Saturday, April 21, 2007

The buffalo herd is here. I about had a heart attack a few days ago when I was walking by the river and saw a giant swarm of large tails swaying in the current like so many big accordion fans. I felt a pressing urge to get my person into that river. I did so on Saturday afternoon – took my Avid 8 wt (which would later prove to be an unwise selection), heavy tippet to rig standard 2-nymph rigs (1x to the first fly and 2x to the trailer) and plenty of rubber legged flies sizes 8-10. I also took large spinning gear style tin split shot because the flow was still fairly high. In fact, looking back at my records from 2005 and 2006 the current stage was higher than that which I remarked in May 2005 was “at the edge of safe wading.” I went anyway and found that I’ve become more accustomed to wading bigger and faster water, because it didn’t seem too bad. A wading staff would have helped though.

I located the pod of waving tails right away, and immediately started hooking up with them. At first the snag was on – just due to the sheer density of fish. Probably 50% of the fish I hooked were snagged… but most of those popped off. After just a short while it was pretty easy to tell the difference between a take and simple contact between the fish and the rig… I began doing all I could to avoid snagging fish – meaning slowly pulling my line away from potential snag situations and only setting the hook on jolts as conveyed by the strike indicator. Right away I just got destroyed by these fish – it was a fantastic experience, even with the heavy gear. It literally could have been a fish every other cast or so… The only limiting factor was time (and equipment failure as I’ll explain in a minute here) – meaning it took so long to fight and land these fish, a person could only get so many to hand in an hour.

The black eye of the buffalo.

I had 2.5 hours to work with. I actually only fought four fish on Saturday – I landed a couple great buffalo that ran in the teens (pounds I mean), and I fought one that was at least that big for about 15 minutes, only to have him pop off (may have been snagged). This was middle of the day, perfect summer setting downtown, so many people were around to watch the freak in the river fishing with fly gear… what a fuggin whacko. So they were following these battles with great interest, and when that one popped off there was an audible “aahhhh” in unison – pretty funny. Next fish though was the banner of the day: I hooked up for the fourth time, and twenty seconds into the battle, the fish just snapped my 8 wt like it was a fricking dry maple twig. I heard a crunch and looked up at the top third of my rod heading down the fly line toward the water. It was my first broken fly rod.

Decimated Avid 8wt (pic taken later). Nice to have lifetime warranty on rod.

I was pretty excited. Pretty pissed off though too, because I had two hours of fishing left (and fishing time is hard to come by these days). Anyway – the fish was still on, and I dropped the reel and 2/3 of the rod into the river and grabbed the 37 inch end section of the rod… grabbed the line with my other hand and kept battling. Talk about freaking people out – that really got them going… I must have looked like a real lunatic out there. I proceeded to fight that buffalo for about 15-20 minutes with that little rod segment. I tried to net him ~6 times and on each occasion he’d just get really pissed off and take off like a damn rocket. When I finally got him with a quick jab of the net, I found I had some trouble actually lifting him out of the water… Got some rounds of applause from onlookers, requests to hold him up for pics, etc. He kicked my ass all over the place, but somehow I landed him with that little rod… pretty great experience. I took a few photos and let him go. Believe it or not, when I released him (or her – not sure I guess) he took off with as much vigor as he displayed at the beginning of the fight. I’m not 100% sure of the weight, but an experienced John Montana says 20-22 lbs. He was BLEEPING HUGE next to that 8 wt rod and reel. Biggest fish I’ve ever caught… no question there. Also one of the coolest and most interesting.


Let a dog out, he's gonna bring back a bone


That fish left me in shambles - rod pieces and line everywhere. Outstanding.

Because my day was shortened by equipment destruction, I went out for some make up time the next day - this time with a stiffer 8 wt hand made for me by John Montana of Carp on the Fly fame. Long story short - the rod was great, and the fishing was amazing. Again, the only limitation was time - I could not land these fish faster than 10-15 minutes each, even with heavy tippet and some horsing in play... they were too big and the current was too fast. Almost every fish I had to walk downstream a bit and wedge myself into some slackwater... then try to bring the fish back to me. It worked, but it was tiring and long. I ended up catching 6-7 buffalo that were legitimately in the 13-18 pound range, but none as big as the monster from the day before. When is that last time you remember catching a half dozen fish that weighed in the high teens? For me - first time. Don't talk to me about walleyes or crappies ever again. That's what a herd of buffalo will do to you. Here are some misc pics (hard to get good shots when you fish by yourself).






