Archive for the ‘Trout Camp’ Tag

Montana’s Beartooth Mountains – Installment 4   Leave a comment

I was awoken at Dewey Lake in the morning by my son Bode, asking me if he thought it would be okay to wake his friend Heron to go down to the lake and fish. I said it was, then got up myself and started breaking camp, packing away hammocks and sleeping bags, getting things organized for the day’s hike.

I walked up to the top of the knoll to see about my dad. He was sound asleep, and I left him alone. Today was going to be the push up to the “top of the world”, Fossil Lake, at 10,000 feet. Billed in the guidebook as the gem of this route, I was looking forward to seeing it, but worried about cold winds and high elevation.

Down to the lake shore I strolled ready to make coffee and oatmeal. It was a glorious morning with fish rising all around, and a little arctic tern was swimming just out of reach, picking away at the insects rising from the depths, wondering if we had anything to offer it.

Coffee was made, and oatmeal was eaten, though to the dismay of the boys who would have preferred bacon and eggs. I dunked my head in the lake to give my hair a wash, and then Wes came down to say hello. He ate and drank and dunked as well, and we cleaned up, packed up, and headed on our way, hoping for an enjoyable and rewarding day, ambling toward the headwaters of East Rosebud Creek.

We headed up the trail toward Fossil Lake, passing through incredible alpine meadows filled with flowers, spotting Pika and Marmots, and pushing our legs upward and onward. We made it to Fossil Lake by about 2pm, which was a welcome change to the previous two days’ hikes when we arrived after 7pm.

Adequate trees were located to hang our hammocks, the fishing rods came out, and we all enjoyed a relaxing afternoon on top of the world. I even took in a swim in crisp and refreshing water only feet from a snowfield. Fossil Lake is truly a crown jewel.

Below, some photos of our hike and a teaser of more Fossil Lake photos that I’ll post tomorrow. Enjoy!

 

Through the meadows along the East Rosebud Trail we go.

Through the meadows along the East Rosebud Trail we go.

 

Wes and Heron on the East Rosebud Trail above Dewey Lake

Wes and Heron on the East Rosebud Trail above Dewey Lake

 

Bode and Stephen admire the high alpine meadows on the East Rosebud Trail

Bode and Stephen admire the high alpine meadows on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Upward toward Fossil Lake on the East Rosebud Trail

Upward toward Fossil Lake on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Up switchbacks and back down to cross a creek on the East Rosebud Trail

Up switchbacks and back down to cross a creek on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Incredible views along the East Rosebud Trail

Incredible views along the East Rosebud Trail

 

Heron clowns it up on the East Rosebud Trail

Heron clowns it up on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Tom on the East Rosebud Trail near Fossil Lake

Tom on the East Rosebud Trail near Fossil Lake

 

Wes on the East Rosebud Trail near Fossil Lake

Wes on the East Rosebud Trail near Fossil Lake

 

Stephen on the East Rosebud Trail near Fossil Lake

Stephen on the East Rosebud Trail near Fossil Lake

 

Bode on the East Rosebud Trail near Fossil Lake

Bode on the East Rosebud Trail near Fossil Lake

 

A broad beautiful meadow on the East Rosebud Trail

A broad beautiful meadow on the East Rosebud Trail

 

The snowfields get closer on the East Rosebud Trail

The snowfields get closer on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Amazing alpine wildflowers on the East Rosebud Trail

Amazing alpine wildflowers on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Bode and Wes resting along the East Rosebud Trail

Bode and Wes resting along the East Rosebud Trail

 

A long view up high on the East Rosebud Trail

A long view up high on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Heron and Stephen hike up to Fossil Lake on the East Rosebud Trail

Heron and Stephen hike up to Fossil Lake on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Amazing alpine meadow blooms on the East Rosebud Trail

Amazing alpine meadow blooms on the East Rosebud Trail

 

Bode with the first Cutthroat Trout from Fossil Lake, East Rosebud Trail

Bode with the first Cutthroat Trout from Fossil Lake, East Rosebud Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tainter and Knapp Creek in April   5 comments

On Friday Stephen and I took a drive out to the Kickapoo River Valley to fish the fine waters of Tainter Creek. This river is loaded with fish. Perhaps I shouldn’t kiss and tell, as they say, but seriously, if you don’t already know about Tainter Creek, well, you need to talk to more fishermen.

