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

"Write what you know. If you don't know, make it up..." - Scott Hanson

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Art of the L.D.R.

After doing a little math in my admittedly pea-sized brain, I figure I have probably caught around 3 or 4 billion fish in my lifetime. Or it might be more like several thousand - my pea-sized brain is not very good with numbers...Whatever the case, out of all those fish that I have caught, it's the ones that I LDR'd that stick in my brain the most.
Good ol' Webster. He has a definition for everything.

If you aren't as rabid of a fisherman as I am, you may not be familiar with the term "LDR", but you have probably performed a few yourself at some point. "LDR" stands for Long Distance Release. I believe Webster defines it as "the heartbreaking moment when a fish becomes unattached from your fly at any distance from you that is greater than the length of your arm.". LDRs can happen with any size fish, but it's the LDRs that occur when you have a monster on that can become etched in your memory. I have the uncanny ability of remembering big fish that I LDR'd more than 15 years ago, but I am not sure what I had for breakfast yesterday...LDRs can stay with you for a long time.

Take, for instance, the day I spent on one of our local rivers about 16 years ago. It was May, and the Mother's Day Caddis hatch was going gangbusters. It was better than I had ever seen before, or since. I was stationed on the right side of the stream, towards the bottom of a rather long riffly pool, and there were fish chasing caddis flies all over the place. I don't know how many trout I caught in that one pool that day, but I do know that I landed a 17" brown that was quickly followed by a 19" brown, that was quickly followed by a 20" brown, all while standing in pretty much the same spot in the river. But what haunts me is the much larger fish I fought for several minutes that made a bee-line for the far bank, and then calmly glided back and forth in a 20 foot swath until my Elk Hair Caddis became disconnected with his giant maw. I about cried...

Oh, and then there was that time when I was out in the Black Hills, fishing a stretch of water that I assumed was too skinny for anything to live in. I was really just making my way up to check out the next pool, but I had my size 18 beadhead nymph in the water, and sure enough, a giant rainbow engulfed it, and went shooting across the river in a series of acrobatic flips that would make Mary Lou Retton blush. The entire fight lasted mush less time than it took you to read that last sentence, yet it is a scene I will probably never forget.

Speaking of the Black Hills, I was above one of the big reservoirs out there, fishing in a section of a creek that looked to be devoid of all life. When that is the case, I often find myself day dreaming about other places I should go, which is what I was doing when yet another big fish, this time I assume it was a brown, snarfed up my Copper John and headed for the North Dakota border. That fight lasted a smidge longer than the one with the rainbow, but still probably only six seconds or so. Six seconds that will haunt me forever...
Me, a split second after performing a lovely LDR on a hawg...

I've only been musky fishing once in my life. I went with my cousin, who is a bona fide trout bum, like me, so neither of us really knew what we were doing. After several hours of flailing away spread over two days, I not only wasn't concentrating on the fishing that I was doing, I didn't even remember exactly what state we were in. And then it happened: I lobbed my giant fly over towards the weeds for what seemed like the 4 millionth time, and sure enough, a musky came out of nowhere and exploded on it. The river went from calm and peaceful to a warzone at the drop of a hat, I did everything wrong, my heart felt like it might burst, and I never even felt the fish on my line. I guess technically that wasn't a real LDR, since I never had him hooked, but I remember it like it was.

A lot of fishermen probably hate performing LDRs, and I used to be like that. But now I try not to let them bother me so much. After all, my LDRs have given me all these fun, and at the same time unpleasant, memories, and really, that's what fishing is all about, any way, am I right? Besides, I perform way more LDRs than I catch big fish, so I better learn to make the best of it. If you ever want to see an LDR done the right way, just follow me for a an hour or so some day. I'm sure you will get your fill.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chasing Rainbows on the Last Day of the Season

As I wrote in my last post, I went trout fishing a couple of weeks ago on what I originally thought was the last day of the Wisconsin trout season, September 30th. The trout season in Wisconsin has ended on September 30th every year of my 42 years on earth, so you can understand how I could have forgotten that the wonderful Wisconsin DNR had switched the closing date to October 15th this year, for the first time ever. Assuming correctly that I probably wouldn't have another chance to go trout fishing before October 15th, I wrote then about my last trout fishing trip of the year. It was an awesome day with lots of trout.

