Friday, March 30, 2007

Trout Fix: Last of the Winter Fishing

I’m working the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo this weekend, so I had to take some hours off during the week. Given that I am moving to Roch soon, I feel the need to learn some of the basins down here – like I did the Cannon while I lived here… fits with work too. So my plan: take a day and realize a hiking adventure of sorts in a local valley. Go somewhere that slightly off the normal path. Bring a fly rod, some nymphs, small rations of water and food, and a camera. That’s it.

I started out the day with the night before – preview style: I stopped at a bridge crossing somewhere in the WW and cast for 30 minutes or so… landed two little brown trout and loved them a lot. It was awkward to cast that nymphing rig – I’ve only been trout fishing ~3 times in the past six months or so…

I Spent the night at the home of some good friends. Their hospitality was outstanding, and they also guided me to a particularly Godly part of the WW valley. Whether or not the fishing would be good was unclear, but I was assured shock and awe in the true sense.

The day starts out like this: strong coffee from an expert maker. I got high as a kite off 1.5 cups of the stuff. It was like I was floating up the ceiling when I left for my day’s adventure. I stopped at the only payphone in the WW valley (not sure about that one) and called Em and James… talked for quite a while – I think she could tell I was caffeinated. On to the river… and the fishing.



To make the story short: I started at 10:30 AM, and the first three hours were really tough. I caught one, spooked one, and turned one… but that was it. Instead of enjoying the majesty around me, I was cursing myself and saying things like “you rusty bastard, you’ve forgotten how to trout fish – no, you never knew how to trout fish!” I wasn’t falling on my face, or spooking big pods of fish, or tripping over rocks… but nothing seemed to be just right.

Finally, I came to a certain place that just made me drool. I was literally saying “hehehe” in my head as I was approaching it. It had the three keys (in my opinion): deep water, fast current running through/over the deep water, and adjacent woody debris/boulders. I just about died when I saw it, and the drama proved to be well founded. Beginning around 13:30 I proceeded to pull fish after fish from this water, including this piggy rainbow, and 2-3 browns that measured in the high teens.



I was in heaven. After spending quite a while there I was ready to leave… I decided to try one more thing: sneaky-sneak over to a boulder and flip my nymph rig up in front of it… let it drift down out of sight behind the boulder.. just to see what would happen. First and second casts both produced nice 12-13” fish that were hiding under the root mass just opposite the boulder… a few casts later behind the boulder and I saw the indicator twitch… set the hook and felt a special, big movement. It was a movement that would have a sound like “blaawump” associated with it. Anyway – it felt big right away and stayed close to the bottom… I had to battle to get it out of the boulder/tree cover, but finally landed another great fish in the mid to high teens.





I went on to find three more really good holes/stretches of water. They all produced fish – great, strong fish. I turned around at 17:08 and walked/jogged out, to find that it was 25 minutes to the nearest trail… I had gotten into the interior of the WW, away from easy access stuff, and I think that was key. Surely I saw boot tracks all along, but not too many.




It was a tale of two half days – very interesting. The first half of the day I used my normal nymphs: Pink Squirrel and DLK Hares Ear. Second half of the day I switched to Prince Nymph with a Scud trailing… orange and pink for the latter (from the SE MN swap). I don’t think the flies were what changed the fishing though – I think it was the water… early on I was fishing marginal/okay holes and reaches. Afternoon was really good water. Overall I probably did not catch 20 trout, but likely mid to high teens of fish. The remarkable thing though was the quality of these fish: no joke that 4 were high teens and another ~6 were low to mid teens. It's probably the most big fish I've caught in one outing. I was reminded that I'm a hack caster - utilitarian is a better way to put it. I can get the nymphs where I want them though, so I guess it's okay. Also, I probably strong-armed the fish more than I should have. I was fishing with 4x tippet. My leader was too long too, which was annoying when trying to land fish. I think I was a clumsy picture... but I have no negative memories of the day.



Never saw one human being. The wind was on a bit in the AM, but died in the PM. I was surrounded by amazing cliffs and enveloped by a flowing river. I met a number of stunning fish. After the day of fishing and hiking, I returned to the warm hospitality of friends. That’s it.



Except for one more thing – when I got home today, I saw the Cannon a-flowing strong. I took some advice from John Montana and tried to nymph for carp anyway… my family is visiting my in-laws, so I have no reason to hang out at home… might as well try it. Very quickly nymphed up five carp. All were small 2-3 lb fish, but it was still a lot of fun. One big ol mammy grabbed my nymph and took off downstream… and that is one thing about fishing from a platform in a flow like this: no WAY can you possibly land a big fish. If a biggie goes downstream on you, you are done for. She kept running line of my reel like a mad carp… went under the bridge and said “I’m headed for Waterford me boy!” At that point I knew I was screwed so I tried to turn her… the pressure brought the fish to surface, and even at 50-60 yards away it still looked HUGE rolling on the water. I guess I’ll never know for sure. I also had a buffalo take the nymphs and shoot across perpendicular to the flow – come up and head shake the hook out! So the best roughfish were not landed… but it was a great time. My hands were numb by the time I left – it was cold and rainy… fly rod carp can help you ignore that though!



11 Comments:

Blogger spilseth said...

Great pics and narrative! I almost feel like I was drinking coffee, fishing in Roch and freezing by the raging Cannon.

Hey - guess who just ordered some California grass fed steaks? Used the links on your main page to find a place that 2-day fedexs it to you in a refrigerated container. Sweet - can't wait to try them.

11:04 AM  
Blogger john montana said...

now that is a report!

9:17 AM  
Anonymous greg said...

Great report! Sounds like a hell of a good day. I drove down to WW last Thursday, camped at the state park, enjoyed 1 1/2" of rain during the night, and woke up to the river blown out and unfishable. I cleverly renamed the watershed "Brownwater." Anyway, I saw what looked like some great stretches that I can't wait to get back down to and fish. Your report here only increases that anticipation.

Cheers.

2:34 PM  
Blogger MN Justin said...

Thanks guys.

Greg - you JUST missed the good fishing. It went from perfect to blown out Thurs to Friday.

John - I will take you to this water as soon as you get over here.

Ted - outstanding news re photosynthesization taking over as the source of your energy. Maybe do a little reading at eatwild.com so you can best prepare and relish the grass fed beef. I'm really glad you are putting forth the effort on that... report back with reactions and thoughts.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous greg said...

Justin - that's what I figured. I got to the campground about 7:00 on Thursday, with just enough light left in the sky to see that the water looked great. But, hearing the flood warnings on the radio on my way down were a pretty good portent of what would come overnight. Alas.

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