Category Archives: Fishing

bass, a boy named

Father-in-law’s advice comes through, three decades after he’s passed

It’s been 30 years since one of the few times I fished with my father-in-law, Bill Johnson. He and his wife, Lois, were in Kansas after the recent birth of our daughter Lindsey. She turned 30 earlier this month.

Tiny black and yellow jigs have been a proven fly at Bennett Sprigs State Park for many years.

Tiny black and yellow jigs have been a proven fly at Bennett Sprigs State Park for many years.

We were talking fishing, and I mentioned I was just getting into fly-fishing, a sport he enjoyed well. Bill reached into his fly vest, pulled out a small fly box and plucked out three flies. They were all the same.

They were tiny 1/100th or 1/80th ounce marabou jigs, with equal parts of yellow and black in the feathering. He said they were his go-to fly when he fished for trout at Bennett Springs State Park in Missouri, a place he enjoyed several trips per year.

Bill died before we could fish together the following year. Several years ago I gave Jerrod, and my nephew, Brian Elliott, each one of the flies Bill had given to me. That was as close as they’d ever come to fishing with that grandfather.

Last weekend I finally made it to Bennett Springs to mix a little work with a lot of play. I took along Jake Holem, my 12-year-old outdoors partner. Back in October we’d agreed that if he could raise his then poor math grade to a B or better I’d take him on a fly-fishing trip. He ended up with an A in math and I ended up with an excuse to go trout fishing.

The first full day he attended, and I mainly photographed, a fly-fishing clinic given by Jim Rogers, an Ozark legend of trout fishing at Bennett Springs. At the end of the class Rogers handed everyone a tiny fly box with five or six recommended flies. Tiny black and yellow marabou jigs were in the selection of every box. When I asked Rogers about the selection, he said they’ve been a popular, and productive, trout fly at Bennett Springs for many, many years.

Sunday morning I shot a few photos early, then grabbed my fly rod and waded through the dozens of people and out to a spot in the stream. I caught two quick trout on a salmon egg pattern fly, then the trout went cold. After ten minutes with no takes I tied on one of the tiny marabou jigs. I caught, and released, three nice rainbows within a few minutes then grabbed my camera to take advantage of good photo light.

Jake Holem with a nice Missouri rainbow trout fly-caught on a tiny marabou jig.

Jake Holem with a nice Missouri rainbow trout fly-caught on a tiny marabou jig.

Monday morning Jake and I tried the angling at Roaring River State Park. It was crowded, and several times we had spin-fishermen step right up and start working the hole we were plying with fly lines.  Within about 20 minutes the fish seemed to get lockjaw, probably from watching their brethren writhing, panicking and jumping after eating something in the water.

After a few popular patterns, I tied on one of the black and yellow jigs and began letting it drift down with the current, then slowly jerking it back. I had two strikes on the first cast. and caught two nice rainbows in about 30 minutes.

I’d gone into the day largely wanting Jake to fend for himself. On Sunday some kindly elderly gentlemen – and that’s an accurate description of the very polite and helpful guys – had selected and tied on Jake’s flies. He’d caught five or six trout that morning.

But Monday morning was much more of a challenge to the kid, between difficult casting locations, nasty knots his line and the finicky fish. Finally at about 8:30 I heard him say, “Hey, Mike, I’ve got one.” Looking over his fly rod was bowed and his smile was wide. Eventually he led a very nice rainbow to the net, removed the hook, held it in the current until it was strong and watched it swim away.

Half-way through the fight I asked Jake what fly he’d been using when he hooked the fish. He flashed a huge smile, and said, “The black and yellow, of course.”

Of course.


Farewell to a favored angler

Through the decades I’ve shared time outdoors with billionaires, Hollywood heavies, true television stars, All-American athletes, beauty pageant winners and world-class anglers and hunters.

Dorothy Jacobs catches fish, happiness and health at Wichita lakes.I just found out one of my all-time favorites died about two weeks ago. Dorothy Jacobs was from Wichita and seldom ventured beyond the city limits for her beloved fishing. She was the mother of 11 and once joked she almost had more grandkids than she could count.

