Friday, March 24, 2017

$100 fish and Indices of Biological Integrity


Some time ago I told The Kid that I'd give him $100 after he caught his 50th trout on the fly.  Without any physical assistance from me beyond netting.  This may be somewhat atypical and thus deserves some notes in explanation; some notes on what the $100 moved forward in terms of time spent, skills developed, goals accomplished, etc.  
  • Nymphing skills went from rudimentary to pretty good.  Line control in roll casts and flips in my estimation is above average for his age although my sample size is limited and I'm supplementing it with "what I figure" which is allowable. 
  • Hooking fish is very high percentage.
  • Playing fish is probably average; he still loses some, especially given fishing with 2 wt Sage.
  • Reading water is getting better; he knows that foam is home; he still asks me too often where to cast and drift.
  • Patience is better: he got blanked once and unlike ~1 year ago (there were some tirades), this time he said "that just makes up for some of the times we've caught a lot of fish."  To me that is gold.
  • Key gain though is the miles logged on streams; all of which were with me, most of which were with his brother; some of which were with friends.  All the memories logged.  He said the other day regarding a carp outing some years back; direct quote: "let's talk about some of the memories of that day we caught all those giant carp."  Pure gold and platinum for me.  What I am after.  $100, $1000 bargain however I look at it.  $100 just a small incentive for a kid; kids sometimes need nudges to get through transitions at various scales including but not limited to leaving the comfort of home, striking out in the winter, gearing up and addressing some water.  The successes are great for kids.  The incentives can just prompt; make them happen. 
At a most basic level it came down to this: I thought of the forgettable $100 things I've done in the past; that many do regularly.  The monthly bills that are $100 or more for things we don't even need.  In that context this was a pretty straight-forward deal.  This week I had occasion to listen to the song Thunderstruck while working out.  There were various kids around.  I asked them if they knew the song.  One said "No, but I know the remix that they used in the Macy's One Day sale commercial."  I was silent and unsure how to respond but I layer that on here as another reason to give your kid $100 to catch 50 trout nymphing.

Said he wanted two $50 notes but when I palmed the five $20s he didn't really hesitate to accept.

Looking kind of old.

Around mid-February we were out looking for sheds; finding none.  Collecting deer stands and poking around beds, trails, etc.  Trying to understand things which is the never-ending task that will never be fully accomplished. This property is private and has not been fished in 2-3 years.  As my kids would note that is not a fact because it's not supported by evidence; rather it's a statement of strong probability based on our best knowledge and data.

We put the LOD in one giant swimming pool hole.  What would be called marginal water at best up and downstream.  Vertical banks.  Low IBI meaning not the traditional coldwater biota.  A special and interesting place but not one for postcards.  Second cast a trout rolled on the streamer as I was picking it up up up there at the end of the retrieve.  That fish was hanging in the hydro cushion just to the side of the plunge.  Never mind that one. Next cast out into the main pool, counting down to bottom.  Telling kid to watch the line tip which will indicate when streamer has stopped sinking and is thus on the bottom.  Pick it up and twitch it back.  Another fish came and we watched it eat the streamer from below.  A female of great proportion; atlantic-salmon bright I thought, with depth.  Very healthy and all fins in perfect condition.  Seemingly the case that she is living in this pool with little or no disturbance, eating the warmwater forage fish that are mixed in there (we caught three creek chubs 4-6" each).  We put my grandma's old cloth sewing tape on her.  I don't like it because I think measuring on rod and with handspans is faster and better but we aim to please.  The measurement was 19.25" which was in agreement with estimate based on rod.  The Kid took the rod and commenced to practice more of a casting stroke (as opposed to flipping and rolling).  Coming along pretty well.   He put the streamer where he wanted it to be.  He never did get a big one out of there and that disappointed him.  We moved down and caught maybe half a dozen nice fish 10-15 inches out of broken runs; swinging downstream in every case.  Casual approach as this wasn't even a fishing day.



Nice fins.

