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7-4-03 - We woke up to the sound of Combines driving down the highway in anticipation of the Combine-Demolition-Derby...only in Iowa!
Your first look at Coldwater Creek, northwest of Decora.
In some spots Coldwater looks small.
Bart hooked up with the first fish of the trip on Coldwater...a sign of things to come.
There are SEVERAL deeper holes which hold fish just a short walk from where we dropped in. Area anglers told us it only gets BETTER as you walk farther!
My first Coldwater Stocker Bow.
#2
#3 was exceptionally nice...excellent markings on this fish!
#4
But then Bart comes walking downstream and pulls THIS out of his creel! Mother of all rainbows (yes, it was female).
Wow. Like a Steelhead. One of the broodstocks I told you they stock in past reports.
Pine Creek runs through the forest in most places...it's very small.
The deepest water we found was right by the bridge...no fish though!
Back on the North Bear for some afternoon fishin'.
HARUMPH! This is the even BIGGER BOW that I had on...and lost. The colors are slightly out of whack 'cause I had to play with the colors and contrast to bring out the fish in the picture.
Onward to the French. We hit the upper stretches of the "Lower French Creek"...it's a hike to get to good water.
Of course, some folks just don't want to SHARE the good pools.
Turned out I was standing on this guys LODGE...my bad.
One last view at some of the fast water on French Creek.

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 fish though.

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 RAINBOW!

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 stream.

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 later.

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.

  MP 

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