Gear reviews

Here is a link to reviews of some of the gear we use on the water.

Click here to check out the reviews

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A new ‘angle’ for me…

Last night I got to hit the river in a completely new way and pardon the pun, but; “I’m hooked”!

I got to go out on the New River at night with Dwayne and Will to have them show me their passion; bowfishing for carp! Now, I’ve heard of people doing it now and again and always heard how ridiculously difficult it is- I have to admit that it’s not easy, but Dwayne and Will have it down to a science.

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The night started with me meeting up with them at dusk on their favorite stretch to hunt. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as far as the boat goes as I kept thinking about the grievous harm that an arrow could do to just about any boat. When I got there, I saw (and, no, I didn’t think to photograph it, but will soon!) an absolute beast of a boat. It’s not that it’s huge, but it is a very thick, heavy fiberglass rig- picture a fiberglass jon boat on steroids. It’s outfitted with 7 high pressure sodium lights around the front, a main outboard and a smaller kicker motor to do their trolling with. To run the lights there is a trusty honda generator, and once they are ready to troll along with the kicker, there is a custom control station up front on the shooting platform. There is a center console for the main outboard and in front of that, the platform is at gunwale height and is wide and sturdy.

Once I was aboard, the bows were readied and a quick 30 second lesson on the operation of the reel and things to watch out for set me up for the experience. As we moved out to the first stretch to cover, they gladly put up with the seemingly hundreds of questions I had for them and I got to see why they want to share their love of this niche sport and look at guiding others on these nighttime excursions. They’ve both been bowfishing a number of years and it fills the void between the end of one deer season and the start of the next. They fish tournaments, pulling their floating tank (it’s a really sturdy boat) as far as South Carolina to compete with other anglers with bows to see who can boat the most fish. The sport has been around for a long while, but is just now starting to gain popularity and be rediscovered.

Back to the trip though. As we slowed our pace a bit, Will cut the main engine off and tilted it up and out of the way and the trolling motor was trimmed down and the generator started up. Thankfully, the generator is pretty quiet and talking to each other is easy. The HPS lights come on and slowly grow brighter until I can see why it is they want to hunt at night- the lights allow you to see each individual fish out there much easier than the best sunglasses in the daylight. Shad of all sizes were suspended, we saw muskie, catfish, bluegill and the occasional walleye- all illegal to hunt with a bow in Virginia. We were looking for one of two species of carp to be found in the New River- grass carp and the common river carp, with the latter being the only fish legal to hunt for with a bow here. The grass carp are stocked here by VDGIF to help control, as their name implies, grass in the river and lake to keep it from choking everything out. The river carp on the other hand, are much larger and are bottom feeders that often prey on the spawning beds of other fish, like my beloved smallmouth bass. It’s not long before Dwayne shouts ‘There’s one! Right there!’ and I take my first shot. I bowhunt for deer in the winter and have the misguided hope that this will help me; it does as far as getting the arrow to hit the water, but from there I can see it’s going to be a learning curve. My first shot hits the water and, as expected, goes right over the fishes back. Fortunately, Dwayne is ready and he also takes a shot and hits the massive fish broadside and starts pulling it in to the boat:

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And so the night went; I took many more shots than both Dwayne and Will combined, but I did hit 5 total by the nights end, including several that were so tough the arrow simply bounced off. At the end of it all, I am thinking that we need to offer this experience to our clients (with Dwayne and Will at the helm) and we will be adding this to the website soon. Just the experience of getting to see everything you get to witness at night with the lights is worth it!  I am looking forward to getting out there again and seeing what we can stir up!

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Shut up and fish!

Last weekend, I had a great group of anglers come to float with us on the New for two days.  It was especially good because last year we had to scrub their trip because of a massive amount of rain that blew the river out…much like the past two days.

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Chris S and a citation New river smallie- 20inches and 5lbs.

Not this time though! Chris and his crew of anglers made their way up for a trip and the New cooperated. They did come and they did fish, but there wasn’t a lot of shutting up going on, in spite of Chris’ hat which read: “Shut up and fish!” Those of you that fish with me regularly know I do talk a lot on the water. I talk about the current bottom structure, areas to cast and inquire about who you are and where your from as well as relating a lot of irrelevant things. There is a method to my madness though; as said before, fishing is somewhat like the lottery and you may go a lot of ‘tickets’ between wins. Talking while you’re ‘playing’ helps relax you and get a rhythm and keeps you from getting frustrated. It’s a time to recount past trips, successes and failures and be out there for what you really came for…and true fishermen know it isn’t just the fish!