For those of you who are angry about my use of stream names in my trip reports, I’m sorry. But it’s nothing you couldn’t get from reading a few books, going to a few fly shops, and attending a TU meeting once in a blue moon. Isn’t it sort of like saying there are Musky in Lake Minoqua, or that there are Steelhead in the Brule?

But, I digress.

The thing about trout fishing is that it isn’t a given you’ll catch the trout. Stephen and I started the day looking down into a pool from a bridge over Tainter Creek, where we spied perhaps 250 fish. We fished that pool a few hours later and caught exactly two trout from it. Some days the fish are willing. Other days, they’re obstinate.

After a lunch in the car we fished upstream from the bridge and found more fish, only some of which were willing. The sections we fished on Friday were gorgeous, natural, healthy and thriving with life.

We wrapped up fishing toward late afternoon, found a camp, and then headed to Soldier’s Grove for some food. On the way we crested the ridge between the Tainter Creek Valley and the Kickapoo River Valley, and Stephen’s phone chimed. He checked it and found a message from John Jackels, who said he was in Readstown and hoping to find us. We had driven down the hill a ways and Stephen had lost his signal, so I backed up about an eighth mile to regain the summit, and we gave John a call. He was ten minutes north of Soldier’s Grove, and we were ten minutes west of it. How about that?!

I really wish Soldier’s Grove had a bar with some good food. Or maybe my problem is that I picked the wrong thing to eat. I had the fried fish (Haddock, I think), with “baby red” potatoes. John had the same thing. Stephen had the baked fish with garlic mashed potatoes. My fish was akin to eating breaded and deep fried eraser. The baby reds were really just Russet potatoes cut into chunks the size of baby red potatoes, deep fried and sprinkled with canned parmesan cheese. Stephen’s baked fish was like eating a piece of bone that had been boiled long enough to turn it into a gelatinous lump. His garlic mashed potatoes tasted like pizza.

I’m in a critical mood today. Sorry.

After dinner we got some coffee and eggs from the gas station to prepare breakfast on Saturday, then we headed back to the campsite, made a fire, shot the shit, and went to bed.

Saturday dawned cold and breezy. We had breakfast on the road and headed downstream. We fished what I believe are some of the finest runs of trout water in the state. We all got several nice fish to hand and enjoyed the morning immensely.

We had lunch on the road and then hit a pretty section of Tainter where some “restoration” work had recently taken place.

I suppose after a few years these restored sections come back with vigor, but the section we visited was a ghost town. No fish spotted, and the habitat was much less varied than natural areas. It’s sort of like fishing a golf course. A thing that’s concerning about these projects is that, in the natural world, streams move and meander and find their way. The strategy used for restoration means the creek won’t move. It will stay in its channel for a good long while. Is this a problem? Does it exclude other species besides trout? I didn’t see a single creature moving around in this restored section, whereas the area we fished in the morning was full of birds and voles and stuff. I hope these restorations are being done in a way that considers all of this.

We wrapped up our trip on Knapp Creek, where we came upon a woman walking back along the road after a good day of fishing. Her face said it all. The fish were rising, she had said. We parked and dove in and, sure enough, rising fish! I got one out of a deep pool on a dry. It’s silvery body came from down deep and it shot out of the water straight through the fly. What a great catch!

Tired and happy, we made our way back home after a great trip to the Driftless.

All weekend, by the way, I had great success using a “black tadpole” streamer fly, shown in the fish pic below, with a “brassie” dropper. I got fish on both of these and I’m really a fan of this tandem rig. It seems the bashful fish are willing to go after the small brassie, while the outgoing (and usually, bigger) fish are all about gobbling up the black tadpole.

