Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rendez-vous with Mr. Pike on Jeremy's Lake

We arrived on the lake little after noon. The day was perfect-clear, sunny and with the slight breeze-a welcome relief for this moody spring weather. Jeremy skillfully navigated his boat toward shallow grass flats and undewater humps, searching for pike and elusive muskie. We were positioned upwind and started to cover the water methodically, varying our retrieves. When a good location was thoroughly covered, we would move to the next likely spot.

The water had a good smell, which reminded me of my happiest fishing days chasing striped bass in Boston Harbor. The salty tinge was lacking, but the fresh smell of grass and shoreline trees made up for it. Swallows were low, looking for insects, and a pair of grey herons flew up from the cattail field. I was fishing my retro-glass "warmwater-special", falling into its laid back rhythm, and teasing the red-yellow-white flatwing streamer, so that its long tail would sweep sideways. After several short strikes on the fly, I had a solid grab. Short glass rod was deeply bent, while the fish made a run straight toward the boat. Despite of the knot which formed in the line after the fish took off in a hurry, and Jeremy helped untangle, the handsome and healthy first pike of the day was landed.

Soon after this fish, Jeremy landed another one and slowly but steadily, the action was unfolding. We would change the location and find quick action with short pause between takes, or pick another spot which could be devoid of fish. After dropping two consecutive fish on flashy ALF-perch imitation, I decided to switch to my trusty Loomis Megataper graphite and the intermediate line. We were fishing slightly deeper water, and with the steady breeze, intermediate line was a better choice for achieving consistently deeper and straighter fly path. The line change proved to be a good choice, since it resulted in renewed action for both of us. We both got some fish who would run straight to the boat after feeling the hook. One flat showcased a magnificent muskie, who was obviously spooked by our presence, but confidently swam slowly under our boat.

Soon after, I tied to a fish who seriously strained my rod. It felt like a serious oponent-we both thought it could be a muskie, since it would not move too much, but felt like incredible weight at the end of my line. After changing several angles, I felt it moving, and started reeling in. It proved to be a smaller pike who ran so deep into weeds and logged itself into it.

We finished the day on the beautiful weedbed flat, where Jeremy hooked and landed a powerful fish. The richly colored pike smashed his big red streamer and gave out a spectacular fight, thrashing madly on the surface. Looking at each other, while approaching the boat landing, we said almost at the same time: "It was a good day!"

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Gamiest Fish and Lost Pictures

It is hard to write about exciting fishing adventure when the photos of the trip disappear...not to mention the disappointment of the fisherman/photographer. That is exactly what happened to me yesterday, but here's the rest of the story...

I spent two wonderful days exploring NW Wisconsin with my friend Harold. We fished the small weedy spring creek for native brook trout on Saturday, with the lightest rods and dry flies. Yesterday, despite of all the tornado warnings in the area, we sneaked out several times during the afternoon in his fishing boat out on the lake Wissota, to chase ravenous smallmouth bass. Harold lives on the lake and knows its intricacies inside out. We concentrated our efforts on the rocky stretch known as "the bass alley." The fishing started slow and I got the first fish on the black & brown Clouser minnow, after switching from the traditional stop-and-go retrieve to the hand-over-hand, saltwater style retrieve.

The wind was dying and dark clouds were signaling the approaching storm. We drifted further downwind, and the fish were turned on. We were getting hits every several casts. I was using my "warmwater special" I built last Fall on the vintage Lamiglas blank. It handled precise casts required to place the fly tight to the bank, literally inches from the shore rocks. After several more casts, I switched to the floating fly-a version of Gurgler I tied some years ago (top photo). This combination of fiery colors and rapid movement fish found just irresistible. Perhaps the diffused light under the dark sky enhanced the fly's effectiveness. We snapped many photos of big, healthy bronzebacks. The short glass rod proved to be an incredible fish fighting tool-very easy to manipulate when the fish stubbornly sounded under the boat. Eventually we got caught in the quickly approaching rain and furiously ran for the dock.

Finally at Harold's home, we started downloading fresh pictures and quickly found out the terrible truth: the compact flash card from my camera was dead! All the pictures were gone, the memory failed irreparably, even though we were watching them just minutes ago on the camera's display.

I guess things lake this happen to everyone occasionally, so this part of the story will have an old bass picture of the fish I took three years ago in Waterloo creek in NE Iowa (left-first photo), while fishing for wild browns in August. The fish took a dead drifted leech imitation-it was an accidental catch on the prime brown trout stream. I will hopefully fish soon with Harold again, but it is hard to forget nice shots of beautiful gamefish lost forever, taken in the almost unreal stormy light.

Backtracking now...several days ago I visited my favorite trout stream (left-second photo) with a friend, and spent an exciting afternoon wet and nymph fishing for wild brown and brook trout. Fishing upstream, I took a single fish on a surface fly and switched to nymphs, fished upstream dead drifted, on the greased leader. In fast water pockets I used large Czech nymphs for quick short-line action, but this particular stretch of the stream has only several sections where this technique works well. On my way back, I experimented with single and multiple casts of wet flies. The system with three flies (two droppers and the point fly) proved to absolutely deadly in comparison to the single fly fished first thorough the same stretch. Sometimes two fish would smack the flies on the swing, even though there was no major hatch going on. The fish showed no preference to the particular pattern, and I believe that multiple wets create an illusion of artificial hatch, which can sometimes turn the trout on.

Even though I am not a big fan of tandems and multiple fly rigs, since they hinder casting, this was an exciting and eye-opening experience. I did use straight line connections (no loops) and short droppers, which helped reduce the tangles. Glass rods and wet fly fishing techniques are really made for each other.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wet Sedges

Traditional wets-caddis imitations, with bodies made of shiny dubbing...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Umbrella CDC Cranefly

This pattern imitates small yellow craneflies (genus Antocha) common on some Driftless area trout streams in the spring and early summer. It can be fished dry or wet.

Hook: TMC 101, size 18;
Body: Pale olive thread under doubled single strand of yellow super-hair, wrapped;
Thorax/Legs: Pale ginger CDC feather, wrapped four turns (concave side facing front), bottom clipped;
Front hackle: Oversize moorhen covert feather, one and a half turn (concave side facing front).

You can see some of my large cranefly patterns here and here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The River of Many Moods II

Spring wind, grannoms, yellow craneflies, glass and cane, finicky trout...

Friday, May 09, 2008

The River of Many Moods

Anticipating some caddis action, I went to my favorite WI stream on Monday. Beyond my expectations, I was treated with the magnificent caddis hatch-sort of a repetition of my last week's outing... Caddisflies were abundant along the rocky stretch near the bridge, and I was sharing it with only one angler. I did explore further upstream and got some fish on nymphs, but returned to the first location. Fishing dries and emergers over rising trout is really hard to pass by. Fish were slurping caddis in rocky eddies, behind boulders, and often tight to the bank stones. The trick was to throw a slack line cast and hope that the fish would grab the fly before the current would drag it away. It was a dry fly fisherman's paradise-trout wouldn't even look at my soft hackles which worked so well the previous week in SE MN.

My friend Jeremy (casting on the picture) and I hit the same stream yesterday, hoping for the repeated action. The day was a carbon copy of the previous one-everything looked so right for the new explosion of caddis acitivity. We both fished 4weights (top photo.) Jeremy used his beautiful Norling hollow-built cane rod, while I fished the glass rod I completed last Fall on McFarland's Dry Fly taper blank. The familiar rocky stretch was teaming with anglers upon our arrival, and we decided to fish Jeremy's favorite location upstream instead.

The water had magical feel to it and pastel green banks were full of life...spring flowers, red-winged blackbirds, grey heron and the restless osprey-everything but the black caddis! While we got some fish, both browns and brookies, caddis were completely absent.

We found some BWO's and midge activity, threw everything from streamers to soft hackles, and had a wonderful time talking and making each cast count. On our way back, Jeremy explored the midge hatch with tiny flies and took the photo of emerging pale green midge (botom left). We walked toward out cars, while the moody trout were still rising along the silvery glide.