Thursday, March 30, 2017

Panfish and Monsters

Another window opens up so it's off to Yellowwood. I had left all my gear in the truck from the last trip, so it's a quick getaway.

One rain system has moved out, and another is due in the next day, so the weather is what one might call "changeable." No sooner do I launch the tube than the warm, sunny day turns blustery and cool. The wind will come and go all evening, blowing from every point on the compass.

I'm at the north end. Still lots of shoreline to explore here.

I navigate around a series of shallow mudflats and find a bowl of deeper water. There are bluegill in it. I manage to pull one out. I plan to catch some more, but when I decide to tie on a dry to see if they'll come up for it, I carelessly let the wind blow the tube over the trailing line, and it snags on a D-ring under the tube. By the time I've unsnagged it the wind has pushed me past the honey hole and onto another mud flat, and the moment has passed.

I kick way out and around the mudflat and back into shore. I begin to work that yellow streamer again.

I'm being real careful about the low hanging branches in front of me as I cast, but I drift under some branches without realizing it and hang up the fly. I try to retrieve it, but the branch is high and stiff and the line breaks. I leave the streamer hanging there, another sacrifice to the lake.

I check my fly boxes. It looks like that was my last yellow streamer. It's from a batch of Orvis flies that my brother John gave me several years ago. Fortunately, perhaps because I had a premonition of its loss, I had just studied the fly carefully to see what I would need to tie some up. Which is what I will do.

Without the yellow streamer, it was time to try out some flies I had recently tied. I have a lengthening list of tying materials I want to buy, but haven't gotten them yet, so I'm tying with the materials I have.

This one gets some attention. I miss two takes, then hook up with a youngster.

Around the bend I spot a Great Blue trying to blend into the background. I think it's the same one I disturbed back at the launch site. I disturb him again.

I pick up another little bass on the white streamer.

I turn and begin the crossing to the other side, dragging the streamer behind me. I get no hits. On the other side I tie on a tube fly with lots of flash and soon get a take. It's on just long enough to know it's a good fish. But off it goes. I wonder if it would have beat that 15 incher from the last trip.

I work along the shoreline enjoying the many signs that the woods are coming to life, especially the first appearance of wildflowers.

The sun dips behind the trees. I see a boat ahead of me close to the shoreline. We get within hailing distance, and we have a fisherman's conversation.
     Me: "Howdy. Which way are you going?"
     Him: "I'll go out and around you."
     Me: "Great. Thanks."
     Him: "Doing any good?"
     Me: "Oh, a few little ones."
     Him: "Are you bluegill fishing or bass fishing?"
     Me: "Bass fishing!"

By then his electric motor--regulation here, happily--has taken him beyond conversational range.

I work on around, ending with a white cone head rabbit strip streamer, but get no action.

At dusk I start trolling it back to the take out. As I get near the boat ramp I see that other boat heading in. He gets there just as I lift the tube and haul it to the truck. As I load up he comes over. I can tell he has something he needs to say. He launches into his story without preamble.
     Him: "I was here a week or so ago. I was fishing a rattle trap. I got a hit and could tell right away        that I had hooked a MONSTER. I played it for a long time--I had 6 pound test on. I kept thinking:      now, I know there are only two possibilities in this lake: bass or catfish. It didn't feel like a catfish.      I finally get it up to the surface, and what do you think it was?"
     Me: "Uhhh, what?"
     Him: "Carp! Big old carp. In all the years I've been coming here I had never heard of any carp in        here! This was the first one I've caught in this lake."
     Me: "So how big was it?"
     Him: "Had to be 20 or 25 pounds."

He reaches into his pocket for his phone, pulls up a photo and shows it to me. A selfie: him and a carp so big he couldn't get it all in the frame. It's a big fish.
     Me: "It took a rattletrap, huh?"
     Him: "No, I snagged it! Hooked it in the tail."
     Me: "Huh!"
     Him (as he slips the phone back into his pocket and steps away into the darkness): "There are              MONSTERS in there."