 

Breakfast on the road.

Breakfast on the road.

 

Tainter Creek Brook Trout caught on my own "black tadpole"

Tainter Creek Brook Trout caught on my own “black tadpole”

 

Stephen Rose casting on Tainter Creek

Stephen Rose casting on Tainter Creek

 

John Jackels on Tainter Creek

John Jackels on Tainter Creek

 

Stephen and John work out wind knots on Tainter.

Stephen and John work out wind knots on Tainter.

 

Lunch on the road.

Lunch on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friend   2 comments

 

Stephen Rose approaches Camp Creek

Stephen Rose approaches Camp Creek

 

 

Northwoods Ho!   Leave a comment

Plans are in the works for a trip up to the Bois Brule, and perhaps the Cranberry River, Flag River, White River, Marengo River, Sioux River, or who knows where. Hopefully the fish will be our guide.

I can’t wait to see that lovely tanin-stained water, hear the wolves howl, and see the flash of those silvery fish in the riffles. I’ll be keeping my eye on the fish forums to see how our chances look for getting up there during a run.

For now, here are some memories of last year’s visit…

Wood Turtle on the banks of the Bois Brule River, Wisconsin

Wood Turtle on the banks of the Bois Brule River, Wisconsin

 
 
Stephen Rose: Extreme Trout Fisherman

Stephen Rose: Extreme Trout Fisherman

 
 
S. Rose on the incredible Bois Brule River, Wisconsin

S. Rose on the incredible Bois Brule River, Wisconsin

 
 
The Amnicon River in Douglas County, Wisconsin

The Amnicon River in Douglas County, Wisconsin

 

 

 

The White Wooly Bugger, Fly-Fishing vs Spinning, and the Tributaries of the Kickapoo   3 comments

Last week Tom and I took a sort of ‘last hurrah’ expedition to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve to get in some fishin’ before I embarked on a new job which might impinge on our ability to get out there as often as we might wish.

It was a great idea and great trip.

The story of this occasion was the "white wooly bugger".

Due to scheduling beyond our control, we felt that this was an opportune moment to give our “hammock camping” ambitions another go ’round. We left Madison at 10:30pm and made camp around 12:30am under cover of a moonless but starry night not far from our intended fishing spots.

Tom in a justly famous "Hennessey Hammock" after a pleasant evening.

The hammocks proved their virtues yet again as we strung them in minutes and were comfortable through the night. (doubled sleeping bags comes highly recommended)

I want to discuss a beautiful discovery I had while we fished. I had no real plan or strategy eked out for how I might approach the streams but I figured that this early in the season a hatch would be light at best and that nymphing would be our most likely presentation.  I had tied a number of white wooly buggers on the old adage, “light flies, light day, dark flies, dark day”. I am almost not interested in color patterns in flies at the moment. I tend towards the idea that profile trumps color in most fishing situations. Attraction can be brought about with metallic light catching materials but roygbiv seems irrelevant from my experience. This narrows my need for all kinds of varied materials when tying flies and limits indecision speeding production.  I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks about this as I have yet to read anything about the simple idea of using white or black flies as the baseline for virtually all patterns.

Anyway, my first usage of the white wooly bugger was a revelation. Where with most flies I felt some need to tie on a float to aid in  recognizing strikes, the white wooly bugger was plainly visible beneath the surface and the need for a float was negated. I could now cast with much greater comfort as my leader and tippet unfurled in continuous arcs without the ‘hinge-like’ effect that I find when using a float. I could watch the travel of the white fly all the way to a fish’s mouth. It was terrific!

My new favorite fly pattern.

When I cast my last white wooly bugger onto a lovely wall only to have it get hung up in a deep bend I was almost ready to get wet to salvage it. I spent the rest of the day thinking of that damn fly. I could see it under the surface just begging me to make a mistake trying to retrieve it.

