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:)

Fly Fishing British Columbia and Alberta

Most of the time, going fishing means the morning on the water or possibly a day trip. Either way, it is usually a short affair fit between other activities and obligations. Occasionally, we have the opportunity to do something a little bigger. Travel little further. Explore new territory.

My four years in Virginia Led to a lot of shotgun day trips with my buddy Kevin who goes by the name coastal explorer and has the blog sweeetandsalt.blogspot.com 

For a while we have been talking about doing a bigger trip. And if we’re going to do something big, we want to be really big.
After lots of planning and a few changes here there, we decided on five days of fishing in the Kootenays in British Columbia and southwest Alberta. 

The native fish in this area are whitefish, westslope cutthroat and bull trout. Some streams hold brookies and others bug rainbows (like the crowsnest but it was blown out while we were there). 

These are big bug fisheries. Golden stones, large mayflies, and frequent hatches. That’s what feeds these big fish.

There are lots of great fly shops and guide shop options throughout the region.  Fernie has two guide shops (we used Elk river guide company – our guide Darcy was great). There are also a couple nice shops with different feels in Alberta. The Coleman fly shop and cafe is a nice place to get coffee and breakfast before hitting the stream. 
Oh, and if you are looking for a place to stay in Cranbrook where you can get a cozy room and awesome breakfasts, the Singing Pines Inn was phenomenal. It is basically a bed and breakfast which is a treat when on a trip where you are doing lots of walk and wading.

This was one of those trips that goes down in the books. Camping at the Fernie provincial park, getting up early for coffee and breakfast, all day on the stream, a late night meal ( hit up The Curry Bowl!!) then back to the tent. Over and over. It is fun when you get into a new rhythm and wake expecting to be on the stream. By the last day or so, we transitioned to that feeling. 

I returned refreshed and longing to see my family but thankful for a great trip. 
Enjoy the smattering of photos below. 
Expect a video in the following weeks!

Ha. The JOY on Kevin’s face in almost every pic does great justice to show how much fun we had. 

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. 

Thirsty

Deep in my chest a thirst grows for more days spent fly fishing.
I crave the streams and rivers home to the trout I love.
I long for snowy banks with kinetic waters keeping ice at bay.
Small tumbling brooks with pockets to be picked along the Eastern Mountain Range.
Hot Southern days on shady streams of the South.
Luscious limestone beds home to fat, rusting Driftless trout.
Wind swept, grassy plains where hoppers fall and beatis dance.
Rocky Mountain territory above and below the tree line where great writers hone their craft.
And all the waters I’ve read about feeling jealous of their bounty.
I long to be close to all the trout across this great country.

Short Video: Standing on Water, Fly Rod in Hand

Here is a quick video of the new kayak/paddle board in action. Hopefully, there is much more to come.

It was a quick outing. I wanted to take out the new toy and see she performed. The Nalu is a kayak/SUP hybrid from Ocean Kayak and I was hoping it would open up a buttload of fishing spots. I’ve felt handcuffed by the waters around me until now. No longer. 
I didn’t get any shots from a distance of me on the board-yak, so for that, I’m sorry. I also caught about the smallest fish I could have, but it doesn’t matter, I’m ready to go. 
Music: The Record Summer, “You in an Empty Room”

key ingredient to a fishy day

Heading out to the eastern shore as we speak. I’m hoping for big things.

It is already a joy just to be sitting in the car waiting to drive across the bridge. It just goes to show, I love the “going” part of going fishing. It has its own place in the list of things I enjoy about fishing.

They key difference between today and the last few outings? I’ve replenished the stores of my fishy snacks. Here’s to tight lines and split fingers.

Reset

Sometimes you just need to reset yourself. Your clock, your sleep schedule, your diet. Yesterday, I had to reset my attitude. We had been fishing all morning and I felt like I was getting worse. My casts were getting uglier. I was losing faith in my fly selection. I didn’t understand the water like I have in the past.

The day started off well. We got to the Rapidan river by 10 AM. The weather was beautiful. There was a chance of rain, but optimism won out, and the storms steered clear. The three of us spread out, hop-scotching each other, sharing the pools. The air was filling up with midges, a few duns, butterflies, and gnats. I tried to start slowly, taking in these new surroundings.

I haven’t fished the same water twice for a long time. Moving to Virginia has dumped a host of new species, habitats, and thus, opportunities at my feet. It is exciting, but also slightly hectic. Each fishing trip has brought new challenges.  

After the last outing for trout left me contently skunked, I new I needed to really take the time to study the water on this trip. This river was a buffet line of good pools, but that doesn’t mean I should just dig in and throw myself at everything in sight. Careful study of each entree is needed to ensure optimal satisfaction of each portion.

So I took my time. When I saw a rise, I switched to dries. First a griffiths, then a midge, then the closest thing to the duns I had. I had droppers, emergers, then scuds and soft hackles. I eventually switched to a stimulator and began getting some looks, even a few takes, but the size was too big for the little brook trout mouths. Slowly, the takes and looks went away. No fish in hand yet.

I had heard that the fish were hitting on nymphs, so I tried. I really tried. I am, however, extremely uncomfortable nymphing. Maybe it is because I can’t see the nymph in the water. Even just watching the indicator is hard for me. I like to see the fish take the fly. I don’t know, maybe I just need better glasses.

Regardless, the frustration was mounting. I had taken a slip or two, scratched the waterproof lens on my camera, and was losing fly after fly to the forest. I started walking up a ridge to get to another pool when I came upon a bed of moss. It looked too inviting. I set down my gear, took off my sunglasses, and laid down.

Reset. 

I slowed down my breathing, taking in the fresh mountain air. Listened to the birds and the brooke. Felt the sun on my face. My mind cleared itself of the negativity that was filling up all morning.

I sat back up, feeling the serrated edges of the lichens with the palms of my hands. I looked back at the pool I had planned to fish next. It looked good. Hearty. There were fish in there. I knew it. Not only did I know it, but I knew where I needed to cast. The water made sense again.

On the second cast, my fly slid on the seam of the run. A errant strike splashed next to my fly. I let my drift finish and casted again. The second strike was dead on target. I set my tenkara rod and felt the small body fight with every ounce of power it possessed.

A beautiful fish. I sent it back and continued up the stream to finish off the day. The water made sense to me all the way back to the car.  I even managed another fish and a few more looks. I met up with the guys and we shared beer, stories, and dinner.

The day started and ended great, but it was funny how things added up to really pull me down and shake my confidence on the water. When I commit an entire day and eight hours of driving to fish a single stream, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. Today, I got to spend a gorgeous day with friends doing something I love. That should be good enough. My ability to catch fish, while important, shouldn’t dictate my happiness. Of course, I fish to catch fish, but I won’t always do so. When I get frustrated, it is helpful to hit the reset button and try again when I feel ready to see the water.

Harkers Island Blitz

My alarm went off at 2:30 AM.  We wanted to be on the road by 3 to catch the 8 o’clock ferry to the island. It was a gamble to hope for both good weather and fish, but, as I now know, the prospect of catching false albacore will make you do silly things.

We made small talk most of the way there, avoiding all topics regarding weather hoping not to jinx the day ahead. It is funny what we will do to feel like we are in control. The night before I left, Sara came home with a pack of Swedish Fish for good luck. I popped one or two in my mouth every half hour that day convinced it would do the trick.

Arriving at 7:30 gave us just enough time to gear up and pay the ferryman.  Shortly thereafter, his Carolina skiff was cruising across the water taking us to our destination. The cool morning air felt as good as a shower. I was refreshed and awake, excited for what was to come.

As the boat glided into the shore, we began sizing up our territory. Walking to our first destination, I noticed the sand on the island was made of broken down seashells. They clinked like wine glasses or wind chimes with each step.

After picking our first spot, we began to fish…..

The talk and mood during the ride home was lighthearted. We gambled and won. The Swedish Fish did the trick.