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A Return To Ice Fishing (Part 1)

January 28, 2018

January 19, 2018

Something missing over the last several years has been a noticeable lack of ice fishing activity on my part.   Hopefully, that will change.

Found myself heading to Grand Rapids, MN, for a hockey tournament that my son’s team was participating in.  Fortunately the weather took an unusually warm turn and I was making last minute preparations to sneak in some ice fishing.  Hockey and ice fishing in the north woods, what more can you ask for?

Car packed and ready to go.  Minnow bucket.  Vexilar.  Rods.  Auger. Tip up.  Bait Bucket. Heater.  Propane. Caramel Corn.  Shovel. Portable. Ice Scoop.  Just add bait.IMG_2539

What would a trip be without a wrong turn?

Not an adventure.

Took a wrong turn out of Aitkin, MN, after trying, and successfully finding nourishment for my son at Subway.  Twenty minutes later found myself staring at a sign that said “Pavement Ends Ahead.”  Talk about one of those “WTF” moments.  20 plus miles on an icy, curvy, gravel road, two owls, a bald eagle and a mink, and 45 minutes of extra travel time later we returned to Hwy 169 and made like a bat out of hell to Grand Rapids.

Dropped hockey player at rink at predesignated time, which allowed for a hour to get bait and wet a line on Hale Lake.  Pulled in to parking lot at Ben’s Bait & Tackle, parked the van, got out and right away heard bubbles from the driver’s side front tire as it was resting in a puddle.  Flat tire.  Ran to Jack’s BP where the helpful staff jumped in the tow truck, pulled me to the shop, and patched up the puncture courtesy of a rock.  Made it to the rink by game time.  Thank goodness it didn’t go flat on the gravel road.  We might still be there.

Saturday, January 20, 2018.

Went to Hale Lake for about half an hour before my son’s 8 a.m. game.  Beautiful morning.  Calm and moderate temperature.  Parked on the southwest corner near a city water facility and walked onto the lake.  Marked fish in a deep hole in the south end but got skunked.

View down Hale Lake –

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Fished for about an hour and a half on Saturday afternoon on Siseebakwet and caught zilch, as anticipated.  Too clear.  Few weeds.  Early morning/evening type of lake.  Good time though as two of the hockey dads, one of whom had never ice fished, joined me on the lake. Should have gone to Tioga Bay on Pokegama as suggested by Ben’s Bait.

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Went to McKinney before the 5:50 p.m. per the recommendation of the helpful staff at Ben’s Bait & Tackle where they have a good selection of ice fishing tackle and bait.  Just a good ol’ classic bait shop. McKinney is another small lake in the City of Grand Rapids.  Walked out on the ice as they were flooding for an upcoming pond hockey event.   Kind of slushy by the access and didn’t want to get stuck. Caught several small crappies in 33 feet of water.  Ice fishing and cold beer.  Great day to be on the water.  Sammy’s Pizza after the game.  What could be better?

 

– Hats

 

 

 

 

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Iowa Driftless (Part 2)

October 19, 2017

October 17, 2017

Awoke with Tom Petty on the brain and thus the following Haikus that play on various song lyrics from the Tom Petty catalog.

Down A Stream

Find work creepin in

The wading is the hardest part

Running down a stream

Mayfly

Fly, fly, oh hell yes

It is good to be fishing

Somewhere I feel free

Great River

On the great river

one last cast to cure the pain

we will meet again

Trout Run

Running down a stream, or streams in this case.  Today’s barnstorming started with a visit to Trout Run.  Walked further down stream and started at a river bend that was jammed with wood.  Disappointingly, I only had one strike and was blanked at what I thought was a sure looking spot for a bruiser brown.  I was throwing a Panther Martin spinner due to narrow confines in the pools and the darker water.  Switched to a pink squirrel and pheasant tail nymph for the upstream riffle, run and pool, but nary a taker.  That patterned persisted, frustratingly. Switched it up by throwing the Panther Martin into the tail of a plunge pool and reeled in back and caught one small brown trout that was followed by three rainbows and another brown trout.  No luck after that and decided to head to the next spot.

