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4-04-04 - Got the skunk off quickly wtih a fine Spring Branch Brookie.

Wow was the grass already green in IA! Compare this to the prior outings to Spring Branch back in February!

Spring Branch goes from meadow to woods and back to meadow/pasture.

This little Spring Branch Brown Trout puts me well on the way to yet another Triple Slam...
Unless they stock fingerlings down to 1", I think little guys like these are proof of successful natural reproduction on Spring Branch. But wait, this one almost looks like a TIGER TROUT?

I love the mature male Brook Trout that come out of Spring Branch!

Wow, another stunning Spring Branch RAINBOW Trout completes the IA Triple Slam!

Towards afternoon we wanted stockers for the creel so we headed to Richmond Springs in Backbone State Park.

We mostly found the small resident browns; deep pools such as this held a few larger trout, but we didn't get them!
Still looking for frying-pan sized stockers at Joy Springs.

Hiked and hiked and hiked but didn't sight the stockers.

Well, we DID get stockers, specifically the Put & GROW stockers. I probably landed 50 of these little guys.

FINALLY a "Big" trout....all of 8" or so. Possibly a hold-over put & grow as the coloration was better than the one stocker we had seen taken (typical silver mini-steelhead).

We fished till the bitter end of daylight before turning back and calling it a day.

4-04-04 - IOWA? WTF is MP doing in IOWA during the Steelhead runs?!

Waters Fished: Spring Branch, Richmond Springs, Joy Springs
Fish Caught: MANY MANY MANY, probably 50.
Outing Date: 4-4-04
Weather: Sunny, cloudy towards evening
Air Temp: Probably 50's
Water Temp: N/A - still no thermometer
Water Level: Normal
Water Color: pretty clear, slight stain
Fish Species: Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout
Pattern Fished: As if you had to ask - mostly the Tucker Nymph!
Pattern Color: See the Pattern
Fishing Quality: Honestly SLOW (yes, despite 50 landed....read why below!)

So what was MP doing fishin' in Iowa during our SE WI Steelhead Runs being at their PEAK? Avoiding crowds mostly...and as it turns out the fishin' wasn't that good on Sunday anyway!

Chromeseeker had the itch to go to Iowa for at least two weeks, and I had been trying to put it off as much as possible (yes, he could have gone without me, but what fun would that be?) PLUS, Jacek was going to come along for this outing. MP CS and J...gotta love the days where it's the three boys.

I really, really wanted to show Bart & Jacek Spring Branch....I have to thank Rcochran again for showing me around this stream a bit. So basically CS & J crashed at the LC house and we got a reasonable morning start...I figure the drive to Dubuque is really 2.5 hours (nice and CLOSE) vs. the 3.5 to PDC. All things considered, we probably got on the water at 11:00 AM, and surprisingly it wasn't really any more crowded than we had found it back in February!

I actually got on the water but didn't start fishing immediately, I was headed to a nice little honey hole to get the skunk off, and was going to share it with Bart & J to get some easy fish out of the way as well. However, they took one look at the stream and started fishing IMMEDIATELY, right at the parking lot. Even as I protested that they come with, they breezed right by me continuing to work their ways downstream FAST.

I got to run into some anglers from the Quad Cities...nice guys but I must appologize for forgetting their names. They were having marginal luck at the time. I promised I'd let them know what I could get to work.

On to the honey hol and I got my skunk off and slowly worked my way down. I came back to give the Quad City Group some info on my setup, including the two flies that took fish (Griffith's Gnat and a Tucker Nymph, surprise surprise) as well as a length of 2lb. Pline Flourocoated (my tippet of choice in Iowa).

As I continued downstream I ran into a very friendly angler better known as Jeff Morris of Fin & Feather Fly Shop (I think the Cedar Rapids Location). He informed me that my buddies had blown by and were already way downstream...Jeff and I were headed that way so we walked & talked. We also ran into the very local angler who's nickname was "Doc" (I think)...I guess Doc gets to fish Spring Branch just about every day?!?! LUCKY LUCKY MAN.

What I honestly think was most fascinating about the several conversations Jeff & I had throughout the day was his knowledge of the stream over a significant period of time...at least 10-20 years. He relayed the many changes the stream had undergone, much to do with sand showing up out of nowhere, fence changes, you name it...Jeff knows the area well. He filled me in on some of the specific hatches I should be watching for on Spring Branch (the locals were hopeful for a caddis hatch that day). We also talked at some length about Smallmouth fishing in the area.

