I got out this morning before work and fished a section of Mt. Vernon Creek in Dane County. There were some very nice holding spots in the section I fished and it looked like the streambank improvement project that was done in 1977 was in really good shape.
My fishing vehicle, affectionately named the "Jay Ford Thurston"
After being denied any action in the section near the road, which looked very “fishy”, I checked my position using my phone (don’t you love GPS overlaid on Google Maps?) and worked my way upstream past some straight sections to a series of nice bends. This was a taxing endeavour given that the grass was making every effort to keep my feet from making foward progress. But I got to a very nice plunge pool into a bend lie and made some casts with a “Yellow Squirrell” (which is a Pink Squirrell but with yellow chenille).
And then, I had a fish on! I retrieved line and then thought “Hey, this might be a sizeable fish! I’d better get this guy onto my reel!” So I got fancy and tried to keep tension on the fish while taking up the sizeable amount of slack with my reel, but guess what? I didn’t keep that line between me and the fish tight, and the numpty bastard wiggled right off the hook.
Back to it a little while longer, and being that I haven’t touched a fish with my hands even though I’ve made epic cast after epic cast with my delicious 4wt, getting incredible hopper drifts through the most enticing lies you’ve ever seen, I fished a bit too long and had to hightail it over the barbed-wire fence and walk-sprint between cornrows back toward the road. And just as I’m coming out of the corn I see the farmer in his pickup truck banging along through the pasture coming straight for me. And I think, “Shit”. But then he takes a left turn and completely ignores me and the fact that I’m on the wrong side of his fence. So that was nice.
Back to my car, strip out of wet gear, check the Google Maps navigator to see how long the drive to work is going to be, and it says “38 minutes”. But my meeting is in 31 minutes! So I texted my boss saying I’d be late for the meeting and I’m very sorry.
Then I’m sitting in my wet skivvies driving through rural Wisconsin following a Mini Cooper going 80 up and down hills, drinking my cup of coffee, eating cashews, putting pomade in my hair so it looks like I tried to look okay, and then I find myself on a slower stretch of road closer to the city and I think, “This would be a great time to change into my work clothes.” So I set the cruise control at 40mph and pull on my pants, socks, shoes and so forth. I waited for a stoplight to pull on my shirt, so don’t worry.
Finally, I pull into the parking lot, walk-sprint the 70-yards across the parking lot, and see that I’m not actually late. Turns out I was the first one to the meeting.
So you see, fishing is not completely about catching fish. It’s about the experiences, according to Burgess Meredith. I couldn’t agree more.
Yesterday was about the nicest fishing weather you could ask for. My good friend Stephen Rose and I hit a local coldwater fishery named after the man who spearheaded saving spring creeks in the Midwest by working with farmers to change their planting and plowing practices to reduce runoff in the Driftless area hills.
We worked with hopper patterns from daybreak till about 10am. All told we had 5-6 fish caught and released, the largest of which was about 8-inches, all browns.
Stephen Rose with a hopper-caught Brown Trout
No wonder the hoppers were working. There were grasshoppers everywhere, and not just a few had hopped right in to the stream. The baffling thing for me was that I didn’t see one grasshopper get slammed by a trout. I’m talking real, actual grasshoppers now, not imitations. Stephen and I both thought the trout would be nuts to turn down these tasty fat hoppers, but perhaps they’d eaten their fill? I don’t know. And why would the hit an imitation but not the real ones?
I decided to find out, Nick Adams-style.
An incredibly lifelike Hopper Pattern
What did I find out? First, Grasshoppers are surprisingly easy to catch by hand when there is still dew on the grass and the sun hasn’t warmed things up yet. Just pretend you’re a Praying Mantis and snatch one off a tall blade of grass.
Second, the most secure way to hook a hopper is through the collar behind their head, as shown in the photo above. Even though this looks fairly bomb-proof, I still lost a bunch of hoppers while casting. Extra-smoot casting is a must.
Third, the anecdotal evidence suggests that rudimentary hopper patterns are as effective as real hoppers for catching fish. I only tried this for about an hour, but much of my time was spent collecting hoppers and losing them while casting.
During trials with the actual hopper shown in the picture above, I was casting and drifting this bug happily, but not getting any bites. On the third or fourth presentation I noticed how perfectly the bug was drifting in the current. I couldn’t believe the finesse I had suddently obtained in drifting a dry fly past a likely holding spot. As the hopper drifted beyond the holding lie I retrieved to make another cast but found that the hopper continued its incredible drift. My relationship with that grasshopper had come to an end the moment my tippet had hit the water, about fifteen seconds before my retrieve. Oh well.
I did end up taking a fish on an actual hopper. It was about 8 inches long and had the hook nicely placed in its lip. The hopper was in the fish’s stomach, so that made me feel good. At least the fish got a meal for his trouble.
It has seriously been about 2 months since I’ve wetted a line in a trout stream. I hit Elvers Creek this morning and had some success!
Elvers Creek Brown Trout
Good to think about fishing for trout again. The conditions are very nice compared to July.
Feeling Good on Elvers Creek