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Dinner ingredients

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Trout with chorizo, caremlized onions, and cilantro. Picked up the idea from watching Rick Bayless. Saute the chorizo, add a sliced red onion, simmer with a dark cola of your choice, add some chopped cilantro. (Bayless used a dark lager – about 8 oz). Serve over pan fried trout and garnish with more cilantro. Delicious.

Trout River

Stopped at Casey’s convenience store for ice to keep the trout cool and headed off to Trout River, which is about six miles south and east of Decorah.  Spooked several fish as I made my way upstream.  Saw a small Brook Trout sitting at the tail of a run, which was followed by a couple of risers upstream.  I was rewarded a few casts later when a feisty brown struck the pheasant tail nymph fished below a hopper.  Small water again and I missed a couple more strikes before they got spooked. Immediately upstream there was a ninety degree bend in the river and a deep pool with dark water.  First cast with the spinner and caught another rainbow, which preceded another a couple casts later.

Switched  back to the hopper and PT dropper.  The hopper got caught up in the grass and the biggest brown of the trip dashed out from the bank to pound the nymph that was swirling about.  A nice 15″ plus inch fish that freed me from the bank and soon freed himself.  Nice fish.  No more action in that riffle run and moved upstream where I caught a Brook Trout on the Panther Martin to complete what I’ve labeled the Iowa Slam: Brookie, Brown and ‘Bow, all in the same river.  Caught a few more browns and rainbows before heading for the next stream.

Pine Creek

Back to Casey’s to get my coordinates and a slice of pizza.  The people at the table next to me at Pulpit Rock Brewing last night were noshing on a Casey’s pizza they had brought with them and I must admit it looked good.  A gooey slice of cheesy pizza dotted with sausage sounded scrumptious so I grabbed a slice before instructing Siri to get me to Pine Creek.

Pine Creek is small with some deep holes.  The Iowa DNR reports that some natural reproduction of browns takes place and that was what attracted me there.  Again, tight and brush filled banks that allowed little room for graceful fly casting.  Caught two small browns but missed a couple larger fish before moving on.

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Scenic downstream pic of Pine Creek.

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South Bear Creek

Arrived at South Bear Creek at about 3 p.m., thanks again to Siri for the precise guidance over gravel roads.  Siri, I couldn’t have done it without you.  Bigger water and bigger fish.

Caught a number of rainbows on a spinner and a scrappy brook trout on a pheasant tail. Some BWO were starting to rise as I packed up and headed a few miles away to North Bear Creek.

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Classic “Driftless” geology

North Bear Creek

A quick jaunt north and east brought me to North Bear Creek.  Heading upstream and past another angler, I fished from a little before five to about six p.m.    The fish were feeding on BWO emergers.  Caught six browns, missed at least that many, if not more, and one plump rainbow.  Time to call it a day and scamper home.

This was an awesome trip and I encourage anyone looking to fish the Iowa Driftless region to give it a shot.  The scenery is splendid.  The fishing good and challenging, with opportunity for anglers of all walks and abilities. Plenty of campgrounds, B&B and hotel lodging opportunities.  The Iowa DNR does a fantastic job in providing numerous access points and paths that allow relatively easy access to the streams with little bushwhacking required. Visit the Iowa DNR online for helpful stream information and maps (the maps are awesome).  Nice to have some stocked fish for keeping because who doesn’t like to eat fish every once in awhile.  You can release the browns and brook trout to hopefully bring forth future generations.  I’m already planning my next trip.

One last Haiku inspired by a Duane Eddy interview on American Roots where he discussed his creative writing process and some of the themes that inspired him.

Shotgun Riders

My Shotgun Riders

Rebellion, loneliness

Flowing on drift less

– Hats

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa Driftless (Part 1)

October 18, 2017

October 16, 2017

The trout fishing season closed a couple weeks ago in Minnesota.  Closed October 15, 2017, in Wisconsin. Where to fish for trout, being that I have a couple days off?

