Monday, May 4th thru Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Paul’s Orvis “Super Fine” 7-foot 4-Weight rod with Able Reel – A great little rod for fishing small streams amidst woods and tight stream brush

Paul’s Orvis “Super Fine” 7-foot 4-Weight rod with Able Reel – A great little rod for fishing small streams amidst woods and tight stream brush

Wisconsin Fly Fishing Fever continues!  I dropped my brother Joe off at his home in Waukesha last night and then drove into Madison to pick up my daughter Caitlin and we headed right back out to SW Wisconsin. It was a rough round trip last night – 6 hours of driving to switch out fishing partners. I actually had a pretty good night’s sleep. Caitlin, however, is still sleeping at 7:30 a.m.  One of the challenges when I am out trout-ing is that I really don’t need a lot of sleep and I tend to keep pretty extreme hours. That’s not the case for those that I travel with.  So I am sitting here reading “Techcrunch” for updates on Twitpic, TweetPhoto, and facebook’s open APIs – all on a fabulous little device created by Amazon called the Kindle 2.

Once Caitlin is up and moving, we head out to the small, category-3 river that Joe and I fished yesterday. In fact, the next few days will be focused on three small pieces of water all located in Grant County, Wisconsin:  one labeled a River, one labeled a Creek, and one labeled a Brook.

It’s Monday morning and we have a pretty good looking sky right now – the sun is out. However, the weather forecast for the next couple of days is less than ideal: rain tomorrow and extreme electrical storms on Wednesday. We had better make good use of today as we are likely to be hunkered down tying flies later in the week. Rain very seldom pushes us off of a river, but an electrical storm is another matter. You don’t want to be standing in a river waving around a graphite rod when that kind of weather starts to roll in.

Check out these lightening safety tips to consider when fishing:

http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/215841/travel_tips/lightning_safety_tips_for_fishermen.html
http://fishing.about.com/od/basicfishinginstruction/a/fishing_light.htm

http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/emergency/weather/lightening/

A Small River. Let me just say that the first stream to be fished today can be referred to as a “younger sibling to a big brother”.  It is always a good idea to investigate the tributaries that feed some of our larger trout rivers. They can be surprising in terms of the fish that they hold. They also become havens for trout during the heat of summer.  This particular piece of water has few areas that afford an opportunity for easy casting. I guide Caitlin to one of the nicer openings where she can work until she gets her casting rhythm back (the college years leaving little time for pursuit of trout). We’ll leave the debate to the annals of time as to whether she should be looking over her shoulder to watch her back cast unwind or just focus forward to where her fly will land – like her dad tells her. Some of her best casts do come when she is keeping an eye on that back cast. However she does not get into fish until she finally relents to my barmy rant and focuses all attention forward. Her first fish is smallish, but with the knowledge that she is no longer “skunked”, things seem to come easier.
My Daughter Caitlin Faces Off With the Trout on a Small River

My Daughter Caitlin Faces Off With the Trout on a Small River

We stay here and hit a few of the pools that Joe and I hit yesterday. I just finished up on that sweet little run where I took that 16-inch brown yesterday. Things go a little awry today compared to yesterday: snags, lost rigs, and not paying enough attention to the trees. Despite all this, we still manage to hook another sizeable fish in here. It is a complete replay of yesterday except without landing the fish. This bruiser charges for a deep, undercut bank further up in the run. It is lost despite my stalwart efforts to soak my arm to the shoulder again. I walk back through the woods, the residue of sadness lingering with me for having lost that trout.
Whenever I lose a substantial fish like this, I always analyze the situation: looking for lessons-learned for next time. Here are some thoughts on what to do in a situation like this:
  • When you hook a big fish and it heads for cover, do not switch the angle of attack with your rod. You cannot turn your fly rod in the opposite direction. For example, if you are leading a fish downstream and it ducks for cover, you cannot turn your rod upstream – you’re just letting the fish control the situation, embedding itself in the roots, tangles and debris beneath the bank. You need to keep your angle of attack the same and tug that fish back out the same way that it went in.
  • Don’t feel compelled to keep tension on the fish once you get to the bank and have control of the leader with your other hand. Instead, induce some slack to allow your other hand to work the fish free – you just may get your trout back!

Use Your Fly Rod to Manage the Proportions of Your Rigging. We head back to the first good pool of the day, but now it is my turn to work the spot. I am fishing with a #16 bead-head (BH) Pheasant Tail (PT) nymph for the point fly. About 18-inches above that I have a #14 BH Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE) nymph that is tied with some really spiky dubbing. My rod is a 9-foot 4-Weight Sage Z-axis fly rod lined with 4-weight line. Let’s review the proportions of this rig relative to my fly rod. What I’ve got here is a point fly that is placed in the little ‘catch’ near the cork handle where you can hook your fly. The next fly up the leader is just above the first guide. The strike indicator is all the way up at the tip of the rod before the line turns to go through the last guide. This is exactly the proportions that I noticed coming out of this hole yesterday. I may measure it later, but I really don’t need to. All I need to do is make sure that I have the dropper fly in the ‘catch’, the next fly at the first guide and a strike indicator at the top. Noting proportions like this makes it easier to set up the same rig again. The next cast may be into the bushes and you will have an easier time rebuilding to a rod-proportional leader recipe.

