7-4-03 - Independence Weekend in Iowa, Part I
Waters Fished: Coldwater Creek, Pine Creek, North
Bear Creek, Lower French Creek
Fish Caught: 6
Outing Date: 7-4-03
Weather: Occasional rain in the morning, sunny most of the day
Air Temp: up in the 80's?
Water Temp: Coldwater -> 62F, Pine Creek -> 70F, North Bear
70F, Lower French -> 58F.
Water Level: Overall I'd say just a touch low?
Water Color: Pretty clear to totally clear on all streams
Fish Species: Browns, Brookies and Rainbows
Pattern Fished: Mostly assorted Bead Head Nymph Patterns
Pattern Color: Assorted, Grayish brown seemed to be the best but
the Pink Squirrels did well too.
Fishing Quality: A good Iowa day overall
Well, it's a 281 mile drive from my office to
the Sportsman's Motel in Dorchester and I made fair time, arriving
about 1:00 am. I met up with Bart & M along the way, and in
the morning we awoke to the sound of combines driving up 76 in a
precursor to the "Combine Demolition Derby", part of the
many Fourth of July festivities planned that day. Thankfully, while
most area residents would be celebrating, we'd be fishing, and hopefully
we'd have the rivers all to ourselves!
The plan for the three day weekend was to head
west on Day 1, stay centered on Day 2, and head east on Day 3 which
put us almost an hour closer to home. Being Day 1 we made the drive
west to Coldwater Creek (NW of Decora).
We arrived at Coldwater Creek around 11:00 am and
weren't all that surprised that we ran into a couple other anglers.
At first the stream didn't seem very promising...mostly smaller
with a lot of bends and really small deep holes. Bart and M headed
upstream while I got set up and worked the first pool I found. Something
was hitting the surface on the far side...didn't look like a big
As I worked up Bart managed his first hookup of
the day; meanwhile I was in a hole below and had spotted something
large that just wasn't interested in biting...perhaps I had spooked
him. So I leapfrogged upstream past Bart and another angler and
came to a deeper river crossing. I had three options..double back,
go up the side with no trail, or wet wade across.
As I waded out I realized I should stop right where
I was...I was at the head of a nice long pool! I had started the
weekend with some newly devised Pink Squirrels and Pheasant Tail
Nymphs, so the PT went on the bottom of a dual rig.
Cast to the middle section of the pool and swinging
got my first hit...fish off. On the follow up cast I managed my
first rainbow. A couple more casts and #2 came along. Shortly thereafter
a really NICE bow showed up! Each time I simply had to walk the
fish out of the crossing, shoot it, and creel it for dinner. Talk
about fun fishing.
M showed up and wasn't having any luck. By this
time I was something like 3/5, and I'll tell you now that it's no
fun if the people you're out with aren't catching fish while you're
slammin' them. So the wind picked up and it started to drizzle;
I convinced M to wade out and got her to roll cast with some practice
(she's still new to the fly rod). No room for a back cast where
we were. While teaching her I hooked into a few more fish...actually
could have landed them but I really was focusing on teaching M;
I did my best to downplay the fact that my hits were coming only
a few feet away from where she was casting. Basically we're in the
same spot, casting the same hole, with the same fly, and I'm getting
all the hits. Obviously I was doing something subconsciously that
I wasn't able to convey (I think it was a subtle strip I was adding
to the swing)...anyways catching fish 3 feet away from her wasn't
helping her have a good start so I let her have the pool and went
back for that larger one I had seen earlier.
So I went back and got #4 on the Pink Squirrel.
I'd say 1/2 the hits were on the Pink, and after I lost my PT Nymph
in a grass accident the other 1/2 came on the "Tucker Nymph",
basically a soft hackle dubbed with gray underfur from my cat, Tucker.
Some conversations with resident anglers filled
me on Coldwater...there's a lot of good river upstream from the
first crossing. Excellent. That news officially put Coldwater on
my "revisit" list. I opted to try going up there, but
we also had many other places to go that day.