Years ago I was in Decorah, IA, for a wedding andtried one of the streams there, so I did a little research on fly fishing in the Iowa Driftless.  Turns out the Iowa trout season is continuous. Better yet, the Iowa DNR has a stellar website identifying where to fish for trout.   Two hours and forty-five minutes from home, a continuous trout season and an abundance of streams to fish?  Count me in. I booked a hotel room and bought my license on line and headed for Decorah, IA, late Monday morning, via the Amish Trail near Harmony, MN.

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Pine Spring Creek

First stop on the Iowa swing: Pine Spring Creek.  I wouldn’t say that I have a green thumb, but I do enjoy gardening and have bought seeds from Seed Savers Exchange .  Seed Savers is dedicated to saving, growing and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, has a herd of Ancient White Park Cattle and; a restored trout steam in Pine Spring Creek.  Pine Spring Creek is catch and release only for brook trout as it boasts a naturally reproducing strain of South Pine strain Brook Trout.  Bought some seeds, walked around a bit and headed for the creek.

Pine is tight and challenging to fish.  I was unsuccessful in my efforts, but did see several schools of a dozen or so large brook trout cruising two of the deeper pools.  A more patient and delicate angler may be rewarded for their efforts.

What a great setting.  Hat’s off to Seed Savers Exchange for their passion and dedication.

Some of the sights:

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Downstream from the walking bridge. Don’t get discouraged. It gets bigger and is open for fishing.

Twin Springs

Located on the western side of Decorah, IA, Twin Springs is a tiny, spring fed stream, with a enough depth and cool water to support a population of brown trout.  Right away I spooked several fish in the shallow, clear water.  Caught a little one on a Pheasant Tail nymph and two on a BWO.  Missed three other fish.  Worth a shot for novelty’s sake.  Difficult to work a fly rod in confines as tight as these.

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Twin Springs source

Trout Run

With only about half an hour of remaining daylight, I made a few casts at Trout Run.  Larger and more akin to what one would find on the Kinni or Rush, I was rewarded when a spunky brown trout crashed my BWO right off the bat.  Bummer that a small section of my fly line snagged on an over hanging tree, which allowed said trout to splash and thrash itself free before I could net it.

Trout Run is  bigger water, with deep holes, and some wood that offers the promise of larger fish.  It is where I will start day two.

Pulpit Rock Brewing

I had a hockey coach that used to say nothing good happens after midnight.  Well, in Decorah, nothing good happens after nine p.m.  Seemed like most of the downtown shuts down at 9.  I suppose it was a Monday.  Fortunately, Pulpit Rock Brewing was open and I headed there for a refreshing brew, in this case a pint of Festwork, Pulpit’s take on Munich based lager.

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-Hats

 

Forget Me Not

October 18, 2017

October 8, 2017

Been fishing the Rush River a lot.  Last night the Kinnickinnic River whispered to me:  Forget Me Not.

Forget Me Not seems like a good title and is a riff on the game played in the theatrical production of You Can’t Take It With You, which my daughter had a role in.  Forget Me Not is the word association game where the host states a word and then you write down the first thing that comes to mind, in case you forgot.

Forget Me Not

Cold Beer:  Spotted Cow

Trout: Kinnickinnic River

Hobbie: Gone Fishing

Another gorgeous fall day.  Listened to American Roots on the way and learned a little bit about Duane Eddy’s creative inspiration and song-writing process.

The trout cooperated.  The magic ticket today was a pheasant tail nymph.

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A sign that my nymph was making contact with the bottom.

-Hats

Stan’s Spin

October 9, 2017

October 7, 2017

Went to Bush Lake last week on October 1.  Couldn’t ask for a better day.  Overcast, calm and muggy.  Tried a Stan’s Spin, a spinner bait from Mack’s Lures, to no avail.  Switched to a buzz bait and ba bam.

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Couldn’t resist one more shot on Bush Lake on Saturday, October 7, 2017.  Cool and rainy, a great day to be bass fishing, if only for an hour before work.  Caught three small bass, all on a Stan’s Spin.  Really like the slow blade and unique shape that give it a different flash.

