Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Break 2017 Chapter I

Some explanation as to why we stayed in a camper cabin instead of a tent: last year for spring break recall we had sustained 20 mph winds with gusts up to 40 mph for a few days straight.  Cold weather; high flows; all around tough go of it.  As such, during my planning process I deliberated the plus/minus of various approaches including but not limited to (1) setting up a tent and (2) renting a cabin at the same park.  My end figuring was that if the fishing were bad, the cabin would provide some novelty that could salvage the trip.  That turned out to be the case.  And now the one-way clicker has moved forward and the boys really wanted another round at the cabin.  Something like $60 per night as compared to $20 (maybe $15 for winter) for a campsite.  Thinking back on 2015 we would have been pretty miserable in the tent.  Proved to be the case for only one day in 2016 but we've warmed up to this deal as following captions will indicate.

Local spring break is not a bad deal.  If it were earlier in the year maybe we'd head out somewhere: abroad or warm or whatever.  But April in SE MN is a pretty special time.  Keys being (1) snow is typically gone or going, (2) temperatures are often moderate, (3) you can get a lot of sun, (4) fish are active and bugs are around.  The late March and early April weekends that are before harvest opener are ideal fishing times.  Overall goal is making and storing positive memories for kids.

Five days four nights and we wanted to maximize hours of all five days.  They let us check in early; 1 PM on Friday March 31.  We used that first day to set up, tie some flies and get ready for a guest DF who would arrive late that night.  This fly here is meant to be a generic soft hackle; twist on JM's Wilted Spinach.  Thinking about BWOs that were around.

Built by the boys.

Saturday - we paired up and DF and Kid II fished.  They are pals; a good match.  DF was generous in bringing good beer and taking us out to eat Saturday night; we watched some of the UNC game.

I fished with Kid I; mainly giving him instruction and being frustrated that he was in a foul mood and somewhat distracted.  It was pretty hot.  I didn't bring enough water.  And when there are multiple adults around sometimes kids get a little shifty.  In the end he didn't fish very much at all; only managed this solid BNT nymphing  a deep hole.  Redemption later for both kids; this day was mainly about making sure the SODAK visitor got good opps and many fish to hand, which he did.  Nymphs, streamers, dries it was all working.

Marginal activity that may have been against the rules but I was so happy to see the boys having fun together I decided I would happily provide explanation to any concerned party should the need arise.  It never did.  These are the wagons that campers use to carry gear from the parking lot to the cabins.  The terminal velocity going downhill is not great, and we made them steer away from the cars toward the dumpster.  Worked well.

After burning out on Saturday kids didn't want to fish on Sunday.  They wanted to hang around cabin; work the cart, build, carve, etc.  I walked out with DF just to get him going; we parted after just a few minutes and I fished my way back downstream.  Decided to throw a streamer and drink a beer in the morning hours.

Got half a dozen fish out of good water here and there and then went back to cabin.  Kids had been alone maybe 1.5 hours.  All good.  DF's report was positive: I think he said one of the better trout fishing days he's logged.

Gear review on the Biolite stove: nice to have around.  It burns organic matter e.g. wood, cardboard etc. as would any camp fire.  Only the rechargeable fan creates a whirlwind that gets the heat ripping in that can.  We popped corn on it, boiled water a few times.  I would say it's too big for backpack and too small for a big camp breakfast.  But good for intermediate jobs.  The main thing I like about it is that given it doesn't require compressed fuel canister, you can fire it up and walk away, leaving the coals smoldering, knowing you can get it going again pretty easily.  Don't have to shut it "off" via valve closure.  $125 but this is the second-newest model so it was 50% off.  In theory you could bring this into the woods and never run out of fuel. The thermocouple takes heat energy and recharges the battery for the fan.

Kids got into blackjack.  Kid II noted on most hands that he was "under so much pressure."  Pretty fun.  Good learning too, re strategy and counting.

I dig pics like this one that indicate the various components of a good camp.  All just laying about awaiting use or resting from recent workout.  Mostly metal and wood items.

Noticed that the state parks have really started deleting the bigger slabs from the wood bundles.  Or maybe it's just this one; or maybe just this load.  Mostly 1-3 inch pieces.  Does this suggest that folks are now more enamored with flaming out than enduring fire.

Tied a streamer that would later be a key addition to box.

Years ago we did scratch pancakes; did those for many camps.  More recently been making oatmeal for a couple mornings and then something like this for the big breakfast.
My preference is salted meat and black coffee.  An ideal pairing.  This is from a pig that lived in Kellogg MN.  Friend killed it and cut up in his garage; sold us quite a weight of meat.

Deal I made with the kids was that we could take Sunday off if we fished Monday.  Woke up and found rain; continued into the morning.  I didn't know forecast as we had no connection to outside world and almost no people around. I reworked the deal.  Sat down and hand wrote a letter to whom it might concern should a situation arise: the older boy is babysitter age; we have paid kids younger than him to watch both boys.  My name is XYZ; my wife is XYZ if you find this letter just know I thought this through and we talked about it; etc.  It  may have been more for the kids than any probable situation.  I wanted to pound out some fish and they wanted to be cozy in a warm cabin talking and playing cards, etc.  We could make it all happen for everyone.  So I jumped out and they were alone from about 10 AM to 1 PM.  

