The Perfect Storm

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_09There has been a healthy dose of hit or miss permeating my daily grind since our last visit. Outside of the angling paradigm, I’ve been stuck in a rut of a different sort lately. 2016 to this point has been little more than a blur of too many 12-20 hour workdays. As if that isn’t bad enough, the j-o-b has been bleeding profusely into the weekends, which tends to wear a guy down. To add insult to injury, the honey-do list has been in full effect. There’s nothing greater than some time on the water to release the pressure buildup. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to escape deeper into the midwest troutin’ abyss for some camping and fishing to clear the cobwebs in recent weeks.

Water conditions have been quite manageable this spring. I’ve been rained out of a few areas, but for the most part streams have been somewhat low and clear. I plotted a course this week, full well knowing that things were about to change. Our run of summertime conditions were about to take a turn for the worse. While legions of brown trout enthusiasts trip over each other looking for the next big thing, I plotted a course for brook trout bliss. It’s no secret in these parts that I’ve been a certified char-o-holic the last few years. I’ve gone through these phases in the past. From bull bluegills to slab crappies, there’s something fascinating about searching for the biggest of the “little fish.” It’s not exactly a Labrador conquest, most midwest brookies have the stature of an Oscar Meyer weiner. I’ve found that there isn’t any one pursuit in angling that can sustain my interest over the course of the long haul. Let’s just speak plainly, I’ve got the attention span of a cocker spaniel. My ever changing angling goals are a simple case of peeling the other layers off of the onion, and brook troutin’ is simply the next layer.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_12adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_03adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_10I found myself standing knee deep, up shit creek without a paddle so to speak. The morning had started out dry, but you could just see that the sky was about to bust at the seams. I carefully watched the weather forecast and knew I had a limited window of opportunity before my dreams would be washed away for good. If I haven’t mentioned it previously, I love fishing in the rain. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I’m a sucker for adverse weather conditions. A little unpredictability goes a long ways. If I wanted it easy, I’d stick to my weekly game of shuffleboard.

As I worked my way upstream I picked up a few dinks here and there. This action served to keep my attention span from waning, but it wasn’t particularly productive and was smelling like another run of the mill kind of day. I nonchalantly worked my way through a nondescript section of water intermittently firing off casts to lackluster features. At one point I was fairly sure I’d snagged something on the bottom when I realized that it had a pulse. I attempted to horse the fish into sight. When I first set my eyes on it, it looked as if I’d crossed paths with an nomadic northern pike. I’ve caught pike while trout fishing from time to time, so it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. In the interest of full disclosure, I repeatedly chased a monster Brookie last year that I spied on a popular section of a stream that had the same M.O. I’d seen the fish a few times earlier in the season and eventually hooked into the toad early one morning. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_pullquote_1He flashed out from a log, grabbed my offering, made a few head shakes and went along his merry way. It was like two ships quietly passing in the night. I never saw the beast again and I’m sure she found her way into the clutches of another lucky angler. This was the first time I’ve had my lucent pike/brookie hallucination. My brain went into cruise control yet again with this latest fish and just automatically perceived it as the tell tale greenish hue of a pike. While this fish was nothing special by global standards, brook trout generally don’t come in that size category in this part of the universe, and my mind automatically wandered to the billion pint-sized pike I’ve battled over the years. Perhaps it’s just the greenish tubular flash of the take. Who the hell knows, the mind works in mysterious ways? Once I got the beast into closer range I realized that it was a quality brookie. Like a finely tuned instrument, I reached back to my sling pack to fetch my trusty landing net. The “oh shit” moment hit me like a ton of bricks. “Where the fuck is my net,” I asked myself in a panic stricken outburst? While going net free is commonplace for some, I’m an ardent subscriber to using one for trout fishing. Especially if you photograph as many fish as I do. It allows the fish swim comfortably while you catch your breath, remove the fly, retrieve your camera etc. It became readily apparent that I was going to have to do this the old fashioned way. I looked for relief from the tall bank to walk the fish into the shallows. I gingerly worked her up to the bank and proceeded to scoop her up via a light craddle maneuver. This is the point where the typical “lose your mind” punch drunk, big fish behavior is full effect. I immediately realized that this fish was worthy of measurement and a few pics. I kneeled down and positioned the fish on my thighs while attempting a quick tape measure and photograph. I was so swept up in the moment that I didn’t realize that my camera settings were all jacked up (see shitty pic above). It’s at this point that the skies opened up into a torrential downpour. It’s as if Prince himself had deemed this moment worthy of celebration. I’ve purified myself numerous times in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, so I guess I’ve earned my stripes. Within seconds my lens (and my psyche) were soaked to the bone. I pulled out my backup first generation GoPro and shot a few self absorbed “man fondles fish” pics in burst mode to commit the moment to eternity. The shoddy, yet strangely appropriate psychedelic results speak for themselves. I’d be remiss in my duties as a citizen of Minneapolis if I didn’t do my part to send Prince off in style. We all have our connection with the purple one. I mean the guy pretty much scored a decent portion of my childhood. The introductory guitar solo of Purple Rain takes me right back to standing on the sidelines (in predictable wallflower fashion) at every school slow dance and roller skating rink I ever attended. In fourth grade I wasn’t exactly sure what business “darling Nikki” had masturbating with a magazine, but Prince sure made me curious. When life gives you lemons in the form of rain-induced blurry fish pictures, why not make lemonade in the form of a laughable Prince tribute?

