Monday, June 15, 2009

Random Observations #1

Some thoughts to share as I fly fish my way across Wisconsin pursuing panfish, largemouth, smallmouth, and trout...

Crash it, smash it, thrash it, kill it and grill it.

A small pond was discovered several weeks ago that holds huge panfish... or at least it did. One week elapsed between visits, and the pond had changed for the worse. The bait and bucket crowd had nearly fished it out. Nothing wrong with a fish or two for the grill, but when you destroy the source of your food or your recreation, then it is gone. People carrying stringers of multiple fish wandered the banks. The next week there was trash all over the banks. Snack bags, and beer cans mixed with tangles of mono destined to become entangled in my feet or that of water fowl. Very sad indictment of the "I got mine" mentality. Instead of leaving nothing behind but footprints and taking only memories, the goons that fished the pond had wasted the resource and left the detritus of their wasted lives behind. Good example for the next generation folks.

Beer cans.
It is a running joke with me and those that accompany my wanderings that every fishing access site in Wisconsin has a unique property: that of blue and white or blue and silver beer cans. The color seems important for some reason. It is always a Bud Light, Milwaukee's Best Ice, Natural Dry Ice Light or something similar. Once I started noticing this phenomenon, it became a game to spot the blue and white cans every time we peer over a bridge at new water.

The path less traveled.
Little Joe calls it "snooping". The act of peering and exploring new water, thinking and analyzing versus always doing the same thing and fishing the same stretch of water. Like most people, I am a creature of habit, and have missed stretches of rivers because I always go back to the same place. Part of this is a desire to figure out a body of water, but part is lazyness as well. Going off the beaten track and always having a plan 'B' or even 'C' can lead to great discoveries. I found this to be true on the Coulee area streams this spring when fishing a beautiful spring creek, I found cars at all the pullouts. I parked my car on the side of a road and hiked in to a wooded section of the creek and had it to myself for the rest of the day. No humans were spotted nor heard for the next five hours, but the brown trout sure liked my X-caddis.
Robert Frost had it right. Take the path less traveled.

Dumb questions.
The ubiquitous question asked of me: "Does that fly stuff work here", or "Do you catch anything on that flyrod? "I didn't know you could flyfish in a lake." "What kind of bait are you using?"
I need to come up with a frequently asked questions and answer card. People just seem to stick to a mistaken stereotype that fly fishing is for trout living in streams only, and that for everything else, powerbait is in order.

Never try to recreate the miracle of a first discovery.
Remember the time you found that little secluded plunge pool section of a trout stream after hiking through poison ivy and mosquitos and getting stuck in quicksand, and how the native brookies were so beautiful and cooperative with your angling efforts?
Do NOT try to repeat epic memories. The next time you try to find that spot, you will either become lost, fall in, break your rod, or find the stream devoid of all life.
It goes with other of fly fishing's little unwritten rules and maxims:

The farther you drive to get to your fly fishing destination, the better the chances of poor weather conditions, heavy rain, or tornadoes.

The second you change flies to temp a rising trout, the trout will stop rising.

The moment you look away to swat a mosquito, clear your line, or whatever, your fly will be taken, and you will miss the grab.

If you bring a camera, you will only catch little fish, but if you forget the camera, the biggest fish in the river will eat your fly.... except if you forget the camera on purpose, then you will catch nothing at all.

If you feverishly tie up flies for an expected hatch, the hatch will not occur until you have left the stream in frustration.

The huge super finicky and selective brown trout nicknamed "Bullwinkle" that lives under the bridge and hides in that inaccessible spot overhung with alders that you have been trying to catch for two years will be taken by a ten year old kid using a Sponge Bob rod and worms.

When you get to that section of stream filled with big fish that winds through private property, the lonely old guy who lives there will come out and begin telling you all about his book The world compendium of cabbage cooking and turnip farming in great detail. As soon as he finally goes away, the fish will stop rising.

The new flies that you bought from the bargain bin at the Fishin Depot will turn out to be tied with self dissolving surplus Chinese shoelace material and the eyes will all be cemented shut.

When you finally catch the elusive Hex hatch, the batteries in your headlamp will die.

When you do hook a beautiful fish that makes your reel scream, somebody will inevitably appear out of nowhere, watch you land it, and then wade in the spot you were fishing and begin casting.

The fish you hook properly and manage to land will be a hatchery drone, while the one that got away will be a wild fish.

That new river you have always wanted to fish will experience one of the following when you first step foot in it with a fly rod:
  1. The DNR just shocked it the day before.
  2. Last week the rotonone factory upstream exploded and the stream was declared dead.
  3. You meet up with some smart aleck who tells you "Ya should a been ahere last week."
  4. The local fishing club has an outing that day on the very stretch of river you are in.
  5. The local population of mosquitoes and deer flys are having a convention, and you forgot your bug spray.
  6. You are gearing up and you realize that your reel is missing, or that your three year old son has seen fit to playfully remove all your flies from your wheatly and fill it with legos.
  7. PETA has organized a "save the sea kittens" picnic and intervention on the public water you intended to fish.
  8. The state fish and game department hatchery truck was there the day before and dumped ten thousand stocker pellet heads in the river, and the entire cast of the movie Deliverance has showed up with all three of their teeth.


  1. Oh, Erik, how frustrating. You know I have a friend on Facebook that fishes obsessively and posts pictures of the hundreds and hundreds of fish he has already caught this complaining that there is no more room in his freezer...
    Now, a couple things you might not know about me: I love drinking cheap beer lustily from blue cans, but I do recycle them properly; and I think that fishing is a barbaric sport generally- I mean I eat them, I think they are tasty, but ripping their mouths apart and throwing them back- not cool!! Overfishing? Not cool!!
    Keep your wise observations coming. People listen to what you have to say.

  2. Ahh... cheap beer. PBR, Schlitz, Blatz... MMmm! We are from Milwaukee after all.

    I don't think fishing is barbaric. If it is, then eating is barbaric. Fishing is though, a blood sport... even when properly practicing catch and release with minimum damage to the fish and a high survival rate. Still a blood sport. Any effort to cloak this is disingenuous. As I wrote in Living closer to your food, I believe it is essential to find out where one's food comes from, be that garden, field, or lake.

    Catch and release though, as you pointed out, doesn't include ripping their lips off. And, yes... overfishing is definitely not cool.

    Hope you are well on the way to mending!

  3. I have this conundrum when thinking about beer.
    Do I prefer quality or quantity?
    I now make my own and I have the best of both worlds

  4. I think there is a misconception about "lip rippers" and fly fishers essentially doing the same To me it's like comparing Repin to Paint by Numbers.

    "Lip Rippers" like NASCAR, Doritos and Busch Light. Hence the Silver and Blue cans, the foil snack bags, and the parking lot full of Monte Carlos. The've got fancy Bass boats with Wal-Mart logos, and shirts with every inch plastered in corporate logos.

    The Lip Rippers say thing like:
    "Youz can't catch nutin' wit dat fly. It's only got but one darn hook, and ya' can't even fit a wurm on it."

    "I iz gonna bet my trailer that my tree treble hooked, fully barbed, Rattln'Trap will catch more dan yur dainty one hooked barbless popper any day!"

    and my personal favorite...

    "Catch and the grease!"

    The Fly fisher says:

    "Do you think I can get them on a size 16?

    "Don't use too large of a hook, the fish is only 10" long"

    "Let's get them back in the we'll have another chance to catch them when their bigger!"


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