"Sometimes, you just need to go downstairs and waggle a rod..."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Forestville

This is not just another blog about one of my fishing trips. This is more of a travelogue type of thing, as I will be writing about my family's first camping trip of the year. There will be some fishing included, though, too, so don't fret.

Not only was this our first camping trip of the year, it was our first trip with our new pop-up camper, our first trip with our new truck, and our first trip with our youngest child, The Baby, who is now 18 months old. All of our other kids had been camping before their first birthday, but for some reason we never went camping last summer when The Baby was still under the age of 1. All of this newness made the trip even more fun.
The new truck and camper, ready to roll. 
The Baby got her own tent, just in case she had trouble sleeping...
We decided to go to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in the southeastern part of Minnesota. This park has all sorts of fun things to do, and we did almost all of them. First of all there is the cave that is in the name. That was awesome, even though The Baby was up past her nap time and spent a good portion of our time in the cave trying to prove to everyone that she is, in fact, the Loudest Baby In The History Of The World. If you were in our tour group, I am so sorry...
A spooky corner deep inside Mystery Cave.

Along with the cave, this park also contains Historic Forestville, a town site that was abandoned a hundred years ago. Nowadays they hire people to play the parts of the townspeople from 1899, and give tours for all of us campers to see how things were back in the day. Admittedly, I wasn't sure how exciting this tour would be, but it turned out to be great. All of our kids loved it, and it was almost impossible to drag The Baby away from the chickens that were roaming around everywhere.

Forestville State Park also has some great hiking. Lots of fun trails to explore for hikers of all levels. We left The Baby back at the camper with her aunt while the rest of us set out to find another fun little cave that Canfield Creek flows out of. Although I had done this hike before, it was a long time ago, so I had forgotten how long of a hike it was. The fact that multiple children started complaining about their legs/thirst/suspected heatstroke made it seem even longer. We never did find the cave, but that's ok. We got to bond as a family, and I got a chance to rethink whether I ever want to take them hiking again...

My favorite parts of Forestville State Park are the three high quality trout streams that converge inside the park boundaries.The South Branch of the Root River is the main stream, but the aforementioned Canfield Creek and the up-to-now unmentioned Forestville Creek are also great streams. I walked down from our campsite and spent about an hour on the Root on Friday night, and then hiked up Forestville Creek for another hour or so on Saturday night.
Scott F2 774/3 and Heddon 300 reel.


The Root is full of trout, which was evident as I waded around. There were fish rising everywhere, along with a buffet of insects flying around. I saw sulphur mayflies, light colored caddisflies, and craneflies throughout the evening. If I had worn my vest that is packed with all my fly boxes, I am sure I could have found the right fly to catch more fish, but my decision to beat the heat and only carry a small tub of flies in my pocket proved to be my undoing. I did catch one brown on a parachute adams, and another on an elk hair caddis, but otherwise that evening was filled with frustration.
A pretty little brown.

I had a much better time on Forestville the next night. I wore my vest, and I am glad I did, since I ended up catching fish on several different options. I started out with a sulphur parachute, switched to a Spearfish Special nymph, had some hits on a wooly bugger, and also hooked a couple on a beadhead rubber legs prince nymph. Forestville Creek is much smaller and tighter that the Root, but I love fishing smaller creeks like that. I feel like I can tell what's going on and where to fish faster than I can on bigger water. 
Fenwick FF75 and Redington Drift.

Another pretty little brown.
All in all, we had a great first camping trip of the year. The new truck performed flawlessly, the new camper was spacious and comfy, and the new child did as well as can be expected. Woohoo!

Monday, May 29, 2017

First Trouts

I titled this post "First Trouts", not because I caught my first trouts ever, but because I caught my first trouts of the year. In fact, as I was fishing, I did some quick math in my head, and came to the realization that I am probably coming up on my one billionth trout caught. My math skills can be a little fuzzy at times, so I am not sure if my billionth trout will be caught in the next few months or in the year 2094, but for sure it will be caught...

But let's get back to the trouts I caught yesterday. Like I said earlier, it was my first trout trip of the year. My buddy, Bryon, whom is a fellow congregant at my church, was driving, and we peeled rubber about a millisecond after our Pastor said the final "Amen". We both scarfed down a Son of Baconator from Wendy's on our way to our favorite trout stream, and were in our hip boots by about 1PM.
Bryon at the helm of his trusty Suburban, right before we Baconated ourselves
The weather was weird all day. It was quite windy, but our expert casting prowess handled that easily. It was mostly sunny, but then some big ominous clouds would blow in every once in a while and cool the air off quite a bit. It didn't rain until we got a bit of drizzle on our way out to the truck at the end of the day. The following four pics all show the stream and Bryon. It's kind of a Where's Waldo type of thing...




