29th April 17:08
TR-New Water_The Morning (Long) (fly trout tub)
Fishing new water is an interesting way to spend a day. With my wife
Jacci and son Mason in Bruce attending a weekend graduation wing ding
at her sisters and my other son Sam working at the Piggly Wiggly, an
entire day opened up before me with absolutely no obligations. A rare
thing indeed for a family man.
My original plan was to drive over to the 'Fly River, hopefully to try
out some of the Red Quills I've been tying the last few days. But a
quick look at the radar loop on the computer showed abroad band of
showers hovering at the edge of that watershed. But it also showed the
general track of the storm was in a south easterly direction. A quick
extrapolation seemed to indicate that a trip to the north east would
extend my rainfree fishing time considerably. Which left the Prairie
headwaters or a little river a bit further east that I've never gotten
around to fish, although I've stopped and looked at it from the
roadside several times.
What the hell. Load up the car; waders and shoes, vest, wading staff,
two five weight rods, a polar fleece (the temperature was 46 deg., it
never went over 50) , a couple of cans of pop, atlas, trout regs
maps...all the little odds and ends of the traveling fisher. Then off
Anyone who doesn't weigh the cost of driving these days must be in a
different tax bracket than I am. Either that or they have their
mortgage paid off. A quick check of the gas gauge showed adequate
petrol to make the round trip. So there was no reason to stand beside
a pump somewhere flinching as the dollar numbers blurred in their wild
spinning. Small things like that can damage a trip. Ruin the mood. So
I left Merrill with my mood intact and a dry road before me leading to
the noticeably lighter sky of the northeast.
The Prairie north of Gleason seemed to entreat me to stop as I drove
past. Here were the holes near the roadside where I knew I'd catch
fish. Here were the bends that took the river away from the highway
and its small roadside brook trout to the haunts of the bigger fish
and muffled sounds of passing traffic. But today was a day of freedom
and to waste freedom on a safe bet seemed small and mean. I kept
Now to give actual directions to my destination would mean also
revealing the name of the river towards which I was heading. The
observant of you will easily be able to figure that out anyway, either
by an early guess or by putting together the clues that will lie in my
story to come. And, as will be revealed, the river that was my
destination did not on that day give up any huge fish So if it's a
huge fish story you're after you may stop reading now, as there will
be no satisfaction to be gained here. But still common fishermen's
sneakiness requires that I not mention the name of the pretty little
trout lake I stopped at to scan for rises. Nor name the up and down,
twisty county highway I took to finally reach the river I planned to
fish. Nor is it allowable to name the dirt road I turned onto to
finally come, after some more hills and turns to the narrow set of
paved over culverts through which the little river poured.
When I got to the pull off there was only one other vehicle there. A
youngish guy was casting from the culverts into the pool below with an
ultralight spinning rod. He started to pack up when I walked towards
him. His response when asked about the conditions was that they were
poor...that it was too late in the day (10 AM)...that he was just
poking around anyway. But I couldn't help but notice a tub of
nightcrawlers left on the culvert's edge, this in an area closed to
bait. As he drove off I was left alone, on new water, on a holiday
weekend. I couldn't help but feeling blessed.
The water was dark, as I expected. In fact one of the reasons for
wanting to fish this small river was because it would probably be
familiar, of a piece with the 'Fly and the Prairie. I also expected
some differences. This area of the state has many springs, some quite
large. Would this difference reveal itself in the bug life? In the
water clarity? In the "feel" of the river itself? Slipping on my
waders, tying my boots, stringing up the rod, adjusting the leader and
choosing a fly all were acts of routine placed against the backdrop of
the unknown quantities of the water. I chose to start the day fishing
downstream. A beadhead Hairs Ear soft hackle was my fly of choice with
a Pheasant Tail soft hackle as a dropper. This has been my standard
rig this year for water with no discernible hatch occurring. As I
made my way down a fisherman's path that was engraved in the duff of
the surrounding firs I couldn't help but noticing the almost
florescent quality of the greens that have accompanied our wet spring.
The mosses were all erect and verdant. The alders and maples and other
hardwoods each had their own tint of color. Each announced to the
world that it was May in northern Wisconsin in its own idiosyncratic
signature of color.
The current was cold. It pulled against the thin skin of my waders.
The substrate was darker here than on the rivers I usually fish.
Instead of the lighter quartz and feldspar rich pebbles of the
streambed of the 'Fly, the bottom here seemed to be mostly dark grey
basalt or gneiss. So it was no surprise when the first fish that came
to hand on the GRHE was an almost black brook trout. Against that dark
background its blue haloed red spots glowed like dying suns on the
edges of the galaxy. Vibrant is not a strong enough word to describe
the fish. The next fish was also dark, but this time its back was a
steel blue and its belly paler than its predecessor. At first glance
it appeared to be a different, albeit closely related, species of
trout. But of course this was just the natural variation brookies
attain to fit in with their bit of current and bottom.
