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2-14-04 - The day started out disappointing at the Lower Section of Swiss Valley Creek.
Interesting picture of the only really open water I found at Swiss Valley.
Moving on to Bailey's Ford, I found open water....
...and many scenic views, but NO FISH at Bailey's Ford!
You figure out how I got this closeup!
Spring Branch, just downstream from the Manchester Hatchery.
Jaw droppingly clear water left the abundant trout little place to hide.
Not exactly the huge fish I was hoping for, but a gorgeous Put & Grow Brown cristined the first rod I built for myself.
But then all hell broke loose and the Brookies turned on!
Holy Hot Orange Brook Trout #5! INSANE Brook Trout action, all in about 20 minutes, with many more lost, all from one hole!
After moving around to find some solutide I briefly tried upstream of the hatchery.
Scouting around to additional area streams produced nothing but more ice-covered creeks; this one is Fountain Springs!
Not a bad way to end the day...I still think the Brookies had this sunset beat!

2-14-04 - Valentine's Day (Brook Trout) Massacre

Waters Fished: Lower Swiss Valley, Bailey's Ford, Spring Branch, Fountain Springs, Twin Bridges, Little Turkey
Fish Caught: 6 for 7
Outing Date: 2-14-04
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: Around 25F
Water Temp: Swiss Valley = 32F, Bailey's Ford = 42F
Water Level: Normal
Water Color: Crystal Clear
Fish Species: Brown Trout, Brook Trout
Pattern Fished: Tucker Nymph, Griffith's Gnat, Micro Jig in Black & Yellow, MP's Survivor Brassie, MP's Survivor Stoplight Nymph
Pattern Color: as per pattern
Fishing Quality: MIXED

That's it, I've had enough of ice fishin, I'm done, I'm throwing in the towel. I cave, I give in. I can't build another rod. I can't tie another fly. I've had it with no fishing...I'm going to IOWA!

First a side note; no pictures but they are coming (and are stunning!)...see tomorrow's report for the reason why, and check back on this weekend's reports AFTER the 23rd of February.

I tried to get up early, but 8:00 am wasn't what I was hoping for! By 8:45 I was leaving Lake Geneva, heading west on 50 to eventually make my way to the as-of-yet unexplored trout waters of Southern Iowa. Well, OK, not Southern Iowa, but rather the southernmost counties that have trout water in them! Instead of something like 3:45 total driving to get to our usual places farther north, this drive timed out to be around 2:30 to Dubuque! By 11:30 I was on the first stream, Lower Swiss Valley.

The park was closed; walk-in only! Snow shoes would have been a welcomed addition to my fishing arsenal! I trudged through snow that was mostly mid-shin deep; looking to my left I see nothing but signs saying "Park Boundary, Do Not Enter, Private Land" or something to that effect. So I have to walk all the way in from the main road to the first park road crossing before I even get to water that isn't trespassing. Needless to say this Iowa Trout Stream, probably the closest to the house on Lake Como, is frozen over! I found one little stretch of open water going over the road crossing; the temp came out right at 32F (big surprise). I made a few drifts even though I knew it was futile.

My initial hopes dashed, I wasn't ready to give up. I knew that despite the cold weather, streams like Trout Run were most assuredly open, so I looked around for other likely spots. I was drawn to the Manchester Fish hatcheries in this area are always situated at springs which provide constant temperature doubt I'd find open water in this area.

My next stop was not at the hatchery, but actually downstream quite a bit, at Bailey's Ford. Surprise Surprise, another park closed for the season, Walk-In Only, and a downhill walk in (promising an uphill battle later).

Bailey's Ford was my first chance at open water for the day. Right off the bat this area reminded me of Roaring River Park in Southwest Missouri, but better in that there were some really scenic areas. I worked a decent distance upstream, casting every pool, never sighting or spooking a trout. From experience, I've found that not finding trout in Iowa is NOT a good sign, so I opted to hike back out and keep trying other rivers.

The next stop was upstream at Spring Branch; around 1:30 pm. Some folks were milling around in the Hatchery, but no one was on the water. I walked up to the stream, looked down, and dropped my jaw as a large, easily 20" trout spooked but casually slid under a rock. MANY MANY more trout maintained their lies! FINALLY, FISH!

I quickly got on the water and started working a pool that held at least a dozen didn't take long to realize that MOST of the fish I was looking at were not stocker rainbows, not stocker browns, but BROOKIES! Yes, there were browns lurking, at least a couple large ones were sighted. NONE took my fly. Almost ALL the trout gave my Tucker Nymph (size #18) a look. What was going on? Many repeated casts finally got an aggressive strike from one of the smallest trout in the pool...I *almost* landed what revealed itself to be a brookie!!! @#$%^^#$% - you should all know that I love brookies!

On the off chance that I had overpressured the pool, I quickly turned and plunked a cast at the extreme tail of a sooner had my nymph hit the water and a feisty brown whacked it! Gorgeous if not least I had eluded the skunk today!

I continued to move downstream, working the NUMEROUS undercut banks (man-made lunker structures). Talk about awesome habitat improvement; THIS is what MP's Tiger Trout Stream should be! Still no bites, only slight interest from each fish! It dawned on me; I had started out the day without adding tippet...specifically FLUOROCARBON tippet.

