Friday, October 15, 2010

Rendezvous 2010

This is bound to be a multi-post report since I suspect I will add more pics as I get them from other attendees.

An interesting event the 2010 Rondy...given that it was originally slotted as a two man assault and further that it was planned for a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, it's amazing that the head count reached 10.  This event seems to occur (by this name at least) whenever the hell we can manage it.  It'd be great to say we pull it of annually, though we don't.  It happens on the banks of a particular (hallowed) river whose name you either already know or won't find out by reading further.  We welcomed some new faces and enjoyed the company of the returning core.  The weather was stunning (though not necessarily for steelheading), the beer was cold and the food was 5 star.  Special thanks to those who opened their hearts and coolers to others and a heartfelt shout out to my Bro K for hosting yet another EXQUISITE wild game feed featuring the best damn cut of meat I have ever eaten (to give you some perspective, it was venison, a beast about whose flesh I don't usually rave).
It's difficult to explain how this crew of anglers only managed to land 3 steelhead over the duration of the Rondy, whilst still feeling like they had a fair shake and real opportunity.  This humble reporter is not too proud to show his scorecard of 0-3 including two breakoffs on hot chrome.  The fact is, there were fish in the river and most of us managed to tangle (if even for a moment) with one or more.  The Rondy Cup, if there were such a prize, would have to go to returning veteran Brother B for his landing of 2 in one day.  His sib T managed the 3rd fish in the family trifecta which is documented on film below.  Returning angler JP connected with two wild fish, My brother K bumped a few (no surprise) and a new face, AK connected with a leaper for a few wild seconds as well.
I feel inclined to thank all who attended for playing nice and making the days on river and in camp another sweet memory to add to the stack.   For two nights of camping bliss on the well worn cushions of his 1970 something Transvan and for letting me skip the steps of set-up and tear down of my own tent I owe a thanks to my longtime friend Mr MJHM.
Not to belabor my gratitude, but I shan't forget to thank T for showing this 20 year fly rod angler a thing or two about swingin' for steel and also to JP for a nice road trip home as passenger.

From conspiracy theories to brownies made from "special" ingredients (black beans if you must know),  from the Birch to May's, we covered a lot of ground and covered a lot of water.    Thanks all.

And now, let's groove to the smooth sounds of AC-DC.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend, last...

I met up with T last weekend for what was 99.7% family time and .3% slinging his new 12'6" Sage two hander.  We scooped up the kids and brought them down to the water where Brother B did a fine job as camp counselor and naturalist whilst we flung line.  As with many of our finest waterways, sometimes you have to pass a reminder or two of what complete jackasses we've become (see diagram 1 below) before you can retreat to the splendor of nature.  Despite this not being a "fishing" trip, our practice casting resulted in my hooking a TINY smb, while T had to one up me by hooking a PIG walleye.  I remember somebody suggesting I not try to "lip a walleye" as I stooped over to grab T's catch.  The problem, as I discovered, was geometry.  My arms weren't long enough to secure the fish in a reasonable and sound manner...so I lipped him.  A 4 or 5 pound (honest) walleye A. doesn't like to be "lipped" and B. has the teeth to defend against such an assault.  The result:
Thumb 0 - Walleye 4.  (Sorry T for not being able to hold on).  Damn it.
Nice rod by the way.

Diagram 1
T hoistin' eye.

B.U.R (bloody unintentional release)

 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Afternoon, creekside.

Despite rain clouds, I ventured forth to ply the local crick before September goes all October on me.  I picked away at a few risers and without apology served a size 18 elk hair caddis when it was obvious they were on baetis.  I fished a few hours on a couple hundred yards of creek and then decided to venture downstream to see about bigger browns that may be moving up to procreate (given the cooler waters and shorter days).   This latter stretch is what is know as "marginal" water....in other words, you might catch a sucker (and I did) or you might just catch a giant trout (which I didn't).  What I expected to find were carp cruising the giant back eddy of a particular run and they didn't let me down.  I ignored the immediate desire to pitch in and try to sight fish one off the sandy bottom of the eddy.  I fished in vain for the "proper" fish and then finally dredged one 10" brown off the bottom with a bead head concoction of my own design.  With that obligation fulfilled, I cut my leader back to 3x and added an additional 24" of 4x.  I rummaged through all of my trout lint and found one gigantic and lonely size 8 chronic leech with rubber legs and a fat black marabou tail.  On the 27th or so cast a carp keyed in, tracked it down and inhaled...my how a 4wt can bend.
Brownus Troutis fooled by Elkus Hairus Caddis
Ditto
Carp, Chronic, 4x (in that order)
I doubt I'll ever call them pretty, but they are quite the fly rod quarry.
(Pictured: from top to bottom) flora, 4 weight, fauna, more flora

