Wednesday, September 19, 2007

BWCA Day Five (the non-day)
[for more pics of this trip, please do visit Canning Chronicles]
Given the great fishing the morning prior, I was determined to provide duplication on this day. I got up and headed out by myself again... heedless of warning provided by howling wind. Said wind stranded me at a portage for approx three hours. No big deal - kind of relaxing really. Man did I want to fish though.

Here is the two-gun boat, loaded and ready. This boat is owned and managed by Canning Chronicles.

Here is what I did for the morning of this day... took a nap in my rain gear.
Finally I figured I'd better get back to the group... so I picked my way through the woods and came up around the back end of camp. I spied a bit and gave some phony bird calls - got a good laugh.

Here are some misc shots from the trip...

Anything that can be done can be done better if accompanied by a lil keg-o-SummitEPA.

I did not eat this toadstool.

This is where tick-tock and I slept - under his hand-built tarp. Open sides - no problem - forest floor sucked up moisture and we didn't get wet once.

This is a happy gent, with fish in hand and fish in pan (not that very fish - we didn't eat one smallie).

Six BWCA marauders.

See you next year.

Monday, September 17, 2007

BWCA Day Four (The Milk Run (copyright T. Holschlag))

Eggs and hashbrowns or smallie run of the trip… ?? Coffee with cream or monster dolomieu smashing baitfish patterns like Ike v. Tina? I just couldn’t eat breakfast man – and this day had a good feel to it from the start. I got up late ~6:40 or so, but see we’re only an eight minute paddle from hog heaven, so a short sprint put me there. I parked the canoe in 8-9 feet of water – on a great little drop – I think it’s a drop between two plateaus: one ~4-6 feet and the other maybe 10-12 feet. Hard to say but it felt fishy, and the water was calm. I started out with poppers – just trying to force them on the fish… nothing at all despite very good conditions re light and water. Somewhere around 745 or so a pike came completely out of the water, jack-knifed and came down on my popper – sheared it right off and said “hey you tooley – put on a streamer!” I then watched some baitfish flee an unseen predator –they were literally skipping out of the water, swimming for their lives… finally put on a clouser. That turned out to be a money move. Here is the sequence, as I can best remember it:

(1) Pike bit off clouser.
(2) Landed 17” smallmouth on clouser (see pics).
(3) Landed small walleye on clouser.
(4) As I was releasing walleye, pike bit off clouser as it dangled in water.
(5) Landed 18” smallmouth on clouser (see pics).
(6) Pike came like a missle from under canoe and bit off clouser.
(7) Landed three 15” smallmouth on the one remaining clouser in my fly box (started off trip with five – had lost one earlier).

It was the best hour of fishing of the trip – hands down. Poppers are great – love them best… but I have to admit – there is something to feeling a smallmouth slam a streamer. They were just crushing it. I was supposed to pick up one of the guys at 830, but I just couldn’t leave. I said “if I cast three times without a fish or a bite off I’ll leave.” Took a while before I paddled away… made the trip for me in a way – with respect to fishing that is.

Later in the day – using my newly developed fishing from shore techinique – landed a decent walleye trying for more of those smallies (oops). I also had shots are FIVE pike, but landed only one – cool thing it was on a diver fished with sink tip line. I truly believe that the reason I missed/lost four of five pike was the smaller hook gap – I went away from that big baitfish streamer which is tied on a big hook… in favor of some smaller DB eye flies. Didn’t work out man. One of them grabbed it right at my feet and just RACED to the side – very cool – never saw the fish – I was a big mess of line at my feet trying to get a handle… popped off. Could have been a great fish – could have been a mini – they are all fast. Another railed the fly so close to me that his tail splashed water in my face.

Nice day of fishing – one for the books I’d say. I'll put a pic of a 15" in here (great fish by any standard) just to show how it pales in comparison to the 18" and 17" as reference by the paddle. These fish were taped.