I could say the same for the times she made me smile during a few phone conversations, and a few hours fishing the north lake at Chisholm Creek Park.  She had me smiling, she had me laughing and she had me thinking “wow,” so many times.

We’d met through Paul White. One day at his multi-purpose store I’d mentioned I’d wanted to do an article on someone who really fished the urban lakes a lot. Preferably, I was hoping to fish with a female to add even more uniqueness to the story. He mentioned Dorothy, but mentioned she could be pretty private. I called her that afternoon and the talk was a bit hesitant for a few minutes, and then it flowed and flowed.

I learned that she fished almost daily when the weather was decent, but also that catching fish was only part of the reason why she went to the water so often. To Dorothy, fishing and all it entails, was better therapy and medicine than could have been administered by the best of hospitals, and the woman had plenty to heal.

At the time she was 68, had survived cancer as well as a broken back. She’d buried two beloved husbands and nine family members, including a daughter and grandson, had died the year previous to when we met in 2008. She was also caring for a very ill granddaughter at the time. Her family, unfortunately, has had more than their share of sickle-cell anemia.

“I always do my best praying when I’m by that water,” is one great quote she gave me.

“Old age doesn’t mean you have got to act old. I’m going to get all the joy I can out of my life.  All I need is my poles and a lake,” was another gem.


That morning at the park hardly anyone was catching fish, but Dorothy caught about 20. She had this beat-up old car, from which she pulled-out a beat-up old shopping cart that she packed with aged equipment. I found out later her loving family had offered, several times, to buy her better gear. She laughed as she told me that, and said newer stuff wouldn’t help her catch more fish or make her any happier at the lake.

As I watched, it was obvious Dorothy caught more fish from experience and intelligence than most people with fancy gear. She kept her baited hooks close to shore, and said, “I don’t know why people think they should cast way out to the middle of the lake. Most of the fish are feeding by shore.”

Dorothy Jacobs catches fish, happiness and health at Wichita lakes.Time after time she’d watch her bobber start to dance, and accurately predict the species of creature below by the way it was taking the bait. She was right 100 percent of the time on a day of bluegill, green sunfish, bass, small channel catfish and a turtle.

“Just to see my line tighten up, or that bobber moving, it’s something I love to do,” she said. I don’t see how people can’t.”

According to her daughter, Janet Radig, Dorothy enjoyed a lot of both the day before she passed when she caught, cleaned and ate some of the 60 fish from that morning.

I’m glad her last trip was a great one.

Underwater view of the walleye spawn

Craig Johnson is a friend of about the past five or so years. He is also a good fisherman and a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist.

Now, I find out he’s a pretty good amateur film maker.

Fisheries biologist Crag Johnson is good at catching fish. He's also pretty good at videoing them, too.

Fisheries biologist Crag Johnson is good at catching fish. He’s also pretty good at videoing them, too.

A few weeks ago Johnson, the fisheries biologist for El Dorado Reservoir, sent me a link to a video he’d shot of the fisheries crew netting female walleye along the dam at Milford Reservoir earlier this spring. Sounded cool, but I wasn’t expecting anything like what came across my screen when I finally got around to opening the link.

The underwater footage of down in the nets is nothing short of flat-out neat, as is the knowledge that Johnson did it all with a single GoPro camera, at times attached to a stick of sort and placed under the water.


Johnson said a sequel is coming soon, also dealing with the walleye spawn.

Should be fun stuff, too.



The crappie spawn is on!

ELK CITY STATE PARK – Born about 40 years apart, and one deep in his  aviation career and the other not far into her educational process, veteran angler J.R. Dunn and nine year-old Taylie McKlintic wouldn’t seem to have much in common.

J.R. Dunn fishes for crappie after a storm passes at Elk City Reservoir.

J.R. Dunn fishes for crappie after a storm passes at Elk City Reservoir.

But Monday evening both were wearing smiles equally wide, and both owed them to a favored rite of spring – the crappie spawn at Elk City Reservoir.

