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So It Begins

April 14, 2014

Nearly all anglers have their opening day rituals, and we’re no different. Some involve early mornings, others involve dry flies, and all involve an unrealistically high dose of expectations and optimism. Though it’s hardly a “ritual,” Braden and I fished a small stream (we’ll call it Frustration Creek) on Minnesota Trout Opener for the second year in a row. It’s a torturous little creek, flowing deep, weedy, and horribly narrow, even in spring floods. A seemingly impenetrable wall of brush chokes the banks of the stream, intimidating even the most gifted of fly casters. If it didn’t scare off most anglers, I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of innovative new casting maneuvers were invented from its soggy banks each year.

There's a trout stream in there somewhere...

There’s a trout stream in there somewhere…

 

The fish are another story if you can bear the brush. According to electroshocking surveys (a method I’ve been tempted to resort to on a few occasions), a decent number of browns prowl the crystal clear waters, including some real monsters. Like any good spring creek population, these fish have an attitude. Though you can hardly see past your hand once you’re in that jungle, the trout are quite skittish and spend most of their time buried in the weeds or sulking under one of the streams many undercuts. If you can somehow miraculously navigate the sticks and get a fly in front of a fish, it’s unlikely you’ll get any attention. Needless to say, the stream doesn’t see many fishermen.

Frustration Creek has seen its share of troubles. Before development crowded its banks and warmed its waters, the creek flowed free and pure and cold. Stocked browns and brookies, the favored sport fish of the era, haunted its waters and amused local anglers. But, like most streams in the Driftless, poor land management eventually caught up with the stream, and the trout disappeared. Just a few years ago, habitat improvements and renewed stocking, along with the fierce effort of local conservationists and anglers, managed to establish a small wild population of brown trout. The stream banks have since exploded, engulfing the stream in a veil of brush and thick grass and hiding its trout from all but the most dedicated of anglers.

I’m not sure what it is about the little creek, but for some reason we return each year. It’s certainly not for the number of trout to be caught, as we have never even hooked a fish, let alone caught one in that stretch. Perhaps its the challenge of overcoming the brush and cracking the code, though we have yet to be rewarded with a trout. The more I think about it, I realize that it’s not the challenge of the stream or the prospect of catching trout, but it’s the sense of hope embodied by the little creek that keeps pulling us back to its brushy banks – the hope of catching a trout in such an unlikely place, the hope of the small trout population’s survival, the hope of pulling a wild and wary brown from its cold waters. For all of fly fishing conveys a sense of hope that’s somewhat hard to find in the day-to-day grind, and that’s partly why I think it’s so captivating.

So late in the evening on Opening Day Braden and I wandered the brush-choked banks of Frustration Creek. The tree-to-successful cast ratio was unusually low, and the weather was surprisingly beautiful, so it was a good day to be on the water. We drifted nymphs and stripped streamers and bounced woolly buggers along the narrow channel, but nothing happened. Our Opening Day ritual – complete with a thorough skunking – was preserved.

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We returned the next evening, a bit earlier this time, with a renewed sense of hope. I’m honestly not sure what made us venture out in the awful weather, but we endured and scouted some new water. It was the kind of weather that you always hear is great for fishing – windy, cold, and plagued by a hard drizzle – but never really yields anything, leaving you with this weird feeling of disappointment and frustration and awe at your foolishness. Fortunately and much to our relief, it subsided in pretty short order, and it turned out to be a great day to take in the sights and smells of a trout stream on a cool spring evening.

We left a few flies in the bushes, scouted some new water, and actually had a bite while fishing the depths of a beaver pond, but the catching was not to be. Though my hands were numb by the end of the evening, it was amazing to actually fish a fly rod after the long, depressing depths of a Minnesota winter. The section of creek we fished is all of half a mile, though the beaver ponds and continuous windings of the currents add enough mysteries and secrets to last an entire season.

Mysteries and secrets that will only be uncovered through plenty of frustration. And a good dose of hope.

(Note: the challenges of Frustration Creek may have been slightly exaggerated due to the fishless nature of the trip. Interpret the stories of fly fishermen at your own discretion.)

Published our first article

I’m incredibly excited to announce the first article we’ve published on the Fishing Gear blog! Head over there and check it out for a few tips that will help you put more fish on the ice when the fishing gets tough…

Selecting Lures for Panfish and Trout Under the Ice – 3 “Triggers” that’ll help you put more slabs on the icetrigger ice flies FG post

If you’re not familiar with Fishing Gear, it’s a great site that showcases specialty hand-crafted fishing tackle from small, independent producers. They’ve put together a great selection of neat gear from sweet companies, including some hand-tied bugs.

We’re very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the site, and hopefully you’ll see a few more posts from us in the near future…

Tight lines and thanks for the support!

Conner

 

Door County 2011

Just got back from a week long trip to Door County, WI.  For the first four days we primitive camped way up on the tip of the peninsula. The salmon fishing was amazing, but we didn’t catch any smallmouth. I caught one small perch on the way there, but that was it. The smallies were just too deep to reach without a boat. We enjoyed some mountain biking and spectacular sunsets.

A cottage in the middle of the peninsula was our home for the rest of the trip. Our salmon fishing trip was on Thursday with Why Knot Charters. We awoke at “dark thirty” and began the fourty minute drive to the marina. By 4:15 we were on the boat. Our captain, Zach Burgess, set up about seven miles out. Just as he set the last rod the fish started hitting. I lost one, but Braden boated the first fish, a nice 10 lb. king. I was next, and caught one about the same size. For the next hour we were four for twelve, a very bad percentage. However, the fish started sticking and we landed most of the rest. I landed a 37″ king estimated at 15 pounds after an impressive battle, and Dad got a 39 incher. Braden and Noah each caught 4, a mix between kings and rainbows. Mom got two kings, and Dad also got two. I ended the day with three fish, two kings and a coho. A nice total of 15 fish. Our guide was great, and put us on lots of fish.

Sunrise

 

37 inches

Braden fighting a nice salmon

A monster!

 

Braden and a nice rainbow

Dad sticks a bow

Mom catches a big coho

A bit bigger than the last bow Noah caught

On the way home we stopped at a trout stream in Shawano County, WI. There was a lot of great habitat improvement and lots of willing brookies to slash at our hoppers. Unfortunately, we did not land any, but had lots of fun with the aggresive dry fly action. Everyone had lots of hook ups. Noah pulled one to the rocks, but it popped off just as he went to grab it. Hopper time is such an awesome time to trout fish. A few chubs also came to hand.This weekend we are headed up to our cabin. A camping/trout trip is also being planned for few weeks.

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