July 28, 2015

Telling A Tail

The phone rang at 7:15am.  He knew I left for work at 7:30am.  I knew it had to be John.  I was not disappointed.  His voice was excited and I knew what that meant.  It only meant one thing and one thing alone.  He had discovered a big trout and he wanted me to come along and net it and take photos.

He described the hole and how the water came down into the sweet stop.  He painted a picture with words how the banking of the bottom was.  Then there was the bath tub cut out in the bottom that the predators laid in waiting for their prey. It required a perfect cast into the fast water above and immediate mending of the line to get it where it needed to be.

I was off the next day and agreed to go with him.  I didn't get off that easily.  He had to tell me the tale about his discovery.  His friend Todd and he were on a popular stretch he watched Todd land a fair brown in the 15 inch range.  As Todd battled the trout a much larger trout came out of the depths of the hole and chased and nipped at the smaller trout's tail.  John had gotten a good look at it.  He estimated it at 24 inches and male.

We met at first light and off we walked to this hole where the incident occurred. He had tied on a size 6 hornberg.  There were split shots about 12 inches above the fly.  He also had two globs of bio strike indicator on his leader.  John had me stay back as to NOT spook his quarry.  It didn't take long and he was hooked up and yelling net.

I netted it and took a couple photos.  The trout was about 21-22 inches and I dogged John a little for stretching the trout's length.  John calmly told me that it was not the same trout.  I smiled and said yeah right.  He was emphatic and wanted to show me he was telling the truth.  We planned to meet the next morning on the same stretch.

John arrived at our parking spot the next morning but he had two other anglers with him.  John still had the same fly on from the day before.  He checked the knot and looked for line mars and he was ready. We split up and I took the younger angler and John went with the father.  John took off for that hole straight away.

It wasn't very long and I heard the wail in the distance.  It was John screaming for the net.  I galloped to the sound of his voice.  Yes I said galloped.  Running flat out in waders all decked out on unlevel ground is a recipe for quick a tumble.  A gimpy net person sucking air from running is a recipe for disaster.  Would you want to be the reason for your friend losing a massive trout?

There John was with his rod bent in half.  John's partner was getting in the water with his tiny net.  John barked to him and said to get my net.  I launched my net to him.  Two steps later he was up to his wader tops in the hole.  John told him to calm down and wait until the trout tired. Many big trout are lost because the net is inadequate or the net person goes for the trout before it is properly tired out. Head into the net first with the other side of the net slightly tipped up to stop a last ditch effort to escape.

Finally after an extended battle the trout went up on its side and this was the key to net the male brown.  John was yelling and saying some gibberish about it was the one and he threw his rod down and went to unhook the trout.

I have fished with many anglers through the years.  I tend to fish with the same ones over and over again.  They are the ones with exuberance and child like excitement each time they land a nice fish. They are the ones that have such big smiles on their faces that I think they are going to break their faces.  I chose the anglers that are most like me. 

After a couple photos and a little gloating he sent the trout on its way.  We fished the rest of the morning and made memories that will last a lifetime. A dozen years later and he still tells the story every time we meet up or he calls.

There is an art to telling a good fish tale.  The tale goes hand and hand with the fishing. Your story telling abilities grow as your angling abilities grow. Years of trout fishing and bending an elbow at the local gin mill afterwards and embellishing the story through the years fine tunes the art of telling a good tail.

Twelve years later and the story is still worth a listen.

John Coming Up In September

We talked on the phone last night.  He wanted to hit this hole above.  There were lots of memories here for him.

 I informed him that "were" was the proper tense.  The WDNR in its infinite wisdom had manicured his stream of dreams and it was now a mere shadow of its former self due to huge boulders and silting in of the once exceptional hole.

I assured him that there were still holes in the area that the "Trout Theme Park" folks had not ruined.  He will drive up in the middle of September.

 Another excellent hole gone because of the "TTP." 

You call it Habitat Improvement I call it ruining the hole.

July 25, 2015

Time Marches On

Today was a long day.

