Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Season of Two-Tones

It's here again. Some see it as fall, others see it as a season of two-tones. Yes folks, you can see evidence that the two-toned season his arrived. Just look around at gas stations, sporting good stores and hardware stores. This time of year is like a right of passage for many adult males over the age of 16. God created the earth in six days. On the seventh day he drove his Jeep down gravel roads.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Size 14

In past years my favorite fly was a beadhead pheasant, size 16. Although this fly has hooked many trout, it never caught many big trout. You know, the ones over 14 inches. This year I sized up to size 14 flies. Beadhead pheasant, beadhead prince, hares ear, all size 14. Maybe it's a coincidence, but I caught more and bigger trout when I made the switch to a size 14. I realize that the size difference between a size 16 fly and a size 14 fly can be measured in millimeters. But it did seem to make a difference. Maybe like humans, trout get older and could benefit from glasses and Lasik surgeries. Then they'd eat my size 16's again.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"IT" Factor-ed

Well, I finished the Twin Cities Maraton today, but unfortunately ITB the bull ran over me. The weather was perfect: cool, light breeze, partly cloudy. The gun went off and started down the road. I felt decent and soon found myself running by feel instead of by pace. After mile 3 I looked at my watch and noticed I was running at a pace to finish in sub-3:40. I decided to go for it, it was the perfect weather today. Around mile 9 I went down a hill and felt pain in my IT band. It wasn't terrible, but I slowed some to protect my knee. I went through the halfway point in 1:50:49. Not bad pacing and the rest of my body felt strong. As the miles continued the pain in my IT band increased. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19 was in sight at the top of West River Road. Legs were getting tired, but still doing alright. No cramping and no signs of hitting the wall yet. As I hit the halfway point on the incline climbing up the Franklin Bridge, my IT band instantly shot with sharp pain and I was forced to stop immediately. I then hobbled to the top of the bridge. Across the bridge and my IT band locked up again. I knew I was in trouble. I pushed through the pain a few times but the next 7 miles were miserable and there was nothing that I could do about it but run, walk, run and walk some more. If there was ever a day to crush a PR, today was it. Weather was perfect. Nutrition was good. Fluids were good. I guess the only benefit of the IT band issue is that I was forced to walk alot in the final miles. So the wall wasn't too tough and the rest of my body isn't too beat up. Finished in 3:57. 43 seconds off a PR. Nice to finish in sub-4, but still disappointing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The IT Factor

Less than a week to go before running my next marathon, and again I have runner's "issues". A couple of times I've come down with colds and other times its been a nagging hamstring issue. Oh, I'm sure part of my past issues were partly mental. But this latest issue might actually be a real issue. New to the list this go-around is one that's purely physical. The dreaded IT band issue, a common ailment among many runners, has made it's first appearance in my life. It first popped up two weeks ago around mile 13 of a 20-miler. It came out of nowhere, and I had to stop twice between miles 13 and 20. I felt the same pain again last Friday night on my last "long" run, just an easy 9-miler, but the IT pain was there again. My marathon finishing times have been slowed by heat, slowed by lack of training, but never have been forced to a "DNF" (Did Not Finish). I guess I'll find out next Sunday if this latest running "issue" is the real deal.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Repeat performance

Game #2 at the new TCF Bank stadium is in the books. The Gophers played tough against a #8 ranked Cal team but the better team rallied in the end to give our Gophers their first loss for the season.
We kicked off the morning with an eggbake and french toast in the parking lot around 9:00am. I don't know if I've ever combined tailgating, eggs and beer before, so this was a first. Good times, good times.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blue Collared Trout Fisherman

The other day I stumbled across a few pictures that I took when I lived in Colorado. The pictures tell the tale of an excursion to an alpine lake located at about 11,000 feet above sea level. It's a beautiful lake at the foot of a rocky peak that holds monster brook trout. However, in order to get to the lake you must first tackle 3.8 miles of rough hiking trails that raise 2,500 feet in elevation. To make things worse, most of the trail is steep, rocky and exposed to the sun. The first section of the trail is so mentally and physically taxing that the locals call it by name - S.O.B. Hill (Son Of a Bi*ch). But by the time you get to the lake you are pretty drained of energy and more or less ready for a nap or a drink, and not necesarily in any particular order.

