Well here we are on Sunday Morning, May 3rd – our 2nd day of opening weekend. Today we are headed for a much smaller piece of river. It is labeled a river; however it is much more the size of a small creek. The drive takes us through a significant change in elevation, past limestone bluffs and leads to some beautiful views of the valleys out here in the driftless region.

We park at the edge of a small wood. The spot looks somewhat familiar. As we approach the water, we see a large log fallen across the river and I realize that I have indeed been here before. The water is crystal clear and there is a deep pool that is situated just above this log which no doubt is an unreachable haven for some large, brute trout. Perhaps we can draw a fish out of this spot with a downstream presentation on the way back out.  There is a nice little sluice below this log as well. Joe heads downstream to explore with a prince nymph while I head up a couple of bends to see what this stretch of water has to offer.

This “river” looks to be anywhere from 3 to 20 feet throughout its course. The spot that I stop at first has a fairly sandy bottom. The sand is marked with gentle ridges that seem to be a reflection of the water’s surface. Boulders are strewn throughout this fishery along with short old-growth logs providing both cover and breaks in the current for fish to hide. It is a beautiful looking stream. It is quiet here and yet I am struck by the sounds that fill my senses – birds singing, current flowing – it is a peaceful and thoughtful place. It is not a piece of water for two people to fish together. It’s not big enough. However we can hop and skip over each other as we explore for the next couple of hours.

A quick look at some of the aquatic grasses and rocks at the shallower parts of the Little Green show that there is a tremendous volume of #18 olive and black mayfly nymphs throughout this water. I also see some rhyacophilla larva as always and various cased caddis as well. There are several aquatic grasses intermixed here. This vegetation is rich with insect life and the little fresh water shrimp that fly fisherman refer to as “scuds”. These are light grey in color and range in sizes from #18 to #14.

"Scud" - Fresh Water Shrimp

“Scud” – Fresh Water Shrimp

OK – I am at a bend in the river and I can see a nice little pocket ahead of me that holds about 3 or 4 bathtubs of water. It is a nice little pool that easily shows a few small trout finning in its deepest recesses. I throw my bead-head prince nymph up in there (still having that on from the prior night at Crooked Creek) and watch as these trout move about to investigate it as it drifts through. After a few casts, I decide to rest the spot a little while I change out my rig. I now have a feel for the currents flowing through this pool as well as its depth. This is another progression that every fly fisherman makes as they evolve their craft. In my younger years, I might have left this spot too quickly. Now, when success does not come easy, I take my time. I consider what I have just learned and I adjust my tactics. I equate the time it takes to modify my rigging to resting the water and giving the fish some space. Here,  I now switch to a tandem rig with a #14 caddis on top and a small olive mayfly nymph dropper. I want to see if I can induce one of these little trout to take my fly. Here is the rigging detail:

I will be able to watch the Goddard caddis drift through the pool and hopefully one of these trout will take the nymph.

Several casts later and I am thinking that my fly is not getting down far enough into the pool – meaning I need to lengthen the tippet material leading to my dropper fly. So I double the length of the leader to about 30-inches and I have now moved the micro-split shot to about 6 or 7 inches above the fly. I am still using the Goddard caddis – it is getting a little soaked, but I can easily blow the water out of it every couple of drifts.

A few casts later and I am releasing a 6 to 7 inch, fat little brown trout. Not a big fish by any measure, but very satisfying nonetheless. In this crystal clear water with these super spooky fish, it is very satisfying to adjust my rigging and presentation and then be rewarded by watching my little caddis ‘pop’ as it disappears when a fish takes the nymph; to lift my rod tip and feel that little trout on my light rig and then bring it to bear. The trout took that olive nymph right at the lip. You can see in this photo how big the nymph is and the beautiful coloration of this little brown trout. I am able to just grab the nymph and slip it from the trout’s lip without even handling the fish – helping to preserve the fishery.

Small River Brown Trout

Small River Brown Trout

My top fly is pretty soaked and I realize that I left my “dry shake” in the FJ – I will need to make sure to get that back into my vest for the next piece of water. Dry shake is a product that contains both a desiccant for pulling water out of the fly and a powdery floatant that helps the fly stay dry and ride higher on the water for many casts.

