Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The annual spring MN fishing trip is in the books, and it was by far our toughest trip ever. As J mentions on his blog, the company was great, but the fishing was rough. Here is a short blow by blow of our trip.

Day One, Trout on the Root system:

I arrived Thursday night and J and I were immediately concerned with the pouring rain and online reports of rising river levels. We headed out Friday morning with as much optimism as we could muster and stopped at Trout Run, arguably the area's best known trout stream. The water was a milky brown, but we figured the fish could see better than we could and we geared up and headed down river. We were still in sight of the car when I landed a small brown, and one cast later hooked into a large fish that had us both excited! In the dark water we could just see a shape moving around, and for a few moments were though maybe I had tied into one of the bigger browns that live in that steam. Unlike most guys, we were no less excited when it turned out that I had a large white sucker instead! It was a beautiful fish, and put up a great tussle on my little 4 wt cane rod. We continued down river in beautiful county, stopping and hitting good looking holes. We did managed to land several more beautiful brown trout, and even took a few shots at a rising fish in a nice slick (no luck with dry flies, or swinging soft hackles at that fish. The river got noticeably darker as the morning progressed and around 1pm we headed out in search of cleaner water.

That was probably a mistake. We drove all over the root system and found one TINY little clear stream. J landed a small brown, but other than that, we didn't see a single trout spook or get a single take. We checked the big rivers as well, and every one was extremely high and dark...really dark. By the closing of the day we felt pretty defeated considering our trip had started and the state of the water. We rushed over to the Whitewater system, and found a relatively clear stretch of stream where we both managed to land a few browns (J landed one pretty rainbow too) before calling it a night and heading to a nearby hotel. We scored some MONSTER burgers and chowed down while running through options and watching the NBA playoffs. Thankfully, we had the internet and the boys of came through in a big way. Roughfishopen and Esuburvia gave us a few late night suggestions, and we decided to hit one more spot in the morning and head on our way. Day one closed with some tough fishing, but J and I made the best of it and still managed to put together a memorable day.

Day Two, finding a way:

We started Day Two with some great coffee and breakfast sandwiches from a new coffee shop we found...excellent start. The weather was cold, snowy off and on and windy pretty much all the time. We geared up in our warmest clothes, and stalked up a tiny little stream that was crystal clear (everything else was still ugly looking.) With the nasty weather, neither of us were 100% into stealth fishing, and that was the requirement on this stream. We put some half hearted stealth attempts on a few likely spots and managed to bring several small browns to hand, but all in all this was not our finest work. We spooked many, many fish. By noon or so, we decided to roll the dice and run over to the Mississippi as suggested by the roughfish boys. In minutes were were on the freeway headed east. Justin had the laptop with our fishing notes in his lap and my blackberry dialed into in his hand as we headed east at 70 miles per hour. We diligently hit the spots listed, and found none looking extremely promising so we decided to make the long trek out to a spillway on the Mississippi river. We hoofed in there fully expecting to find a 30 ft deep trough that would be unfishable with the gear in our hands.

After a long walk of nearly an hour, we came upon the spillway and were shocked to see about 4-5 guys fishing the area. They had all come in boats, and thought it was pretty funny that two guys with flyrods had hoofed their way in along the dike! Nice bunch of guys, and they set us up to fish right along with them. I asked one guy how deep the water was, and he says "four feet." At that, J and I immediately perked up and rigged our rods in moments. As it turns out, the water was closer to 15 ft deep, but it certainly held fish. One of the gear guys hooked up right away, and when he saw it was a big carp he whipped out a knife to cut his line. Justin and I brandished our net and digital scale and told him to bring the fish in, we'd take care of it. 10 minutes later he landed a beautiful 20 lb carp. Our excitement was palpable, and the gear guys were a little bewildered by it.

That spillway fished took us about an hour to figure out how to get in the right spots, but we started hooking fish on a regular basis. We landed quite a few nice drum, 2 walleye/saugers, some white bass, redhorse, rock bass and we finally did get into a few carp. Justin started us off, hooking a carp that ran out into the heavy current, just blasting off line before deciding it didn't want to come back. I hooked a smallish carp that did the same thing, running way out and taking me deep into my backing. We landed three carp between us, the only three that we could keep under control and OUT of that heavy current. It turned out to be a nice day and we fished right up until dark, and then stumbled along the dike for an hour to get back to the car.

At this point, it was 10pm, we hadn't eaten anything, or had one drink of fluid since about 730 am. We found the nearest hotel (LaCrosse, WI) and sat down to some pizza and yet another basketball game. Day two was in the books.

Day three...our "numbers" day:

On day three we blasted back to Rochester, figuring on starting our assault on the fish stacked up below the many dams in the area. We hit a local dam Justin knows well, and we both hooked a bunch of redhorse. I also hooked a white sucker, and Justin landed two carp, one a beautiful mirror carp. J's wife called and need Justin's help for some kid duties so we took that opportunity and decided to see if we could luck into any sight fishing at his local spots. We stalked around Rochester during the warmest part of our entire trip, and we did see one carp but none that we could catch. J headed to his place to take care of the kids, and I ran back to the dam we fished that morning to hook a few more fish and look for his net. I did land 3 more redhorse, but the net was gone and while I was fishing the temperature dropped by at least 15 degrees. The rain and snow came, and I packed up and headed to a coffee shop for some coffee and a cup of tomato soup.
While I was relaxing, reading and eating some much needed soup Justin called and suggest I swing by and grab him and we would hit a local trout stream to end the day. We zipped up to his favorite water, one I used to fish often. It was kind of like going to your house and finding all of your furniture rearranged. The stream was familiar to me, but the recent floods had moved all of the holes around slightly. The water was clear and beautiful, but the weather was COLD. I hooked and lost two trout in a big pool, and J had one on a streamer briefly. We fished the last hour before dark, then headed to the nearby town where we hit a bar to watch some basketball and warm up. For a while, we were the only two people in the bar, so we broke out the tying kit and whipped up some flies while chowing down and watching the game. All in all, a pretty amazing evening.

