Rob Kolakowski

Rob Kolakowski began fishing at age 2. He has been fly fishing for the last 25 years and teaches casting and beginning fly fishing. He's the vice president of the Western Wisconsin Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America and belongs to several other conservation organizations.

Signing Off

Posted by: Rob Kolakowski Updated: July 15, 2010 - 7:23 PM


Proud youth with a good speck - Photo by the late Thomas Kolakowski

Proud youth with a good speck - Photo by the late Thomas Kolakowski


Thanks to all involved, Club Outdoors has been running successfully for over a year now. Writing and blogging has been a whole new experience for me. Most of it good. I understand now what writers have to go through to come up with material every week to fulfill a contract.

In my writings I have made it a point not to bore everyone with my day to day life. Hopefully I have achieved that goal by writing about things that benefit everyone. I enjoy reading the poetic literature and story telling of our sport, but have not had the nerve to take on that sort of writing. Teaching literature was something I could easily do and folks could find the writing useful.

Writing the blog has been fun, but unfortunately this will be my last post. I need to reduce my workload. I have a fly fishing business along with a flexible fulltime job. I also belong to several clubs and organizations. With the break neck pace I have been going at for the last several years I have found increasingly less time for family, friends and myself. It turns out I can’t do everything and I’m not invincible.

Thank you to everyone who has read my blog. Hopefully you've learned a few things from my writing. Thanks to Dennis Anderson and the Star Tribune for giving me the opportunity. Thanks to Bob Nasby for talking me into doing the blog. Lastly, thanks to my friends and people I’ve met along the way for unknowingly helping me with ideas.

There’s a chance I’ll blog again in the future, but for now I’ll be seeing you around. Hopefully on the water.  Take care.

Rob Kolakowski

Fun In The Sun

Posted by: Rob Kolakowski Updated: July 1, 2010 - 12:38 AM


An angler well protected from the sun - Rob Kolakowski photo

An angler well protected from the sun - Rob Kolakowski photo


    Sometimes the ideal time to fish is when the sun is high.  It makes spotting fish so much easier.  Sometimes you just fish when you have the chance and there may not be a cloud in the sky.  As most of us know, the sun is good for our health, but too much can cause serious problems.

    There are plenty of sunscreens that help minimize damage to exposed skin.  The instructions will tell you how to apply them.  Typically they will need to be applied several times through the day.  You’ll also want some lip balm that has UV protection so you don’t get burned lips.

    Since I’m not a fan of sunscreen I use it only when there‘s no other choice.  An option which I like better is to cover up with protective clothing.  Pants, long sleeve shirts, waders, hats all will block sunlight.  The tighter and heavier the weave the more it will block.  You can buy fishing clothing that is light weight for staying cool and it has very tight weave for sun protection.  Wide brim hats will cover your neck and ears.  You can also tuck a handkerchief under your ball cap so that it drapes over your ears and neck.  Sometimes you have to tuck it into your shirt so it does not spook close fish when it flaps in the wind.  There is something called a sun mask made of light cloth that you can wear over you face and neck.  There are also sun gloves.  I’m sure there’s more ways to cover up than I mentioned here.  And don’t forget sunglasses to protect your eyes.

    If it is hot along with the sun you’ll want to stay hydrated so you can go all day.  I once got very sick from dehydration, only once.  I didn’t feel thirsty and it wasn’t even that hot out.  I can tell you it will never sneak up on me again.  Drink plenty of water.

    It’s also a good idea to take periodic breaks.  Find some shade if you can.  Also don’t forget to eat to keep your energy level up.  You’ll really be dragging butt by the end of the day and probably leave early if you don’t refuel.

    Another trick to stay cool is to dunk your hat in the water.  The evaporation will help you bare the heat.  You could dunk your whole body if your so inclined.  I’m not so inclined myself, but it’s something I’ve done by accident.  You’ll definitely be cooled off.

    The longer you are out the better the protection you will need.  Make sure you  plan ahead, sunburn can sneak up on you.  Don’t wait until it’s too late to cover up.  A buddy of mine once had to wear a piece of paper tucked under his glasses and over his nose to protect the severe sunburn he got the day before.  The rest of us thought he looked quite funny, but he wasn’t laughing, especially with several more days of fishing ahead.  Use these tips and a day in the blazing sun can be enjoyable without getting beat down.  

Drum Roll Please

Posted by: Rob Kolakowski Updated: June 23, 2010 - 10:21 PM


Freshwater Drum or Sheepshead - Rob Kolakowski photo

Freshwater Drum or Sheepshead - Rob Kolakowski photo



    Most of us don’t head to the water to catch a freshwater drum or sheepshead.  We are usually after the glamour fish like smallmouth, walleyes, …. and a long list of other species.  For many the sheepshead doesn’t even make the list.  You don't see very many grip and grin photos displaying such a prize and none where anyone is touching those lips.

    In reality we really need to give them credit for keeping the sport alive.  I can’t say how many times the glamour fish showed no sign, but the sheepshead were willing and able.  If it weren’t for their homely mugs and willingness to bite I may have ended up going home and cutting the grass or taken up some other sport in the short term.

    This last winter I had a rare chance to fish the Gulf of Mexico, but didn’t go due to the massive fish kills they were having.  The cold weather and well below average water temps were turning up dead fish by the many thousands.  Fishing reports came in with catches of guess what….sheepshead.  Even through the worst they are there for us.

    Believe it or not sheepshead do put up a fight.  Especially if they are anywhere near the state record.  Minnesota hosts a 35lb 3.2oz specimen and Wisconsin hosts a 35lb 4oz brawler.  Something like that is sure to catch you off guard when jigging for walleyes or stripping a streamer for smallmouth.  You crappie folk better have a big net also, just in case.

