"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, June 24, 2019

Camping Trip #3

Man, we are doing a lot of camping this year! We just got back from our 3rd trip, and we have another 3 trips planned before the kiddos go back to school in September. For our most recent trip we drove south from our home in the Twin Cities, to Whitewater State Park, which is about 20 miles or so east of Rochester, MN.
Getting ready to go.

Somehow we fit 6 people and a dog in the Truckster, as well...

Whitewater is in the heart of the Minnesota Driftless Region, an area that was unaffected by glaciers back in the last ice age, which occurred even before I was born, if you can believe that. It was a long time ago!
First look at the Middle Branch of the Whitewater River.

The Driftless Region is filled with high quality trout streams, and Whitewater State Park is no different. The Middle Branch of the Whitewater River flows right through the park, and is joined by the North Branch and South Branch just north of the park boundary. All three are terrific fisheries, and I was lucky enough to have some time to fish while we were in the area.
High quality!

Remember, this was a family trip, and not a fishing trip, so while I did fish for at least a couple of hours each day, most of the time was spent doing family things, like hiking and riding our bikes. Whitewater is a great park for both of those activities, with miles of trails leading up and over the bluffs and through pastoral meadows. Is "pastoral meadows" redundant? Who knows...
Stairs to who knows where...

Trail 
Deer



Trail along Trout Run Creek.
Crazy new floating walking bridge over the river.

The youngest, getting ready to climb up to the top of Inspiration Point.

The boy, on top of Coyote Point. No coyotes were harmed in the filming of this photo.

I almost stepped on a rather large snake, which was exciting, but probably not as exciting as if I had actually stepped on it. I had a run-in with a very loud campground neighbor at 5AM one night, which was also very exciting. Oh, and the brakes went out on our family Truckster on the way home, making the drive much more of a "white-knuckler" than I was expecting. That was too exciting!

Other than that it was your typical family camping trip in the our great state of Minnesota. If you're looking for a fun place to take the family and catch some trout, head to Whitewater State Park!
First fish of the trip, a newly stocked Rainbow Trout, which was fooled by one of my silver Wooly Buggers.

First rod of the trip, my Unstructured Glass 8' 4wt

Biggest brown of the trip, about 15" or so, if you can believe somebody like me...

Second rod of the trip, my beloved Scott F754/3

A beautiful stretch of water.

Third rod of the trip, my new-to-me Winston Stalker glass 7'6" 4wt.

First brown on the Winston, a lovely 13 incher.

Fishing in the misty fog.

I had never seen a stonefly this big in Minnesota. Just for reference purposes you should know that my arms are enormously ripped!

Last pic of the river before heading home.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Camping Trip #2

The family and I recently went on our second camping trip of the summer. This time we headed north, from the Twin Cities, towards Duluth. We didn't actually stay in Duluth, but instead stayed at Jay Cooke State Park, about 20 miles southeast of Duluth. Jay Cooke is a great park filled with crazy rock formations that seem to be slanted the wrong way, thick pine forests filled with a dizzying number of deer, and raging rivers that are quickly making their way to the the largest lake on God's Green Earth, Lake Superior. If you ever have the chance to head to Jay Cooke, I would highly recommend it!

The first view of the St. Louis River most people get. This is right behind the Visitor Center.
We did a lot of hiking throughout the long weekend, along with much climbing over the giant slate rocks that are everywhere. There are over 50 miles of trails in the park, and we hiked as many of those miles as we could with a 3-year-old hiking with us. Her little legs had to work hard to keep up, but she, and the rest of the kids, did a great job, and hardly threw any fits along the way. That in itself made it a great trip!
Another view of the St. Louis River.

I did not fish too much, despite the amount of water in the park. The St. Louis River is the largest tributary of Lake Superior in the U.S., and it is joined by several smaller streams in Jay Cooke. The St. Louis looks fishy, and is reported to hold smallmouth bass and northern pike in its waters, but I had no luck when I fished for them. There are also two trout streams in the park, Otter Creek and Silver Creek, but they are more out of the way, and I did not fish in either of them. To be honest, I caught just as many fish when I practiced my casting on the gravel road in the campground as I did when I was fishing in water. Oh well, we have a bunch of more camping trips planned this summer, so I am sure I will catch my fair share along the way.
Some swirling foam on the St. Louis River.

Otter Creek, where it pours into the St. Louis.

Otter Creek, upstream

The St. Louis.
I tend to think that I am quite the photographer whilst sitting around a campfire...

Same.
Casting in the campground, where I caught just as many fish as I did in the river...