And you think you were the only one...apparently smallmouth fishin' on the fly rod in a stream is gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds; I've already had SEVERAL offers to go on trips with folks who target them during the summer months. More than likely you WILL see a smallmouth outing somewhere in 2004...these guys who fish them seem to enjoy them even more than trout!

So Jeff continued to head downstream while I stopped to work some fish in the slow water...I also focused some time in the fast pockets, back eddies, undercuts and floating debris, but nothing worked in the sunlit river at high-noon. Jeff came back up and told me that CS & J. were continuing to tear downriver at a breakneck speed...Jeff figures J. passed up a good dozen lunkers.

So I got to spend some more time with Jeff as we headed up; I stopped to fish some fast water with a deep plunge and hooked up a few times, but nothing came to shore. Working upstream I fished a section that held a couple actively feeding fish...a well placed cast produced a strike that didn't last; another toss and whammo, fish landed.

I took several more fish as I worked my way up to Jeff, who was now fishing the lot. Landed my brown for the day, small but colorful. While stalking trout, I noticed a few small fish in a shallow puddle connected to the river...upon closer inspection they were trout ranging from 1-4" in size! I need to do some comparisons, but most looked like browns. A couple of the larger ones had somewhat irregular markings that drew me to recall the pictures of young TIGER TROUT I had seen online. I did NOT collect any of these fish (it would have been illegal) but did get a picture or two (see above right). I admit, it's probably not a Tiger Trout, but I can dream, right?

Took a few more brookies on the Tucker Nymph...I guess it's just that irresistable as a #18! I still didn't have my rainbow. Well I got lucky in some respects, actually landed my rainbow in the same spot where I got my last one the trip before. I think I'm going to continue to hit this spot to seal my triple slams...heck maybe I'll dub it "Rainbow Run".

Finally Bart & J came back up, they had landed a few fish each and both had also completed Triple Slams! 3 Triple Slams in a day...what do we call it? Pure Iowa Trout Heaven!

It was time to fill our creels, so we headed to Richmond Springs. Hatchery Stocking Reports posted at the Machester facility lead us to believe we should have no problems in finding fish...all the area streams had been stocked in anticipation of the first "stocked" weekend for 2004.

Richmond was by all accounts a bust. We had NO PROBLEM finding trout, specifically the resident wild browns that live in the park. However, the stocker 'bows were scarce...we may have found a few in a deep pool but they were anything BUT willing biters. All I managed to show for my efforts was another SMALL brown.

After wasting precious daylight, we headed to Joy Springs. Bart and I had found a hole that was loaded with stockers on our first trip, so we immediately headed back there. Things were looking good...as we hiked back I pointed out the fresh tire-marks in the grass that could only have come from a stocking truck.

We proceeded to slam the rainbows.....not landing one over 6"! By my guess they had definitely been stocking...the PUT & GROW fingerlings. Personally, I don't consider that to be the first "Put & Take" stocking that's supposed to happen in April.

As we moved through Joy Springs, I noticed another angler who had ONE silver stocker landed and creeled...we got to talk to him later and I think he may have landed one or two others, if that. It sounded like my theory was correct; the Put & GROW stocking had been done but little if any Put & TAKE stockers had been planted this first weekend in April.

I continued to work upstream...most of Joy Springs is easily sightable and the holes are not hard to find....but in this case they only held small fingerlings, the largest maybe topping 7". Finally I found a pool of actively feeding fish...by this point I had already landed and released a good 25-30 little rainbows. Pretty, small, just barely fun on a 2 wt., and rather annoying since I was looking for a little trout dinner.

I cast and cast to the actively feeding fish, and landed 5" rainbow after 6" rainbow after 5" rainbow. No lies, I easily had a 50 trout day at this point but what was the point...I didn't come to Iowa to damage fingerlings, I was out for dinner! Frustrated but willing to submit to only catching more 5-6" rainbows, I continued casting in the fading light to this dark pool that hid the fish from view.

I didn't recall the finglerlings fighting this hard....WAIT a MINUTE...that's not a fingerling! Phew...a rainbow in the 8-9" range. Never thought I'd be so happy to catch what would be considered a DINKY stocker, but then again looking back I'm not sure this rainbow was a stocker...more likely a Put & Grow that had made it. I did creel this fish; it was delicious. Flesh was only slightly pink...maybe a holdover Put & TAKE from the end of the 2003 stocking season. Well...I was hoping to eat more than one small trout, but it will do as a good start for 2004!

  MP 

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