9-4-04 - MP and The TROUT HUNTER go on Safari!
Waters Fished: Len's Secret Streams #1 & #2, Richland Creek, Clear Creek, Boydtown Creek, Little Kickapoo Creek, Gran Grae Creek (all in WI) + North Cedar Creek, Buck Creek and South Cedar Creek in IA.
Fish Caught: 3/3
Outing Date: 9-4-04
Weather: Foggy in the morning, rapidly getting hot
Air Temp: high around 80F
Water Temp: Len's Secret #2 was 63F
Water Level: Normal
Water Color: To many to list..many were cloudy to muddy, none were gin clear.
Fish Species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout
Pattern Fished: Primarily Big Dark Flies, Black Conehead Wolly Bugger took the big fish. Len fished various spinners. Small trout came on the Tucker Nymph.
Pattern Color: mostly natural shades
Fishing Quality: Excellent - I got what I came for!
There are days where I can run the pictures right along the right-hand side of the report. Then there are those days, those really good days where there's so much to write and show that they seldom coincide vertically. THIS is one of those days.
I could hardly contain my excitement...I had worked late, then
gone home to work some more and THEN made it up to Lake Como around
midnight. Exhausted, I knew I could go no further tonight. By the
same token, I knew I'd have to get up EARLY if I was going to make
my 7:30 AM meeting time with Len *Spinner* Harris, aka. "The
Trout Hunter", of Driftless
Area Trout Adventures (folks, WI's inland trout season ends
soon, so start planning on 2005!)
All night my mind kept racing...somehow I managed to sleep light. I must have been 1/2 awake all night, constantly eyeing the luminous red numbers on a digital alarm clock that's really designed for old folk....huge numbers and a blaring siren of an alarm. That siren is just about the only thing that can be counted on to wake me up most mornings!
I left Lake Como just before 5:00 AM...would I make it to Richland Center in 2.5 hours? 2 hours and 15 minutes later I indeed did make it on time, pulling into the Mobile Station at the west side of town on Rt. 14. I went in to get some supplies, looking around for Len's Black Pickup..didn't see it. Oh wait...there's a black pickup out there by the road!
We quickly got our gear together and headed to the spot. A couple days prior Len and I had talked about what we would do, what gear and flies etc. I wanted to capture Len doing what he does best, which is of course chasing TROPHY small-stream WI trout. I told him there would be no screwing around; I'd be fishing my 9' 7wt. and the lightest my tippet would get was 8lb. If we hooked into a hog or two there was NO WAY we'd be losing them, especially since this was our third attempt at getting together. Do-or-die time in some respects as WI's inland trout season is over in less than 1 month.
We pulled up and got right on the stream. Fog shrouded most of the landscape. The grass was still soaked with dew. Len pointed to an unseen depression in the stream bottom and said "She lives there". Len suggested an upstream approach, but I opted for downstream (quarter and swing across).
As the morning expanded, Len cited risers behind me ...I turned to try and get some interest and suggested Len give the big one a shot. After a lot of casting and not so much as a tug, Len moved down and I followed. As I approached where Len had stood, I noticed a large dark form move away towards the opposite bank. The fish we had been fishing for all morning had actually been sitting at our feet the entire time.
Not discouraged, we gave a shot at a private, huge hole on Secret Stream #1. I had several quick nips or something, but nothing materialized. Len had disappeared downstream earlier but now arrived to see how I was doing...on his second or third cast in came a small brown on a large spinner. A quick turn of the hook and this little guy was on his way.
Things just weren't happening at stream #1, so Len broke out plan B. Again we got in on private land that Len has access to....we had the water all to ourselves save a couple of cranes we spooked off.
Right off the bat Len spotted a riser while I was working the undercut bank...just a few casts and another smaller brown came to shore for Len. It went back in the water quickly, and again Len admonished this fish for doing the work of it's mother or father. Len and I spread out as we worked upstream ...I batted cleanup.
Len pointed out a few spots where he had a follow from a still unspooked fish and suggested I try there....of course I'd spend 30 minutes or more covering every inch of a hole. Len's preferred method is a bit different - he covers TONS of water...generally a few casts in each spot and moves on. Having tons of bank access helps this type of fishing. For what it's worth, at this point Len had 2 fish and I had 0...so you KNOW he's doing something right.
That all changed when he suggested a long jam. He hadn't fished it, instead saved it for me. I truly covered each twig in that jam...and managed to snap off. I reached for my back pocket...ACK! The fly box is back in the car! Len handed me a coneheaded black wolly bugger and moved off upstream.
Soon thereafter he was egging me on to come upstream...I kept saying "just a bit, just a minute". Well those few minutes paid off when I cast to the far bank and did a fast swing not more than a few inches below the surface. Out of the deep gut a large form came up and HAMMERED the fly..."OH MY GOD"!