Em and JD came to pick up as my time on the river ended. When they got there I said "let me hook one more and walk him down the river so you guys can watch." I did just that, and ended up catching the second smallest fish of the day (8-10 lbs or so), so I kept it and I'm currently smoking its flesh for future consumption. James was pretty excited to see the action.


I wanted to get out again with someone to share this with. Couldn't work that out, but I did drag this cat down here and put him on this water... He had a great time with some spinning gear and got his tail kicked too... but landed his share of these amamzing fish (including his biggest fish to date I think). I didn't holler at him until I'd had a chance to spy on him for a while... I was able to watch these fish pull him downstream and deplete his tackle supply - pretty cool - sign of a good day I think. He was pretty excited when he netted this one with his trout net and posed for this pic.



Buffalo. Amazing. They live up to the name, and I love them.

26 Comments:

Blogger john montana said...

that is 20 lbs...i'd bet more. how far did the digital read before it zapped out on you? just looking at the picture, i'd say 22 lbs. it has good lenght, but more than length, it is just a heavy looking fish.

one thing i have noticed out ehre is the weights of the fish differ greatly from watershed to watershed, but that is a pig anywhere.

man, i wish i was out there right now!

7:57 PM  
Blogger john montana said...

good stuff J. i wish I could have jumped on a plane friday night!

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Man, Justin, that thing's a hoss!

Great trip report!

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Justin! That's some great fishing! Sorry 'bout the Avid. I have both a 7 weight and an 8 weight Avid. Hope I never break one like that. But then again, maybe I should stay out of the buffalo herd.

Dave
(zonker)

5:43 PM  
Anonymous BlackDog said...

That is SOOOOO cool! Good on you for finding some AWESOME fishing right there in town. Congrats!!

BlackDog

7:44 PM  
Blogger MN Justin said...

Thanks guys. I am going to take a day off - hang out with JD tomorrow AM until his nap, then head to the river when he lays his head on the pillow. I will proceed to fish until darkness falls or a fish takes me. If any of you want to accompany me, please call or write.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

I'd love to call you up and tackle some of those buffalo. Fantastic sport and well done for landing the monster that broke your rod...

Very cool,
Nick (UK)

7:55 AM  
Blogger matt said...

Awesome report, any chance you can reveal where this was at? Or maybe another possible location that you know of Thanks.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Joe Watkins said...

Let me know how that smoked buffalo tastes.

1:22 PM  
Blogger MN Justin said...

The location: Cannon River.

The smoked buffalo - I'll let you know. I had trouble smoking it all the way through because the fillets are so damn thick. I had to finish it off in the oven, which is less than optimal.

8:05 AM  
Blogger HammyDavisJr said...

Nice Carnage!

9:36 AM  
Blogger matt said...

hey Justin, are the fish still in that location? I may take a trip down there soon, just can't find the buffs around here (north metro). your success is inspiring.

11:54 PM  
Blogger spilseth said...

Wow, just reading this. Great story and pictures. Sounds like a great day, I'd never heard of a buffalo fish before.

5:13 PM  
Blogger MN Justin said...

The buffs are pretty much gone I think... sorry to see 'em go. They'll be back next year.

1:16 PM  
Blogger matt said...

that's too bad, i wonder if they went further upstream or back down to the miss. I know they stop spawning around this time but the other buffalo species go till june. thanks for the update.

10:42 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

very cool. i met jason the other day at our block party, he siad he worked w/ you, and now here he is! it's cool to read/feel the excitement.

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you know this is a not just that the big tough guys and then of course %uh males strut their stuff it some males dance till they drop and some sing your heart out you know Co but all males understand the females are scarce resource and they going to have to win the fight in order to get the girl but once they do the pick me up with Avery little resistance and I love this photograph it sure looks like she say oh I forgot to turn off the gas Co here so my question is if it works so well for so many millions de beers for so many millions of species .

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