Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall fishing

I was sitting on a rock out in the middle of the river doing nothing really, just pondering the surroundings I was in and savoring the clean air I was breathing. I suppose I initially sat down on the smooth round rock to take a little break and maybe tie on a new tippet or something. I really don’t remember, but I know I ended up just taking it in and feeling perhaps just a bit guilty or culpable about it, wondering what I did to deserve such pleasure. Even in the midst of the moving water, now and then I could hear the tiniest “snap” and see a leaf fall into the river. Nice. Later in the day I would explore more of the river and run into a few other anglers, but for the morning I had the water to myself.

Driven by tales of arm-long brown trout and steelhead running up the river from Lake Superior, I took a day during the week and headed for the “president’s river.” Grouse season is open and I had plans for some camping and gunning up north on the weekend, but the prospect of a beautiful fall day on a trout stream was too much to pass up. I did have that non-resident fishing license, after all, and it didn’t seem to be getting nearly enough use.

I fished a section of the river that I’m at least a little familiar with, one that I’ve had success in earlier this year. I plied the deepest holes and runs with small (but not tiny) buggers and nymphs hoping to hook one of those trophy size trout. It seems every fishing story I see is highlighted with a photo of an angler holding a huge, beautiful brown or rainbow and I’d kinda like to be that guy one time. Or maybe a couple of times. Of course I’m never disappointed to catch fish and it’s nice to catch some pretty little trout than none at all… and, as I’ve often said, I’m lucky to get the chance.

I’ve made a few fall fishing trips in the past, usually in canoe country for walleyes but for the most part I’ve spent my autumns carrying a shotgun and following a bird dog around in the woods. Jack and Molly are crazy for the hunt and they’ve provided me some decent shooting the times we’ve been out this fall, enough for a couple of good meals, but I can’t get the fishing out of my head. And I’ve been pursuing it with the fervor of not being able to get enough of a good thing and knowing it’s coming to the end for another year.

Last week I paddled into a Boundary Waters lake to try for some walleyes as I had a hankering for an old time fish fry. You know the kind: where you dredge nice thick fillets in some type of batter and fry ‘em quick and delicious and gobble them down alongside some spuds and maybe a fresh garden salad so you can have at least something healthy with the meal! I didn’t use the fly rod. This trip I fished deep, with hard baits and jigs and it felt good to be in a canoe in great country once again. The walleyes weren’t biting, however, but the northern pike were active and I landed a bunch.


Two days later it was back with Scotty in his Fishcat floating a new river (at least to me) fly-casting large deer hair divers for pike and musky. I’ve caught a couple of muskies before but never on a fly rod and this was the first time I’ve targeted them. I had tied a few flies that I hoped would work and are the largest flies with the most material I’ve ever tied, but they were still on the small side compared to the creations Scott knotted to his wire leader! The muskellunge is the fish of 10,000 casts, so I wasn’t all too sure how this was going to go as far as hooking a fish would be. We did have a short discussion about that, wondering if false casts should be included in the total – because there is plenty of false casting trying to launch a ball of fur and feathers into a stiff wind. And that brings up another similarity I’ve noticed with drift boats and canoes: no matter which way you’re going, it seems you’re always going into the wind.

Well, Scott had checked out another part of this river before and had actually caught a couple of muskies. I don’t know how many casts it took, but presumably somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty thousand, if legend holds. Anyway, while the fishing may have been a little slow, and the wind a little strong, we did beat the predicted storm and had a great day on a gorgeous autumn river. We caught northern pike, and yeah, we caught muskies on the fly! Put a price on that!

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