One of the most interesting things we saw on the stream were some enormous turtles sunning themselves on some rocks on the far side of the stream. They were big enough that I assumed they were snapping turtles. Bryon didn't think so. Perhaps this pic can help somebody identify them.,,

Other than the pool where the giant turtles were, the fishing was great! We caught trout all day, and I also hauled in a couple of bass, a couple of chubs, and a bluegill. About 90% of the fish were caught on nymphs, and the rest on wooly buggers. Bryon's hot fly was an olive scud, size 14, and mine was a Spearfish Special, size 12. We both tried other flies throughout the day, but those two worked the best.
Spearfish Special
As far as gear goes, I was using a fairly new addition to my rod quiver, a vintage Scott Pow-R Ply 8' 5WT glass rod, paired with a Hardy 4000DD reel. The Scott rod handled the windy day with ease, it handled some big meaty buggers with aplomb, and it handled all the fish with a deft touch, Most of the trout I caught were browns, like this beautifully spotted 15" brute...
But I also caught three brook trout. I wanted to get a pic of the first brookie I caught with this new Scott rod, but I was having some issues, first with the camera and then with the fish. Oh well... The following are a series of three photos that capture my futility...


As you can see, I couldn't get the camera to focus correctly in the first photo. I must have pushed a button I shouldn't have. Once I did get the camera focused, the brookie had had enough, so he flopped out of my hand and back in the river. Even though the fish was gone, I thought the rod and reel made a nice pic, so I went ahead and snapped another. I didn't realize my boot was in the shot until I got home...

All in all, a great first trout trip of the year!

Gear used: Bryon used his trusty Phillipson 800 Series Johnson Profile 7'6" 6WT glass rod paired with his Cortland Vista M reel. As I mentioned, I fished with my Scott Pow-R Ply 8' 5WT glass rod and Hardy 4000DD reel. Both set-ups performed flawlessly.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Brawling Bluegills

I thought about calling this post "Monster Bluegills", but the term monster has become somewhat synonymous with "large", even though monsters come in all different shapes and sizes in real life. But to avoid confusion, I changed it to "Brawling Bluegills", so as not to disappoint my readers once the truth about the aforementioned bluegills' size comes out...

I haven't done a whole lot of fishing yet this year. The closest I have gotten to a trout has been when I drive over a small creek that purportedly has trout in it, on my way to my parents' house twice a week. The fishing I have done has been for panfish, and I have caught approximately 100 bluegills and one crappie. Oh, and a few feisty largemouth bass, as well. Most of these fish have been on the smaller side, but there have been a few bigger ones as well. I have found that, no matter the size, a bluegill fights with more than its fair share of tenacity, so I don't mind what size they are. Plus, I try to even the playing field a little by using light fiberglass fly rods while fishing for them.

A beautiful little 'gill
Which brings me to two of my most recent rod acquisitions. First up is my first Steffen rod. If you haven't heard of Steffen rods, don't feel bad. Mark and Tim Steffen roll their own blanks and build their own rods right here in the good ol' USA. Arizona, to be exact. Steffen rods have a reputation among fiberglass rod aficionados as being some of the nicest casting rods in existence. After a small sample size with my own new rod, I can agree! The rod I acquired is a 7'6" 3-piece 2/3wt rod. Since I don't own a 2wt line, I have only used it with a 3wt, and it is sweet! I was casting fairly large dries without problem, up to 50 feet or so. What a beautiful rod!

Next up was another sweet 3wt, a 7'2" 3-piece rod built by renowned glass rod builder Chris Barclay. Again I was able to cast large dries with ease, but this time I also used a size 10 bead-head wooly bugger, and it handled it effortlessly. Which is good, because that's the fly that was working. I fished for about a half hour, and must have caught 30 fish or more. None of them were huge, but they were all fun on the light glass rod.
My beautiful new Barclay rod.

One of these days, I am going to catch a trout. I don't know when. And I don't know where. But it will happen. Look for the cast-by-cast description of it here!


