This past Saturday I had a window from 11:00 to about 5:00 to wet a line. Again, I hoped to get out on the Cannon, but high waters left me searching for plan B. I still had warm water fever so I decided to make it a dual trip; smallies on the St. Croix and trout on the Kinni. Here's a photo blog for something different...
This past weekend brought beautiful weather to the upper Midwest timed perfectly with a free Saturday to wet a line. Normally bass fever doesn’t kick in until later in the year, but after a productive winter scouting locations my condition was already worsening. Unfortunately, rain from previous days blew out the river I wanted to explore and lake fishing didn’t hold the same appeal. So I headed to Western Wisconsin for trout. I had the day to fish so I decided to progress further upstream and work sections normally neglected with time constraints. I assumed anglers would be out in numbers and a good hike would give me a chance to outpace the herd. By 7:30 I was suited up and on the trail. With only three cars in the lot I had a good head start. I hiked 45 minutes or so starting where I typically end the day anticipating the newness of the water. There were a handful of patterns I wanted to test out so I started with those. By 9:00 I caught my cigar fish, but I’m not in “cigar shape” to light up that early so I decided to wait a bit. I made it until 9:30. While I thought my trek would provide solitude I quickly realized others shared my ambition. Two hours into the trip I was leap frogging anglers. Luckily the stream is ripe with holes and fish. Eventually I created separation and found myself on some really nice stretches of water. I caught enough fish to validate the flies so I switched to a hotwire hare trailed by a disco midge. The combination proved the best of the day.
When I arrived at a bluff with a deep channel running beside it I switched to a flashy hare’s ear, one of my favorite. Shortly after, I land a fish and then another. I worked further upstream and made a cast, my sighter paused and I set the hook into a heavy fish. Initially it didn’t react much just bore its full weight towards the depths in a deliberate manner. I hoped for a big brown, until it showed its form and colors as I drug it to the surface. Definitely not a trout. When we locked eyes it took off like a bullet and the sound of a drag singing did my ears good. It made a couple of runs, but gave up quickly. Apparently I need to add the flashy hare’s ear to my rough fish arsenal.
I went another half mile upstream when I arrived at gorgeous run I either forgotten about or formed since I’d been there last. There was a shear wall lined with a deep pool and just enough structure to make it interesting. Its knee deep braid at the head moved water which seemed clearer than the rest. I’m not a good enough photographer to capture how pretty is was or a good enough writer to properly describe it in a thousand words, but it was one of those spots which solidifies a great day on the water. I treated it with the respect it deserved approaching it slow, planning where I’d set up and place my first cast. In my mind I was thinking about one of my favorite movies “For the Love of the Game” where Kevin Costner tells himself on the mound “think, don’t just throw.” With a more thoughtful approach I was able to land a couple photo shy trout but not nearly what I knew it could yield. Reluctantly I moved past the water and unlike “For the Love of the Game” I didn’t tear up at the end (sports movies get to me, that one more than most). By now I traveled a good distance and it seemed a fitting place to make the turn.
So I tied on a Puterbaugh Foam Caddis having observed a decent hatch and worked back to the spots I passed over on the way in. I pulled a couple fish from likely spots ending the day with a nice brown. The next couple weeks will be exciting.
I’m fortunate to work for a company who believes in summer hours so with a 2:00 dismissal on Fridays and a plenty of fishing options close by I’m optimistic. In two weeks I’ll be in Colorado to visit family and hope to get some fishing in while I’m there.
We fly tiers are resourceful bunch and will repurpose almost anything if it helps to tie a better fly. We’ve used pet hair for dubbing, stripped electrical wire for brassies and raided craft stores for supplies. Then we tie those materials using homemade bobbins, clean out the eyes with a sewing needle stuffed in a dowel rod and pick up the dubbing with a Popsicle stick with a patch of Velcro stuck on it. When we’re done place them in an Altoids fly box and head off to the stream. Fly tying is like the adult version of a Rube Goldberg project at times or reliving our youth as grown MacGyvers. Either way your friends and family don’t describe you as resource, but rather cheap, crazy and the person they’d choose to be lost in the woods with. Needless to say this list could balloon were I to incorporate it all, but I’ve focused the list to items you may be able to "borrow" from the office.