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_20adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_15adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_06dadrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_18adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_19adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_21adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_17adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_07badrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_22adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_04eadrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_driftless_big_brook_trout_11I labored for several more hours plying my trade to every nook and cranny holding lie that I could muster. Periods of undulating rain permeated the outing. It certainly put my Patagonia Mininalist Wading Jacket through it’s paces. It’s been a solid addition to the outerwear lineup (minus the tiny/tight fitting hood). Clearly my head is too big for it’s britches (no surprise). The rain hadn’t yet wreaked havoc on the water clarity, though it was slowly was becoming a case of diminishing returns. Much to my surprise, the first fish wasn’t the only good one to come to hand. The brook trout gods smiled upon me by offering up multiple uncommonly large specimens. I picked my way through dinky trout to catch to a handful of fish that often take you eons to catch in this region. At one point I began to repeat my new found cradle maneuver only to watch a giant shake loose before my very eyes. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone, but I kept thinking, “of all the days to leave my landing net back in the car, why did it have to be today?” Occasionally I’d get the lens on one of my cameras dry enough to snap a decent pic, but rarely could I corral the trout long enough to produce good results. Perhaps it was fitting that I wasn’t able to get many high quality images. Eventually I returned to find my net comfortably dry in the back of my vehicle. This stark discovery served as a reminder of what’s really going on. These fish don’t actually belong on our walls or in our Instagram feeds, or on a blog for that matter (despite our efforts to reproduce the feeling we get inside when we cross their paths). I need a pat on the back just as much as the next person, but for me it’s the game or challenge to know the unknowable, as opposed to braggin’ board fodder. I’ll divulge a dirty little secret. While I’ve found writing of this blog to be cathartic, and I have a soft spot for shooting photos of all sorts, the real reason I started this venue was to expand my limited WordPress skill set. That’s why the site is sort of buggy when viewed on some mobile devices (my apologies for my shortcomings). Fly fishing seemed like the most innocuous of subject matter, and if anyone finds value in my exploits it’s a bonus.

Occasionally I have to pull myself away from the temptation of the “me, me, me carousel” and look at things through a longer lens. This is one of the reasons I went off the grid and didn’t even carry a camera or tape measure for several years before I started this god foresaken endeavor. From my experience behind every door that you open through your outdoor pursuits, you’ll simply find another door. By that rationale this outing is not one of photographic excellence, or peddling my wares, or some masterpiece of storytelling. It’s simply pounding another stake in the ground. For whatever reason, it will always be appropriately engrained with the surrealist smear of the perfect storm.

 

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Ron Dayne and Mary Jane

One of my many visits to Dane County was particularly unkind to me. It was fall 1999 and I found myself deep in enemy territory, outside Camp Randall Stadium. My beloved Iowa Hawkeye football team was in full rebuild mode following the departure of legendary coach Hayden Fry, yet I opted to dawn an obnoxious compliment of black and gold garb to pledge my allegiance. This particular Saturday in late November is one that lives in Badger lore like a red badge of rubedom courage. Wisconsin great Ron Dayne was closing in on a Heisman Trophy and the all-time NCAA Division I rushing title, and the only thing standing in his way was an inept band of brothers and my ridiculous bumble bee shirt.

