To quickly address the lack of content, lack of motivation and lack of fish. This winter season, despite the above average air temperatures, below average precipitation totals and number of days spent on the creek has produced little to write about. I felt my motivation slipping in the first two weeks of February and from there I’ve just been biding my time grumpy that everytime I go out the waters been low, the trout seem spookier than normal and I’ve just been catching less. That doesn’t make going to the creek any less enjoyable but it puts spending a Saturday on the water, paying for the gas and putting the miles on a vehicle come into perspective a bit more when you’ve only been catching one or two fish an outing. Maybe I’m slipping, maybe the low water/spooky trout is just an excuse to cover my month and a half dry spell, either way it doesn’t matter anymore. The fish are there, the bugs are going to be showing up in larger numbers and I’ll be there, waiting.
The 4th of March, 26 degree air temp on arrival at ~11:30am. Sunny skies, very minimal wind with low and gin clear creek water. I picked a spot I’ve been missing for some reason, maybe it’s pink line syndrome that’s been getting to me, driving past miles of creek that I can’t touch just to get to a short reach of a stream I’ve seen dozens of times. This spot is obviously a pink line (because I don’t violate our trout regulations) but I hadn’t seen it in quite a while. I knew it would be a bit more difficult due to it’s size and water levels but I was in the mood for a hike and if catching one or two was my last months average then I figured seeing something fresh and maybe catching one along the way would suffice my appetite. Carl came with, we started lower than I typically do and fished upstream farther than I’d ever gone, ~3.5 miles each way.
Trout were seen almost immediately, one rose while we put our gear on. I went straight to a #18 Pink Safety fly knowing that I just wanted one trout and sometimes the Pink Safety fly is the way to get that job done so the skunk is off and the rest of the day can be spent enjoying the Driftless area, searching the creek, spying for bugs and watching your friend have a kick ass day on the creek. My first cast on a hole I hiked directly to was poor and I planted my fly on a branch just above the group of trout I was targeting. Not good. Somehow I managed to kick my fly off and get it back in the creek before the trout spooked, instantly the first brown that saw it hit and hit hard. Finally a strike worthy of a quick hookset. With 10inches of spotted fish in my hands I knelt in the creek, it was going to be a damn fine day.
I continued to fish the #18 Pink Safety fly for the majority of the afternoon while Carl fished drys for a bit, a small nymph for a while and ultimately ended up tossing a lightly weighted streamer of his own design. Honestly it wasn’t much to look at (sorry man) but it did make me think I need something like it in my box. Things that caught my attention, it’s smaller size (maybe a #10 or 12), lightly weighted with a significant amount of flash. I think the size and weight made it perfect for this small creek with it’s low water and spooky trout. My SMB would have been too heavy and too big, the KML might have worked but again even the smallest size I tie that fly in would have been big compared to what Carl was tossing. The fly I ended up putting on later in the day was a #8 Hairball, I tie it on a 2x short scud hook so it’s over all appearance is pretty small for a streamer but has a nice large hook gap. Learn from those who fish, ask questions, have a dialogue about what’s going on while your out. I can’t fish with just anyone, it’s been proven over the years. I like fishing with someone, actively fishing with someone else gives you their perspective, bounce ideas and thoughts off one another, it will make you a better angler.
I’ve spent quite a few hours on this creek, I love how each time I visit it seems that mother nature changes the game plan. You’ll arrive to find a spot that was once blocked by a downed tree now open and free to drift a fly through and at the same time just upstream the hole you were itching to fish will no doubt be clogged with debris of some sort. It’s a challenge. Carl and I strolled up to a hole that was previously open to clean clear casts from fifty feet but due to a newly downed tree we had to sneak up from behind. Ironic how the tree downed across the tail of the pool provided cover for the fish but also allowed Carl to sneak up closer than he would have been allowed before to slip a short cast in to pull out a 13inch brown. As he was lifting the brown from the creek I watched a dogger come from the depths, she looked right at Carl’s fly hanging from the smaller trout’s mouth. Without spooking she watched the smaller fish get pulled from the creek and proceeded to move back to the feeding lane. I watched this happen while Carl missed it, I knew that fish wanted that fly. I was awe struck for a moment, after spitting out the details to Carl I watched as he tossed his fly in for a second time. A short drift and a tight line produced that trout, all 18inches of her. Some creeks grow brown trout quickly but they tend not to grow as large and often die younger while other creeks grow brown’s slowly, they often grow larger and live longer. I believe this creek to be a “slow grow” creek, this trout could be over 6 years old. She’s not the dominate predator around either, the severe dorsal fin damage and the large hit on her top side make me question what would consider her dinner.
We let her go and smiled in the sun. I love the fish of the day, often you know it when it’s happened and it makes the rest of the day that much more satisfying. Carl and I spent the rest of the afternoon hiking further up the valley in search of brookies but to my surprise found only a scant few. What we did find however were large numbers of brown trout surrounded by beautiful spawning substrate and plenty of cover. Everywhere we looked there was a spot with 20-30 small browns and a couple nicer ones lurking off to the sides. Cover rocks and tree limbs have been good to these trout. I watched Carl sneak cast from behind an obstruction to pull out a small brown on his knees. That is the definition of a driftless angler, casting hidden on your knees to pull a wild trout out from a four foot wide creek and he made it look easy. We fished to the end of the pink line and turned around for the ~45min hike out. This was what I needed, the motivator, the day when the trout didn’t require force feeding, conditions were modest yet very comfortable, and the hike through the valley void of other humans…necessary.