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Props

I don't usually hand out props and links, but if you haven't seen Catch Magazine and signed up for your own free subscription (delivered to your inbox), you're missing out.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they included a video on WI SMB's featuring the crew from Tight Lines Fly Shop in DePere.  Check it out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flashback

Back in the late 90's, before I met my wife, before we had kids (etc) I spent all of my time on the spring creek near my home. When I got married that got cut back to 3 or so days a week. And now that children have entered my life, a day a week is about all can manage. Over the past few years, smallmouth fishing in the mid-summer became an interesting change from my spring creek forays. This past weekend, with my wife and kids out of town, I relived the old days with a serious dose of troutin'.
Friday afternoon I headed out despite foul weather and fished until dark. I would have stayed longer but the unusually high population of mosquitoes this year drove me off the water. (For the record, I grew up in Northern Minnesota so I know all about these critters. At quitin' time on Friday night I had on a rainjacket with the hood up, dishwashing gloves with the fingertips cut off, a Muskol soaked buff over my face and a ball cap pulled down nice and low...) I have this question about this pesky bastards: What were they planning to eat before I got there?
Saturday as well as most of Sunday were spent on the creek. I fished old familiar stretches and revisited pieces of water I haven't seen in over 10 years. I even bought a new spool of 7x which I recently started to doubt was ever necessary...I no longer think it's a gimmick. Trout were caught on midge pupa, baetis emergers, and tiny black ant patterns. Overall I would mark the reunion as a success. There remains no better backdrop for solitude and mental health than a spring creek.


Brownie caught while fishing slow and low with a beadhead PT.


Midge pupa looked good to this one...



Despite naturally reproducing browns that haven't been stocked since the 70's, the DNR drops a batch of these in every year...


Release view...


See ya.


Local denizen.


If you look closely into the eye of this trout...you'll know right where I was fishing.


An errant backcast just about ended the life of this Halysidota tessellaris larva. Luckily, it'll soon be a Banded Tussock Moth (No trees, caterpillars or trout were harmed in the photographing of this picture).


A dinker that figured my Baetis emerger was good enough...


Dawn till dusk...just like the good ol' days...


A nice one...

On Sunday afternoon I crept heronlike into position and remained still long enough for the locals to resume the position. I apologize for the shaky camera work...but alas, I wasn't carrying a tripod (plus I had the Olympus zoomed all the way in).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spring in my step...or... step in my spring

I ventured back out for some solitude on my homewater this past weekend.
It seems that my neglect of the local spring creek fisheries has cost me.
I don't know if I am slipping or if the fish just aren't hungry, but despite a solid 6 hour outing I landed a grand total of 4 fish...and, I had to dredge nymphs to get them.

I spoke with a local fisherman/creek activist a few days ago for an hour or two who said that this fishery has changed a great deal over the past 20 years. What was once a thriving dry fly stream has largely become a nymphing stream due to a reduction in surface hatching species.
He suggested that the mayfly populations have been on the decline for a while and that most trout seem to find their biggest payoff feeding on stream dwellers such as scuds and the like. His tactics, he divulged, have taken on the form of short line nymphing similar to what is seen on Colorado's South Platte. The problem, as I see it, is that the south Platte is a dammed freestoner and my homewater is a bonafide spring creek...how to plumb the depths of a spring creek with all of that plant life?

On a plus note the scorching hot temps of mid-summer gave way to a pleasant afternoon in the high 70's with a nice breeze. No complaints.


home water as viewed through a cattle crossing fence


Evidence of another year class...


A better than average Brown with my secret recipe peeking caddis style nymph secured in place.


Back you go.


Average.


