5-02-04 - Lower Shore Mayhem
Waters Fished: Sucker Creek, Lester River
Fish Caught: 2/6
Outing Date: 5-02-04
Weather: Sun all day
Air Temp: COLD in the AM, nice and probably 50's by mid-afternoon
Water Temp: didn't take them
Water Level: low?
Water Color: clear & stained
Fish Species: Kamloops Rainbow Trout & Manistee Steelhead (stocked
Pattern Fished: eggs & nymphs
Pattern Color: successful patterns were green or pink
Fishing Quality: declining
So basically Brennon was supposed to ditch out
on Sunday's fishing, but I put it to him like this on Saturday night;
you're going to drive home, go to bed, what time are you going to
get up on Sunday...noon? two? You might as well stay with us, fish
in the morning and head back...you won't lose any work time on Sunday!
Twist his arm, and the three of us catch dinner
at Perkins and a room at the Motel 6 for a whopping $52 for 3! We
got to bed early, and got a 6:00 AM wakeup call...by 7:00 we were
at the water. A quick stop at Lester had us convinced that not much
was going on there, so we headed Northeast to Sucker Creek.
I was kinda spent...still tired, and honestly I
was pretty much out of flies. I knew I wanted to try hot-pink (aka.
Cerise or Magenta), so while Brennon and Randy went down to the
lower stretches I stayed back and did some hand tying with what
little materials I had...red thread, salmon hooks, a few red poms
and some glo bug yarn I keep stashed in my vest.
After about an hour and a dozen or more flies,
I finally felt awake enough and ready to hit the streams...I came
down to find B & Randy piled up on a ton of fish...I ended up
heading downstream a bit to a deep run...didn't see many fish so
I continued down to the last leg of the Sucker between the Flats
and the Lake. It was here I found my own group of fish to work.
At first things were strange, fish were moving
around a lot, lots of sparring going on, but eventually the fish
settled long enough for me to target individuals. In no time I had
lost my first fair...just a few headshakes was all it took to throw
my fly. Then it happened, I tied into a pig and in now time I was
dragged out to sea.
I'm all about making sure to capitalize on an opportunity,
so I let this guy sit on the drag and run as far as he wanted...almost
thought I'd see my backing on this one but eventually, through patience,
I landed a stunning late run buck looper. Glad to get the skunk
out of the way, I went back for seconds.
No problem; upstream Randy had been hooking up
rather consistently on small nymphs, so I did the Tucker / Hare's
Ear challenge, Tucker as the dropper. First drift through a deep
pocket an unseen fish HAMMERED my rig, I mean a total THUMP at the
end of my line. The fight was brief as this fish was definitely
dropping back...ended up landing a vibrant yet totally beat up male
Kamloops, maybe 1/2 the size of my first, about 4lbs at best.
It was time to see how Randy and Brennon were doing,
and Randy was the next on...a good long fight but he ended with
a pretty fresh fish. Randy beats the skunk again today with a good
6 lb. hen looper that was dropping eggs all over the place.
I tried a bit longer and landed a fouled fish that
turned out to be a stocked steelhead, didn't look any different
really so without much ceremony the fish was put right back in and
it dashed away, no need for reviving.
All of this probably happened in the first hour
I was on the river; by 9:00 AM or so things slowed down as the fish
moved into deeper holding spots. Brennon and Randy continued to
hammer away at sightable fish, both getting the occasional chase
but few strikes. I hooked up foul on something and snapped it off..
Most of the morning went slow, a father and son
were out and eager to get fish; after watching this kid try some
huge monstrous fly/yarn/thing I just couldn't bear it any longer...he
was asking "how are you guys catching them"...I was out
of Tucker Nymphs so I handed him a Hare's Ear.
His first hookup he totally horsed it and his line
shot back at him...we're all shouting "don't horse it, don't
horse it!". I think he managed to untangle himself in about
20 minutes and was back at it again...not sure if he was still using
the Hare's Ear but he was paying closer attention to the drift and
such as I filled him in on why we were using the fly gear, how it
would give him a better drift than trying to tightline the nymph
with a dime sized split-shot.
Somehow the mentoring from Randy and myself paid
off as he totally NAILED another one...it went screaming downstream
and he pointed the rod straight down....no no no..rod tip up...now
we were too high...45 degrees...let him run on the drag if he wants...eventually
they brought it into shore! I think I understand why they say "take
a kid fishing" now...his father was totally gracious for our
help and man we were all too happy to provide...first looper, probably
first big trout of any kind, in this kid's life...man that's SWEET.
Heck, later on we saw him trying his fly rod...hope he didn't get
frustrated with it!
By about noon Brennon had to go, still skunked...bummer.