So by this time it's 1:00 pm and I've gone 4/10;
I'm walking upstream in the hopes of finding Bart to see what he
wants to do, and here he comes with M walking downstream looking
for me. M blurts out "Matt you have to see this...you're not
going to believe it..". I'm like "see what?"
Bart opens up his creel...I see nothing but the
standard stocker rainbow fair at first. He digs in and hefts up
one HUGE ASS RAINBOW. HOLY COW, it's a BROODSTOCKER! TOTALLY SWEET
FISH. Bart says she didn't fight too well 'cause she rolled and
got her head wrapped up in the line. I say who cares...thats a HUGE
The look on Bart's face in the picture below shows
that he's in total agreement. I shot a LOT of pictures on this one...that's
a fish to immortalize (at least until you do even better). By my
estimation from his rod in the pic this is about a 18"+ bow...easily
6-7 lbs 'cause it was FAT FAT FAT. The fillets that came from this
fish were HUGE...one was almost enough to fill Bart up (and he has
a HUGE appetite).
Next on the list we opted for Pine Creek (NOT to
be confused with South Pine)...but when we got there it seemed rather
small, at least and the lower end where we dropped in. The Iowa
DNR website kinda pumps this up as a stream where you can get away
from it all and it doesn't get a lot of pressure. I will now tell
you why. The whole thing IS rather small. We followed the stocking
road through 4 or 5 fields...never saw any good holes on our short
excursions off the path, through the forest and back again. I did
sight a brown and briefly tried for it; there was some habitat improvements
on this stream, but overall it's just too small. Not to mention
too warm; try 70F. Bart and I took one last look by the bridge (where
there is often deeper water) and yes, there was deeper water, but
there weren't any fish. We toyed with the idea of possibly trying
another access, but we were hot and didn't expect to find "bigger
river" by going "upstream", so we looked for another
I thought through my head, figured where we were close too, and suggested
maybe we try North Bear. While I had been there before (and therefore
was looking for new water) Bart hadn't, and I knew it should be decent
fishing, so I figured a redo couldn't hurt.
We got to the North Bear at 3:30; the original
plan was to fish until 5:30 and meet back at the cars. I walked
Bart and M in to some of the better holes I had seen on my past
visit and I moved upstream.
I was going to work the bend where I had taken
a rainbow last time in the hopes of finding more fish, but I also
wanted to try a spot (if it was still there) which I had given to
Greg on our last outing. Well, that spot was closer so I headed
there first; some of the spots where Tim and Brennon had fished
were now too overgrown.
Anyways, I get to Greg's spot and look out into
the river and DROP MY GEAR. HOLY SH*T! That rainbow is like TWICE
the size of the fata$$ Bart landed on Coldwater. At first I thought
I spooked it as it was running around in this little hole looking
for a way to get out..eventually it slipped away to the far bank;
I studied the riffle intently 'cause I figured I'd notice it go
over if it chose to go downstream there!
I started casting and in no time landed 2 rainbows.
Each time they were played just enough to get them into the net
and each time they went straight in the creel; I was not about to
put uppity spooked rainbows back into the water with that monster!
By this time I was at my bag limit, so a different approach was
used; I could see the fish take on most occasions; instead of setting
the hook I waited for the fish to spit and cast again. Sometimes
this went quickly, but other times the fish literally took 10-20
seconds to jiggle the fly loose.
By this time I had seen the monster come in and
out of the pool several times...he wasn't spooked and never had
been; he was simply chasing all the little fish around and out of
his hole. At best I got very uninterested looks at what I had been
tossing...smaller wasn't working...time for bigger.
I was on a very limited selection as I had left
most of my flies in the car! My best hope was the largest flies
I had in the box, a huge size 8 Bead Head Pheasant Tail or a size
8 Soft Hackle with cream/pink dubbing. I tried the pheasant tail
first 'cause that's what had been working earlier in the day, but
that got no interest. After several casts I took the time to retie
and added on the Bead Head Soft Hackle.
That's what did it. Each cast got more and more
interest, until finally he turned his head to the right and opened
up that huge mouth and CRUSHED the fly. Wow! Talk about a fight.