Photographed as found with steel leader attached...I wonder if it was left here in honor or frustration?

Monday, August 16, 2010

I have pictures forthcoming to prove it.

As promised in an earlier post...Here's T with the wall-e from the Soo...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August Weekends

I killed a couple hours on my local trout stream last weekend and despite a few splashy noncommittal rises I never hooked or landed a fish. With all of the local lakes in full algal bloom it isn't a stretch to say that the wade through this clear cold spring creek was transformative.

This weekend I decided to give it another go...I had originally planned a Sunday escape, but changed the plan on Saturday morning when the weather indicated that Sunday was going to be a gamble...I promptly threw my 4 weight Schroeder and a few boxes of flies in the car and slid west.
Side Note: I happened to grab a reel loaded with an old double taper Scientific Angler Supreme 2 line. This line retained zero memory and floated like a dream all day long. Why am I paying $69 for the latest and greatest lines nowadays?

There are a few ways to proceed with this post...
1. I can be vague and let you assume that I rocked the creek
2. I can focus on the 17" brown that I caught on top with a terrestrial pattern
3. I can let the pictures speak for themselves
or
4. (and this is the route I am taking) I can tell it like it was.

So here's the deal...I took a pile of pictures of the TWO trout I caught. The first was a 17" brown (taped) that happened to be hiding in a spot where I caught an 18" fish a few years ago. I pasted the fly against the bank and this fish assaulted it...I was halfway through the fight before I realized what the hell was going on. I caught a glimpse of him and started muttering to myself...mostly cursing (I think). Then, I landed the fish and thought - That's a helluva nice trout.

Shortly after that (in the same run) I was wading upstream with my fly dragging in the water (through water I had just fished) and the second fish, a scrappy 14 incher, latched on. From behind me I heard the audible "blip" of a fish hitting a surface meal, turned, connected the dots and raised my rod tip. I have to admit that catching a fish like this really, really sucks. I hadn't even gotten over the smug satisfaction of fooling the first fish before the second fish made a fool out of me. Let me put it this way...In total I spent 5 or 6 hours wading slowly, staying low, false casting away from my target, dropping my fly near banks, undercuts, slots, buckets, pocket water etc...and this fish took my fly as I waded past it dragging the fly upstream. I need to reread Leonard M. Wright Jr's book:



So that's it. 6 hours...1 great fish and one nice fish. One brilliantly played and executed and one a complete fluke. I did get a few other rises, but didn't connect, caught an awesome chub (7") and spooked a nice brown who betrayed his home when I damn near stepped on him (a future target to be sure). I also shot some underwater footage of a sculpin and witnessed the downstream drift of two mating snapping turtles. I saw this once before when I was fishing this stretch of water swinging wetflies. I was facing downstream and the couple almost ran into my legs but I noticed them out of the corner of my eye and got out of their way... This time I followed closely and snapped a pile of pics.


Trout 1 in the net...

Another pic of trout 1 prior to release.

Trout 1 heading home.

Trout 2...in the net.

Trout 2...underwater mug shot.

Trout chow...what would Nick Adams do?

Sculpin - nice camo! And you deny natural selection?

Snappers making whoopie...I showed this to my young daughter and told her they were "wrestling".

The secret trail out of my secret spot

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Rapids


Drake in Gladstone MI
Late last summer I got a call from my friend T who said that he had recently returned from an Atlantic Salmon trip to the St Mary's River. He was pretty amped about the trip but said that he missed the major run. He indicated that he was plotting a new assault on the river the following June or July. Over the course of the winter and spring we kept discussing the opportunities and as June rolled around, talking became pencil on the calendar...which eventually was replaced by pen.

On Thursday night we packed our rigs and met in Gladstone MI for a quick tent nap. Friday morning I piled my gear into his car and we pointed the grill northeast. A three hour push put us at customs on the Canadian side of the International Bridge in Sault Ste Marie and from there we dropped into the tire/bait / tackle shop for some information and licenses. By late morning we were standing on the banks of the St. Mary's watching crystal clear Lake Superior water on it's way to Lake Huron.

T, getting ready to drop in.