Dunn had spent much of the afternoon at a wide cove within the state park, a place he said he’d fished for about 40 years. He waded a few steps into the lake with waterproof boots, then used a pole about 12 to 14 feet long to lower a dainty crappie jig down into brush in a few feet of water.

“They haven’t been along the banks like they were before the snow hit (last week), but I hope they start doing a little better.,” Dunn said. “It’s time.” Others fishing along the shoreline agreed, it was down to a “could break loose at any hour” time of the spring.

Dunn caught five nice crappie within the first few minutes of his Monday trip to the lake, then things slowed down. A small, but intense thunderstorm on the horizon sent him to his home in Sycamore with nine. He was back as the storm passed, trying for more.

Taylie was fishing with Beau Schultz, coach of the baseball team at the local community college, and four year-old Bryor Schultz. She and the boy played in the mud and grass while minnows swimming below bobbers did the work. Schultz called one child or the other when one of those bobbers disappeared below the surface, and helped them get the fish to shore. Their first two crappie were gorgeous females about 14 inches long.

After a lull of about an hour after the storm, fishing action picked up all around the broad bay, and smaller bays that reached into the state park.

Kaylie McKlintic, left, shows a nice crappie she caught, while Bryor Schultz hides from the camera. They were fishing with Beau Schultz, center.

Kaylie McKlintic, left, shows a nice crappie she caught, while Bryor Schultz hides from the camera. They were fishing with Beau Schultz, center.

Dunn caught several more fish along a section of shoreline, while his friends did well with long rods from a fishing dock surrounded by brush.

J.R. Dunn lifts a crappie from the shallows at Elk City Reservoir.

J.R. Dunn lifts a crappie from the shallows at Elk City Reservoir.

Across a small cove from where Schultz fished with the two kids, Jon Nagel and a friend were doing well fishing close to shore and further into the cove. At one point they hollered to ask Schultz if he could spare a few minnows. He said he could, adding, “The guy at the bait shop in town is pretty generous. I know he gave me way more than I paid for, but he said it was important since I was taking the kids.”

Nagel and his friend ended up with about 20 crappie. He was back at about dawn the next morning. Dunn figured a lot of the same anglers would return Tuesday afternoon, too.

“A lot of people camp out here, but usually most of the crappie fishermen are locals,” Dunn said.  “I seem them out here every year. There’s a lot of crappie in this lake. It can be pretty danged good when everything gets right.”

Casts and Blasts from Aug. 1 KDWPT commission meeting

As well as what was listed on SUNDAY’S OUTDOORS PAGE, the following also happened at last week’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Yates Center.

The following waterfowl seasons were set -

Low Plains Early Zone – Oct. 5-Dec. 1, and Dec. 21-Jan.5.

Low Plains Late Zone – Oct. 26-Dec. 29, and Jan. 18-26.

Low Plains Southeast Zone – Nov. 2-3, and Nov. 16-Jan. 26.

Youth seasons are the weekend before the regular season openers.

(Duck limits are up to six ducks, of which no more than five can be mallards, with no more than two hens. Included within the six daily ducks can be no more than two redheads, three wood ducks, three scaup, two pintails and two canvasbacks. The limit will be six birds daily during the special September teal seasson.)

This year the possession limit on all migratory birds will be three times the daily possession limit.

White-fronted goose season – Oct. 26-Dec. 29, and Feb. 1-Feb. 9, daily limit of two.

Canada goose season – Oct. 26-Nov. 3 and Nov. 6-Feb. 9, daily limit of six.

Light goose season – Oct. 26-Nov. 3, and Nov. 6-Feb. 9, daily limit of 50.

– Jim Pitman, Wildlife and Parks upland program coordinator, expressed a desire to reduce the fall turkey limit from four birds to one in turkey management units 4, 5, and 6 during the fall of 2014 fall season. Pitman said spring success rates aren’t high enough to warrant liberal fall limits, though only a very small percentage of fall turkey hunters annually shoot more than one bird.

