Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Nordic Track

Cross-country skiing (also known as XC skiing) is a winter sport in which participants propel themselves across snow-covered terrain using skis and poles. It is popular in many countries with large snowfields, primarily Northern Europe, Canada, Alaska and the upper midwest United States.

We've got some snowfields of our own, here at the gateway to The Driftless Area. I've only been out fishing twice, and both rounds were minor bouts of ~3 hours each. This has been largely due to weather - bitter cold and/or poor traveling conditions. I have yet to see in person a midge sipped from a stream-top. That'll come though. We've got some 30 F days on the way. We've almost broken this coldass doldrum... a brighter time is in store! Looking forward to it. Wilted Spinach. Looking forward to it. Hot coffee at streamside coming soon.

Anyway, in lieu of fishing, some time has been spent learning to cross country ski. We grew up as alpine skiiers of sorts, so the transition is not too bad. I found a pair of boots for $0.50 and a set of skis and poles that were not marked at my Grandma's thrift store. When I asked how much the package would cost, I was told $5.00. Well, it is my Grandma's thrift store. I gave them all the cash I had in my wallet: $17.00 American. It's outcast equipment from the resort in my home town. I used to fit skis at said resort. I maybe handled these babies back in the mid-1990s... although we didn't pay much attention to the XC stuff, and it didn't get a lot of use.

Getting some use now though. Fifteen minute walk with skis on shoulder to edge of town... swap ski boots with hiking boots carried in backpack and take off. The "traditional" form is really running with skis on it seems. A little glide here and there. Pretty enjoyable. A nice way to traverse the woods.

The edge of town. I'd be hugely disappointed if there were an outlet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 19, 2009 Report


Cold, but no wind
Sun tried to peek a bit around 14:00 but just wasn't up for the task
Never saw one midge on the snow, or on the water
Nymphed as normal and got a few fish
Took photo of one fish only - dragged onto iceberg in stream and then used ketchum release to remove hook, for nearly zero contact with air or human flesh
I figured it was on when I got three in the first twenty minutes, but it was slow after that
All fish caught were wild salmo trutta variety

I ran nymphs through a lot of water that I figured would have produced some trout. Should have produced some trout. Not sure what the deal was there. Maybe I'd hit my winter quota for a 24 hour period. Didn't fret it too badly though, as I'd reveled a bit in the fish I got into early in the outing.

Some hot, homemade soup at streamside is always appreciated. I watched and listened while eating it, trying to create a midge with my mental energy.

One reel positive today was that I was able to keep my G Loomis from siezing up. Yesterday I inadvertently dunked it while unhooking that deep beauty... absolutely frozen solid from that point on. Fortunately I had a lot of line out... otherwise I'd have had to try some old "cold ass reel tucked in armpit" trick. Anyway, I was careful today and reel stayed happy and spit line all the while.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wheels are Turning... Finally.

Just been cranky man. Snapping at people, walking around in a state of mild depression, etc. This doggy ass cold spell has everybody indoors. People aren't meant to be indoors. I don't claim to be an "outdoorsman" of any sort really. Not a claim. I don't go to outdoors stores or buy certain equipment, join clubs, etc. As a basic need for human-folk though, I just feel down-ass rotten when I can't breath some decent air and look on a good cloudbank now and then. And when you feel down-ass rotten, you tend to take it out (subtley or not-so) on people around you. I've been doing that. Not to the point of being a complete ass or anything like that... but it's had an impact on home life.

Now one could say: you shouldn't have to go fishing to be a good person at home. Well, hell. You can go on and say it. I don't know what to tell you. I can't apologize for being a certain person. Anyway, you get it. Finally, after 2+ months, I wet a line today. It was only for a few hours, and involved only a few fish... but it was a remedy.

Here is the quick report.

Starts with some good coffee, poured directly to-go. A couple Whitewater Valley apples too.

I met a friend on the stream. We'd talked of fishing together now and then, but it hadn't happened until today. It was highly enjoyable. Light snow, overcast day, but dead calm - which was nice. A gray day, you'd call it. There weren't fish in runs - they were in plunge pools. We both nymphed the entire time - tandem rigs with indicators.

This water produced some fish. First - two 11" browns taken in the main current.

Then, this healthy beauty - probably ~16" - taken in the hydro-cushion there at river right. When this fish hit, I let out an involuntary whoop, because the indicator jolted a solid 10 inches. Ran me pretty hard, and leapt clear of the water twice. Stunning fish.

[kept fish half in water for pics and quickly released]

A good lesson was reinforced here: do not retrieve snagged flies. Just don't do it. My nymphs caught on a branch at waters edge before I caught these three fish. If I'd blundered through the hole to pry loose my bug imitations - of which I have a bazillion - I'd have had no chance of hooking any of these beauties. We like to tie anyway... so if there is a question - bust 'em off.