Friday, April 7, 2017

The Sevens, Part 3: Garcia Americana Beaver Kill

I learned about the Garcia Company when I was but a wee lad. My dad had an Abu Garcia spinning rod and reel combo, and he seemed to revere it as one of the best things ever to be developed within the world of fishing. Actually, now that I think about it, his rod and reel might not have had the Abu Garcia name on them, they might have only had Abu on them...Garcia was a separate company, formerly known as Garcia Conolon, and Abu was a Swedish company, and at some point they merged to form Abu Garcia, but Garcia Conolon had formerly been known ad Narmco...This company has a very confusing family tree which I am going to stop trying to figure out. I'm not a big history buff, any way.

One thing I do know about Garcia Conolon fly rods is that they usually were quite nice casting tools. They didn't always have as many guides as what is now the norm, but they did cast nicely. I have owned a few over the years, including one of their light blue jobs that looked like it had gotten painted in the same factory as 1970's kitchen appliances. The one thing that always stood out to me about old Garcia fly rods is that 99% of the fiberglass rods you see for sale have metal ferrules. Even the spendy olive-colored "Lee Wulff" models all had metal ferrules, and I am pretty sure they were made in the '70s when most other companies had gone away from metal ferrules...Of course, I could be wrong about the timeframe. And everything else, as well...

There are a few exceptions to that metal ferrule rule within the confusing Garcia family tree, though, which make that tree even more confusing. The Garcia Americana rods were made with fiberglass spigot ferrules. I am not sure if Garcia Americana was another company to add to the tree, or if that was just a model name or something else. I do know that they were made in America, and I also know that they were awesome casting rods. How do I know this? Because I own one!

It's a Garcia Americana Beaver Kill, and it's a 7' rod rated for 5&6 weight lines. It's got a beautiful dark brown finish, nice spigot ferrule, nicely-sized cork grip, and it's a super sweet caster. Most older rods with a dual line rating always seem to cast better with the heavier line, but this Garcia casts a 5wt line better than a 6, in my opinion. Last fall I fished my favorite trout stream all day with this rod, and it handled nymphs, streamers and dries with equal aplomb. And I caught fish all day, so the rod must be great, right?

Gear used today: Garcia Americana Beaver Kill rod, 7', rated for 5/6 wt. line; Redington Drift 5/6 reel; Cortland Dyna-tip 5wt WF line.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017-The Year of the Crappie

Don't pay any attention to the title of this post. 2017 is not really the year of the crappie, I just wrote that to excite, enrage, and entice people to read this post. I think I might need to work on figuring out what actually excites, enrages, and entices people...

Yesterday was April Fools Day around here. And everywhere else, for that matter. Nobody in my household got fooled, that I know of, but we did get a lot accomplished, both inside and outside, as it was a beautiful 65 degree day, and a lot of Spring cleaning occurred. The kids even ran around in shorts and t-shirts. Personally, I thought it was still cool enough for pants, but what do I know?
A beautiful first day on the lake!
The Boy
At the end of the long day, the Boy and I had about 10 minutes to stroll down to the nearby lake and try to catch something. The ice hadn't been gone for all that long, so I suspected there might not be anything swimming around within casting distance yet, but you never know. I brought out my newly acquired Shakespeare 1250 Wonderod, a 7'9" 6wt that is not the normal Wonderod white, but instead a brownish tan color that I think was meant to mimic the color of bamboo. Although the cork is a little hard, it cast like a dream. I was very impressed with this rod's power and accuracy.
The 1250 Wonderod
The Boy hasn't quite mastered casting a fly rod yet, and I didn't particularly want to have to dig the wooly bugger out of either of our hides, so I cast and let him strip it in. We fished that way for about 10 casts, until the Boy decided he would rather go up and gather sticks from the yard for money, like his sisters were doing. After he left I made 4 more casts. After the third cast I was starting to think this was going to be a fruitless fishing trip, but then I made my fourth cast. I was stripping in my chartreuse wooly bugger just like we had previously done, but this time it stopped, and I instinctively set the hook, even though I hadn't set a hook in about 5 months, After a short battle I pulled in my first fish of 2017, and the first crappie I have ever caught in this lake. As my mother-in-law, who happened to be standing nearby, would attest, it wasn't huge, but it was a fish, and I was happy to catch it.
My first crappie from this lake.

