Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall fishing, closing one season and starting another!

Brookies, Browns, Muskies, and Steelhead, Oh My!

I left early morning and headed southeast to Vernon county to close out the inland trout season.  There was much uncertainty the night before at the Fly Angler trying to decide where to go since so many rivers have been impacted with all the rain, but I rolled my dice to see what I would find.  I rolled into Viroqua, WI and headed straight to the Driftless Angler fly shop for some local intel.  The guy at the shop was way helpful with where to go, where to avoid, and what the hot flies were.  Turns out the rivers North of town were cloudy to blown-out and the rivers south of town were clearing up really well. 

A total of twenty minutes spent at the shop and I was out the door to my first destination where I rigged up my 4wt bamboo rod for the occasion.  That day, with no exageration, I caught close to fifty brookies and browns.  Mostly all the fish were caught on nymphs.  The 15-20 wind pretty much blew out the Blue Wing Olives that were around and killed any hopes for a little dry fly action.  There was one rocket of a trout that shot out for the ant pattern I threw.  He managed to take my line over a big branch sticking out of the water, so when I crossed the stream to "save the trout" I blew a perfectly nice pool only to find that the trout attached my hook to the branch and had left before I got there.  The tricky little bastard conned me.  So not only was he not there to save, but now I had to wait a while for the fish to return to the pool.

At the end of the day, I set up camp and then went to town for a great German beer at Chilito Lindo, the local Mexican restaurant, run by a frazzled Asian girl.  I know, odd three-way combination, but it all seemed to work out okay.  Especially since my order was messed up the least by the cooks.  They must have been new.  I returned to camp shortly after and fell asleep to the sound of the Amish horse and buggy traffic driving through town near the campground.

I woke up in the tent to mid 30's accompanied by pretty damp surroundings.  Nice!  I packed up the site then made breakfast of oatmeal and peanut butter sandwich in make-shift cheap plastic water bottle.  That didn't go too well, I don't recommend making oatmeal in cheap bottles.  It kinda shriveled up and didn't mix as well as I thought it would.  Lesson learned I guess.  Oh and the cheap spoons I commandeered the night before from the gas station doesn't work too hot either when they were heated up by the boiling water.

Anyway, I found and paid the nice lady for using the campground and for my new membership to the West Fork Sportsman's Club.  After shooting the breeze with her for a bit I headed fifteen minutes West to fish, where I caught a really beautiful fall brookie that made my trip that measured twelve inches in a very hard place to fish with crystal clear water on a pink squirrel.
I moved on to another river 45 minutes East towards home and had a blast catching a bunch of browns, picking one to two fish out of a pocket of water, then moving up river to the next pocket for one to two more.  I did this pattern of "run-n-gun" a good ways up the river till evening.  When I was at the bridge earlier deciding whether to fish up stream or down stream, I noticed two signs down stream.  The one closest to me stating that it was open to the public for fishing, and the one back further stating "Beware of Bull."  Some land owner had a sick sense of humor.  Since I wasn't armed with a meat grinder or hamburger bun for a Bull-encounter, I thought it best to fish the other side of the bridge upstream.  I jetted home at the end of the day completely happy.   I stopped in for dinner at the St. Paul Fly Tier's meeting at Schroeder's Bar & Grill and reported the great fishing I had enjoyed to some buddies.

After a less then satisfying day at work, I headed up to Peters cabin in Northern Wisconsin
met up within ten minutes of his arrival, we settled in, set up our fly tying vises and cocktails and tied Steelhead flies until late while catching up and swapping stories.

Peter made a great fisherman's breakfast with the added bonus of some good tea that I brewed up.  We were out the door an hour later to our meeting point with Wendy from the Hayward Fly Fishing Company for a day on the Flambeau River chasing muskies.

Peter spent a little time with his special technique of casting flies in the trees, but that didn't slow him down from catching three muskies.  Must be some secret there I don't yet understand.  I caught my first muskie ever.  It was about 32" on a 9wt rod with a big 6" black and orange puglisi fly.  I got to keep the fly in honor of the occasion too!  It was a fun fight and I could hardly believe that it was finally going to happen.  The next thing I knew we had it in the net in the boat and my camera was Peters hands.  Way cool!  The weather conditions were pretty unstable, there were spurts of rain and heavier wind gusts with the sun shining at the same time for most of the day.  Wendy is always fun to spend a day with, and did I mention that I caught my first muskie?!

We returned back to the cabin to pack up the muskie stuff that we used to catch my first muskie, then I converted some stuff over to for Sundays fishing trip to the Brule River for Steelhead.  Once that was done, we celebrated at the local supper club with some cocktails, local micro brews (appropriately named "Mouthy Muskie Light", and the "Crappie Flopper"), animated discussion of various subjects, including each of us writing down on napkins the species of fish we had caught this season.  It was a fun mojo thing.  Peter kinda kicked my ass in that department as my count was 13 different species this year and his count was 23 or 24 species.  For the record though, he did have a minnow marked down on his list.

We moved on back to the cabin and with a little inspiration from our celebrating, some "interesting" flies were tied and then we talked ourselves into retiring for the evening so that we would be ready for more fishing the next day.  And maybe spend some time dreaming of the Muskie that I caught.

With the fading smell of the muskie slime on my hands from my first muskie, we packed our stuff up and closed the cabin down as we were not returning.  We arrived in Brule, WI where we stopped first to look at a potential fishing cabin in town that was listed at an attractive enough price for me to actually think about it seriously.  It could pass for a nice fishing cabin, but it is in the middle of town, which could be both good and not so good.  After a quick inspection we headed to the river to try our luck fishing.
The morning started out slow, but it was beautiful.  We had seen a ton of turkeys everywhere we drove over the past two days and the fall colors were putting on a show for us.  It was perfect fall weather in Wisconsin.  We decided to drive to a different location which proved to be the right thing to do.  Peter landed a 22" chrome Steelhead mid morning on a caddis nymph and I had missed my first take of the season, which made me confident that I was doing something right and that they were in there.
The very few people we ran into said they hadn't had any luck, which wasn't encouraging, but
in the last hour of light of the day on the third stretch of the Brule further down river, I "got on the dance floor" as Peter put it.  I briefly caught and fought a Steelhead long enough for it to launch clear out of the river and spit my fly back at me. I am pretty sure he stuck up his middle fin at me too while laughing at me.  And that was pretty much the end of the action for the day.  We changed out of our waders at the local gas station and headed for home very happy with ourselves.

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