Day four...we find the carp at last:

I am clearly not as tough as I used to be. The weather up to this point had been bad, but I was still comfortable and focused. Day four, I froze my butt off. We hit 3 dams that ALWAYS produce fish, and got smashed by the water levels. There was no chance of wading the dams, the water was just ripping. J caught a small carp right off the bat, but after that, we struggled for hours. As we were fishing our last stop, miserably cold, tired, hungry and in general thinking only of warm living rooms and playing with our kids I mosied over to a gear guy crazy enough to be out there fishing. He had one white bass in a bucket, and I asked if he had seen any carp. After the usual funny look, he said "Yes. I hooked a couple right over there...broke my line so I wouldn't have to touch them."

Armed with this information, J and I started nymphing the heck out of the indicated area. On his FIRST cast, J hooked into a carp that ran him around before popping loose. We were suddenly warm. I couldn't get anything going, so took off the indicator and started nymphing naked, and immediately hooked a nice fish that ran across the bridge piling and got loose. All told, I landed 3 carp. J didn't put any on the bank at that spot, but he got to play with several. Overall, it was a great way to end the trip.

We packed up and headed into town for a deserving sandwich and cup of soup. We sat down for a while, rehashed the trip and put all of the pictures on the laptop. We spent some time just hanging out together before cleaning up our gear and heading for home. We both missed our kids and wives, but I wouldn't trade this trip for anything. One time a year or two ago J and I were talking, and I don't remember who said it but we both believe it. "I am a better father and husband when I spend some time fishing." Doubly true when you spend time fishing with a good friend.

Batteries are recharged, I feel great thinking back through the trip. We'll do it again next year, but before that...We have some time coming up in OR this June.

Thanks for another great trip J!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Quick report from MN. Justin and I just finished our four day swing through the southeastern streams and rivers. Conditions were TOUGH. The rivers were high, the waters muddy, and the temperature was down. Undaunted, we fought through and salvaged another great trip despite difficult conditions. More details later, but here are a few pictures of another successful trip with J!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My flies are tied, waders packed, I have new leaders on my reels and 3 flyrods are taped together and ready to go. Forty-eight hours from now Justin and I will be putting the close on day one of our 4 day swing through the rivers, lakes and canals of southeastern MN. Each year this trip is one of the absolute highlights of my fishing memories, and it is something that Justin and I both look forward to for the next year the minute the current trip ends. Kelly will stay in Minneapolis with her parents, and I certainly know how lucky I am that I have such an understanding wife and family. Four days is a long trip, and I know Justin and I probably don't say it enough, but thank you Kelly, Chris, Gene and Emily! We'll make the most of a little recreational time. We'll probably eat poorly, fish way too much and I doubt if either one of us bothers to shower or shave but I can promise lots of pictures that you can pretend to be impressed with!

See you tomorrow J!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More pictures from Sunday...mainly because I can't get them out of my head! That, by the way, is a very good thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Today was national "Take you backing out for a walk day." I only know of one sure fire way to make that happen, so David and I headed out and found a few of these:

We took a shot and headed to one of our favorite carp holes, with our attitudes rapidly waning from optimism to indifference to pessimism with each mile we drove. Fortunately, the carp were they, and they were hungry.

David landed this 19 lb bruiser just minutes after I put an 18 lb bruiser on the bank. Both were big fish, and far from our first of the day. We found fish anywhere that we could find dark sand/mud bottom that would warm quickly. While we didn't see hundreds of fish, and not all of the fish we did see were in an eating mood, we kept busy casting to tailers and slow cruisers. The San Juan was deadly once again.

Most of the fish were a little bit lethargic, but I managed to get my backing out for a walk and a tan fish in particular (just a little average 9 lber) took me DEEP into my backing. Always a good day when you get to test your knots.

All told, I landed 16 carp April. To me, that is a pretty astounding number. David put another 8 carp on the bank, and together we managed three "big" fish. The aformentioned 18 and 19 lbers, and this 20 lb brute that we spotted from about 150 feet away because he kept sticking his tail completely out of the water. A short stalk later and he sucked in the worm without hesitation.

Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better day. it is always a pleasure to fish with David. He knows his stuff and is good company. We both had been in need of a good fishing fix, and I feel completely re-energized after today. Getting out on the water in general does me a lot of good, and putting a few of those "sixth sense set the hook" moments together heightens the overall experience greatly. What a day!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Carp #2 for the year succumbed to a "wedlock" nymph. At least that is what I call it because I first tied it for whitefish on the Flathead system during the winter, right before my wedding. It is a really basic fly. A short, clipped green marabou tail, peacock herl body with palmered grizzly hackle. I tie them weighted so they get down fairly quickly. Yesterday I managed about an hour in the sun at a local pond, and there were fish all over, but they were starting to think about spawning. Typically I'd see 1 big female, followed by 2-3 males. No real spawning taking place, but you could tell what was on their minds! Most of the fish were completely uninterested, and I only saw one tailing fish the entire time. I managed to get one of the little males to eat the wedlock, probably more fluke than anything else. It was a tiny little 4 lb carp...It still makes me laugh to say things like "tiny little 4 lb carp." Those trout fisherman don't know what they are missing! Heh heh...

Two weeks until the MN trip with Wendy Berrell. I can't wait.