Surrounded in a cocoon of down I roll over to look at my watch, it’s 8:30 am. 12hrs? How did I sleep for 12 hours? I needed to pack camp and get to higher ground to confirm plans with Carl. I boiled water for oatmeal as I packed my hammock and other gear away. I must have needed to sleep, never have I slept that well hanging from two trees. It’s taken a year but I am more convinced than ever that switching from a tent to a hammock was the right choice for me. I put my breakfast in my camp cozy and drove to the ridge searching for cell service. Once I had it I checked in with the wife first, she always wants to make sure I am safe and was spared a grizzly death by some animal or perhaps a momentary lapse of sense with a sharp object I carry. After she and I touched base I called Carl to confirm the plan. I needed to get on the road and soon. With the amount of rain we had received I needed to make sure, I needed to see with my own eyes the water we intended to fish. If it didn’t look ideal we would implement a backup plan.
At 11 am I drove across a bridge downstream from where we wanted to fish. Today was going to be good. The water looked excellent with the grey-blue hue in all the deeper areas clearly visible from the road. I split and drove to the Kwik Trip we often meet at and waited for my partner to show up. He knew the water we were going to fish better than I did. This is bigger water, fewer numbers but bigger fish. We had the rest of the day to fish and with the success of the past few days, we were already quite satisfied with how the season’s end was turning out. Bigger, snaggy and deep water demanded that I put back on the Dirty Mop I had been fishing the prior two days. It was ragged, the wire rib had broken free, the rubber legs were half missing and those that were present were much shorter than they had been. Only one blue marabou feather hung from the hook shank. Despite its appearance, I had faith it would work.
My first cast was a down and across on a shallower riffle, maybe a foot deep. The water was pretty damn clear in the shallows and I was just working the kinks of my cast out when a meaty brown smoked my fly and ran upstream into the deep slack water. First fish of the day was a 17-inch brown trout hungry with the fall spawn beginning soon. We fished some beautiful water and found Baetis hatching around noon. There were surprise moments where nothing came out despite the perfect looking structure and presentation which made us both wonder but upstream we settled on a spot where Carl would work his dry fly to bring browns to surface. I photographed the scene under the backdrop of fall colors showing themselves in the trees. The skies were overcast for most of the day but the wind was significantly less.
We fished upstream noting the uniqueness of this stream and once we reached a clear transition between steeper grade and shallow farm fields things changed for the worse. We expected this and yet we fished on. It had been a couple years since either of us had checked in on this section of water and with the day winding down we didn’t have time to find other water. We hiked and passed quite a few dead zones but managed a few fish from what structure we could find. Upstream a ways we found a massive fish hanging in the wide open, I snuck up on it as best I could but it spooked and pushed up. I expected to find something of that size here but not hanging in the wide open like that. Evidence that the fall feedbag and spawn were in full swing. The lull eventually turned into multiple good spots to swing a streamer through and as we hiked back to the car we both agreed that the upper section had improved since we fished it last. The season was coming to a close fast but I wasn’t ready to let it go just yet.