Liz asked a week a go if I wanted to spend the weekend camping. We both had the holiday off and thought it would be a good chance to ignore just about everything. Liz is a damn good sport when it comes to my idea of camping, this usually involves fewer people (not a single other person), more bugs and no bathrooms or running water, well there is running water but the trout live in it and it requires boiling or filtering to drink. We arrived Friday evening after getting a few things ready at home. To my dismay the spot I had initially wanted was taken forcing me to put the backup plan into play which was simple and required a small detour to a site downstream from my ideal location. I was pleased to get a spot, to camp in the woods with the bugs, the animals, the stream and the trout. No cell phone service signals our arrival.
Woke to make coffee almost cowboy style filtered by the napkins I had handy. Ran the dog hard through the woods and prepped breakfast, simple eggs and ham over toast made on the fire. Liz and I noticed a few Mayflies amongst a myriad of other insects around our camp, ticks and mosquitoes were present in large quantities. Saw many random specie of caddisflies throughout the day, something to think about with the occasional rise heard in the background as I lose yet another hand of Gin Rummy to Liz. With a good presentation I think this is the time to use that searching caddis pattern, change the size, mess with the color until the trout respond. On this stream all day long I could watch a row of upto a dozen smaller browns chase each other and prey as they sat within an inch of the surface, all day long.
I did no real fishing on Day 1, watched the crazy spinner swarm swell from ~10:30am-2:00pm with the highest density between 12noon and 2pm. Spinners began showing up dead around camp around 3pm but the trout didn’t seem to react to them as aggressively as I expected, few rose for these flies. I can’t explain that at all. I took a ton of photo’s to try and gather enough information to make a determination at home later, turns out that it was Leptophlephia nebulosa a lesser known Mayfly specie that I would imagine is limited to specific streams and it just so happened that I would be camping on a stream infested with them. Thanks to Jason at Troutnut.com and our local experts on the Coldwater Conservation forums for confirming my suspicions. The heat was on beginning before noon and lasting through 5pm, we were camping in a valley on State Forest Land that was very tight making the hours of direct sunlight shorter than other areas which was nice for us. To pass the time in the heat we played cards, played with the dog, cooled off in the stream, basically just existing in the woods. As the evening came we prepped fire for dinner and did up pork chops, potatoes and veggies. I played my mandolin and relaxed taking in the environment, ever aware of the group of brown trout I kept hearing slamming random bugs through the evening hours. This trip was a camping trip, not a fishing trip and I knew that going into it. The low gin clear water combined with very active trout in thick vegetation with the dog that loves to get in the stream and it was clear that fishing was going to be limited but I was good with that. Liz and I wound the day down by taking a walk and hiking a bit through the woods to wear the dog down more, only here in this environment does my dog tire before me. The last thing we did before bed was take a photo of the stars, not bad for the simple point and shoot Lumix TS1. The Starry Sky setting allowed me to take a 60 second exposure on my tri-pod, not bad at all.
Woke a bit later, slept in and enjoyed that. Warm in the sun with the girl and the dog. Got up and did the morning routine, got the fire going to make coffee, checked the fish out, basically my ideal morning…. After breakfast and a short walk we decided to head to a nearby town to grab a bit more ice for the cooler and more drinking water as we had plowed through the amount that I thought was going to be needed for the weekend. The dog drank most of the water, town wasn’t far away and it gave us a reason to take a nice drive through the Driftless area. We got back to camp with our supplies and sure enough the few Leptophlephia nebulosa flies I had seen when we left had swelled into another swarm that hovered over the stream until about 4pm again. Interesting that these flies mate during the hottest part of the day. Day 2 saw more of the same from us as well, more cards, pretty sure by Sunday afternoon Liz was up over a thousand points ahead of me in our on going Rummy battle. We enjoyed a few beers in the sun and let the dog do her thing, chase the ball, run down a butterfly or two. It was all fun and games until we heard the dog haul off at full speed through the creek, then the sound of yelping. Not sure what happened but I think my hound got on an otter, maybe a beaver but no harm came to her. I am pretty sure the yelping came out of complete excitement wanting to find her prey, when I came up on her she was scouring the banks trying to find whatever she was chasing with no regard for me what-so-ever.
After that we kept a slightly tighter eye on the dog, I didn’t need her getting hurt because she couldn’t control herself. I’m glad she was fine and hadn’t run into a skunk or another animal that might have made things miserable. After that Liz gave me the go ahead to take off without the dog upstream a ways to find a trout or two. I fished the P&P pattern that I’ve been use as of late and the brookies on this stream loved it. Granted they were all dinkers but a fish is a fish to this fisherman. I stayed out just long enough to swap to a SMB to tempt one larger brown who struck once but my anxiousness got the better of me and I set the hook too early, this is the release part without the catch in front of it. No sweat, and I headed back to camp. As night approched Sunday it became clear that rain was coming. Liz and I drove up the valley to get cell phone reception to check on the weather conditions for the area, sounded like rain starting at about 9pm and lasting sporadically through the evening. Once back at camp we decided to tear 90% of our stuff down and put it in the truck for an early departure in the morning. I hate packing up a soaking wet camp. Liz and I did well, started a decent fire before any rain hit and had everything put away except for the tent by 8pm on Sunday. We left the stream early Monday morning to head home and tend to the house, the cats and the garden. A good weekend spent on a beautiful Driftless Area trout stream.