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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The End

For all of my life, the trout season in both my home state of Minnesota and my pseudo-home state of Wisconsin has ended on the last day of September. Up until the last couple of years, that is. At some point  (I don't even know exactly when it happened) the Wisconsin trout season started to stay open until October 15th. This year I finally decided to fish for trout in October, so my buddy Bryon and I headed out on the 15th to see what October trout fishing was all about.
The river looked fishy enough...

The first fish on my new Steffen rod

I'll tell you this much, the trout fishing in October wasn't anything like the trout fishing we had experienced in earlier months, that's for sure. It was hard! We fished as well as we could for several hours, and had very little to show for it. I caught 4 trout, three of which were tiny, and Bryon landed two. He also performed a couple of heart-wrenching LDR's on some big fish that I heard about later. He's a pretty honest guy, so I believe him. Other than that, we spent the day fruitlessly flailing away with all sorts of different flies, to no avail. Let's see, I tried an Elk Hair Caddis, a biot-bodied parachute, a CDC-winged emerger type thingy, a Spearfish Special nymph which had slayed the fish all season long no matter where I was fishing, a Madam X, a Stimulator, a couple of different colored wooly buggers, my rubber-legged prince nymph, and probably several other flies.
Bryon, the man, rigging up

I am not sure what flies Bryon used, other than the X-Caddis he started out with. He's not nearly the crazed fly-changer that I am, so I assume his list would be much shorter than mine. The thing is that we saw fish rising, at least for a while. And quite a few of them. But that didn't mean we could catch them. We both must have been too out of practice when it came to fishing dries. Oh well, we have the winter to practice up...

My newest acquisition, a Steffen S-glass 7' 4wt

The best part about the day was getting to use my new Steffen Brothers 7' 4wt glass rod I recently acquired. If you are unfamiliar with Steffen rods, they are a small company in Arizona that makes some of the best casting fiberglass rods around. This is my second Steffen rod, to go along with my 7'6" 2/3wt. I paired the new 4wt with my Scientific Anglers System 4 reel, and together that combo performed flawlessly. OK, maybe not flawlessly, seeing that I was the one casting them, but they performed very well, especially when I was casting smaller dries and nymphs. When I added a big, bushy Stimulator to my rig to act as an indicator, the Steffen wasn't quite as crisp. It still got both flies out where I wanted them, but it was just slightly more laborious. Later, when the water started to get dirtier from a recent rainfall, and I knew I would need to use some bigger and flashier flies, I switched to my Fenwick FF75 7'6" 5/6wt glass rod.
A dude I met in the woods

My biggest fish of the day...

Obviously, both Bryon and I had a fun day. We were fishing for trouts, after all. But it wasn't the glorious way I was hoping we would end the season. Oh well, if every day on the water was glorious, things would quickly get boring and I would revert back to playing golf...I can't wait until next year's trout season opens!

Gear Used: Steffen Brothers 7' 4wt S-Glass rod; Scientific Anglers System 4 reel; A plethora of flies;
Fenwick FF75 glass rod; Lamson LP-2 reel; Even more flies...
A lovely way to end the season, as we drove back to civilization.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Scott and his Scotts

I have developed a deep appreciation for Scotts. And I don't mean myself, or even other humans named Scott. Despite the fact that I do like myself, and even have a few friends named Scott, those aren't the Scotts I am talking about. The Scotts I am referring to are Scott fly rods, and to be even more specific, Scott fiberglass fly rods. I have owned a few Scott graphite fly rods over the years, and they were nice, too, but at this particular point in time the only Scotts I own are of the fiberglass variety, and they are sweet!

Me and one of my Scotts. Photo by Bryon Tang
As you may already know, my rod arsenal is always changing, but at the moment I own three Scott glass rods. First up is an F754/3, a sweet dark gray 7'6" 4wt. Next up is an F2 774/3, a lovely yellow 7'7" 4wt. Lastly I have an older yellow Pow-R Ply 8' 5wt. They each are their own rod, and have their own individual feel, but I like them all. The two 4 weights are both light and crisp, perfect dry fly rods. The Pow-R-Ply 5wt has a feel all its own. At first it feels quite heavy in the hand, which isn't a feeling that fills me with confidence. But as soon as I start casting it, it comes alive. It can make any cast I want to try with it. I can make delicate presentations with small dries, I can cast weighted nymphs and indicators all day, and I can boom long casts into the wind. It's pretty amazing.
This Scott really loves his Scotts!
The F754/3 with a cute little bluegill
The F2 774/3 on a lovely Driftless stream


The Pow-R-Ply 8' 5wt, after a chunky brook trout flopped out of the photo. I promise, it was a brute...




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Guiding

I am not a guide. I have never been a guide. I have never wanted to be a guide. I'm not sure I would know how to be a guide. Guiding seems like hard work. It's difficult enough to catch fish on your own, but trying to get other people, who oftentimes have never cast a fly rod before, to catch fish, seems like an impossibility. Plus, even if the client has realistic expectations, and is just happy to be out in a beautiful setting while learning a new sport, I would want to make sure they caught some fish. I would put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure that happened. So why would I want to torture myself like that? No thanks, guiding is not for me, I tell you what!

That being said, I guided for the first time a couple of weekends ago. I had a couple of clients, let's call them Joel and Shaun, because those are their names, and we spent a lovely half day on a trout stream somewhere in the continental United States... It was sunny, kind of hot, but only a tad windy. As far as I could tell, it was a perfect day to try to be a guide!
Since I was acting as The Guide, I had to show them how it's done. The is the same dopey grin I have whenever I catch a fish...

