Wednesday, April 25, 2012


SATURDAYNorth Bear stream (4/21/12)
*If it’s hunting season and wearing bright orange clothing doesn’t leave you feeling comfortable enough to fish, visit a stream with a conservation easement.  While the owner may hunt or invite others to do so, one can expect fewer hunters to be present.  This weekend the WMA (Wildlife Management Areas – public land) sites were busy with both turkey hunters and fishers but the areas with conservation easements (fishing only – private land) were quieter.

*On Saturday morning at N. Bear, there were already 3 vehicles parked on the 370th street access.  Feeling oh-so-smart, I elected to beat feet far downstream to new water, fish back upstream and miss the crowd.  Well, everyone else had the same idea.  I guess all of the ‘oh-so-smart’ anglers were on N. Bear that day!

*Saturday afternoon, the fish were hitting the water’s surface.  I tied on a sz 18 or 20 white Elk Hair Caddis and had the pleasure to watch the take multiple times.  Landed browns were 8 to maybe 11” long.   After the risers had died down a bit on a particularly fun section, I tied on a Guelk Nymph, landed a spirited, leaping bow and soon afterward lost the fly…but what a quick thrill!  Then I tied on a Missy D.  I fought what felt like a large brown.  Rod tip up & line snug, it hung low and slow in the water.  It threw the hook and I never even got to see it!  Two more times larger fish threw my hook.  While I won't  

debate my skill on landing trout, I will suppose that for a short time, smaller browns were keyed in on surface bugs and the larger browns and rainbows were striking subsurface/nymph patterns. 

Top fish of the day/weekend: The only rainbow of the trip; so uniformly-silver it looked like another species (but spots at the tail gave its disguise away).  Proof that one should always look beyond first appearances.  My overall top fish as it had the greatest spirit; it went air-born like an Olympic gymnast. Gold medal performance! 

SUNDAYNorth Bear stream & vicinity (4/22/12)
*Travelling from Ferris Mill road to the Clear Creek access (not the Lansing Clear Creek-see trout map coordinates) was one of the prettiest drives I’ve been on in the Decorah region… and there are so many pretty drives to be had!  Also, to the right of the parking lot there is a grassy area to tent camp plus another nice spot up the short hill to the left of the truck path.  Hunters had left turkey remains there.  The stream is not stocked with browns, hence it has natural reproduction.  However, the silted stream bottom & eroded dirt banks left me surprised to know this.  I suspect Bill and Theresa at the Decorah Rearing Station can quickly tell one how far and which direction to hike to find better trout water on this stream.

*During my previous trip to N. Bear I was reminded to check not just the sharpness of the hook but also the hook gap.  The hook had straightened somewhat, leading me to believe that is why I was losing so many fish on that fly.  On this trip I tried but was unable to check the hook point or gap on a Missy D and then on a Geulk Nymph.  After fishing with each for a little while, the portion of each hook went missing below the bend!  Check your flies frequently for hook condition, to check if caddis casings, moss, etc., are interfering with the hook, or for any freakishness one might encounter.

*I met a man who is a neighbor of my special, primitive camping spot.  His very smelly and happy lab hastened our introductions.  Friends of ‘Paul’ were camping across the road and had told him they’d seen me the last few years at ‘my’ site, located below a bluff where stream meets river.  He told me there used to be many rattlers in the area but not for 15 years. He told of finding a large one in his child’s sandbox.  He also shared that there had been recent mountain lion sightings above the bluff and expressed mild frustration that he wasn’t immediately made aware that a bear had been relocated adjacent to his property.

Top fish of the day:  This fish was a healthy brown.  It hit on the edge of a deep hole of churning water at N. Bear.  Along the perimeter of that hole I’d fed a Missy D nymph which was rigged a shorter length from the strike indicator than I’d intended.  My leader had recently fouled and one tiny knot kept me from changing the indicator’s distance from the fly without changing the whole dang set-up.  It was late & the last hole of the day.  Happily, that hole landed me the last fish of the day! …I guess I should admit that it was the only fish of the day…  It wins the contentment award.  If a person were to land only one, it would be a fine example of a Driftless Area brown trout.

MONDAYTrout River stream (4/23/12)
*As the saying goes, all roads really do seem to lead to the Sattre Store.  Very convenient since it is also one of the few areas where one can get cell phone reception in rural NE Iowa!

*Why would people leave used condoms in a fishing parking lot?  Who wants to pick up that trash on clean-up day?  On a side note, a friend of mine used a strip of (unused) condom for a scud back. I don’t quite remember why, but he didn’t recommend a condom for that purpose. Perhaps because he later wished he’d had one that night?

*Tickling my arm hair, crawling on my cheeks and the underside of my hat brim, the day-long waves of caddis hatches greeting both me and the Trout River trout on Monday were both an annoyance and a pleasure to experience. 

