Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Drifting for Muskie's

This past weekend finally came after a long time of waiting.  Peter and I had set aside this weekend for a float trip to fly fish for muskie's with Wendy, our guide from the Hayward Fly Fishing shop.  Wendy, by the way, was also a cover girl for a fly fishing magazine holding one of those big trout things.  I'll skip the recap of the ugly drive up on Friday, but just mentioned that we met up at Peters cabin within 5 minutes of each other, which was pretty funny since we both had a long ways to go and had each had our side stops along the way. 

It had been a while since I last saw Peter, so after a hurried unloading of some gear and our clothing for the next day, we had a chance to exchange some highlights while we settled in by the fireplace.  We both had a long day so we retired early for the evening, and we needed to get up early in order to meet up with Wendy at the fly shop.  

Saturday, we eagerly got up, had a good breakfast, and were out the door with no delays.  We met up with Wendy and Larry who were both hanging out in the parking lot waiting for their respective clients.  After a short confusing dialog of regarding the shuttle logistics we ventured off to the Chippewa River.  On the drive out we saw three wild turkey's near the road.  I declared this to be a good omen for no good reason.  But it brought a smile to our faces.

We got to the boat launch, jumped into our waders as Wendy unloaded and prepped the boat for the day.  It was a cool morning, and a little overcast, a very little wind.  A lot of the trees were revealing thier fall colors, mixed in with those that hadn't started yet.  In no time at all we were floating in the river and getting familiar with the 9 and 10 weight rods as well as the flies the size of week old puppies.  It didn't take long and Peter had landed a pike.  Nothing huge, but still a fun fight and fun to watch.

Before we knew it, several hours had past, we were deep into our chatting about random stuff and enjoying an absolute gorgeous fall day.  Then Peter tagged into a muskie.  He quickly had that landed in the boat, and we took pictures.  It had a neat iridescent green color on it's side, and again, a nice sized fish, but not the scary monsters you see in brag pages of Outdoor News. 

Then there was the "almost" double header.  Peter and I were at a spot where we both set the hook at the same time on strikes.  Peter hooked his and ended up landing a pike.  Mine decided it didn't want to commit to me and spit the fly.  It was crazy fun moment and would have been cool had we both landed something at the same time. 

At some point we did break for a lunch on the river, prepared by Wendy, who makes a good lunch, but an excellent desert.  We had also stretched our legs and waded a gravel bar where there was some good water and some potential channels for muskie.  That is when we encountered the only other people we had seen all day on the river.  Two kayakers that paddled by us.  Other than that, we had the whole river to ourselves all day.  I think if I remember correctly, the float was around 7 or so hours from beginning to end.  So if you are keeping track, Peter caught one muskie and two pike, and I had two significant strikes and nothing landed.  As for wildlife we had saw a couple kingfishers in an aerial dogfight over the river, an eagle, we also heard a grouse fly off and a turkey putting. 

After the float we headed back to the cabin.  Peter jumped in the canoe for a little lake fishing to wrap up the day.  I transferred my running line and backing from an old bad Orvis reel I had to a new Ross spool that I had got last Christmas in preparation for Sunday's fishing in Northern Wisconsin for salmon and steelhead.  David Keene arrived while I was working on this, and directed him down to the lake so that he could go fishing with out of the canoe for the last hour of the day. 

I made a few casts along the shore shortly after my project was done and caught two large mouth bass and a decent sized pumpkinseed within a half-hour.  Once it was too dark, we headed off to the dead animal bar for supper.  While that is not its real name, it was an appropriate name.  There were a lot of dead animals mounted, more then your average Wisconsin bar.  Supper was good, then we headed back to the cabin to prep for Sundays fishing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All packed up and unable to go.

So my fly tying/fishing club had scheduled a weekend outing to camp and fish in SE MN.  I had been looking forward to this the past two weeks.  Campfires, trout, friends, fall, nice weather forecast...you get my drift. 
Wednesday, I had most of the stuff put together and piled up in the living room, since I had to go to the club meeting Thursday night and had planned to take off right after work Friday.  It was week of mounting stress as another person quit and the department was short staffed to begin with.  I also had several things to take care of myself to complete my transition from a temporary contractor to a permanent employee (which is a good stress, but still stress).  Plans were going well, with a surprise appointment that had at the end of the day for a pre-employment exam for my new job. 