I intend to tie plenty more of these over the coming months. I’ll use lots of lead and a beadhead so I can get it down deep and not have to add split shot which I find disturbs the travel of my line just the way a float does. If you’ve got to have weight it’s nice to have it in just one place. As you can see by the picture, Tom has me beat cold in the fly-tying department. I tie to fish and I’m not ashamed of it. At least, not yet.

On a larger note, I’d like to bring up an idea I recently read about in TU’s periodical “Trout”. I highly recommend checkin’ this out as it was filled with superlative stories on the restoration work going on in our state and beyond.

Here’s the thing: “discovery is the soul of angling”.

That’s it. That is about as irreduceable an idea as I can summon about why I love this activity. It just ain’t about the fish.

Here’s Tom taking his time with his next move. This is a picture of a fisherman in process.
The Kickapoo Valley Reserve is such a god-awfully beautiful place that ‘seekingtrout’ is it’s own reward.

A fresh and blooming skunk cabbage. Maybe fresh isn't the right word.

A moment of astonishing drama in the woodland dun.

A clutch of amphibian eggs beneath the reflection of a leafless canopy. Spring peepers, Cricket frogs, and Green frogs sang in the ephemeral ponds adjacent to the streams.

Last, I wanted to offer a riff about , yes, fly-fishing. Tom and I found that last season we could catch about as many fish as we could want on an ideal day with spinning gear. We worked a stream with an almost ruthless vigor. Spinning is a fast, athletic, and very productive method of fishing. But isn’t ‘productivity’ what our everyday back at work is about? Isn’t fishing sort of a moment where productivity isn’t the underlying motivation?

We fly-fished for probably eight hours. We did not catch fish as we might of with spinning gear or so we supposed. But we did find that we fished with greater intention and sometimes with a kind of grace that spinning gear doesn’t offer. There is, deep down, a kind of brutality to spinning gear that we both could not fail to notice when we switched over to spinning in the latest part of the day. This was an experiment. We wanted to see what happened to our day by changing our method.

I think we both came away rather surprised by how much we missed the slow and quiet presentation of the fly despite catching more fish.

It is hard to not be astonished no matter how many times you bring a brookie to hand.

I haven’t posted in awhile. I kind of been in a funk with what to say recently. This latest trip has revitalized my interest. I can’t wait to get back out there.

Thanks.

Fly Fishing the Kickapoo Tribs   2 comments

On Wednesday, April 6th at about 10:30 pm, Stephen Rose and I bid farewell to our families and drove west to the Kickapoo Valley. We set up camp quickly and woke up to a frosty, bright morning. Our day was, in our short history of fishing for trout, one of the best yet.

The goal was to continue gaining experience fishing with fly tackle, with the hopes of having success connecting with trout. That goal was met, but there were so many other bonuses in the form of beautiful sights, sounds, and experiences. It was an incredible day!

Last Night's Hammocks in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve

Last Night's Hammocks in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve

 

Sun's Up!

Sun's Up!

 

Pre-fishing breakfast preparation

Pre-fishing breakfast preparation

 

A Driftless spring seep running down limestone

A Driftless spring seep running down limestone

 

Here's lookin' at you, fish.

Here's lookin' at you, fish.

 

Tom's Wooly fools a Driftless Trout

Tom's Wooly fools a Driftless Trout

 

Nicely!

Nicely!

 

This man is happy.

This man is happy.

 

Driftless Brown on a White Wooly Bugger

Driftless Brown on a White Wooly Bugger

 

Stephen Rose working a bend pool on a Kickapoo River Tributary

Stephen Rose working a bend pool on a Kickapoo River Tributary

 

Beautiful Meander in Wisconsin's Driftless

Beautiful Meander in Wisconsin's Driftless

 

Beaver Lunch

Beaver Lunch

 

Strike!

Strike!

 

Working the Wall

Working the Wall

 

Is this for real? Driftless Wisconsin Trout Water.

Is this for real? Driftless Wisconsin Trout Water.

