Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hard Water

Streams were turbid for a while; opted to spend some outings at home looking for meat.

Special reg on this water is three kept trout per angler.

These stocker bows move around in giant wolf packs.  They have no experience foraging for food.  In their guts you may find pieces of bark, leaves of aquatic macrophytes, other misc organic matter.  They do strike jigging spoons and eat minnows though.

All about the same size: 12 inches give or take.

Main Christmas present; got its first run.

Razor.  Makes job easier for sure.

Manhattan style chowder.  In the pot is tomato base, carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic, onion and spices.  Skillet is cooked pig from Kellogg MN.  Trout fillets cut into approx 1.5 inch pieces.  After adding the meat to the soup, the fish was fully cooked in about ten minutes.  This was a double batch.  1.5 pounds sausage and nine trout.  Very hearty; really good soup.

Some things you won't find in our arsenal include ice fishing shelters, power augers, much gear specifically dedicated to ice fishing.  What we have we've come by. That jigging stick pictured was found in a dumpster and that old junk bobber was in a big box of misc fly lines that was gifted to me.  Won't ever care about appearances while ice fishing; a guy can only have so much gear for so many facets of hunting and fishing.  Further, the gear pictured here is sufficient for this setting.  I don't think a nickel more need be spent to catch these trout.  Excepting $1.35 for each half scoop of crappie minnows.

Last outing we went sixty minutes and landed only one fish.  I walked over to look in some other holes maybe thirty yards away.  I could see trout down through the holes at my angle as I approached.  We moved.  Then caught eleven trout in about twenty minutes; picked up and went home.

I think we got forty one rainbows in three outings, of which we kept eighteen.  Two limits.  Minutes from the front door.  Not a bad holdover option.  The one time I was out with a friend and not my two sons, some guys from Midwest Outdoors came by and filmed a bit of capture.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Last Cold Day

Sunday 1/15/17 met some friends on the river.  Walking in I think it was around 4 F.  I noted that driving up top my car thermister read close to double digits.  Down in the valley it was more like 3-4 F.  Possible instrument error involved; or maybe just cold settled in low.  With the rays at that angle we were somewhat chilled at extremities.  Watching a guy fish first hole standing still in the shade feet got numb.  We decided to walk upstream until we got into the sun, which we could see up the valley a ways.  Low temps are okay if the sun is striking face and the wind is down; we had both to our advantage on this morning.
Don't often fish with four guys; we ended up doing two pairs leap-frogging, with a sort of sub-leap-frogging individually within that framework.  The social and discussion component was about as big as the fishing piece.

We walked into a plague of small brown trout.  Absolute horde of them.  Even fishing smallish tandem rigs, you figure you'll run into some variability in size over the course of the day.  Between four guys we topped out around 12 inches.  Catching many fish.  Not sure just how many but in our pair, we had to be right around fifty; maybe more.  The 7-10 inch fish seemed to be everywhere.  I never did throw a streamer up and across; should have done it but to be honest we weren't fishing really hard and no one was too worried about it.  

Came down to drink.

This size class was the top for the day; we got a fair number of them.  Spring 2013 was a tough one; maybe that year class was beat down some.  Seems that would conincide approx with the fish that would now be four years old and maybe low to mid-teens.  Need to go look at the average size of the year classes.  I do know there is a strong relationship between peak spring flow and survivability of the respective year class.  It's not the summer floods that get them.

I trekked ahead for a ways in the afternoon and fished this water.  First the plunge upstream to the left out of the photo.  It produced a few fish.  But the deal was finding the giant pod in the flat water; in the pool belly below the main plunge and out of the faster current.  That pod was at 12 o'clock position relative to my buddy's orientation in the pic.  I stood about where he is standing; hack-flipped five points of weight into the flat water; let it all sink; twitched and got eats.  Before anyone caught up I counted eighteen to hand; again, all small fish.  I stopped and ushered in buddy who proceeded to catch another solid dozen in about twenty minutes.  We left the hole knowing we could have kept at it.  Winter nymphing often plays out as such.

Not sure on this plant specie but it was a cool visual; some sort of biblical image out on the roadless pathless floodplain.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

One of the cold days; can't remember just which one after the Jan1 opener with the boys; it was the day on which Packers hosted Giants.  Cold as you could ever want it, with a hard-pushing south wind.  The calendar wasn't working for me, as I had an afternoon free but terrible conditions.  Figured I would go out anyway, see about maybe trying to get down deep with a big nymph to move a large trout.  Stay close to home.  First two holes very deep; dredged down in there for a while; nothing.  No fish to hand and not even any moved.  South wind just biting.  Coming off that Jan1 outing and then more immediately coming from my warm house I was thinking very hard about hanging it up.  Day is done.  This was the first cold day on my bare hands and they were just folding on me; deathly cold such that I questioned what I was doing.  Tried the gloves that I keep in the emergency pack.  Hated them.  Hate gloves while fishing.  I know some people use them and I feel I should consider training myself to do so.  But I have taken to the deer hunting muffler; not gloves.  I need to feel the line in my fingers.  I left the best two pieces having touched no fish but fully intending to try one last hole; one that is typically stacked with fish, noses tight to a natural barrier.  Threw the gloves to the snow and tucked in a little lee; commenced to nymph for a while.