I got home on time according to "my plan" and commenced loading the Tahoe with our tent, cookware, fishing gear, chairs, table, stove, clothes, etc. etc.   Jen came home as I grabbed the final thing to put in the Tahoe, which was a sleeping bag.  As I went to toss it, I felt a shock to my lower back and my eyes instantly went wide open as I felt the pain!  My damn back went out.

I sat down with a pack of ice and had to make a decision.  Should I stay or should I go.  Is this a quick warning shot or is this going to hurt all weekend.  Jen pointed out some logic that my narrow focused fly fishing mind wasn't thinking about.  So a decision was made that I take care of my back for the night with an ice, take some lame weak ibuprofen, and lay down in bed to see how things go. I called Ben, who I was supposed to rendezvous with in the south part of the cities and reported the bad news.

Saturday morning came uncomfortably, and I surf the net till I found a chiropractor that was open on Saturdays.  I found one who was open for two hours.  After the typical initial paperwork was out of the way, he did an adjustment, and I went home to put an ice pack on again.  At first, I wasn't sure that he helped it or made it worse.  The muscles were more tense then they normally are when this happens to me.  I wasted the day in and out of bed. We did leave the house for a little bit just to get out and went for a "real burger" over at Moe's Grill, but I needed to get back as sitting straight wasn't giving me much comfort.

I was kind of cranky, in part due to the pain of my back, but more so I think because I missed out on a weekend camping with friends and Jen and fly fishing for trout as the season closes soon.  If there is a sliver lining here, I guess it is that I started reading a book that I just bought by Jack Hemmingway called A Life Worth Living.  At least I could read a little bit about fishing if I couldn't actually be out there doing it.  Jen just unloaded the truck since I won't need half that stuff for my adventure next weekend where I am going to northern Wisconsin for a guided Muskie fly fishing trip that my buddy and I booked last year. 

Hopefully next weekend will go more as planned then this one did.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


It has been pointed out (from my last post) to me that Mountain Dew and Snickers is an odd combination for breakfast.

The Mountain Dew and snickers breakfast is actually an evolution from when we were going to college at the University of MN-Duluth. Back then, we would get up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, pack the car with people, and head to the Brule river for kayaking. On the way would stop in at a gas station to fuel the car and us, so we would grab a king size snickers and a large chocolate milk each.

In the spring we would get some good white water kayaking and our trips ranged from two to four hours. Except for this one time where a two hour trip turned into a five hour trip and the beginning of the end to a relationship of one of the couples, but that's a story for another time. The snickers and chocolate milk we great energy and it kinda helped the hangovers too, which were caused by, ahem...STUDYING REALLY REALLLLY HARD. Yup, I miss Duluth, and those college days.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fishless Saturday

Jen and I woke up early this morning and turned on the weather channel. It looked like there was little chance of bad weather till the evening so we threw our fly fishing gear in the truck and took off.

I broke from my usual morning trouting routine of Mountain Dew and Snickers and instead had a "Nature Bar" and cheap Super America iced coffee...and that was "my bad" for changing the morning ritual, as our day went fishless.

We arrived at the chosen river a little further south then there was water. Damn maps, they should know where the river has water and where it is just a dry rock bed. We headed north up the "river" about eight miles where we actually saw moving water, but it was so overgrown that the weeds were at least a foot to two feet taller then myself (that's about three to four feet taller then Jen, if you're keeping track of her). After a couple of unsuccessful approaches, we retreated back to the truck to try a third spot.

This time it looked more promising, with trout regulation postings and an actual mowed foot path to follow. Well after trying several of the trails that came to the river, there was not really "great" water nor a way to get down to it. We would step off of the trail to approach the river only to find steep eight to fifteen foot drops. Again, we retreated to the truck.

Now this early in the morning, I had already flicked the bird at some 16-year-old punk for his crappy driving decisions, we had been rejected by the river gods several times, Jen injured her thumb (blood and all), the humidity was high, and it had already cracked 75 degrees and it was only 10:30am. Yes, such fun we are having. At least the scenery was nice.

