Thursday, April 17, 2014

Catch and Keep Opener 2014

Lost one creel and broke the strap on another; the latter being one that I bought at a garage sale for $1.  Mint condition wicker basket.  Strap broke due to excessive fish weight last April.  Never fixed it.  Will be on my list forever.  That's how things go for me.  So in the foreground here is my great uncle's old creel.  Given to me just months ago after sitting in the old family house for years.  I value it; honor it on this day by showing it a new water.  

Was nervous starting out; paranoid that someone would jump in ahead of me.  Despite fact that I drove on a road that required 4WD and care to not use brakes and then crossed an extensive field up top and then climbed down a steep valley wall, I was still worried about running into someone.  So given that, I moved too quickly through good water, so as to get up to a point at which I knew no one could jump me.  The result being that I pulled 0-1 fish out per hole, instead of 3-5 fish per good water like this beauty corner.  I have hooked and landed two BNT at once, twice standing in this exact foothole.  Main river was just a bit turbid (15-18 inches clarity I think), which made for great streamer offerings.

Nice layer cake.  You wouldn't know it walking in the woods.  Part of our character.

Love triangle.

Bedrock control.

This deep green water.  Begging for streamers.  Cast.  Stare at streambed for about ten seconds.  Retrieve.  Let that damn thing get down there.  Picture it kicking little silt plumes.

Probably about 15-17 fish to hand fishing 10 AM to 1 PM.  Of which five were selected for harvest.  This one was the sole photo, due not to size, but to spots.

Season of stomach content examinations.

God grant us the wisdom to keep this place roadless and forever free of the touch of man's heavy machinery.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Last of C&R 2014

The thin line that holds us
here of water and riffles and deep
green depths, together in the dark
drinking in our better self
and gazing at the stars like failures
or like kings: take your pick.

- from Fishing Friends, one poem of many in new book, The Initiation of Praise by L. Gavin

Thinking about camping with kids and then weather comes up; go anyway.  Only minor challenge was setting  up the tent so it'd stay dry; we used some innovation for that; worked pretty well.  We were the second tent pitched on this ground in the calendar year 2014.  Lots of steam coming off in this picture.  We had just come awake around 22 F.  Things warming up though.

We walked down the sideslope right into fish.  River in great shape.   We didn't fish really hard; trout came when we did look though.  This is the last photo of a fish caught by me in the C&R season in 2014.  We found a deep slot and casts of a streamer quartering up and across and stripped back drew strikes.  We clocked this fish right around 14".

This guy has caught many fish but until this day he hadn't logged any stream trout in MN.  Here he works his way up in good sun; no people in sight.  Working up the valley.

Mostly we left kids alone; to their own adventures.  But they did ask to fish.  This gal can cast a fly line; she can get the fly where it needs to be.

Most every rock is a record of past ocean life.

Gamer.  Overtops his boots within five minutes every time but does not complain.

First fish for DF.  He worked up to the head of a nice configuration and flipped a tandem nymph rig up above the drop point; where the blond streambed gave way to gray.  The fish were there unseen although we could sense their noses pointed forward.  Maybe first cast he hooked this one.  Then more.  High sticking; looking good.  Rod bowed as it was meant to be. 
Next day the main river was too turbid; some of that snow had gotten in there carrying various other constituents.  We fished a smaller trib for just a short time; it was in fine condition.  Here is first streamer fish for DF.

Deep water at river right.  Good number of fish in there. 
Including suckers.

Had a little trouble with mud; nothing too bad though.  Managed it well with special rigging of tent rugs at each door.  Nice outing; kids are tough.  No one got cold; no one felt cold in bones at night even as coyotes yipped all hours.  We listened to barred owls over beer and then even over coffee.

Red dots denote arrival and departure.  Closest continuous temp I know of is in Rochester.  Probably pretty comparable.  That second night was noticeably warmer;  these data corroborate.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Last paragraph of The Road by C. McCarthy

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

Blood Meridian excerpt by C. McCarthy

I seen Studebaker wagons with six and eight ox teams headed out for the grounds not haulin a thing but lead. Just pure galena. Tons of it. On this ground alone between the Arkansas River and the Concho there was eight million carcasses for that’s how many hides reached the railhead. Two year ago we pulled out from Griffin for a last hunt. We ransacked the country. Six weeks. Finally found a herd of eight animals and we killed them and come in. They’re gone. Ever one of them that God ever made is gone as if they’d never been at all. 

The ragged sparks blew down the wind. The prairie about them lay silent. Beyond the fire it was cold and the night was clear and the stars were falling. The old hunter pulled his blanket about him. 

