All God's creatures got a place in the choir... - B. Staines
Been mostly traveling; explore Minnesota campaign. With family and friends. To the bedrock shores of Great Lakes where rivers fall a hundred feet in the span of a mile; to the oft-neglected southwest corner of the state... where men pointed muskets at each other and towns burned 150 years ago; to the Ole Miss, paddling and searching for the one true carp that will make everything whole and connect all the basins across the continental United States. These being mostly photo essays, explorations and efforts to strengthen bonds and further habits and character traits such as easy-goingness. That in itself is a campaign that will not end. So August has been out and about to some degree. There have been a handful of brief fishing bits, some associated with aforementioned travels and some more deliberate here at home; the latter being unremarkable for the most part save a two-rod experiment (that is carrying two fly rods on the stream), catching maybe 20 trout over five hours just to the east a ways (I took that rate to be exceptionally low when all was said and done; lowest trout per minute rate on the books in 2013 without a doubt; the fish were not where they normally were and/or their mouths were closed; it was hot and I got out late - that probably explains a lot; in the end, a full creel and 20 trout is nothing to bitch about). The carping in the immediate vicinity has not been given sufficient attention; what little time I have afforded it has been around the noon hour, meaning high temps, high sun and carp hiding under vegetation. Today, August 19 things were in line and work was done and jobs were tended as needed, so the first half of the hours were given over to recreating oneself in the setting of the coldwater streams of the Driftless Area of SE MN. This recreation serves multiple purposes, too many to list here, but of which include inhalation of fresh air, exercise, battering oneself with noxious weeds so as to build up immunity to various toxins, immersing feet and calves in cold water for therapy, listening to birdsong, standing alone, probing water with flies, bringing fish home for dinner, admiring various spot patterns on brown trout, selecting rainbow trout for the creel given their hatchery roots, examining stomach contents, swearing aloud at will, etc.
Here are a few notes:
(1) Getting out early is probably key. Before the angle of the sun can assault the stream; that appears to be a good time to endeavor to catch trout. This is not news. I didn't get there particularly early; started fishing at 7 AM. Nice, cool. Very nice condition. Two of first three presentations of tandem nymph rig brought fish to hand. This was 45 feet from my car. The second BNT was about right for the pan, so I hit the skull several times with the pommel of my knife. An inspection of the stomach contents gave up one item only... first thought, via feel through the stomach, was a minnow. But very long, thin. As I slit into stomach, I started to figure maybe a brook lamprey, which would have been notable. You tell me... I think it is Berkley Powerbait. No hook, no metal present. Anyway, in the early hours of the morning, 7-9 AM, fish came steadily to hand. Nymphing, using a #14 scud hook 2x strong with a big X of rubber legs as the trailer in most cases. I find that fish really like that fly. It's not a delicate pattern. I believe the X is a very nice outline the water.
(2) Over the course of this first couple hours I was taking care to do a lot of twitching of the flies, and then slow lifting and/or twitching at drifts' ends. As usual, this upped the count markedly. In one instance I did a slow lift and felt heavy pressure... here came a big silver side that looked like a bass or maybe a salmon... i.e. big trout. It whorled one bright turn at me and then came unpinned. Another twitch worked well after threading leader only into the log mass, dropping the flies where they could not be drifted... RBT came; my son ate him tonight. A short-mouthed, red-striped fish that fought pretty hard.
(3) Around 9 AM I noticed tricos in the air. There were fish rising but not consistently, and there were not great clouds of spinners above. Unconvincing enough that I opted to ignore the situation and try a hopper. Over the next 45-60 minutes picked up maybe 6-8 fish on a "natural" looking pattern (as opposed to foam). This was very enjoyable: easy grace of the 2 wt was fully realized. Long casts to broken water and seams; drifting along the over-hanging grass. This is the not the way to catch the most or the biggest fish, but it is a way to fish; one that is relaxing; one that can provide great visual stimulation.