The troutiest water does not often beget the biggest trout.  This figure from Wisconsin shows scatter plot of coldwater IBI or "fish score" vs mean brown trout length.  Although there is significant variability in the dataset, generally speaking as the score gets higher the mean size goes down.  No rules out there but this is surely a general relationship that has been observed by many.  Most IBIs do not consider fish size.  It would be too much work and too stressful on the fish to measure every specimen captured while shocking. Here is a quote from the paper along with the citation: "‚Ķresults suggest that the growth, condition, and mean length of sport fish will not always increase if conditions improve to nearly pristine levels.    Griffin & Fayram, WDNR, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 2007"





Sunday, February 19, 2017

Before the snow melted into rivulets and went along the gutter into grated transport systems 


I decided it would not be a bad idea to go looking at some big fish water.  And the snowshoes were neutral meaning they were neither needed nor any sort of encumbrance or otherwise an issue.  The bindings are leather and midway through the walk I had to pause to tighten them.  If nothing else the dust was abraded from the wood frames and tight buckskin webbing by the snow crystals and I think they feel better now having had some good use in recent times.  
Walked to the fence.  And from what I know and understand to tread further would be a risk in that the overseer is known to ask one to leave.  The fence marks the spot; just stop there and turn around is the word as I know it.



The big fish.  Like some sort of obligation set out there.  Guys catch them and they don't have to do shit else in the world of angling and they are writing articles and posting themselves as famous in the Midwest.  I never have felt this drive.  I can't figure what's left to be gained.  Can't eat them.  And we know where they are now.  And we know where these guys are fishing.  And we know what it takes to get them ranging from a glob of nightcrawlers fished downstream under logpiles to a well-place streamer.  Whatever man.   They are there, we know.  They have giant kypes and they eat flies.  Single guys with a lot of time not interested in protein can dedicate a lot of time to the fishing of said quarry.  

Fact is that I am constrained by time and thus I have to fish some winter mornings.  On this winter morning there was a great south wind pushing crystals of ice along the snow crust and a great grayness was settled over the land.  I was in it and I knew that I wouldn't move any fish.  Some might say that is the mark.  I just took it as a walk to the end; a walk back, nodding to the deer on the blufftop who were snorting at me.  You fix what you can fix and you let the rest go. If there ain't nothin to be done about it it aint even a problem. It's just a aggravation.  - Ed Tom Bell.


Afternoon right by home I stopped at some regular water and moved a bunch of fish; caught almost all of them.  Fishing that same big streamer but failing to get any fish greater than maybe 13 inches.  Despite working woody debris.  Etc. etc.  Not much to do about it.  Was getting deep.  
Well-proportioned fish in the great design; spots all right and fins perfectly intact.



Probably ten stocker bows.  Wanted to bash in their skulls and take them home for food but it wasn't to be.  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hard Water

Streams were turbid for a while; opted to spend some outings at home looking for meat.

Special reg on this water is three kept trout per angler.

These stocker bows move around in giant wolf packs.  They have no experience foraging for food.  In their guts you may find pieces of bark, leaves of aquatic macrophytes, other misc organic matter.  They do strike jigging spoons and eat minnows though.

All about the same size: 12 inches give or take.

Main Christmas present; got its first run.

Razor.  Makes job easier for sure.


Manhattan style chowder.  In the pot is tomato base, carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic, onion and spices.  Skillet is cooked pig from Kellogg MN.  Trout fillets cut into approx 1.5 inch pieces.  After adding the meat to the soup, the fish was fully cooked in about ten minutes.  This was a double batch.  1.5 pounds sausage and nine trout.  Very hearty; really good soup.

Some things you won't find in our arsenal include ice fishing shelters, power augers, much gear specifically dedicated to ice fishing.  What we have we've come by. That jigging stick pictured was found in a dumpster and that old junk bobber was in a big box of misc fly lines that was gifted to me.  Won't ever care about appearances while ice fishing; a guy can only have so much gear for so many facets of hunting and fishing.  Further, the gear pictured here is sufficient for this setting.  I don't think a nickel more need be spent to catch these trout.  Excepting $1.35 for each half scoop of crappie minnows.

Last outing we went sixty minutes and landed only one fish.  I walked over to look in some other holes maybe thirty yards away.  I could see trout down through the holes at my angle as I approached.  We moved.  Then caught eleven trout in about twenty minutes; picked up and went home.

I think we got forty one rainbows in three outings, of which we kept eighteen.  Two limits.  Minutes from the front door.  Not a bad holdover option.  The one time I was out with a friend and not my two sons, some guys from Midwest Outdoors came by and filmed a bit of capture.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Last Cold Day


Sunday 1/15/17 met some friends on the river.  Walking in I think it was around 4 F.  I noted that driving up top my car thermister read close to double digits.  Down in the valley it was more like 3-4 F.  Possible instrument error involved; or maybe just cold settled in low.  With the rays at that angle we were somewhat chilled at extremities.  Watching a guy fish first hole standing still in the shade feet got numb.  We decided to walk upstream until we got into the sun, which we could see up the valley a ways.  Low temps are okay if the sun is striking face and the wind is down; we had both to our advantage on this morning.
Don't often fish with four guys; we ended up doing two pairs leap-frogging, with a sort of sub-leap-frogging individually within that framework.  The social and discussion component was about as big as the fishing piece.