– Linda Lanterman, state parks director, introduced the current Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, and said Vail was working with some state park promotions.

Fishing with Riley or Fun fishing with a five-year-old

Five-year-old Riley with one of the white perch she caught. She let her dad reel in one, so she wouldn’t have to put down the “awesome” nightcrawler she’d just found.

CHENEY RESERVOIR – At 7:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings most kids aren’t even up, and if they are they’re watching cartoons. Not five-year-old Riley Everitt, she was watching a fish finder, occasionally yelling, “Daddy, daddy, there’s a fish on the bottom, a big one.” Sure enough, when I looked over there would be the inverted V that was the sign of a large fish on the bottom.

Most little kids, when they turn and see a three-inch-long bug near their face, one with raised wings and long pointy things coming from it’s behind, might scream or at least move away. Riley stared, pointed at it, asked what it was and if it could hurt anybody…then calmly reach over and picked the adult mayfly up by its wings and asked four or five more questions about the insect. She was good enough to trust me with the mayfly, while she went and caught another one, and another one, and…

Riley and her dad, Kacci Everitt, check the fish finder for wipers.

To say fishing was slow was to say that Riley had perfect hair, which she knew, but she managed to stay entertained. A box of nightcrawlers was as good as a box of toys as she dug a finger with the remnants of pink fingernail polish in the bedding until she found the ‘crawler of her dreams. In fact, the worm was sooooo impressive that when a white perch grabbed the bait on her line she refused to reel it in because she didn’t want put put down her ” So awesome, Daddy” nightcrawler.

She did gladly use him for bait the next time the hook was empty…who said five-year-olds are good at commitments?

Riley never met a mayfly she didn’t like, and want to hold, but she did share her insects well.

And though the little blonde did have some tomboy actions, she did have the perfect hair and enough of the fashion gene to say, “Let me see,” faster than the shutter speed, when she heard a camera’s click. (Also, she never met a photo of herself she didn’t seem to like, either.)

This five-year-old, though, was good at patience. Well, she wasn’t really that patient with the fishing but she was patient with her father, Kacci, who was determined to catch a nice wiper. Several times that morning Riley told her dad she was ready to quit, and he’d tell her they’d fish one more spot and be done…and she wouldn’t argue. One more spot turned into three or four, and Kacci never caught the nice wipers he’d been on by the scores for much of the summer.

I certainly didn’t get bored, thanks to Riley.

The boat was stopped for about 3.82 seconds when Riley decided it was time for breakfast. She set the donut on the boat’s dash, and took bites in between catching fish and capturing mayflies and nightcrawlers.

So, we have someone who can get up very early to go fishing, can read a fish finder, isn’t scared of fish, or worms, or bugs, or getting cold, or waves and is happy to share anything she has from donuts and bait to good-bye hugs…and she caught the most fish and didn’t brag about it!

The fishing world needs a lot more Riley’s,…no matter what the age.


Former longtime legislator appointed to wildlife commission

Gary Hayzlett, a retired longtime member of the Kansas legislature, has been appointed to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission by Gov. Sam Brownback.

“I got out of the legislature after 22 years, and had 16 years on the county commission, and now I’m a (Wildlife and Parks) commissioner,” Hayzlett said in a Friday morning interview. “I’ve always had an interest in wildlife, and Wildlife and Parks…I’m thrilled, make that very thrilled about it. I think it’ll be a really neat thing.”

He will be replacing Debra Bolton, of Garden City, who recently ended eight years on the commission.

The 71-year-old from Lakin was born and raised in the community where he previously owned a grocery store and Dairy Queen. A lifelong upland bird hunter, Hayzlett said he drew a permit during Kansas’ first deer season in the mid-1960s, and shot a trophy whitetail in Wallace County. He’s since traveled to a number of states hunting assorted gamebirds, wild hogs, deer, elk and antelope. He’s also an avid prairie dog shooter and has hosted fund-raising hunts in western Kansas.

