Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fathers’ Day 2012

Last time I touched a trout was May 17, and that was a short bit early in the AM while kids slept 40 yards away. Last time I dedicated any time to trout fishing was May 11. April – June in this part of the country is regarded as blue ribbon trout time: bugs everywhere, ranging from caddis to all kinds and sizes of mayflies. I haven’t fished one hatch all year and almost assuredly will not at all in 2012. Not sure what to think about that one; if I flip back through pictures of caddis swarms it might bother me. But what’s happening is the day-long trout outing has fallen through cracks and given way to something greater (three multi-day trips per year) and something shorter (urban carp, misc investigative fishing and canoeing) and something more inclusive (fishing with kids).

Fathers’ Day weekend showed all kinds of good dimension: mostly time with family. Including a tour of Mystery Cave, Root River watershed, planet Earth. Rochester Honkers baseball game last night with older son. That content will be set aside though in this venue. Two notable instances of fishing for trout in coldwater were recorded:

Nymphing on Saturday Night, in note form:

(1) Start 3 PM; found a guy just getting underway at my entry point. We talked a bit and I put forth some of my newfound effort to be pleasant. Nice conversation. Turns out he lives on the Zumbro. We exchanged info; maybe carp, maybe SMB. One nice link: he was fishing the 2 wt SPL, which is also my DA rod of choice. Discontinued. I deferred and said I’d either go somewhere else or trek way down so as to not bother him. But it became a non-issue when I saw that he’d be searching with dries. I had the pry bar along, and thus would be fishing deep. So we were compatible in that way. Still decided to book ass downstream though; you never do know how far a guy means when he says “a ways.” I walked for a while; turned upstream; never saw him nor anybody else again. So we had a good exchange that worked out for everyone.

(2) All the foreboding was “you won’t be able to nymph because the veg is too thick.” Etc. The first couple reaches were indeed tough; choked with veg. Some aquarium stuff that I don’t even bother with. But I wasn’t about to go to dry and dropper without giving the tandem nymph rig its proper due. First deep hole I came to is pictured below. It was so full of fish that were taken unawares that I almost set up camp on the bank. After an hour or so of catching fish every few minutes I just left. Some took dead drifted nymphs but most took twitched or slowly raised flies. No really big fish but many nice ones. Four to the creel. One BKT.

(3) One of the BNT had a stomach full of snails. These snails were thick in the veg. Notable to me that only one fish showed this. Was he foraging in the veg, or was there some sort of drift in play? My guess is the former but no one knows.

(4) All the deep holes gave up fish. It was just a matter of taking the time to iteratively step down to their eye level. Moving indicator mostly; occasionally adding split shot. I like nymphing. Never got to dry flies (no reason/prompt) or streamers.

(5) This nice little gray water under the overhanging tree limbs called out as a nice big fish lay. I sneaked a bit and bow-and-arrowed a cast to the head of it. Indicator stopped and I set the hook. Sow trout showed itself for one second and then simply powered through the hook. Didn’t have time to properly get to the reel, etc. Nice encounter though.

(6) Last fish of the day was probably around 15 inches. I guess I did use a streamer in that case – casting up and across, stripping back beneath some rising fish that I couldn’t figure out. So I guess I did try dry flies too now that I think of it. Memory isn’t right. Poured rain on me as I stripped that streamer. All wet wading though and nothing that couldn’t get wet. I stood dead stoic in the rain and kept casting.

(7) Heavy creel came home, fish set aside in salt, garlic, lemon.

Streamer fishing on Sunday night:

Let me take a minute to describe the set up for this one-hour chapter:

Driving a route that we use frequently; dropping my son off to spend some time with his grandparents. On the way back. It’s around 8 PM. But where we sit now on our path around the sun: there is daylight left. And I don’t get this far down here too often. The daylight is gray now and just a few degrees between the sun and the land edge. But I don’t get down here and I figure I should check it out. So at a right angle in the main road, I just kept going straight. Onto the dirt roads and up goes the curtain: 100 yards later the world of transit and traffic and destinations A and B was forgotten. Now came long stretches between farms. Rolling topography and big sky clouds. Beautiful country and you could spend a lot of time looking at the pastures and the clouds. Most of the tracks in the dirt were narrow, on the order of 2 inches; horse buggies in play. The houses were white with darkened windows. No phone lines or power lines connecting them to fast-paced scenarios. I did see quite a few kids playing in yards as the sun left them. Slowed down for a giant snapper, and also for a loose horse. This was surely other-worldly. Fascinating to think how little you see and know from the main road travel. Glance down at my map; back up to the road. Watching the intersections and stream crossings. At one in particular I got out and looked in the water. Right size: not big like the main branches but not the little skinny water that is so tough right now. The right size. Fireflies lighting as they shot upward. Just starting to come on strong. Dense vegetation; fair amount of woody debris in the water. This looked good to me. I could see riffles and holes and dark water. I could see fish right under me. The stream corridor was tunnel-like: dense canopy overhead. Who had been here? I could see signs of some but the signs were not strong. Few people I suppose. There’s a lot of good water between this point and MPLS. I figured in my head that I came here and I had my gear; I ought to get in and walk around. Really I knew it was going to be good but to manage expectations that is what I figured to myself. Boots on; no waders. Black shirt and dark green pants; carp mask. It felt like I looked ominous. Before I got into the stream I hid in the vegetation and flipped a streamer out there and drug it across the water surface in a radial pattern. Maybe 4-5 casts in I drug it across the bottom of a riffle, right as it came to a shallow pool. I can’t say for sure what I did but I remember this: out of the gray came a long and heavy trout; for some reason that really puzzled me it was thrashing and it flipped its entire body on top of the streamer. If I remember correctly I just stood there slack and staring waiting to feel any tension on the rod. None came. That trout left a serious bass note resonating there at the bridge. I stood for a good amount of time wondering about it. God damn. That was a serious fish. I got in the water and started upstream. Yes, this would be good – that was obvious. There were pools and riffles and overhead cover. And I could see fish rising. I proceeded to cast that streamer in relative blindness upstream, and then high-stick it back so it made a v-wake in the water. This was new to me; hadn’t really fished much this late, and hadn’t really tried this (essentially a mousing) technique. The trout became bass. They were crushing and flipping their bodies at that fly with complete abandon. To be honest this was not optimal for good hook up rate; they were too wild. And I found that the gap on my streamer was garbage so I switched it out. That helped a lot. Caught a few fish of moderate size. Nothing huge but the toilet flushes were everywhere and I saw some big bodies. I was really haunted by that big fish back at the bridge. Man: what a hole it put in the water. Fireflies now coming on everywhere. Rising all around me. Fish rising but no way could I tie a not. I had to work hard to keep the fly safe and sound because standard operations were out the door. No light. I fished until 930 PM and then figured I’d better walk out carefully while I still had 5% light filtering through. A beautiful mix of suspense, thrill, mystery. Fish hitting so effing hard that they were scaring me. 10% feeling that I might not make it out okay. That is actually a nice component of the whole deal. But I’m always good when by a stream: worst case you just lay down and swim/walk out to the road. All the streams go to the rivers and the rivers lead home.

Driftless Area clouds

Native Ginger, a favorite plant

Right after this pic the hen pecked him in the face and then the boy tried to beat the hen with a stick

Suppose 15 inches or so but to be safe saying 14-16

Big fish lay or badass water

Fish concentration point, just loaded

Victim of at least one previous sour catch and release

First hole of the day, essentially a fish camp

Late night fishing with v-wakes is haunting me right now


Blogger Gregg said...

I have had trout so stuffed with snails I don't know how they wiggled, much less fought well. But all have been in stillwaters. Still, I developed a kick arse snail imitation that fools carp as well (well, one, but nothing else worked here.) Good story of trouting and children!


2:21 PM  
Blogger e.m.b. said...

"All the streams go to the rivers and the rivers lead home"
Damn fine piece of writing.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Mr. P. said...

That hen pecked him in the face? Maybe it has a future in the saddle hackle business.

3:25 PM  
Blogger John Montana said...

Nice as always j...

8:57 PM  
Blogger Slab Seeker said...

Great writing!

6:02 PM  
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8:58 PM  

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