The scene was littered with the standard display of college football debauchery. Little did I know that I was soon to be the focus of the drunken Badger nation scorn. I stood innocently enough leaning against the railing above a major stadium entrance waiting for my future wife to use the facilities. Something slowly caught my attention as I contemplated the doomsday scenario that my boys were soon to face. As the hundreds to thousands of crimson clad fans streamed into the game they were immersed in a pre-game cheer. “Ass-hole, asssss-hole, assss-holeee,” which went on for some time. As she came back from her beer-fueled “potty break” my Badger clad vixen instructed me to turn around and look at the crowd behind me. Unfortunately for me, the crowd had turned its gaze to me, and it was as if all of Dane County was welcoming me to my future place of despair with their ridicule filled rouser. The pointing, the jeers, the laughter at my expense is etched into my memory for all eternity.

Fast forward. Friday morning 3:45AM I faithfully submit my latest in the recent series of early morning gas station snapshots. Do I look tired? It’s typically not an issue for me to get up early to fish, but my 2:30 wake-up call was particularly tough. I made the early morning run over to Madison from my accommodations in Waukesha county.

 


There was little time to prep for this trip. Due to some health concerns in the family we weren’t even sure we’d make the trip, but 48 hours prior to my arrival the decision was made. I quickly dusted off the Gazetter and probed my Google maps to come up with a game plan. I typically get one morning a year on Dane County streams. I’d prefer a night raid that provides the possibility of some evening mayfly activity, but usually the social calendar is full with other activities. Famed Black Earth Creek tends to be the focus of Dane County fishing. In previous years I’ve adopted a run and gun strategy to cover a wider swath of streams in the area, including Mt. Vernon Creek. Like a Badger football game, Dane County fishing has been a real hit or miss affair. Fishing one day a year has made for a slow learning curve. There just isn’t enough time to get the vibe of the place with such a small sample size. I always catch fish, just nothing remarkable from a size or numbers standpoint, and I’ve never seen any noteworthy insect activity fishing mornings in June.

My game plan was to chuck a mouse in the predawn hour then switch to streamers as the light comes up on a smaller area stream. This is a typical early morning strategy for me. If it’s too dark to see the water features I go topwater, but once you can begin to see things I switch to subsurface probing of potential holding lies. For some reason it’s a popular sentiment amongst some fly fisherman that a mouse is only a late evening tactic under specific conditions, but in my opinion nothing could be further from the truth. Furthermore I’m not sure why topwater trouting in general is filled with such awe. Perhaps it’s my background in chasing other predatory species, namely bass, pike and muskie, that suggests that morning topwater trouting is par for the course? There’s a lot to be learned from many years of chasing bass with large hardware that can be applied to trout. For my money bass and big browns are cut from the same cloth. I just laugh when I witness the ridicule and narrow mindedness that some in the trout and fly fishing community display towards bass fisherman. I’m an “it’s all good” or “whatever floats your boat” type angler. Heck, my first lesson in chasing big browns would be to buy a $50K sparkly bass boat, move to Alabama, get wise in the ways of the bass fishing arts, then return to your local trout stream and adapt what you’ve learned. You might be surprised with your results. Sure, big fish will sip a midge offered up on tiny tippet, but that’s only part of the equation.

Ah, but I digress. I arrived at my destination fully clothed and rod ready to rock, as it’s almost an obsessive compulsive disorder of mine to be ready upon arrival. Slowly I worked my way upstream blindly chucking my bait to any available lie. The stream opened up to a solid looking pool and it didn’t disappoint. I brought Mighty Mouse across the pool practically to my feet when the water erupted into an explosion of mouse inhalation. In a split second thoughts of a big brown raced through my head only to come the sudden realization that this wasn’t the fish I was looking for. Right bite, wrong size category, as an average-sized brown had snacked on my offering.

