November 24, 2018

Dreaming

I am going to Cabelas today to buy 2 new reels for my new St. Croix rods.


Daiwa and Shimano are my two to pick from.

November 22, 2018

Shrine


It is at the headwaters of my favorite brook trout stream. I was shown the giant spring in the summer of 1962 by my dad. He did not know the tale of the cement spillway but he ventured to guess it was made to grind wheat or corn.


I could tell by the way my dad spoke about it that he held the spring in great regard. He had me feel the water cascading down the structure. It was so cold even during the warmest times of the year. My dad was not a religious man but this shrine to mother nature was to be held with reverence and admired.


Many years later I visited the spring in the winter time. My dad had long ago left the earth. I stood in front of the shrine in 5 degree weather and was awed at the ice sculptures the spring had created. I imagined the water to be painfully cold to the touch. It was the opposite that frigid day. It was warm in comparison to the outdoor bitter cold.

November 21, 2018

Trout Angling 101

Chasing the wily small stream brown trout requires much more thinking than the average spectator thinks. Bow hunting is the only outdoor pursuit that requires more planning and considerations.  There are way too many items to touch on when considering chasing trout to list here.  I will go over the Angling 101 basics first.

Trout are very temperature sensitive. The stretch that fishes well in May might be the bane of your outing in January.


The above photo was taken in July.  The weeds in the foreground make the area downstream almost unfishable.  The fence on the left demarks the waste of time zone after late June.  Walking through chest high weeds is like fishing and doing aerobics at the same time.  The edge of the stream is very hard to distinguish and landing a trout there is a real nightmare.  Look for livestock in this time of the year to manicure your stream for you and make your fishing experience more fruitful. Notice where I am standing for the photo?  No tall weeds.  The cows have done a good job for me.  Also look at the left bottom of the photo.  That is a tiny feeder stream.  Seems like a small insignificant feature but that small trickle is the best indicator of potential browns.  Trout need dissolved oxygen in the water to breath.  Small feeders are typically a constant temperature and have much more dissolved oxygen in the water in the dog days of summer.  Also browns like a stream temperature of around 60 degrees.  That tiny trickle is the key.  Browns could be laying almost anywhere in the above photo and active and want to bite.  100 yards away from the feeder stream that could not be said.


The photo above is the exact same area.  This photo was taken in early March.  The trout will not be everywhere in this photo.  The small feeder stream is still there.  It has a constant temperature because it is spring fed.  Springs in the drifless run between 40-42 degrees year round.  The trout will congregate downstream of the feeder in the slower water.  The logs in the water will be good current breaks.  The trout will be attracted to the current breaks.  They don't have to swim and fin to hold in place there.  Trout try to minimize their movement during cold weather because it requires burning calories to swim to hold n place.  They will come out of the shelter of their hides to take a large meal but will move back to their shelters straight way.  Small appetizers are ignored when the water is colder.  Trout are looking for a main course this time of year.  Reward versus energy expended is key during these days.


January opener above.  Your smaller feeder stream is the reason there is any open water during this time of the year.  Outdoor temperature is 20 degrees and water temperature in your photo is 38 degrees in the open water here.  Just upstream of this photo I can not take a stream temperature due to the stream being iced over.  Your feeder stream is a magnet to the browns of this stream in this time of the year.  I like to call it the Bahamas Effect.  Any current at all this time of the year is a no go.  They will NOT lay in current.  Their bodies can not process enough calories to allow it.  They will ignore tiny appetizers this time of year. Big lures/flies are the only thing they will even move for.  When I say move I mean slower than any other time of the year.  The bright sunlight in this photo also complicates the success of the angler.  Trout do not have eye lids and shun sunlight.  This time of the year slow is paramount. Deep slow water below feeders or "thermals" are the ticket.

November 19, 2018

Winter's Nightmares


Pike Tales



Flashbacks of old battles lost. 



It has been cold lately and I was housebound.  Cold weather causes my knees and back to ache.  Another winter is knocking loudly at my door and demanding to be let in. The forecast for Monday was 50 degrees with a 15 mph wind from the southwest.  Sounded like a trip to one of my favorite places on earth was in order.

I rolled in there at noon.  As I exited my vehicle the south wind said hello to me.  It felt so warm compared to the bone chilling winds as of late.  I smiled and my thoughts went back in time.  Many a day in my youth I spent exactly in this place.  I took my fishing gear down to the bench and sat there for a good long while.

The waves were caressing the shore and the warm south wind was telling me to sit and enjoy my surrounding before I began fishing.  I looked around and my thoughts went here there and everywhere.  I have logged many hours here throughout my life.  I had never seen it as I did this day.

My bench where I always sat was worn and some of the boards were loose and nails were sticking out.  I have an exact place I sit every time on the bench.  I open my tackle box and do a quick inventory of my lures.  I typically line up the first five lures I want to use.

I stare out at the water and I am a little boy of ten years old again. The blind potential of what lies beneath those waves keeps me coming back again and again.  I relive many battles with pike from forty years ago and last week. My most vivid memories are of the monsters lost.  This nightmare worthy clip often plays in a loop of the one that got away in my dreams.



