Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bass on Conway Lake and Gyotaku Art

It has been four days since I last reported on the two week journey in New Hampshire on Conway Lake. Conway Lake is a natural lake that is fed by Snow Brook at the south end of the lake. The outflow is at the north end of the lake where there is a small dam between the lake and Mill Brook, which is a tributary of Saco River. Conway Lake is about 1,300 acres in size and about 45 feet deep. Freshwater species of Conway Lake include chain pickerel, hornpout (brown bullhead), landlocked salmon, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and smallmouth bass.

I have primarily been fishing the mornings. I have been using mainly the ZMan GrubZ in a white or pearl color on a 3/8 oz jig head fishing along the drop offs from the rocky shorelines. These drop offs range anywhere from 8’ to 20’. The deeper waters can sneak up on you really fast as you are trying to stay about 10’ to 15’ from the shoreline. The water is so clear you can see the rocks, boulders, stumps, and logs in the water but unable to touch them with your paddle. One if the great features of Conway Lake are the clarity of the water. The rocks, boulders, stumps, and logs provide great hiding places for the smallmouth and largemouth bass that call Conway Lake home. Of course the rocks and boulders are not just along the shoreline; most of them also create points that extend out into the lake, providing a habitant for the bass that has shallow areas and deep drop offs on either side of these points. Another rock feature is rock islands that are also below the water surface where the fish can stage for feeding on the bait fish that are hiding between the rocks. So concentrating on these features will increase your opportunities of hooking up on a nice bass or maybe a pickerel.
Fishing these features I have managed, on Wednesday (4 September) to land a small 16” pickerel from a rocky point off of a large island about the center of the lake and south of the Greely Cabin. This made for a long day since I had not had any hook ups that provided fish into the kayak that morning. My GoPro cameras were dead from running the recorders in the hopes of a nice bass but no such luck. I did manage to get some nice footage of my surroundings as I paddled and explored the lake for fish.
Thursday I paddled and fished the area towards the north end of the lake where there are a series
of several small islands with rocky points extending away from the islands. In some areas the rocky bottom created a three foot deep flat area between a two of the islands that are a stone throw from the other. Unfortunately I did not catch anything on this trip but managed to photograph a Loon and a turtle sunning on a log. The wind picked up and the calm lake became white capped in no time. Uff da; I decided to head back to the cabin and spend some time with Marian.
On Friday; I decided to fish the south side of the lake towards a canoe/kayak launch area. Uff da; this morning was magical; the water temperature was warmer then the air temperature. This created a sight of smoke or steam rising off of the water into the air. It was really cool to be paddling through a magical haze. Along the shoreline fishing the drop offs, those rocky islands, and the rocky points I crossed paths with a couple of older anglers in a canoe. One of the anglers in the canoe cast towards the shoreline and managed to hook onto a nice smallmouth bass using what looked like a small dark colored hard body lure that floats and dives when retrieved. By the end of the journey I managed to land a nice 16” smallmouth that tied my personal best since coming to Conway Lake for the past five years. Uff da; when I caught this fish I was only about 100 yards from the cabin when I started out this morning.
Saturday (7 September); I could only fish till 11 AM as Marian and I were going to the local farmers market, to a great bakery and doing a dump run. I decided to try fishing the rock point south of the cabin and a small rock island off of the point; the rock island has a buoy marker to warn boat traffic to stay clear. On the paddle to the point, the fish finder started acting up. I figured it was maybe the battery so decided to return to the cabin and swap out the battery with a freshly charged one. I got back and was swapping out the battery; Uff da, It might not have been the battery but maybe a lose wire. OK; the red colored wire became lose from the connector. I decided that I would repair the battery box later that day. I would I did not have any luck on the north side of the point or the south side. Then I started fishing the shoreline towards the swimming area. Again no luck; and it was about 10:30 AM, so I decided to head back to the cabin and would troll a red/white Rat-L-Trap on the way back. About a third of the way back; I had a strike on the bait casting rod that I had set up for trolling. Pulled the rod from the Scottie Rod Holder and I had a good battle going on with an unknown fish. I guessing that I was in about 20’ of water, maybe a little of me hoped for a nice rainbow trout or a landlocked salmon. It was fighting really well but no jumping action and the fish just wanted to stay deep. By the time I got the fish to the surface; uff da; it was a smallmouth bass and much bigger than the 16” smallie from the previous day. Eventually the bass made it into the Ego net and onto the YakAngler Hawg Trough to be measured at 19”. I was really excited about this nice bass and decided that I had to bring him in to the cabin for some photos of me holding the personal record smallmouth.
I decided that I would attempt the trolling again. In about 15 minutes I had another strike on the bait casting rod. This time there wasn't much of a fight. The fish was heavy but no fighting action. Uff da; it was more like reeling up dead weight. In no time I had landed a nice largemouth bass. The bass measured 18”; just one inch short of my personal best largemouth on Conway Lake. I decided that this fish also had to come along for the photo session as well.
Another area that I have been hitting is the shallow mud/sand bottom areas with hundreds of lily pads just covering the surface. Using a white colored Lunker Frog and fan casting to several groupings of lily pads and retrieving the top water lure across the surface from lily pad to lily pad and stopping to let the frog rest will provide some exciting moments when that hawg of a bass hits the lure and just jumps instantly into the air. I have been experiencing this thrill every day so far, had some hook ups, and have not yet had the privilege of landing a bass yet with the Lunker Frog. Uff da!! I still have a week to go, maybe I can get the chance to land a bass from the forest of lily pads. The issue might be that once the bass takes the lure and dives back under the canopy of lily pads I'm just not getting a good hook set.
Marian’s father started the tradition of making rubbings of fish here at the Greely Cabin on Conway
Lake back in the 1970s. This form of art is from Japan where the John Greely family lived for a while. The art form is known as Gyotaku. According to Wikipedia; Gyotaku (gyo "fish" + taku "rubbing") is the traditional method of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid-1800s. This form of nature printing may have been used by fishermen to record their catches, but has also become an art form on its own. In the collection of fish records there is a nice 22” pickerel from Labrador Pond, a 20” landlocked salmon from Conway Lake, and numerous largemouth and smallmouth bass caught at Rose’s Cove or elsewhere on Conway Lake.
The process is really simple. Catch a fish. You will not be ruining the fish for consumption as you will be using some type of pigment based drawing ink. Here is a list of supplies that Marian uses: rice paper, Higgins black drawing ink diluted with some water (ratio approximately 1 teaspoon of ink to 1/8 teaspoon of water), and a good quality artist brush (soft) size 12.
Step 1: Position the fish on the side that you feel is of most interest for you; deciding if the head of the fish is facing right or left.
Step 2: Wipe the slime off the fish. You will want a dry fish when applying ink.
Step 3: Apply the diluted ink but not too thick. You will want to see the details of the fish: the scales of the fish, the features of the head and gill plates, and the relief of the various fins. You might consider expanding the spiny dorsal fin, the soft dorsal fin, the pectoral fin, the pelvic fin, the anal fin, and tail fin to provide some great features in the rubbing. You will need to use pieces of a sponge or foam to support the fins.
Step 4: Place the rice paper, parchment paper or your preferred paper over the fish. Starting at the head  and moving down to the tail, gently press the paper on the fish. Try to have the paper press on all the fins. This will provide you with a great fish rubbing or print.

Step 5: Peel the paper from the head end and lift carefully from the fish. Usually the process to get a great Gyotaku will take you several attempts.
My friend, Rob Choi in Virginia Beach is a Gyotaku artist. If you need more details check out his blog at:
Good luck in your attempt at Gyotaku and tight lines.

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