Our next stop is a small stream that is labeled a “brook” on our older Wisconsin gazetteer. It is a bit of a drive and we lose some time when we stop to examine large numbers of peacocks at a farm as we make our way east.  We are losing light fast by the time we reach the water. There is a stream re-hab project in the works here. We can see the timbers for building lunker structures and the rock piles that will be used to secure them in place. Lunker structures are used to provide in-stream cover for trout while also stabilizing stream banks:

Lunker structures Provide Cover For Trout While Also Stabilizing Streambanks

Lunker structures Provide Cover For Trout While Also Stabilizing Streambanks

We decide to fish much further upstream so we drive to the upper-most bridge. We are on the water for less than 15 minutes when we start getting into fish. I am using a #12 Bead-head Prince Nymph, casting it down and across this narrow stream and then stripping it back in as it swings across current.  I manage to land a couple of nice brook trout right before dark. One of these square-tails exceeds 10-inches, is quite fat, and has beautiful coloration. Sorry – no picture. The light is just too low..

Getting Even. All light is gone save for a three-quarter moon when we decide to head back to the truck. Now is my chance to get even with Caitlin for hiding the truck from me back in April. She gets into the truck and closes the door just as I slip between the two rear wheels – underneath the truck! I just wait. I can hear Caitlin adjust her position as she looks around. She calls my name. I do not answer. She opens the door just a crack and calls for me again. I remain silent. She closes the door. After a long wait, she decides to exit the vehicle and head to the bridge overlooking the stream. Perhaps she thinks I wandered upstream for a look around. I let her have it with the full “Cape Fear” effect as she turns back to the truck. Now we are even!.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009. Rain has moved into Fennimore, although it is fairly light. The forecast has changed from rain today with thunderstorms tomorrow to rain and rain. Hopefully it won’t be that bad. We’ve got the “Filsons” ready to go. Filson Wading Jackets are made from waxed cotton which makes them very water proof and yet very breathable. We love them. In our early years, we would fish right through a torrent in them and stay pretty warm and dry.

So we don our Filsons and head back – to where? Why to the little river with the big brown that escaped us yesterday. So here is a lesson in trout fishing – or perhaps it is a damnation. There is a trout that escaped me yesterday. I feel compelled, as I think most of us do at some point, to go back and take another crack at that fish. This is no longer about exploring new water. It is about knowing a spot a little better and then tackling-up a little smarter to wrestle a big, wary fish into submission. I am bent on catching that fish, but alas, he is nowhere to be seen. So after more than an appropriate investment of time trying to coax him from the depths, we head back to our little “brook” in pursuit of new water. I must return here in the fall or next year to try again!

A Honey-of-a-hole. While driving to the upper stretch of our little brook trout fishery, we notice a fisherman’s access well down from where we finished up last night. It is fairly obscured with no style available. We slip underneath some tight barbed wire near the posting. The banks here are really steep – some plummet as much as four feet down to the water.

A Small Wisconsin Stream Supporting All Three Species of Trout

A Small Wisconsin Stream Supporting All Three Species of Trout

We are fishing a couple of nice little runs here. I can see that Caitlin’s rod bent with a fish, but now she is working out a tangle in her leader – it must have gotten off. I wander down her way to see how she is doing. When I arrive, I see that she is sitting on top of a veritable “honey hole” – she has hooked several trout, but they all get off as she attempts to land them. She is mildly frustrated and asks for help. I remind her that she has not been able to dedicate much time to the sport for the past few seasons and that she just needs to get back in practice.

She has a nice little ledge that she has been casting from on the stream’s steep bank. I guess you could say that I am getting a chance to “take her to school” a little bit on how to play these fish to the net.  We switch places and she makes ready with the camera. I successively land a rainbow trout, a brown trout, and what has to be a trophy brook trout for this water – going more than 11-inches and in the full ceremonial dress.  Wow! Look at the size of the mouth on this brook trout. Brook trout are actually not a trout (genus Salmo), but rather are a member of the char family (genus Salvelinus Fontinalis). They are native to Wisconsin and I prize catching a nice specimen above all else.

Salvelinus Fontinalis – Wisconsin’s Native Trout is Actually a Char

Salvelinus Fontinalis – Wisconsin’s Native Trout is Actually a Char

Having a chance to see a few fish successfully landed, Caitlin jumps back into position. She decides that she has been futzing with her reel too much and that these fish simply need to be played by stripping in line and managing line tension. Good observation! She gets off a nice cast and is into a brown trout almost immediately. She strips in line quickly and reaches down to the water to net the fish –got it! This is a case where a net is almost mandatory – the banks are steep here and the fish need the support of the net so that they are not being pulled from the water head first.

