"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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Weekend With Alice O'Brien...

The family and I went camping over the long Memorial Day weekend. We went to a local State Park about an hour from our house called William O'Brien State Park. This Park is somewhere around 2,000 acres, so it's a good-sized park, and it's eastern border is the St. Croix River, which is also the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, at least in this part of the state. The St. Croix is a good-sized river, best fished from some sort of craft, like a motorboat, canoe or kayak. I have none of those things, so my fishing was relegated to a small channel that leads from a boat landing out to the main channel of the St. Croix, and a small man-made lake within the Park called Lake Alice.
Lake Alice at dusk

Named after William O'Brien's daughter Alice, Lake Alice is shallow, fairly narrow in width, and completely crammed full of small sunfish. I don't think you could cram any more sunfish into that lake with a shoehorn. They are everywhere, and 90% of the sunfish I saw were 4 inches or smaller. I did manage to catch a couple of bigger green sunfish, but for the most part the little guys would beat the bigger ones to my fly.
First fish on my Scott F803/3 rod, a nice fat Green Sunfish.

Another nice one.

Finding mostly small fish in Lake Alice, I moseyed over to the channel that leads to the St. Croix, and had much better luck, at least on the first day. The water was low, there were a lot of big rocks and downed trees providing cover for the fish, and big bluegills were abundant. I also saw a bunch of big carp swimming around here and there, but none of them were interested in my flies. The fishing was a challenge because of all the trees and other vegetation lining the banks, but my roll casting skills kicked in, saving the day. After catching 20 or so fish in a little over an hour, I headed back to our campsite and had a fun evening with the family.
A big ol' bluegill from the channel.

That night some thunderstorms rolled in, dumping a couple of inches of rain on us and all of our stuff. Not a big deal, but all that rain water eventually ends up in the St. Croix, along with all of the rain from the dozens of tributaries upstream. So for the rest of the trip, the channel that had given up so many nice sunfish that first day became high and filled up with quite a bit of leafy debris. The fishing got slow, but that was OK because there are tons of other things to do at William O'Brien State Park.
Our wet camper, after the rain.

We went to several naturalist programs as a family, we went on some hikes, we rode our bikes, we saw a ton of wildlife, and we sat around and sweated a lot. Did I mention it was between 92 and 100 degrees all weekend? We also got to listen to the hum of approximately 4 billion Spring Peepers in the wetland across from our campsite every night as we tried in vain to fall asleep. Ah, the joys of camping!
This was exciting! A large Fox Snake outside the Visitor Center.

A fresh, tiny Painted Turtle.

A momma Painted Turtle laying her eggs in the dirt, hoping to make more fresh, tiny babies.
One of the 6 ticks we found on ourselves over the weekend.
We had many campfires, despite the oppressive heat.
Don't know why there was a purple haze around this campfire... pretty cool though!
Trees at night.
More trees, this time through the campfire smoke.
Did I mention we found 6 ticks...?
The Wife and 3 of our kiddos, underneath the falls on Osceola Creek.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Trout Trip Twenty-Eighteen

My buddy, Bryon, and I just got back from our first annual trout trip, which I have titled Trout Trip Twenty-Eighteen. That name is rather boring, I know, but some of the other names we came up with were downright silly. Like "Scott & Bryon's Excellent Adventure" and "Two Guys Trouting". My personal favorite might be "Guys Waggling Rods", but if you, my faithful readers, type that in Google to try to find this post, I don't want to think about what else might pop up on your screen...

Going through our fishing stuff before we wet a line.
We left the Twin Cities on Friday morning and headed south to the Driftless region of Minnesota. We set up camp in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, which has three quality trout streams running through it. The biggest of the three is the South Branch of the Root River, which gathers two tributaries, Canfield Creek and Forestville Creek, inside the Park. If we weren't so gung-ho about fishing we could have hiked over to see where Canfield gets its start as it bubbles out of a small cave, or visited the "town" of historic Forestville to witness a reenactment of life back in the 1800s, or taken a tour of Mystery Cave. But we didn't do any of those things. We fished, we ate, we napped, and then we fished some more. That was our entire weekend, and it was awesome!
Bryon was happy we got the camper set up.

Our first glimpse of the South Branch of the Root.
My first rod of the trip, my Sage 476 SFL glass rod.

Both Bryon and I caught fish throughout the weekend, but I wouldn't say the fishing was terrific by any means. We were expecting, and hoping for, some good insect hatches, but there weren't many insects at all. I was thinking there would be caddisflies hatching in the afternoons and maybe some sulphur mayflies in the evenings, but that didn't happen. Sure there were a few bugs flying around, and tons of swallows and other birds eating them, but trout rising to them were few and far between. So we nymphed and swung Wooly Buggers most of the time. Nymphing worked some of the time, the Wooly Buggers worked some of the time, and nothing worked some of the time. I guess it was a lot like fishing is supposed to be!
My first fish of the weekend.

The terrain reminded me of the Black Hills. I was expecting to see a Rocky Mountain Sheep around every corner!
Second rod of the trip, my Scott F754/3. What a sweet rod!
A beautiful brownie.

Bryon with a nice brown.
Some more beautiful scenery.
Bryon's first ever brook trout!

Third rod: Orvis Fullflex A 7' 5wt
I won the prize for smallest fish of the trip. Yay?
This would have been perfect dry fly water, if there were any insects hatching...
Even on fishing trips, sometimes you just need to sit around and look at the woods...
Hardy Fibalite 7'6" 5wt.