    Next time your on the water and the sheepshead make for a good day.  I want to see some of your photos posted on the Star Tribune Club Outdoors website.  Especially the ones from you crazy fish lips kissers.  That would really make my day.       


Targeting The Hunter

Posted by: Rob Kolakowski Updated: June 9, 2010 - 11:06 PM


River Smallmouth - Rob Kolakowski Photo

River Smallmouth - Rob Kolakowski Photo



    We’ve all heard of the food chain.  With all the life in the world that feeds on one another it's a common occurrence for a predator to become prey, sometimes unknowingly and in an instant.  It’s no secret that a predator fish is vulnerable to being caught when it's on the hunt for food.  If a fish is on the prowl in shallow water or near the surface it often gives audible and visual cues that warn you of it’s presence. Thus allowing you to get the jump on it before it knows your there.

    Subtle cues from a distance.  On a lake or larger river you may see nervous water, a patch of water that has a lot of small ripples when compared to the water around it.  If this patch of nervous water moves around it's most likely a school of baitfish.  You can bet where there’s bait there are predators.  Also watch for birds repeatedly diving to the water.  They are probably picking up baitfish.  Again, larger fish will be nearby.  You may also see disturbances on the waters surface.  Bulges of water or wakes created when fish swim near the surface.  Also pay attention for fish feeding on insects.

    Strong cues from a distance.  You might see fish jump or hear a splash as they thrash the waters surface.  You may see baitfish jumping out of the water as they flee from being eaten.  I’ve seen largemouth bass snatch dragon flies out of the air and land with a splash.  The tail of a carp may break the surface and flag you when the fish tips down to vacuum a crayfish from the rocks.  It’s pretty easy to figure out where you need to go.

    Strong cues from a distance will be real strong cues up close.  Seeing the fish is the best clue of all.  Whether you see it in the water or jumping from the water you have it located.  Sometimes when your close you see the sunlight flash off their reflective sides as they turn in the water of a lake or river.  Splashing, swirling, waking, or bulging the surface are dead giveaways.  Watching them bust a school of baitfish up close is quite exciting and sometimes unnerving.

    Subtle clues up close.  You may see a slight hump of water pushed up on the surface when the fish swims under it.  A slight dimple or tinniest wake on the surface may give a fish away.  I’ve watched large trout, bass, and northern pike swim through a patch of emergent vegetation in pursuit of food.  You can tell where they are because the vegetation moves.  They push aside or bump into it as they move through the heavy growth.  Chances are they are trying to flush out prey.  The chances are also good that you can get them to bite.

    I’ve mentioned mostly large fish, but small fish are also predators.  Crappies on a school of minnows, maybe trout or panfish feeding on insects.  They all give away clues to their presence.  If you cast around blindly, either knowing or not knowing there are fish in the area, you will do alright.  By locating fish and using the element of surprise you will end up with more on your line.  Focus your attention on what is going on around you and you’ll find fish on the feed.  Just don’t forget to look over you shoulder once in a while if your not at the top of the food chain.  

Hatch Bonanza

Posted by: Rob Kolakowski Updated: June 3, 2010 - 12:12 AM


Green Sulphur Mayfly - Rob Kolakowski photo

Green Sulphur Mayfly - Rob Kolakowski photo


    There’s a population of fly fishers that love to fish during an insect  hatch.  It’s sort of like piecing together a puzzle.  Some technical minded folks really light up when given the chance to analyze a hatch.  The fish are up and feeding on something, birds are swooping low to the water, mice hit the shoreline vegetation searching for the insects that make it to land(Yes, I’ve seen this.  I was surrounded by a whole colony once while they were on a feeding frenzy.)

    You scan the air, the water, the bank side vegetation in search of the insect that is causing all the commotion.  You might even have an insect net or use your hat to catch one for a closer look.  Now you know what they are feeding on, that is unless it is a double or triple hatch.  Then you have your work cut out for you.

    If your dealing with a single hatch then you can move onto figuring out what stage of the emergence the fish are feeding on.  Maybe a nymph or pupa as it makes it’s way to the surface or an emerger in the surface film.  Could be a dun on the surface or an insect that has come back to the water to deposit eggs.  What stage of the emergence are the fish feeding on?.  Could be different stages depending where the fish are feeding in the river.

    You have a fish picked out of the bunch.  Do this because it is easier to catch an individual fish than it is to throw a fly in the area and hope one takes it.  What’s that fish doing?  Watch how often it rises to the surface.  Time your cast when you think the fish is ready to eat again.  Is it moving around an area or holding in one spot?  You may even find them focused on feeding to one side or the other.  Did the fish jump out of the water to get egg layers or insects flying across the surface?  Did the fishes head come out of the water to take an adult insect floating on the surface?  Did the fish only push up a little water or create just a dimple as it sips a fly from the surface film or just below it?  You may even see fish feeding mid depth or near the bottom as the insects make their way to the surface.

    If you can figure this all out you may be able to fool a trout into biting your fly.  That is if you present it the way they want it.  Now you may have to tweak your fly, equipment, or your cast to satisfy.  Sometimes you only get one shot and the fish is spooked and down.  Either you wait or move on to another fish, possibly a different area of the stream.

    I’ve only described part of the process of fishing a hatch so you can imagine the possibilities and the challenge.  Sometimes is can be stupidly simple to catch fish during a hatch and other times even Einstein would pull his hair out in frustration after a pea brained fish got the better of him.

    Late May and early June trout streams are host to a smorgasbord of insect hatches for those that live for this stuff.  Good luck, you may need it.   


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