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.
September 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
Fishing on Elk Creek has never been disappointing… every stretch has great characteristics and challenges. This stretch that Sean and I fished the other day is a favorite of ours, and it seems to take the different aspects of Elk Creek and roll it all into one. It started off a bit slow on woolly buggers, so I switched to a pink squirrel with a bit of weight on it. I wasn’t getting as many fish as I hoped, and soon realized that my problem was the weight on my line. I took it off, and instantly I couldn’t catch them fast enough! Sean followed suit. The funny thing about each fish I caught that day was the indicator never went down. I felt like I had some heightened awareness that day and I had the results to prove it! My indicator didn’t move but a twitch when I hooked this fish.
I forgot my camera, but I had my phone to take a picture of this nice 14″ brown caught in the hole right above my shoulder. What an exciting fight he was! Although, if you are looking for some real strong browns, I suggest heading down to Black Earth Creek, where they’re big and sure know how to put up a fight.
We fished until we couldn’t stand the hunger any more, and proceeded on our hour long walk back. Sean threw a woolly bugger in various holes and caught three nice fish – one being a Brookie just shy of 10 inches. Yum.
We ate two trout with bacon and potatoes and a couple of Leinies. What a good day………..
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!
July 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
Wow, yesterday I went to Elk Creek (what’s new….). It was my first opportunity to get out in a little while because of the heat and rain that we had. The stream was still a little high and murky, and the sun was bright which I figured could be a good combination for some good nymphing action. And of course it was.
If you like to slip on every rock, lose a half dozen flies, and get eaten up by the horse flies (and catch the Big One), then this stretch is for You!
Here is a deep side pool with some trees creating an undercut. Just around the corner happens to be a good hole if you like to get snagged up a lot and/or catch big browns.
It ended up being what I would consider a perfect day. There were no flies buzzing around, which instantly makes for a good time. I caught about a dozen fish in a few hours between the sizes of 6 and 14 (I kept two that were just under 10″ and plan to make a grilled trout dinner). A few fish popped off though, which I thought was strange. Something was wrong with my hook perhaps – I had good hook sets and even landed two fish with basically no hook set at all.
Anyway… I arrived at an amazing hole with deep, fast water running along the right side of the stream. My Pink Squirrel was a big hit here – it drove the trout nuts and attacked it before I could even get my line settled in the water. My last fish out of the hole was the biggest, and he snagged up that fly before my strike indicator could even touch the water. Nice fish…oh it’s a real nice fish…oh man, it’s the biggest trout I’ve ever caught…ohhh it’s gotta be about 17 inches, hollllyyyy….ohhhhhh he’s gone.
Usually I’d get a little upset by that, but all the other fish I caught was a fun fight and it was such a nice day – about 80 degrees with a cool breeze. And I decided that my brothers pattern of the Pink Squirrel is the deadliest pattern you could possibly have – I don’t know what’s different about it, but they always catch more fish than any other pattern I’ve used.
I finished the day out heading to Lake Wissota with my mom, dad, and dog Max. Didn’t catch nothing. The walleyes were biting so light it was hard to tell when to set the hook. Well, we just drank beer and got a kick out of Max being a dog.
Good fishing day.
July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
(Sean and his extremely leaky waders)
However… Sean and I went to the Driftless the day before and we couldn’t catch the brookies fast enough! Average size was around 10 inches, which felt too good. I was using a small Cicada, and Sean had on an Ant. The sun came out in full force at around noon. Side note: I sure wish I could be a weatherman and tell everyone that severe storms are on the way when hot and sunny is really the case. Sometimes I feel like there is a worldwide plot for weathermen to ruin the fun for everyone planning a day of fun.
We ran out of stream and decided to head over to the Rush, a stretch that was a slow and murky. Sean caught one 11 inch brown and that was it. I missed a nice one that made an attempt to snatch my woolly bugger while I was about to make a new cast. It reminded me of the importance of actively retrieving the fly after what is your target drift zone.
June 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
June 18th my Uncle Tim and I took out my Uncle Dan to Elk Creek, just north of 29. What a great spot for kids, beginners, and people with learning disabilities such as Dan. Since TU did a real nice restoration on this particular stretch, and since it’s so easy to get to, I feel like most fly fishermen have shunned it – deeming it too easy to fish… Well, I imagine that the trout are having a hay day down in those deep lunker structures. Wow, there are nice fish in there! Yep, it’s easy to fish, and perfect if you have even just an hour to get out.
I caught the two browns, and Dan caught the brook. I had never realized the difference in flesh color of stocked fish. One brown was bright pink (like it should be, I guess, right?) and the other was pure white… For some reason I always just thought browns were always a little more pale in color, but the one had the pinkest flesh I had ever seen. Now I know.
The next morning Tim and I met at 5 am to try and beat the crowd on the Rush. We arrived at a place I call the “Storm Spot” because every time I’ve been there rolling thunder like a freight train makes its way. As soon as we started getting our gear together, surely enough a truck arrived and started hurrying to get his pole rigged up to beat us to the stream – seriously? Some of the most rude fishermen head to the Rush River – take note if you are reading this and are one of those people!
The fish were rising like crazy, scarfing down their breakfast before the rain came. A nice emerging caddis hatch. We all know the fish here have a PhD in discriminating taste. No matter the fly I put on, it wasn’t quite right. Fish rose right beside mine, left and right, on a dead drift – completely ignoring my presentation. First fish was an 11″ brown that I watched severely inspect my black caddis before sucking it under. Shortly after I reached a pool of eager brookies jumping fully out of the water for their food. I could only get one…. hmmm Move on. Cast after cast with no results. Eventually I put on a black parachute adams and was relieved to know after one cast that this was the fly. Miss. Another cast and another missed strike. About ten in a row and I missed all of them. I came upon a slow flat area where some very large browns were rising and once again I was ignored. One more cast – big brook jumped out of the water and I missed it! I splashed the water in frustration and gave up. What a day.
Tim and I walked back to the car to find 4 other cars, two fishing down, one guy on our tail and the other unknown… I am just amazed to find how much nerve people have to want step on another fisherman’s time out on the water.
Beautiful river though.
June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
>This morning started off a bit cool and cloudy which was nice. I figured on a day like today the browns would enjoy having a woolly bugger in front of their faces… I headed to a spot on Elk Creek I’ve never fished before – 10th Ave (just off of Hwy 12). I’m sure people have had success there, but I did not. Few real nice holes, and only one rise. The past couple days I’ve been to Elk the water level seemed below average. Aside from the few good looking holes, everything else was shallow and sandy, with small pockets of structure. Maybe someone needs to show me something I don’t know about catching those fish hiding underneath several logs that prevent you from casting past them… If I did get to a manageable position, I had spooked them… A spinning rod would’ve actually been a good thing to have, I reckon.
Decided to go further upstream to where Hwy 12 crosses the creek. For some reason I went right into the water, rather than walking on land underneath the train bridge. I believe a while ago I had made the choice to walk about 50 yards before making a cast for one reason or another. Well, I took this picture from the creek imagining what would happen if that molten sulfur started leaking into the creek.
I kept walking and started to remember why I normally walk 50 or so yards before putting in. I took a couple more steps, put one foot on a rock and went completely under.
Well…there went my fishing day. Pretty irate I decided it wasn’t my day.
Speaking of recipes. I came across Trout Caviar