We walked into a plague of small brown trout.  Absolute horde of them.  Even fishing smallish tandem rigs, you figure you'll run into some variability in size over the course of the day.  Between four guys we topped out around 12 inches.  Catching many fish.  Not sure just how many but in our pair, we had to be right around fifty; maybe more.  The 7-10 inch fish seemed to be everywhere.  I never did throw a streamer up and across; should have done it but to be honest we weren't fishing really hard and no one was too worried about it.  


Came down to drink.

This size class was the top for the day; we got a fair number of them.  Spring 2013 was a tough one; maybe that year class was beat down some.  Seems that would conincide approx with the fish that would now be four years old and maybe low to mid-teens.  Need to go look at the average size of the year classes.  I do know there is a strong relationship between peak spring flow and survivability of the respective year class.  It's not the summer floods that get them.

I trekked ahead for a ways in the afternoon and fished this water.  First the plunge upstream to the left out of the photo.  It produced a few fish.  But the deal was finding the giant pod in the flat water; in the pool belly below the main plunge and out of the faster current.  That pod was at 12 o'clock position relative to my buddy's orientation in the pic.  I stood about where he is standing; hack-flipped five points of weight into the flat water; let it all sink; twitched and got eats.  Before anyone caught up I counted eighteen to hand; again, all small fish.  I stopped and ushered in buddy who proceeded to catch another solid dozen in about twenty minutes.  We left the hole knowing we could have kept at it.  Winter nymphing often plays out as such.

Not sure on this plant specie but it was a cool visual; some sort of biblical image out on the roadless pathless floodplain.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

One of the cold days; can't remember just which one after the Jan1 opener with the boys; it was the day on which Packers hosted Giants.  Cold as you could ever want it, with a hard-pushing south wind.  The calendar wasn't working for me, as I had an afternoon free but terrible conditions.  Figured I would go out anyway, see about maybe trying to get down deep with a big nymph to move a large trout.  Stay close to home.  First two holes very deep; dredged down in there for a while; nothing.  No fish to hand and not even any moved.  South wind just biting.  Coming off that Jan1 outing and then more immediately coming from my warm house I was thinking very hard about hanging it up.  Day is done.  This was the first cold day on my bare hands and they were just folding on me; deathly cold such that I questioned what I was doing.  Tried the gloves that I keep in the emergency pack.  Hated them.  Hate gloves while fishing.  I know some people use them and I feel I should consider training myself to do so.  But I have taken to the deer hunting muffler; not gloves.  I need to feel the line in my fingers.  I left the best two pieces having touched no fish but fully intending to try one last hole; one that is typically stacked with fish, noses tight to a natural barrier.  Threw the gloves to the snow and tucked in a little lee; commenced to nymph for a while.

What followed was about 45 minutes of catching a lot of fish like this one.  I think hooked 17 and landed 14.  Not a single fish over 12 inches long.  I was fishing a big nymph lead with an orange trailer (not a scud but a sort of shortcut scud).  Every single trout ate the trailer.  One creek chub ate the big nymph lead.


Key was banging the nymph rig against the natural barrier just right and letting it wash down into the main current.  A flip just short of the barrier would put flies on a descent that generally angled downward but over the top of where the fish were holding.  Three brook trout to hand including this pretty nice one.  Fly lodged on inside of left mandible was the deal as they were all facing upstream and I was on river right thus setting the hook and pulling the fly into the left corner of mouth.

One of the brook trout was hatched spring 2016 which I thought good and notable.




13 F air temp is not all that cold really, but relative to the Jan1 opener, and with the wind chill: it almost beat me down.  Kind of a decent lesson in persistence.  Tried to speak to myself like I sometimes speak to my kids.  Keep at it; good things happen.  And I suppose one could question whether or not catching and releasing fourteen smallish trout is a "good thing."  It is a good thing.  Even while favorite hours are guiding kids, I still like to craft some drifts and pick up the rod to find it tight on a trout.  Drive home and perceive the feeling coming back to hands and feet; good car heater pushing hard.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Report from Field Day 1, 2017


Older boy has been studying native fishes in his aquarium and taken an interest in fisheries books.  Always asking about hybrids of various species.  Often asking to fish.  We didn't talk a lot about the stream trout opener but maybe we all assumed we'd go out.  

