As you may have read, I went fishing on September 30th and had a good time. I think there are a few things I can attibute my success to.
- Trout are starting to spawn, so hormones are cranked up, meaning fish are more aggressive.
- After sticking with fly gear all season long (almost exclusively) my ability to cast with a fly rod has improved a lot, including roll casting.
- I have learned that stealth is much more important when using fly gear (as opposed to spinning gear) because long-distance casting is much less an option with a fly rod.
- Fly selection – with spinners it’s one of two options: a gold #9 Panther Martin, or a silver #9 Panther Martin. With flies, the options can be overwhelming. But if you have the wrong fly, you won’t catch fish.
Hormonal Fish, Correct Fly, Stealthy Approach all lead to a beautiful hookup
A Crawford County Spring-Fed Trout Stream
Speaking of using the correct fly, I had hookups and strikes aplenty using a Hopper with a Copper John dropper. Mid-day, when I started fishing, every fish I caught was on the Copper John dropper, nothing on the Hopper. But as the sun started to get lower in the sky, the fish switched over to the Hopper and ignored the Copper John that was ticking along the streambed. I have no idea why this happened. I think I may have had a couple of double strikes, meaning one fish went for the Hopper and one went for the Copper John, at the same time. I never did get a double hookup though.
I also had zero hits on wooly buggers, Griffith’s Gnats, or any other patterns I tied on.
Hunger or Aggression? This Brown started a surface fly-eating trend.
Driftless spring creek Brown on a Hopper fly.
All this is to say that when things aren’t going right, it’s hard for a novice fly fisherman to figure out what to do. Is it the fish? The fly? Am I being too loud? Casting shadows? Wearing the wrong color hat?
So many choices, and without experience or a guide, it’s difficult to know what to do. Luckily, once in a while you have the day you’ve been hoping for all year.
Yes, it’s true. I had the most success I’ve ever had fly fishing for trout yesterday.
I went and visited Todd Opsal at On The Creek Fly Shop before heading west to Crawford County, and he talked to me about a fly I’d never used before, the Copper John. Todd suggested I tie on a hopper surface fly with a Copper John dropper. So that’s what I did. My second cast yielded a fish.
Plum Creek Brown on a Copper John
As for where I fished, I wanted to try a couple of streams I haven’t fished previously. Using Google Maps and the DNR Trout Stream data, I found two streams that looked good. A year ago I called someone at the Crawford County Government Offices and asked if there were any county parks with camping there (there aren’t). I also got to talking with the man on the phone about trout fishing and he said “Plum Creek is the best trout stream in Crawford County”. For some reason that stuck in my brain. Well the stats do look good (5.2 miles of Class 1 Trout water, native Brook and Brown Trout, no stocking), and I imagine that had something to do with him claiming it was the best trout stream in the county.
The upper reaches of Plum Creek in Crawford County
I don’t know that you can blankly state a particular stream is the best out of all the streams in Crawford County. That place is an embarrassment of riches, with so many good trout streams you’d be hard pressed to fish them all. Even non-designated streams are full of trout!
Todd Opsal of On the Creek Fly Shop, whom I may have mentioned earlier having helped me with my fly choices, concurred that Plum Creek was a nice choice, and he had fished it once before and enjoyed it, and told me about a friend of his, Bill, who fished the lower section of the creek and got some nice biggerr fish.
My second choice was one I’ll leave off the books, but it’s near another creek I’ve fished that is full of fish, and it worked out nicely for me yesterday and, well, you know…
Another nice place to fish in Crawford County
So, I fished a couple of great places, caught a lot of nice fish, and feel really good about it all. It’s hard to beat seeing a fish slam your hopper fly off the surface of the water seconds after it lands on the water with so much force it startles you.
The events leading up to this moment were a great deal of fun.