I’m sure this isn’t an all-inclusive list so let me know what I missed (I omitted some obvious ones like superglue, scissors, etc). As I wrote this blog I thought about the profession most accommodating to the fly tyer and I settled on elementary school teacher. Summers off, out at 3:30pm, work in a bug identification field trip and all the craft supplies you can imagine. So go ahead and raid your office supplies, if you get canned for stealing company property don’t blame me and take the time off to do more fishing!
Growing up Pennsylvania, trout opener was one of the most highly anticipated days of the year and provided some of my earliest memories. It started the night or week before, depending on the weather, and after a good rainstorm we’d tread lightly across the yard at night, armed with flashlights to capture fat night crawlers. I remember the green plastic container where we kept them and how I often forget it in my tackle box after a trip.
Regardless of the excitement from the night before morning still came too early and we’d load my dad’s truck with our gear and head out to pick up my grandfather. We were destined for the Hammer Creek where, if we got there early enough, we could stake claim to a piece of bank. Courtesy eventually gave way to supply and demand leaving us elbow to elbow with other anglers by the time opener officially started. Shortly after a snack truck would arrive and while too young to drink coffee I’d get a cup of hot chocolate to imitate my grandfather (I vaguely remember sucking on a pretzel rod pretending it was a stogie as well).
Eventually I took over “hosting” the opener; coordinating a time, location and of course subs from one of my favorite eateries Nino’s. Since moving to Minnesota “opener” has lost its luster. Partially because it’s no longer a family affair and by the time it opens I’ve already fished a month (or more) of the winter trout season. Last weekend concluded the early season and while I hoped to make it out thunderstorms thwarted the attempt. So I rescheduled the trip for this weekend coinciding with the start of the regular trout opener in Wisconsin. I packed the night before and staged my gear in the foyer. I was up early and ready to head out the door when my 4 year old daughter, Olive, asked me to trade in opening day for a trip to Target. I’m not sure how the negotiations proceeded from there, but it resulted in a family fishing trip. She asked to take the “red” rod which is a 7’ 3wt St. Croix Imperial which doubled as her witch wand last Halloween. Pride in my daughter's fly fishing selection was short lived as the red rod ultimately lost out to the closed bail Barbie fishing pole. She was so excited, and so was I. She even dubbed her pink wellies her fishing boots. So my wife, daughter and I loaded up the tackle and headed to the Kinni to fish. We arrived at the parking lot to find the amount of cars you’d expect on opening day. I suited up and Olive stepped into her fishing boots. I grabbed our poles and we were off.
We headed to the stream and set up shop under the bridge. I tied on a PSV under her red and white bobber and after knocking the rust off my casting was able to get it in lanes I knew held fish. When the bobber reached the end of the drift she’d reel it in and we’d do it again. While we didn’t catch a fish we had a blast. Eventually the fishing turned into a nature hike and we marched through the woods until the stream forced us to turn back. By this time the novelty wore off but the hiking was a grand adventure. When we got back to the parking lot we decided to extend the trip to a picnic and my wife and daughter left to grab lunch giving me an hour or so to fish until they got back.
I stayed close to the lot working the less popular downstream section. I caught a handful of fish in the hour and missed a couple more. 200 yards from the lot was a large sandy bank made for picnicking. Olive would eat a couple bites of PB&J, then walk down the bank to dip her toe in the water before scurrying back. My wife and daughter who are students of the woods identified every mark in the sand as “fresh bear tracks.” Even goose and raccoon ballooned into mother bear and cubs resulting in a smidge of panic.
Before packing up I made a couple casts to a likely holding spot hoping to give Olive the chance to reel one in, but it wasn’t meant to be. To be honest I think the thrill would have been more mine than hers. Today trout opener meant something again for a lot of the reasons it did before.
When my grandfather and I fished he’d say “at least when I’m gone you can say I went fishing with you.” I moved away and ultimately fulfilled the prophecy. I don’t know how many times Olive will want to go fishing with me and I don’t have any expectations. I’ll be happy for each chance I get and if there are no more at least I had this day.