Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blood Moon

Just passed a five week period during which I logged 2 hours of fishing (on last day of catch and release trout). A lot of good time at home. And in fact, I've been really enjoying that time. I like being at home. It is afterall my home. So happened that someone sent me this note though, at 16:05 on October 20th:

This weekend’s full moon is also known as the "blood Moon” ,natives would hunt by moonlight and start stocking up on meat for the winter.

Got me thinking a little and looking ahead to the weather forecast. It was noted that Friday, October 22 was set to be about as good as a person could ask for. It was also noted that beyond that day, things were going to take a turn. So a plan was put in place. Thursday night was some light prep. The 2 wt that had been carefully cleaned and set aside was picked up. The chest pack was emptied, cleaned and reloaded. Coffee ground and set in oney-pot. Waders folded neatly atop boots in gear bag. Maps were examined. Etc. Time was burned on the God-forsaken computer trying to determine whether or not my 2009 Iowa trout stamp is still good (don’t know to this minute). Sleep was spotty. Kids came in around 4:11 hours. Sleep was spottier.

Pulled away from the house at 6:09. Driving south to Iowa - land of continuous trout season.

The fishing report can be summarized as follows:
(1) The time stamp on the pic of the four rainbows below is 9:04. By that time, I’d caught maybe a dozen fish. So left house in MN around 6 AM, and three hours later had touched a dozen out-of-state trout. Not a bad start to the day. Nymphing, even in the hands of an amateur, can be deadly and border-line cheating. I showed these fish a tandem rig of a BH orange scud and the most basic #18 HE you can tie. They seemed to eat these flies with abandon. In approximate alternating fashion: scud, HE, scud, HE… etc. I stopped at four kept fish because I was not sure (and still not sure) if one can keep fishing once limit has been had. Figured I’d fish a while and then knock one more on the way out (which was done). Had more good success nymphing through ~10:30 AM.
(2) Right around that time, many folks started showing up. Also at that time, a significant lull came on. Pretty much dead from 10:30 to ~13:00. I tried streamers, and a few nymph varieties. Nothing really going. If I’d been a lazy SOB and gotten there at 10 AM… well, you can figure what the fishing and resulting mood would have been. All is good though when the board is covered in fish and the sun shines down.
(3) The lull came to an abrupt end when I decided to listen to some advice that had been offered by someone much wiser than me: try some searching with dry flies. I’d noticed some 16-18 mayflies coming off here and there. Tied on #18 Adams that I’d cranked out in a hotel while staffing the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo. That fly didn’t come off for the next couple hours. Got maybe 20 takes on it, and landed maybe 10-12 trout. Roughly a dozen trout, caught on #18 dry on October 22nd. Notable and highly enjoyable.
(4) Early on most fish caught were rainbows. Later on, most were browns. Most dry fly fish were smaller browns. Couple larger, pretty fish on that Adams though. One in a picture below porpoised in some broken water just off a riffle… cast and watched the fish porpoise on fly. Perfect.
(5) Couple rainbows took line. These fish were in mid-teens I figure. Ran for woody debris cover, which was very cool.
(6) Stocker fish. Pellet-heads. Different than most of the fish here in MN. Iowa DNR stocks some streams weekly. So odds are that I am set to eat aquatic livestock – as opposed to eating a rung in the stream ecosystem. That takes something away from the experience. Not exactly sure what or how much but it does take away. I know I can still appreciate catching those fish and my guess is I won’t be complaining when I chew and swallow.
(7) Weather was as good as a person could ask for. I watched a big moon hang as I drove south. At streamside I found frost. Around 10:30 I peeled off layers. Wind kicked up in the afternoon but it wasn’t too bad. The sun was the sun and I sure liked that.
(8) Setting of a dry fly with that 2 wt rod might be my favorite fishing pastime. Always learning and honing that technique, but even as it is now: it feels like grace and butter. Set is the word indeed: it just unrolls and sets down on the water. Stop the cast short just a bit so the fly doesn’t slap down… and it just sets and settles.
(9) Smoked the three smallest fish. Extreme desiccation. The two biggest will be fried or baked this week.

Fishing in ancient history: in amongst the limestone walls. Stocker fish or not, there is always a sense of awe in play there. Capturing the splendor of that little valley via pixels is not possible. Feeble attempts are included below.

Back home before 17:00 hours.

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It's Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Trout Season Reflection I

[Digging through a stack of papers in my tying shop today, I came across a piece of stationary from northern water works supply of Fargo ND. Written by my hand in pencil was the following text - date unknown - likely around 2002-2203 or so. Struck me as appropriate posting, looking back on trout harvested in 2010. I'm thankful for those fish.]

"There's just nothing like the feel of a trout dancing through the river, making the pole pulse like a heart in your hands. It does to the hands what the sight of your sweetie does to your body, what dreams of eternity do to your heart, what milk chocolate does to your mouth... And yet we killed two trout. It's strange to kill your dance partners, but that's what we did. We did it because the world is strange - because this is a world where no matter who you are or where you live or what you eat or whether you choose or don't choose to understand and be grateful, it is sacrifice - sweet, bleeding sacrifice - that sustains you. So we killed two trout, but knew no sacrificial prayers, and so simply knelt by the river, commended them on how well they'd fought, whispered, "swim little soul, go be a bird, or a singing mouse, or a whale," then broke their bodies to sustainour own."

-David James Duncan, The River Why, pages 281-282

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Coattails of a Rockwasher

Tradition is that I fish my home system for end of stream trout season. This was the scene mere days before I wandered in...

And I'm sure you're aware of the various flood stories in SE MN over the past couple weeks. My goal was to investigate: look for bugs and fish. Had only ~2 hours, but even in that span I was able to see: (1) intact periphyton, (2) cased caddis on woody debris and rocks, (3) scuds, (4) fish of all sizes - ranging from ~2-3" up to "too large to land."

Amazing and comforting to me that a quarter-inch amphipod can survive such a raging torrent... while the constructs of man crumble and wash away.

I've heard that "the fish can always find the edges" no matter how big the flow. That makes sense to me. The caddis and scuds, etc. are another story though: they cannot migrate laterally. Their persistence and endurance is notable.

Also observed significant channel modification, some of which is depicted below. You can see the sorting of various particle sizes as the flow receded.

As for the fish: only one was remarkably beat up - see pics: damaged fins and pale in appearance. Not sure on the year class of that little trout pictured, but I caught three of that size, which was heartening. Most all fish ate orange scuds.

Maybe reflect on the 2010 trout season later on.

“To a river, as to any natural force, an obstruction is merely an opportunity. For the river’s nature is to flow; it is not just spatial in dimension, but temporal as well. All things must yield to the impulse of water in time, if not today then tomorrow or in a thousand years. If its way is obstructed then it goes around the obstruction or under it or over it and, flowing past it, wears it away. People may dam it and say that they have made a lake, but it will still be a river.” --Wendell Berry, The Unforeseen Wilderness