Are you tired of looking at my windshield yet? I should retire this photo from the usual assortment of flotsom, but I seem to keep snapping the pic and subsequently feel the need to post it. I think it may be a subconscious reaction to Phil Monahan after he posted one of my videos on the Orvis news blog last spring and proceeded to rip it for “too much driving time.”  The reality is that if you’re an urbanite like myself, large portions of the angling experience are spent on the road, and I’m just too stubborn when told not to do something. There’s a fair chance I’ll just do it more. Furthermore it just feels good to be on the road again after winter hibernation. The good news is that I snuck out for a few hours yesterday, and can attest that the stranglehold of winter hasn’t fully lost it’s grip. The light at the end of the icy tunnel is ever so close with a major league warmup just on the horizon. The astute angler might wait for the warmer temps later this week. But as any veteran Adrifter™ would tell you, I’m an ardent student in the “fish when you can” school of medicine. The “when I can” in this instance was a sunny, yet cool Monday afternoon in dairyland.

My apologies to any “The Carpenters” haters. The nod stems from my dad’s incessant ability to rock The Carpenters at ultra high decibels, amongst other seventies classics, from his bad ass set of Klipsch corner horns. If you didn’t care for The Carpenters, The Beach Boys or John Denver, and you lived on 27th Ave in the seventies and eighties, it was tough sledding.

 

 

Have I mentioned that I have Brookie on the brain? My last round of R&D on a number of crapshoot creeks left me unprepared for spring creek fisticuffs. I felt compelled to flex the muscle a bit with a more generous choice of water. I arrived midday at a somewhat familiar stream to bluebird skies and a light wind that added just enough chill to remind me of my mere mortality. While this creek has a steady population of fish, there’s just enough respectably-sized fish to keep things interesting.

The switching of gears to Driftless Brook Trout is always an adjustment to my “rewards system.” I’ve found that mine is significantly out of whack following my run-in with the Thanksgiving “Milwaukee’s Best” brown. I was perusing the trout section on the Minnesota DNR’s site recently and noticed the state records for trout. I have never paid much attention to the records, as I have virtually no shot at ever eclipsing any of them, but was struck with the fact that the Thanksgiving fish was bigger than current Minnesota Brown Trout state record. Obviously it’s not an apples to apples comparison, since the Lake Superior and Lake Michigan fisheries are very different in their size structures. It did however serve as a catalyst for change. I need to switch gears for a few outings to kick off the season. It’s time to do a little spring cleaning. To clear out the cobwebs of winter so to speak. I’m attempting to get back to the basics. Back to fishing small where every footlong trout is considered a quality fish. There will be plenty of time in the prime of spring and summer to chase the big boys, but for now they’re just innocent bystanders in my quest for cheeseland char.

 

 

I stood under the bridge and was confounded by the conundrum that has plagued man since the beginning of time. Upstream or downstream? Sure everyone knows that upstream is the wise choice since these things point their noses in that direction. But I caught a glimpse of a juicy-looking downstream run that taunted me in traditional peep show fashion. Fuck convention, I’m going downstream for awhile, then I’ll circle back and work my way up. I crept downstream at a snails pace attempting to not stir up a hornet’s nest of silt. This was private property and I was forced to keep my feet wet, compounding the difficulty. I fired a few casts to the heart of the bottomless pool and was greeted with a righteous specimen. All was right with the world again. 

I continued downstream to a few reasonable looking spots, but none produced. The further I walked the more shallow it became. My multitasking mind inevitably wandered to thoughts of the deep pool just upstream of the bridge that I knew must hold fish. I hightailed it back upstream and approached the spot with care as to not spook any of the inhabitants. This was one of the best looking holding lies in the county and I was determined to not mess it up. I put a good half dozen cast into the belly of the beast, with nothing to show for it but doubt. I worked my way closer to the gut for further inspection. After a few more casts straight upstream I saw the infamous pirouette of a trout chasing my streamer downstream. This all too familiar arcing motion had a golden coloration to it. A German invader had taken up residence in my Brook Trout stream and he was hellbent on world domination. After a brief tussle I put the decent, but not large Brown Trout into the net for further inspection. A few quick pics and I sent him on his way.