Talk about a rush...that was arguably the coolest thing...a MASSIVE brown hit and the whole thing was in plain sight. Truly a monster fish, it immediately went deep and then straight towards the undercut and roots I was standing on. NO PROBLEM with 8lb and a 7wt., I found myself holding the rod out over the water, using ever bit of leverage I could get to pull the fish AWAY from my feet.
Len came running up and whipped out that HUGE wooden net he carries. For the folks who don't know, when you look at a picture by Len that has a fish in a net, the net is about 4 TIMES the size of your traditional trout net. Man even with a net that big it took some work to get my fish into it. Quick unhook at the bank, a dip in the water and then I lifted her out of the net. I did my best "trophy shot", Len joked "I think you've had your picture taken before" as he snapped my picture.
We dubbed her "Matilda" as we released her. Yes, Len names ALL his big fish. He or his clients have even caught the same fish repeatedly. Maybe someday one of you will catch Matilda! For the record, this is my first inland brown of 20" or more...we didn't measure her but this will probably stand as a personal best for a while!
We kept moving upstream...Len moving faster than I was. He'd call back sayin' he had another spot for me to try...I kept shouting up that it was his turn to catch a big fish.
I was sitting on a bend a good ways back and out of sight from where Len was when it happened. Len is shouting, breaking the peaceful late morning with "MATT COME NET THIS FISH...MP COME ON HURRY!". I dropped my gear and got into the all out sprint...jumped a muddy spring and kept running. As I turned the bend I could see Len down in the river, landing his fish. He shouted back "Ok, you can slow down now..."
Talk about a BOHEMOTH of a fish for an Inland Trout. Simply massive..broad shoulders, lots of spots, this is a type of fish that's all too common when Len goes out for some serious fishin. I snapped a burst of shots and then suggested Len not cover up the fish...the 2nd burst came out better followed by a dunk and one more shot with Len's camera. Now we had both completed our goal for the day..each with a trout over 20". I marveled one last time at this beast as Len put it back, and I muttered, "Len, I think you've ruined me for little trout".
Len has a superstition - once he lands a trout over 20" he stops for the day. Well, he didn't exactly stop...I think he was still a bit fired up after our two fish. We continued to work the stream well into the brown trout witching hour (high noon), heck even when we both thought we were done we instead ended up fishing one more spot. Len had been going on NO sleep...he got off work at 6:30 AM and met up with me at 7:15. I only had 4 hours or so. Finally, both totally exhausted, we called it a day around 12:30 PM. For Len it would be pictures, internet, shower and bed. For me...maybe I'd sleep somewhere for a couple hours. Len invited me up to Avalanche that evening where he was going to meet up with Jason Freud, who is celebrating his doctorate (CONGRATS JASON), and perhaps Bob Blumerich. At this point I wasn't exactly sure if I'd still be in the state or not!
After some Crispy Cremes and an infusion of Mountain Dew I realized I wasn't tired, I was just malnourished ;) Newly revitalized, I had to figure out what I was going to do with my afternoon. I picked out a few streams I thought I should go see...and somehow I found myself traveling EAST on Route 60 along the Wisconsin River. I definitely made a wrong turn or two along the way.
Well, what the heck, I turned to travel west towards Prairie Du Chein. Along the way I stopped at every trout stream that Rt. 60 crossed between my start and my destination. They included Richland Creek, Clear Creek, Boydtown Creek, Little Kickapoo Creek and Gran Grae Creek. That's 5 new streams I spent a bit of time scouting...and not a single trout was seen at ANY of them. Richland and the Little Kickapoo *might* be worth more time. Gran Grae? There was some interesting private land downstream of 60 that I'd love to spend some time on, but that would require finding a landowner and getting permission. Maybe in 2005.
By the time I arrived in Prairie Du Chein (now 3:00 PM) I figured Iowa would be my destination. It's now September, there should be fish in the Temperature Sensitive Put & Take Streams. I have a few more streams on the TO-DO list...what better way to kill an afternoon than scouting even MORE new streams?! Crossing into Iowa, I called Jack up at the Sportsmen's Motel in Dorchester...a day like this deserved a BED and a private shower.
First stop was a tributary of the Sny Magill, specifically North Cedar Creek. I thought I'd seen it before, but it turns out that the stream I thought was North Cedar is just a real small spring or something. Since I was actually LOOKING for North Cedar this time, I paid a little more attention to the map.
I arrived at the only apparent access point to find two vehicles already there. Folks were camping...looked like no one was in so hopefully they were way back in there. In a different situation I might not have fished here, but a man on a mission might have to break a few eggs.
Tiny stream! Pretty clear, maybe just the slightest cloud in the water. I followed the stocking road back and quickly found a small log jam and pool. No room for casting here; a quick dap of my flies into the water and the line went tight underneath my feet. I quickly hoisted up a nice small stream-reared brown. Quick picture and back in the water it went.
