Monday, October 11, 2010

The WI-MN Diaries  - Part 1, Sept. 25-27, 2010

   Kate and I load up the CRV as quickly as we can.  I'd just finished a long day at work and we knew there was a long night in front of us.  We head out from Moline, IL., by 6:30 pm.  We are Hayward-bound.  We hope we are musky-bound, too.      
Day 1:  For the love of fly fishing and the Northwoods, Kate and I reluctantly get up early after the previous night's 7 hour drive to Hayward.  A breakfast stop at the Spider Lake Cafe nets me the pleasure of visiting with MCO musky guide Brad Bohen and introducing him to Jackfish Kate.  Brad tells us the guides and a film crew are taking it to the water today.  We discuss how the current high water-levels may affect all of our fishing.  After breakfast, Bob, owner of the Spider Lake Motel, kindly provides Kate and me with a map marked with areas to fish.  Today, we hope to explore as much water as possible.  The 'real' fishing begins tomorrow.
   Next, we head off to the urban, clear-water, sand-bottomed Round Lake.  It's purported to have musky and trophy-size smallies.  We split up and wade waist and chest-high, casting in the clear water.  No fish today.  Walking back along the shore, I scan for unusual rocks, but end up with a rubber salamander(it now rides on the dash of my CRV).  I also leave with a wet leg.  My waders have sprung a leak.  Oh well, whaddya do?  We get back in the suv and keep exploring. 
   We are boat-less and the water is far from optimal.  Yet, if it's possible to shore-fish, we wet a line.  As with anything in life:  If you don't try, it definitely won't happen.  At the swollen Teal River Boat Access, I cast solo while Kate briefly checks out the water upstream.  We again run into Brad and the boys, checking out the water conditions.  They are shocked (& I'm amused) when I tell them I've landed 3 musky here.  Of course, I quickly admit the truth!  I feel a bit foolish being 'caught' shore-fishing this water, but I tend to walk my own crazy path.
   Lastly, Jackfish and I shore-fish along the Chippewa and then head for Don's cabin.  Good company and home-made pizza await us.  Along a 1/4 mile stretch of road, we spot turkey, a large black bear, and elk.  Kate, who regularly fishes in Canada, says it's the largest black bear she's ever seen.  Nice way to finish the day!
   That night, our musky guide, Don Larson (the Pondmonster), provides tips on proper musky leader construction, including the wire bite guard.  Kate is also 'pro-wire' and her 9wt gets a new leader.  My opinion remains open, but I stick with my Seaguar fluoro.  We discuss our fly selection for the next day, and get to sleep early.
Day2:  Don treats us to coffee and home-made blueberry pancakes, and we then head out for our full-day float on the Chippewa.  A mist rises from the water on this beautiful morning and by 9:30 we're in the drift boat.  Within 5 minutes, Kate has a fish on!  I have the camera, Don has the net, but (dang!) the musky unhooks itself at the boat.  Kate is using one of Don's flies.  It has good action and rides 'hook up', proving itself to be weed-free.  I enjoy casting my flies to the weeds' edges, but must frequently remove weeds from the hook, greatly reducing my opps of engaging a musky in battle.  I will be tying some flies differently in the future.

   It's a beautiful day on the Chippewa.  Trees paint the shoreline in green, red and yellow.  A few trees appear dead, but Don tells us these are 'Black Locusts', the last trees to dress and the first to undress.  We have a quick lunch on the boat and get back to fishing.
   While Kate has fly fished longer than I, this is her first time fishing for musky and the first she has been in a drift boat.  She taught herself to double-haul the week prior to this trip (impressive!) and today she is learning where and when to cast when 2 anglers are fishing in a smaller boat.  I occasionally duck, hold my cast, or smile; remembering when I learned these same lessons last year.  In February, when I was confined to crutches and a cast, Kate was one of a few friends who helped me continue to fly fish.  I'm very happy she's come on this trip.

  "I got one!", I yell.  The fish leaps from the water and puts on a good show.  Soon, a frisky little musky with a toothy, over-sized mouth is netted.  I liken it to a large-pawed puppy - minus the cuddle-factor.  Pics are taken and the fish is released. 
   Kate briefly hooks another fish, and then, I later miss a strike.  Too soon, our day-long float is over.  However, I'm so hungry even I think our flies are looking good enough to eat.  Don is soon out of the boat, towing us up the creek where we drop anchor for the day.  Kate and I are grateful for our guide's hospitality and knowledge of the water.  However, we are thrilled when he invites us to fish the next day!  I believe the water-level is stabilizing and quietly think 'the bite will be on' tomorrow...
Day 3... starts with another home-made breakfast.  Today, a light wind is blowing.  We head down the creek and back to the Chippewa.  Soon, our flies take to the air and water.  We have only 1/2 day to fish, so no time is wasted.  The wind keeps me on edge as, a couple of times, I hear my fly whiz past my ear, much closer to my head than I prefer.  I initially avoid casting up the middle of the boat, but eventually adapt.  Kate seems to have found her groove. 

  "Bite me!" and "Eat it!", I say, as I try to impart these feelings to the action of the fly.  Today, we are all more relaxed and loose, therefore more alert and ready to set a hook.  Also, 9, 10, &12 wts will paint the water and Don will allow himself a little fly fishing.  It's a great day! 
   After a little 'strip-n-twitch' action, I retrieve my fly and say to Don, "Rub this fly and give me a little luck!"  Don decides he can do a little better than that, opens his cooler and produces a cold can of Leinenkugal.  Our flies are all christened with Leinie's Au jus and we get back to casting.  Don ensures that the rest of a good WI beer does not go to waste.
   "Fish on!!", I yell.  This musky is larger than yesterday's and likes its acrobatics.  It takes a little longer to fight, and the pleasure is all mine.  Then, I see another boil and yell to Kate.  She sheds her camera for her 9wt, but there will be no doubles this day.  With the help of my friends, I boat a respectable 35" musky, pics are taken, the victory Musky Dance is completed, and the fish is released...never so annoyed as to be so popular.

   And that is how our day continues to progress.  We sauce the flies another time, Kate has a fish on, and I boat 2 more leaping, tail-wagging Esox under 34 inches.  The fish seem to like my fly, a modified 'Hang Time' pattern, so I never switch it.  However, after the first fish, Don politely suggests I check my bite guard.  Frayed!  Lesson learned.  Always check the leader after any strike.
   Near the end of our short day, Don gives the oars to me and he unleashes his 12wt.  In the meantime, he also suggests that Kate try my fly.  She picks up my 10wt & begins to cast.
   Soon, STRIKE!  Jackfish is visibly excited but remains cool. I, on the other hand, want her to land her first musky so badly, I'm barking out, "Set the hook hard! Keep the line tight! Let out some line!"  Jeesh, a slap may have been in order but her hands were full.  She lands it!!  Don nets it and we take pictures of Jackfish Kate proudly posing with her first musky.  That, readers, is an ideal ending to a Northwoods Fly Fishing Trip.
(Thanks Pondmonster!) ~Twitch.
  

1 comment:

  1. Good read LD. Thanks for sharing your fly fishing adventures!

    ReplyDelete