Caitlin tandem of pics wit brown trout

My Daughter Caitlin Lands a Nice Brown Trout

Caitlin asks me how big I think her brown trout is. I say “10 inches”. She says that she thinks it is between 11 and 12 inches. So we take one of the pictures where the fish is squared up to the camera across her hands and take some measurements. Upon measuring Caitlin’s hand and the fish in that picture, and her hand in real life, we are able to create a ratio and gauge the size of her trout. It comes out to over 11-inches. She had estimated it to be between 11 and 12 inches so she is feeling quite pleased with herself. So I am feeling quite obliged to have her make me another peanut butter sandwich – reminding her that there is a pecking order out here!

We decide to rest this spot and head back to the upper most section. Seeing it in daylight, I realize that Joe and I were here in 2005. It’s the same water, but we were all the way up in the headwaters section looking over the huge spring that is this stream’s namesake. It is steadily raining, so I throw on a Filson and hike up to the spring while Caitlin reads in the car. We are a wrap for the day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009.We shot up to a small creek just north of Fennimore to have a look at things. But we decided to go back to the stream that we finished on last night. We’ll start with the “super hole” and then move onto to explore some new sections of it. This time, our route takes us past a tin house. Tin house? Yes, a tin house! This house has a red tin roof and silver tin siding. We wonder why anyone would have their entire house sheathed in tin – it must get bloody hot in there. There were many beehives on this property as well – maybe that has something to do with it. I searched the internet and the only thing that I could find was a reference to temporary tin houses being erected in some locals to accommodate displaced people. Twenty years later and these are now permanent residences in some places. This is not the case here, but it does speak to the fact that some people do live in tin houses.

As the road turns to drive along the still somewhat distant stream, Caitlin spots a bald eagle feasting on a fish on the high banks. We back up to get a better look while grabbing a long lens for the camera. Alas, the eagle picks up it prey and takes to the air. Still, it is good to see a bald eagle out here. It is the first one we have seen in this part of the state.

When we get to the spot we fished yesterday, we see that there are very few fish present. Are they tucked into the bank? Did they move up or down stream? Is this an effect of the pressure change? We make a note in our journals to keep this in mind for later reference. Rain and lightning are rolling toward us, so we decide to exit the scene and visit a small, local winery that we notice yesterday while driving about.

This little winery is called “Spurgeon Winery”. I found a website for them if you are interested in sampling their fare: http://www.spurgeonvineyards.com/. So we wile away a couple of hours sampling wines, eating cheese and chatting with the owners while the rain moves through. Very pleasant. I did get a little crazy (possible inebriation) and bought about dozen or so bottles of wine including several bottles of sweet, crisp cranberry wine. That’s a Wisconsin original!

The rain has stopped, so we head back out on the stream to examine the remaining bridging on this water. At one bridge, we see some sizeable brook trout. The water is crystal clear and we are easily able to distinguish the browns from the brook trout. Caitlin stays up on the bridge while I slink to a far corner of the bridge-work and start roll casting a #12 caddis with a deep dropper.  We are just starting to get the rigging tuned to the water depth when a big storm rolls in. BIG storm. It is a deluge of rain out here. The horses in the field have run for cover in the barn and we have run for cover as well. We get a little bit soaked, but are excited to have seen those fish.

Some confusion as we got off the water.  My wading boots are pretty muddied up from the muck I was standing in at the base of the bridge, so I head a little upstream to rinse them off. Caitlin yells through the howling rain “what are you doing?” I shout back “I am rinsing my feet!”  She hears  “I lost my keys” and brings her sorry little butt back down to the water and starts looking on the ground for m keys – getting more thoroughly soaked in the process. I thought I would just capture that memory for her for later on.

Anatomy of a seam. Here is a look at the seam below the bridge. There is a very nice foam line on the left. Remember, wherever the current is pushing the foam on the surface, it is pushing the insects below the surface. Wherever the insects are drifting through, that is where you will find the trout. We spotted pockets of trout all the way from the bridge up to that little tongue at the head of this pool. These are marked with a “T” in the photo below. Where ever there is an “X” is where we took fish. Caitlin also notices some fish on the left side of the sand in this picture – one rushed to have a look at our dry fly, but did not take it.

Anatomy of  a Seam

Anatomy of a Seam

Well, that’s a wrap for this outing. See you oth the other side of Mother’s Day Weekend! If you get a chance to fish the “Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch” enjoy it – we have found reliable little black caddis up and arround the streams surrounding Iola, Wisconsin. Enjoy!

Fauna and Fowl of Fennimore

Fauna and Fowl of Fennimore

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