What followed was about 45 minutes of catching a lot of fish like this one.  I think hooked 17 and landed 14.  Not a single fish over 12 inches long.  I was fishing a big nymph lead with an orange trailer (not a scud but a sort of shortcut scud).  Every single trout ate the trailer.  One creek chub ate the big nymph lead.

Key was banging the nymph rig against the natural barrier just right and letting it wash down into the main current.  A flip just short of the barrier would put flies on a descent that generally angled downward but over the top of where the fish were holding.  Three brook trout to hand including this pretty nice one.  Fly lodged on inside of left mandible was the deal as they were all facing upstream and I was on river right thus setting the hook and pulling the fly into the left corner of mouth.

One of the brook trout was hatched spring 2016 which I thought good and notable.

13 F air temp is not all that cold really, but relative to the Jan1 opener, and with the wind chill: it almost beat me down.  Kind of a decent lesson in persistence.  Tried to speak to myself like I sometimes speak to my kids.  Keep at it; good things happen.  And I suppose one could question whether or not catching and releasing fourteen smallish trout is a "good thing."  It is a good thing.  Even while favorite hours are guiding kids, I still like to craft some drifts and pick up the rod to find it tight on a trout.  Drive home and perceive the feeling coming back to hands and feet; good car heater pushing hard.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Report from Field Day 1, 2017

Older boy has been studying native fishes in his aquarium and taken an interest in fisheries books.  Always asking about hybrids of various species.  Often asking to fish.  We didn't talk a lot about the stream trout opener but maybe we all assumed we'd go out.  

Stayed close to home; easy access; easy fishing water 1130-1530.  As it happened we found a vehicle parked downstream; pleasant surprise to find only one on first day.  We left him alone and moved upstream, hoping to give him water and get in far enough ahead to not bother him or ever see him for that matter.  We parked at an access with unbroken snow; looked good.  But after the slog to the river, we indeed found his tracks; he'd covered water pretty quickly and was ahead of us.  Nymphing through the good holes, sure.  I asked the kids if they wanted to leave; find other water; they did not.  Seemed to not care.  My figuring was that we'd catch fewer fish, but still find means of prying a few from deep.

Let the big guy go first; two nymphs; one shot twelve inches up; one strike indicator.  My exact kind words were, now remember, there is no backcast here.  None.  It's flips and rolls and they'll be hinged and not pretty but don't worry about it.  Enjoyable for me to stand back and watch him approach the water; work it; understanding the seams.  Not all growth and development is linear.  For example after this season's first basketball practice he came home and said I don't know what happened, it was like magic, but now I can somehow do layups perfectly.  Good memory.  And another one here.  After a long break from fishing (November (?) with spinning gear) and a longer break from fly rod (October maybe), he appeared to have made a nice leap forward.  No backcasts.  Subtle but important things like knowing to look around before attempting to free a snag; then recovering in mid-air after it pops free.  Easy rolls into good lanes.   He was already a bird-dog on the indicator and that didn't change.  Fun to watch.  The action was generally slow, because as I confirmed later, the guy was not far ahead of us.  Kid ended up hooking three and landing all of them.  Pretty good batting average.  All came from different holes.  First a forehand hole; then a backhand hole; then a forehand hole.  Held them well and used both hands to control tension and line meting.  Starting to get a little excited about what he might do in terms of angling.  Quite a few years ahead of him.  Next he needs to learn to cast.  Thinking we'll dial it back to the Cannon River days ~16 years ago and wade some lakes; easy casting of poppers for silly aggressive fish; no banks or trees to snag while learning the stroke and loop.  Something for the month of May.
A lot in the picture: boy, dad, fish, midge.
Younger guy is not yet double digit years.  He has fish to his own name for sure; I think 15-18 trout nymphing on his own.  On this day he had a tougher deal: hooked three and all came unpinned.  One was a very good lesson in that he played it for maybe 10-15 seconds, holding pretty well; then it made a nice downstream run (this is 2 wt rod; light gear).  Fish charges for freedom; boy locks down; fish comes off.  Boy slackens in dismay.  That's about how it went.   But the fish are all there; they don't leave.  Nor does the boy leave or at least he doesn't go far; just home to sleep and start up again.  This ain't a club membership with a two week limit.  The fish are there in the holes and they can be had; that is the encouragement.  Focus on the next one.  He handled it pretty well because overall he handles things well; easy-going.

There was one notable fight that went beyond somewhat-acceptable because it was right at river's edge, twenty minutes from the car (be dangerous to get completely soaked).  Older boy headlocked younger; cast him to the stony bank and was posturing such that he might boot him hard with a hip wader steel-enforced toe.  Younger boy up in a wild cry with some angular slab of limestone cocked.  Dad inserting himself between trying to keep everyone dry and safe; trying keep a calm voice so as to not escalate.  In the end young boy on a log, eating and drinking slowly lamenting that he cannot trust old boy.  Maybe old boy heard and saw.

The reason was stated roughly as follows: he keeps looking at me and making faces and funny noises while I'm trying to fish.  There it is then...   something we've all felt at some point.  Our charge as adults is to handle it and be polite.  Suppose it doesn't always work as well for kids.  I understand and accept.

Very notably after this conflict they became inseparable; in the end, discussing a plan to knock out the wall between their rooms so they could have one big "joint room."

After the skirmish; after some fish; walking out.

Always like coming across this copse of poplar.  Part of the monochrome.