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Coffee, drive, pee, drive, park, rig the rod and then pee again. On-stream arrival was ~11am maybe a bit earlier. The air temp was cold (~0degrees) but a minimal wind and the sun made all the difference. We parked upstream and hiked just over a mile downstream to begin the afternoon. The scene hiking downstream was gorgeous, the sun reflecting off everything covered in a light crystal coating. The warm stream mixing with the cold air saw steam rising from the water for a couple of hours into the early afternoon. We hiked past, over and around quite a few springs which helps make this a difficult place to fish. I can imagine how even under turbid conditions elsewhere this creek may remain clear or recover very quickly. [singlepic id=2222 w=340 h=260 float=left]This also makes for very difficult presentations, especially when the trout are active and surfacing to midge as early as ~11:30am.
Just over a mile downstream we sat in the snow, warm. We watched the gin clear water for signs of life, we made it a point to avoid going near the creek unless necessary to preserve the fishing as we hiked back upstream. This meant hiking off the trail through the snow that only deer and other animals had traveled. With a few inches of fresh powder the trip downstream wore me out, sitting in the sun I watched my friend cast to the first spot we had planned to fish. We started with a variety of flies ranging from average Driftless sized nymphs (#14-18) to larger (#8) streamer patterns. I rigged my #8 Olive Sprinkle Me Baby and trailed it with a #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud.
The gin clear water and steep banks were making things difficult. Even the most delicate of presentations was sending shoals of trout scattering up and downstream, like watching a bomb go off overhead and everyone hits the decks. To counter this I took to casting further and to places that I could not see what was going on, my perhaps ignorant thought here is that if I can see the trout and they are scattering despite my best efforts, that if I can’t see them maybe they are less apt to run for the hills. With this thought I began [singlepic id=2224 w=320 h=240 float=right]swinging my streamer with a trailing scud rig through anything that looked fishy even if it was only 6inches deep. My first fish of the day came on the swing as I pulled my flies through a shallower riffle, it took the #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud. I remember thinking how the fish, despite it’s size, looked already very mature and that it would live to grow old. It already had the body and look of a big brown. I slipped it back into the riffle quickly.
Hiking further up stream I got over anxious and planted my rig in a nearby pine tree luckily I was able to retrieve it without having to tie anything new on. The next cast I let my flies sink a bit too much and snagged a small tree branch in the creek a foot down. I could see the branch wave in the water as I tried pulling my flies from it. No luck and with that the #8 Olive SMB that I have fished every outing this year became a stream sacrifice. Payment due if you [singlepic id=2228 w=300 h=220 float=left]want to play here. I’ll admit I sat there for a moment staring at that stick wondering if it would be there the next time I wore waders to this spot. If it is I will try to find my hook if not my fly.
So I re-rigged with the only pattern that had produced a fish so far, the #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud. I added a splitshot and an indicator then looked upstream to a long deeper (~4ft) run. Starting in the rear, fishing each side of the main seam and progressing forward I expected to get a few strikes at a minimum from this tasty looking piece of water but nothing. A few passes later and I had snagged my #16 PHS Scud and was forced to tie on more tippet and a different fly.
Looking upstream and noticing more rising coming from a long slow section of water. I thought about sticking on a #20 Midge pattern but opted for a #8 Brown SMB. I chose this pattern thinking to the scattering trout earlier, the slow moving water combined with the current conditions made me think that fishing a midge would be more effective if I could find a bit of broken [singlepic id=2227 w=400 h=320 float=left]faster water with rising fish. I did end up swapping out the #8 SMB for a #20 CDC Midge Pupa a bit upstream but again the only steady, consistent rising was coming from slower water and after a couple of casts most of the fish were spooked. I eventually got greedy attempting to put the #20 CDC Midge pupa about forty feet in front of me with a wild roll cast that was just a bit to far left resulting in another snag. The #8 Brown SMB was called back to action.
The day was wearing down and we had fished the majority of the downstream water we had hiked past. Approaching the put in we had little to show for the day except some excellent photos of this stream in the winter sun. It’s safe to say the clear stream and finicky trout were kicking our asses. I slowly walked and tossed my #8 Brown SMB across the stream to the far bank and stripped it back through everything be it 6inches or 6feet the only difference was how long I let it sink before retrieving it. A couple hundred yards from the car my line went tight. One flash and I called it immediately, a brookie. My largest brookie to date at ~14inches. This fish smacked my fly in a 6inch riffle.
Needless to say my day had been made by that one fish. I landed a few others earlier but nothing like this. Satisfied I could walk away from the water knowing I hadn’t let the creek get the best of me I moved upstream to maybe one last fishy looking run. A few deep dead drifted passes and [singlepic id=2229 w=320 h=240 float=right]nothing, one more and my line jumped close to a foot. This fish just nailed my fly so hard I don’t think I had to set the hook, it did it for me all on it’s own. Hot damn a 16+inch Brown, my largest winter trout to date.
So the exercise through the snow and forest was worth it although by this point in the day I was getting wore out, apparently snowshoeing can burn as much as 480 calories or more per hour. My hat had been snagged by close to twenty trees and I was covered in burdock. The wind was picking up as we entered a longer straight section far from the protection of the bluffs or trees. A bit further and we had gone as far as the winter regulations would allow and we were satisfied to head home. I pictured the white fins belonging to that bookie swimming away from me as we drove home, what an excellent fish. I love brookies.
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