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–Hats

 

The Rush

September 30, 2017

Fished the Rush late this morning.

Rush, an appropriate name.

Rushed to work to put out a couple of fires; some kind of vacation day.  Rushed to the stream. Rushed home.  Rushed through dinner before rushing the kids to the football game.  Rushed back to the football stadium to bring them home.

Surprisingly, I was able to slow down and take my time once I got to the Rush.  Always connected, it really is tough to get away. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

 

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Homegrown carrots

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Homemade Carrot Cake

Didn’t start catching fish until I resolved one outstanding work related matter standing knee deep in the middle of the river with trout noses rising everywhere. Tricos.

Tied on a hopper and a dropper when the spinners stopped.  Caught one on the hopper.  Had two others nibble at it.  Amazing how slow they rose to it.  Very delicate takes.  Caught a few more stragglers.  Ended the day with 11 browns and 3 brook trout.

Saw one absolute monster brown.  Twenty plus inches sitting in the shallows amidst a large school of trout no more than fifteen feet away.  Bright sunshine, no cover, right out in the open.  I could see it plain as day.  Wonder if it was looking to feed on one of the  abundant trout milling about as I saw it charge a smaller trout that got too close?

– Hats

 

Lake Nokomis and the Vermillion River

September 30, 2017

 

September 28, 2017

Other than linking them in the title, there is no heralded connection between Lake Nokomis or the Vermillion River.

I simply went to Lake Nokomis on the 24th and got blanked.  Not much to write about there. Glorious fall day.  Hot.

The Vermillion River.  Well, I have a little more to say about that.

I now know what I need to consistently capture fish on the Vermillion: a HT 2000.

That’s right. A Hall Tech 2000 Electro-Fishing machine.

I was fortunate to stumble onto an opportunity to volunteer with the MN DNR during its routine sampling of the Vermillion River on September 28th and decided I’d help out.  Comprised of a group of eight (three from the MN DNR and 5 volunteers, we sampled two stretches of the river and it was shocking in many ways.  One, I was shocked at how secure the trout were in their surroundings.  You would think that they’d bug out of their holes and hiding places with eight people marching upstream.  However, it seemed like you could get right on top of them.  I suppose that is because the majority of them were where you would suspect them to be; under log jams, cut banks, and deep holes.  Spots that provide them protection and allow them to grow big.  Two, I was surprised to see Green Sunfish in the river.  Not a lot, but a handful.  A fair number of suckers.  Not to mention one teeny, tiny Largemouth Bass, and one little, little Northern Pike.   Three, the size of some of the trout.  Fingerlings to a couple of beasts in the neighborhood of twenty inches.  A fair number of fish I suppose, but not the numbers you’d seen on the Kinni, the Rush, or some of the more prolific Driftless Region streams. It will be interesting to read the DNR findings and see how they compare to the prior samples. Four, while nobody took a serious dunking it was interesting to note how deep it got in several spots, and not coincidentally, those spots yielded the biggest fish.

All fish were measured for length and weight, and most importantly, all were returned to the river alive and unscathed.

Captured one giant stone fly, which I will have to keep in mind for future fishing excursions.

Below are some photos showing the equipment, a trout being weighed, and the aforementioned stone fly nymph.

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Musky candy – big suckers

Thank you to the dedicated MN DNR staff for their commitment and dedication in revitalizing the Vermillion.  Also, thank you to Trout Unlimited and the countless volunteers that have assisted with buckthorn removal.

The Vermillion River is a true gem thanks to their efforts and vision.

In summary, there are a modest number of trout here, and some big ones.  Good luck getting at them though.  Woody and narrow; long-rods and long casts can be left at home. The water is not your classic, freestone, trout stream, with successive  riffles, runs and pools.  Be prepared to bushwhack your way in, get stuck in the muck, and get snagged in the trees if you want a shot at one of the bruisers.

Consumed a couple of well deserved libations (7 oz. samplers) at Angry Inch Brewing.  Cool and refreshing.  Stop in for a pint.

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Cerveza del Lago

 

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Samoan Kisses

-Hats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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