2 feet of Pline's Flourocoated 2lb. went onto the end of my line, then I tied in a #20 chartreuse midge, kinda like a brassie but basically just yellow dacron on a scud hook with black thread (one of my 3 WFF 2004 Survivor Swap patterns). As the dropper, I reattached my #18 Tucker Nymph.

Maybe a slight exaggeration, but not by much, 5 casts and 5 healthy stunning brook trout later I finally came out of the hypnotic state that was caused by landing the first of those 5 STUNNING brook trout! Definitely NOT stockers; 2 females followed by 3 males, all in spawning coloration! I MAY have been pulling a Jimmy Houston...who knows how much whooping and hollerin' I did...chalk that up to the surreal moment.

Simply a fantastic little bite there, all thanks to simply changing from mono to fluorocarbon the looks turned into bites. In under 20 minute I had landed 5 stunning brookies, larger than those at Paradise Springs. I knew then and there I'd have to title this report the Valentine's Day Brookie Massacre (although they were all released extremely quickly)...a massacre of catching, not killing.

Finally I looked upstream and noticed I had now been joined by two other anglers fishing the pool I had just hammered. I kinda decided they weren't going to have much luck unless they knew the Fluorocarbon tip...turns out they had never heard it, so the spool of line was tossed across stream and then back. They were going to head downstream (which looked really promising); I figured I was BLESSED already so I'd let them have at it...I'd go upstream (afterall, there's at least one huge brown and plenty of other trout up there).

Well, turns out that there was also another angler! Not wanting to disturb him, I opted to look further a follow from another small brown but the population of fish wasn't nearly as nice as downstream of the hatchery (the water wasn't as clear either...perhaps some cows had crossed further upstream?).

To me my day was already complete after this moment on Spring Branch. At that time I was considering this might make MP's Secret Stream #2, but then again with C&R only on all trout under 14", and artificial offerings only, to me this is more of a "Paradise Springs" situation - talk about it all you want, the fish will remain and only become wiser! BTW, all of the trout in Spring Branch are planted as small fingerlings, which means they are all stream reared (so in my eyes, pretty much wild trout, they look it!). So despite that 14" minimum size, I highly recommend a FULL catch and release ethic on this stream. Bring a Camera, get a replica from Rich in NY if you really catch a fish that's worthwhile. If you want trout to eat, or you like to fish big damaging lures (i.e. lots of treble hooks), just hop 3 minutes downstream to Bailey's Ford and harvest your bag limit of Stocker Rainbows! So for the sake of all your fellow anglers, I was kind enough to share this "secret spot" with you all, respect my wish that if you fish here, CPR ONLY! And for the record, I know someone somewhere a long time ago mentioned that I should check out this stream...I know it was a long time due, but thanks for that generous tip (even though by the time I had decided to fish this stream that tip was long gone from my conscious memory)!

I probably left Spring Branch around 3:00 PM; one interesting observation here was all of the trout that were warming themselves in the sunlight...I saw some brookies pushing 15" sitting in INCHES of water just warming themselves! Ya know, the water had to be at least 42F (Spring Branch joins up to make Bailey's Ford); I even made a mental note that I really should take a water temp reading, but never ended up doing so. I took this opportunity of a sunny day to keep stop was Fountain Springs (I figured "springs, heck, another patch of open water).

Disappointingly, Fountain Springs was frozen over! To make matters worse, the road was not maintained, I wasn't about to take the "Bitchin' Camaro" through shin deep snow to see if there were springs (and open water) down the road! Immediately adjacent (just a couple minutes of backtracking) lead me to Twin Bridges. Sadly, it was basically frozen over as well, and heck I couldn't even find access! My day was not going well.

I was somewhat torn...I could have called it a day, so on that notion I continued back towards Dubuque, stopping at the Little Turkey (also frozen over). The last stop on the list would've been Bankston. Time for a hard decision, go look at another stream that is probably also frozen over, or spend my remaining time back and Spring Branch? I opted for the later choice...

This time I started all the way up by the highway....fishin in a trout stream underneath a 4 lane highway suspended maybe 40 feet above is a neat experience. The trout were not as dense here, but I spooked up a few browns of respectable size. Too spooky for my tastes, I headed back downstream. Spent some time trying to get to the stream at another access, but when I was up to my knees in snow I decided the first, original location might be the best.

With maybe an hour to go, and a renewed optimism, I went back to work some of the pools I had tried before. By this time I was out of Tucker Nymphs (I only carry a couple a me the opportunity to try fishing OTHER flies). I tried a micro jig drifted and jigged by the undercuts that were holding some of the big trout I had spotted earlier...not a bit of interest came from any of the fish. So back to nymphing, this time tying on another Survivor Swap pattern; a red-bead-head nymph. NO LUCK AGAIN, not even LOOKS.

As the air made a decided turn towards "below freezing", I noticed a few risers. GRIFFITH'S GNAT time! Unfortunately, there was no interest in this as well....nor could I see any hatch coming off, or emergers coming by in the crystal clear water. The air temperature continued to plummet as the sun went down behind the line iced up, tip-top frozen, and I was no longer able to stay warm even when moving. OK, NOW it's time to call it a day!


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