion while I took the lower; we would rendezvous three hours later and compare notes.

The first half hour and the first two pools of the day…they were of the ‘none’ category. I was beginning to worry if we might have just caught the fish on a sour note? The first fish of the day was a small-smallie…but a smallie. I knew that if this little 10 inch fish had taken a swipe at my reverse-tied bucktail…then other would as well. Forge ahead and besides-it was one of those gorgeous early fall days when everything just looks a bit better.

My next fish was indeed a bit larger and a pattern had emerged as it was evident that the fish were lying back within the shade, in deeper water…waiting for an unsuspecting baitfish to float into the pool. As you will see in the video, the fish of the day then charges out and eats my fly, presenting one of the most beautiful smallmouth I have seen in a while.

Stealth is all important and one must not only watch their physical shadow but make sure that the dirt track doesn’t spook the fish; therefore, most of my casts were done from the gravel bars adjacent to the stream. The reverse tied bucktail proved to be an effective fly…allowing it to simple fall and twitch its way through a pool was the ticket to bring a few fish charging out after a meal.

If the water is low in your area…don’t be too hesitant. Grab your gear, keep your profile low and watch where and how you walk…you can still find a trophy or two interested in gobbling up a meal prior to the winter slow down.

Fly Fish a Mouse Pattern

Hi folks…. here is a great article from another fishing web site that demonstrates how to fly fish a mouse pattern. It is very well written and for sure, lots can be learned from the article and the illustrations.

If you haven’t ever fly fished with a mouse pattern, you are missing out on some of the most explosive top-water takes you will ever experience. The author speaks mainly to using a mouse for trout. It is without question one of the most productive means of hooking into a big, mean trout…seems like browns for sure are into the hunt for the big meal of a mouse. I use a mouse pattern here locally in southern Indiana for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. I have a few lakes in the Greene-Sullivan area that are perfect for chucking a mouse in and under an overhanging limb…one of the things I have learned through the years is pretty simple; your casts has to place the fly (mouse) as close to the bank or shore as possible. Mice, voles, etc…often fall off of limbs and when the hit the water with a big ‘splat’-it alerts the larger predatory fish that a meal is in the water…and they race to the surface. With smallies a well drifted mouse pattern can be deadly…I particularly like the fact that the silhouette of the fly from below will cause a smallie to bust upwards, through the fly and into the air for what can simply be called an amazing and awesome take.

So, give this a read and go forth and give a mouse a try in your local waters…hope you can use, learn and enjoy from this offering. By the way….fall is a perfect time to present a mouse as most fish are looking to put on weight and a mouse is a big meal!
Mastering the Mouse Retrieve

Source: blog