I wonder if there’s other worlds like this, he said. Or if this is the only one.

- An Old Buffalo Hunter

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Last Winter Outing 2014

If you are prepared to fish and at the precipice of doing so but something (water conditions, air temp, illness, guilt) is tugging you away, push through and at least give it a go.  At worst try something highly mobile and walk the stream for a while.  There is a written history that is wide in scope that documents successes that have come of such resolutions.  I was recently tested on this matter, finding stained and moderately turbid water, strong winds and cold air temps.  I did not feel obligated to fish.  The concept of sunken costs was in play and consideration was given to the fact that one is currently banned from cracking fish skulls.  I was arguing with myself somewhat – should fish, but not obligated to fish, what is there to prove here, what is to be done, could you use your time better.  I worked an iterative path upstream, looking in.  Approx same conditions maybe slightly better, such was the input from me to myself.  In the end I decided that self-abuse can indeed be a good thing (see previous posts) and there is good calm to be had on the far side of invigoration, even if it is mildly painful invigoration.  I strapped on my hand warmer and walked downstream maybe fifteen minutes.  Paused to look at some bare rib cages through which the snow was blowing.  Walked through the oaks.  Crossed some moderate gullies.  Stopped and lined up a 4 wt fly rod.  I was looking for fewer knots, less hassle (good nymphing requires snagging) and increased probability of big fish, so I tied on a streamer.  LOD to be exact.  I’ve heard recently that some hate the idea of taking a fly pattern, altering it, and renaming it.  This is a good topic; it merits some discussion.  But in the end I think that line of thinking would essentially lead one to conclude that there can be no new fly patterns.  And I prefer to conclude otherwise so I work back from that and arrive with moderate confidence at the suggestion that one can indeed personalize fly patterns and name them.  So it was the LOD and not a DB eye rust-colored bugger with peacock herl shellback.  My basic thought was to crank it up and across, trying various retrieves, looking for quick hitting trout that would ground me a bit and then allow me to disembark my vessel my own two legs.  Go home and lay up out of the wind.  It was afterall howling, right up the valley at my face right into my casting plane, generally pushing the fly line to my right.  This was not a safety issue then, not the dreaded righthand wind, there would be no hooks in scalps, but it required compensation.  Not long into this deal and I felt pretty good casting at one bank and having the line fall in the middle of the flow. 

At some point there may be described an optimal technique for fishing these streams.  It is somewhat dependent on one’s goals (most fish, eating fish, big fish, dry fly visuals, degree of difficulty, purism, etc.).  But it’s possible that there exists an all-encompassing approach that could hit on all facets in a centrist fashion.  No one can speak to it at this point as far as I know.  Way back, probably around year 2001 I tried fishing a generalist “symph” pattern – hybrid streamer and nymph.  This was because at that time I was fishing one stream in particular with low trout density and relatively large fish.  The advice I got from a guy who knows this land and has discovered trout in streams was to find fish with a streamer and if they don’t connect, dead drift a big nymph through there.  We did this with some success.  I tried that symph pattern because I thought I could strip it back and then without changing flies, dead drift it.  Worked okay.  I’m interested in the same thing going forward, only upping the fly size a bit.  Using a pattern that one can quarter up and across, strip back.  Swing downstream (although this has generally fallen into disfavor in my camp).  Drop in holes and twitch through.  Dead drift.  Even put under an indicator. Maybe give this a trial, see what happens. 

On this day there were two hours allotted.  Noon to 2 PM.  Two hours of wind.  A low casting plane was good.  Still some errant casts that fouled things.  The only words I said aloud were instances of muttering “errant cast.”  First fish hooked was in the tail of a pool, it came off after a few seconds.  It flashed and I think it was a BKT.   I worked a series of holes in this fashion: stripping through the tails, and then dead drifting the faster water up at the head of the pool.  Taking care to drop and let sink in any deep looking slots, then twitch back and/or raise slowly.  Of ten hookups, eight fish came to hand.  Five were nice browns in the 10-12” range.  Fish four and five were markedly large: 18” female followed by 19.5” male (not from same hole; while there were no fish caught between them, there were steps in the snow).  My measuring technique is to use my hand span.  Which is pretty much right on nine inches.  The female was pretty precisely two hand spans.  The male, I gave two hand spans and estimated the remainder to be a strong 1.5”.  It is possible but not probable that the fish was 20” but I can’t conclude that and best evidence says strong 19-19.5” fish.  Last fish of the day was a brook trout.  And now I remember that I did say other words aloud because when I saw the white fin edges I made an exclamation of sorts in happiness.

First fish of the day; appreciate those colors.

