November 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
There are few things that ground me, that tie me to my surroundings, like fly fishing. Even more than fishing out West or dreaming of fishing in exotic destinations, fishing in western Wisconsin is holy. It is beautifully habitual… ritual I guess. One of my favorite things about being home is having great fishing so close. Sometimes fishing almost seems like a job, and I mean that in the best way. I get in the car and I’m determined to get out there – like its some project I’m working on. I gotta get out there, get inspired, and I’m probably going to be a better person when I return home three hours later. It’s that daily renewal and the constant search.
For me, the definition or equation of a successful fishing season is asking myself two questions:
1. Did I explore? Did I find new streams and new stretches of streams and new favorite holes?
2. Did I lose less flies than the year before?
Obviously there’s an immense amount of factors that go into every time you take to the stream, but for me, success can be boiled down to these questions and answers.
Did I explore? Heck yeah I explored. I fished my ass off this year. I fished new stretches of stream and a lot of times, in that exploratory time, I had the best fishing. Its an amazing idea, when you take chances, when you put yourself out there, good things come to you. Ben and I fished some new streams this year. We started to venture down into the Driftless (Ben, more than me). I started to learn that certain stretches of certain creeks were good for certain times of year or even certain types of weather. The exploration is what keeps me going. I love to take out the gazetteer and sit and wonder about different spots. “I wonder if that stretch is any good? I wonder if there are big browns in that lower stretch that nobody really fishes?” There’s too many places. At the beginning of the year, I started a little list of ideas of new spots I wanted to try, new creeks I’ve never fished. I only got a tiny part of that list accomplished.. but that doesn’t really matter, I explored and caught a lot of fish.
As for question #2, did I lose less flies than the year before- Yes. To me, this tells me that I was a more accurate caster, I was more aware of my surroundings, I tied my flies on better, and I was all around more calm and focused. As fellow fly-fisherman know, the calm, precise, focused, hyper-aware fisherman is an artist, and he/she will catch fish. This is something I worked on this year. I get excited. I get rushed. Staying controlled is really difficult. The more calm and collected and patient I could be on the stream, the more fish I caught and the more I stayed connected to my surroundings, to the backyard beauty that is just a short walk up from the bridge.
This season, I saw some great brook trout fishing. I caught two of my nicest brooks this summer: the first was on a creek in Chippewa county in an unsuspecting spot. I was having a pretty rough day. It took me a while to get going. It was hot. I was trudging through thick woods with little pay off. But as I started fishing into a patch of pines, the holes starting looking better. My only competitor was the sun, which was fading. I started to get some fish, but it was getting dark. Finally I reached a very narrow stretch just beyond the next bridge. The Creek was only 5 feet across and not even terribly deep, but the brooks started going crazy for my leggy-bugger. One after the other, until a big hookjaw brookie hit my line. It was exhilirating. It was dark by the time I got back to the car, but it goes to show how important the twilight hours are in the middle of summer. The best brook trout fishing I’ve ever had was on a stream near Westby. My brother and I drove down to the Driftless and this was the first spot we hit. The first hour was slow, but the stream curved and entered a cornfield. There was a long, deep pool and the fishing was on fire. My brother’s nightcrawler couldn’t compete with the way the sizable brooks were hitting my stripped bugger. I caught a huge mama that came out aggressively from behind a log. Joyous. Colin caught his fair share of trout too including a nice brown.
Oh what a season. Next year my brother’s going to take to the fly rod and Ben and I will guide him in our home waters.