Seeing those pictures again made me think about the type of fisherman I am. I think the best way to describe me as a trout fisherman is by saying that I'm a blue-collared trout fisherman. The truth is most of the trout waters that I fish fly low on the national radar. Sure, I've fished many of those popular spots with magazine-worthy names like Gunnison, Madison and Yellowstone. But those are not the spots that I normally fish, and on 99 out of 100 fishing trips you will find me fishing less glamorous spots, a.k.a. the blue-collared trout waters. Blue-collared trout waters don't require thousand dollar fly rods, brand name drift boats or direct instructions from the very best fishing guides in the area. They are void of easy access points, roadside pullouts marked with fancy, fandangled signs and streamside parking lots built for fat-assed fishermen. Blue-collared trout waters are those tough to reach places located off the beaten path that the common angler won't ever visit. The truth is that you know that you're fishing a blue-collared trout water if your shirt is heavily sweat "pitted" before you even reach the waters edge. However, if you can deal with a few deerflies, jungle-like hiking and your own not-so-pleasant body odor, the end results are usually worth the effort. Fish in these areas are much less pressured, willing to bite and tend to grown up nicely.

That alpine lake in the pictures, a.k.a. the blue-collared trout water, gave up this 18.5 inch brookie.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Maroon and Gold

Maroon and gold. Everywhere you looked, it was a sea of maroon and gold. In a state ruled by purple, a new era of Minnesota football was born. I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural football game at the new University of Minnesota this past weekend. It was a memorable day, starting with tailgating next to a new outdoor football stadium. I was amazed by all of the people dressed in maroon and gold, proudly making a statement that they were a fan of U of M football. Who were these people?!? And where had they been for the past 27 years?!? Over the past 10-12 years I've been to countless gopher games in the Metrodome. I've also been on 5-6 trips to Wisconsin and a few games at Iowa during that time. Yet no where had a I witnessed Gopher-mania like I did this last Saturday. It was real college football. It was real college atmostphere. It was real college fun.

Go Gophers!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


For some reason us guys love using nicknames. As a result many of our friends now have them. Common names like John mysteriously transform into The Big Will. My favorite nickname is that of a thirty-five year old single guy friend, a.k.a. De Stud Boy.

Over the years of flyfishing in Wisconsin, nicknames have also been added to trout streams, or specifically certain sections that I fish on a regular basis. Here are a couple pictures from a recent adventure trout fishing a section called Horse Hole. I was also hoping to get a few more pictures, but the stream sections called Roadside and the Berry Patch were a little slow. Gotta love nicknames...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Trout Don't Share

As children we are taught at a very young age to share. Share toys, share candy, we all must share. And for the most part it seems this societal rule carries on through adulthood. These rules apparently do not apply in the trout world. Plain and simple, trout don't share. They don't share food and they don't share hiding spots, as I witnessed on Day Two of my Labor Day trout search. I started out the day with a mental debate over whether I should fish the Trico hatch of the Rush or hit one of the bread and butter sections of another stream in the area. After seeing the mass of fishermen along the Rush, I chose option two. Most fish seem to be smaller in this other stream but every stream holds a few secrets and this stream seems to be no exception. I start out by fishing behind the field. Once again the first thing that I notice is that every rock and weed has a million caddis stuck to them. The first hole that I fish contains at least two known 16-inch plus fish, but this morning it's slow. One small but fat brown was all I could manage. Moving upstream I picked up a couple more short fat fish on what else, caddis dry flies. It seems that the browns in here are starting to grow up after a few years of all-you-can-eat caddis buffet dinners. Next up is the big pool under the big tree that has a smaller lower pool exiting the big pool. A small trout spooks from the tailwaters as I approach the lower pool. Normally I hate when this happens. It's like these trout are posting guard to the castle and notify every fish in the pool that danger is approaching. Anyways, this scout trout takes off screaming upstream towards a big rock near the middle of the pool. To my surprise, as it settles into its hiding spot under the rock it also kicks out a nice trout that had already taken up residence in the hiding spot. They say that size matters and in the trout world size usually wins out. But not this time. After a quick cruise of the lower pool the bigger trout finally settles in just above the rock.
Instead of casting right away, I wait. Patience is becoming a secret lure of mine and I think I'm finally learning how to use it to my advantage. That hasn't always been the case, but I think I'm finally starting to figure it out. Patience allows me to just stand there and watch the bigger trout in action. I can see him mouthing something, could he be feeding a little? I also take a few pictures and devour a mouthful sunflower seeds. When the seeds are finished, I finally decide to cast. My first cast finds a tree. Luckily it's only a catch-and-release tree, which allows me to continue on. the second cast was perfect but no takers. Cast three and maybe number six or seven are also good but no takers. I switch over to a size 14 caddis nymph, the psycho nymph, a.k.a. just Psycho. Psycho is a fine looking beadhead nymph with plenty of sparkle and biot tails. I have no idea what scientifically-named caddis it is supposed to represent, all I know is that it looks very buggy and works pretty darn well. First and second casts with psycho are off to the side. Third cast is perfect, up above and just to the side of the big trout. The big brown looks at psycho but doesn't take. Four cast is almost the same cast but this time I watch him casually inhale psycho. A quick hook set, followed by a few minutes of man vs. beast occurs. In the end, man wins the battle and the 17" brown is in hand, pictures taken and tape measured to keep me honest. Back she goes and I'm suddently back at the car and again fishing the next stretch of water.

