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.
August 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
Ben and I took our friend Mike out for his first experience with stream fishing. We took him to Elk Creek just north of highway 29. Mike wanted to learn how to fly fish and he did great for a starter. I remember being far more awkward and frustrated than Mike was. In fact he was more interested in pure technique than catching fish. This was admirable. I guess I’m the opposite. I kept telling him… ‘ok you gotta get it right in this one spot.. it doesn’t matter how you get it in there, just sling it in’ … and he would patiently keep working on his form. I quickly realized I better teach this guy how to fish so I can learn some lessons on discipline and form next summer. Ben helped a lot, just as he did with me two summers ago, and I have to say Ben’s cast was looking pretty great across the oak savannah we were fishing.
About an hour into our morning, we heard a generator sound up ahead and wondered if we were fishing right behind a dnr shock survey team. Our suspicions were right (maybe that’s why we couldn’t get a fish or even a hit). We got to watch them do the shock survey. It was awesome. A 14.5 incher came up – beautiful. Its amazing to realize how many fish are hiding in spots you wouldn’t even suspect, and some spots that are incredibly difficult to fish. We watched for a while and then headed up stream to get in front of them a ways. Within ten minutes I had a nice sized brook – one of my biggest for Wisco. Then Ben got some action on the hopper. Mike gave it some shots, worked on his form, had a couple follow-ups on my woolly bugger, but couldn’t hook ’em. Next time Mikey! Ben and I got a few more fish, mostly brooks with a couple of browns.
Then we headed up to the Albertville Tavern for lunch. Holay. Check it out if your starving – they’ll fill you up.
A couple words from me… Usually a trip to Elk Creek isn’t truly complete without a stop over to the Albertville Tavern. Their beer is cold and their burgers are fresh meat from Sokups Market in Chippewa. They like to keep their customers happy with a relish tray and bread items… I would consider a cold beer after a day of fishing one of life’s great pleasures… And when you add in waking up in the morning to my dog Max and a fresh pot of good coffee, you can’t ask for anything more!
August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
Sean Carey and I went to the Driftless Area today and decided it was time to go where the Big Brook Trout hang out at. The night before, Sean asked me where I wanted to go fishing, so I told him to let me sleep on it and let the fishing spirit tell me where to go in my dreams. The fishing spirit did us right, so thanks! After a few hours, we trekked back to the car and drove over the Rush River and stopped for a lunch of Spaghetti, Beer and Pickles. My current favorite food right now is Pickles, I have no idea why… oh, and trout.
We got to see lots and lots of bugs today. Grass Hoppers were flinging themselves into the stream and it felt good to feed the fish. I saw a black and white bee. I don’t even know if black and white bees exist…but I know I saw one. I do have a history of seeing odd animals however, one which includes what I call a ‘bunny-squirrel.’ Sean pointed out this red thing flying through the air, like a hummingbird. It was the size of a pretty large Junebug… I’m pretty sure it was the worlds smallest hummingbird.
Sean was the only one on the board at Rush with a nice brown. Oh, we both caught some chubs. Though mine was a Hornday, as my dad calls it.
August 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
Duke and I headed down into the heart of the Driftless area in the Westby/Viroqua area on Thursday, August 11. It’s always one of the best learning experiences fishing with him, not just in terms of fishing techniques, but his knowledge of the Driftless. It’s easy to feel intimidated when he somehow catches twice as many fish in a pool than me, but he’s always insistent on eliminating the competitive ‘fish count.’ Well, sometimes that’s fun, too. A little later in the day I came from behind Duke and he said “Do you want to see if I can catch this big one here in this hole?” Low and behold he did and paid homage by giving it a big fat kiss!
I went up ahead to a small and isolated deep pool and casted my cicada with a pink squirrel dropper… five browns kamikaze-ed my pink squirrel. Even though I had hooked one, and my cicada dangling in the air, the rest of the fish were jumping out of the water at the cicada. It was quite a sight to see, and could’ve been a rare opportunity to hook onto a double catch…
We fished until dinner time on Thursday, and then headed to the Mayfly Lodge ( http://www.mayflylodge.com/Mayfly_Lodge.html ) a cabin up on a hill with a deck overlooking a creek and a large cornfield. We sat on the deck drinking wine, eating cheese and crackers, and watching the sun set. It was a horrible time. After a dinner than consisted of some of the corn you see above, Duke and I retired to the cabin with a glass of scotch and a guitar.
We woke up the next morning to rain, which got me pretty excited for good use of my woolly buggers. After a quick stop for bacon and eggs and one of the most essential vitamins – Vitamin G – we headed over to a creek that Duke informed me you could catch a Grand Slam in. Heyyyy. The rain slightly subsided, and left us with what easily could have been somewhere in North Carolina or East Tennessee. Well, I did end up catching my first Wisconsin Rainbow!
Anyone reading this should stop right now and make your way to the Driftless Area and experience some true World Class fishing right in our own backyard…