Well - a good winter outing. Feet got numb, guides iced up a lot, hands got wet but never too cold really. Lost some flies. Caught just a few fish while conversing with another fisherman. Perfect few hours.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Some Old Reels

I've come into a couple recently - both click and pawl. The first was picked up by my dad, and given to me last fall. It is a South Bend 1122. Cool looking reel - will be good for SE MN stream fishing I think. Trouble is, it's been worked over pretty had by some dude or dudes or gal or gals or dude/gal, etc. Previous owners I mean. Check out the wear in this pic:

I poked around a bit, and found that you don't really come by extra spools for a reel like this too easily, seemingly because it's not an expensive reel... and if it came right down to it you could probably buy a new reel for the price of a spare spool. Being what I am though, such as I am, I prefer to use what has been given to me. To that end, James and I assessed the situation tonight, and we observed that when the pawl is actively held in position, the reel "clicks" like it's supposed to... We employed a fairly intense remedy then: toothpick shoved into the small gap beneath the pawl (noted by red arrow) and broken off. It worked.

The second reel is a Pflueger Sal-Trout. Here is how I got it: I was fishing at a "private" lake that holds big carp. I had picked up a few, including a 13 lber, so I was happy... As I was leaving, the guy who had graciously given me access, handed me his fly rod and reel and said keep it, I never use it. It's enough to put a guy on some fish... but to give him your gear too? Being a Minnesotan, I tried to refuse, but he insisted.

The deal with this one though is that the "star" on the spool (noted by red arrow in pic below) spins freely, so the pawl turns it instead of clicking drag like it should. I tried some gorilla glue but that failed. My neighbor has said he'll give me a dab of JB Weld. Speaking of my neighbor and reels - he is positively the man when it comes to vintage reels, Stan Bogdan reels... pretty much any reels. He's reely I guess. If you have a few minutes, go read about his recent adventure out east to visit the Bogdans. He even fashioned a reel with a storied maker out there.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

At Home

That's where we're at. Mom is away for the weekend, so three guys are holding it down. It's been so damn cold lately, hard to get out and do anything - with or without kids. Fishing, sledding, anything. Tough.

During naps, tied up a few of these CDC caddis. Some with the antennae Hughes includes in his Essential Trout Flies book, and some without. This is a #20. I'm anxious to see how the CDC wing compares to the elk hair wing. Some talk on the local board had some good praise for CDC caddis patterns. Got-damn, do I have a fishing jones right now. Been since early November.

We did try sledding. We walked across the street to the park. It has some good slopes. I thought this was going to be a huge hit... and it was - for about 15 minutes. All smiles for the first couple runs. Then each kid got major snow on face, and the chorus started. I dragged two sleds uphill toward home, with a constant almost-harmonious duet of "yell-crying" behind me. Pretty much a failed outing. I guess those happen.

We used the Gorilla Pod to get this vid, and then captured a still image.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Nymphs about ready to roll...

One side of trout box is nearly back to stocked form. The beauty of this is that it's enjoyable to both lose flies and to gain them. Full box ~ good sign. Empty box ~ maybe better sign.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Had a few minutes on a cold Saturday here to crank out a few more flies. Dubbing mixes are in place, vice is always up and bobbins always ready... the beauty of a tying shop. Had I only a "temporary" or portable station, I'd have wasted the precious few minutes picking up toys... hehe.

I'm in the process of inventorying and re-stocking my trout box for 2009. The following is one of the main patterns I use. The reason I love it is this: it closely resembles the majority of nymphs you will find in these SE MN streams. That pretty much says it.

Hook: #18 (scud hook is nice but I don't have any right now)
Thread: 8/0 brown, gray, red, etc.
Tail: sparse bunch of dark squirrel tail fibers
Under-dubbing: some crappy stuff you have from the first tying kit someone gave you
Over-dubbing: a good, dark and mildly flashy mix
Wingcase: four strands of peacock herl, preferably from the "eye" of the feather
Beadhead: tungsten or other, to your liking

Notes: you can tie the tail in long, for ease of application, and then pull the fibers forward after a few wraps. This is a lot easier than tying in short. I used to tie nymphs without this "under-dubbing," but they always looked too scrawny. I use up my crappy dubbing where it can't be seen then... and finish the job with a good, exterior-fit mix.

It's a ridiculously simple pattern. It's a go-to though. Complexity does not necessarily beget success.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Evening's Products

The Deadly Lethal Killa, and his pal the Pink Squirrel:

DLK was a name given by John Randle to Corbin Lacina. I've moved it over to describe the southeast's simplest but most devastating nymph pattern: standard HE, tied buggier than hell, with a bead to get it down. DLK. There hain't a hell of a lot to it. Dudn't have to be though.

CDC Midge:

Pattern from Dave Hughes book, Essential Trout Flies...
About 100 CDC feathers are harvested from a mature duck. Croupion de canard ~ "the rump of the duck." Haven't used this material much, but I've promised myself to give it a go this season.
From Claudius Aelianus

We can start the new year with a bit from the start of fly fishing. Aelianus was known as "The Sophist" and was a teacher of rhetoric in Rome from ~170-230 AD. Among other contributions, he gave us the first recipe in fly tying: They wrap the hook in scarlet wool, and to the wool they attach two feathers that grow beneath a cock's wattles and are the color of wax. He gives no indication as to how the pattern was tied, but most people believe this ancient fly was a pink squirrel (kidding man). [preceding text adapted from Darrel Martin]

Happy New Year sukkas. Winter Trout season is here, and thus - first decent day, I'll be hunting for swirls-on-midges in some of the more-better parts of our world.

Friday Night Lights is tonight - meaning I'll turn on my shop light and do up some nymphy looking stuff in my cold ass basement.