 

Brown Trout, Wooly Bugger

Brown Trout, Wooly Bugger

 

Casting to a lie

Casting to a lie

 

A Stealthy Approach

A Stealthy Approach

 

Wow.

Wow.

 

The Garden of Eden?

The Garden of Eden?

 

Nice Fish!

Nice Fish!

 

Stephen Rose with at Driftless Wisconson Brown Trout

Stephen Rose with at Driftless Wisconson Brown Trout

 

Working a limestone wall

Working a limestone wall

 

Stephen Rose, Successful Fly Fisherman

Stephen Rose, Successful Fly Fisherman

 

Driftless Trout Stream

Driftless Trout Stream

Gordon Creek in February   1 comment

Bode wading Gordon Creek

Bode wading Gordon Creek

With schools closed and three young boys beating down the walls of my house, I decided to temp fate and drag them all out to the countryside to check out some spring creek scenery. I’ve fished Gordon Creek a handful of times, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to visit the upper reaches of the drainage. Fish were spotted and my boys had a good time playing by the water’s edge (or in the water depending on the wardrobe). The creek ran clear and looked about like it does any time of year. I suppose this is a nice thing about the headwaters of a spring-fed creek. It’s reliably consistent.

Upper reaches of Gordon Creek
Upper reaches of Gordon Creek

 

Afternoon sun on Gordon Creek

Afternoon sun on Gordon Creek

 

After half an hour on this upper section – the younger boys really wanted a campfire and a couple of hammocks hung, and this was not public land – we headed down the road a ways to a spot where this sort of thing would be possible. So, here we are enjoying s’mores and the bubbling of Gordon Creek. The water was chocolate milk and was running deep.

S'mores and a nice place to sit!

S'mores and a nice place to sit!

 

Nice, isn't it?

Nice, isn't it?

 

Sheppy lounging - Optical Illusion: he is several feet away from the fire...

Sheppy lounging - Optical Illusion: he is several feet away from the fire...

Camping in the Trees and Kittleson Creek   5 comments

What a campsite this would make.

Getting out to our coldwater streams is a really big deal. But how to not ‘break the bank’ on our visits can often feel like a huge compromise. When you’ve waded enough of these streams you realize just what you don’t see when you stay in a readymade campground.

Someone bought me a cheap nylon camping hammock as a gift for my wedding.  I had planned a bachelor’s river trip down the Flambeau River flowage with a dozen or so of my good friends. That was sixteen years ago and the hammock turned out to be the most revelatory part of the whole excursion. The first night we set up camp, I saw that the moon was bright in the sky and we had little worry about weather. So I strung up the hammock for fun.

But I felt so good in it I didn’t bother to set up my crummy tent and I slept better than I ever had before. I think I was the only one who felt great in the morning. (the beer may have played a role) From that moment on I’ve looked for ways to use the hammock as my primary way to get through the night outdoors.

Recently, Tom and I came across an article in the Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/13/nyregion/13trees.html

Cory and Dana Foht

These guys were doing exactly what I always hoped to do. Why do we sit on our hands?

Anyway, Tom and I have invested in some pretty sweet hammock gear and we can’t wait to find an ideal tree to spend an evening this way. Up in the canopy with the stars.

Wouldn't this be cool.

I’m envious of this dude.

This kind of camping would allow you to get right down to the streams edge without disturbing so much as a leaf. You can string one of these arrangements in two minutes if your not expecting weather and fifteen if you do. And there’s a minimum of wet stuff to contend with in the morning. I’ve been through quite a few serious weather evenings in my hammocks and getting wet has never been as issue. Mostly, I’ve worried about everybody else who wasn’t in one.

This whole idea can be taken to some pretty cool extremes.

This is New Zealand but there is no reason we couldn't figure this out at some point.

Enough of that. You get the idea. Tom and I hope to locate idealized trees for this activity all season long. There won’t be any campfires but who cares? We came to fish.

On the last day of the season last year, I elected to give the newly restored section of Kittleson Valley Creek in SW Dane county a try. The banks have been nicely cut back and lunker structures added with some really nice riffle runs and on either side of the restoration I’ve seen some pretty big browns. It’s not a big stretch but it has some premium spots for fly casters.