*Grass, too, grows in the fertile woods that cradle the lower access of Trout River.  The grass also grows along the small dirt paths that border this cold water stream which carries a river’s name.  The tree canopy still allowed the light of a sunny day to enter its domain and, kneeling on the water’s edge, I looked about me and thought that God may have left a little bit of Eden here.

*Due to being overstaffed, I’d been informed Friday that I was called off of work for Monday.  While I was frustrated to be forced to use my time off, on Monday I was thanking God to have the opportunity to be exploring new, beautiful water in addition to catching fish!

Top fish of the day & the overall beauty contest winner:  a 14" brown holding next to a small brush pile & feeding on the surface.  It still took a Guelk nymph well-drifted through his hidey hole.  The heavily-spotted beautiful fish also put on a good fight. 

*I practice catch and release on our streams, but during this 3-day weekend I made a single exception.  In fact, I hope to eat him tonight!  Its appearance surprised me and it was about 10’ from the water’s edge, hiding under last year’s brush.  I landed it quickly but there was no fight to be had.  It was tucked in a bag in the front pocket of my waders for the trek back to the suv.  Last night when I got home I took it out of the cooler and put it with the other morels in my refrigerator.  In two weeks I hope to return with friends to the NE Iowa area for camping and fishing.  I’ll let you know if we’re lucky enough to cook morels over the campfire.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Whaddya Get When a Skunk & a Musky Cross Paths? Hopefully, a Hook-Up!

(*Update 4/13/12: Trialed fly in local quarry.  Happy with this first edition. Plan to trial more sparse skunk tail. Profile in water was good. I'm pleased with the action. When fly drying on my jacket's fly patch, I could smell slight skunk odor. However, after a few hours the odor is gone. The fly was allowed back in my house.)

   After partially deoderizing a skunk tail last year (it is still sitting in borax in a sealed bag in the garage) and then rifling through a boxful & choosing two non-stinky skunk tails at the HFFA fly fishing show this year, I have finally tied a couple of flies with the black and white fur.

   Of course, a musky fly called to me.  While skunk tail will never replace the easily-dyed buck tail, the suppleness and luminescence of skunk fur lends itself very well to hook and vise.  Furthermore, the length of portions of the tail and the ease with which the fur can be reverse-tied was, frankly, a thrill for one who loves to hunt musky.

   I'm still working out the recipe and hope to take a fly or two for a swim in J-Mac Lures (a local & on-line biz for mucho fly tying supplies including those for toothy critters) minnow tank.  If the action proves as good as I expect it to be, I will post the recipe under my Fly Tying tab.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Arrowhead Fly Angler & Friends Attend Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo

   I enjoyed the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo, held in Blaine, MN, from March 23-25, 2012.  Spent time casting Sage, TFO, and Allen 10wt rods, listened to speakers Brad Befus and Kelly Galloup speak, respectively, about carp and nymphing, and just enjoyed speaking with vendors, tiers, and friends.  Oh, and I also took a lesson from Don Lawhead, MN, a certified master casting instructor for the Federation of Fly Fishers.  I need to work on that ‘homework’ he gave me!    
   Year 2009 was my first expo, which I attended in Chicago.  After 1.5 days, visiting vendors and casting and re-casting 10wt rods, I started the drive home.  Realizing I was crazy to leave without a rod, I turned around and spent another day there.  I left with a rod which, to this day, is my favorite casting rod. 
   During this year’s expo, I was pleased to help Ouitdee and Mike at their booth promoting  Arrowhead Fly Angler (  The fly fishing guide service is based out of Duluth, MN.  The guys are the first two people who really took the time to show a new angler not just how to fish but they also shared the passion of why they fly fish.   They do it because they love it and they guide because they have maintained that pure desire to share with others what is so addicting about fly fishing.   This will be the 4th year we’ve shared a friendship, and it was nice to help them, if only for a little while.      

Sunday, April 1, 2012

'Preview' of 1st Annual Trout & Morel Hunt in NE IA

   Camping, fly fishing, beautiful scenery, and friends... how could it get any better?  Finding & cooking morels over a campfire on the same trip is what comes to my mind!
   Today, a friend and I spend a few hours in woods in Rock Island county.  We came away with 8 small morels.  This year, it didn't prove foolish to hunt for the fungi on April Fools Day.  My mom is getting a tasty addition to today's birthday celebration! 
   Whether we hunt for morels at home and transport them or -better yet- if we hunt and land trout and morels in NE Iowa, I'm looking forward to a  great weekend in the Driftless Area.  Sometime between mid-April and mid-May a four-some will meet.  Tents will be pitched, water waded, & the woods enjoyed.  One can't quite predict when peak morel season will occur, but we hope to be part of it.  If not, I'm certain we will enjoy a few of those 365 days/year of open trout season in NE Iowa.