Again I'm walking well away from the road to a pool that I know not many fish, mainly becuase it's a pool that just formed over the last few years. It's funny how erosion and a few new rocks can alter a stream so much. It's a pool with a good riffle heading in with deeper water in the middle and weeds and a few rocks to compliment. I'm at the tail end of the pool. I remember seeing a few medium sized fish in it last year and made a mental last year that it had fish "potential". Again, patience is used as I move into position. I recall how to fish this pool. even thought there's a reflection on the pool, I know there's weeds along the sides. I also know the fish sit off to the middle/left side. First cast I throw up into the guts of the pool, again with psycho. Following my line back, it suddenly goes tight. I set the hook and my line takes off like a rocket. I know it's a good fish. One quick run up to the top of the pool and back again, and whoosh, a big brown does his best imitation of a dolphin by going airborne! My first look at him and he's three feet above the water. A few minutes later, again a battle of man vs. fish, and man vs. fish in the weeds (twice) and I get him in close. He won't come to hand and by chance I'm without my net, so I finally muscle him up to shore and trap him from deep water with my knees and hands. A few pictures and a tape measure (again, to keep me honest) and back he goes. He measured just a fraction under 19 inches.

In elementary school they taught us to round to the nearest whole number, so I'll call him a 19 incher in honor of my third grade math teacher. After the release of Mr. 19 I get my gear back in line up on the bank. I decide to check out where Mr. 19 was hiding by looking at it from the stream bank. By peeking through the weeds on the bank I can see Mr. 19 wedged under a rock in the middle of the pool. But to my surprise, Mr. 19 has decided not to share his hiding spot. Now there is another decent fish in the middle of the pool, maybe not quite as big as Mr. 19 but still decent. Again, more patience. And more sunflower seeds. Moments later I was fishing again, and the trout started to cooperate again by taking in the Psycho. To cap off the day, the other big fish, a 16 incher, was among those in the same pool that were willing.

Not bad for one day, three measured fish, 16, 17 and 19 inches. Moral of the story: sharing is not always good. At least not if you are a trout fisherman. Sometimes not sharing reveals a secret or two, and sometimes you can use it to your advantage.

One Last Trip for '09

Got out flyfishing in Wisconsin one last time before the end of the season on Sunday and Monday of Labor Day Weekend. I took the proper procedures and got permission from Steph to make this an overnight fishing AND camping trip. To be honest, I didn't expect much being a "holiday" weekend. I expected to see the masses of people, all with fishin' poles in one hand and coolers and lawn chairs in the other. To my surprise I had all of my favorite fishing spots to myself. Not just some of them, but every spot. Of course all of the lazy man access points along the Rush River was packed. One popular bridge had five vehicles parked next to it, and yes, I did count them.

I've chosen a two-step plan of attack for this trip. Step One is to explore new waters, or waters that I have not been to in years. Step Two is to refer fish some of the bread and butter spots, spots where I know the river and the location of its good holes.

To sum up Day 1, the exploring (Step 1) ended in two potential spots and many other spots now marked on my trout map with "No Fish". Disappointment was quickly erased as I turned to Step 2, which included a late afternoon and evening fishing several bread and butter spots, which turned out to be very fruitful. I first checked out an upper section that produced brookie after brookie on nymphs. I spent the last couple of hours of daylight below the park throwing caddis dry flies to willing brookies with a few smaller browns mixed in. A few brookies were decent sized, at least for this stream.

Day One ended when I closed the hatch to the back of the Jeep and fell asleep to the distant sounds of a rock band, which were accompanied by a few hoots and hollers of a rowdy street dance crowd in the nearby town. A younger version of me would have investigated and most likely gone to bed at an hour marked by a.m. instead of p.m.