 

 

As the sun began to light the canvas I switched to a woolly bugger. In short notice I had a fish swing and miss. Subsequently I downsized and switched strategies to what I call “Frankenymphing” or I believe last year I referred to it as “Naked Nymphing.” Over the last 5 years I’ve found a spot in my arsenal between running nymph rigs and streamers. If fish dart out from their hidey holes but reject a streamer at the last minute I often switch to this tactic. A number of years ago I picked up a pile of jumbo-sized nymphs at a flyshop in Bozeman, Montana. Most nymphs are in the 8-12 size range and some are upsized versions of generic attractor patterns. One of my favorites is the jumbo rubber-legged prince nymph. These big nymphs are almost neutrally buoyant but big enough to fish unweighted in most situations. I fish them similar to a bugger, often dead drifting them or twitching downstream. A great fly to slide quietly under an undercut or other ambush point. The funny thing I’ve noticed about these flies is that they work pretty well no matter what sort of insect activity is prevalent, and they pack enough punch to elicit strikes from the big boys.

 

 

Quickly I Frankenymphed my way upstream through an HI section in route to spot I had eyeballed via Bing maps. I was amassing a respectable number of cookie cutter browns. So much so that I vowed to quit photographing fish until I caught something bigger or a particularly handsome specimen. As the morning progressed, so did the biting flies. They were out for blood and weren’t going to stop until they reached brain. I’ve praised the functionality of the Buff, despite it’s inherent fashionista reputation. While I looked like the Amazing Spiderman I fished in relative comfort as I spritzed my headwear with bug dope and scoffed at their repeated attempts to eat flesh. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

 

I was forced to bushwhack my way up to a pasture stretch, only to be greeted by my bovine buddies and some absolutely terrible looking water. For some reason the steam was unexplainably muddy and fairly shallow.

 

 

As I hoofed my way back to the car I contemplated my next move as the heat index was beginning to rise. Glass half empty or glass half full? Most of the water I had been fishing must be somewhat popular turf for Madison’s finest. I had picked up a good number of fish, but no trophies were brought to hand. A few different sources had mentioned to me that this little creek has big fish potential, but I certainly wasn’t able to seal the deal with the largest fish being a 16″ caliber brown that I rolled but did not hook. I decided it was time to take on the belly of the beast and hit BEC to see if I could improve my showing.

 

 

 

This was my second outing with my new Korkers Metalheads. I sent my broken down Redsides back to Korkers several weeks ago for warranty replacement consideration. Korkers customer service was pretty darn good, they offered me a replacement of Redsides or an upgrade to Metalheads for the difference of the two. I opted to upgrade to the Metalheads with the prospect of a more durable construction and the BOA lacing system. In the interest of full disclosure, Korkers threw in some new soles of my choosing in exchange for a product review on Adrift. That being said I’ll always give you my honest opinion about any products that I use.

The pros of Korkers Metalheads are that the synthetic leather upper boot construction is a much more rugged material than the Redsides which feature an upper reminiscent of standard Hi Tec hiking boots. The other significant improvement is that the Studded Sticky Rubber sole has vastly superior traction compared with the standard sole. I’ve used the interchangeable OmniTrax more than I thought I would. It’s nice to have different options. The rubber soles are great when fishing smaller spring creeks where slippery rocks aren’t much of an issue or in snow and ice. Conversely standard felt or the Studded Sticky Rubber soles are preferable in bigger water and rocks.