Stayed close to home; easy access; easy fishing water 1130-1530.  As it happened we found a vehicle parked downstream; pleasant surprise to find only one on first day.  We left him alone and moved upstream, hoping to give him water and get in far enough ahead to not bother him or ever see him for that matter.  We parked at an access with unbroken snow; looked good.  But after the slog to the river, we indeed found his tracks; he'd covered water pretty quickly and was ahead of us.  Nymphing through the good holes, sure.  I asked the kids if they wanted to leave; find other water; they did not.  Seemed to not care.  My figuring was that we'd catch fewer fish, but still find means of prying a few from deep.

Let the big guy go first; two nymphs; one shot twelve inches up; one strike indicator.  My exact kind words were, now remember, there is no backcast here.  None.  It's flips and rolls and they'll be hinged and not pretty but don't worry about it.  Enjoyable for me to stand back and watch him approach the water; work it; understanding the seams.  Not all growth and development is linear.  For example after this season's first basketball practice he came home and said I don't know what happened, it was like magic, but now I can somehow do layups perfectly.  Good memory.  And another one here.  After a long break from fishing (November (?) with spinning gear) and a longer break from fly rod (October maybe), he appeared to have made a nice leap forward.  No backcasts.  Subtle but important things like knowing to look around before attempting to free a snag; then recovering in mid-air after it pops free.  Easy rolls into good lanes.   He was already a bird-dog on the indicator and that didn't change.  Fun to watch.  The action was generally slow, because as I confirmed later, the guy was not far ahead of us.  Kid ended up hooking three and landing all of them.  Pretty good batting average.  All came from different holes.  First a forehand hole; then a backhand hole; then a forehand hole.  Held them well and used both hands to control tension and line meting.  Starting to get a little excited about what he might do in terms of angling.  Quite a few years ahead of him.  Next he needs to learn to cast.  Thinking we'll dial it back to the Cannon River days ~16 years ago and wade some lakes; easy casting of poppers for silly aggressive fish; no banks or trees to snag while learning the stroke and loop.  Something for the month of May.
A lot in the picture: boy, dad, fish, midge.
Younger guy is not yet double digit years.  He has fish to his own name for sure; I think 15-18 trout nymphing on his own.  On this day he had a tougher deal: hooked three and all came unpinned.  One was a very good lesson in that he played it for maybe 10-15 seconds, holding pretty well; then it made a nice downstream run (this is 2 wt rod; light gear).  Fish charges for freedom; boy locks down; fish comes off.  Boy slackens in dismay.  That's about how it went.   But the fish are all there; they don't leave.  Nor does the boy leave or at least he doesn't go far; just home to sleep and start up again.  This ain't a club membership with a two week limit.  The fish are there in the holes and they can be had; that is the encouragement.  Focus on the next one.  He handled it pretty well because overall he handles things well; easy-going.

There was one notable fight that went beyond somewhat-acceptable because it was right at river's edge, twenty minutes from the car (be dangerous to get completely soaked).  Older boy headlocked younger; cast him to the stony bank and was posturing such that he might boot him hard with a hip wader steel-enforced toe.  Younger boy up in a wild cry with some angular slab of limestone cocked.  Dad inserting himself between trying to keep everyone dry and safe; trying keep a calm voice so as to not escalate.  In the end young boy on a log, eating and drinking slowly lamenting that he cannot trust old boy.  Maybe old boy heard and saw.

The reason was stated roughly as follows: he keeps looking at me and making faces and funny noises while I'm trying to fish.  There it is then...   something we've all felt at some point.  Our charge as adults is to handle it and be polite.  Suppose it doesn't always work as well for kids.  I understand and accept.

Very notably after this conflict they became inseparable; in the end, discussing a plan to knock out the wall between their rooms so they could have one big "joint room."



After the skirmish; after some fish; walking out.

Always like coming across this copse of poplar.  Part of the monochrome.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Some Gear Gone


Heavy reading 10-20 years ago.  I like books.  But they are physical and thus they hold space in the world.  Not enough shelves.  Donated to Rural America Writers Center library.  Somewhat symbolic parting although I did retain a handful of volumes on this subject matter.

A favorite coat.  Difficult to part with it.  Many winter trout and carp days.  But I now have a dedicated fishing jacket, a warm coat for work, and a nice wool longcoat for walking alleys and pubs downtown should that need arise every 1-9 months.  This coat served years at that triple-duty.  But last year I don't think it was used much.  Still highly serviceable and so wanted to give someone else a crack.  Stuffed following note in a hidden zipper pocket.