He was totally doing everything right, I think this weekend just
wasn't going to be his "lucky" weekend. All of our bites
had stopped for hours; as the sun continued to rise the fish went
from holding to very active, constantly moving around and chasing
each other. Brennon bid us farewell, and shortly thereafter Randy
and I took off too.
TIME for LUNCH! Man, we were yawning all the way
back to Duluth...I was thinking it might be time to head home already...I
haven't been this tired in the middle of the day in ages.
Turns out we were just famished; some Wendy's fixed
that and we both perked up right away. While eating in the Bitchin'
Camaro we sat and watched the McDonald's up the street...someone
must have been sitting outside eating or something 'cause the place
was being totally bombarded by seagulls. I pointed it out to Randy....then
looked up at my T-Tops...turned to Randy and said, "I have
a CRAZY idea!"
I didn't have to say a word, all it took was to
look up at the T-tops and Randy was in on my little scheme. Besides,
we had WAY more fries than we really should eat...time to be generous
with the potatoes. All I'll say is watch the video at the right,
it's AMAZING! We kinda wondered when the manager would come out
and tell us to take off, but surprisingly we got away with our childish
fun for at least a good 5 minutes.
Ah, but it's time to fish again, both revived,
we discussed the options and settled on scouting out the Lester
River...Brennon had kinda wanted to do that but we nixed it 'cause
the Sucker seemed to be fishing better. Now that Randy and I had
fish under our belts, we were more open to going fishless the rest
of the day, so a scouting trip seemed like an OK idea. So Brennon,
the Lester Pics are for YOU!
When we got there a couple anglers were coming
off the stream...Randy went straight for the stairs to start scouting
while I stayed back and talked a bit. I had my rod in hand and the
guy was looking at the flies we had been using that morning - he
immediately said, "I thought two flies were illegal on the
tribs..." After some additional muttering about the treble
regs and me bringing up how Red Hat said the dropper was AOK, we
agreed to be "unsure" about it for now and headed our
ways...he to take a nap and myself to scout the Lester.
I don't really have much to say about the Lester...when
I got in the river some kid yelled out, "Hey don't bother fishin',
it took me all morning just to get this one!". I smugly replied,
"I drove all the way from Chicago, so I'm gonna fish!".
I didn't see SQUAT...heck I didn't see Randy until
I got to what looked like an impassible pool...but I could see several
anglers above including Randy perched way up on a rocky outcrop
talking with another angler below.
I fished the pool which was carpeted with suckers...kinda
different than our local SE WI suckers; it seems that the males
here had a bright red stripe down their side. Randy noticed I was
down there and pointed out a looper he could see cruising...I got
a look but as she came close to striking she changed her mind and
Randy came down for a bit, but then we both decided
to move up and try our luck...we found this strange pool surrounded
by rock, with a big falls at one side, a bridge above and another
upstream, with a building off to the left on the ridge of this little
hole in the earth.
We fished, I had two fair but lost both very quickly
while Randy decided that these falls might not be barriers (fish
were going nuts almost making it, at one point I saw a looper fly
across the falls looking more like a dolphin...one lame attempt
at a jump considering he was 90 degrees off in direction). Watched
one guy land a looper with nothing more than his bare hands as a
reel, and this guy was using MONO. I didn't notice the landing...I
was fishin, but the guy perched up on a high rock across the stream
started yelling "that fish is foul, you have to put it back".
I did my best to translate to my fellow angler, who admitted to
not knowing that reg. I promised that if I landed one fair he'd
be welcome to it...no dice though.
Randy came back down with reports of more fish
upstream, fishing "evidence" but no people up there. Talk
about a HIKE out of that Gorge...man it's a total Mountain Goat
experience that B truly missed out on! Upstream we found a park,
a deer head (third dead deer of the trip!) and Randy pointed out
the spots where he had sighted a redding pair, as well as the spot
where he lost one fair.
It was about 4:00, time to go, so we ended our
stay on the tribs at Lester, me taking shots while walking back
along the road that parallels the river from above. All in all not
a bad outing, but by no means as good as last weekend! I figure
that our hookup to landing ratio increased dramatically while overall
hookups declined....more or less we were fishing post-peak, many
more drop backs than fresh fish, so the fish we hooked into gave
up a bit easier than the fresh ones..thus more landed. But the battle
weary were a bit tougher to entice to strike, hence the lower #
During the drive back I took a look through the
regs, I went to the Superior Trib regs and saw no mention of flies.
I went to the General Regs and found the mention of flies. The best
I could conclusion I could draw is that the dropper is currently
legal on the Superior Tributaries, here's why (in a nutshell).
