Monday, September 22, 2014

BWCA 2014 Fish Photos

Still can't decide if I'm pissed or not about the fact that people like fish photos more than they like interesting/meaning photos or text.  Roll a fish picture out there and everyone gasps and jabs the thumbs up.  Nice work!  Show somebody a cool image of a shadowy figure behind snapping firewood.  That really isn't much, it seems.  Even if the latter is substance/foundational and the former, considered individually, is a fleeting encounter.  The photos posted below are in the midst of on-going deliberation regarding the appropriateness of various communications; they are also invisibly captioned with words describing the fact that no matter how many fish or what size or shape or color I'm always bitter. 

9/1 18:15
Day we paddled in, set up camp.  We fished only the evening.  I waded out approx rib-cage-deep and put the halloween colored streamers out there.  Immediate thumps.  This was not first fish, but first notable fish.  I can't remember exact length but I think ~18 inches.  Standing in water, casting out into the interface between inflow and lake.  This would prove to be key.

9/1 18:44
SMB rarely look big in photos.  Maybe because they don't lend themselves well to good "holding" or good angles.  Mostly you just hold them out and take a picture.  There is no big head, no contour, no belly.  So looking at this fish (above, below, same bass), one might not think it exceptional.  But the truth is that a third party taped this fish for me, and the length was 20.0 - 20.25 inches.  Big fish of the trip came on day 1, first time touching water.  Black/orange half and half.  Throw it out, let it sink to bottom.  If line gives no indication of strike on descent, wait a few seconds; make sure it's on bottom; pick up.  Strikes came mostly on pickup.

9/2 7:08
Next morning, walked the shore to the exact same location, this time looking for topwater.  The weather obliged.  Calm; glass.  Blockhead popper.  I think this first fish maybe 17 inches.  A key here being the pause.  Strip hard; pause.  Watch.  This does make for good drama.  I would say the pinnacle of bass finishing in the world (speaking to the method).

Next cast, 18 inch fish to hand.  This was noted by a canoe full of dudes.  At the time I felt they began to crowd me.  Looking back, it may have been bitterness clouding my perception.  They did hear me yell and swear and float curse words on that glassy surface; this may have held their attention.

Afternoon of day 1.  Afternoons on our main lake are not prime fishing.  The sun comes over the tree tops and the rays strike the water.  Head back to camp for breakfast; then do as you please in the way of trolling for pike, walking back to satellite lakes, napping, eating, reading.  Here, we walked back to a favorite shallow bay on another lake.  I think this fish was all of 18" long.  We struggled to catch a few smaller bass 12-14" range to eat (not many walleyes to hand, so we ate one meal of bass).  This bay drops off nicely; deal here is to cast a streamer as far as you can...  let it sink; pick up and retrieve.
This fish notable because I told my buddy here to "go left" when we got to the bay.  Always full of fish; usually 1-2 in the 15-16" range and a bunch of smaller SMB.  I wanted him to get a lot of action while I probed deeper with a heavy streamer.  Here he poses with a 19" SMB; the biggest I've seen come out of the shallow water segment.  Nice work.

Many fish like this: what one might call a nice fish, depending on frame of reference.  I think this measured by hand withs ~15 inches.
9/3 6:56
Decided to go it canoe, with my brother.  This painted up fish came to hand via popper.  I think maybe 17 inches.  Beauty.  While I was connected, my brother found a way to one-up: 19 incher below.

9/3 6:56
Nice dimension top to bottom.

9/3 7:13
Around fifteen minutes later, this fish ate a popper.  Maybe an inch bigger than previous, although pictures do not say as much.

9/3 7:13
Yet another double, and another one-upping.  This fish, with tail pinched, hit the 20 inch mark.  Will say again, they don't photograph well, light is bad, and we are confined to canoe seats.
Memorable doubles; great fish all around.

9/3 18:46
Fish  miscellany from the evening of day three.  Nice dorsal.  He lit it up pretty good that night; I caught a lot of fish but they were all small.  I really like the bronze and the markings on this fish.  Nice background too.

Not too many pike to hand.  Maybe half a dozen for the group.  For me, exactly two.  One on a popper.  One trolling this big feather wad streamer.  Did have another roll on a popper and simply shear it off on contact.  And another sheared a streamer.  No big pike at all for anyone.  I did put in maybe 3-4 hours trolling too; ineffective.