Without further adieu, introducing the “Shirley Temple” Brook Trout micro-streamer. When I bellied up to the bar a decade or two before I  was of legal age I knocked back my fair share of these delicious drinks, “to warm up for the real thing”. You may be more of a Roy Rogers fan, but for my money the Shirley Temple is where it’s at. More to the point, I tied a cache of these things on green-anodized Gamakatzu walleye hooks. I wanted to create a very small attractor/streamer in a “baby” Brook Trout pattern. You certainly can dead drift or “Frankenymph” (for those who read my AA article) this fly, but it proved deadly to actively strip retrieve the fly yesterday afternoon. Even the smallest of Brookies were suckers for syrupy goodness of the Shirley Temple. I proceeded to pound out another hour or two on the creek, producing a decent roster of Brookies. The Shirley Temple experiment was complete, and it worked as good, if not better than I would have imagined.

 

 

I hoofed it back to the car and refueled with a quick PB&J and other caloric accoutrements. As I sat in the hatch of my car and considered my next play I was reminded of the mishap at Hay Creek back in January. I set my GoPro on the rear hatch of my car and I fear it must have fallen into the snow. I was removing my gear before departing for home, and I haven’t seen it since that outing. If anyone has found a GoPro at Hay Creek this winter, I’ll tell you that the small scratch on the lens is going to bug the shit out of you.

 

 

I decided to hit a bigger stretch of water on a stream that contained both Brooks and Browns. I’d never fished this section before, but it had been on the hit list for some time. I slinked into the clear water and was struck with the quality of the creek. The first couple holes were deep with the emerald green hue that is indicative of good turf. I switched gears and tied on a meaty #4 Bugger and added an extra split for good measure. In short order a medium-sized Brookie took a swipe, but couldn’t consumate the relationship. Over the next hour I blanketed the prime looking water with no success. I even switched over to a deep probing nymph rig containing a Pink Squirrel, just to “test the waters” in greater detail. The cruel irony is that this was the best looking water I’d seen all season and it didn’t produce squat. My time was running short, so I decided I’d pop in on the next bridge downstream for a twenty-minute tour.

 

I looked down from the bridge and saw and absolute chunk of a Brown Trout leisurely loitering in typical bridge pool fashion. That was the only cue I needed for further investigation. This stretch was curvy but shallow and silty as hell. One huge corner bend had to be 100 feet wide and no more than 6 inches deep, no shit. It was the kind of water that most anglers would avoid altogether. One lesson I learned many moons ago is to not judge a book by it’s cover. If you’re on a quality stream, you’ll eventually find fish. I had two things working against me at this point. The first was the clock and the second was that I was once again working downstream. I marched at a fevered pace swinging my big bugger to anything resembling a holding lie. The challenge to outrun my mud trail became paramount, as I was spewing silt down into my fishing lane as if it was liquid hot magma. I wasn’t deterred and I continued my sprint. I looked at my iphone to check the time and ignored the overstuffed inbox of client requests. 10 minutes more then I have to be on the road I told myself. I spied some faster water downstream and made a mad dash to investigate. It was by no means a great looking hole, but it was the best I’d seen in this god forsaken place. I launched the lanky Bugger down into the run and stripped it straight back to me. As I lifted it out of the water a small fish erupted on my offering. A few more casts, no dice. I walked down to the next section and immediately connected with stout 13″ caliber fish. I released him and made one more forray  into some faster water. I opened up a long distance dedication that was rudely greeted with the cannibalistic behavior of a frenzied predator. Upon hookset I was treated to an aerial display of Brown Trout love. What was even more impressive was that there was a second, much larger, fish vying for my lure. This isn’t a “the one that got” away story as my fish had beat him to the punch. This is the type of behavior that is commonplace in Smallmouth fishing. One gets the feeling that these fish don’t see quality forage all that often, and when they do, they pounce. I proceeded to snap a few pics and make a mad dash back to the truck as I’d overstayed my welcome.

 

 

The goal was to get after some Brook Trout and put a new creation through its paces, which was successfully achieved.  As it turns out the Browns had a few ideas of their own, and I’m certainly not one to kick them out of bed for eating crackers. There was something special about the pirouetting take of the fly, or the aerobatic display in the final chapter. Strangely familiar, yet altogether new. It had a “we meet again old friend” vibe to it, and the good news is that we’ve only just begun.