Pressing on upstream I never ran into the other anglers who were out. Nor did I run into any other trout. It seems this stream is pretty lightly fished, the scenery was great but only rarely did I find a spot that even seemed worth wetting a line.
Once again I was drenched in sweat...I huffed back and got on the road, all the windows down so I'd hopefully cool off. Looking at the map, I carefully picked my next victim....BUCK Creek.
Buck was a gamble. On the currently 2003 map it's got all these areas that are marked as stocked, followed by areas that are not. It looks like a dotted line on the map. Strange. My first stop was where it's crossed by a main road....no access here...looks like the stocked stretch upstream of this bridge is accessed further upstream from a gravel road.
My next gamble was a fork in the road...do I go on the Level B maintenance road that dead ends or do I take the fork that crosses the stream and keeps going. Knowing that I'm in a CAMARO I figured I'd try the safer route first. Unfortunately, when I arrived, it again looked like it was all private. Granted I could've asked all the folks out on the ATVs if they minded me fishing, but um, did I really want to contend with a bunch of noisy ATVs while fishing? Maybe I'll ask another day.
I pressed on...according to the map there are more stocked sections down the road where it comes up next to the creek. Never did find these sections. Eventually it was pretty clear that I was at the end of the line....I've now tried 4 out of 6 "probable" access points and none had panned out.
The dead end dirt road must be the ticket...I gave it a whirl. Actually the road was just fine, a bit steep at times with what must have been a driveway or two forking off (they're not on the map...just keep going downhill I guess). I arrived in someone's front yard and parked at the very end. Here was a stile over a fence...public access ( FINALLY ). On MY side of the fence, where my car was parked, two large bulls milled about. Um, is someone trying to send a message here? Well, I figured if I got over that stile I'd be fine. Besides, I had to at least wet a line here.
Upon crossing the stile I found fresh tire tracks. Stocking Truck? Maybe. The stream was actually really pretty and again, relatively clear. I figured this would be worth my while, especially since I saw at least a dozen rises before I ever put my line in the water.
Maybe you've seen the hat that Tim "The Enchanter" recently gave me....it reads "got chub?". YES Tim, I've GOT CHUB, HUNDREDS of them. EAch time my fly would hit the water it would be mauled by hordes of chubs. I was constantly pulling them off my line...with at least the frequency one would use if they were casting into a pond who's surface was floating algae.
Well, if I ever need bait I know where to get it. Buck turned out to be a bust on this trip, but I could see it as being a fun place to fish at the right time of year. Never saw a trout, but that doesn't mean they weren't there.
Man, sometimes you think there should be a road somewhere and there just isn't...I had to got a bit out of my way but that's alright, if I did it in time I'd hit yet ANOTHER new stream today. Wait, let me count. 2 new streams with Len. 5 new streams along Rt. 60 in WI. So far 2 MORE new streams for Iowa (the to do list is down to a mere handful). That's 9 new streams so far.
YOU BET I HIT #10. This is the 101st day on the water for MP. I've already shattered my personal inland brown trout record with the help of our region's famous Trout Hunter, Len H. So you better believe that when I realized I was about to get into a double-digit stream count for a single day, I went for it with a VENGENCE!
Last stop for the day - South Cedar Creek. This one is year-round, it's just a bit out of the way, i.e. not particularly close to anything in particular. When I pulled off and crossed the stile I was met with murky, scummy water. Hmm. I better go upstream.
MORE CHUBS! DRAT! I'd like another trout thank you... I heard a rise in the bend to my left...then another rise to my right. These were bigger rises than a chub could make...unless it was an 8" chub or something. I cast to my right, let everything sink, and started stripping. My reward? A handsome stocker rainbow from South Cedar.
I must say I was pretty satisfied at this point. I shot the panorama you see here and packed up. Now the big question...do I head up to Dorchester now or do I go meet up with Len. It's only 6:00 AM...how far could it be to get over to Avalanche.
3 hours and ONE wrong turn (the last turn) later I found the campground at Avalanche. I really didn't know where anyone would be, so I just parked and got out the spotlight. I knew Bob Blumerich kept a trailer here, and when I heard someone call someone else Bob, while sitting by a trailer, I figured I was in the right spot. Bob and his wife Gladys were about, as was Jason F. and a couple other folks.
Len actually arrived after me...we all had a great evening sitting around the fire. Trapper joined us and between the 5 of us lively conversation about fishing, stocking, big fish, guiding, clients, private land, mushrooms, ginseng, catch and release, local politics, not-so-local politics, you name it, it was discussed. Yeah, Bob, Jason and and I probably stayed up past our bedtimes....it was 1:45 AM when I finally rolled into bed back at the Sportsmen's in Dorchester. I set the alarm from 8:00 AM - GOODNIGHT.