Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One Fine Day

This past weekend was partitioned into fairly distinct segments: (1) Saturday: the family day – parties, BBQ, etc., (2) Sunday: guys day out at the Steele County Fair (all day with the boys: 9:00 AM to 8:30 PM observing their delight at the various spectacles to be found at a fair), (3) Monday: fishermen’s day on the water. The latter-most item is of most concern in this forum, and therefore items #1 and #2 will be left to imagination until further notice.

Monday was a planned split: morning trout and afternoon carp. Those were the goals. The gentlemen engaged on this day included Winona Fly Factory and The Roughfisher. Good company. Following is a brief recounting of the day’s happenings.

The Morning

The literature suggests that as evenings cool, the trico activity shifts forward in time with respect to a day’s worth of hours. Meaning, while Canning Chronicles and I found great action starting at 7:30 AM a few weeks ago, a person should now expect to find bugs in the air later on… “Late morning” maybe. That was our figuring, according to what we’d heard and read – primary sources being the Midwest Fly Fishing Journal and the local TU forum. I believe I noted somewhere that an air temp of 75 F was a pivot point for the tricos – that air temp may signal the males (that have hatched the night previous) to congregate in a cloud over the stream and wait for their prospective mates to make an appearance. Somebody check me if I’m wrong there, but I believe that is the case. So we’ve got males waiting around for the females to hatch and join them… and literally join them… then mating in the air… to be followed by death and corpses of bugs floating on the water. It seems that the trout key on a few different things throughout this fairly short affair. Our observation has been that the best action has been during the spinner fall. That’s what we were looking for here. To err on the early side when fishing is acceptable… while to be late is the making of regret and a bad work week spent thinking about how you should have been somewhere that you weren’t at a given time. So, even while we suspected we’d be well ahead of the primary action, we left around 5:30 AM and had boots wet at maybe 6:30 or 6:45. We were greeted by occasional rises, but no bugs in the air. Suspicion was that maybe the fish were eating hatching females, but who really knows. The air was blank. We stood there by the bank on one stretch – waiting. Checking rocks for bugs, WFF tracking water temp… I was tracking air temp… we had a little coffee and indeed found that we had to wait for a good couple hours before things really got going. Sure enough, a cloud of tricos built at an exponential rate above the stream. Air temp was in the 70s when the fish started rising pretty steadily. At that point the cloud of bugs was almost comically extreme. The first spinners on the water roughly signaled the start of the fishing. I took a pic of the first trout caught, to record a time stamp: 9:19 AM. So it was somewhat of a wait. Granted, we could have nymphed up a load of fish or ripped streamers around before the action started… But we were both content to watch this all unfold. And once it had unfolded, it became a matter of a simple equation: right fly + feeding fish + decent presentation = guaranteed take. We made good on that equation for a couple hours – taking turns in a nice fishermen’s rhythm. We used primarily a #22 CDC winged spinner pattern with an orange post. It was eaten very readily. We tried a poly wing pattern and that was decent but it seemed maybe it sat too high on the water: these corpses are all beat to hell – in fact “spent” is the descriptor – the CDC seemed to drift in the film better. That’s the story. There are a few notable notes:

(1) The first bug corpses I saw on the water were in fact a pair: male and female bound together in the film. I gave a little shout to WFF to “check it out” – being a bug guy, he proceeded to scoop them up for a closer look. While in hand, the female trico deposited eggs on WFF’s finger. That’s about as good as it gets for anybody who wants to fully observe this life cycle. We manged some pics.
(2) Early on we were catching a lot of ~7” fish. About half way through the action, this shifted and every fish was ~11” long. Of those, we kept our share. This is likely the last catch and keep outing for me this year… another trout meal or two was in my plan.
(3) We swapped rods for this outing – so I got to fish a new Sage Flight 3 wt. Very cool rod. It was remarkable to me how much more power it has than the 2 wt rig I’ve been fishing (in part due to the overloading with 4 wt line). It layed out really well and I enjoyed fishing it.
(4) We both got one brookie on the #22 trico pattern. Cool.
(5) I don’t know how many fish we caught, but it was a lot.
(6) USGS site at SF Zumbro says air temp hit 75 around noon on Monday. This seems to agree with the thermometer I was using – said we were in low 70s during the best action, leading up to noon.
(7) After my last “turn” I broke down my rig and watched WFF attempt one more hook up. By that time, the bug cloud had disappeared and the action was waning. Still occasional rises though, so the one-more-fish-syndrome was intact. I sat down on the river bank, with the 11:30 sun coming full on. I drank the last of the coffee and watched this guy cast at fish. After an experience like that – watching the cycle unfold and then horning in there with your own creations and ideas and tactics… It’s just so damn sappy to write all this stuff but a guy has to try: it’s a feeling of fulfillment. And the fulfillment is clearly not to be gained simply by catching the fish. That last act is not the act. And it is for that reason that the method and the approach are so important. We didn’t come to this place to “catch a fish” or catch a big fish at whatever cost, using whatever method. We were called to this reach of river by a fascinating occurrence: a hatch and subsequent mating of a bug that neither of us really knows much about but is surely part of a history of this landscape that goes back thousands of years. It’s for that reason that we didn’t use a single nymph, split shot or indicator. “Results” were not the result we were pursuing. I guess that’s enough on that – sap is getting deep here and I’m sure if you know what I mean… you know what I mean. In closing – I sat there on that bank – full-on grinning. A satisfied grin. I didn’t feel “victorious.” That’s the wrong word. I felt fortunate – that’s the best way to put it. I had exclaimed to no one in particular on multiple occasions how fascinating this place is… and that was what I was thinking as WFF broke down his rod and we walked out.

Waiting and looking...

Egg-laying... wow:

Typical of the fish we were catching...

Check the cloud:

The Afternoon

Being the thoughtless bastards that we are, we were an hour late meeting The Roughfisher on a major warmwater system up north somewhere. The prose will be somewhat lacking here, in accordance with the quality of interaction we had with the fish we were seeking. The short story is that we couldn’t connect. We nymphed a dam that is typically a lock for a good mixed bag of fish… Roughfisher managed a handful of fish and WFF and I got blanked. Immediately after the dam, we sought out some sight fishing, only to find the pond – the first stop – drained. Ha! Some sort of theme was developing and we recorded a second strike. On to some more stop-and-go sight fishing – we saw a fair number of carp, now that I think back on it… but none were in really good position and none were exhibiting strong feeding behavior. Finally, at our last stop Roughfisher connected with a carp, only to suffer a pop-off. WFF and I picked up a few fish – pesky walleye and bullheads… and finally we just called it. Enough was enough. The highlight of this deal wasn’t the fishing, but rather the company. Good to hang out with a couple of devoted fisherman. WFF and Roughfisher completed some shady transactions regarding various paraphernalia. Mr. Roughfisher flat out gave me a streamer suit case for use during the coming BWCA trip… geez, man. He left a few of his quality streamers in there too. Geez. It was cool to look at all his gear. He was fishing a two-handed rod – interesting to observe that technique. So hell – WFF and I were riding a high all day, provided by the morning. We couldn’t channel that on to the third guy in our party though: Roughfisher was not guided to any caught-carp by we locals. Second time he’s come around and I’ve lead him to dogmeat. He’s a good sport about the whole deal though. Next time.

Best thing about the dam we fished: leaving...

These guys can tie. And they deal flies... One of those suitcases is now in my basement (thanks again).


Anonymous JRS said...

Rule of thumb that I heard years ago is that the trico spinners fall when air temp is 68 degrees. That seems to work for me. Fishing duns before the spinner fall is mostly a waste of time.

Try a hackle winged spinner (Eric Peper Trico). Just palmer an over-sized hackle over the thorax and then clip flush on the bottom.
See It sits low in the water, but is still visible.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

always a great time joining up with you guys. Next time we'll go those fish hell, on my turf.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

JRS: good note on the air temp. I know it hadn't reached 75 when the action started. Maybe closer to 70.

I'd have trouble with the small hackle, but going oversize and then trimming as you suggest might work out. Good tip.

Roughfisher: thanks again for the gear. We'll get north at some point.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous winonaflyfactory said...

So I've been busy, working on a few new things. I've read this post close to a dozen times, I like reading a different perspective and comparing it to mine.

A fine day for sure, top five for sure. I keep thinking about that two weight and how casting that rod for that short of a time changed my opinion on wanting something other than the 3wt. If I had the resources one of those would be in the truck for certain hatches, tossing hendricksons on that thing would be really fun.

Here's hoping for one last run before the end.

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