Unfortunately the cons of the Metalheads lie in the BOA lacing system. This may not be the smartest strategy, but I always buy my boots a size bigger to allow for an extra layer of socks for cold weather steelhead, salmon and winter stream trout. Sure I’ve got a little extra toe room in the summer months, but it’s never been an issue with any other boots until now. The BOA lacing system won’t tighten down my Metalheads as tight as I typically like. The stiff upper won’t allow the system to really cinch down around the ankle since it pulls evenly throughout the boot, and you can’t get enough leverage with the tiny dial to twist it any harder. I’ve previously had two broken ankles playing soccer and skateboarding, so a tight boot for me is the difference between injury and a pleasant day on the water. Not that anyone is asking, but since I design stuff everyday I can’t help but offer ideas as to how they can improve the application of the technology to wading boots, and Korkers is one of only handful of innovative manufacturers committed to rethinking this category of footwear. The flaw of a singular BOA system is that it doesn’t allow for independent tightening in different parts of the boot. Look at the evolution of ski and snowboard boots and bindings. Multiple independent closure devices allow for an individualized fit. I think there’s a reason why hockey skates still use old school laces. Tight skates, ski boots or snowboard bindings are a must for precise edge control, and wading boots also fall into this category. Perhaps a hybrid approach similar to these DC Snowboard boots with additional velcro closures or dual BOA systems for upper and lower would improve the fit? Possibly a BOA dial extender lever that allows you to get more leverage on the closure system for the ultimate fit? Who knows, but for now I’m forced to wander the Driftless with semi-tight boots, hoping I don’t sprain my ankle. My advice is to try the system before upgrading to any BOA boot. I’m sure there are many who would disagree with my findings and absolutely lover their BOA boots, because it is a convenient tightening mechanism. In retrospect I’d probably stick with laces.

 

 

Maybe I’m just a jaded urbanite, but my quick stop at the Cenex in Black Earth provided me a brief moment of reflection. Is the “No shirt, No shoes, No service” thing still as popular as it was in my youth? I just don’t see this stern warning as much as I used to.

 

 

I’d be willing to bet that “Mary Jane” is the most popular “girl” on the UW Madison campus, and clearly the hydrology of the Dane County loves “weed” as well. I tend to block out how much BEC trouting revolves around vegetation. Even the fast riffles are choked with weeds this time of year. Don’t get me wrong we have some weeds in our Western Wisconsin and Minnesota streams, but nothing like you see at BEC in June. Half the battle is finding sections that have good lanes that you can get a good drift through. I liken it to fishing in a bowling alley. The stream is divided up into tiny lanes that the fish sit in waiting to ambush your offering. It’s really quite similar to our milfoil infested lakes on my home turf. I’d love to hear how BEC locals strategize fishing the stuff? I’ve been only marginally successful fishing it as I picked up a few more unremarkable and unphotographed standard browns. The sun and heat were cranking up the weariness of the fish making a bad situation worse. I decided to bounce around to some different runs just to get a better survey of the stream. The best water I found was in and around Cross Plains. I’m not going to lie, every time I fish this area it make me appreciate what we have back home even more.

 

 

For some reason I forgot that On the Creek fly shop is located on the stream in Cross Plains. I have heard good things about the shop for years, but never remembered to stop by. By midday I was in a haze of heat exhaustion, sleep depravation and general fly fishing fatigue. As I was preparing to depart for home, I noticed the sign and popped in to get a look at the shop. Todd was there to greet me and chat about the status of the BEC fishery and plans for stream restoration in Cross Plains. You can tell by chatting with him that he’s a hell of a nice guy, who runs the shop the right way. He was more than happy to offer up advice, even though I was too brain dead to do any shopping for flies or other gear. In future outings I’ll definitely be in touch with those guys in advance for some local intell.

Another year, another medicore outing in Dane County, as the shadow of Ron Dayne continues to darken my doorstep. I’d be hard pressed to venture further west to the prime water that lies in the heart of the Driftless, as I’m already making the run from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to Black Earth Creek, but who knows, maybe next year things will be different.

There’s no doubt about it, the two things you’ll find in the Madison area are love for Ron Dayne and Mary Jane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Small Step for Man

Our erratic winter weather patterns continue. Normally it’s subzero snotsicles here in Minnesota, not today. An investigation of the freshly minted habitat improvement section of Hay Creek was in order with the opening of our winter C&R season. It’s almost blasphemy that I’ve never fished this stream over the last 15 years, as it’s one point of the Twin Cities “Bermuda Triangle” of trouting (along with the Rush and Kinni), but for some reason I’ve never been particularly interested in fishing it. This little creek has been ground zero of Twin Cities TU habitat improvemnt efforts over the last few years, the extent of which I wouldn’t comprehend until I walked it’s banks. I didn’t do exhaustive research before my departure other than a quick review of the arial maps compliments of our friends at google. This stream’s reputation proceeds itself, a high numbers small fish buffet line.