Kittleson Creek is a nice little tributary of Gordon Creek.

This spot may not be a good choice for the early season as I can imagine it getting some significant traffic right out of the gate. But if you can manage to escape work one day you might have a really sweet couple of hours working this water. You might not even need to get wet.

If anybody’s interested, Tom and I will be down at the On The Creek fly shop in Cross Plains tomorrow night tying some flies.

http://www.onthecreekflyshop.com/

If your local, maybe we’ll see you out there?

 

An idea taken to a nifty extreme. Just how the heck do they get out of there?

 

Seeking Northern Trout part 2   4 comments

It’s probably not lost on you that my last post offered little insight into actual trout-fishing. This has broken open a debate for me about what motivates me to hit the streams in the first place.

Don’t misunderstand, if there are fish to be had in the streams we visit my unwavering priority is to catching them. But there are plenty of circumstances in which the fishing isn’t likely to be  terribly productive. These non-season scouting events have proven to me that fishing is simply a goal to be reached.

An unmistakeable coyote track.

It is the pursuit that matters.

Once your ‘in it’ the story of the day just unfolds and you spend it in rapt observation. There is always something going on. Your responsibility, as I’ve read somewhere recently,  is to come home with that story not always told in pounds or inches.

I recently lost a friend to a brain tumor. Young and in every other way unmistakeably healthy, my friend was famous for his love of winter activities. He was a ‘work hard/play hard’ kind of guy and an inspiration to many. His loss gave me ample reason to investigate my relationship with the cold and snow. This has been a revelation. January and February have often felt like a long cold wait in the past. Not this season. This winter everyday has offered possibilities. There is no weather or temperature that does not give you options. The snow and ice are amazingly free surface agents with super neat physical properties that beg for experiment and inquiry. And we have so many new technologies to explore them.

A closer look reveals a classic four-toed canine paw print complete with claws.

As an aside, I have to put in a plug for the guy who really got me out on the streams chasing after salmonids with some measure of success. Jay Ford Thurston’s Spring Creek Treasure has been so revealing with unadorned and specific advice about our Wisconsin trout streams that it has proved as a kind of unconscious series of post-it-notes reminding us where to go and how to do.

I’m sure I speak for Tom and I both about this remarkable work and the big thanks we owe to Jay. I’m not sure anyone has given more of his time figuring out this whole activity than he has.

The view from the 'oculus' of the tent vestibule in Bear Paw campground.

 

This camping trip really got me excited about the possibilities of opening day. Maybe camping in the snow could open up opportunities for great fishing even when the streams are full of enthusiasts. This activity resets all the variables for where you can go to chase after that next big brown or wild brookie.

It’s snowing again today. I say bring it on. It’s not gonna hurt my chances at finding my bliss. With Tom’s three boys and my two, we are sure to be out in the snow giving our wives a welcome reprieve from the general din as we explore our next series of trout waters.

Bring on the Driftless!

 

An invitation for summer fun at Bear Paw campground in Oconto county.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oconto County   1 comment

Three hours from the heart of Madison (at approximatly 80 mph) you’ll come to the Lakewood Ranger District of the Nicolet National Forest in Oconto County. Photos and videos are currently in post-production and will start showing up on our blog this evening.

Stephen and I kept all of our fingers and toes despite five inches of unexpected snow, a very nearly stuck 4 wheel-drive vehicle, and flaming boot soles.

We also had the opportunity to talk to a gentleman who lives on the South Branch of the Oconto River and is a former Trout Unlimited chapter president. He reminded us how lucky we are to be residents (or nearly so) of the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, where the trout fishing is “at least as good as anything Out West.”

More on that later. For now, we’re back in civilization, enriched by the amazing sights and sounds of moving water in the middle of winter, our goal of locating a beautiful place to take our kids camping and fishing complete.

Stay tuned for photos, videos, and more stories.

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