The coolest fish of the trip, a wood relief carving titled "Brookie Move", by local artist Justin Dallas, on display at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth. 
Did I mention that we saw deer? This was one of about a billion deer we saw throughout the weekend. They were everywhere.

There were so many deer that the other woodland creatures use them as Uber drivers. This little squirrel had just gotten a ride on an Uber deer after a drunken night on a pine tree.... 

My clueless dog, Toby, got within about 4 inches of this big ol' frog on the edge of the river, but never noticed it. I think maybe he's going blind...
The two youngest of our kids wanted to help mom stir up the pancake mix one morning, and ended up spilling it all over the ground. The crazy thing is that it was still there after it rained that entire afternoon! Just think how long it sits in your stomach!!! The pancakes were delicious, though...

Lonely campground road on a Monday morning, after all the other campers left. Makes me want to go back...



Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Fly Focus: Squück

I have been doing a lot of tying with squirrel fur lately. I just love its spikiness and the way it makes the fly look alive. I have been using it on the thorax of caddis pupae, on mayfly emergers, on scuds, and several other subsurface flies. A couple of weeks ago I devised a new nymph using squirrel fur, and it really worked well on the trouts that we caught on our latest Trout Trip.
Squück

Like a lot of my favorite nymphs, I put a CDC collar hackle on my latest squirrel nymph invention. I love the way CDC looks under water, trapping little air bubbles amongst its barbules. Fish seem to like them too, as my CDC enhanced nymphs often work way better than their non-CDC counterparts.

As I was catching trout after trout this past weekend, I decided I better come up with a name for my newest fly. But how should I convey the fact that the fly is part squirrel fur and part duck feather through its name? Should I call it the Fluffy Quacker? Rocket J. Duck? The Web-Footed Rodent? No, of course not! I would just take the "Squ" off of squirrel and add it to the "uck" off of duck! And voila! the Squück was born. I added the umlaüt just because it looks rad...

My friend, Bryon, who I went with on my latest Trout Trip, thought I should spell it "squck", with only one "u". I think we can all agree that looks lust plain silly. Sorry Bryon!
Nice brown caught on a size 14 Squück

The Squück joins my other favorite CDC-enhanced flies such as the CDC-Enhanced Hare's Ear, the CDC-enhanced Prince Nymph, and the Spearfish Special. All of these flies slay, and I wouldn't be caught dead on a trout stream without them.

Let's learn how to tie the Squück, shall we?



Squück Pattern Recipe

Hook: Daiichi 1560 or other 1X-long nymph hook, size 12-18
Bead: Black brass, sized to the hook
Thread: Brown 8/0
Tail: 6-12 Pheasant tail fibers
Rib: Black wire, size Brassie
Abdomen: Natural fox squirrel fur
Hackle: Natural dun CDC feather
Thorax: Natural fox squirrel fur

Monday, June 3, 2019

The 'Gills Are In

You probably already knew this, but the bluegills are in close to shore. I hadn't been over to the in-laws' lake in a couple of weeks, but I had some time to check it out over the weekend, and they are everywhere. There are some visible nests near the shoreline, but I didn't see any fish on them, so the spawn must already be over. None of the fish I caught had a discernible grin on their face, though, so I am not completely sure about that...
I can't tell if he has a big, dopey grin on his face or not...

Yup, I took the opportunity to catch a few from shore, and they seemed to be bigger and in better shape than they were last year. On Saturday I fooled a handful with a size 12 yellow and purple foam spider. On Sunday they didn't seem to be in a "looking up" kind of mood, so I tied on a small yellow BH Wooly Bugger, and slayed them. Most of them were very nice sized, too. None were gigantic, but only one was what I would call too small to keep. Not that I kept any of them...


Another thing happened: The Kids decided it was a good time to go swimming in the lake for the first time this year. We have not had what anyone would call a very warm spring, and the lake water seemed way too cold to me, but my kids have all been "blessed" with what I call the "Full-fledged Hanson Stubbornness", so when they get an idea in their collective heads, there is little that can be done to change their collective minds. I even helped by getting out the gigantic floating foam Lilly Pad for them to play on. Hey, if I can't change their mind, I might as well help them do insane things, am I right?

Thankfully, nobody got hypothermia, and more importantly, they didn't scare all the fish away. It was a good day.



Gear used:

Saturday: Livingston Rod Company 8'6" 3/4wt glass rod, Daiwa Alltmor S200 reel, 4wt no-name line, yellow and purple foam spider.

Sunday: Cortland FR-2000 6'6" 5wt glass rod, Berkley 556R reel, 5wt no-name line, same foam spider & yellow tinsel chenille BH Wooly Bugger.