Hard rain blows out streams but moderate rain on the day of fishing is a death sentence for trout.  Angler is afforded visual and audio camoflauge.  Just death all around for everyone.

Everything that touched the water was destroyed by a trout.  Even a couple nice brookies that were not photographed.

Many fish in the 11-14" range, which was outstanding.

This is a silly good tailout of a plunge that flows over rocks as depicted in image.  Gray water on head sized and larger rocks.  Some depth; good flow.  Nice formula.  Brown trout were laying up all over in there.  I stood for quite a while drifting all lanes.  

This is a dumpier more obtuse version of the big hares ears I was fishing.  They wanted the big nymphs.  More than just a tool fly.

And all the while, fishing in rain, pounding away at the trout...   I had a mix of moderate worry about the boys, and nice comfort in knowing that I would come "home" to a warm cabin and solid fare as pictured.  The more it rained, the safer I figured the kids would be: they wouldn't venture out much to the yard of knives, fire, carts, etc.  More likely stay buttoned up and listen to the rain on roof.  That was about right.

I did rally them for a a pretty long walk later in the afternoon.

Last day: Tuesday.  AM hours were packing and cleaning.  Campers are asked to do their part as they check out: wipe everything down, sweep, empty trash, etc.  Last thing we did was wader up in prep for the afternoon on stream.

I never made a drift this day; finally had both kids out in good weather, ideal stream conditions.  Older boy was first and he  had to work maybe 40 minutes to get that first fish to hand but from there it was fairly steady action.  Younger guy pictured above hooked up shortly after his brother.

Trying to figure out if maybe I've caught enough trout.  Could be the case.  Still like it, but it's not close to watching the kids catch them.  Main thing is knowing the trout are there and being able to see them without seeing them.  That is enjoyable.  I know I like looking at water, knowing a fish is there, and then catching or even just moving the fish.  I probably say this a dozen times per outing "I knew you were in there you little b*tch."  But I'm not sure I need to go out and catch a big load of trout just to do it.  I like the places and the rivers; I like eating trout; seeing brook trout; seeing some big fish.  But if we are just talking catching 20-30 browns and releasing them all, I'd rather put the kids in the fishing school and have them do it.  So this picture means a lot.  That same fish photographed with me grinning: kind of cool sometimes but not close to this, in my opinion.  

A favorite pic.  He is learning to read water and is making pretty good drifts.  I have watched this video many times and have concluded that he discerned something at the drift's end and deliberately set the hook; it wasn't a cheap "swing" hookup.  At one hole I wanted to move on because I thought the drift was too tough for him.  A difficult angle for the roll cast.  He insisted on staying.  Eventually hooked the fish.  It came off after a couple seconds but the value of the incident stood.  

This is the fish landed in the video.  Nice mouth.

They got on well.  I never helped either of them do anything other than net fish.  And holler constant advice some of which was accepted.

Sweet fish for Kid II.

Five days just about right.  Ready to head home.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thinking Back on Alaska Day Four

Had this video sitting on my computer.  Posted it tonight.  That episode was what I'd call a little bit fun.  After beating on those fish with streamers, we moved to poppers for something to do.  Unreal.  I still think about this trip probably daily.

32 inches long, 17 inch girth on popper.

Postcard if there ever was one.

Friday, March 24, 2017

$100 fish and Indices of Biological Integrity

Some time ago I told The Kid that I'd give him $100 after he caught his 50th trout on the fly.  Without any physical assistance from me beyond netting.  This may be somewhat atypical and thus deserves some notes in explanation; some notes on what the $100 moved forward in terms of time spent, skills developed, goals accomplished, etc.  
  • Nymphing skills went from rudimentary to pretty good.  Line control in roll casts and flips in my estimation is above average for his age although my sample size is limited and I'm supplementing it with "what I figure" which is allowable. 
  • Hooking fish is very high percentage.
  • Playing fish is probably average; he still loses some, especially given fishing with 2 wt Sage.
  • Reading water is getting better; he knows that foam is home; he still asks me too often where to cast and drift.
  • Patience is better: he got blanked once and unlike ~1 year ago (there were some tirades), this time he said "that just makes up for some of the times we've caught a lot of fish."  To me that is gold.
  • Key gain though is the miles logged on streams; all of which were with me, most of which were with his brother; some of which were with friends.  All the memories logged.  He said the other day regarding a carp outing some years back; direct quote: "let's talk about some of the memories of that day we caught all those giant carp."  Pure gold and platinum for me.  What I am after.  $100, $1000 bargain however I look at it.  $100 just a small incentive for a kid; kids sometimes need nudges to get through transitions at various scales including but not limited to leaving the comfort of home, striking out in the winter, gearing up and addressing some water.  The successes are great for kids.  The incentives can just prompt; make them happen. 
At a most basic level it came down to this: I thought of the forgettable $100 things I've done in the past; that many do regularly.  The monthly bills that are $100 or more for things we don't even need.  In that context this was a pretty straight-forward deal.  This week I had occasion to listen to the song Thunderstruck while working out.  There were various kids around.  I asked them if they knew the song.  One said "No, but I know the remix that they used in the Macy's One Day sale commercial."  I was silent and unsure how to respond but I layer that on here as another reason to give your kid $100 to catch 50 trout nymphing.

