Monday, July 29, 2013

Driftless Area Tour Guide, 7/20/13


All in all there aren't that many people in this city or neighboring municipalities that regularly fish the trout streams of southeast Minnesota.  I don't cite any statistics, rather the simple fact that a person can head out in the summer on a weekend and run a good chance of not encountering a human.  There is a consideration regarding the number of miles of water available; also the varying qualities of the streams out there and where you place yourself on that spectrum on a given day.  But speaking from experience: it floors me how often I find complete solitude.  City of 110,000 right at hand.

In that city there is at least one stranded surfer from the west coast.  It was communicated to me that he wanted to go fishing.  That being a very general phrase/appointment, my response was this: what are your goals with respect to fishing southeast Minnesota?  We talked through it a bit.  In the end, he came by at 7:00 AM a Saturday or two ago to initiate one of the very few, very few instances in which I've ever "taken someone fishing."  This is rare mainly because (1) I like to be by myself, (2) I would never claim any sort of guide status, (3) there aren't many friends around, and only a few that fish; of those, intersecting schedules is a challenge.  Here are the notes from this outing:

(1) If I wait to have coffee until the afternoon I can get going pretty good and really lay the words out there (especially in meetings). Other than that though, I generally err on the side of saying less and listening more.  This deal set up as an outlier, in that I sensed an audience both captive and highly interested in the stream, the fish, the landscape, reading water and in general listening and watching carefully.  This got me rolling; probably talked too much. On all topics.  It was a tour guide role: lauding the Driftless Area, speaking on the water sources, the aged rocks, the various trout, the streamside veg, riffles, runs, pools, depositional features.  Complete dumping of all the things I say to myself as I walk around; just poured it all out on this guy.  My hope is that he dug some of it; I think he did; sensed as much but who knows.  It became apparent that his reasons for fishing were good ones though; this was reaffirmed in the conversations.  And in exponential fashion that pushed even more information into the air.

(2) I did tell him that I have never used a spinning rod to ply trout water. Maybe when I was a kid, but that was stillwater bait scenario.  I told him of my marked failures with respect to securing trout for my kids.  No guarantees.  Nymphing is a guarantee but you can't really start a guy out nymphing; not someone who has not caught a single fish since childhood; not someone who has never held a fly rod.  These expectations were generally aligned with his reasons for heading out; I discerned that he wanted to catch some fish but would hold nothing against me or anyone else if he came up empty.

(3) In the end, this guy caught some fish: a nice trout and a giant creek chub to hand; a couple trout that he LDR'd and a couple more that flashed at his spinner.  It was educational for me to watch an adult person throw a spinner in a trout stream.  I saw the distance and accuracy as compared to those put forth by kids; this difference is critical I think.  In this case, I'd say (for example): cast up past that hydro cushion and retrieve it through that and then the current seam...  and he'd do just that.  He fished well.

(4) Closing the morning we talked a bit about how he could continue to pursue fishing trout in southeast Minnesota.  That was one item for which I felt pretty confident in the answer: no one will teach you how to catch these fish; you will not read a book or watch YouTube and then walk out, ready to assassinate.  You can get background and prep that way.  But the fish come via firsthand study, preferably by yourself, so you can stand on one corner and go at it for as long as it takes, working every seam, trying every iteration of flies, waiting and watching and working.  Simply no substitute for time on the water.  Say it before and say it again.  Reading water; there are books written on that topic.  I'll never claim to have it all down but I've got some of it down by now.  I keyed this guy into reading water and I could tell he was stoked at the prospect. Study it, read it, fish it.  I remember John Montana saying this to me, after answering questions and giving direction...  [there is no more to say], now just go whip that shit out there.


Surfer makes good on Salmo trutta.  Note wet wading in jeans, which I thought was pretty solid; no complaints registered.
A bigger fish that we released; a nice creel of five was collected; this guy wanted to eat some trout.

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