So, yesterday was the actual last day of the trout season, and I caught exactly zero trout. Instead, I had a father-son date with the Boy, in which we did a lot of manly things like sweeping floors and eating chicken nuggets and playing with wooden trains and shoveling ice cream down our throats. It was awesome! We had a great time, and then when we were done the Wife and I did some things to get our yard ready for winter.

At the end of the day we all went over to my in-laws' house for dinner. They have the great fortune, at least as far as I am concerned, of living on one of the 10,000 or so lakes in Minnesota, so while the cooks were busy finishing up dinner, I snuck down to the lake to see if there were any fish still swimming around near shore. It had been a hot day for our part of country, so I was hoping the bass or bluegills might still think it was summer and be lazing around in the shallows. I only had about 15 minutes or so to fish, but that was OK. Things started out pretty slowly, even though fish seemed to be coming up and nudging my foam spider on every cast. Finally I managed to hook one, then another on the next cast, and another on the next cast. That last of the three was probably the biggest bluegill I have caught since June, but it was so unexpected I forgot to take a picture.

A few minutes later I caught a lovely little guy, and his bright yellow belly mirrored the leaves that were all around the lake. I looked around as my fishing was coming to an end, and up in the sky was a beautiful and completely unexpected rainbow arching over the lake. It was a wonderful way to end the trout season, even though there weren't any trout within 30 miles of me. What a fun day!

Gear used: I used my 7'6" 5/6wt vintage Cortland Pro-Crest fiberglass rod and my Cabelas WLX 4.5 reel, which is strung up with a no-name 6wt DT fly line. The Pro-Crest rods have a reputation of being fine casters despite being the color of baby poop. Mine lays out 50 feet of line with very little effort, so I don't care what color it is. Besides, I'm kind of used to baby poop by now...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Last Day of the Season

Technically speaking, it wasn't the actual last day of the trout season, because the state of Wisconsin extended the season to October 15th this year, for the first time ever. But, when I asked for the day off from work on September 30th, I had forgotten that fact, and still thought the last day of September was the closing date of the season. Since I probably won't take another day off to fish before October 15th, I'll just say that it was the last day of the season, even though it really wasn't. Did you follow all that? Because now I feel more confused than I usually do...

So, I went trout fishing on Friday. My original plan was to explore a new little creek that I had recently learned about, and if that didn't pan out, I was going to explore another new, bigger creek that I had recently learned about. I started on the little creek, which looked awesome and fishy, but after about a half hour of exploring with very little action, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't really in the mood to spend the last day of the season doing so much exploring and so little catching, so I packed up my stuff and drove to my favorite trout stream in the world, where I can usually catch at least a few fish, and no tedious exploration is required.

My favorite stream.
When I got to my favorite place, I noticed the water was still a tiny bit high and off-color from some recent rains we had gotten, so I tied on one of my Mushroom and Swiss Buggers, looking for some big hungry trout. Instead I found a handful of smallish, hungry trout, so after I worked my way downstream a fair way, I tied on the biggest nymph I had with me, a size 10 CDC-Enhanced Rubber Leg Prince Nymph, turned around and headed back upstream, to see what I could do.

Mushroom & Swiss Bugger
CDC-Enhanced Rubber Leg Prince Nymph
My first cast hooked a small brown, and my third cast hooked a slightly larger one. Seemed like I was on to something with my fly selection, which doesn't always seem to be the case. I proceeded to go up and down the river, hooking dozens of fish, and landing many of them. I was able to perform beautiful and yet completely disheartening LDRs (Long Distance Releases) on the three largest fish of the day, but I did manage to land one brown over 12 inches, plus about 4 dozen in the Under 12" category. The biggest one that I LDR'd swam around menacingly like a log with fins for a few seconds before the tippet snapped. What an excruciatingly wonderful way to end the 2016 season, wouldn't you say? Can't wait til next year!
Brown trout, ready to head back home.

Gear Used: I had recently gotten a new-to-me Garcia Americana Beaver Kill model 7-foot 5/6 wt fiberglass fly rod. It is one of the few vintage glass rods that Garcia made with a glass ferrule. Most of their glass rods had metal ferrules of one kind or another. I paired it with my Lamson Konic 1.5 reel with an S.A. 5wt WF line. The whole set-up performed flawlessly all day. what a sweet casting rod! At the end of the day I brought out my old Heddon Black Beauty 7.5' 6wt glass rod, pairing it with my Cabela's WLX 4.5 reel and some no-name 6WT DT line I have. This, too, worked very well. Love my old glass rods!