Said he wanted two $50 notes but when I palmed the five $20s he didn't really hesitate to accept.

Looking kind of old.

Around mid-February we were out looking for sheds; finding none.  Collecting deer stands and poking around beds, trails, etc.  Trying to understand things which is the never-ending task that will never be fully accomplished. This property is private and has not been fished in 2-3 years.  As my kids would note that is not a fact because it's not supported by evidence; rather it's a statement of strong probability based on our best knowledge and data.

We put the LOD in one giant swimming pool hole.  What would be called marginal water at best up and downstream.  Vertical banks.  Low IBI meaning not the traditional coldwater biota.  A special and interesting place but not one for postcards.  Second cast a trout rolled on the streamer as I was picking it up up up there at the end of the retrieve.  That fish was hanging in the hydro cushion just to the side of the plunge.  Never mind that one. Next cast out into the main pool, counting down to bottom.  Telling kid to watch the line tip which will indicate when streamer has stopped sinking and is thus on the bottom.  Pick it up and twitch it back.  Another fish came and we watched it eat the streamer from below.  A female of great proportion; atlantic-salmon bright I thought, with depth.  Very healthy and all fins in perfect condition.  Seemingly the case that she is living in this pool with little or no disturbance, eating the warmwater forage fish that are mixed in there (we caught three creek chubs 4-6" each).  We put my grandma's old cloth sewing tape on her.  I don't like it because I think measuring on rod and with handspans is faster and better but we aim to please.  The measurement was 19.25" which was in agreement with estimate based on rod.  The Kid took the rod and commenced to practice more of a casting stroke (as opposed to flipping and rolling).  Coming along pretty well.   He put the streamer where he wanted it to be.  He never did get a big one out of there and that disappointed him.  We moved down and caught maybe half a dozen nice fish 10-15 inches out of broken runs; swinging downstream in every case.  Casual approach as this wasn't even a fishing day.

Nice fins.

The troutiest water does not often beget the biggest trout.  This figure from Wisconsin shows scatter plot of coldwater IBI or "fish score" vs mean brown trout length.  Although there is significant variability in the dataset, generally speaking as the score gets higher the mean size goes down.  No rules out there but this is surely a general relationship that has been observed by many.  Most IBIs do not consider fish size.  It would be too much work and too stressful on the fish to measure every specimen captured while shocking. Here is a quote from the paper along with the citation: "‚Ķresults suggest that the growth, condition, and mean length of sport fish will not always increase if conditions improve to nearly pristine levels.    Griffin & Fayram, WDNR, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 2007"

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Before the snow melted into rivulets and went along the gutter into grated transport systems 

I decided it would not be a bad idea to go looking at some big fish water.  And the snowshoes were neutral meaning they were neither needed nor any sort of encumbrance or otherwise an issue.  The bindings are leather and midway through the walk I had to pause to tighten them.  If nothing else the dust was abraded from the wood frames and tight buckskin webbing by the snow crystals and I think they feel better now having had some good use in recent times.  
Walked to the fence.  And from what I know and understand to tread further would be a risk in that the overseer is known to ask one to leave.  The fence marks the spot; just stop there and turn around is the word as I know it.

The big fish.  Like some sort of obligation set out there.  Guys catch them and they don't have to do shit else in the world of angling and they are writing articles and posting themselves as famous in the Midwest.  I never have felt this drive.  I can't figure what's left to be gained.  Can't eat them.  And we know where they are now.  And we know where these guys are fishing.  And we know what it takes to get them ranging from a glob of nightcrawlers fished downstream under logpiles to a well-place streamer.  Whatever man.   They are there, we know.  They have giant kypes and they eat flies.  Single guys with a lot of time not interested in protein can dedicate a lot of time to the fishing of said quarry.  

Fact is that I am constrained by time and thus I have to fish some winter mornings.  On this winter morning there was a great south wind pushing crystals of ice along the snow crust and a great grayness was settled over the land.  I was in it and I knew that I wouldn't move any fish.  Some might say that is the mark.  I just took it as a walk to the end; a walk back, nodding to the deer on the blufftop who were snorting at me.  You fix what you can fix and you let the rest go. If there ain't nothin to be done about it it aint even a problem. It's just a aggravation.  - Ed Tom Bell.

Afternoon right by home I stopped at some regular water and moved a bunch of fish; caught almost all of them.  Fishing that same big streamer but failing to get any fish greater than maybe 13 inches.  Despite working woody debris.  Etc. etc.  Not much to do about it.  Was getting deep.  
Well-proportioned fish in the great design; spots all right and fins perfectly intact.

Probably ten stocker bows.  Wanted to bash in their skulls and take them home for food but it wasn't to be.