Sunday, July 19, 2009

Welcome back, Mojo.

The fishgods must be smiling down...every once in a while opportunities present themselves which give us occasion to fish. You can plan a trip to the Bahamas and go with expectations in check (or blown wildly off base), same thing for Alaska, the West, Belize... This weekend I accepted an invitation to join a dear friend of mine (I'll call him "Stickman") at his cabin for an hour or two of fishing on Friday night and a half day on Saturday. (I had to get home so my wife could leave me in charge of the kids while she celebrated the eventual birth of my next niece/nephew at my sister-in-law's baby shower). On a side note, I called my bro and asked him what he was going to do since his wife had left town for the "shower". He said he hadn't decided. He has a full time job, a new house and a wife carrying his first born. Luckily he called me on my way out to Stickman's cabin and said he was on his way to the N. Umpqua (Attaboy, Bro.) As usual I digress. Back to the weekend. Friday after maximizing my sales opportunities at work, picking the kids up from daycare and cleaning up a last minute incident concerning my 2 year old who hasn't quite grasped the "potty training" process....#2, if you're interested, I grabbed a 3 weight 6'9" AJ Thramer and a 7'6" 4-5 weight Don Schroeder and 2 reels. I added 1/2 doz bagels, 3 granola bars, my tooth brush, rainjacket, waders and boots, my trout flies, tippet material, nippers, 1/3 of a bottle of Gray Goose, 2 local microbrews left in the fridge and an open bag of tortilla chips. Runnin' lean. I listened to Dec Hogan talk about swinging flies to steelhead on a podcast on the 2 hour run north. I didn't give a thought to where we were going to fish, how many we might catch or what hatches might be on. I was really just happy to get out of the house and see Stickman.
I pulled into the cabin at 7:30, laced up my boots, strung up the Thramer, and tied a tippet while Stickman drove the 20 minutes to the evening fish. (Are you doing the math? 7:30 + 20 minutes = 7:50 pm.) We stopped fishing at 9:15. I caught somewhere in the range of 25 trout.
Phenomenal. Nothing huge...but constant steady action. Mostly Brook trout. Wow.
We drove back the cabin, drained the goose, ate some chips and defined ours and the worlds problems. 1 am to bed, 6:30 awake. A dizzy piss of the porch, a cup of coffee for the road and a granola bar to take the edge off.
Stickman drove to another creek, put me in position and let me go. I took a few brook trout in the first hole and was unhooking my 16 or 17th in the second hole when Stickman joined me from the stretch he was fishing. We fished side by side for 15 minutes, both catching and releasing a number of trout. An errant cast or a puff of wind sent Stickmans flies in a tree upstream and he set his rod down to watch me fish until we could fish past the snag. I had a very nice brown shark my elk-hair caddis and miss (because I freaked and took it away from him). A 15 or 16" brown trout stalking your fly from an undercut, in a gin clear spring creak at the end of a 20' cast (at most) is a bit unnerving for a guy who's luck has sucked as much as mine has in the past number of weeks. But it was cool because Stickman was there watching it with me. A few casts later, I hooked and landed a 17" brown, in full daylight on a run where we had already hooked and released 20 or 50 trout. It was a big fish. Thick and deep and strong. (A brown trout in this part of the world get's it's "shoulders" at 15 or 16".) It was also cool because I was fishing the 3 wt. Thramer which is a little rod (but really sweet). It was cool because this run was 20' wide X 40 yards long. It was cool to have a good friend standing there waiting for me to fish up to his snag...watching me fish, keeping me company. It was great to have him net it and shake my hand and say "That's a nice fish man!" when we both know that all I did was show up. It was his water, his cabin, his scouting and his fly selection that gave nuts to the bull.
I had no plan, no real design for how the few hours of fishing were going to turn out. But, had I left the house with unreal expectations on Friday night, I would have exceeded them.

Nope, this isn't the spot...nice though.

I hate reading about poetic anglers thrilled about catching an 8" Brooktrout.
(Though I like to do it myself)


Decent Brown amidst the Brooks.

Standard Issue BT

Stickman's BT Magnum

More Trout...Hell I caught a pile of them. I needed to take a few pics.