We hiked up the concrete dyke and peered though the sun's glare hoping to spot fish. Up near the gates, we spotted a steel blue fish in deep fast water. It's hard to say given the magnifying quality of crystal water, but the salmon appeared to be in excess of 10 pounds. The fish, sensing our presence, scooted upstream to a deeper lie as we dropped back to fish the main rapids.
The International Bridge and dyke on the St Mary's

The deceptively deep water was wadeable, though the wading staff's were employed. We fished hard, swinging flies both dry and with sinking leaders. We tried swinging nymphs, streamers, smelt imitations, soft hackles, green machines...you name it. I even spotted a few more Atlantics moving through the rapids. We took a couple of breaks and chewed the fat while gnawing on jerky and trailmix washed down with sun warmed water from our canteens. We tried upstream and down, the Canadian side and the American side. By sundown, we had given it our best shot. Nothing makes a better caster than practice and I, armed with my 13' two hander, practiced a lot that day. We got our ass handed to us. That's the quantifiable part. What isn't easy to convey is the fun we had despite not bringing a fish to hand.

T, Plying the clear water of the Rapids

Back at the car, we toasted the day with a cold one and called home to check in. Then, following a tip drove a few blocks, parked, grabbed our rods and a flashlight and made our way to the bank of different channel of the river. The tip, given to us by the guys at the tire and bait shop, resulted in T hooking and landing a 4 pound walleye in two casts. I have pictures forthcoming to prove it.

On Saturday, after brushing the film of Grey Goose off our teeth, we scouted a new section of the river north of the Rapids. Peering down into the blue depths we were able to make out a few salmon and decided to forego the rapids in hopes of finding some willing eaters. We watched gulls and terns diving for baitfish and saw a number of salmon crash them from below. Often times a gull would dive and the surface would boil, indicating the the salmon beat the bird to the bait. We put ourselves in position on a huge eddy that had shown itself to be a bait collector and started casting. I eventually ended up fishing a 3" EP style glass minnow on a 17' leader. T ran back to the car to grab something and an Atlantic

Me, trying to make the two hander work.

crashed bait 7o feet out. I dropped the fly into the dissipating rings, stripped 3 times and my fly got drilled. I set the hook and my fly sailed back clean... When T got back I told him about the strike and how I was sure that we were in business and that we had cracked the code. I think we stood, barefoot, in the St Mary's for 8 hours that day, expecting a savage strike at every cast. Despite the incredible depth and awesome volume of water, each time we saw a fish slash bait off of the surface, our hopes were tempered. By the end of the day, feet pruned and necks sun baked...we reeled in fishless.

T swinging for Atlantics on the St. Mary's

Conversations with other anglers indicated that our timing would have been good any other year but this one. Lake Superior's waters, having warmed faster than usual due to an early spring and 3 week jump on summer, pushed the fish out of the Rapids and into the deeper and cooler lower reaches of the river. Aside from a few bait soakers fishing over the fence at the dam, nobody was catching a thing. They said that a few weeks earlier the Atlantics were pounding swung flies in the Rapids.

Canadian version: Flower bed

We opted to forego the 2 hour customs delay that often occurs on the International Bridge and packed early on Sunday to beat the wait. We breezed back into the US after a short 15 minute line on the American side. We detoured on the way back to Escanaba so that we could stop by a small berg in the center of the UP.

"The train went on up the track out of sight, around one of the hills of burnt timber. Nick sat down on the bundle of canvas and bedding the baggage man had pitched out of the door of the baggage car. There was no town, nothing but the rails and the burned-over country. The thirteen saloons that had lined the one street of Seney had not left a trace. The foundations of the Mansion House hotel stuck up above the ground. The stone was chipped and split by the fire. It was all that was left of the town of Seney. Even the surface had been burned off the ground."

Ernest Hemingway - The Big Two-Hearted River
(More Here)

We stopped at the banks of the Fox River in Seney (generally understood to be the Big Two- Hearted River in the Hemingway story of the same name) and T tried to re-enact a little literary history by catching a hopper to pitch into the tannin stained water. Not even the hoppers cooperated.

The Fox or the Big Two Hearted, depending...

Train Depot in Seney

I shook T's hand at the campground where I left my car and he said, "I've never had so much fun not catching a fish...". It was impossible not to agree.