An Honest and Beautiful 17" Smallie

An 18" - how do you like the bulk of that fish as it tails away?

A 15" smallie - looks puny compared to big brothers.

Day Three (Pike on the Fly Day)

If you target them, they will come. That’s the saying. It’s true. In my notes last year I reminded myself to fish for pike between the sevens – when smallie on the fly is down somewhat. I did that for pretty much this entire day. Started out picking a couple up in the AM on a giant streamer I modeled after one tied by a DNR fellow. In the afternoon, the fellas wanted to take a break – I paddled out solo and picked up three more nice little Esox – all on the same pattern. Then in the evening – two more to round out a seven-pike-on-fly-day. None of these fish were big – they were consistently 3-4 lb fish. They just “jump on” is what I always think in my head as I’m fishing… strip back fast, do nothing special, don’t worry about setting hook… and they’ll just jump on the line. Seems to work. One missing piece was a monster pike on the fly (or any monster pike for that matter) – several of us vowed to catch the leviathan sighted last year, but nothing came of it. They are wicked looking animals – scary as hell in some sense. Put your mind between the eyes of a baitfish and think of this water wolf layin’ in the cut just waiting for you… the ambush pounce (northern pike have one of the fastest burst speeds of any freshwater fish – faster than salmon even – fish that need that burst speed to get up rapids) then your either dead or squealing through your gills as you flee your little tail left and right… then darkness and teeth and then nothing… whoa.

Six of the seven pike I caught this day were on that giant, sparsely tied streamer that looks like a doofy and cripped baitfish. One other little one hit a popper as I probed woody debris for smallies.

This is the one fish that wore out while I landed it – not exactly sure why. I spent some time in the shallows reviving it… Seemed to be okay – upright and mobile – gills flaring… However, as soon as I left Baldy jumped off her deadhead and swooped down – missed the first time, but on the second she rose from the water with this fish in her claws – a tough end for what must have been a confusing bout for that pike. I can rationalize my way through it by saying that that pike will just take the place of another fish that otherwise would have become eagle food… does that work?

All day the guys continued to feed camp with walleye fillets – just machines when it comes to that. Here is a picture of Dad performing the standard processing at shore. The walleye are usually consumed within 0-1 hours of swimming their last.

Here is Dad getting’ piggy with a fatty smallmouth. We caught a ridiculous number of fish in this size range – they were particularly vulnerable to bait, but I managed a few on flies too. This fish is quite stunning in its own right.

Friday, September 14, 2007

BWCA Day Two (lighting up the morning)

Breakfast is overrated - no offense to anyone who eats it - we love you and everything else... but when you have a strict mission to "fish the sevens" it is hard to sit down for coffee, eggs, spam, etc. - particularly when you can hear fish surfacing. So instead certain folks pull themselves out of warm mummy bags, quickly throw on sweaters, damp cotton socks, etc... all the while thinking how much it sucks to get up but that there is glory and awe waiting on the water.

The morning of the second day provided the best topwater action. Three smallies on poppers, one pike and one smallie on a clouser. It was fun while it lasted. The fish were not large, but stunning none the less.

As I walked the shoreline, the other dudes in the party paddled about in canoes, collecting with deadly accuracy and consistency ridiculous numbers of walters. One after another the specimens were hoisted into boats and strung up for later consideration. Back at camp I photographed one of said subjects as he waited in line. Kind of a dark deal, but we all know that consumption of energy is required.
Second half of the day was spent on another lake - trying to force some more popper action. I think I landed a handfull of smaller fish - including three largemouth, which is remarkable for BWCA but somewhat typical of the fertile bay I was fishing. These pics should tell you that the fishing was not fabulouso... the suspense and the scenery were solid though. Waist deep in heaven can't be too bad.