That's about it and there are some important notes: (1) No fish pics of my dad, which isn't right; we were rarely fishing in close vicinity; he caught a lot of fish, (2) stopped taking pictures after a while, (3) the last evening I got 100% stoned; fished fairly hard for two hours and got zero strikes; I believe this had to do with an east wind that came through shutting mouths; (3) last morning (morning of departure) we didn't even fish; there was not a drive to do so; it was exceptionally windy and I suppose we figured we'd done what we came to do; so rather pack up and get to the paddle strokes; against the wind.

Friday, September 12, 2014

BWCA 2014

Right around 14,146 days.  From what I have heard, first couple nights were spent in my grandparents' home on Hill Lake.  Near Aitkin/Itasca county line.  Within 120 yards of fish holding steady under ice.  I think there were shelves of National Geographic magazines and a swordfish mounted over a smooth rock fireplace and a pheasant on one wall.  I woke every few hours wanting dry blankets and fire and comfort.  

That day to this one the number is 0.5% which is not negligible.  It is not de minimis.  Meaning I didn't make one foray and then tell stories about it to everyone I know.  Half a percent of a life; that is the number.  We've been paddling for a while.  My dad, probably twice what I've logged.  It's not a novelty; it's a tradition we are fortunate to have kept.  That means there isn't necessarily new material; revelations, exclamations to report.  The lake is the same; the rock is the same.  The fish win a lot; we win some.  The clouds and the stars still define the sky and yield to no false illuminations.  We've caught thousands of fish; any number of methods, any number of species, sizes.  

There are some fish pictures to post subsequent to the following images, which represent an effort to capture some of the details of the paddling and our camp; some of our gear, etc.

At the time of purchase, the Paul Bunyan was the largest Duluth Pack made.  From the storefront I think you can see Lake Superior.

Some places you can visit twenty times for five minutes per; maybe couple hours of your life at most. And yet memorize more completely than the roads you walk every day.  I think we boys first came to this portage in 1985 or 1986.  There have always been logs there at the top of the outflow.  

Camped on our "main lake."  We now have a couple tents that stand up very well to the rain.  The tent in the foreground is owned by father-in-law; long-term caretaking by me.  It is a Marmot Limelight; I would recommend this tent to anyone including Chong Li or JC Van Damme.  Good features and good rain fly.  No moisture got in, despite rain every day.  Can't see buying a tent at this point in time that does not have a fly that goes down to approx ground level.  

Every day.  But not all day.  One soaking rain; others just spittings.  My brother and I were fishing a 20x5 foot rock island when a squall came across the lake.  We heard it.  Then saw it.  Then felt it.  Then it was gone.  

Minestrone.  First night.  One of the warmest, best meals I've had in a while.
First morning.  Don't eat breakfast before fishing.  No canoe.  Wading.

Appreciate the process of getting wet and then drying out.  The sun and wind will dry your gear.  The middle of the day to be used for drying, resting, conversation, relaxed fishing as appropriate.  I got wet every morning (externally and also due to leaky waders, which I accept), and dried out each afternoon.  

We talked a while with some wolf trappers.


Wolf set.

Favorite lake.

We did have glassy nights.  Good fishing.  Easy paddling and wading.

Camp Director.

One afternoon paddled solo with both rods; mostly trolling big streamers.

Typical fly rotation.

There is a beer keg in there.

View from camp looking N/NE.

3/4.  My brother left a day early and I didn't get a picture of all four of us.  He shows plenty in fish pictures though.

Paddling out solo.  Turn canoe around and sit in front seat.  Weigh down as needed.  This turned to whitecaps but it was manageable.  

Veteran sternsman; ancient rock face.

Plenty of fish; pics in next post.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Nymphing: oft-maligned, misunderstood mode that when applied in even a decent fashion brings innumerable trout to one's hand.  This time of year - no prolific hatches, fewer anglers and many of those few looking to fish terrestrial patterns and/or thinking ahead to tricos...    one can walk alone on a SE MN trout stream, going ankles to balls deep wet-wading and catch a lot of fish.  Good number of big fish.  One can fish early - be home by 830 AM.  I find this to be very desirable and very practically manageable.