Imagine fishing a 10 lb steelhead on a 4 wt. with 7x tippet! That's
what I was doing here folks!
You've heard me say it before, but I swear this
time all hell broke loose! This guy was on my drag in no time and
was heading downstream for a downed tree. I had to do something;
I stepped forward and slid 2 feet down into the mud below. Whoa...thank
GOD the fish was still on my line. Alternating the angle of pressure
by changing rod positions got him to turn..and now he's coming towards
me. Thank GOD for large arbor reels.
So he's basically swimming in circles around me..upstream,
a counter clockwise turn to the left, downstream to the shallow
riffles, back up again...by this time I'm standing on a rock in
the middle of the stream and whirling around to follow this monster
of a rainbow. Finally he settled in close to me and as I went down
with the net, he pulled the death roll. Not his death mind you,
the death of the battle. With a simple roll onto his side the fly
came free and he was off the line. You've never heard a more disruptive
string of explicatives in the middle of nowhere. And to top it off,
he's not even really SPOOKED. He just sat there in front of me as
if nothing had happened...ok maybe he was really tired but man,
I'd still swim away from the guy who tried to catch me. I got NUMEROUS
pictures of this guy so that when you all say "Yeah Right"
I can just point to the picture.
Well, I made it out, let him settle down and tried
again, but no such luck. It was after 5:30 by the time I gave up
and I walked down to Bart, who had done well. In fact, I think he
managed the TRIPLE SLAM! ACK!
He's lands the biggest fish of the day AND triple slams?!?!? The
student has become the master ;)
I was done fishing the big guy, but maybe Bart
had something else to offer it??? I walked Bart up and showed him
the fish, wished him luck and told them I'd meet them by the bridge
Downstream I ran into some guys who were fishing
the flats from the bank. I let them know about the big one, they
knew the spot so I simply told them Bart was up on him now, and
if he didn't get it then it would probably still be there towards
dusk, and they should try then (a little note, at that time I thought
we weren't coming back to the Bear later in our trip...hopefully
these guys got the big one). And that parenthetical remark gives
away the fact that Bart did NOT get the big one. Oh well.
I know that Bart has an appreciation for wild fish,
so I thought the French would be a fun place for him to end the
evening. Plus I wanted to hit the far upper stretches of the Upper
French for brookies (if this is even allowed, I don't know???).
Well, we all hiked in on the upper stretches of the Lower French
and went back considerably farther than I had last time. I found
the first great hole and was just getting ready to fish. Bart and
M had gone further downstream.
Something in the water moved. As my eyes adjusted
I noticed TONS of browns in the pool; a couple easily 20"!
SWEET! This was going to take a lot of effort 'cause the positioning
wasn't right, the fish were feeding on the surface but without gusto,
and trees overhung the entire pool. But then something REALLY BIG
in the water moved..and surfaced. CRAP! A FRIGGIN HUGE BEAVER!
I tried, I REALLY tried to scare him out of the
hole. I whooped, chirped, growled, you name it. Most of it didn't
phase him, and some of it even got his attention and curiosity and
brought him in CLOSER. He went upstream and came back dragging a
HUGE branch. Ok, there was no way the fish weren't spooked by the
branch, even if they WERE used to the beaver. Obviously me and the
French were not meant to be; this was the beaver's hole. And then,
as I walked away and looked back, I realized why he wouldn't budge...I
was standing on his LODGE!
So I went back to the car and started looking at
maps trying to figure out where to hit the upper stretches of French
Creek where the brookies are...and then I realized that the time
I had left wouldn't allow for it EVEN IF I could find access. Much
of the Upper French was bordered by public hunting land, so that
wasn't the real issue. The issue was finding the fish barrier, going
above it, and from the looks of it I wouldn't have gotten there
before dark. DARN!
So I finished up my day kinda looking around the
very top of the Lower French...trying some of the flats and riffles
and even a lunker structure I came across, but didn't end up catching
anything but trees and prairie grass! Bart and M showed up around
9:30 appearing out of the dark, the only light being provided by
a sliver moon and fireflies. Although I was skunked on the French,
I have to say this was shaping up to be a great trip.