Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I creep through the town of Cobb, Wisconsin on the way to Fennimore. It’s the earliest of early-season trout for me this year. When the forecast earlier this week said that it was going to be 75oF in Fennimore, I knew it was time to set aside work for a day and pick up my fly rod. I am planning to fish only select holes on a few pieces of water today. It’s nice to be familiar enough with the water out here that I can have an enjoyable day of it even with the 2 ½ hour drive in each direction. I’ll end my day near Spurgeon Winery and get a couple of bottles of cranberry wine before heading back in time to help put the babies to bed.

The drive out here provides just enough time to make the changeover from work to play. And when two-and-a-half hours are not enough, there are three land-marks that exude their calming effect to help nudge the transition along. First, there are the limestone bluffs that start to appear on the far side of Mt. Horeb. They tower in the distance and where they meet the road, walls of porous rock seep with water. Next are the long rows of wind-mills. These are not a natural landmark, but they count down the remaining miles to Fennimore and so have become synonymous with trout fishing out here. And finally, not really a landmark at all, are the Palominos. We see these horses in more numbers out here than anywhere else in Wisconsin. These three unique icons of the area will always beckon the years spent here and the tranquil effects that they oblige.

More mindful of such landmarks, I observe an old chimney in a field amidst the last of the towering windmills; the only remains of an old house. It would make a superb picture to wander out in this field and take a perspective shot of this old chimney standing there with the large, more modern windmills as a back-drop…

I begin to notice the names of the roads on the last bit of the drive. Blue River Road is the last road before entering Grant County. “Fennimore 11 Miles” a sign reads. County Trunk G is next and leads the way north to the Blue River. Holzer Lane. Anontin Road. Preston Road. Orr Road. Each road bearing the surname of a farming family no doubt. The Fennimore water tower comes into view.  Fennimore, population 2,347.  And here is County Trunk Q bearing North. That’s a turn that I have taken countless times as we drove up to Castle Rock Creek – the indoctrination water of Caitlin and Daniel. We usually stay at the Fenway Hills Motel. The Eagle Creek Inn has sadly gone out of business – forever known to us by its former name “The Silent Woman Inn.”

One of the nice things about coming out to Fennimore is that the Wisconsin Gazetteer is no longer needed for this area. I am sure the inhabitants of the area know these roads much better; however from a trouting perspective, I know these roads better than most! And it wouldn’t be a trip to Fennimore without the company of Van Morrison. “And it Stoned Me” with its references to fishing rods and water has crept into the annals of time for us – a song that can never grow old.

First Stop. It’s 10:30 a.m. and the rods are strung up and ready to go. I have fresh 12-foot leaders on both rods with some favorite prospecting flies:

  • 4W Sage SLT with a 12-foot 5x leader and a #16 Elk Hair Caddis
  • 5W Sage SP with a 12-foot 4x leader and a #14 Bead Head Prince Nymph

I’ll be starting with that devil of a fish that eludes me from time to time and escapes most times even when hooked. He’s an artful rogue. I’ll see if I can entice him up from the depths before dropping downstream into some of the easier pools. I don’t get far before spotting a rise below a bend in the river. There are caddis flies on the water. I apply my craft with the 4W and take the first trout of 2010: a plump 10-inch brown trout. And on a dry fly, no less.

If you’re going to fish long leaders, be prepared to patiently work out a few tangles along the way. Long leaders are wispy things and even a slight breeze can play havoc on them. Remember, every tangled line is an opportunity to rest the fish.

I reach the devil-fish water and although I hook and lose a fish, it was not the fish – not nearly heavy enough. Having disturbed the water here, I head back downstream to “the third pool.” The third pool produces another 10-inch brown with beautiful coloring: white trim on its fins and deep red spots throughout its flank.

There are #16 caddis hatching here and fish continue to rise in regular fashion. They are smaller and I have but one day, so I decide to move on to another piece of water.

On the hike along the creek, I see some obvious holding water that we have often looked over in the past – it just looks trouty. This time, however, I see two to three large trout finning in the currents there. This little run is short and the current is fast. I need a rig that will get deep quickly. I rig up a #8 Hydropsyche Larva and place a foam indicator about 3 feet above it. I end up having to leave these fish for another time as well – I spooked them. It’s an upstream cast to the left bank – there are little bits of this-and-that jutting out to catch the leader, making it a difficult situation. It’s a good, heavy fly that’s wanted here – it has to be cast softly and then get down quickly. I’ll have to think that over. I am sure that over time and with the right rigging, I’ll be able to extract a trout from this fourth pool.

Second Stop. I am now walking the banks of one of my favorite trout rivers – and as early in the season as I have ever been on it. The weather is gorgeous. The sky is bright, it’s blue luster smeared with white and gray clouds. It is warm with a slight breeze. This may be ideal. Why do I love this river so much? Probably because it’s singular in its capacity for large trout. It is most certainly the place where I have had the most repeatable bouts with large rainbows. This is where I caught “Goliath”, “Slab On A Bug” and “The Twin Titans”. That’s why I’m back here. I’m here to handle a big fish and muscle it to the net.  That’s the big draw to this river.

I see some nice splashy rises going on up in hole number one – or should I say “the number one hole” J My Goddard Caddis (I fished it for you Chuck) brings a 12-inch brown to hand. This fish did not have a fleck of red on him – he had more of a charcoal caste to him. That fish was making a small, splashy rise, so I suspect there are larger fish here as well. As I dry out my bug, I notice the caddis flies on the water are smaller than a #16. They are tan. I catch and release another nice brown trout before moving around the bend.

I am fishing up into a run above the next pool. Then it happens. A rainbow! Not a behemoth by any means, but a respectable 13+ inches. It leapt from the depths no less than three times. It took a #10 Hydropsyche Larva fished about seven feet below a foam indicator. This fish marks one of many like it for the rest of the day:

I finally reach the spot where my brother-in-law and I fished last year when I took another size-able rainbow.  I never gave that noteworthy fish a name. On a second outing here, we ran into that monster of a Snapping Turtle in the same spot, so I think I’ll have to work that into naming this fish. I don’t get a fish nearly that size this time, but I do manage an 17-inch fighter that snatches up a Rhyacophilla imitation.

My net goes just under 21-inches from end-to-end with a 13.5-inch opening.

Rhyacophilla Larva

This Rhyacophilla fly is an Oliver Edwards tie, using a technique that calls for twisting strands of fine yarn together and then thinning them at the ends to get the tapered effect. Tying in the partridge legs on this fly is the hardest step; however all can be mastered with time.

Right before I caught this rainbow, a small and remarkable bird was running along the rocky area near the river’s western bank. Actually, there were two of them. They would flit in and out of the rocks, trilling and fanning their tails – perhaps a mating ritual. One of them settled into a spot just behind me and I was able to later identify it as a Killdeer.

Killdeer

I stay and fish just below this spot, connecting with a respectable brown trout that jumped so high when I hooked him that he nearly landed on the bank. There were some little black stoneflies hatching here as well – they went about a #10 in size, but were very thin. If I were to tie this fly, I would use a 2xL #14 hook and tie the wind a little long off the back.

Final Stop. It’s a 24 mile ride to the next piece of water. The peacocks are in the peacock house, tails hanging down…the perfect tree is just down the road…the tin house…  There is only enough time to walk the banks and re-familiarize myself with this next creek. I consider this Caitlin’s water, as Joe and I have yet to hit this stretch together. Trout are schooled up in the hole that she so enjoyed fishing on our first outing here.  I look forward  to a mid-Summer jaunt out here with her.   ~ WiFly

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