Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another spring trip in the books. I'm not really sure how J and I managed to turn this into such a great tradition...over the years we've increased our time on the water, changed our locations and desired species, and covered nearly every watershed within a couple of hours of "home base." Come to think of it, the home base had a major shift when J moved down to Rochester, but the spring trip survived that and kept right on rolling. This trip has really taken on a life of its own, and is something that is on my mind most of the year leading up to the days we get to spend time plying the waters in Minnesota. Most years, we have faced some type of adverse conditions, usually marked by heavy rainfall and rising rivers, one year marked by a frigid cold front that made me realize why I love Oregon! As J would say, when it is below 60 degrees I put on my winter coat. Through it all the overlying memory of the trip is of how easy it is to fish with J. Most think of fly fishing as a solitary sport, but fly fishing with a good friend enhances the experience. I hope we can keep this tradition alive, and look forward to a few years down the road when our sons and daughters will join us on the water.

As for this year's trip...another great one. Day one was originally going to be our "grab bag" day. You can always count on a fun day just blind nymphing beneath the dams in Minnesota. Such an incredible variety of species found in one area and they all seem willing to eat a well drifted rubber legged hare's ear! This year, we hit a spot on a hunch by J, and found some seriously entertaining sight fishing.

It didn't take us long to get into fish. One of the striking things about these carp is that they were definate meat eaters. The flats here in OR are full of carp, but in my experience they tend to eat more nymph type of patterns. On Thursday, the fish that were feeding wanted meat. They pounced on big flies with aggression. Most takes were obvious, including one definate "cat pounce" moment that I've come to love about carp fishing. Carp seem to be able to leap straight up, turn and land on a fly just like a cat. It sounds ridiculous to think about that in the context of water, but that is exactly what it feels like.

We spent some time spotting, stalking, and catching nice carp in a shallow, river setting. To be honest, it was tough to leave, but eventually we headed to a dam for some grab bag action. As J mentioned in his report earlier, the grab bag didn't come together in a big way, but we did manage some fish. I landed a nice northern Pike on a size 10 hare's ear (that still cracks me up) and J caught this great smallmouth.

We finished the day at an old college hangout, watchin the Cavs obliterate the hawks and eating some burgers. Pretty great day on the water.

Day two was much more of a crap shoot. With low water conditions we zipped around a bunch of spots, looking for a mix of blind nymphing opportunities and some sight fishing if we could find it. Right away we did find some sight fishing. Despite low light and clouds we spotted some buffalo, and I managed to get two to eat flies. Those were the only two buffs of the trip, I was thrilled to get a couple! We did some driving, scouting, fishing...everything wrapped together as we moved around and found some fish here and there. We caught some carp, we caught some bullheads (of course), but the overlying thought I'll have of day two is that we were in Minnesota. That sounds strange, but until you've spent some windshield time in Minnesota you might not know what I mean. Minnesota isn't the twin cities and is the small town laid out in grids, the houses on corner lots, the water towers. There is a feel in that country that just hits you.

As the day wore onto evening, we headed back to Rochester so J could attend a preplanned function with his family. I headed out with the thought of fishing one 10 foot slot of river that we know generally holds stacks of fish. No dissapointment on this evening either. I fished until dark in the rain, landing 9 quillback carpsuckers and one nice carp...all without leaving that slot.

The quillback is an interesting fish, and a great surprise to catch. The are not heavy or big, but they are FAST. The instant you hook them they seem to swim 3 or 4 different directions at once...they remind me in ways of Coho Salmon, though the salmon have much more sheer power. There are worse ways to end a day that hooking a bunch of quillbacks. After releasing my last fish, I finished the day with some great food at the best coffee shop I know...Dunn Brothers in Rochester, MN.

I spent day 3 on my own. My intent was to trout fish a stretch I'm familiar with, then meet J and the kids to fish together in the evening. I wandered around the stream, plunking nymphs and watching for a hatch. I caught fish and really enjoyed most of the day, but the magic really happened as I returned to the car. I stopped to chat with a gentleman casting a beautiful cane rod (I believe it was a granger taper). He was kind enough to let me try it out, and as we spoke the river came alive. The trout were chasing BWO through the current seams as far as you could see. I moved upriver and stood in a nice slot, surrounded by rising fish. I caught some fish on dries, then switched to a floating nymph, trailing a soft hackle. I spent the tail end of the hatch swinging flies down the run, getting hits on nearly every swing. I lost track of the number of beautiful brown trout I caught, but the number didn't matter. It was magic on a trout stream.

By the time I actually made it to the car, I'd missed our planned afternoon connection. I zipped into St Charles just in time to meet J and the kids at the hotel. We had a guys night Pizza party, watched some basketball and I enjoyed getting to know J's kids a little better.

The next morning I woke up and debated. Head to a trout stream, or head north to look for carp and try to get home early to see my kids. To be honest, I really missed my family. I thought back to the few days we'd had fishing together...the visuals of Thursday; the pike on the hare's ear; standing on a bridge together looking for fish; a nearly epic BWO hatch on a perfect MN trout stream; good coffee in the mornings and great conversation throughout. I said goodbye, jumped in the rental and headed north. I made one quick stop, geared up and stalked down the river bed, looking for one visual, one moment to wrap things up and officially end another spring trip. I very nearly blew it. With poor visibility I almost stepped on what would be my last carp of the trip. Instead, the fish kept feeding, oblivious to the fact that I was only a few feet away. I checked my fly and flipped it in front of the fish, of course it was a rubber legged hare's ear. As the fly sank, the fish stopped its vigorous tailing and eased forward and almost casually opened its mouth and sucked in the fly.

Another trip in the books.


Anonymous said...

love that quill. beautiful. Glad you guys could do the tour in style this year.

John Montana said...

A couple of the quills I caught were pretty big...I just couldn't get a decent picture from where I was standing, and the action was pretty fast and furious so I didn't want to wade to shore to deal with pics. The quills were cool...and thick. I hammered them.

Wendy Berrell said...

Great report. Cool to see a pic of a quillback - glad you picked up a bunch of them.

Good words on the character and substance of Minnesota. Sometimes it takes a guy who doesn't live here to remind one of what we have.

Thanks for coming out, and for another good trip. See you in a few short weeks.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, I dug reading it. Glad you guys had a good time.

Anonymous said...