Robin Jennison, Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, lauded Gov. Brownback’s choice and hopes Hayzlett’s close connections to the legislature will help the department and commission work better with those in Topeka.

“I’m not really going  with an agenda, I’m really interested in going to watch the process and see what it is,” Hayzlett said of being a commissioner. “I can see there can be a need for a connection between the commission, the secretary and the legislature.”

During his legislative tenure, Hayzlett largely supported the agency but was sometimes at odds with Wildlife and Parks, and sportsmen, on the topics of deer populations and landowner’s rights.

His first meeting will be in Yates Center, on Thursday.

Mastery of the art of fishing, rod building, writing and photography

Do me a favor, and yourself as well, and read what I’ve attached to the link a few lines down.

It’s fairly long, but whatever you think you have to get done can wait. The story is moving, the writing masterful and the photography better than artistic paintings.

Dang, I wish I could do anything as well.

It’s an ESPN story about one of the finest custom fly rod makers in the world, despite the little fact that he’s largely paralyzed about from the neck down.

Those of you who fly fish will admire the man for his craft, and how well he understands our way of life.

Those of  you who don’t, may get a hint of why some otherwise sane people become so insane about things like taper, weight, tips, tippets and finding the perfect fly.

So, pour a fresh cup of coffee, grab another can of Coke or pop the top of a a favored beer and enjoy.


4th of July Celebration, Canadian style

I celebrated the 4th of July closer to the Arctic Circle than the U.S./Canadian border, spending about an hour fly-casting for Arctic grayling in shallow rapids.

I’m a patriotic sort of person. The Star-Spangled Banner means something to be at sporting events. I get a bit defensive when I hear others running down our country.

But last week I spent the 4th of July not with family at our home or family farm or even a nearby lake. I was in northern Canada, closer to the Arctic Circle than the U.S./Canadian border. I was actually up there most of last week, and on the 4th I spent the hot and very windy day casting flies for big northern pike and grayling.

Arnold Stene with a big northern pike I caught on a fly-rod on a 4th of July trip to northern Canada. Other 4ths have been spent fishing in the Yukon, Alaska and Panama.

Somewhere during the trip  I took a few seconds to count up the number of July 4s I’d been out of the U.S., usually fishing and visiting old friends I’d made during my feral days as a full-time freelance outdoor writer.

There was a trip to Alaska to fly fish for rainbow trout the size of salmon, and Jerrod was with me once in the Yukon as we fly-fished for lake trout, grayling, pike and a few other species. He was also along about five or six years ago when we headed to Panama to fly fish for 100 pound sailfish and mahi-mahi and use big, conventional tackle for tuna and marlin.

Three or four times I’ve been in northern Canada, fishing with guide/friend Arnold Stene from a lodge where we first met 25 years ago.

It’s not like I make one of these trips every year, let alone several per summer. I don’t request the 4th of July, though it is nice because it saves me a day of vacation. Dunno, it’s just when the airlines, and my friends, usually have some space and time.  When I can pair an invitation, with some funds to buy airline tickets,…I just go.

This year I celebrated the 4th of July flying to an outpost lake with Arnold, and making about a 20 minute boat ride to one of his favored spots, a line of aquatic weeds near a steep drop-off at a mid-lake reef.  Fish #2 of the morning was a northern pike of 40-inches that came up from within the weeds to take a quail-sized streamer.

Heavy winds, and 90-degree temperatures, made fly-casting difficult and tiring, especially after three days of the same. We took our lunch break at the base of some swift, shallow rapids where I got out of the boat and cast dry flies for very gullible grayling. More pike followed in the afternoon, including a 38 or 40-incher I worked on for 15 minutes, drawing three for four short-strikes, before it finally committed, inhaled the streamer, then took off for Alaska.

The famed over-sized dorsal fin of an Arctic grayling. Some are three times as big. The fish are suckers for about any dry fly floated down the rapids.