17" Brown, 3 wt Thramer, wood begets wood.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Catching up

Since my last post I've had my ass handed to me on water. I fished carp in May and landed 1. I got into a load of them on a local river, but they were too interested in their reproductive process to bother with my feathered concoctions. I took a few trips out for Bluegills hoping to find them on their beds (which makes for some wicked good popper fishing). I went early and thought they hadn't spawned yet and fished a number of days until I waded the shoreline of one of my favorite local lakes and found empty nests...I missed it. I fished the hex hatch on my home trout stream and was blanked on consecutive nights that followed hot sticky days in late June...a text book Hex omen. I opted for Small Mouth on the big river only to find it running at 13,000 cfs when optimum is around 3,000. I launched Jon Johnson and hooked two small fish. Utterly frustrated I waded into a local lake one late June evening to find that not only were there no fish rising, the whole lake smelled like a porta-potty...when the mosquitoes started eating me alive and I hadn't felt a tug, I reeled up, drove home, and told my wife she should be prepared to move, or at least prepare for my move. I have one thing that drives me in this life and that night it amounted to spending and hour in a bloodsucking outhouse...there was nothing pastoral or meditative about it. I drove up North, got blanked on two outings trolling for Lake Trout, spent a day on one of my brother's local lakes and caught 2 or 3 smallishSmall mouth (to be fair, I was so happy to be on a tea stained oligotrophic northern lake surrounded by boreal forests that I didn't even care). I took a boat ride to the mouth of a very secluded North Shore stream and watched my Father in Law hook and release 1 (read one single) 8" Brook Trout while I tried nymphs, streamers floating lines and sink tips and caught zilch (again, to be fair, a nice back-drop for a skunking). I tried the hex hatch for walleyes and either caught the beginning of the hatch season or it was blown to hell by a cold snap. Of the 12 rises I saw on the lake during the meager 20 minute hatch I managed 2 decent (but not big) walleyes on dry flies. This of course is an excellent batting average (although, catching 1/6th of all rising fish on a normal hex night on this lake would swamp your boat). I went to the mouth of my favorite north shore stream at 7 p.m. one evening and had big plans to hook a Lake Trout or an anomaly Coaster Brook Trout. I caught a 5-6 pound Northern Pike on my first drift through which caused the crowd from the rock skipping convention to pause in their throwing long enough to mutter, "My, that didn't take you long!" and caused me to wonder where the hell the Lake Trout went. (Again, to be fair, a Northern Pike is a great fly rod fish...just not here.) I was considering picking up something igneous and wailing on him, but I didn't want to frighten the conventioneers and I had more fishing to do. So I released him and caught nothing else. Perhaps I've paid my penance...I journey'd back to the big river and finally, finally found a school of 13-17" small mouth waiting for me to cast my streamer to them. I caught every last one of the bastards (approx. 15 or 16) and went looking for more. Am I back on? Have finally hit my stride? Perhaps...Stay tuned, with your high expectations in check.

My one carp for the year (Photo courtesy of my 5 year old daughter)

This should have been my 2nd carp of the year. Nope.

These should have been my 3rd through 11th carp of the year.
I couldn't convince them that their pending spawning ritual was over-rated.

12th carp of the year?

When this guy motored up and asked me what I was fishing for I said, "same as you."
A carp bow-hunter. This guy thwacked 2 fish and then was kind enough to let me use his spare bow to shoot high and miss two fish...damn refraction!

My one 'gill for the year...obviously post-spawn.

I snapped this hex photo with high hopes that a heavy hatch of his cousins would provide me with total fricken glee. Nothing happened. Shoulda been here last night.

The sulphurs didn't even elicit a surface response...

The coolest thing about mojo is...mojo. My bro and I discussed the mystery of walleyes on the fly during non-hatch periods, while we drove up to a lake he frequents. He captained the boat to a "spot" he knows, gave me the first couple of throws and then caught this fish on his first or second cast. That's mojo.

One 8" Brook Trout was caught here...My wife's father isn't above drowning a worm.

A white bass falls victim to my streamer during my trip to the Big River last weekend.

I caught every last one of them. Finally some bona-fide CATCHING.
I'd forgotten how hard these fish can pull.

An 8 weight is NOT too much rod for a river Smallie.