The fish weren't taking the flies on the initial swing but rather as
they were drawn towards the surface and left hanging for an instant
near the top of the rippling water. This made me think that an
emergence, probably of caddis, might be in the making. But for the
present there was only the occasional midge fluttering about.
I fished my way downstream. Brook trout, none large, came to hand with
a good degree of regularity. The relatively open canopy of mixed
hardwood/ conifer forest gave way to a series of alder tunnels. Then
rounding a bend the stream split up in several directions. Choosing
the left hand channel I pushed through a screen of alder boughs and
saw in front of me an old rusting green rowboat. It appeared out of
place until I looked off further downstream and saw that the little
river opened up into a small shallow pond. Already the firm bottom had
changed into a soft muck and each footstep brought up a bubble of
anaerobic stench. I kept wading towards the spring pond but after a
couple hundred feet I admitted that this was no longer fun and that
casting into the hard south wind into the mini whitecaps of the still
water held zero appeal. So I turned around and started back upstream.
At the point where the river flowed into the head of the pond I
quickly picked up two of the bigger trout of the morning. They fought
in hard fast sprints but in a matter of seconds both were in my palm.
These were obviously fish of a lighter environment, their backs a pale
olive and spots tending towards pink instead of blood red. Reentering
the stream proper and pushing up against the current I decided to
change tactics. Replacing the bedraggled soft hackles, I tied on a #12
Royal Wulff (one of the few flies I buy, as the ones I tie myself have
never looked the way I want them to). Onto the big dry's hook bend I
tied on a length of 5x tippet and onto that a #14 Pink Squirrel
"nymph". I was standing downstream from where the river flowed out of
an alder tunnel into a small pool. Almost immediately I began to get
splashy rises to the dry, but none were connecting with the hook .As I
started to think about changing to a smaller dry, the big dry was
pulled under. A small brookie had taken the pink Squirrel. A couple
more fish came to hand but, even though I continued to get an
occasional swipe at the Wulff, no more fish fell to the Squirrel.
Taking a cue from the couple of biggish tan mayflies I had seen
fluttering up from the river in the last couple of hours, I tried a
#12 Gold Ribbed Hares Ear nymph with a micro shot pinched onto the
tippet about 6" above the nymph. I started to hook fish. None of them
were big, but their was one whose image is before me in my mind, even
now as I sit at my keyboard writing this report. Its lower flanks
were a pumpkin orange, separated from its pale belly by a narrow ink
black line. Its fins were tomato red edged in skim milk white. And of
course there were the blue framed red spots, almost hallucinatory
arrayed on its golden olive sides. The fish of the trip even though it
was all of 8" long. Brook trout would surpass even the most crazily
colored aquarium fish in beauty if it were not for this "fault". Put
into a glass sided tank, they fade, become a ghost of their wild
selves. Brookies, like certain people, must be in the dark water of
their home streams to attain the fullness of their being. A captive
brook trout is no brook trout at all.
I continued to fish the Wulff/GRHE rig through the alder tunnels. I
kept taking fish from the edges of the stream up against the border of
bobbing alder branches and dark water. Eventually I returned to where
the canopy open out. Given the room to make a longer cast I did so.
And promptly tangled up. The dropper's 5x tippet was tangled and
knotted around the Wulff. The Wulff itself was fairly tattered, the
red floss shredded and veiling the rear half of pea**** herl. And this
only after a couple fish that had taken it in preference to the
dropper. I cut off the Wulff and rerigged. This time the GRHE was the
lead fly and as smaller olive GRHE nymph trailing off it. I picked my
way upstream, taking fish off both of the flies with about equal
frequency. Small fish all, but still wild brook trout, living in a
cold balsam lined stream. And me still all alone on a Memorial Day
weekend. Eventually I reached the culverts. The day was still cloudy
and cold. My hands ached and there was a shadow of shiver deep inside
my interior. It was time to warm up and consider how I would spend the
rest of the day.
Who is off to celebrate his mom's birthday. More later.
29th April 22:42
TR-New Water_The Morning (Long)
Hmmm...maybe after I tightened it up some. TRs are always rough drafts
(for me at least). Reading it again this morning I found myself
wincing at the number of typos, sp? and grammatical atrocities. Oh
well, like they say "Usenet (google) is Forever".
Thanks george c.
29th April 22:43
TR-New Water_The Morning (Long)
We like to think of that as freshness.
When it ceases to be tough to look at your own work in the bright clear
light of the next day, it's time to switch to something you're qualified to judge.
Good thing. Beautiful piece of work.
30th April 11:04
TR-New Water_The Morning (Long)
Great report of what sounds like a great day.
Never fished that part of Wisconsin. Are the streams there spring creeks
like in southwest Wisconsin? Do you have any pictures of the water in the
area you could post?
30th April 22:54
TR-New Water_The Morning (Long)
Its somewhat different than the spring creeks in the sw part of the
state. The springs arise from a different bedrock and actually through
somewhat different geological processes. The streams remind me more of
the little creeks in Colorado, minus the mountains and the
accompanying extreme changes in gradient of course. I took some
pictures but I used *film* of all things (the wife had the digi) and
they haven't been developed yet.