In the context of these two recent short outings, I would offer these statements:

  • Had I fished a dry fly attractor or a hopper I would have caught many fewer fish, and probably no big fish.  It is very likely I would not have filled my creel with fish that met the various criteria.  It does not follow that I would have had a poor or necessarily unfulfilling outing, but I think that, given my goals, I would have had an unfulfilling outing.
  • Had I simply fished a nymph under an indicator - a static rig - I would have caught some fish, maybe a big one; maybe a creel full but the numbers would have been down.
  • The outings were highlighted by reading water and patiently exploring.  I remember in ~2002 one guy said to me "you just gotta keep moving that indicator to get them sonsabiches."  Fishing alone, standing and looking, peering in and then going in with nymph flies; pretty much any in the box.  This is actually a middle ground between sight fishing and blind fishing.  I think of the former as spotting fish and approaching; the latter as fan casting or probing likely water.  One might describe nymphing as probing likely water.  But I'd argue that in some modes it is sighting the water that holds fish; sighting water for which it is a known fact that fish are held there (and thus sighting the fish) and approaching.
  • The fish that were killed all had empty stomachs except one RBT that had a gut full of periphyton.  I don't remember seeing that; it was remarkable to me.  
  • Never did walk the bank one time for one second.  Always in the water; staying cool, out of the head-high vegetation and all it has to offer.  My approximation is that being in the water reduced my fish count by 0%.  
  • Fish are in deep holes; in the bellies and tucked right up to the plunge lip.  You can envision this and see why they are good lays; good places for fish to feel safe. Don't fish dead water; another good analytical that I read a long time ago.  At first read one might pass right over it, as understood and implemented.  But it is not so, I think.  I take it to mean plan to actively examine water and purposefully not fish it because the various ratios that describe time, effort, difficulty, probable size of fish present, etc. confirm that it ought to be skipped.  Not just enough to say "yeah I know, don't fish dead water."  For an angler with limited time on the stream, a love for seams and a need for good protein there must be an active approach to deleting water from the day's exploration.  This can be cast aside in situations that allow casual perusing; for example a day-trip car-drop deal with Surly.

Outing number one:

Death is part of it.  Light dying and rising again.  That RBT was hiding in this side-channel; no cast was afforded due to canopy.  With only tippet out of the guides, the rig was set above the lip of the pool.  The indicator showed some not-understood irregularity in its path.  Which confirmed for me that a fish had grasped one of the flies and was hanging onto it with its jaws.  That was the information I needed.

A nice triangle of gray water.  Drift the red line and then mend or delay such that the rig lingers.  One big fish came of there.

Found this lamprey laying still on the streambed; appeared to be dead.  But on further exam, it was in fact moving; just moving.

Lead nymph, trout, trailer.

Absolute destruction hole.  So full of fish I walked away from it; left the stream.  Down deep, twitch, take.

Last fish of the day; the short-mouth.

Outing number two:

First fish of the day, taped at 16 inches even.  

Few fish later I saw this and it struck me as maybe more telling and/or important than would be images of any of the 12" fish that were cut open.  For this proten gathering there is blood right on one's own hands.

On this day the trout were juiced; all fought hard; seemed to me to be exceptionally hard.  I've wondered if it was in fact the case; will never know.  Wondered if it was some combination of weather, pressure, time of day and feeding situation.  The 2 wt was moderately challenged.

Wet wading; just stay in the stream.  Leave this note on your dashboard: FYI, I am going upstream and I will surely walk back downstream in the water so as to avoid the vegetation; good luck to you in all your affairs from here on out.

I don't know the exact length of this fish but it was noticeably bigger than the 16" I taped.  It doesn't look huge in either of these pics.

Two big fish left me with good memories only.  First one was from the next hole down from this picture; it was holding in a bubble trail flowing out of the main pool.  It was a big log of a BNT.  On hooking, it leapt maybe 4-5 feet and when it hit the water a big bass note resonated.  Then it did it again and left the same bass note.  I was very much engaged.  It's unclear to me exactly what happened but in pretty short order the fish came unpinned.  The second was in the hole pictured here.  I hooked a fish deep, felt it, and then it seemed to stop.  Pressure on the rod suggested maybe the trailing fly had snagged on woody debris.  Some uncounted seconds later my rod was pulled out almost flat in front of me and then it thrubbed about 5-6 times as the fish ran across and up that pool and simply shattered the tippet.  Uncontrollable.  Unseen.  But understood and appreciated.  2/4 on big fish, not bad.  And I believe that all four ate the big lead nymph.

Some fish to eat.  I underestimated the size of the fish in the foreground.  In fact my hand-span method regulary underestimates trout size (likely story, I know). 

Decided to fillet instead of cook whole.  Family likes this better because the eating is easier.

Pesto crust; credit my wife.

Broc from a friend, with pine nuts and shaved parmesan cheese, olive oil.  We were not wanting for anything else.