Here are some other pictures from the two day trip that are something to talk about:

Dan N and 19 and a half 4.5lb smallieSmall

Dan N. and a 19.5 inch, 4.5lb smallie

Nga and 19inDay2Small

Nga B and a beautiful 19″ smallie that she won’t be ‘shutting up’ about soon!

 

Nga and 17 inSmall

Nga also boated this 17″ smallie on the New

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Chris S and another nice smallmouth he stirred up.

 

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Play the lottery…

It may seem like an oversimplification, but often times the difference between heading home with an empty camera and having plenty of fish stories to tell boils down to the same principles as winning the lottery.

What is the best way to win the lottery? Play more tickets and increase your odds of getting the numbers right. So many times I see people through a few casts, lay the rod across their lap, sigh and look around. Then they want to change lures and repeat the process all over again only to continue to come up empty handed.

Every cast is a lottery ticket and the fish you are casting to are the prize. The more casts you make, the better your odds at getting a fish to hit the lure. You can’t accurately say that a lure isn’t working until  you’ve made an adequate number of casts with it in the right areas and under conditions which that particular lure works best. If you’re casting top water lures on a day when the water temps are cold and the fish are laying deep, you’re not likely to get them to rise up. If you’re casting a quiet soft plastic lure on a day that the water is cloudy and visibility is way down, you aren’t giving yourself the edge.

On the other hand, if the water is cloudy and cold and the fish are deep, casting a noisy, flashy spinner bait and letting it sink down low gives you an edge. Keep casting (playing lottery tickets) and eventually you’re going to find the sweet spot and get a reaction strike when you put the lure within reach of a fish and they go for it!

Of course, some days, the conditions are all wrong and the fish are lethargic and unlikely to move, but that’s why we call it ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching’. If you were guaranteed to catch fish all the time, though, you’d get bored and not bother.

So check your strategy and keep casting-the tough days require persistence and tenacity; even a blind hog finds an acorn now and again!

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The 2013 season is here!

Billy Cook starts the season off right!

???????????????????????????????Billy Cook of North Carolina starts the Greasy Creek Outfitters 2013 season off right with this 8lb, 27″ walleye!
We hit the water Saturday morning with the hopes of seeing a first muskie for Billy and instead were rewarded with this beautiful walleye.

On this cold day, the water temps made fishing slow, but Billy’s son, Bill also walked away with a nice 17″ 4lb smallie for the memory books. Look how light her coloring is- she’s been on the bottom!

Now that we’ve indoctrinated the 2013 season right, I promise to bring you updates often. It’s been a hard winter with the river hitting record levels and remaining unfishable, but we’re back and we’re ready!

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Why do we fish? By Darin ‘Gil’ Gillenwater, Greasy Creek Outfitters

Fisherman

Fisherman (Photo credit: Hickatee)

If you ask any fishermen that question, the answers you get will vary among those you ask, but I think you’ll also find a common theme: solitude. Even when you’re out with friends casting to an illusive quarry, you have a sense of peace and tranquility that you can’t get any other time, save for hunting. It’s about getting in touch with the outdoors and your Creator while you test your mettle against your quarry. Many fishermen out there never or, like myself, rarely keep what they catch, but there is a sense of accomplishment in the simple knowledge that if you had to, you could feed yourself and your family with your rod and reel. We like to know that we can be self-reliant; that we can walk away from our cell phones and the internet and the social media that permeates our lives and not only survive, but thrive. I watch my children and all of their video games and I recall how, in my youth, the first video game I came in contact with in the form of pong and kept me occupied for about half an hour before I put it down and went out into the real world to entertain myself. These days, the nature of the world is such that we are pulled away from our natural habitat…think about that phrase for a second…”natural habitat”… do you think of your “natural habitat” and conjure up images of the woods and waters you long to escape

English: Fishermen

English: Fishermen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

to, or do you see yourself in an office or cubicle? Unfortunately, I think a lot of us out there tend to identify with the corporate, urban vision out of habit. I think  that’s a shame and we should strive to get out of that environment as often as possible and change that because, THAT is why we all fish at the bottom of all our other reasons!

