A tourist in my own backyard: a day with Rich Osthoff

Since moving back to the driftless, I wanted to spend a day on the water with a guide. I wanted formal instruction and to come ready to learn. I have many weaknesses and fly fishing. The things we are most uncomfortable with are often the things we do the least. It is a vicious cycle. Avoidance perpetuates the weakness. My weakness if wet flies and nymphs.

A driftless area guide, author and fly tier is Rich Osthoff. If you watch his youtube videos, you’ll see good size fish caught on primarily nymphming techniques.  This was the guy I needed to learn from. I scheduled an entire day with him. I saved on cost by doing a
“50/50” deal where he fished some of the day to. This worked out great because I was able to learn by watching in addition to doing. And lets face it. It is hard to fish for 10 hours straight.

At our first stop we ran into a friendly beekeeper. Nice guy who knew the area well. We were in for a hot day. 95 degrees, all sun, and big winds. Perfect for fishing 😉

The turtles were very active in early June and this day was no exception. Walked by this big snapper burring some eggs. Keep digging ma’am.

Rich showed me how he would approach his our first pool. We essentially used small nymphs (size 16-18) all day. It proved to be a wise decision.

After a couple missed fish from our first pool, we moved on.

We spent a lot of time reading water. Looking at structure and seams. Discussing casting techniques and tenkara. He fishes a “no line” technique a lot which would be similar to that with tenkara or czech nymphing. Again, this was great because when I tenkara, I almost always use dry flies, again because I’m uncomfortable with sub surface stuff.

It was early on at a long slow run when Rich gently lifted his size 16 zebra midge up before recasting that he hooked into a healthy driftless fish.

It was the biggest fish I’d seen caught all year in person. We ended up seeing several more of these hefty 20″ fish.

The day got hot but so did the fishing. I caught easily 40 fish during the day and vastly improved my subsurface game. I had one 15″ fish but the bigger ones were more shy in the bright sun.

At our last stop, when all was said and done, I washed off in the freezing waters pouring out of this spring. It amazes me to see how such clean cold water can flow freely in this place. Perfect way to cool off after a hot and sweaty day.

The drive home was relaxing. I pulled off once to quick fish another spot and watched some big fish rise to unseen insects.

If you every find yourself in the Driftless Area and are looking for a guide, Rich definitely knows his stuff, and I’m happy to recommend him (I’m receiving nothing for this endorsement and do it out of my own free will). And of course, you are always welcome to call me. I’m slowly cataloging the area for more and more spots to fish. So much water.

New water, new friends, new camera

With a sudden opening in my schedule, my habit of storing my fishing gear in the car paid off. Instaagram again gets a nod for connecting fly fishers. I connected with @hotdishflyfish recently and shot him a message. His work schedule usually results in free days/mornings, so we met for a couple hours on his local stream.
The water was new to me. It had plenty approachable holes and runs, but the clarity was a little too clear. Even with the overcast skies, the fish were jumpy. I managed a few flashes and finally landed a standard driftless brown.

Hot Dish spend the morning casting his Blue Halo with a nymphing rig. He had a few takes that were not sticks but nothing to hand. That was fine by him. Dry hands are warms hands in the winter.

We have a warm spell coming through. That should bring the trout out to feed especially as the snow melt leads to turbid waters.

On another note, I finally gave in and bought a camera other than my phone. We will see how it goes. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, so I think the Sony a6000 will do well for me. If not, you may see it re-listed on ebay 🙂

One last outing this season. For real this time.

Last Saturday, I got in two more hours before season ended in Minnesota’s East Coast/Wisconsin’s West Coast.
Courtney, @SculpinArmy, and hopscotched our away from run to run, pool to pool and tree stump to tree stump.
The overcast skies and mild weather were comfortable conditions for swinging large flies made of buck tails and rabbit strips.
We found plenty of easer smaller trout. Nothing spectacular, but fun. I was getting ready to announce, “You know, it is just great to get out one more time.  It doesn’t matter if we catch any big ones…”
photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy

photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy

And that’s when I had a nice take. I was throwing an articulated streamer tied by Courtney. Light in color, fast in action.
19 inches of browned butter sauce and black peppercorn. 
photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy

photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy

Now that is how you end a season of fishing in the Driftless Area.

photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy


8/9/16: Hopper Coulee Creek

I was able to get out for a few hours this week. I chose a stream that was well-known in the area and considered a class one stream.

There are a lot of access points along the stream at it is clear there have been plenty of stream improvement projects. 
I did notice that one of the landowners updated their fencing which blocked off one of the access points and made a section of the stream a little difficult to pass. 

Some of the signs were a little confusing indicating a possible harvest season but at the same time catching release only fishing. There was also a survey box asking about fish caught and kept. 

I must say, I didn’t realize the Black and Yellow Argiope lived in Wisconsin. The spiders are harmless but I must say the thought of accidentally walking face first into one of their webs is frightening.

