This story is brought to you by “Trout Fishing” –Keeping Chris Sane for Over 40 Years…
Yeah, we got the hail. I pointed out the green sky to the kids, told them whenever you see that, hail is coming. I should have covered my truck, or at least parked it under a tree, because it got dinged up pretty good. Bunch of holes in the siding of our house too. State Farm is covering it, but when I dropped my truck off for body work I was not expecting it to take so long. I figured it would be the better part of week, but they’re waiting for parts, bla bla bla, and I’ll be lucky to have it back by next weekend. And after attending a considerable number of fast pitch softball games, I needed to go fishing. But with no truck there would be no pulling the boat, no loading up the kayaks, that leaves me with trout fishing. AS it turns out, I like trout fishing, but for one reason or another I mostly stick to the late winter through spring for trout, and when summer rolls around my attention turns to bass and muskies and such. Before I had a boat, I used to trout fish all summer, and maybe on a Thursday night there wouldn’t be eight cars at every bridge, so when I left work I headed East not West, hoping to be at the Rush by 5:30. Since the truck was being fixed I was driving a rental car with North Carolina plates. I am used to satellite radio, it is one luxury I hate to be without, and being on any kind of a drive with nothing but the wasteland of Twin Cities radio to listen to is almost unbearable. Seriously, how does anyone put up with this shit? The music stations are predictably bad, and they all seem to play the same loop of John Mellencamp, Prince, and Aerosmith. I often listen to MPR, but tonight there was a lot of talk about too many black people getting shot, meanwhile on Conservative Talk stations they were complaining about whatever they complain about, I think on this night it was that not enough black people were getting shot. At least there is 89.3 The Current, and I settled in on that. Seemed like good mojo to listen something called “The Current”.
Traffic was bad enough to be annoying, but eventually I was at a bridge that I used to park at once a week. I bet I haven’t parked here 5 times in the last ten years. Even though it was a weeknight, there were three other cars there. I could see one guy just down from the bridge, that left two guys unaccounted for and since there are about 20 good spots in this reach I felt my odds were good at getting into an old favorite run.
Just up from the bridge, some trout were rising below a huge willow tree that was casting a huge shadow over the water. I usually don’t start fishing until I get farther upstream, but these guys looked catchable. First thing, I broke out my bug seine and captured a few bugs floating on the surface. I placed them in a vial, and then collected a few more from a spider web. I knew that in order to catch these trout I needed to know what they were feeding on. I sat down on the bank with my “Streamside Guide to Aquatic Bugs of Wisconsin” by Ken Blankenship and compared my samples to the color plates of mayflies likely to be hatching this time of year. I had it narrowed down, but decided to cross reference with a new Mayfly ap on my phone. I determined that this was Quadraleptophlebia Sp., and checked my vest index card to see which pocket I keep my Quadraleptophlebia patterns in. The index indicated Vest Pocket L-2 had the winning fly box, and sure enough when I took the box out I had all the patterns arranged alphabetically and by size and style. I had noticed the rise forms the trout made created a small splash, so they were undoubtedly feeding on the duns, so I selected a nice match to the natural insects from compartment 8 of the fly box. I was about to tie it on when I noticed my tippet was only about 29” long, I figured I better lengthen it so I tied on four and a half feet of 6x fluorocarbon, and then knotted the crisp mayfly imitation on to the tippet. I slowly made my way into the water, careful to not make any unnecessary waves. I slowly began false casting, carefully calculating how much line I needed to have out. I gently let the fly land on the water, and then made a quick, double reverse side mend, followed by an Adirondack water mend. The fly floated perfectly, but to my disappointment the fish didn’t take it. I tried several more casts, each one better than the previous. Still nothing. “Emergers!”, I said out loud, “they must be eating emergers!”. So back into vest pocket L-2 I went, and soon I had a Quadraleptophlebia emerger tied on. I made a fresh cast and much to my delight the trout took the fly and the battle was on. I soon had a fine ten-inch trout to hand, I took a moment to admire his spots before carefully releasing him.
Do some people actually do that? Did anyone actually believe I did that? Anyone who knows me knows how insanely unlikely that scenario is. In reality, I had a tattered caddis still tied on from the last trip, I stepped and caught a fish on the first cast, and then caught another five casts later, and then got back on the trail to hit some water farther up the canyon. I have no idea what the trout were actually rising to, and this is what I carried my freshly tied flies in:
This is actually some serious foreshadowing……………..
There was bound to actually be some good hatches at dusk and I wanted to be in a good spot when it popped, and I had a couple of good riffles in mind. As the sun dipped below the trees the mayflies started hatching pretty steady, I managed to wrangle a half dozen…and then stopped. What the heck? Usually the hatch and the associated feeding frenzy lasts until dark. Oh, well, I tied on a bugger and started fishing my way back downstream, but this stream had shut off. It was now getting pretty dark, and I was trying to decide to fish until after dark, or head for the bridge. I’m getting old, and traipsing around in the dark on a stream doesn’t have the appeal it once had, so I picked up the pace and headed for the bridge. But then I come upon a riffle that was alive with rising trout. I swung the bugger I had tied on through the melee ten times with no grab, so a change was in order. One of the things that sucks about getting old is that I just can’t see anymore. Fortunately, I can just about tie a fly on blindfolded, but getting the tippet poked through the eye has become a real challenge I managed to tie on a bushy dry fly by the light of my headlamp, and managed a couple more fish before hitting the trail. By the time I was at the bridge it was totally dark, I was alone in a dark valley lit by fireflies and a pale glow on the western horizon. As I was taking off my waders I thought of times when I was younger how once it got to be this time of night I would often change to a heavier rod with a big fly on and keep fishing until well after midnight. No more of that for me, at least not this night. I had to work in the morning!
Now this trout fishing story will take an interesting turn. I found myself free of duties on Sunday, but still without a tow vehicle. Back to the trout stream! Today I decided to revisit what has long been my favorite stream, although I haven’t been there much lately. If you know me, you know which stream it is. This particular stream has long been known to harbor a sparse population of brown trout, sparse enough to keep most anglers away. It had been over two years since I had been there, and the last two times I was there there I don’t think I caught a trout. I never expect to tuna–boat the trout here, but I at least want to have a chance at a few. Water quality has always been an issue here, maybe the fish were gone for good? One way to find out. I was going to head over there and thoroughly cover some water. I love fly fishing, but the detail this day called for something more serious. Yes, the unthinkable. I was going to use a “Finnish Balsa Fly” – aka- Rapala.
I mentioned earlier how one of the things that sucks about getting old is that it becomes hard to see. One of the things that doesn’t suck about getting old is that you get to stop giving a shit what other people think. So yeah, this big-time fly guy headed up the river with only a spinning rod, a box of lures, and a hemostat. All of these things got a good workout, and this day will go down as one of my most memorable days on the trout stream in recent history, as I caught around 20. I’ve had plenty of days when I’ve caught more or bigger trout, but it is just great that the trout are still there, and the fact that the ones I caught ranged from 5 inches to 17 inches shows that all year classes are present. And I had one follow right to my feet that was really big. In fact, I’m still not 100 percent sure it wasn’t a wayward pike, but it did come out of some fast, non-pikey water. Think I’d better head back there later this week. I just got done tying up some tasty looking Stay Hungry Streamers in chub pattern, just the thing to tempt a big wild brown.
When thinking about the current status of this favorite river, I can’t help but think of the famous Mark Twain quote: