Tenkara and golf in the Driftless

Let’s get one thing straight from the start. I’m not a good golfer. I get out 2-3 times a year and usually shoot about 35 over par. I don’t know if I’ve ever scored in the 90s… That being said, I do like golf enough to return to the course when the invite arises. Just like aiming for that perfect cast, each shot is an opportunity to connect. Though that doesn’t happen often for me.

We have so many streams here in the area of Minnesota/Wiscsonsin and often times water runs through golf courses. When I got the invite to hit the links on a course with a known trout stream, I new right away what other “club” would be in my bag.

I brought my Tenkara USA Ito along with a small hopper pattern tied on. We were having weather in the mid 90s (a little lower than what my final score would be) and terrestrials were getting active. We were on the course/water by about 8am.

Charlie (@Troutchief) has never used a tenkara rod, but was intrigued by the concept.

The biggest challenge was keeping an eye on the golfing groups behind us 🙂

Depending on when we shot in our group of 4, he and I would take turns running down to a stream section to get in a few drifts.

In spite of my eventual score of 105 strokes, we landed 3 fish making it, by far, the best day of golf I’ve ever had. What is better? Looks like I may have made a tenkara convert. Word has it Charlie bought his first tenkara rod that week 🙂

I’m not going to add that outing onto my “days on the water” tally, but it was a awesome way to spice up a round of potentially frustrating golfing 🙂

Morning on the Middle Branch

Sunday morning came sooner than expected. I was woken up by a 2-year-old boy with enough energy and joy to change the world for the better. Since, mom is into the second trimester and needs a little extra rest these days, we needed a plan.

What to do?
Pack some snacks.
Grab the fly box (the tenkara gear was already in the car).
Put on a Mickey hat, “puddle boots” and a “buggy”-catching sweatshirt. 

I look down at the passenger seat. The tenkara emblem shines back at me through the dark rod tube.
This rod has been a phenomenal tool when fishing with David. With him on the backpack carrier, it allows for quick shots at fish while on our hikes.
Not even 8am and the sun was in full force. At our backs the entire trip, casting shadows across the pools, scattering fish this way and that. Even that was more fun for David. He could see brown trout darting this way and that searching for cover.
My bare forearms made for great horsefly bait. David collected the carcasses. These flies are like gold to him. 
The stream has lots of structure thanks to the rehabilitation from TU and the help of the local landowners. I’m nothing but grateful for their permission to fish this stream.

We had a few fish on, but none to hand.

No matter.

Mom got to sleep.

The air was warm and fresh.

Daddy and David got to have a picnic on the tailgate.

You know the feeling when you get to hang out with someone much cooler than you? Like an athlete you emulate, or meet a famous musician, etc? That’s what spending time with David is like. He is so much cooler than me. He just doesn’t know it yet. One day he will, and that might be tough, but until then, we will soak up these mornings without reservation.

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”

A quick outing yields my first native Minnesota brookies

A couple weeks ago, I ran out in the middle of the day Saturday during nap time and squeezed in a couple hours of fishing on a small driftless region stream. It is a property stream that has had habitat improvement by the DNR and is located accessible through an easement by the landowners. 
Like many streams in the area, you need to hike for a while to get past the heave cow traffic and water that probably gets more pressure. The water was a bit low, but it still seemed to be running nicely. I brought my Hexagraph and was throwing mini hoppers. Hopper season is probably about done with the fall on our doorstep. I easily could have used the tenkara rod, and probably will in the future for streams this size. It is just so convenient, and easier to manage with tall field grass. 
The one purchase this summer (besides the Hexagraph) that I am very happy with is the pair of Simms wet wading stockings. They have been so great. I haven’t worn waders since moving back, because these have been so comfortable and the water hasn’t been too cold. 
They are well constructed and easy to clean.
A good option for wet wading. I bought mine with a gift card to Bass Pro Shops. 
I was pleasantly surprised to see this small waterfall. I’m not sure if this was habitat improvement by the DNR or natural. Either way, it was gorgeous. 
What was special about this trip was that I was able to land my first Minnesota Brookie. They are the only trout native to Minnesota, and I fell in love with them in Virginia. I caught two in the same pool including this handsome fella below. 
There are lots of spots like this stream, where, after a mile hike, you find yourself in a valley that seems very isolated. You can see an oxbow in the stream on the left hand side. It winds back and forth throughout this small valley. 
I’m hoping to get out and find some spaced like this in the winter. I think they would be gorgeous. 

New Video: The Last Big Run

Virginia has been good to me. Very good. Still, the time has come to move on. A few members of the local Trout Unlimited chapter (Bill Wills Southeast Virginia TU Chapter) and I made one last run to the mountains to find some hearty brookies. 
With some tips from the boys at the South River Fly Shop in Waynesboro, Virginia, we found our way to a great stream holding wonderful fish. Tenkara has been good to me in the Shenadoahs, and that held true one last time.
Filmed on Gopro Hero, iphone 4s
Music: David Nash “The Fisherman”

Out for a Drive: A Special Saturday

Though the peak of fall leaf season has come and gone in the Virginia Shenandoahs, I still wanted to get out for a day with the wife. We finally had a Saturday with no agenda, so we took the opportunity to visit our favorite BBQ shop and see the last of the fall leaves in western Virginia.
While some people might not look forward to a day of 7+ hours driving, I do. Especially when it is with the best company in the world. With a loose agenda for the day, we were given the luxury of an easy pace. 

Our first stop after the drive from Norfolk, Va through Richmond was the BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville, Va. We have a soft spot in our hearts and bellies for this place. For me, it is the Colonel Bacon BBQ sauce. For Sara, it has to be the cupcakes. Regardless, this has become a staple for us, and it filled us up for our hike in the afternoon. 

From Gordonsville we made our way to the Crabtree Falls (see http://www.hikingupward.com/GWNF/CrabtreeFalls/) trail in George Washington National Forest. This is said to be the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi, and is a relatively easy hike ~1300ft elevation gain and is about 1.7 miles to the top. As such, it is just about the busiest hike in the park. If it is solitude you see, look elsewhere. Still, it is a fun hike and the falls are pretty. Even though most of the leaves had fallen, there were still some beautiful things to be found. Fun bonus: the parking fee is usually $3 but it was waved for Veteran’s Day. Score!

The trail was hidden from the sun most of the hike until you reach the top, so it was a bit chilly as we hiked up and down. We spotted a few patches of ice here and there. 

Additionally, by throwing the tenkara rod in the backpack and a gotubb with my line and flies, I was easily able to bring along the gear up to the top to find some pocket water to pick off one last brookie before I let them spawn for November. 

After the hike, we were ready to eat again. Being in the area of the Brew Ridge Trail, we had no other option than to get some grub at one of the awesome microbreweries. The Blue Mountain Brewery was our destination. I sampled some phenomenal beers (some twice) and the food was excellent. Get a pizza and the bread pudding and you will not be disappointed. 

After that, it was time for a nice drive home with my buddy. Sara and I got to share a great day together. As she is almost 25 weeks pregnant, quiet, one-on-one car rides will soon be a thing of the past. Of course, it will be fun in its own way. 
My Leaky Waders might just become My Leaky Baby And Waders.