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.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Don't let the wool get in your eyes don't let the moon break your heart

Black wool shorn in Prairie Creek watershed.  Same day it was passed to me we were given a frozen humanoid shape with no hands or feet or head.  Frozen and curled.  It had been stroked when it was soft and mammalian and it had been cared for and smiled upon; then killed too with great care and split longitudinally and skinned.  I think a heavy knife cut off the head and the extremities and I suppose blood ran into the ground.  We roasted a five meridianed rabbit and I think that the black sheep that had seen this rabbit and/or his/her brethren gave its very hair to have it wait eleven years in my possession to be tied onto a streamer hook wrapping and blinding the heavy eyes.  And from here with the rabbit built in me and the wool in a black suitcase we'll paddle north and east in the line of the ice gougings and then lay our tack and equipment out for all elements to assault with various purposes including reaffirming gender looking at raptors smelling various elementals and plant tissues patting one another on infrequently touched shoulders and moving canoes on top of the weight of water which holds meat that can be consumed by man.  This fly will be selected and assigned and it will fall directly; down.  It will push its woolen head into the lakebed and then by way of a series of careful bunchings it will bounce up and with the first bounce it will plume silt; then it will make a pattern of obtuse peaks and valleys working in a line back toward me, the maker.  There will be apex predators in the vicinity and by some poorly understood code they will fin toward the fly's path and charge it again and again; they will use caudal fins.  They will backferry using pectoral fins that help them in times of indecision.  One though will be unable to resist and it will rise up from the gray in a helical pattern and in one actual action it will open and flare and the wool will disappear within it.

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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thank you MN DNR.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Photo Series: First Carp

Dialing back to late May.  An onlooking couple took great interest in the kids' battles with spring carp (which have been detailed here previously).  This is a cool camera angle.  They took care to email us the images, which I appreciate.  They said in parting that they liked the fact that I would only net the fish; would not grab the rod.  Wouldn't have been the same had I done as much.

Photo credits R.M. of NW USA near Canada.