Nov. 13th, 2011: Trust Your Gut

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Fished another Sunday in Iowa, since Liz and I ended up purchasing a year license it only made sense we would use them as much as possible while the weather holds out. Arrival time: ~12:15pm, Departure Time: ~5:30pm. Airtemp was in the low fifties, the wind was calmer out of the WSW at ~10mph. The creek was a bit off on arrival but clean enough for me to spot trout hanging on redds. Trout were sipping something small on arrival, likely midge but with the recent Baetis seen Liz opted for a #18 BWO, second cast in and she was making it look easy. We hung around attempting to take a couple more on a dry fly before moving upstream but nothing was having the larger flies. I [singlepic id=3038 w=380 h=300 float=left]switched flies up a couple times, took a couple small Browns on a #18 Bead Head Baetis nymph I tied up for situations like this. The creek, full of weeds, full of spooky trout who bolt for cover when they see a larger or heavier nymph hit the surface are sometimes best presented something very small despite the difficulty detecting a strike. I lost three or four easily to late hooksets. I also fished the “safety” of the #16 Pink Squirrel for a while and took a handful of fish ranging from 10-13inches. Something about the fact that the trout just can’t help but hit that thing makes me want to fish it less, like it’s laced with some kind of trout chum they can smell from a mile away.

Upstream scoping the riffles I watched one trout rise, then another and another. Shortly after a #18 BWO flew past, I dropped the nymph instantly and swapped to the #18 BWO pattern again. I watched the riffle for another ten [singlepic id=3043 w=380 h=300 float=right]minutes, four different trout in four locations rose but they didn’t lite up the way I was hoping they would. There would be no major BWO hatch for us. Thinking I could pull a couple out I made close to two dozen casts with only one botched hookset on a 6inch Brown to show for it. We moved upstream and I looked at my flies and put on one of a couple dozen newly tied #8 Sprinkle Me Baby’s. Something about fishing this fly, I have so much confidence in it and my ability to fish it well that it just made sense. Trust Your Gut.

Working the later portion of the afternoon I was roll casting to deeper faster water, swapping a split shot for none and back again, working the weed lines and the dark spaces between them, the BNT were coming to hand quickly. I managed over a dozen in the first hour with a few misses between. They smack this fly so damn fast sometimes it’s hard to set the hook and make it stick. We got upstream to find a couple nasty deep looking pools, faster current feeding the far side. My gut… my gut was telling me to hit each with a down and across approach letting my fly sink then rise at a [singlepic id=3044 w=320 h=240 float=left]steady rate as the line tightened up. The second pool gave up the reason why I trust my gut, a nice 18inch Brown. He hit deep and I didn’t know what I was in for until he gave me a big flying leap from below, this was the Iowa Brown I’d been looking for these last few trips.

Upstream all of a hundred yards and I see one of the biggest, gnarliest beaver dam’s I’ve come across in my Driftless career. Standing close to five feet tall just pouring trout water from a weak portion in the center. We hiked upstream and spied dark deep trout water but few fish. I was concerned that their might not be much around but if there was something it might make the last fish look puny. I dropped a couple bombs in the creek but saw nary a flash, my gut was telling me to move on. A guy can spend all day casting into the darkness and get nowhere, I’m guilty of it from time to time but the day was growing short and with it the light so we moved on. Out of the beaver dam and into one of the sexiest pieces of trout water I’ve seen in Iowa. I was concerned that after the beaver dam it would be kaput, pitiful [singlepic id=3047 w=320 h=240 float=right]creek, I was dead wrong. I tossed a fly down under a boulder offering some excellent habitat for any trout and landed two smaller browns that proved there were fish above the beaver dam. This was motivation to keep going, Liz was doing her own thing, figuring her cast out and working a streamer, I was content to dissect the creek for the spots I knew would hold fish.

I got to a riffle with a bunch of overhanging branches, took one look and knew there had to be something tasty laying in wait. The first cast was too far up the riffle and got stuck on a rock, my fly came back covered in creek sludge. After a quick clean up I made a second attempt and planted my fly on the smallest of the overhanging branches, the sun was going down and I didn’t see it until it was too late. Something was on my side, my SMB popped off the branch instantly. [singlepic id=3051 w=380 h=300 float=right]My gut said one more… it was right again. By now I’m thinking, damn I should be telling Liz where to put her fly but I didn’t want to stand over her shoulder being overbearing. I landed the brown and sent him back to the creek with just enough daylight to work upstream another couple hundred feet. The sun was gone, the sky was lighting up with pink and orange colors. I saw one last spot that just screamed for a fly, first cast and a fat, I mean gutty fat holdover Rainbow came out. The picture doesn’t do the gut justice but damn I was taken back a bit. By this point the ground was looking black, I left the headlamp somewhere not in my gear and we were forced to hike over a mile back as the very last of the light left us.

Additional Notes:

  • Watched a Bald Eagle fly overhead at less than a hundred yards.
  • Observed a noticeable change in the creek vegetation above and below the beaver dam.
  • Spent fifteen minutes chasing down an evening Caddisfly.
  • Watched over a dozen deer silouetted by the sky chase through a herd of cattle down a bluff side.

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8 Comments:

  1. Man..feeling the jealousy here over your weekend trips to Iowa. I am anxious to scout it out down there next year. Minnesota definitely needs to expand its season….wish that process would speed up. Until then, practicing my cast at the local park is about as close as I will get before Jan. 1.

    Be well.

  2. good to see you fooled some nice fish. like that boulder stump hole. nice.

  3. Paul, Jan. 1st is right around the corner. I would also like to see some of the reg. changes go into affect but it looks like that may be a ways off. Hope your doing well up there.

    John, those were nice fish, some of the nicest I’ve seen in Iowa this year. The boulder stump hole had me drooling as I was eying up my approach. Take care.

  4. You need to get yourself some prospective. There have been those of us fishing the driftless area for decades. Your “confidence” in your Sprinkle Me Baby, I mean olive bugger, needs some checking. There is much more out there than 1/2 streams you fish in your pocket of SE MN. Just because you have a tripod and a a couple dozen buggers in your box does not make you a sage.

    Try your act in Montana, Colorado, or Utah. For that matter, why not try the Great Lakes Tribs.

    Have you ever thrown your shoulder out patting yourself on the your back for your “great” fishing skills. 3 years does not make a vet.

  5. Vet,

    I apologize for striking a nerve with you.

    I was in no way trying to come off with a know-all attitude in this post. I was just simply stating that in the Driftless area I’ve become confident casting and presenting my “wolly bugger” in a varying number of situations.

    As for trying my “act” in Montana, Colorado or Utah? I hope I’m able to be a decent angler if and when I find myself standing on the banks of the Madison or any other place I’m not as familiar with.

    3 years does not make a vet, your right. I am not claiming to be one, I’m glad I’ve got many years to fish and to learn.

    My shoulder is fine by the way…

  6. WFF,

    A swift pat on the back.

    Keep up the good work! I’m sure you’re SMB would do some damage on the Madison.

    Destination streams and time do not necessarily make an angler good. Sometimes it makes you dogmatic!

  7. What I can say on this: when I read your posts I don’t hear a guy who thinks he knows it all. Rather a guy who is enthusiastic, a student and a lover of streams. Keep it up!

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