Things work out in interesting ways sometimes, had I not gone out with Carl two days prior I might have not fished the last day of the season which would have broken a three year tradition. Being busy with work and other obligations saw me missing hours of trout fishing until I got home. I tried to get ahold of Carl but he was busy catching trout in another valley void of cell reception and not wanting to miss out I took what I learned from Carl a couple days before and decided to go it alone. I took note of the type of water we fished, racked my brain for another location that I knew and took off as soon as I got home. The drive to the creek saw the sun setting in my rearview mirror, as the light grew dim my foot grew heavy and the car flew to the stream. My goal was to arrive with enough time to hike into the remote section I wanted to fish with plenty of sun to get a handle on the situation before the lights went out. I was fortunate and my lead foot got me to the creek with more than enough sunlight to accomplish my goals. Rigged at the car I was hiking by 7pm, the first section I wanted to fish required a decent hike through a very thickly wooded section of
forest. My only thought at the time was of the hike back through in the dead of night, part of me wanted the daylight to get in so I was forced to deal with the forest in the night, sort of a trial by fire, do or die, go or sit at home on your fat ass kind of deal.
I made it to my location with enough sunlight to sit and enjoy the scenery, eat a sandwich and drink a beer, things I rarely get to do while out fishing but I wasn’t fishing yet. I could have tied on a streamer and hit something near by but opted to sit and wait for the light to fade. Hunkered low with my eyes set on the first location I waited, waited and waited some more. Silent, my ears started picking up rustling in the distance as the light dimmed the noises got louder and closer yet I sat low in the tall weeds waiting until I couldn’t see my hands held in front of my face. When the time was right and I couldn’t wait any longer I made a series of casts to a smaller pool, afterwards I believe the current was too fast and my fly just couldn’t produce the wake followed by the pause to illicit a strike. I moved up and out to the next stretch, the bats were coming out in droves by this point. I could feel them running into my flyline while I was stripping my fly slowly back in. The second location turned out to be the best of the evening and I took over a dozen trout between 12-15inches in length over the course of the first hour fishing in the dark. The sky was clear and the
stars were out illuminating the rock wall I was casting to, this made the casting a bit easier but thinking to what Carl had said regarding the presence of light I was pleased to see so many trout attempt to take the mouse pattern.
By the time I had fished to the head of the pool I had moved into an area where the clear sky was no match for the valley walls, it was pitch black. I made two casts to what I thought was a downed tree trying not to get my fly hung up. On the second cast, the third pause I got what I came for… an explosion. The fish didn’t stay on long but it proved that this is going to be an effective way to find the larger trout. I wasn’t dissapointed that I missed the trout, it was the heart pounding strike that I was excited to get. I’ve read that big trout don’t eat the mice straight away, rather they grab their prey and play with it under the surface before eating it, some texts and articles say you should pause and not set
the hook for a bit. Try getting your brain to not signal your hands to do what they are trained to do when that big boy hits… it’s going to be damn hard to overcome that instant response.
After losing the big strike I decided it was time to make the trek back through the forest. I turned on my headlamp and looked to where I had to go, staring back at me were 8-10 sets of eyes clearly visible less than fifty yards in front of me. I had only one way I could go and that was through the forest, towards whatever it was that was out there with me. I grabbed another flashlight and made a bit of noise stumbling through the woods and never saw what was staring at me in the dark, I did however kick up a skunk who was not pleased to see me, thankfully he chose to spare me his
wrath and I escaped without having to ride home to explain to Liz why I couldn’t step inside the house.
After trudging through the forest I fished two more locations that gave up a handful of trout each, by this point the airtemp was dropping quickly and I almost had to keep moving to keep the cold away. I planned the entire evening around the last section of creek, I felt it offered the best potential to produce larger fish in larger numbers. Hiking out of the woods and rounding the bluff I saw the potential for disaster. I had not anticipated a security light illuminating the creek and specifically the stretch I wanted to finish on. At 10:30pm I began fishing the last section up, it wasn’t until I was in the only spot that wasn’t directly illuminated by the light that I was able to bring trout to surface. I landed the last fish of the season at ~10:50pm and fished until the 11pm cut off. Not a bad way to end my third full season, trying something new, learning a bit about myself and a new take on fly fishing the Driftless Area.