 

I can’t be certain that it hit 59 degrees today, but that’s the temp that the bank in Red Wing was showing so I’ll go with it. This is practically unchartered territory for early January. Typically I’d be sitting in my ice house starring at blips on my Vexilar struggling to stay warm and sane. Instead I find myself staring down at my legs wondering, “are my freshly patched waders leaking or is there an excessive sweat issue to contend with?” Thankfully it was sweat.

 

There’s a good reason why you won’t find me ice fishing the big pond right now. Take a look at this fascinating pic of Minnesota walleye mecca Mille Lacs from our good friend Paul Douglas. Does that ice look safe to you?

 

I knew based upon reviewing the maps that this section was a promising looking pasture stretch, what I underestimated was the freshness and extent of the HI work done by TU. It’s a sterile environment devoid of any cover, and the winter season only exacerbates the issue. You would be hard pressed to find any manor of natural wood or cover along this stream. Not a layown, shrub or tree for that matter. I’d imagine this is what fly fishing would be like if there was significant water on the moon.

 

 

After spooking a few fish with a small streamer I switched to a small nymph rig. No dice, the fish were extremely skittish and a stealth approach was in order. I decided to just walk the stream for awhile to get a better survey of what fish holding lies have been created. I soon concluded that midges and possibly BWOs were going. A trusty dry dropper rig was just what the doctor ordered with a tiny adams and emerger dropper.

 

Unfortunately for me these fish were temperamental and you rarely got more than one shot at a riser before putting them down. Slogging through the muddy moonscape on your knees was the only approach to get at these fish, otherwise it was game over. I don’t know who felt more exposed the trout or the angler?

 

 

 I only made it as far as this corner pool, which looked like it was freshly lined with tombstones and shipping pallets as the undercut. The number of anglers upstream (and my growing desire to move downstream to check out some of the natural water) forced me back to the truck. I hadn’t prepared very well for my new job as the “one man movie crew”. Clumsily, I hadn’t charged the battery on my GoPro all the way, and only compounded the problem by unknowingly leaving it filming several times which quickly drained it. I only captured the first part of my outing.

A quick run down past the campground to explore the wooded sections proved to be fruitful with more tiny browns to challenge. Honestly Hay Creek will not make it on to my go to places to fish, but how can you complain about warm weather and rising trout in January? I just hope the Minnesota DNR expands the stream list for the 2013 winter season to include more quality streams in the Driftless region.

Hay Creek: One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed

“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 system 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.

Trout Season 2011, We’ll Miss You

Fished for an hour or two late morning for brookies. The bite was decent and the water was low (big surprise) I got most of my fish on a large bead-head pheasant tail fishing under and indicator and a few on a small brown bugger. I have done very little nymphing under an indicator this season so I thought I’d give it a shot.

 

I call this shot “Headless Horseman” I got a lot of poor photos of this fish, he was squirming non-stop!

 

My plan was to spend the afternoon scouting some new water on Palisades Creek that I’d mapped out earlier this season for big browns, but hadn’t gotten a chance to explore. After finding some dead water on the sections I though might be good, I stumbled on to a small/tight stretch of water that held a few good fish and a few dinks. This water is definitely worthy of further investigation next season!

When trying to net the big fish of the day on a bugger, I took a step along the bank into one the “invisible” side channels or depressions that are buried under the weeds. It caused me to cartwheel head first into the stream. Managed to net the fish while swimming in the tiny stream. Instantly I realized that my waders were full of water. My iphone was only in my pocket and not in the waterproof case that I normally put it in. I jumped out and quickly reached in my pocket, which was filled with water, and rescued my phone. I think that’s why I got so many poor/blurry photos, my phone was still pretty damp and my brain was still spinning from the excitement of the catch and the subsequent dunk! It made for a very soggy afternoon. Unfortunately a visit to the Apple store was in order, these are the last shots from my trusty iphone R.I.P.

 

Tour de Pierce

School starts on Monday, so yesterday I decided I’d pile the youngsters in the car in search of trout and other trouble. I had been meaning to get deeper into Pierce county this summer, but hadn’t really made it.

Our first stop (not including Dairy Queen in Ellsworth) was a quick stop to pay our respects to the mighty Rush River. I’ve never really looked at the water right at Hwy 10. Not terribly deep or interesting but I worked the riffle just upstream with a PM with no success. I’ve always wondered what the deal is with the campground that is immediately upstream of 10? It seems to be well maintained, mowed, a porta-potty every 15 feet, fairly large, but no signage.

