I offer up this grainy pic as the only testament to one of the high points of my summer. It wasn’t a great morning for any angling specific reasons, this is more of an aesthetic high five. I meandered my way through a series of foreign valleys in preparation for an early morning raid. Thick bands of fog greeted me as I dropped in and out of each coulee. I half heartedly looked for a good vista to snap a nicer pic, but honestly I was too giddy to worry too much about photographic results. A quick iphone shot in transit will have to suffice. I’ve never been one to get particularly sappy about nature, or offer up some spiritual or philosophical bluster. I’ll simply say that there’s a handful of times per year that I find myself awestruck by the beauty of nature, and this was one of those times. There’s just something extraordinary about watching the morning fog burn off of the Driftless landscape.
I plotted a course for a specific beat on a creek that I’ve contemplated hitting for some time. Like most angling zealots, my to-do list is a never-ending series of unfulfilled promises. There are a few streams that I failed to explore during my Staycation Brookie saga earlier this summer, and I’m hellbent on finishing the task at hand. At this point in the season I’d imagine that these posts are as stale as week old bread, and that’s okay by me. I’m utilizing this space as a log book as much as anything, and it’s worth reminding myself that this thing is a marathon not a sprint. So I’d expect this pattern may repeat itself for some time.
It’s almost laughable to think that my eagerly anticipated destination was this subpar stretch of water. This out of bounds gem is a little rough around the edges and not even designated trout water. Like the clumsy kid on the playground who is picked last in a game of kickball, this crick wasn’t deemed worthy of inclusion. When tackling water of this caliber, you just never really know what you’ll find. You expect the worst and hope for the best. I’ve learned from experience that you’ll miss much more than you’ll hit on this proposition, but that’s half the fun of it anyway.
I popped into the early morning drink and immediately noticed a telltale diarrhea colored stain to the water. There was a squall line of showers that raced through the area the day before that I hoped didn’t wreak too much havoc. But like the majority of my outings this summer I was forced to contend with deteriorating water conditions. At best, most area streams are running full, at worst they’ve been virtually unfishable. Part of me actually longs for marginally low and clear summer conditions, but if it wasn’t evident by my last post I’ve fondly grown to accept such shortcomings. I quickly adjusted to the task at hand and began to work my way upstream at a good clip. I knew by reviewing maps in advance that there was an awful lot of poor habitat in-between quality holes. After 20 minutes of marching I arrived at the first reasonable bit of deeper water. I opted to do a little prospecting with my version of an Eggi Won Kenobi which adds a big tungsten bead and swaps out the yarn for an estaz egg (big surprise). After a few casts I had a nibble from an unknown inhabitant, but failed to hookup. After patiently scouring the zone I managed to identify the culprit, by securing an insignificant little creek chub into my evil clutches. Admittedly a small shadow of doubt cast over me like a light breeze. Not to be dissuaded I continued to work the deep corner bend, surprised that it didn’t have more to offer. After a few more drifts I managed a second smallish, but more meaningful adversary. A run of the mill Brook Trout came to hand, confirming what I suspected all along. There were in fact trout to be had in these parts.
I proceeded upstream through a series of bends that provided decent but not spectacular habitat. It mattered little as I began to pick up a reasonable number of average-sized fish. I fired a cast to an inconsequential looking midstream log when I noticed a more formidable trout swing and miss. Without missing a beat I went right back at the belly of the beast and managed a solid take. After a few rounds of beating each other up, I snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by scooping up the football-shaped beast into my net. After losing my favorite landing net back in June, I decided to restring this one with a Brodin Ghost Bag. It was a gift from a family friend a few years ago, but I have rarely used it because it didn’t have a tangle free net. Problem solved. This humpbacked Brookie had an impressive kype to body ratio and must have some serious largemouth bass running through it’s DNA. Consider the new net christened.
I spent the remainder of the morning plying every nook and cranny for all it’s worth. The bite was strong for the first few hours before bluebird skies and rising temps began to cool things off a bit. It was a highwire act between fishable and overly muddy water conditions. Once again riding the line with suspect water clarity proved to bear fruit. I managed to photograph the first few fish, before deeming the act redundant and unnecessary. Most spots held small to medium-sized fish, but I managed a half-dozen tank Brookies on the best spots. In an unusual turn of events, apparently taking a shot in the dark will meet or exceed your expectations. Funny concept, huh? Needless to say I’ve already began plotting my next foray into this neck of the woods.
I stepped out of the stream at one bridge crossing and was struck by the array of artistic exuberance. In the spirit of truck stop bathrooms, the Sistine Chapel of phallic expression adorned every inch of the crossing, and not everything would be considered in the spirit of good taste. It’s the old school journalistic ethic in me that feels the need report such travesties. Truth be told, I find the youthful dialogue to be immensely amusing. Some shit changes, while other angst filled diatribes seem to remain the same. When searching for a blank canvas to paint your master piece, or just a little slice of Brook Trout heaven, sometimes you simply need to cross the line.