Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Close-to-home-adventure-weekend Part I: float down the river

A straight line across country from our put-in point to our take-out point is 6.34 miles long. A rough charting of the river’s path is ~11 miles at low-resolution (not many nodes used). So my estimate is that we paddled approximately 13 miles. We pushed off at 1:23 PM. Two hours later we glided under a bridge that was 20 city blocks north. My gauging of travel time was off by quite a lot. So we ended up just canoeing; not stopping at sandbars to swim; not stopping at riffles or the deep slots to probe for smallies. Water was turbid so we didn’t have much opportunity to spot fish. Quite a few herons, kingfishers, eagles, deer and cedar waxwings though. Boys are learning the rules of a canoe. Learning how to hold a paddle. For three hours they were thoroughly engaged. Last hour they got a little bored. About what you’d expect. We ended in slow water and paddled by some great beds of arrowhead. Easy, close, interesting, affordable, educational and even a decent workout. We floated by one angler wading near a bridge. No other people.

Close-to-home-adventure-weekend Part II: four hours of trout fishing

At 6:40 AM I was walking downstream as normal planning to trek in a ways, get situated and then work back up to my motor vehicle. Within ~5 minutes most sign of civilization was gone. Only thing you’d really pick up on would be the close-cropped ground… result of good grazing ruminants. Here is a notable sequence of four events that’ll I’ll lay out for consideration. I don’t know which if any were directly connected. There’s a lot going on out there and I suppose the world didn’t expect a lone angler to walk in that early on a Monday morning.

(1) Walking on a good floodplain. Saw a flash of movement downstream; guessed it was a coyote. It was a coyote. It jogged into a thicket and waited because it couldn’t get around me easily due to high cliff wall and my position. I kept on walking and watched it come out the other side and then semi-hurriedly head off upstream.

(2) Approx 30 seconds later, just as I was turning away from watching the coyote, along came a pretty piercing feline scream. Bobcat or cougar. I stood still for a while hoping to catch a view. Nothing though; probably foolish to think I’d see anything but stood still for a while anyway.

(3) Approx 120 seconds later a dog way up on the bluff top started barking pretty regularly. Not going crazy but just a steady bark. Stopped after a while.

(4) Approx 120-180 seconds later came a single report of a shot fired. I’m no ballistics guy but it sounded like a crack as opposed to a boom, which made me figure it was a rifle.

That’s it. I was expecting to encounter none of these four when I crossed the first riffle that morning. Interesting stuff man. There’s a lot going on out there and nearly all of it happens without consideration of a person/bum like me as any sort of center of attention.

Fished from maybe 7 AM to 11 AM. It wasn’t crush mode like the last few nymphing outings. Still fine but not talking dozens of fish. More like one dozen. Almost all very nice trout in the 10-13 inch range. Couple brook trout, one of which was measured at 11 inches strong. Water is very low. Water is very full of plant biomass. This makes most of the water not-nymphable. But the good holes are still good and still full of fish. If you insist on fishing everything, you’ll have a hell of a time. Skip from hole to hole. Or try searching with dry flies. I would have bet the farm on hoppers going in… But tell me why there are hoppers everywhere I go except along that stretch of river. I never kicked one up. Oddest damn thing. ZERO takes on hopper patterns. I thought it was primed and it just flopped. Tricorythodes mayflies were present. Not in absurd numbers or scenarios though. I kept switching between nymphs and trico pattern. Got 2-3 fish on a #20 spinner pattern with CDC wings as the adults started to fall, maybe around 930 AM.

Other than that beauty BKT, here are the only other notables:

(1) At that log-dam hole in the pic, there was a nice BNT that was marauding a territory under the foam. Kept rising to the foam seam and taking bugs. Came after my nymphs three times but I couldn’t hook him I think because I wasn’t detecting the take right. I stood for a good while and put the nymphs through various drifts. Then I set them in the current and let the trailing nymph dangle up by the surface near that foam line. Sure thing, he came up and smacked it. It was his last mistake.

(2) Found some success stripping nymphs. I like this technique a lot because you can put a slightly larger nymph at the front, trailed by a smaller model. You can dead drift these as normal, but then you also have the option of casting and stripping back, treating the lead nymph like a small streamer. In slower water I did this a few times… couldn’t get a good drift but didn’t want to cut flies off. This worked pretty well. It reminded me that I was really into that at one time (last year maybe) and it works pretty well all the time. One BNT absolutely trucked the lead fly to the point of fooling me… sure felt like a monster smack. Nice fish 12-13” anyway. Load for the 2 wt.

(3) Check the stomach contents picture sequence. Good stuff there.

(4) I’m so damn happy that my family likes to eat trout. Hard to find better protein. Low in toxics. From wild, cold water of SE MN. Within twelve hours of swimming, five trout were eaten on our property. The scraps and skeletons were given to chickens. I used to bury that stuff. I’ve never put an ounce of fish guts in the garbage because it doesn’t seem right to me. These fish were cooked in butter and oil, salt, pepper. Cast iron skillet. Then that white rice was thrown in the skillet to dirty it up a bit. There wasn’t enough food to go around, turns out. You should fish more so we can eat more trout, someone said.


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