My trip ended with that fish. Hopefully I will get back out soon and catch something else. Then maybe I can change 2017 to The Year of the Crappie and Other Fish...
The ol' Wonderod did a fine job!

Gear Used: Shakespeare Wonderod Model 1250, 7'9" 6wt; Scientific Angler System 6 fly reel; No-name 6wt DT fly line; Size 6 chartreuse wooly bugger.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Sevens, Part 2: Orvis Fullflex A

Any fly fisher person who hasn't been living under a rock will recognize the name Orvis. Orvis is one of the biggest names in the industry, selling rods, reels, and everything else fly fishing related. They have some of the sweetest casting rods in the world, and have for a long time. My first "nice" fly rod was a 7'6" 3wt Orvis Silver Label graphite rod that I got back in the mid-90s. Before that I had done all my fly fishing with an "adequate-but-hardly-high-end" Cortland GRF, which was fine, but not "sweet". The Orvis rod changed my impression of the fly rod, from something that was fun and different, into the most awesome tool that man has ever created.

Some of you may already know that before Orvis sold graphite rods, they were a big seller of fiberglass rods. For the first 10 years or so their glass rods were made by the Phillipson company. The Phillipson-made Orvis rods I have cast have been very nice, but I much prefer the Orvis rods that were made in-house during the later years. Most of these Orvis made rods were known as Fullflex "A" rods. Don't know how they came up with that name, but I do know that they are sweet!

The rod I am writing about today is my 7' 5wt Fullflex "A" rod. It is a sweet little rod with plenty of reach to make 40-50' casts with ease, and enough backbone to cast medium-sized nymphs and streamers, or big-bushy dries. But it can be super delicate, too. The rod I own has a perfectly-sized cork grip, and a nice downlocking reel seat. Fullflex "A" rods were not known for their fancy accoutrements, and this rod is no exception. Simple but elegant script writing on the brown blank, along with single-tone orangish-brown wraps on the guides. But don't let that simplicity fool you. Let me tell you, this is one awesome casting tool. If you can find an Orvis Fullflex "A" rod in any size, I think you will happy with it.

Gear used: Orvis Fullflex "A" 7', 5wt fiberglass fly rod; Ross Gunnison G2 fly reel; No-name peach colored 5wt DT fly line.



Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mini Glass Cast

If you have spent any time on this blog at all, you probably know that I have a deep rooted love for fiberglass fly rods. They are slow, you can feel them load, you don't have to have expert timing to make them work correctly, and they are cool. I, personally, also have a special thing for vintage glass. It's not that I don't like modern glass. It's just that I usually can't afford modern glass, so instead I have piles and piles of vintage glass. I think it secretly makes me happy inside to know that old things can work so well. Gives me some hope for myself...

I have several friends who also love glass rods, and we have, on occasion, gotten together to cast each others' rods. But I recently found out that I have two more friends who love glass, so of course I made plans for those two to join me in a hastily planned "mini glass cast".

It was a cold, windy day on the Minnesota tundra. We had heard that it was supposed to be in 40s, which seemed doable, but I don't think it ever got above 35, and the wind gusts had to have been around 35, as well. In other words, it was almost too cold to be out casting fly rods in a yard, but that didn't stop us.
I forgot to take any pics at this mini glass cast, so this is from an earlier get-together...

My friend, Greg, was the first to arrive. He unveiled several lovely old Fenwicks, along with a newer Diamondback 7' 3wt, a really cool James Green Spring Creek 8' 4wt, and a cannon of a Seele 8'8" 6wt. I brought a couple of Scotts, a Sage, a Wonderod, a Berkley Parametric, and a couple of others. Greg cast my rods, I cast his, and then we switched up, and then we went back to what we started with, and so on and so on.

Along the way my friend Peter arrived. He did not bring the numbers of rods that the rest of us brought, but he more than made up for that with quality. The first rod he took out, if my memory is correct, was a 7'9" 4wt Lemon Drop, which boggled everyone's minds. Then he unsheathed a 7'8" 4wt Chris Barclay rod, which made our jaws drop. Then he brought out a 7'6" 4wt Orvis Superfine, which took a backseat to none of the others. Talk about nice, modern glass rods!

So the three of us spent the next couple of hours trying to ignore how cold we were as we all went back and forth from rod to rod to rod and then back again. After all of that casting, we came to one conclusion: all glass rods have their own merit and strong points, and they are all awesome in their own way. What a fun, cold day!