Monday, November 21, 2011


     At one point or another, most of us have a good idea.

    Sometimes we are motivated to take action, but often we are not.

    Several years ago, a small piece of information fell into my lap. It seemed there was a confluence of factors, a convergence of variables... a relic of a past glacial epoch together in tandem with a misguided engineering technique... a gamble that an exotic benthic macro-invertebrate could lend its deliriously ravening surplus to the cause of growing some big goddamned trout. It did not happen as they planned, but... something happened. Magic is hard to control.

     I sat on it, and did not investigate it further. My bad. Procrastination is a theme in my life.

     Today, I got off my cognitive toadstool and went out to see what might be seen. An eighth of a mile and four hundred and fifty vertical feet later, I saw what there was to see. 

     The triumvirate of tailwaters has a little sister. 

     Really, I should have gone years ago.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

And speaking of jerkbaits...

Here is a Smithwick Rogue that I repainted. There is a little overspray, but it is getting better. I am still using opaque Createx airbrush paint, and am starting to achieve the layering effects that I am after. My suspicion is that once I switch to transparents I will be getting some sick results. I always have clung to the notion that there is merit to doing something the hard way first, then getting lazy about it later.

Top view. Note several changes from the stock bait; first I sanded out the scale texture that the bait comes stock with. I also removed the bill prior to painting, as I like that better than masking the bill against overspray. I always like to tinker, so I made another bill, slightly larger, out of Lexan. I may have to round round the corners to get the sort of "flashing" jerks I am after, but we will see. I think it will dive deeper with the larger bill, and be more snag resistant. In addition, a steady grind on this bait should give a more pronounced side to side wobble. Also, I put inexpensive, thin gauge wire split rings that open at about ten pounds of pressure, as a fairly good way of getting the bait back should the hook snag. I use Gamakatsu EWG trebles on every small hardbait that I own. Alas, they only come in 2, 4 and 6. I would give my front teeth for an 8. This is, in my honest opinion, the best hook ever made for crankbaits, jerkbaits, and topwaters. Treble hooks are notorious for getting thrown by fish, but this hook stays buttoned the majority of the time. Plus, in the event that a fish steals the bait, the bronze rusts very quickly, allowing the fish to reject the bait and survive. 

I got a heat gun to help with the bubbles in the epoxy, and it works like a champ. In the past I used the same hair dryer that I used to heat-set the layers of paint, but it pushes too much air and has the unfortunate tendency to make the epoxy sag. Tisk tisk. The heat gun is MUCH hotter, and spits air out with a lot less force, so I can just hit the finish very quickly where there is a bubble, like a half second, and the bubbles pop instantly, without effecting the distribution of the topcoat. On this bait I used 30 minute Bob Smith Industries epoxy, thinned with denatured alcohol, as per the recommendation of Crankin101 from the Colorado Fisherman forum. Thanks for the tip! I have gone through so many different topcoats... I'm still looking for my "perfect" system, but this worked pretty well.

Here is the paint schedule:
  • Coat entire bait with an opaque hard white base coat
  • Shoot top of bait with a solid coat of chartreuse, allowing some to cover sides to lateral line area
  • Mask with scale netting, shoot pink stripe down the top, letting some chartreuse show on side
  • Shoot lavender over the pink, again letting some of the layer underneath show at sides
  • Remove scale netting, and shoot head with chartreuse in a heavy coat
  • Shoot pearl red on the cheeks and throat, allowing the chart to show on the top, back and sides of head
  • Add shad spot if you want. Be careful of overspray, I messed up my spots pretty good on this bait
  • Add eyes. I hand painted them with a tiny brush, but you can mask and shoot if you want.
  • Topcoat with the epoxy of your liking, turn bait if needed to prevent topcoat sagging till cured.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For the love of 'eyes