(4) Back to nymphing en route to a particular reach of water that I'd decided would be my turnaround point. I let creel fish #5 go quite a few times, thinking I'd get one on the way out, or back by the car; turns out I never did fish on the way out and I gave the corner hole by the car (well-rested) to another fisherman who was just starting. So creel was 80% full when all said and done; which is fine. The marginal water was good and I mean that: I dig the marginal stuff. The fish were by now in the bottoms of the holes, seemingly exclusively but who knows. Mending to get flies way down worked well. Hooked and lost another pretty big fish when it leapt and gave a head-shake; fish do win quite often when you sit down and think about it. By 11 AM or so I had probably 20 some trout, three white suckers, and a bunch of creek chubs to hand.
(5) The last piece of water was given to me by a friend; I appreciate it. Here is exactly what happened. I got up above it to see if a birdseye would allow me to set up well; I couldn't see any fish but the configuration of the pool became known to me. I plotted out my approach and casting positions, and where I could land fish if the need arose. I went downstream quite a distance and entered the water; no small feat; talking about some incised channel. I gave some token nymphing to the pool just below the prime target; picked up a smallish trout and then cut the nymphs off for good. Tied on a big wispy streamer, by Roughfish.com: light green in color and heavy DB eyes. An absolute handful for that 2 wt. I chose this fly very deliberately because of its color and also because it sinks like a rock; it is not one of these streamers that takes 3.67 minutes to saturate due to various materials layered in. Get the hell down is what it whispers. The pool took a 90 degree turn at its exit, the tail rising up to a riffle (which flowed down the little pool I worked through). I stood on that riffle and put just one false cast way to the side and then shot all the line at my feet (kind of leaning and ducking, unsure of where that streamer would cross my body's plane) Stared straight ahead as the fly sank; I wanted that damn thing on the bottom. I had cast across the back of the pool. Started the retrieve and maybe three seconds in, a big trout became visible as it ripped the streamer; it caught momentarily, turned its head and the fly never stuck solid; everyone has observed this phenomena. That's it, maybe what I figured. But next cast, same thing, only this time the streamer held true. I walked up the riffle to the back of the pool, to the predetermined landing site. A moderate challenge to the 2 wt set up was issued by the brown trout. The leader was down to 4x tippet. Nice landing, easy handling of the fish (the fly came during the course of landing). I was quite taken with this trout and thus I captured some photos, two of which are below. This was clearly the biggest fish I've captured with the Sage SPL. I did a field measurement using the rod and my hand widths as reference. At the time, I thought it might be closer to 21" than 20" but a post-field check suggests 20 is the number. What a buck; what a mouth and what spots. Remarkable fish. In my top three all-time.
(6) On the way home around 1300, it came to my attention that all was well with respect to family affairs; kids were in the neighborhood, surely aboard bikes. Good deal; can never say enough about how good it is to have a situation in which kids have freedom to head out. This allowed for an hour of looking in on carp; the local chapter; a water I hadn't seen all year. Started out with an LOD, hoping for a feeding fish; found only stationary/sunning, smallish carp in amongst the smallies. Switched to a soft hackle but they even spooked at that; one or two blown and they told all their buddies and I was screwed from there. But those were low percentage fish; expectation not there. Kept on upstream, flipping at smallies now and then; caught a couple; a rock bass too. Some big SMB in there, right in town. Water got a little shallower, and I started focusing on the rocks under the over-hanging grass... good place to eat. There is my fish. Those were the exact words; those words only. Spotted a carp that was showing the "slow cruise hunt" mood, working upstream. This was the one decent shot I'd get, that's what I figured. I cut inside and then out to an opening in the grass above the fish and waited about ten seconds. He came into view... soft hackle was flipped. I was a little slow so the fly ended up about an inch inside the mouth. I will note that this fish out-fought its size class; I didn't get the head up for maybe a full 2-3 minutes. Impressive. And a nice close to a half-day of fishing.
Hatchery rainbows, wild brown trout, suckers, creek chubs, cedar waxwings, grasshoppers, smallmouth bass, rockers... and carp: some sing low, some sing higher, some sing out loud on a telephone wire and some just clap there hands, or claws or anything they got. - B. Staines.