After a quick casting lesson, I stationed my two clients about 75 feet apart in adjoining pools, and let them go. I traveled between them to give them occasional casting tips and to unravel their inevitable wind knots. Although their loops were not always very pretty, they both got the hang of casting in relatively quick time. As all beginners do, they let their backcasts get a little sloppy every once in a while, but the weeds weren't too high behind them, so their flies were quickly extricated.

I thought it would take longer than it did, but in no time Joel caught a fish. It wasn't one of the trouts we were after, but it was a fish nonetheless. A fat, colorful chub dangled from his line. Soon, another one. Then Shaun got into the act, catching several chubs. I have never heard of a professional chub fishing guide, but it seems I would make an awesome one. For the first couple of hours, chubs were the only things being caught, other than the trout or two I caught while demonstrating how to do things.

Joel and his first fish, a chub.
Eventually Joel caught an actual trout, a lovely little brown of about 8 inches. And then he caught another, somewhat larger one. What a great way to end the day! And the best part of the day was that neither Joel nor Shaun drowned. Who would have guessed that my first foray into guiding would be so successful?! Maybe guiding isn't so bad after all...
Joel and his first trout
Joel's second trout.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The 14" Rule

Several years ago I came up with a "rule" that might be valid, and it might not. I don't know if there's any way to actually prove it, but it seems like it has some validity to me. That rule states that "in all trout streams, any pool that is big enough to harbor fish will contain at least one fish that is over 14 inches in length."
A plus-14" fish from earlier this year

I should explain that this rule is only good for streams in which brown trout are the primary inhabitant. Brook trout, in general, don't grow as big as browns, so therefore, when on a brook trout stream, I amend the rule a bit, changing "14 inches" to "10 inches". Any brown trout over 14 inches is a fine fish indeed, and any brook trout over 10 inches is just as impressive, so all in all, the rule means the same thing in both cases.

We don't have very many rainbow trout around here, so I am not sure what to do about them, but I have a feeling the brown trout rule would work just as well for rainbows...

Now, just because I believe there are all these nice, big fish swimming around in every pool, that doesn't mean you or I or anyone else is going to catch them any time soon. The rule has nothing to do with catching them, it only deals with their existence. But you can't catch them if they don't exist, so you might as well believe they do. Am I right?
Bryon

I hadn't thought much about my rule lately, but then tonight I went fishing with my buddy, Bryon, on a stretch of a stream I hadn't been on in 10 years or so. I knew I had caught a big brown in there years ago, so I made my way down to a prime looking spot, looked around, and immediately remembered that this was the pool I was fishing when I came up with the rule. It was like it had just happened, even though it was more than a decade ago. The memory of that day pretty much exploded back into my brain. It was eerie, and cool at the same time. And thinking about my rule made me even more excited to start fishing...

Well, no 14 inchers were caught tonight, although I did perform a heartbreaking LDR (Long Distance Release) on something that made my fly rod throb for a couple of seconds. It did nothing to snuff out my belief in the rule, that's for sure.
A sub-14" brown caught on a Spearfish Special



Gear used: Scott F754/3 fiberglass fly rod; Scientific Angler System 4 reel; Size 10 brown Stimulator; size 12 Spearfish Special.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Grace Coolidge

I don't know if you have a favorite First Lady. I never realized I did until recently, when I came to the conclusion that Grace Coolidge, wife of President Calvin Coolidge, probably holds that position in my heart. I know nothing about Grace Coolidge, other than that a lovely little trout stream that flows through the middle of Custer State Park is named after her. That's really all it takes to become my favorite First Lady...


Grace Coolidge Creek is quite tiny, barely more than a trickle for most of its run, but somebody had the great idea of installing a series of several low-head dams along its course, creating several large pools or ponds that are full of trout. Mostly stocked rainbows with a few browns and brookies thrown in for good measure. Oh, and a few annoying chubs here and there, as well. Some of the fish can get quite large, as I can attest, as I have landed a couple of 18 inchers over the years. Most of the fish are between 8 and 12 inches, so essentially it's like every other stream I have ever fished.

We took the family out to Custer for the first time last week. The family consists of the Wife and our four children: Girl #1, the Boy, Girl #2, and Girl #3. Oh, the Sister-In-Law came with us, too. The Wife and I took our three oldest children on a hike along Grace Coolidge Creek one afternoon. Since I am not very good at hiking along a trout stream without a rod in hand, I brought my Fenwick F755 with, but promised that I would only make 5 casts into each pool, so as not to disturb the hike too much.

It was a beautiful hike, but I won't bore you with those details. Let's get down to the nitty gritty of my fishing stats during the hike, shall we? Here they are:

  • 5 pools fished
  • 25 casts made
  • 9 fish landed
  • 6 fish missed or lost
  • 6 rainbow trout landed
  • 1 brown trout landed
  • 2 chubs landed :(
  • 1 fly (size 14 elk hair caddis)
  • 1 rod (Fenwick F755)
  • 1 reel (Redington Drift)
  • 1 Wife who was happy that I didn't ruin our hike with endless casting
  • 3 Kids who loved watching the wriggling rainbow trout splashing around
It was a fun hike in some beautiful country, but let's face it, the most impressive thing about it was my amazing catch ratio! I can't guarantee you will have as much luck if you ever get to fish Grace Coolidge Creek, because you're not me. But you should have a fun time, no matter what. Here re some pics from the hike:


The Elk Hair Caddis that worked very well...




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.