Bryon showed me some small trees that had been rubbed by deer. Later I saw this big tree which I assumed had been rubbed by an elephant...
Sage 586 LL, with my Mushroom & Swiss Bugger which had gotten completely chewed up.

 Bryon caught me catching a fish on video. I didn't realize what he was doing until I turned to look at him at the end. I think I played it pretty cool...

After two and a half days of fishing and trudging around Forestville State Park, Bryon and I were pretty worn out. We both must have been pretty out of it on the way home because we missed several turns...Finally we made it home and rejoined our normal lives. We are already starting to talk about Trout Trip Twenty-Nineteen. If it happens, read all about it right here!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Off the Schneid

I am not really sure what a schneid is, or even if it's a real word, but I have heard the phrase "off the schneid" ever since I learned how to speak the English, so it must be at least sort of real. I think it means something like "ending a drought" or to "end a bad streak". That's how I use it, at least, and since I'm the one writing this on the internet, I must be correct, right?

Well, I finally got off the schneid as far as catching fish goes. I hadn't even come close to catching a fish since last October, a total of about 7 months, which is about 7 months too long, if you ask me. It wasn't all my fault, though. A never-ending and interminably dreadful Minnesota winter happened within those 7 months, and, wait, no, that's the only reason. It was dreadful winter from October until May this year, so that's pretty much the only reason why I hadn't caught any fish.

Finally, winter ended and the bluegills pretty much instantly moved in close to shore to start to get it on. It had been a long winter for them, too... So, there are now bluegills all over the place at my favorite lake, and they have helped get me off the schneid. Among other reasons, this is why bluegills will always hold a warm spot in my heart.

If you, too, want to get off the schneid, go find yourself some bluegills. They will be more than happy to help out.
There's a bluegill at the end of the rainbow...
Gear used: Scott F2 774/3 fiberglass rod and Lamson LP-1.5 reel; Steffen 7'6" 2/3wt fiberglass rod and Lamson LP-1 reel. Flies: BH Rubber Legs Prince Nymph, size 10; Black rubber leg spider, size 10; Yellow sparkle wooly bugger, size 10.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Kinni Mini Clave

Conclave [kon-kleyv] Definition: 1. A private or secret meeting. 2. An assembly or gathering, especially one that has special power, authority, or influence. 3. Sometimes shortened to "clave".

You don't hear the word conclave very often in life. Unless, that is, you are one of the special kind of people who, for reasons that nobody else seems to understand, has a special affinity for fiberglass fly rods. If you are one of those kinds of people, you are bound to hear the word conclave on a daily basis. "Coulee Conclave"; "Carolina Conclave"; "Montana Clave"; and now the newest addition to this list, the "Kinni Mini Clave".

The first annual Kinni Mini Clave occurred this past weekend, and it was a hoot! The brainchild of three crazed local fiberglass fly rod aficionados, it was a chance for other like-minded fiberglass nuts to get together, cast rods, tell stories, eat great food, and then cast more rods. Some people, including a lot of other fly fishermen, would probably think we were insane for standing around and casting our fishing rods on grass, but it was an awesome time! Even a little bit of rain didn't make us question ourselves, or our sanity.

Unlike other, weekend-long conclaves happening around the country, the Kinni Mini only lasted a few hours, hence the "mini" part of the name. The "Kinni" part of the name was used not only for its rhyming purposes, but also because our meeting place was a park that sits high above the confluence of the Kinnickinnic River and the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic River in River Falls, Wisconsin. The main Kinni is one of the highest quality trout streams in all the Upper Midwest, and the South Fork, while tiny, is home to a huge number of brook trout. I believe almost all of the Clave attendees spent the evening fishing somewhere on one of these two trout streams...

But enough about that! Let's talk about the rods that were there! There were dozens of rods, including one or more from almost every rodmaker imaginable. Old rods. New rods. Custom rods. Factory rods. Rods made in America. Rods made outside of America. Fast rods. Slooooooow rods. Rods that cost less than $40. Rods that cost a whole lot more than $40. If you wanted to try a certain brand of rod, it most likely was at the Kinni Mini Clave. Here are a few that stood out:

No secret ballots were cast or anything like that, but from listening to some of the murmurings coming from the Clave attendees, I would say that two rods really stood out to people. First was a Scott F754/3, which is one of the older black glass rods that Scott made in the 90s, if my memory serves me. Second was an even older Hardy Fibalite 7'6" 5wt. I don't think many people had cast an old Hardy before, so they were surprised by its smoothness and power. Oh, and a lot of people liked the new Fenwick Fenglass FG704-3, too. All three of those are sweet, but there were a lot of other great rods at the Kinni Mini, as well.

Two of my favorites were an old Heddon Pal Pro Weight 7' 5wt, which was like a buttery rocket launcher, and an apple green custom rod built on an Aventik blank by my friend's teenage daughter. She did a great job on the build, and the rod was a sweet caster! I had never tried an Aventik rod before, but they seem to be a great low-end option.

This will put a wrap on the first annual Kinni Mini Clave. It was a bigger success than we were expecting, so look for the second one to happen sometime next year. Maybe it will be on the Kinni or maybe it will move to another river. I guess we'll all just have to wait and find out! If you're a fellow fiberglass fly rod fanatic, we'll see you there!

Editor's note: I would just like to end this by thanking everyone who came out to the Clave, and especially to my two cohorts, Peter Davis and Greg Olson, who did an awesome job taking my crazy idea and running with it. Can't wait to put together another one of these things with you guys!