I had a lot of luck casting hopper invitations. The grasshoppers are everywhere this time of year and even is the water temperature approached 65°, the fish were still seizing the opportunity to take my fly. 

It’s a beautiful time to be out on the water. The streams in the driftless area are easy to wet wade. 
What is amazing is that I probably only fished three quarters of a mile of the stream in the several hours I was out. There is just so much water to explore in my area, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do it all. But I’m up for the challenge:)

The Virginia Tribute Video: Virginia is for Fly Fishers

Four years. 
Four years was all I had to fish the heck out of the great state of Virginia. From the mountains to the coast. I paddled, hiked, drove, waded, climbed, crawled, camped, froze and sweat for these fish. I made lifelong friends, ate way too much BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville and indulged in my fair share of Virginia ales. 
It may be true that Virginia is for Lovers… But you know what? It is also for hard core fly fishers with opportunities to scratch any fly fishing itch. 
I didn’t’ even come close to exploring all the Virginia fishery has to offer. Muskies, tarpon, carp, CCBT drum and winter stripers, bass, gar, shad and on, and on, and on… I guess I’ll just have to make an annual pilgrimage. 
Here’s to you, Virginia. 
Music: Josh Ritter “Getting Ready to Get Down”

January 1. Winter trout season opener.

I lost a glove, broke a net, caught some great fish, and discovered why wing trout fishing in southeast Minnesota and the driftless area is amazing. 
New Year’s Eve was spent quietly with my wife, Ryan Secrest, and a fly tying vise. 
New Year’s Day began 16deg with a biting wind and a 2 mile hike through the snow. 
I’m thankful for the easement and property owners who have left this land undeveloped. 
The fish were generous and willing to take nymphs and streamers. 
Now, the big question is, when I got back to get my glove I lost somewhere by the stream, do I bring a rod?

Good Days

I love good days. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lazy. Some are long. Some flyby and they’re gone before you know it.

Saturday was a good day.

We enjoyed a night in on Friday, and Saturday morning we walked to the park after a fresh pot of coffee and a quick breakfast. I had to run into work for about an hour but made it back in time to play befor a midday nap. While Sara and David slept, I went for a long run. Longer then I’ve run in a couple years. 9.75mi. It just felt so good to be out in the hot August sun, so I kept going.  I came home to a well rested house, and we headed straight to the neighborhood swimming pool for a hour of water play under the fountains and bubblers. We walked home in our suits and the little guy in a diaper and towel drinking a bottle of milk. 
The next stop was the Salem Glen Winery just 15 minutes south of Rochester. All the grapes are grown on site. The property rests on a hill where the observatory waits for nightfall. The wines were wonderful. Typically I think most northern wines end up being very sweet, but these were much more of the traditional variety with something for everyone. My favorite was the Marquette. It was dry, cherry flavored and peppery. Sara liked the LaCrescent and the Cygna. 
David paired his milk and matchbox cars with cheese crackers. He is wise beyond his years. 
He quickly moved onto the red wagon and explored the grounds. 
Not in the mood to cook dinner and hankering for smooth custard, we stopped by Culvers on the way home. A satisfying dinner was topped off with a game of Choo-choo while standing in a wok. Sara and I still aren’t quite sure why David enjoyed this so much, but good things don’t always need explaning. We just rolled with it. 

Tempting fate with a day that was already perfect.  I rushed out to the stream after putting David to bed. I haven’t used my new rod yet and I wanted to fish a section of the stream I hadn’t tried. I had a limited window before dark so expectations were low. 

However, this day could do no wrong. The Walton Powell Hexagraph casts beautifully. I was tossing a mini hopper into spots I shouldn’t be able to. It felt like all I had to do was look where I wanted to cast, and I could make it happen. Still, I hadn’t seen a fish in the 30 minutes I was there and darkness was upon me. 
There was a downed cottonwood that was creating some great structure, but it was the type of structure you normally pass up because it is understood you will lose every fly you cast anywhere near the tempting pools. (It brings to mind ships wrecked on the rocks after hearing the sirens call.) Today, however, a last chance at a fish seemed well worth the risk. 
I ended up walking out on to the cotton wood, balancing on the beam, mid stream. I landed the fly in a stretch the size of a 10-gallon bucket and the fish hit immediately. He hid under two trees before I finally got him to the surface. My balance got me so far as to net the fish before I fell backward chest high in the cool water. On a hot August night, with a big brown trout in your net, it is hard to be upset at something like that. I laughed because Sara had just gotten me a new waterproof case for my phone.  I smiled because I couldn’t think of a better way to initiate my Hexagraph. 

Not all days are good, but when one comes along it pays to relish in it. It even felt good to walk back to the car soaking wet. So good I tried to give my very best Breakfast Club fist pump to the sky, fly rod in hand. 
Another one in the books, I guess. Tomorrow, we start all over again. 
Here is to another good day ahead of us.