Tight lines, Darin

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Soft plastics; why I love them and why I love my new supplier. By Darin ‘Gil’ Gillenwater

Like GCO Guide John Shutte (atcisme), who commented on the Heddon Tiny Torpedo article about his love of soft plastics, I too prefer them. The crankbaits we’ve talked about so far have their place in the water on days where the fish are spread out and out need a little more pizzazz to get their attention, but nothing gets a smallmouth to strike like a well worked soft plastic when you know where the fish are hanging. Such as the current situation in our area, when the water is cold and the fish aren’t moving as much; we know they’re going to be in deeper water hanging below the thermocline and keeping the lure low and slow is the name of the game.

Now, I’ve tried a lot of different brands of soft plastics out there and had great success with them on the smallies, and one in particular I used to use because they used a stiffer salt water formulation as the plastics lasted longer and it was economical. All of the different brands of soft plastics out there had on trait in common though; short strikes. Anyone who fishes soft plastics has experienced bringing a fish up to the boat only to watch it open it’s mouth and drop right off because they struck short and never sucked the bait all the way in to get hooked.

My theory on why this happens a lot with some soft plastics is rather scientific; smallmouth bass, in fact all black bass, have tiny teeth in their lips and you also may not know it, but they have taste buds there too. When a fish grabs a soft plastic, they are tasting it as well as feeling it. If the salt content is within the range of what they identify as food and the texture seems right, they suck the bait into their mouths and proceed to the next stage of the process inside of the mouth where the food gets further analyzed and either A: spit out, or B: swallowed.  Now, this process will get thrown to the side altogether if the fish is fooled from the start and simply sucks the bait in, confident that it is what it appears to be.

The thing that seems to be happening with a short strike is that the fish isn’t immediately convinced that what it has is actually food, but since it’s trying to escape, it holds on to it to the bitter end and unless you get lucky, they end up letting go of it and you have recorded a miss.

For a fishing guide, the most frustrating thing in the world is a short strike. No matter what you tell your client, they tend to internalize the miss as their fault and often will get overly aggressive in their hook set and compound the problem. If you go in the reverse and wait to set the hook, the fish will either let go, or possibly suck the bait all the way into the gullet and then you have them gut hooked. Over the years, I’ve tried numerous methods to get around this, from scent attractants (more on that nefarious subject in a future post) to adding a trailer hook to the bait, which effectively kills the action.

Enter River Rock Custom Baits. I actually stumbled across them accidentally when there was a problem email address in my newsletter recipient list, and I ended up talking to the owner, Robert Shue and the conversation with him let me to try his baits. Robert talked a big game, telling me how his plastic formulation was tested time and again by a Bass Pro Shops Fishermen to zero in on just the right formulation for the softness of the plastic and the salt content, etc. As I was talking to him though, I became hopeful, because it occurred to me that all the claims in the world wouldn’t get him more than one shot at anyone’s tackle box if the claims were unfounded. That is no road to success.

SO…long story short, I tried them. My wife Kelly decided that she was going to guide ME  for a change and let me fish the whole day. Gotta love a woman that loves  you that much! We headed on down to my favorite stretch on the New and before we even put on, I resigned myself to the likely chance of getting skunked; we were post frontal, the water just didn’t look good and the wildlife was dead quiet. It would be a tough day. Never one to back down from a challenge, I tied on a River Rock 3″ tube in watermelon w/Black, much like this one. I could tell by the feel of it that the plastic is indeed softer and therefore less durable than the other major brands I’ve tried, but if it could net me one fish on a tough day, I’d be grateful.

Now, days like the one I’m speaking of, you can’t expect much, and I never expect anything right off the bat on this stretch on a tough day. The water on my favorite stretch starts out good and gets better the farther down that you go. Not getting anything in the first half mile is never shocking to me, and getting a strike right away is a good sign. Which is why I was impressed that we nailed a little smallie in the first few casts- the first half mile actually netted 3- 13″to 14″ smallies on a day that I was sure that anything short of dynamite would be futile. The best part is that there were very few short strikes over all; we boated 14 fish through out that ‘tough’ day with very few short strikes. I am convinced that the balance between soft and tough gives these baits a presentation that the fish can’t resist! Other models I tried that day were the Twitchy Minnow, Jakes Craw and the Standard Stick and all of them brought success. As a matter of fact, at the end of the run, I let Kelly fish some and she caught two fish at the very end of the run, where I have never had anything hit before!

As far as presentation goes, I have had success with both weighted and unweighted hooks, and the best success from the tube and craw come from a very slow presentation with a slight lift of the rod tip every so often to imitate a crawdad on the bottom. The stick and the minnow worked out best with a short slash and pause to get the fishes ire up.

Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Tight lines and God Bless,

Darin

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Next up; the Heddon Tiny Torpedo by Darin ‘Gil’ Gillenwater

Man all battle stations and ready the tubes; it’s Torpedo time! Don’t you just love my whimsical metaphors? No comments necessary; really. Yesterday, I wrote about the Bomber Flat-A. Next up, in no particular order, is the Heddon Tiny Torpedo in my favorite color…Clear!

You are probably thinking what I first thought…’Clear? The fish can hardly see it!’ Eggzactly!

Yes, I’ve used other colors and had success, but I really like the clear because I think the fact that it’s harder to see actually triggers the fish a little more. They can feel the movement and see something but they are forced to strike at it while they have the chance. I’ve had great success on top of the water with this little meanie by varying from the slash and pause to cranking and some side to side motion that really doesn’t qualify as ‘walking the dog’ because of the size; it’s more like ‘shaking the chihauha’. Whatever you call it, the fish do respond when they’re in a top water mood. I find equal success with the Baby Torpedo and the Spook sized lures, but I’m partial to the big response to the Tiny Torpedo. Put one along the shoreline in the early morning and see what comes to breakfast! Again, my favorite spot to get them (because, yes-I’m lazy!) is here at Lurenet: http://www.lurenet.com/brands/heddon-lures/heddon-tiny-torpedo

In case you’re wondering, I AM a guide rep for a lot of the brands I will talk about, but I get exactly nothing from featuring them; my motivation is to make you a better angler so that should you ever come out to fish with us, my job is easy!

Tight lines and have a blessed day,

Darin

Later today or perhaps tomorrow, I’ll be telling you about my new soft plastic supplier, the bold claims he made about his baits and exactly why he can make those claims!

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No kidding; it’s the BOMB-ER! By Darin ‘Gil’ Gillenwater

As a fishing guide, I am rather opinionated about what will and won’t work on the New River. As a humble fishing guide, I’ve learned to never say never when I look at a lure, and from time to time, when the fishing is slow, I’ll have a client pull something out to try and it pays off. The Bomber Flat-A is one of those lures. A few years back I had a client on who was a great bass fisherman but the fish were finicky and we were having a time of it. When Steve asked me if I wanted to try the Bomber, I was all for it as we had thrown them everything with little result. Long story short, I found another stand-by lure!

Here it is: the Bomber Flat-A in Fire Tiger…

Because of the rocky bottom structure of the river, I am always very hesitant about using divers- they can be tricky in shallow water and a downright nightmare if the fisherman is overzealous with them; you’ll spend more time getting off of snags than you will fishing.

The Bomber Flat-A is unique though. The weighting of the lure and the position of the lip allows you to avoid getting hung up most of the time if you let slack on the line as soon as you feel it start to hang. It’s very slightly buoyant and once you let off, it will usually float right off. Most of the time, when the lip hits the bottom or a rock or other structure, the lure will do a somersault over it and keep on going. Grassy areas can be frustrating, but if you fish it easy, you can skim just over the beds without too much of a problem.

How I like to fish it- although it is a standard crank bait, I also like to slash it for variety; crank it down and then slash, pause and reel as well as just cranking it in. The pause is often where the fish make their move and they generally don’t grab it; they slam into it with everything they’ve got.

Although my personal favorite is the Fire Tiger shown above, it also comes in numerous colors to suit your tastes as well. At under $5.00 a lure, they won’t break the bank either. You can get them at Walmart, Dick’s and Bass Pro, or you can order them here: http://www.lurenet.com/brands/bomber-lures/bomber-flat-a from the fine folks at Lurenet.com

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The spin we put on things…

Any angler knows that there simply is no single technique or lure that will work in all situations. We learn this lesson over and over again every time we get on the water; one day, they’ll be tearing at spinner baits and the next, even though conditions are largely the same, they’ll want something else. I personally start out each day on opposite ends of the spectrum, if I have two anglers with me and then fine tune from there. That being said, there are several ‘go-to’ lures that I like to choose from to start off…for example; the Bomber Flat-A in Firetiger is a good bet on many days, while the Heddon Tiny Torpedo in clear will entice them off the bottom if they’re willing to hit the surface. Another lure that cannot be ignored is the Rapala X-Rap; this little gem doesn’t always get the biggest fish out there, but if you fish it right, it will bring you numbers! I prefer the white with holographic sides for best results in most conditions. In future posts, I’ll be covering these and many other lures we use, with pics where possible, and just how to fish them for the best success.

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