Here is my nightmare for you to be a part of. It was a mid November day and I was about sixteen years old.  I had three daredevils with me and two leaders.  I promptly lost the two leaders and daredevils.  I tied the last small red and white daredevil on with no leader.  I was out of leaders and not ready to leave so I broke the first rule of pike fishing.  Always use a leader.  I fired in there and slowed down my retrieve before I pulled it out of the water. It happened so quickly I was not for sure what really happened.  The longest and widest pike I had ever seen hit the lure and turn on the surface and cut my line immediately.  It did something odd then.  It paused and shook its head and out flew the small daredevil.  It seemed like an eternity it laid there in the shallows not a rod’s length from me.  It slowly swam away.  I fished for four day straight morning and night for it.  My presence was noticed by another local and he went to chase my Moby Dick with a bobber and sucker and caught it after I gave up.  It was forty three inches and twenty four pounds.


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Last January I was at the dam in Gays Mills throwing around some spoons trying to get a pike to come and play and I saw the most awe inspiring thing I have ever seen while pike fishing.
The carp typically school up below the first dam on the Kickapoo River every winter.  This is right in my hometown of Gays Mills.  These schooling carp have an interesting secondary effect.  The smaller carp attract the big predators like pike.



Getting back to casting my little cleo for a wayward pike.  I was there about ten minutes.  The carp were schooled up in the open water just below the dam like usual.  There had to be 300-400 carp schooled there.  There was every size imaginable carp there.  I typically work the edges of the carp to get a pike to play.
Then it happened.  The water is typically really clear there and I can see down a good eight feet.  The carp all parted quickly.  It was like the Red Seas being parted in the bible.  The only difference was there was no bearded guy with a long staff parting the carp.  There was an enormous pike parting the school of carp with a smallish carp sideways in its mouth.  I swear I couple hear the jaws tune playing.  My biggest pike to date is 41 inches.  This pike had that one by about 6 inches or so.  It was so wide across the head I was left with my knees shaking.  I guess the monster at 48 inches and 30 pounds.  She did not come back that day. 


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2013 trout season was a major bust for me due to lack of mobility.  I had my worst big trout year of my life.  I attributed it to my bad left knee and back.  I decided that 2014 was not going to be that way.  I pestered my doctor and had back fusion surgery done on December 03, 2013.  I also have left knee surgery scheduled in early 2014.  I wanted to be ready for 2014 trout.
Late December came and my back was feeling better and I had the itch to fish.  My wife Barb tried to dissuade me from going down to the dam in Gays Mills.  She told me the snow was too deep and I might hurt my back or knee.  Me being the pigheaded person I am I did not listen.  Off we went to Gays Mills.
We parked at the west side of the river by the wall side.  The wall stood about 4.5 feet above the water and had some benches to sit on.  The only problems were that no one had been down there for 2 months and the benches had snow on them and the wall was covered with 14 inches of snow.
My wife Barb went down the steep hill first and blazed a trail with the gear.  She leaned the net and rod against the bench and went back and retrieved the ultra long handled net and placed it where I instructed her to.  She then went up the bank and slowly walked down the bank with me behind her.  She thought if I fell she could at least catch me before I ended up in the water.
We made it down the bank safe and sound.  She had stomped down the snow so I had a good casting area.  I hooked on my silver little cleo and assessed the situation.  The year before I had a behemoth pike cruising through the carp that school there make an appearance for me with a small carp in its mouth.  The memory was quite fresh in my mind.  The carp were schooled there just like the year before.  I smiled and let my first cast fly. No takers on first and second cast.  Then it happened. 
I hooked something on the third cast.  Sometimes when you cast along the carp you end up snagging a carp and this is what I thought I felt.  It was little and coming right in to shore without much effort.  It didn't fight much at all and came in straight so I then decided it was a small pike.
The fish had not surfaced and came in straight away.  My wife handed me my net and I one handed the rod with a short amount of line out and put the long handled net in the water.  The handle was fully extended and the giant net waited for the fish. My wife had never seen me do this before and she was watching really closely.  She was standing to the left of me and peering over the edge of the wall to see what I had hooked. The fish came to the surface with little effort directly alongside my net.  My wife shrieked "Oh My God!" when she saw what surfaced.  It was that gigantic pike from the season before.  All hell broke loose then.
All I can figure is the pike did not realize it was hooked and came to shore because it was hunting for a small carp to eat.  When it saw the net it went insane.  I was unprepared and not at full strength and caught with my pants down with the rod in one hand and the net in the other.
The biggest pike I had ever seen in my lifetime was on the end of my line with 3 feet of line out and it was freaking out.  It was not tired because of coming in without a battle so it stood up on its tail and made a mighty head shake and threw the lure.  I was standing there with my rod in one hand and the net in the other and a stunned look on my face. As we walked back up the bank my wife said something that made me laugh:  "Remind me to never wade in the Kickapoo ever again."  It brought a smile to my face but I was frowning inside because I was not prepared for the battle.  Next year I will be.