Fly-Fishing in the Snowy Mountains

Fly-Fishing in the Snowy Mountains from Aussie Fly Fisher on Vimeo.
Australia’s Snowy Mountains – with it’s high country plains, wild brumbies and kangaroos, and streams full of wild brown trout – is home to some of the country’s most beautiful alpine scenery.
Join fly-fishing guide, Josh Hutchins from Aussie Fly Fisher, as he convinces his novice wife to join him on a fishing trip on the Eucumbene River in May 2015.

Film by Filippo Rivetti

Monday, March 27, 2017

Things Are Looking Up

It's a warm and blustery day. I get away at mid-afternoon and head to Yellowwood for the evening. What changes would I find there this time as the world takes baby steps toward full spring?

I bob along in the float tube and work the shoreline with a weighted streamer.

As I turn out into open water heading for the other side, I let line out and troll the fly behind me. A slight pull and a small bass comes to hand. As always, a sense of possibility flickers into flame.

I troll on across. I revert to a yellow streamer that was successful last time, wondering if there's any significance in going yellow at Yellowwood. I start working the shoreline back around. Now the wind is at my back and casting is easier.

I work the structure, natural and man made. Why would anyone throw a picnic table in the lake? Then again, why would anyone leave their litter strewn everywhere? Alas, that is also a fact of life here. It's one of the effects of living in a higher population area: there is a higher ratio of idiots who come to the outdoors for no other reason, apparently, than to disrespect it.

I shoot the fly in under some low hanging branches and strip it back out. This time I feel a slight bump--and then a strong pull. It's the best bass yet, pushing 15 inches. There is a definite feeling of having passed a barrier.

I kick on around the shoreline, watching hikers and their dogs pass by noisily up on the trail. I bask a little in the good feeling that comes with a decent catch.

Then another small bass tackles the streamer.

And shortly after a bluegill inhales it.

The view is changing. Things are looking better. The green leaves of spring are slowly but surely covering up last year's dead ones.

It's evening and I make the turn at the dam. My eye catches a lone duck moving across the silver water. Then I hear a familiar sound close overhead.

I look up to see swallows by the score dancing over the lake. This is my first sighting this year. To me, this phenomenon is worth the trip every time. And if the swallows have come back, we can be assured that halcyon days can't be far behind.

I approach the spillway with its array of mysterious concrete monuments. Sebastian and I have fished together on the bank here. The landmark "No Swimming" sign on the side of this pumping station is easy to obey in the cooling dusk. In the dog days it will be a hard-to-resist challenge.

I make the last turn. I'm nearing the little bay where the boat ramp is when something pecks at the streamer. Then, in quick succession, I pull in three more fish.

Things are definitely looking up.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Teton Love

The Tetons come alive this morning. I like to check in once in awhile via Tetoncam.

"Revival" by Luci Shaw

"Early Spring" Ivan Zolotuhin

March. I am beginning
to anticipate a thaw. Early mornings
the earth, old unbeliever, is still crusted with frost
where the moles have nosed up their
cold castings, and the ground cover
in shadow under the cedars hasn’t softened
for months, fogs layering their slow, complicated ice
around foliage and stem
night by night,

but as the light lengthens, preacher
of good news, evangelizing leaves and branches,
his large gestures beckon green
out of gray. Pinpricks of coral bursting
from the cotoneasters. A single bee
finding the white heather. Eager lemon-yellow
aconites glowing, low to the ground like
little uplifted faces. A crocus shooting up
a purple hand here, there, as I stand
on my doorstep, my own face drinking in heat
and light like a bud welcoming resurrection,
and my hand up, too, ready to sign on
for conversion.

"Revival" by Luci Shaw from What the Light Was Like. © Word Farm, 2006.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Goodbye, Winter. Hello, Spring.

A Sugar Creek recon on the last day of winter. This is one of my favorite places on the river so far. Next time I'll double check to make sure the bass get the memo that I'm going to be there.