Jack was mostly interesting in finishing his ice cream cone, and his new best friend, Mr. Caterpillar.

 

I choose the American Legion Park in Plum City to camp. I’ve grown fond of these small rural parks. They don’t have all of the new, politically correct playground equipment, but are usually well maintained and this park is about 100 feet away from prime brookie water.

 

After we got our camp setup we went to take a look at the 10th fairway. (The freshly minted habitat improvement work on Plum Creek through town).

 

One of the challenges faced with a 4-year old and 7-year old is easy access, especially this time of year with tall weeds. I got more that I bargained for on this stretch. The fish hadn’t gotten the message yet, this plunge pool was nice, deep and devoid of fish. Worms, spinners, flies, nada!

 

Right next to the park is an awesome pasture section. Fairly easy going, and the cattle weren’t around. After a brief tour the fish continued to hit my dropper worm the fly rod, and a Panther Martin, but I quit taking photos after I inadvertently offered my camera lens cap to Plum Creek. The kids were growing bored, so we retreated to our campsite.

 

What brookies lack in size, they more than make up for in coloration.

 

We spent the prime dusk fishing time about 100 feet from the stream on the playground. Ahhh the sacrifices we make for our children! It was an unbelievable sunset.

 

The campfire, hot dogs and s’mores were enjoyed by all!

 

We woke up Saturday morning to light drizzle. Packed up our campsite and heading northward to Elmwood in search of breakfast. If you find yourself in Elmwood, Big Dick’s Bar and Grill serves up a mean breakfast! With our stomachs full we opted to pop in on a few spots on the Eau Galle and Cady Creek. The meadow sections of the Cady Creek easements looked to weedy for the kids so we went up to the wooded section. After some fishing the kids threw rocks and wet waded.

 

The kids played and dad made a few casts. Solid fish were found in surprisingly close proximity to the rock throwing contest.

 

A new tradition has emerged. Jack asks to go to the Lund’s Fishing/Hardware in River Falls. He tells Ava, “it’s awesome.” Not sure which he prefers, hardware or fishing gear? I like both.

 

 

Hot weather, ice cold trout

I Ran over to Plum Creek for some brookie fishing with Jack, my 4-year old son on Friday. Fished downstream near the water treatment plant. Upstream of this stretch were massive piles of rip rap for the yet to be “improved” section (sorry I forget to snap in pics). We pulled a few fish out of each of the first few holes on Panther Martin spinners. I didn’t get any pics of the fish because as we were setting up to shoot the first decent fish, Jack decided he didn’t want to hold the fish for pictures after it flipped out of his hands and scared him. After 45 minutes I heard the fateful words to end this chapter of our outing, Dad I’ve got to go poop! These are the normal issues that you deal with when taking a younger angler out, it was no big deal to us, it was still pretty hot out so we decided to go get ice cream and look at the trout pond in Plum City. If anyone is looking to camp streamside, there is camping available at American Legion Park just by the baseball field where you enter this pasture stretch.

 

We drove back to the Gas Lite Campground just south of Hwy 10 on the Trimbelle River. While it isn’t the most scenic spot just off of the highway it does provide good access to the stream for kid fishing.

The pool under the bridge is one of the better looking pools and we put our tent up about 50 feet from this promising looking spot.

 

It was just too hot out still so we opted to go back for a campfire and some dusk fishing back around the campground.

 

Picked up a few standard sized browns fishing 6-8am the next morning on PM’s.

 

Stopped by this easement section on the upper Trimbelle off of County Rd W, but looked too weedy for a 4-year old. It’s been on my to-do list for awhile and I’ll give it a shot at some point. I’m sure it rarely gets fished just like the rest of the Trimbelle. Twin cities anglers pass it up regularly for the superior water of the Rush 5 miles to the west.

 

We finished the trip at Lunds hardware to pick up a few PM’s and flies. I’m sure the spin guys will appreciate my son’s choice of spinners over flies, while standing in the fly aisle! The fishing wasn’t spectacular, but we didn’t care, we had a good trip nevertheless!

