Friday, August 10, 2012

Making Memories, Brookie Style!

  I had a friend call me up asking me about some good trout streams in the area. We go way back to our running days in college. He is one of the top runners in the nation at the Division III level and is focused on taking the individual Cross Country crown this November. He was looking for some new territory to cover and to get away from a stream he felt was pressured heavily. I told him my recommendations and offered to take him to some of my favorite stretches of water in the area. We decided that Thursday would be a great day to fish with overcast skies and low air temperatures. In the car ride to our first location, I discussed the habitat we would be fishing and some of the fish I have caught on this particular stretch of water in the past. I could start to see Tim’s excitement and he was more than eager to get streamside. Tim had left his waders at his parents’ house, so it was old running shoes and jeans as his means of navigating the stream. Tim is strictly a night crawler fisherman and has this method down quite well. He uses a rather large split shot and what appeared to be size 8 hooks. He would cast upstream and jig the night crawler off the bottom of the stream while gently raising his rod tip followed by a slow retrieve. I was sticking to my favorite Panther Martin that has fooled more than its fair share of big trout over the years. In the first section of stream the bite was slow but with a stream temperature of 60 degrees, I was encouraged and we kept proceeding upstream. Over the next two hours we landed over 40 trout between the two of us. Tim was greeted with a healthy looking 12” brookie, his biggest trout of the season! Tim and I had nothing but grins on our faces the entire stretch reeling in one trout after another. In one hole alone we landed 3 trout over 10.5 inches and our first double.
     From 1:00-3:15 I took Tim to the second stretch of water that has produced some hogs this season with my latest trophy a 15.5 inch brookie. At this point, some light rain sprinkled the stream and kept the stream temps constantly at 60-61 degrees and the fish continued to feed excessively. On this stretch I told Tim he should give spinners a try. He was a little reluctant at first but with my success from earlier in the day he was becoming a believer. I needed to make a phone call and told Tim to start fishing upstream. It wasn’t 2 minutes later and Tim had his first brookie on a spinner, a solid 10 incher. We made our way upstream catching a lot of brookies in the 9-10 inch range. There was a brief 20 minutes where the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and the bite was rather slow. It soon fell behind the clouds and a rather large thunderstorm to north was vastly approaching. In the nick of time we reached the best hole of the day. It was a deep hole at least 8 feet deep with exposed roots and an undercut bank. I casted real short upstream and let my spinner slowly fall to the bottom. Before I could start my retrieve, FISH ON! It felt real good and it slowly uncovered itself from the depths below and I was granted with a 12 inch brookie. I told Tim to put on a spinner as all he was catching were chubs with his night crawler outfit. He casted further upstream and nearly at his feet a flash from below smashed his size 4 Panther Martin. After a short battle Tim successfully landed his second biggest brook trout ever! He was ecstatic by its size and girth! I put him into my net while I reached for my camera. With the fish in Tim’s hand we were unsuccessfully able to get a photo before the fish flopped out of his hands and bolted between my legs back upstream. The brookie was just under 14” and his second biggest ever to his 15” brookie which on his wall at home. By this time the thunderstorm was directly above us and it was time to head home. After it was all said and done we had nearly 75 brookies to hand and 6 brookies breaking the 12” mark. We have planned another outing for tomorrow evening and another trip report will soon follow.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Same Fish, Different Year?