1. This is what throws everyone off; from page
25 of the MN 2004 Regs -
2. However, earlier in the regs; from page 14 -
First off, one must be aware that the season &
limits for Superior & it's tributaries only offer expanded regulations
for TROUT, specifically Brook, Splake, Rainbow Trout INCLUDING Steelhead,
and Brown Trout. No special regs are set forth for Salmon except
for a general limit of 5, only one of which can be an Atlantic and
a minimum size of 10". In most other instances, it seems that
Trout & Salmon are considered the same thing in Lake Superior...ALL
salmonids are covered by one Trout & Salmon Stamp for Inland
or Superior waters.
MOST people get thrown by the reg quoted in #1,
which states that "a single hook - no treble hooks - on...".
HOWEVER, going back to the GENERAL regs that define what "A
HOOK" is, I first want you to note that "one hook"
can be one single hook (assuming with bait) or an artificial lure
(i.e. a Musky Bait with 3 or 4 treble hooks is still considered
ONE HOOK). The only thing that's NOT legal so far is a treble hook
IN BAIT. Furthermore, the regulations go on to define a FLY separately;
it is NOT part of the "one hook"/"single hook"/"treble
hook" discussion. The regulations
for flies allow for up to three flies when fishing for Trout.
Now, back to the Superior Expanded regs. Special
Regulations such as the Superior regs are designed to be exceptions
to or modifications of the GENERAL REGS. As written, only further
explain the regs for HOOKS, not flies, and specifically again "a
single hook - no treble hooks". This is where things get murky;
in order for the regulations to prohibit the use of a two-fly or
three-fly rig, they would have to include special regs specifically
FOR FLIES. Why? because in the general regs, flies are defined entirely
separate from hooks used for bait or all other artificial lures.
In essence, "flies" are not "hooks", we are
fishing for TROUT according to the expanded Superior Regs, and therefore
the DUAL or TRI FLY RIG is LEGAL.
No, I'm not a lawyer, but reading legal documents
and regulations only requires a logical viewpoint. From my point
of view, I now offer these additional anecdotes that further support
1. Red Hat is a C.O. looking for a post. I asked
Red Hat the first day on the water, "Is a dropper legal"...he
informed me it was.
2. When we were checked for our licenses back on
4-24, our rigs were readily available for inspection and both Neil
and I were fishing droppers; no citations or verbal warnings were
issued, in fact nothing was said about our droppers at all.
3. Furthermore, when BOTH C.O.'s came back to inspect
my catch, my entire rig including dropper was literally right in
front of their faces, once again NO MENTION at all regarding the
dropper...they were inches from the rig, still in the fish's mouth!
4. Yesterday we again ran into another C.O.; while
I'm not 100% sure I still had my rod set up, and therefore unsure
that he saw what I was fishing, I can say again that nothing was
said to me about the dropper if it was seen.
So there you have it folks...if you ask me the
REGS for MN need some reworking / clarification. As they stand,
the dropper is LEGAL when fishing for TROUT including on the Superior
Tribs (although I will tell you now that by reading the regs, the
same CANNOT be said for targeting salmon, but then again Brookies,
Browns and Rainbows run in the fall WITH the Salmon, so any C.O.
who gave you a hard time couldn't because you're fishing TROUT as
My personal "take" on the whole regulations
thing is that I'm not out to skirt the laws...fishing a dropper
is a very "traditional" approach to fly fishing, and it
can mean higher success rates in the hands of an angler who doesn't
screw up the rig when casting! On the flipside, I personally believe
that the intention of the Superior Expanded Regs MIGHT BE to disallow
the dual or tri rig for fly fishermen, although currently it does
not actually do that. I feel really confident that if I WERE to
get a citation for fishing a dropper on the Superior Tribs that
I WOULD stand a good chance of overturning that in court based on
the arguments at hand.
Therefore, if the MN DNR wants to outlaw the dropper
fly on the tribs, they need to clarify the regs. However, they may
be content with things just the way they are; as written the regs
seem to discourage most folks from fishing a dropper even though
it is technically legal. The DNR might be happy with the "discouragement
through unclear regs". However, if the DNR in fact does want
to readily and openly allow for the use of a dropper or tri-rig
by Fly Anglers, then they should add in that the "up to three
flies" rule applies here too. By defining flies separately
from hooks in the General Regs, the regs set a precedent that flies
are separate from hooks, and therefore need their own mention when
variations from the general rules apply.
Oh yes, I had plenty of time to think about this
one on the drive back, and even more time when my now "good
buddy" from TSS, Madmax, emailed me to say that he was pretty
sure that the dropper was illegal. Another MN angler who I email
with suggested the same thing today; I brought Red Hat in on the
discussion with Madmax and I think we changed Madmax's mind...not
sure about the other gentleman just yet. In any case, I'm going
to start a thread on the MN board of TSS just to see what opinions
are out there. I am also going to email the DNR regarding this matter
to see what response I get officially. Heck maybe all of this may
result in a reg clarification in the coming year?
Oh, BTW, as we pulled into my office around 1:00
AM I looked at the trip odometer; 1231 miles.