A big female.  Look at that short mouth.

And the marabou tail of the LOD in the current.

A few quick pics, going from body, zooming in to head shot, then this release.  Pretty much all the while in the water.

Even bigger male fish; what a deep mouth.  Great colors; striking yellow.  I have a couple cuts on my thumb of right hand.

Here he just hangs in the water in all his bulk and dimension.  That fish likes to lay in the cut and wait for small game to come to him.  He owns an ambush slot of dark water. 

Last fish.  First BKT of 2014.  Winter over; spring going now.  Maybe find some bugs, sun, easy walking.

Had not seen this before...    celebratory beer selection.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Today's Buck
March 17, 2014.  13:30.  19+ inches.  Ate dead-drifted LOD.

Friday, March 14, 2014

March 2014 Winter Trout

Negative tendencies; that’s the long-standing suggestion.  Down and out too often; bordering on depressed, down and out very often, depressing others.  It’s come up before and it surfaces regularly like the sine curve from the Holt Rinehart and Winston blue and gray text books.  And the sine curve idea has some merit; maybe a sine curve with some erratics interjected that would indicate events like someone telling you that you “ought to” replace appliance A or B, or you should “consider” adding this monthly bill to the stack; and on the other side week-long stretches of playing catch with a football every day in the sun or two straight days of walking in deep valleys.  But most questions should first be counter-questioned with these two basics, before pursuing any answer or subsequent solution: (1) is the issue raised important and/or can we explain why finding an answer is not important, and (2) if the answer is premised on and/or is embedded with a suggestion: what does one expect?  What do we figure ought to be the case given the circumstances both obvious and less so?  In this case I concede the former.  To the latter point – should we expect an average human male who has been confined to office space and belted to the indoors by a long winter and moderately beaten up by the difficulties inherent in keeping a household on a steady path to be happy, smiling, uplifting in the face of any particular situation?  More generally, should we expect people who live in a world that means to basically strip the balls off its men and drive everyone to one existence to be outwardly inviting and show genuine smiles?  The counter might be: well, it’s all in how you deal with it.  It’s all in how you react.  It’s all what you make of it…    One might agree if it were the case that concessions ought to be made that favor the uni-gender world.  Just make the money, keep things going, keep your hands in the dishwater, then on the keyboard then on the steering wheel and circle back again.  If the basic concession is made that that is how things ought to be, then it would indeed be in best interest to simply accept it and focus on “how you deal with it.”   

There are deliberate forces working against happiness.  I am susceptible.  My response is not to simply make the concession and “work on how I deal with it.”  Rather, it seems a counter-strategy is in order.  A multi-faceted approach to beat back the clench of the age (WB).  It’s under development and will be public noticed at a later time.  Submitted comments may or may not be afforded response. 

In the interest gathered here – that being fishing – it can be said that walking rivers is a mainstay.  Walking with kids.  Watching friends get drifts right and lift rods in joy.  Seeing kids with rods doubled over, tips touching water.  Finding carp unawares, tailing in rocks.  And in the case of this report – walking moderately deep into a valley with a mission of gender maintenance.  That meaning fighting through deep snow, cold weather, and edge-ice to catch some fish.  Not a lot of fish.  But fish got by a decisive action that kept us on the track of difficulty (as opposed to running around looking for easier water).  Yeah, we know “difficulty” should not be a term in the playground world of fishing.  But we are at that point.  We have to invent some difficulty to keep sanity intact.  We know, we know we are playing at edges; thanks for the comments in that regard.  We know, we know this is just too much writing on fishing; you try too hard to justify things, thanks again for those notes but they fall flat.  Many people know exactly what I am saying, I suspect. 
These guys here are coworkers and friends.  We’ve met occasionally on these waters; they appreciate them.  In some way or another I suppose we’re looking for the same things.  Exertion, sweat, blood, the high hill, camaraderie, the riffle and the deep pool.  I did not line a rod until 330 PM.  Snowshoes were needed.  A fire was tended at a big corner hole.  And when the first line came tight on a fish there was an insuppressible whoop bookended by swills of fiery drink.  Things done, things left undone, we felt pretty good out there in the end.  Some minor league swashbuckling.  We need it.  We better damn well face up to that fact or all the analysis will be based on false premises.

Some guys got up early and drove for this outing.  Photo credit J.J.

Drifting under close watch of the sandstone.  Note ice conditions.

Need a bird dog focus when nymphing.

Postcard from the valley.  We watched two coyotes cross just upstream at that next bend. 

Putting in work.  Big corner hole.  Tough to fish given conditions.

Prettiest fish of the day; I never did see in person.  Photo credit J.J.