After a successful outing the previous day, I had asked my dad first thing the next morning to join me on another stretch of the same water. He needed to get some work done first, so we agreed that we would head out for a couple of hours that evening. My idea was to start fishing on a private stretch of property that we ended with the last time we went fishing together. The water upstream from our last outing would be new territory for my dad and I had only fished this section one time last summer with good results. I was hoping that we would get passed everything I had fished last summer and still have enough daylight to explore newly acquired fishing rights to the neighboring property. I was ecstatic this past spring when I received permission to fish this section as I knew it had the potential of holding some whopper Brookies and it was the only stretch of this stream I had yet to fish in my 15 years of trout fishing.
     We arrived at our desired location and I took a stream temperature check, 68 degrees. It was nearly 4 degrees warmer than it was during the mid-day yesterday. I was slightly discouraged but I knew the stream temperature would drop as the night went on. In the first hour the bite was slow. We fished some great habitat with undercut banks and hollowed out logs with only a few follows and one 6” inch Brookie to hand. I was telling my dad as we proceeded upstream of a trout I had caught last summer on this stretch and we should get to that particular hole before it got too late. 
     We reached the desired hole that was nothing more than a couple of logs extending out from the bank and a clump of grass that eroded away from the washed out bank. The hole had not changed too much from the previous year and I had a strong feeling the Brookie would make an appearance yet again. Even though I fish more than my dad he always insist me to make the first cast into a worthy hole. He enjoys just being out in the outdoors, whether its trout fishing or deer hunting spending time with his 3 sons. With that being said, he wanted to me to cast into the hole despite my efforts to have him cast first. I positioned myself near a small sandbar just downstream and on the opposite side of the bank of the desired location. The hole was small and I wanted to get into best position to drag my panther martin over the top of the log and directly in front of the clump of grass. My first cast was spot on and as I proceeded to lift my rod tip up, to allow my spinner to get over the log a quick flash from underneath the log presented a whopper Brookie. I was able to wade out into the middle of the stream and detached my net from my back. I was able to make a quick battle putting little stress on the giant and made a clean sweep with my net. My dad and I both appeared into the net and were shocked by its true beauty and size. We were both expecting a 13-14 inch Brookie but it was all that and then some. My dad put a tape measure to the fish as I kept the fish underwater in the net. The tape revealed a stunning 15.5-inch Brookie with a small kype and deep girth. I once again stuck my net into the bank allowing the big male to be completely submerged in the water as I took out my iPhone. 
Below is the one snapshot my dad was able to take before the trout flopped out of my hands back into the water. My experience tells me this is the same Brookie I caught the previous year in the same hole. I was unable to get a picture of the fish but the main photo on my blogger page shows the release of last year’s Brookie. I never made it to the new section of water but I hope to get back later this week with the BIG cool-down.
Blurred image as the trout slipped out of my hands

Mid-Summer Breeze

This past Sunday was the first day in Western Wisconsin where we failed to reach the 80-degree mark. Despite the limited cloud cover, I headed to my favorite brook trout stream. The temperature was 76 degrees with low humidity and the cooler air reminded me that fall is nearing.  I was busy during the morning and did not have the opportunity to hit the stream until nearly 1 pm. Once stream side, I immediately put my thermometer in the water to see if the cool night and the slowly climbing air temperature were keeping the stream temps at bay. The thermometer revealed 64 degrees, the coolest the stream had been in sometime. Another factor keeping the stream from quickly rising was the cool breeze that was at times gusting to 20 mph. Needless to say this section of stream I was targeting was miles from the closest feeder stream. Sections of the stream to the north were definitely cooler but my game plan wasn't changing this late into the game. As I proceeded upstream, I came to a large bend in the stream with a large pool with several old stumps hugging the outside of the streams outer bank. The hole was nearly 8 feet deep with a serious "step drop" from nearly a foot of water to 5 feet in a matter of steps. I hugged the stream bank and used the tall weeds along the bank to keep a low profile. Since it was such a large pool I felt it was best to break the pool into sections by casting to the low side of the pool before working my lure towards the back near the stumps. The front side of the pool revealed no takers. I worked my way towards the back of the pool that was completely shaded and several hollowed out stumps provided plenty of cover. My first cast was brought through the upper side of the pool with no strikes or follows. I made the same presentation as the previous cast but was able to get even deeper under the shade tree and right next to the hollowed out stump. Before the spinner could reach the depths below a heavy pull was felt on my slacked line! Even though I was using my ultra-light rod, I knew this fish was something of quality. I quickly tightened down my drag to keep the fish from diving down deeper into the pool towards more debris increasing my likelihood of a lost fish. After tightening my drag I was able to get a birds-eye view of the miraculous fish. It was full of vibrant colors with a solid red belly. After a mere 20 seconds the net was out and the trout was scooped up from below. A quick measure indicated a 13.5-inch male! I stuck my net into the side of the bank and took out my iPhone for one quick shot before releasing the fish back into the water to be enjoyed another day. I proceeded upstream for another hour catching 4 more brookies over 11 inches. Pictured below are two of the holes where these quality brookies were caught. This section of the stream, I will normally fish early season and into the first 6 weeks of the regular trout season as the water really warms up by the time it reaches this section of the stream. I went with my gut instinct with the cool night proceeded by next day air temperatures in the mid- 70s and took a gamble that paid off this time. 

