Sunday, June 12, 2016

And For My Next Trick...

Friday was definitely a good day of fishing.  Saturday was even better.  When the alarm nudged my consciousness around 5:30 A.M. I said, "Nope."  Alarm reset.  An hour later, I felt a little more like dragging my knuckles down to the Mobile Hotel®'s kitchen for meds and coffee.  I cringed when I glanced at the outside thermometer as I walked out the door: 70 F at 7:15.  The day was forecast to be more humid the previous one.  Uuug.

Short drive and gear up.  This time, hike back to point where I left off yesterday.  That wild parsnip is getting scary, between the density and height.  I've seen photos of blisters from that stuff, so get thee behind me!  I made it to the spot where I ended Friday's fun.  So, what pattern should I start with?  Might as well start with the old standby: parachute Adams, size 14.  I like this specifically because of its visibility in conditions like this: rippled water and a little morning light filtering indirectly through the full canopy over the little river.  Nothing rising within my sight, but it worked yesterday...

I don't have to "work" for long to hook my first fish of the day: a small brook trout.  Nice!  There are more in this river than I'd thought.  A few minutes later I'm pulling another fish in to remove the barbless fly.  Probably a little brown trout... No, another brookie!   Cue the smile reflex.  I'm elated to be catching something that's related to the fish that were native to these waters before brown trout were introduced.  I'd rather catch a brown trout than no trout, but the darn things are an invasive species in my mind.  Gimme an 8-inch "native" brookie and I'm happier than fighting a 16-inch brown.   I catch three brookies before a brown trout makes it to hand.  No way this day gets any better.

I stumble slowly upstream, working this stretch like I learned from a guide on Piney Creek in Wyoming last fall.  There's a lot of blind casting, with good results.  I spot a few risers next to an eddy swirling under a willow.  Time to play... I drop a couple of gentle casts at the tail of the eddy, and bring in two more small brown trout.  I guess the Adams is working this morning.  How about the caddis?  I select a size 16 grey body with light colored elk wings for good visibility.  On my third cast, I hook something that runs upstream over a shallow rocky stretch.  It's not small.  We've got a runner!

My first attempt to photograph my own catch.
I borrowed my wife's waterproof Olympus camera before I set out this morning.  The logistics of on-stream photograph are baffling to me.  I watched Eddie do it a few times, but I have a long way to go, especially without a net.  I settled on this:  get the fish in close, turn the camera on but leave it in the sling pack.  Pick up fish with left hand, pray it doesn't struggle.  Pull camera out and snap photo with right hand.  After the fish makes three dives into the water, I finally capture a poor likeness.  The photo doesn't do this beastie justice.  According to the markings on my new-and-very-blue (So Blue) Epic 686, it's about 14 inches.  My new unofficial Driftless record.

Just then, I start to feel just a wee bit smug.  Justifiably, the Universe decides to intervene.  The overhead tree (and I mean 100% directly overhead) starts a conversation.  "Oh, is that your ego?  Here, let me help you with that..."  My line is now a tapestry around an oak branch 15 feet above my head.  Then it gets weird.  The summation of  a large fish, a mental trespass into pride, and an errant backcast are too funny to hold back.  I erupt into a full belly laugh that rang with insanity and probably frightened several small mammals.  I can't remember the last time I felt this alive.  Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the tree.

I look at my watch, guessing that it's almost time to leave, but only 90 minutes have passed since I parked the SUV.  I'm shocked to realize I still have more than two hours before I need to turn back to cook lunch.  Pause for water and medication.  The only sign of Parkinson's Disease this morning is the wading staff I'm using to shuffle upriver.  It's tethered, so I just drop when I start casting, then pick it up when I'm ready to move forward again.

Not too much later, I have another photo op.  This frisky creature would not hold still, but I attempted an artsy shot anyway.  Glad I trimmed my nails on Thursday.

Blue halos and So Blue FastGlass®

I slowly staggered up river, blind casting and picking things apart, remembering how Eddie was pulling fish out of unlikely (to me) looking spots.  An unlikely spot yielded this:

Oops, camera shy!
The One That Got Away...
This brook trout spit the hook and bid me "Good Day" when it wriggled free and dived for the water.  I didn't get the chance to measure it with my rod, but I'll conservatively guess 10 inches.  It's girth equaled that of the big brown from the earlier photo.  Any way you slice it, that was a nicely sized brookie. NICE.

There comes a point when the catching is done.  Sometimes this happens before the allotted time expires.  I was soaked from the humidity, and it wasn't going to get any better.  Thank you, River.  Another day.  Thank you for the six Driftless brook trout.  More browns than that.

The thermometer in the SUV yelled  "88 F" at 10:45 A.M.  Air conditioning never works quickly enough.  Time for a change of clothes, better air conditioning and lunch.  Mrs. FA and I later hiked downstream from the campground with the Offspring to the remains of a beaver pond.  Felt like a jungle expedition.  When we got back, I was as soaked as if I'd showered in my clothes.  The instrumentation back at the Mobile Hotel® offered an explanation: 95 F and 86% relative humidity.  More air conditioning and a quick nap.  Around 2:30 P.M. I decided to go wet wading.  I found a new secret honey hole thirty minutes later, bringing brown trout of various sizes to hand with every other cast.  I tried repeatedly to get a photo of the other 14-inch brown I caught less than 200 feet from the Mobile Hotel®, but that slick creature wanted nothing of it.  Mores the pity, because it was a captivating gray color, no yellow, and only 6 or 7 red spots lined up along each side.

I really don't know how many trout I caught this day.   I'll give a 99% confidence interval of between 24 and 32 fish.  Nevermind that the water was stained to about 16 inches of visibility and the fish were feeding blind.  I'm not in the habit of looking a gift trout in the mouth.  Well, maybe just long enough to remove a hook and send it back from whence it cometh.  Came. Swum?

A good day, worth remembering.  Especially when things get dark and painful.

Now get the family catching, too.


  1. Excellent report! What a great day you had!

    1. How was Troutstock on in Wiscosin? Besides Trapper's new lakefront tent property. Good times Friday an Saturday?

    2. I guess what happens at Troutstock, stays at Troutstock.

  2. Some day you won't count any more.

  3. Chris
    Beautiful brown taken on a great outing----yesterday here the humidity was sickening. Heat index of 106, and super humid. thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks, Bill. Right now I'm sitting in a basement office in upstate New York. Just a bit of a change. For a few days.

  4. Replies
    1. Just trying to write stuff that will jog my memory and make me smile some years down the road, Bill. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Chris nicely done. Those brookies are worth the effort.
    I like how you said "thank you" to those wild jewels.

  6. Now this is what I like to see Chris. Some beautiful fish and a sparkling new BLUE FIBERGLASS ROD! I guess it's time to kick you loose on your own buddy. Nice going!

    1. Don't abandon me yet! Having one lucky weekend where the fish were legally blind but hungry does not an Accomplished Angler make!

      I will definitely credit the new Swift Epic 686 for enabling some acceptable casts.

  7. Chris, I have to admit a couple of things. Beautiful rod, nice fish, and, reasonably good camera work considering the action you had.

    Secondly, I had to gut laugh a little when you mentioned your tangle in the tree. Reminded me of my blogbuddy, "Howard".... Tee Hee!

    1. I'm very pleased to learn that someone else got a good laugh out of the tree incident. I laughed for quite a while myself... just a lone idiot standing in the middle of a river, laughing like he'd just won the lottery. I don't think anyone saw me. If they had, I'm certain that "those nice young men in their clean white coats" would've met me back at the SUV...

  8. It don't get much better......sounds like you're on will be these type of memories that will carry the day in harder times.