“I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed” is a notable tough guy quote from Minnesota’s ex-governor Jesse Ventura.
It all started with a scratchy throat and congestion the night before my final outing of the 2011 trout season. By the time I was on the water Thursday morning it was full blown feverish chills, sore throat, headache, digestive issues etc. “I Ain’t Got Time to be Sick,” I’ve got all winter to be sick.
I plotted out an overnight trip earlier in the season to hit several tributaries of the Zumbro river but had opted to cross the border into Wisconsin instead. Typically in the past I’ve hit the Whitewater or Root systems but since one of my goals this season was to hit almost all new water I opted to hit the Zumbro instead. Originally I was going to start in the east on West Indian and work back towards home with spots mapped out on the Trout Brook, Cold Spring Brook, West Albany and West Indian. There is very little current information about these streams available, and many of the “kiss and tell” trout guide books seem to be dated. The plan was to run and gun, I knew I wouldn’t cover it all, but it would be fun to see a lot of new water to finish the season.
I thought I’d document the first fish of the trip, I caught 3 fish in the first 20 minutes so I had a feeling the bite was going to be decent. I cartwheeled head first into a stream and ruined my iphone two weeks ago trying to land a fish, which cost me $200. I was determined to finish the season without losing another phone, so I decided to take less fish shots and more of the phenomenal fall colors that were on display. This picture also shows one of the big challenges to late season trouting. Leaves. Yesterday had gusts of wind up to 45 mph which filled the riffles and runs with leaves. Some were so leaf choked that you couldn’t run a spinner or fly through without fouling your lure. You’d get about a 50/50 successful leaf-free retrieve.
Illness + Hurricane Winds + Leaves = A challenging day on the water!
Cold Spring Brook had a mixed hatch of caddis and BWO’s so I grabbed the 4wt and tied on some dries during the afternoon showers. I hadn’t pulled out my mayfly dry fly box all season. I had skipped the prolific spring/summer hatches by searching for big fish with big streamers. It actually felt weird to be casting a tiny BWO dry. After getting my fill of small fish on small flies and evening fast approaching, I switched gears back to the search for big fish. I even went to the main stem of the Zumbro for a few casts, no dice.
From 5:00 on I was getting steady action with aggressive hits. Most fish were in the 12″ – 15″ with a few bonus smallies mixed in. The trick was that for some unknown reason the fish were not in the deep holes they were in the skinny water. It wasn’t just that they were in skinny water, I was getting more hits in the “in-between” water. The stuff you usually walk through to get to the next promising location. There were no fish in the logical deeper spots.
Things were definitely picking up as darkness approached! Right at dusk this bad boy came out. Absolute hammer handle! This brown had beautiful color and spots (the iphone’s camera sucks at low light, tried to correct it in photoshop) This has to be the skinniest big brown I’ve ever caught, it was a long fish, but no girth, and a mangled tail to boot.
I Ain’t got Time to Be Sick. So after my long sleepless night in my tent I decided I’d coffee up, grab some cough drops, and take another shot at the one that got away. 5:30am at the gas station putting the waders on for one last time.
After multiple casts to the big fish spot I was pretty sure that nobody was home. That fish had hook in it’s jaw and wasn’t likely to come back for seconds. I finally waded upstream and cast my streamer down into the logjam and stripped it back up to me. Sure enough that did the trick, I saw a silhouette roll on the lure with no hookup. I cast a second time and again a big roll on the surface with no hookup.
And just like that, my 2011 season came to a conclusion.