13.5 inch Brookie

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Every Dog Has Its Day

     The past couple of weeks, I have put trout fishing aside besides for a couple of trips to some brown trout water. The extreme heat and low stream levels have put a hurting on area trout streams. My last two outings, I ventured out from 7:30-9:15 pm with only two little browns to hand. I have been throwing Panther Martins, X-Raps, Countdowns and Floaters with no takers. I did not have any access to a nearby feeder stream and perhaps that is the missing component? With the extreme temps and humidity I have explored plenty of new water catching Smallies, and my first ever walleye a couple of weeks back. My purchase of a new Old Town Saranac 146 XT canoe awhile back has allowed me to fish a wide variety of species. I have come to realize that in the larger rivers you have no idea what you are going to hook into.
     Today, I left the canoe behind since I did not have anyone to float with. My goal was to target a major river that has a couple larger trout streams flowing into it. I was hoping to hook into a large brown sticking its nose into at the mouth of the feeder. I started off at a spot that is known to have its fair share of nice Smallies and I thought my chances of hooking into a brown were quite good. I waded out into the river where the feeder stream dispersed its cold oxygenated water into the larger body of water. I was able to walk out about 20 yards into the river. I started off throwing a gold Rapala Floater Size 9, with no takers. As I was reeling in and turning back to shore to switch lures, I noticed several large fish swimming in place a pole length away. I splashed the water with my rod after a few casts with my Rapala and three large Carp darted in front of me. However, one large fish 40-45” didn’t move an inch. I took a step back and the fish jetted directly in front of me hanging tight to the rivers bank. About 5 yards downstream the fish exposed itself for the first time with a gigantic leap out of the water, a MUSKIE!!!! It was absolutely going crazy swimming in circles and making one leap into the air after another! The fish had its nose right where the trout stream fed into the river, hunkered down in 3 feet of water. I was unaware that so many species hunkered down near the colder water during the summer months.
     I exited the water and went back to my lure bag to tie on a leader and the biggest bait (Mepps Aglia Size 5 with a silver blade). My instincts told me to climb up the bank and make my way downstream where the fish was last seen. I was now standing directly above where the Muskie and the 3 large carp were swimming. I looked over the edge of the bank to see the 3 carp back again, but no Muskie. I made one cast downstream of the carp and about halfway into my retrieve an immense strike was felt down my rod into my hands. I was certain that I had either hooked the Muskie or a Carp that was originally unaccounted for. After a loosening of the drag, I was able to bring the fish to the surface as a got a bird’s eye view of the fish from the bank. I was shocked to see that it wasn’t the Muskie or a Carp, but rather an enormous WALLEYE! I slid down the bank into the feeder stream to get a better angle on directing the fish. After a couple of minutes the fish was in my net and a quick measurement indicated 29.5 inches! I was absolutely sick to my stomach as I had never thought in my wildest dreams that today would one of the greatest fishing experiences of my entire life. After getting the fish under control, I was able to get a more accurate measurement of the fish and the tip of its tail brushed the 30 inch mark. Follow the link to my blog page to see photos of the Walleye. Also, feel free to follow my blog page as I try to update my page on a bi-weekly basis.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Changing Things Up!

