Monday, August 31, 2009

Just In Case

With all those flies, you'd think that smallies were likely to eat 30 different forage species. It's actually more like 2-3. The poppers and the clousers will be worked hard and they'll come back with ranks thoroughly decimated if not completely eliminated. As for the others - the philosophy there is that once you have the case in the pack, it makes sense to fill it up.

What I like about this is that so many folks have their hands in the deal: WFF, John Montana, my neighbor MB [flies], my family [tying materials], The Roughfisher [flies and the case]. So when I look down at that plethorical selection I see all of that and when a mouth closes on one of these deceptions all that will play out just right. So thanks folks.

A final technical review note: the case is sweet - thanks to Roughfisher for passing that on as an undeserved bonus.

BWCA. Anti-un-disembark on the morrow. Back soon.

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).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's going on around here...

Bountiful harvest - every day for a while now (although not quite this many each instance):

Some good home/yard/garden improvement projects.

Gearing up for BWCA - starting to tie some poppers and streamers:

Sith Lord Darth Maul Popper

The Clouser Minnow - simple and absolutely deadly. It's a known fact that fish eat the hell out of these flies. I've read a lot of what fly would you choose if you could only have one articles, and a lot of guys answer Clouser Minnow. It's a baitfish, just bobbing along. Eat me, eat me. I'm wounded and spiraling and dipping and bobbing and crying out to you: eat me. Sometimes, if you hit it just right things can really come together. I will bring somewhere between 12-20 of these flies to BWCA in September, in large part because they are often victims to bite-offs while smallie fishing - northern pike marauders.

Here is an experimental fly with a rattle tied in:

Other shots from the bench:

I'd really like to hear what folks have to say on these two topics: (1) best and favorite smallie flies, and (2) BWCA fly fishing tactics. Info like this I find to be highly valuable: relation of personal experience that a guy can take a lot from.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Two Failures

Last two carp outings featured some distinct failure:

(1) Sight fishing to big cyprinids. Very spooky fish. Some were feeding. Water very clear; no wind and decent sun. I had shots at maybe 4-5, of which one was great. No fewer than four times did a largemouth bass or sunfish eat the properly presented carp carrot. Had me fuming. Non-target fish. Like pocketing the wrong ball when playing pool. Or shooting at one basket only to have the ball go through the other. Just not cool. In one instance I had a fish locked up. There were no questions. It had its head down, eating… less than a rod length away. If there is a cast involved, there is a good chance I’ll screw it up. Dapping though, is pretty much money. So I dapped. The second the carrot hit the water, a froth exploded and some involuntary interjections were offered. Carp don’t do that. Water settled and first I noticed the carp was gone; second I noticed I had a pisant bass pulling annoyingly at my line. Pisants. Non-target fish. They can be fun if you’re chasing them. Not by accident though. Not when they act as roadblock and pitfalls.
(2) Blind fishing to some carp that were around but wouldn’t eat. I tried numerous rigs and weights in a known carp haven… But no takers. Caught probably 6-8 freshwater drum, 2-3 smallies and a sunfish – all on rubber legged hares ears. So at least the flies were in the zone. No carp though. Not sure why. Just another part of the assemblage that is turning me off fishing just a little bit. Getting tired and also realizing that it’s been a decent year and there has been much done and seen in the way of fishing. I don’t much feel like working hard in heat and thick vegetation to do something I’ve done quite a few times over. I guess a guy needs a break to reconnoiter, tie up some flies and miss the fish some. Winter. Between now and then I’ll do some more fishing but nothing’s really planned out now. Hell, I’ll do my share of fishing – no question about that. Just losing a little drive and these dastardly non-target fish that specialize in foiling efforts erode that drive even further. Need a change of fishscape - i.e. BWCA (we're comin, we're comin). It’s gotten to where I’d rather work on my urban ranch than go fishing: turning dirt into food, building things from the stone that builder refused, and watching the kids appreciate all of it.

There is no fulfillment to be gained by way of an accident:

Lack of fishing drive, to the benefit of home projects:

PS: the RLHE were not dogmeat either:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Whitewater State Park Camping
August 9, 2009

Another solid camping outing – described in captions below.

Dude – don’t run with marshmallows in your mouth.

We got site 63 on the west side of the main campground. The sandstone cliff face you see in the background is bank at river-left. We could hear the river very well, which made for particularly good sleeping.

The evening featured a couple highlights: a visit from Winona Fly Factory for dinner, and some fog that hung over the river as darkness came. We followed WFF around while he fished a bit – hopper pattern with a beadhead trailer. We caught up on some fishing-related items, and I think he got a good look at camping with kids. He offered some thoughts and pics here.

Danny woke up at 4:50 I think. We went down to the river some time after that and fished as a duo. Kind of bugged me that (I believe) the neighbors (party guys) heard me rig up my rod and one of them raced down to the hole to beat me there. He walked up ~10 seconds after my feet touched the water. If he’d been there first I would moved. I didn’t move though; rather I proceeded to catch fish with a #22 dry fly and a kid on my back. Nothing too amazing but pretty remarkable to have dry fly fishing ~50 yards from your tent.

James woke up a bit later. He came down to the river and we did a bit of the hook ‘em and hand off deal. He played a few brown trout to the bank… unhooked, released and smiled. In his pajamas.

This odd-shaped fish was feeding in a rhythm a rod-length out from where I was standing. I watched him come up to eat… Put the fly in the lane and watched him rise to take it. Nice. I don’t remember catching a trout shaped like that, but I think I’ve seen pics of similar geometry.

Cowboy Coffee Components:

Climbing to the top of Chimney Rock – sign says 1.1 kilometers, estimated 1 hour – probably took us ~40 minutes. Some steep slopes.

A line from a sappy song or story: at the highest point of the climb, the tallest oak tree held a singing bird up near the top of its crown. Looking out over the valley and rejoicing I’d say. It did not spook or seem concerned at all as we stood underneath and listened. I knew there was no way to get a decent pic with the Pentax, but I messed with the light situation a bit just to get an image to depict the general nature of the creature. I know of only a couple blue birds, and I believe this one is an indigo bunting… but a positive ID would be cool.

James usually notes sandstone whenever he sees it –usually driving by it in a car. On this day though he got to touch it and understand its composition. Fuel for The Explainer.

Returned home to find things in good order: growing and ripening.