BWCA Day One (actually day two)

Day one was actually shizit-cizanned by rain. We paddled in on the day that Ely got pump-dump-pummeled by 9 inches of rain, etc. We got pelted by sprinkles now and then on the way in, but overall we felt good knowing that our Dulute Packs were full of dry bags that are impervious to the searching moisture. Also, my camera is waterproof and therefore I rest easy – not even a problem to roll the canoe and dump. Like clockwork – once we got camp set up, the rain came and did not stop. We huddled under tarp like so many wood ducklettes in a little box on a tree. No fishing that day.

The delay ran into the next morning too – we had to get rigged up before we could head out… That meant no wet lines until 930 AM or so. Topwater was over by then, so tried clouser and right away picked up a nice little smallie.

The worm guys practiced deadly assassination of the walleye population… just snipe, snipe sniping on those sharp-scaled fishes. Later in the day I danced back to my favorite wading lake - Mr. A.M. came along… Not much action to start out. A.M. got some great smallie action back in a shallow corner. One big ol dolomieu rammed a leech that I threw in a shallow bay – took it even before I had started retrieving… I fought him to hand but he popped off the single barbless hook before I could grip the guy. Around 5 PM they started to light up the topwater a bit – got some nice fish and had chances at a few more.

Canning Chronicles got us brigands to pay attention to the wonder of dragon flies.

And so this first full day of fishing provided opportunities to make acquaintances with several of the “finer folk” of the aquatic environment. Some were consumed and are currently cellular structure in our persons. Others – including all smallmouth – were released unharmed and arbuably with minimal disturbance of their daily lives.

The eagle soared from pinus strobus to picea glauca, and reasoned her way into several fish.

We paddled home to a red-sky-nigh-sailor's-delight.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Shots from the bench

It sounds kind of like hits from the bong, and it's close qualitatively speaking. These are some shots of my little hole in the ground. Love this place - it's wet and dark 'cept for the little light over the vise. Beer bottles abound and double as fly-drying-racks. See for yourself I guess. Come on over too, if you want a tour or if you want to tie up a 7" dragon-bunny-killer known to be lethal as it pulses hair that looks like it's alive in the water of any given lake.

I'm getting ready to paddle my way to micropterus dolomieu and esox lucius... funny that those names remind me of God and Lucifer somehow - think because of vague resemblance to some latin roots.

"Amazing what a floodplain will do..."

That is a quote from the person who sent this photo. Rivers can stand up to 100-year rain events and floodwaters without collapsing on themselves. They can spill water out into vegetated floodplains and deposit material... slow flow down and ease the pain of a big event.

Altered channels, confined waterways, incised streams and rivers that get water from acres and acres of tiled cropland and pavement cannot take the stress. They erode and fall apart... give up the ghost and things just happen exponentially in a big bad sequence that works its way downstream.

So - YES - I am saying we can't be too surprised when things like this happen... Not when we bring it on ourselves by taking away the capacity of all flat land in SE MN to absorb and hold water. My belief and educated guess is that in a natural setting this event still would have resulted in a flood, but it would have been to a much lesser degree, and you would have seen much less erosion, gullying and sediment movement in general.

" erosion is just a river searching for its floodplain..." -from some meeting I attended

Monday, September 03, 2007

JD caught his first dry fly fish today. He set the hook, played the fish and landed it. Period. The guy is a superstar. He used a micro fly rod to accomplish this feat. He could have caught dozens more had he listened to his dad yelling "pick up the rod Jimmy - pick up the rod!" Fish were eating the fly like crazy. The other kids were getting upset and asking us what we were using... they had size 1/0 hooks with worms and rattle traps in play... JD was casting a #20 gnat.

At first I was trying to help him, but he would have none or not much of that... I did guide him into a couple sunfish, but the one in the pic here was all him. He dapped the fly here and there... he even twitched it now and then.

My next project is to build him his own little "pond special" fly rod for dapping after these sunnies.

We ran into some good buddies from our neighborhood at the pond... both kids got their first fish on flies too - very cool!