That title may be a nicer way to say shitty guiding resulted in a number of busts but we made the best of it and caught some cool fish.
One of the day's highlights was walking right into some buffalo. I'd fished to this same situation in this same place before. JM played it perfectly. In relaxed fashion. Casting at some filter-feeding buffs while sipping some coffee. Hooking one too. Right in the mouth. Beautiful and cool creatures are the buffalo. The black eye is native to our Minnesota waters.
The second buff of the day came by way of a remarkable situation: putting a fly on a tailer. Carp >> tailing >> yes, often. Don't see too many buffalo tailing. This one was in amongst some carp brethern though and JM picked him and dapped on him... Fish moved to fly and fish was caught. The result is pictured below. Right in the mouth. Not sure what caused the light bleeding there but I'll tell you it wasn't a snag.
The remains of the day were filled with stopping, looking, driving, discussing, etc. We caught a few fish here and there but nothing really notable. At one location we came upon carp stacked up, leaping up ~5 feet in an attempt to gain access to a lake. Very interesting and somewhat comical situation. The drive was apparent. Some bio-mechanism at work there, sending them to greener pastures. We saw a few make it. I suppose over time, most made it.
Anyway, the coolest fish of the day for me (and one of only a few) is pictured below. While JM nymphed a slot in a tailwater, I investigated the pool above. I came upon a couple of carp filter feeding underneath a mat of duckweed. I grabbed a tree trunk, swung my body out, and waited with fly ready on a short leash. When one of them turned my way and came with dapping reach, I put the fly a foot or so in front... kind of expecting a spook... only to watch the carp flip tail somewhat eagerly toward the fly, stop just short and suck it in. Right from amongst the duckweed. Nice take. Perfect visual recorded from sweet vantage. Scale said ~11 lbs.
And that was it for our fishing together on this trip. For the next couple days, JM struck out on his own while I picked up the boys and engaged a family tour of the southeast.
After the last couple spring trips I've been left wondering: what constitutes a good fishing trip? Many fish, big fish, various fish... ? Some combination of those maybe? Certainly my point of reference here is skewed, as JM has some pretty amazing carp water out there on the Columbia. I think the answer is roughly this: a good fishing trip is had when you (1) deal well with what is presented to you, and (2) enjoy either solitude or company. Minnesota offers up multi-species opportunities, cool tailwaters, little trout streams, and as JM attests - a pastoral countryside. We took all that in on this trip. Dabbled in all of it. We didn't catch 100+ fish like we have in past years, and we didn't find monsters anywhere like we do in Oregon. We dealt well with what was present in early May in southeast Minnesota though, and we had a good time doing it. Each trip will be different: various fish of various sizes found in all kinds of situations. Thus far I've enjoyed them all thoroughly, and I suspect they'll get better as years pass.
Post Script: even in a stretch of relative calm with respect to rain and flow, we hit on some adverse conditions this year. We were fishing downstream of this gauge on May 7. See below - flow increased that day from ~280 to 420 cfs - approx a 50% bump. I've always heard and read that fish don't like rising water... And the closed mouths of the fish at the tailwater that day support that suggestion. Another (albeit minor this year) case of bad timing.