     A couple of months back, I invested in a canoe to expand my fishing opportunities and to enjoy the great lakes and rivers near my hometown. With the slowing of trout fishing, due to the extreme heat, it was time to switch gears and try for some Smallmouth. The float trip is about 3 hours with a variety of deep slowing moving sections to sections of rapids filled with large boulders. I floated down the river throwing Rapala Countdowns and Floaters and the bass just went crazy from behind the large boulders. In two separate trips I landed roughly 20 Smallies and a surprise Walleye that was measured at 22 inches. I managed to hook into a couple nice Smallies on each trip that were fat and healthy and hit the tape between 17 and 18 inches. The Smallies sure do put on a show jumping out of the water as a last resort to snub your lure. Below is one of the nice Smallies from the trip. I plan on floating a longer stretch of the same river this coming Thursday with my brother and another report will follow. Also, I went out tonight from 7:30-8:30 on a nearby stream and the temperature was 70 degrees. My dad and I called it a night and went home to keep the brookies from unneeded stress and to escape the plethora of misquotes. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Angler Education- Gill Lice

I am in the second week of an "Angler Education" class teaching 3-5 graders about fishing and encouraging young anglers to join the sport of trout fishing. I have taught them the different types of reels and rods, casting, tying fishing knots, giving them a basic understanding of fishing regulations (all of my students now understand what the different color trout streams mean as far as bag limits and minimum size), first aid, water safety, and fish identification. Today, the topic was invasive species and gill lice which are threatening our trout streams here in Wisconsin. I pulled up Len's "Stream of Time" blog and showed an example of what gill lice looks like. The students were so attentive and curious to learn more about gill lice and I even had several students give their input on possible solutions. One of my students told his grandpa who is the head of a local fish and game agency and is bringing it up at the next meeting (he had not heard of gill lice). I also played 10 or so minutes of one of the Len's trout fishing videos developed by Pronghorn productions. Throughout the video, I had to stop it nearly every 30 seconds because I needed to answer a question or a student wanted me to rewind the video so he could hear Len's advice on various fishing practices and strategies. I had a sign-up the first week of class for taking each student and their parent/guardian to an area trout stream. I had 6 of the 21 students bring in their signed slip and after learning about gill lice and watching Len's video, I had an additional 8 students request a sign-up sheet to be sent home! I am looking forward to taking each student out on their own trout fishing adventure and learning everything there is to know about trout fishing. Thanks Len for all of the insight and getting all of the students excited about a sport that needs more young anglers!

Father's Day

      This past weekend was the first time in nearly a month that I was able to go fishing for more than an hour straight. I decided to take my dad trout fishing for Father’s Day and have some much needed bonding time. He won’t go fishing by himself and will often shoot me down because he has work to do. We went out Sunday evening from 6:30-8:00 and had an amazing time. The Brookies were hitting every cast and several eager brookies would barely let it hit the water before making an attempt at the #6 Panther Martin. I managed to land the two biggest fish of the evening which were caught within 10 minutes of one another. The first brookie was a real plump 13” brookie with vibrant colors that had his nose right where a small feeder stream fed into the larger river. After the catch and a quick photo, I took a water temp (59 degrees). We worked our way upstream and came across a deep bend in the river that had a step drop. I casted it directly upstream and drug it along the outer bank and a quality fish caught me by surprise nearly 10 feet from my feet.  After a short battle and clean scoop of my net I was surprised by yet another 13” brookie. I was curious to see the temperature differential from the my last 13" brookie. The thermometer read 63 degrees a 4 degree difference in a matter of 50 yards. It just go to show the positive role small feeder streams have in giving brookies places to navigate to during the hot summer months. Even though I catch more than enough fish throughout the season my dad enjoys walking the stream and taking in all that nature has to offer. He doesn’t necessarily care about catching all the fish but the chance to spend time in the great outdoors and navigating his favorite trout stream. 

Pictured below is the first 13" brookie.

Pictured above is the small feeder stream and the tree on the right is where we hooked up.