(Biggest fish of the trip was a 43-incher that pulled hard but put up no speed. Most memorable fish was a 38-incher that was using the boat’s shadow for cover and rushed out to take the fly as I was lifting it from the water, showering me at the strike. That fish had power and speed, taking me around the boat several times, and three times pulling “I don’t think so, see you later!” runs as I was pulling it to the net. Another good memory was fly-catching a dozen 18″-22″ walleye in about an hour.)

Sure I’d liked to have been home, with my All-American family in our All-American city for the cook-outs and the fireworks. But I guess being able to make such a trip was, in a way, celebrating our great nation.

There aren’t many places in the world where someone can take a career dream that started when they were six-years-old and turn it into a living, and then work hard enough to have the finances and personal freedoms to so enjoy the rest of the world.

God Bless America.


Casts and Blasts from June 27 KDWPT Commission meeting

More details from Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Garden City.


– Most commissioners really seemed to feel they were in a “no-win” situation when they voted on the game warden’s request to make it illegal to use vehicles and/or two-way communications for hunting coyotes during the firearms deer season.

The request was made because game wardens regularly come across people illegally hunting deer with those two methods, and saying they’re hunting coyotes.

“The toughest thing for me is to not give our law enforcement guys the teeth they need,” said Commissioner Don Budd, of Kansas City.

“We need some baseline data….we’re not going to know if anything we do is really effective,” Commissioner Randy Doll, of Leon, said of wanting to now exactly how many complaints game wardens get annually about such illegal deer hunting.

B.J. Thurman, supervisor for about half of Kansas’ game wardens, estimated all of his officers get about two such complaints each firearms deer season, but indicated the problem could be more wide spread.

Every commissioner verbally expressed a fear that passing such a regulation would unfairly punish coyote hunters who are using vehicles and two-way communications legally.

Commissioners asked for more exact numbers of such complaints, and wish to discuss the issue further next year.

–Tom Bidrowski, Wildlife and Parks waterfowl biologist, said duck limits, and seasons and limits on geese, should closely resemble last year’s. Commissioners will vote on seasons at an Aug. 1 commission meeting in Yates Center. See the above link for possible conflict between staff and commissioner recommendations.

– Debate for setting the season for Kansas’ southeast duck zone was less “spirited” than last year. Budd said he didn’t want things to be as heated, and said his recommendation gives Kansas hunters three opening weekends.

– Keith Sexson, Wildlife and Parks assistant secretary, told commissioners the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced they’ll delay deciding if lesser prairie chickens should be placed on the threatened or endangered species list until around March 31. That means Kansas can have a season for the birds this fall and winter.

– Linda Craghead, tourism and state parks director, said the state’s new Park Passport program, which allows people to purchase annual state park passes at reduced rates when they register their vehicles, is doing fairly well.

She said the department’s goal is to get at least 5 percent of all vehicles to carry such tags. Currently, the rate is about 3.5 percent. About a dozen counties currently are getting more than 10 percent of their vehicles in the program. Butler County is one  of those counties.

Craghead said they need at least 4.5 percent to off-set losses in funding from the Kansas a legislature.

– Jim Pitman, Wildlife and Parks upland bird biologist, said about 73,500 turkey permits or tags were sold for the 2013 spring season. That’s an increase of about 10,000 from 2012. He said increased turkey numbers across eastern Kansas were probably responsible for the increase. Pitman predicted the 2013 spring harvest was probably also better than 2012.

– Mike Miller, information chief and Pass It On coordinator, said the department would like to decrease the costs youths pay for hunting permits in Kansas. Miller quoted figures from Missouri and Nebraska that showed youth participation can grow quickly when prices are lowered.

For instance, when Nebraska dropped non-resident youth deer hunting permits from $177 to $5  sales eventually went from 128 to 921 permits sold. Early discussion is that no youth permits would be cut by more than half in Kansas, like non-resident deer permits going from $300 to $150.

Miller hopes the decrease in Kansas prices will be made up for with the sale of more youth deer permits.

– All seven commissioners were in attendance. It was the last meeting for Commissioner Debra Bolton, of Garden City, who had served two terms.   Gov. Sam Brownback has yet to appoint her replacement