   I never was a fan of the walleye. I grew up without them. By the time (at age 14) my deranged and misbegotten “family” dragged me to Colorado, I was already somewhat opposed to bait fishing, and was not really keeping fish for the most part. My best bass days were behind me, and the inshore trinity (redfish, flounder, and speckled trout) was no longer even a distant possibility. I was not stoked.
   After living here for a while, I got into the habit of catching stocker trout at Lake Loveland on blobs of floating pink play-dough. To this day nothing says “Colorado” to me more than the smell of that stuff. I would ride my bike over there, catch slimers with catfish methods, and wish I was somewhere else. 
   I hate to tell walleye guys this, but the first walleye I ever caught was a double digit trophy. 
   I was fishing the inlet at Lake Loveland during the major drawdown some years ago, and it was snowing sideways. I was freezing my ass off because the evil Colorado snow had come upon me with a suddenness that my thin wind breaker left me unprepared to deal with. The only thing that was keeping me alive was the motion of casting. I was tossing a small silver spoon on an ultralight spinning rod spooled with four pound test, hoping for stockers. The spoon was an item which (I had recently learned) was locally popular, called a “Kastmaster.”
   I got a wind knot in the line and was forced to allow the spoon to sink to the bottom as I picked at the snarl. The line was hopeless, so I broke it off at the knot and started to gather the line that was in the water by hand, hoping I would not lose the Kastmaster. As I was thinking this I felt the line grow tight and cursed my luck. But there was yield to the snag, and I found I could move it slowly. So I kept hand-winding the line back, wondering what I was snagged on. I got it about two yards from the bank where waves caused by the gale were crashing into the sandy shore where I stood, and felt movement on the line. I was really puzzled now, as there was definitely something alive on the other end. 
   I gingerly dragged the last few feet of line in, and saw two enormous, bulging, glowing eyes the size of golfballs. I knew what a walleye looked like, but I had never seen one in person prior to that moment. The waves pushed it onto the shore, and it lay there on the wet sand, with its body in a stiff arc, unmoving, mouth agape. I was dumbstruck. The fish was an absolute giant, and it gave every appearance of being paralyzed. It looked ridiculous, its awesome fangs showing as if it was frozen in mid-scream, the tiny spoon dangling from the corner of its jaw. I had no idea what to make of it.
   I reached down and grasped the fish by the tail, feeling the strange sandpaper texture of walleye skin for the first time. I remembered hearing that walleye were very good to eat, and I wanted to show off this bizarre creature, so I decided to keep it. I had no stringer to keep it on, so I hit it on the head with my pliers to kill it, even though I was not sure how alive it was to begin with. It quivered momentarily, the most I had seen it move, and relaxed its body into death.
   There was a large orange newspaper bag laying under the footbridge at the inlet, so I wrapped the fish in the bag to keep it from being dried out, and as I was freezing, I huddled with it under the bridge, like a soggy and confused troll, waiting for my ride home. 
   The walleye weighed fourteen pounds, and was several inches longer than my skateboard, which was itself thirty-two inches. 
   Honestly, it did not taste that good, though it did make two meals for the six of us. 
   Hindsight being what it is, I should have let the fish go. I did not know that this was a very large specimen of a walleye, and how lucky it was for me to catch it in the first place. I assumed there were lots more around like it. It is still the biggest walleye of my life. I didn’t even get a picture of it. 
   So there is the framework of my first experience with the species. My overall impression was that they did not move when hooked, and did not taste as good as was widely claimed. 
   I was, in short, not a fan.
   Fast forward twenty years, and I am really growing fond of the critters. I now understand that the appeal of the fish is with the fact that they are fussy and often hard to tempt, and that they are in fact excellent table fare, in smaller sizes. I have come full circle on killing fish. I don’t kill even one percent of the fish I catch, but when I do kill fish they are almost all walleye. I would not dream of killing a trophy, and the biggest ‘eye I would keep would be four pounds or less. But I enjoy catching them. I like to finesse fish, and finesse tactics translate perfectly to walleye. 

     They are teaching me how to fish with jerkbaits, something I was never very good at. 

A limit of solid keepers, courtesy of my beloved Aurora Reservoir

And did I mention they are tasty?