On our 4th approach we found an access point to the river that A) had water in the river, and B) had not been overgrown. So this is looking awesome at this point in our day, right? We get down to the river, Jen is using my 8.5' Sage 3-wt, and I have my 7' 4-wt bamboo rod, and we are ready for some trout. We fished all the usual riffles, bends, and pools without success. In fact the whole entire time we were on this beautiful little stretch, we saw only a shadow of one, count it again, ONE fish. And since it was only the shadow I saw, I am not sure what kind of fish it was. It was warming up, our patience had worn thin, and the lack of seeing anything getting better, we pulled the plug. We did see a neat little hawk up in a tree in front of us and humming bird inches above one bend in the river, but that was pretty much the extent of seeing anything wild along this water.

We changed out of our waders, hopped in the truck and headed for Cabela's to replace my blown out Thermarest and get Jen an upgraded sleeping bag for the fall adventures. Sometimes, I guess, going fishing is going fishing and not catching.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day weekend

A few weeks ago Jen and I were invited by our friend, Bryan from Milwaukee, to join him and a group of fellow fly fishers for Labor day weekend. We had no commitments so we gladly accepted and set about getting ready for a weekend of camping, fly fishing, and enjoying the beauty of the remote wilderness and the trees as they were starting to display their fall colors. And I do mean remote, as we were lucky to have an outhouse, but no more. It was just the kind of weekend we needed.

Very early Saturday morning we hit the road and headed to our destination. We arrived just before noon, where we set up our campsite a hundred yards or so from a nice small lake amongst the other tents of our trout seeking group. The usual routine of setting up the tent, filling it with sleeping stuff and our clothes, camp chairs, setting up the new portable camp table so that we wouldn't have to use our cooking stuff on the ground as we have been doing in the past. I think this is a huge improvement to our camping adventures. Checked to make sure both the Coleman cook stove and lantern worked.

Then we grabbed a map since no one was around and canvased the area looking at potential streams to fish and doing a little off-roading. Apparently the red-dotted lines on the Delorme is used to mark ATV trails in addition to minimum maintenance roads. Oops! We went a little ways down one of the red-dotted lined "roads" and ended up backing our way out as an ATV raced toward us from behind. That was embarrassing. But, on a better note some of the red-dotted line roads were basically nice logging roads that I am familiar with seeing in northern Minnesota, which was comforting. We had a blast on our explorations and seldom did we find paved roads to follow along on nor other people. When we got back to camp, a few of our buddies where there that we knew and a few that were new to us. After some quick catching up and introductions, we headed down to Eli and Tara's campsite where they had set up right on the beach and had a good fire going for cooking supper. The feast, by the way, was fabulous. Appetizers made of wild game, pork loin cooked over the coals, summer veggies, and much much more. Stories, naturally, where shared around the campfire and lots of laughs were had among the 14 of us. It was a late night. :)

Sunday morning, after a making some hot cocoa and oatmeal, I got some guidance from Gimp as to where Jen and I could catch some trout. Jen and I tried one of the rivers for the first part of the day. It took about 20 minutes of driving into the woods off of a back road on to a forest "highway" (basically an un-groomed logging trail with a number indicating we could drive it). It was a slow moving river and crystal clear. Gorgeous right? Yup, very much so. And therefore hard to fish. The trout were spooky, so we had to cast longer distances and delicately. This ended up being a little too much for our patience level that morning so we moved on.

The second half of the day we spent on pocket water tucked in an old growth forest, with very little undergrowth and nice cool shade on a pretty warm day. Jen and I took turns catching brookie's and rainbows. None of them were very big, but there were a lot of them caught in their little pools and they were very mad that we caught them. They were true firecrackers of a fight for their little size, which I would say averaged around six to seven inches. We returned to camp for another feast and lively campfire conversations.

Monday morning, we had a quick breakfast, broke down camp, said some good byes, then headed off to a river about 20 minutes from camp. It was another pocket water river that gave up some brookie's to my #16 Royal Wulffs and #12 orange stimulator's. Which, by the way, almost all of the fish caught on Saturday were on #12 orange Stimulator's. After an hour or so, I returned back to the Tahoe, stopped for ice cream at a local tourist trap next to some water fall, and then we headed for home.

I'm glad we had three days for this trip, but I think making it a four day trip would have been a little better. I can't complain though, it was a good trip and the only casualty was that my Thermarest blew out. It was not really a surprise, as I use them a lot and these are getting pretty old. And with all the off-roading, the dirty truck escaped breaking down, flat tires, and almost getting into a situation that would have ripped out our rear axle.

I love fall!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


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