 

 

Touring the Heart of the Badger Beast

I Started the morning optimistically before dawn on a pasture section of Black Earth Creek with the fly rod. This was the first of many stops on my attempt to tour the streams of the greater Madison area on a half day outing. Threw a mouse just for fun in the dark until it was light enough to read the water, as I’d never fished this stretch before. I switched to a streamer and managed a number of hookups with no fish landed. The water was slightly muddy with the recent rains. I decided the night before that I was going to run and gun to cover a lot of water, so headed back towards the car to move on to the next stream.

 

To rub salt into my wound, on the way out I was harassed by a pair of red-winged blackbirds living in the small birdhouse on the right. I’ve never experienced this before. They continually swooped down a my head passing inches from my ears. This went on for 5 minutes until I had to stop casting and leave the spot I was fishing. I assume BEC local have to contend with this on a regular basis.

 

I stopped by the next stream determined to wipe the skunk away. This little stream has a bunch of fresh HI work done on it, and resembled chocolate milk. I wasn’t really planning to fish it, so I only fished for about 15 minutes. I proceeded in that short time to hook and lose 4-5 fish and decided to move on. This stream will be explored with greater detail on my next visit ro the area.

 

Upon arrival on the next chocolate milk colored stream I noticed I was being watched intently by this doe. I would find out why a short time later when a fawn the size of a golden retriever about knocked me over when I scared it. Kind of a cool experience!

 

I finished the day on the slightly to very muddy Mt Vernon and caught a few brookies, and missed many more on the fly rod. This was one of those outings where things just didn’t go well from a fishing standpoint, and the water conditions didn’t help. I probably landed 10% of the fish I hooked on PM’s and flies. I can’t complain though, Dane County is a nice area and it was good to be out!

 

A Winona State of Mind

We made the run down to the Winona area for the Memorial Day weekend, as my wife is a Winona State alum. The kids had a good time at Farmer’s Park on Garvin Brook.

 

Not a prime location from a hardcore fishing standpoint, but a solid choice for a picnic with the family and some fishing.

 

Here’s me trying to teach kids how to be stealth when approaching some rising trout.

 

Which eventually netted Ava’s first brown trout. Note the finger nail polish sort of matches the spots on the little brown! We also ran up to Pickwick Creek (I didn’t get any shots). I had planned to fish the pasture section above the mill, but ran out of time. Looking forward to my next visit to get a more serious crack at a few of the local streams!

 

 

Little Trout, Big Smiles

My 4-year old son Jack got his first brown trout in about 30 seconds on his first cast with a worm. I opted to start his inaugural trout outing on the golf course like ease of the big numbers, little average size Upper Kinni.

 

Hold on tight Jack! You’ll remember this one for awhile!

 

The reward for good behavior was the promise of pancakes for dinner in River Falls. I was somewhat surprised how successful of an outing this was for a 4-year old. Sometimes he’s done after 15 minutes when we go for panfish, today we got a solid 4 hours in. Wish the rain wouldn’t have rolled in because we had plans of camping, but there are no complaints from us!

Rush River = Hot Bite

 

I stopped by a few spots on the Trimbelle, but deemed it too muddy to fish yesterday. Then proceeded on to the Rush and fished 10-4

Caddis and BWOs were hatching when I arrived with noticeable risers in every stretch I encountered. Caddis were the ticket, I landed it 20 fish in relatively short order until they destroyed my dry. I retied on a giant stimulator pattern to see if they’d go for that and continued to catch fish.

After getting my fill of standard Rush browns to 13″ I switched to big streamers to search for some bigger fish. It didn’t work out for me, I only noticed one fish swing at my streamer, and no takers. I suppose midday 86 degree weather isn’t primetime to search for big fish, but I tried anyway.

While I didn’t seem to connect with any nicer browns, the icing on the cake was the brookie fishing. I caught a lot more than I normally do on the Rush, including a number of beautiful 9″-11″ fish. I ran a caddis larvae dropper off of my dry for awhile, when I noticed a few fish with mouths full of larvae.

It was one of those dry fly days were the number of fish you could catch was only limited by your time. I almost “one last casted” my way to being late for my kids baseball practice, and I’m a coach. I would have loved to fish the evening.