Joe has caught up to me now. We discuss the situation and how this little river is actually therapeutic. it’s like therapy to sit on a small streamside boulder or log and listen to this little water and watch the stream until a trout gives away its location by rising to take an insect on top or flashing below the surface to take a nymph. Joe shares that there is a nice pool downstream with several small trout flashing to tack nymphs. So the quarry here is small, but the relaxation is profound.

We continue upstream together agreeing to alternate fishing as we hit each spot. The next bend up from the spot that I was just fishing, Joe spots a nice little run coming around a hard right angle turn corner that is pushing water against some rocks on a far bank and dropping about a 10 to 15 foot foam line along the left bank facing upstream.

So I rebuild my tandem rig with different bugs that are better suited to this situation. I am now using a pair of nymphs and a strike indicator. The top nymph is a #16 olive scud pattern and 12-inches below this is a #16 BH Pheasant Tail nymph as the point fly. My strike indicator is only about 3-feet above the top fly. The first cast in and a fish chases it – a bite. I miss setting the hook and get a little snagged up in some shrubbery so I have to to re-build the rig again. It happens.  A couple of cast later and a 7-inch brown is taken.

LGRiv Brown Trout

 Looking this little run over, I can now see that the water is deep and dark right where it is churning and pours into the bank.  There are obstacles to overcome here. There is a tree overhead on my left requiring the cast to slice into the area at an angle from the right. I will also need to avoid a tree behind me on the left that overhangs the river even more.  And just for fun, the right bank is lined with plants and the dried out remains of last year’s burr plants – all waiting to take my fly if I make a mistake.

Anatomy of a Seam

Anatomy of a Seam

Joe and I discuss the difficulty of the cast and then I work out some line into a few false casts before making the business cast up into the run. I use a reach cast to the left to get everything coming straight downstream on that left side. The rig and strike indicator land right where we wanted them. No sooner has Joe uttered “nice cast” when a brown strikes. I can tell that it is a bigger fish, but it is not until it comes down below us that we realize that it is a sizeable brown trout – surely a trophy for these waters. That fish takes a couple of good runs and fights like mad as I try to hurry him to the net. I know that I need to control his fury quickly in such tight quarters. I finally get him on the reel and as I work him in I can see that he has some pretty nice shoulders on him – a very nice fish. My first reach with the net sends him running for the bank where he wraps around some obstruction in the deep undercut  – the line goes taught – disappointment swells over me – this is usually a sign that you have lost your fish. However experience prevails here as well. I rush to that edge of the river and plunge my hand into the water running it down the leader. I make it to the first fly – he is not there. I push down further and get to the fish on the second fly. I am able to flip him back into the main river where I quickly net him. Unbelievable!  And Exhilarating!  This is a very charcoal brown fish with clear spots accenting his flank in a very distinct manner.  Joe’s utters his ever famous quote as we extract a large trout from a small water: “they’re in there!” He snaps off a quick picture before we release this brute back to the depths. Thanks brother! You can see that my sleeve on my right arm is soaked from reaching under the bank to retrieve this trout.

15-inchBrown Taken in Small Water

15-inchBrown Taken in Small Water

We check the river upstream and note a few nice holes for next time before moving back downstream to fish some water that Joe felt merited attention before we left. The spot that he selects is all the way down stream to a spot where a barbed wire first obstructs our path. In true predatory fashion, we walk well wide of the river here and we also walk softly. We believe that heavy footed walking send vibrations that can warn larger trout of our presence.

Well upstream of this barbed wire and with plenty of room to cast is a beautiful deep pool coming out of another small, fast run. We take a couple of 10-inch brown trout here as well and I have no doubt we could have taken a few more if we had picked it over more carefully.

This is a beautiful little piece of water. I am here with my daughter Caitlin next week and we now have a couple of good holes in this section that she can work over.

Paul and his FJ Cruiser

Paul and his FJ Cruiser