This morning we said good bye to my wife's grandmother. 

Pearl was 101 years old.

This evening I attended my 40 year class reunion.

Time waits for no one.

July 23, 2015

Go Big!!

The dog days of summer have finally passed.  It is September and you are happy and you can come out of the air conditioning. The stream temperatures have finally gone down.  It is okay again to start chasing trout.  The mosquitoes have subsided and you won't need a transfusion after you are done fishing.

You have one month left before season closes for the year.  Are you going to be satisfied to just chase fish sticks or have you finally kicked off those training wheels?  Are you ready to chase the alpha trout in your stream?
For years I have heard about the stages of a trout angler.  The fish stick crowd want you to "evolve" and grow as an angler and away for the need for big trout. I have never met a "Trout Hunter" that agrees with this psycho babble.  It is like telling a seasoned deer hunter they need to start chasing smaller deer and appreciate the outdoors more to truly be good at the sport and "evolve." These steps of catching fish and then many fish and then big fish are unnecessary.  My first trout of my life was a 23 3/4 inch brown.  I was 5 years old.  I require no evolution. I started in big trout mode and will hang up my rod when they are no longer my target.
September is the perfect month to become a "Trout Hunter."  Small stream trout are getting the spawn urge already.  It is a little early for actual spawning but when nature calls, the "bigs" in the stream lose some of their cautiousness. They leave their log jams and comfortable snag ridden surroundings they call home.
The predators are doing what nature tells them to do.  Typically a "big" is very solitary.  An extra large male brown will chase every other trout out of its domain.  The huge kypes they sport are perfect for nipping at a wayward underling invading their domain.  September is when their kypes get pronounced and almost distorted looking.

 The female browns that get "big" status typically get a little more of a pointed head but don't have the crazy looking weapon on their lower jaw. Female browns of the same age as male browns that have eaten the same over the years are usually bigger than males.  Nature made them this way due to them carrying the eggs.  I looked back on my log books for the last couple decades and have counted how many big browns over the years have been male versus female.  There was a three to one male versus female ratio.  Three times as many males were bigs.  The top end of the spectrum or biggest of the big trout were overwhelmingly females. 

The alphas typically feel the need to go upstream.  Upstream is colder typically and smaller.  They have an instinctual need to move.  I would like to be able to tell you exactly where they are laying on their way to their spawning grounds but I cannot.

September is a wild card month.  Trout can be laying almost anywhere. Your skills from regular season have been thrown out the window.  Trout typically shun sunlight because they have no eyelids and they feel vulnerable to predators out in the open.  I walked up on a shallow run two falls ago and there was a huge male brown taking a break from his upstream trek and blasted out of the shallows when it saw me.
 I have seen a 26 inch male brown tucked up under some weeds hanging over the water in 12 inches of water.  I was very startled when it blasted upstream out of its secret lay and its back came out of the water as it jetted upstream.  It just kept on going.  It plowed through the shallow water until it was out of sight.
Here are some of my tricks I use.  The trout are moving and aren't in their regular feed lanes.  Food is harder to come by.  A big meal is just what the crazed kyped crowd are looking for.

 Size up your offering.  Try a mouse pattern or a giant bunny leech.  Go one size up with your spinner. September is stick bait time.  Don't be bashful with that stick bait.  Throw a big one in there.  Vary your retrieves and stream directions. A downstream retrieve can get under those cut banks to where the monsters sporting those kypes hide. September is a good month for crawlers also.  Please fish them proactively so the mortality rate is lower.  Along with bigger flies and lures you need to use the appropriate gear to land those starving monsters.  Leave the ultra lights and anything under a 4 weight rod at home.  That is if you aren't currently evolving that is.
Those big trout have snouts almost made of stone.  Make sure you have sharpened your hooks before you go out.  No passive hook ups.  Set that hook like you mean it.  I have personally seen a monstrous brown hit right at shore and the angler setting the hook had too flimsy of a rod and there was no hook penetration. The angler was devastated and still remembers the incident like it just happened.