Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Evening

Some nights are just right for golden tails and screaming reels.  And this particular evening, saw my buddy's first fly-caught carp.  As day evening drew on, we found our selves very, content.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A jaunt out west

There may be nothing like the feeling of heading west and spending some time on the road, though right now I'd argue that getting home might be a close second.  It was a mixed bag of dedicated fishing days, and time spent with family on the 60 Bar Ranch.  There was food, fun, and even some fire.  And of course, there were fish.

Days One and Two

I made what I realized in retrospect was my first dedicated carp trip.  I stopped out in the southern Dakota to visit my buddy Dan, where we both got a couple of firsts.  For Dan it was his first mirror (on a #16 Adams, no less).  For me it was a gar, and seeing my backing.  Even I find it hard to believe that until this last week I still hadn't ever seen my backing, given a multitude of carp, along with tangles with one king and a steelhead.  Maybe I gave my other fish a bit more wood, or maybe these SD carp just had a bit more in 'em.  To quote the great Eddy Griswold, "I dunno."

trying my best not to get garmor (gar + armor) stuck in my hands

Day Three

The next night, full day, and following night were spent on the 60 Bar Ranch where my cousin and her husband's family ranch.  I finally saw a bit more of the place than I was able to the last time I was out (which was when they were getting married).  The tour, however, was cut short for Merritt (her husband), Kevin (her dad), and me after a phone call saying there had been a bit of a grass fire outside of their house.  We hurried back to find the neighbors putting out the last of it.  We spent a bit of time after that, however, stamping out smoldering roots and putting dirt on stuff.

Things went well otherwise, and we spent some great time with in-laws that we hadn't gotten much else of a chance to talk with, and saw some beautiful country.  The land they live on is at the very westernmost end of what might still be called the Black Hills, and is, in the older and more potent meaning of the word, awesome.

Days Four and Five

The next two days were spent in the Bighorn Mountains fishing mountain meadows and pocket water for smallish fish.  The upside here was numbers, scenery, and fishing with family.  The Bighorns are essentially where I learned how to fly fish.  Granted I first tried it out here in Wisconsin, but trips out west were where I started to hone my skills, and it wasn't till later that I finally gave in and forced myself to figure out how to fish the streams around here (it's no walk in the park!).  It's weird and beautiful going full circle.

pocket water rainbows

Cousin's first trout on a fly!

Days Six and Seven

Day six was all about getting out and away.  The Bighorns are great, and the fishing was good, but there were far more people than I remember.  Too many ATVs and people in a hurry.  I'd done a bit of reading as well as talked to a friend about a canyon that is, more or less, in the middle of nowhere.  It was out of the way, and the hike was steep enough to turn my dad around, but the fishing was worth it.  After the stream we fished in the Bighorns I was ready for some weight at the end of my line.  Despite a bit warmer stream temps than expected, I did manage to find bigger fish.  I was expecting to fish dries (that's what reading does for you, build expectations), but I realized pretty quickly that nymphing was going to be the way to go about things.  A relatively short run that was the product of two riffles converging together yielded my first fish of the day.  It went airborne almost immediately, leaving no doubt about the fact that I had a fine fish on the end of my line.

With one fish under my belt I made my way upstream, focusing on the deeper runs and pools, though I did spook a couple of fish out of medium-sized riffles.

I only had a couple of hours since my parents were waiting at the top of the canyon for me, so it was awfully hard to maximize the time that my line spent in the water, while also trying to soak in the immense beauty of the canyon given such a short window of time.  All I could do was try, and I can't wait to pay this gem another visit.

Day seven was supposed to be spent in the canyon, but given the fear of heights that apparently runs in the family (myself excepted, I think), we decided to do some casual sight-seeing.  A few museums, a buffalo jump, of course Wall Drug, and the drive home.  I always love leaving my state, but I don't think it's ever as much as I love coming back.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Smallie land

"Folks, we are bound by law to notify you that we are registered sex offenders.  You must maintain a distance of one hundred feet from us at all times," is what we desperately wanted to shout at the group of rafters we saw making their way down river towards us.  This was the third group we'd seen come down river since we started fishing.  I suppose fishing even on the Monday following the fourth of July can yield some high river traffic when it's in the mid-seventies and sunny.  The first couple of miles of our float aren't normally high-producing, and this was especially true after thirty odd people went splashing and paddling (spladdling?) through it before us.  There had already been probably ten that floated past us before the group of middle-school rafters came cruising downstream.  We had them within one hundred yards behind us for probably a half-hour before they finally got even with us and made their way past.

It was then, as happens so often from day to day, that we were faced with the decision to either get frustrated, or to not take ourselves too seriously that day.  We opted for the latter, thankfully, and decided to take a break and practice our two-handed casting.  My casting groove wasn't exactly rocking, so it didn't immediately allay all frustration, but Mike's snap-t really came along.

Besides excess traffic on the water, the average fish size definitely goes down as the summer wears on and water levels drop.  Nonetheless, it's easy to see how the fish get so big up here.  Everything we caught, from eight-inchers on up, was not wanting for food.  Every fish was full-bellied and tight-skinned.  I'm starting to think that the vertical bars on adult smallmouth are just stretch marks.

Despite the traffic on the front half of the float, our first day really didn't end up too bad.  The fishing was a bit sub-par, but great fish were caught, and we ended the day well.

Day two, on the other hand, was about twenty degrees cooler and a bit rainy, which really seemed to boost the Walter bite.  Mike practiced five year-old pose.

We still caught a decent number of smallies, but the bite was most definitely off, and joy was found in those other things we do at times on the river - like grilling a few burgers and throwing some good, sharp cheddar on top.