Cold.  Do what you can do.  A fire like no other because all the dead wood comes from different stands upstream.  Carried down and left on bends in various postures.

Big hole full of fish.  We all got some good drifts.  The fish never got onto us; suppose we could have camped here.

Photo credit J.J.  Rarely get to see myself like this so I appreciate it.  Broke out the old neoprenes for the cold weather beat-back.

Nice pack.

Walking out together.  Sweating I suppose.

Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 Fly Carpin Swap Submission

Concepts, components of various mutant carp flies all thrown into a decanter of Black Bottle Blended Scotch and then hung out to dry on an old Griffen vise.

Recipe and/or the amalgamation and/or the unity of multiple entities.  Keeping in mind that It is only good manners if you repeat a few other men to at least do it better or more briefly. Utter originality is of course out of the question. - E. P.

The Peabody may be called the basic starting point.  It's ribbed peacock herl under a soft hackle.  See citation at end, from an old issue of Fly Tyer Magazine on my shop shelf.  I think it was noted in critique somewhere that it is much like a partridge and orange.  So maybe it is not even a bookend in itself but one must start somewhere.  From there, these attributes were pooled:
(1) The soft hackle of the Carp Carrot and the Montana Carrot.
(2) Deep burgundy of the carp-effective San Juan Worms.
(3) Headstand of the LOD.
(4) Twist tail of the FYI.
(5) Foam tab of the Holschlag Hi-Tail Craw.
(6) Worm + soft hackle of the Hybrid.

Top it off with the fact that the soft hackles are all from a pheasant skin provided by my neighbor (salted it and set it in my basement, pinned on a sheet rock scrap) and you have a shady shade lethal Deadpool with Great Plains roots.  I did some testing in water tubs; the sink rate is pretty good.  I left the foam tabs on the large side, so folks can trim as they see fit.  Thanks McTage for another swap invitation.

...Stryker activates Wade, now Weapon XI, a "mutant killer" with the powers of multiple mutants: Logan's healing power, John's teleportation, Summers' energy blasts, and Wade's swordsman skill; Bradley's electropathy was used to enable Stryker to control him completely. Stryker refers to Weapon XI as the "Deadpool".

Headstand for me.  Lightest colors I tried.  Probably least favorite iteration.

Here with some flashier chenille paired with the standard burgundy.

Plainest: worm chenille and dark soft hackle.

I'm telling you.  I like this fly.  Twisting the tail like that really keeps it in place and that foam tab lifts the ass right up.  This thing will sit and chat and sit and chat and wait.  It's going to get the shit kicked out of it is what it comes down to I think.

Peabody citation.  And Deadpool image credit goes to; it was free wallpaper so figured okay to use.

February 2014 Captions

It's cold and frozen.  We don't have the worst of it even, but our SE MN uplands have a tundra feel right now.  Longest streak of no eggs we've ever seen at our place.  Conserving energy.  This picture about 20 minutes away.  Wouldn't make one think of fishing.  But again the uplands are frozen and that does not include their ancient dendrites of water that spill from rock walls and come up through streambeds.  The trout streams are the warm refuges in this landscape now.

Fished from around noon to maybe 1430 the other day.  This time of year usually shows one hold-over outing looking ahead to March.  The January outing is in the books; the hard nymphing was done then.  More relaxed schedule and approach.  In fact I didn't even have the drive to make it to the big hole.  I picked up 8-10 fish in a series of four holes and turned around.  Snow deeper.  Colder.  Fishing slower.  But they still answered to scuds and standard approach.  My feet got cold because I have a habit of standing in one place and drifting away until I get the drift right.  I like the S-curve on this fish.

Being that I turned around a bit short, I had a few extra minutes to look at water closer to the road.  Been many years since I had seen it, I think.  I was a little weary after birddog focus on the nymphing so I did something more relaxing: employed a streamer.  More casting, longer distances, steady retrieve, thoughtless fishing really.  In fact one could argue that you should not think about your streamer at all or watch it all.  We have a lot of good streamer water that begs for attention; like that pictured here.  Slower water, especially with boulders in the deep green and gray.

A while back I accidentally and absent-mindedly tied some LOD iterations on some baby little wirey baby pansy hooks.  I didn't realize my error until I had turned out a few.  So I put them in my trout box.  First cast of 2014 brought this fish up from the still in a near-vertical take plane.  It happened that I was watching as the fly got close and thus I was able to see a mouth open and rise.

Suppose now I'll wait a while.  Can't keep any fish and the deep winter jones is shot.  I'm getting good words re new regulations; thinking 2014 could work out really well for any folks who appreciate walking streams and holding fish.