It’s probably not the ideal situation if you are on the receiving end of my fishing might. I’m on cruise control after results fall short of my expectations. If I’m unable to decipher the code, it slowly burns me up inside and payback’s a bitch. My approach tends to be like the United States government’s quest for Osama Bin Laden. There may be a few Tora Bora mishaps and I might not get justice next week or even next year, but make no mistake justice will be had. I’m basking in the absurdity of these claims in regards to fishing for stocker Bows. But what’s a corn cob from Iowa like me to do during the tweener times? Some folks are workaholics, others choose to drown themselves in a bottle. I fish. It’s what I do.
As the days ticked off towards the Minnesota trout lake closer on Halloween, it became apparent that I couldn’t leave things undone. I plotted a course back to CHP for one last shot at redemption. This trip was a quickie flyby that would make Maverick proud. I squeezed in an All Hallows’ Eve session before a midweek work meeting. There was no herculean effort towards committing the experience to film. I didn’t even to bother shooting many pics other than capturing the results. The photo above is another early morning dandy from my previous trip. This post is really more of a Man vs. Wild epilogue than it is a standalone piece. With that in mind, let’s get on with the show.
Here it is. 2012 bucket list item:
Rainbow Trout, done, done, and done. I arrived lakeside to a few other participants in search of last minute gold. Before wetting my line I asked the first fella I encountered if he’d had any luck this morning, to which he replied, “I’ve caught one small Rainbow, but the rest of them are way out in the middle and ignoring pretty much everything I’ve thrown.” I inquired as to what lure duped the small Rainbow? He offered up a small gold spoon with a funny bend that I immediately recognized as a Super Duper. Can I get an Amen? Hell yeah, the Super Duper legend continues and obviously I’m not the only one on the bandwagon. It become clear to me that the common strategy for CHP regulars is to come armed with a two spinning rod system, one bait and float, and the second rigged with your favorite spoon, crank or spinner. The other alternative is the fly rod. I’ve seen two other guys, besides myself, fly fishing with nothing to show for their efforts.
This trend reminded me of a mid-Fall afternoon I had two years ago on the Milwaukee River. I spent a few hours wading a popular stretch in the heat of the salmon run. There were only a few other anglers on the water which served me well since I’m not one for hand to hand combat fishing. I crossed paths with a number of fresh fish but couldn’t seem to get any to go. As I reached the end of my wade, I stopped to chat with the other fellas and get a report. They were quick to show me their stringer of 5 big beauties. I was dumbfounded. When I asked what they were using, they claimed to be bombing the river with Kastmasters and Krocodile spoons. Some fly fisherman may begrudge spin anglers when they’ve just had their ass handed to them, but for me this just isn’t the case. I always see it as an opportunity to learn and improve your fly fishing methods. As a matter of fact, I think there is something to be learned each time you hit the water. Sure, we all fall into the same ruts. Fishing the same location with the same approach each and every time. But the key to this sport is trial and error. Between my defeat on the Milwaukee and my red-bearded buddy last week at CHP, this was the second time in two years that I’ve been beaten down by a masterful spoon fisherman. It’s funny because I started this little experiment through a nostalgic nod to the Super Duper, but never thought I’d consider spoon fishing as a whole.
As a kid spending summers on Leech Lake in Northern Minnesota, the preferred spoon was the classic red and white Daredevle. It was pretty simple. Cast, retrieve, cast retrieve, Pike. The spoon isn’t something that I’ll tie on the end of my line very often outside of ice fishing (I’ll get to my treatise on ice fishing in a future post for the uninitiated). Yet the spoon seems to have legions of loyal fans. I inherited a few spoons from a family friend who passed away a few years back. We only fished together once before his untimely and unexpected death. Number one in his lure “Hall of Fame” was the Little Cleo spoon. He managed a monster lake-run Brown trout on the spoon, and from then on was smitten with it. The highlight of our trip was a 40″ Muskie within a flotilla of Walleye fanatics in 30 feet of water on 6lb. test.
What does all of this spooning have to do with fly fishing some Adrifters™ may ask? It’s about fish behavior. My task was to figure out how to unlock the jaws of Rainbow trout which have shown a reasonable case of lockjaw. The singular avenue for many fly guys is the entomology route. I took a healthy swing with my buggy creations but couldn’t convert. There’s two basic fishing concepts that took me from zero to hero in this instance. The reaction strike and the “change-up” or what is commonly called the “follow-up” lure. These fish had shown a propensity to ignore stationary or a consistently moving offering. The change in cadence that the spoon offers immediately produced strikes from the reluctant fish. Furthermore if you’d alternate between large flashy spoons and tiny fluttering ones it was even more effective. Give them a look at the big one, then follow it up with the tiny one, and you’d get a strike. The fish spent a considerable time outside the range of my fly rod. When I did throw the standard compliment of streamers they paled in comparison to heavy metal. The challenge moving forward is to work on a fly for this application that has more of a chaotic element to it when retrieved.
By this time there were a half dozen other anglers on the prowl. Once again no fish were brought to hand that I could see. Across the way I noticed that the “Trout Man” had arrived. One more season ending “pump and dump” was in order. I was tempted to go and strike up a conversation to see what was being unleashed, then opted to not look like an “ambulance chaser.” I stood my ground and continued to refine my technique, while getting the occasional swing and miss.
I moved to a new spot armed with the one-two punch. The results were immediate. I nabbed a second solid fish. These weren’t giants, but they were broad-shouldered respectable specimens and not the tiny stockers that one would imagine. Not only was I on the board, I was establishing the pattern. My time was running out with only 15 minutes to spare. I picked up a few more bites including a giant Brookie that came unbuttoned just outside my reach. Once again, the one that got away was in full effect. No time to cry over spilled milk as Bows were on tap this day.
Our tax dollars are hard at work at CHP and I chose to reap the put and take benefits. A net full of nice Rainbows found their way to my table. The little ones were grilled up in a pre-Trick or Treat ritual. The big boys went for a brine bath followed by a trip to the smoker. I set forth my goals in plain english last week, followed by a vow to do a “better job” providing for my family (insert joke here). The burning desire not be outdone by our finned foes fuels the fire. Be careful what you wish for Mr. Hatchery Trout, because payback’s a bitch.