Posts Tagged ‘Skunked’

Sometimes fly fishing can be a profoundly existential experience… whether the fish are biting or not.

Yesterday, the fish were not biting.

As I roamed the banks of East Twin Lake, I noticed a sign… this same sign can be found at lakes across North American. There was nothing special about the sign itself. Sadly this sign is often ignored…

As I passed this sign, I got to thinking about it’s message… what do we leave behind?

At first, my thoughts were drawn to the surface message itself… “No trash pick up”. Walking down the beach, this was painfully obvious. In fact, it almost hurts to see the years of beer bottles and cans, fast food containers, empty worm bowls, among many other things, that litter the beach itself. The sign began to read less as a statement and a call to action; and more like an eerie prophecy.

How careless some people can be.

But as I wandered further down the beach, the amount of trash decreased; even though the paths were still well beaten into the ground. As I slowly reached where I wanted to fish, I was struck by my first epiphany of the day… yes there are a few bad apples in the crowd. But I shouldn’t let this ruin the experience for me. I believe that we as humanity our inherently good; even if a few people can occasionally cast the rest in a bad light. The type of people who are lazy enough to carelessly cast their waste upon the ground are also to lazy to move very far from the comfort of their cars in the parking lot. The worst litter by far was within a very short walk of the parking lot, and within a couple short minutes I had out walked it…

And in this realization was a tinge of sorrow. There is great reward for venturing further into nature… and it is clear that this type of person will never know the nirvana it brings.

As I walked further down the beach, different words from the sign cried out into my head… “Please leave nothing but your tracks. Will you help?”

Leave nothing but your tracks…

Leave nothing but your tracks…

“Of course,” I thought to myself. I consider myself in high regard when it comes to outdoor ethics. I never leave trash behind, always release my fish, and do everything I can to leave nothing but my tracks. I even take the small snips of tippet material from tying flies onto my line and shove them into my pocket. Of course I only leave my tracks…

Then, as I waded into the icy water and began what would be come a fruitless task of casting, I reached my second epiphany…

I worked my way around brush piles hoping to hook up with a largemouth, white bass, or crappie; and as I did so, I found another reminder of what we leave behind hanging from a branch and dancing in the wind. A single spinner bait…

I don’t mind wading into the water while fly fishing; in fact it is often necessary to provide enough space to backcast and avoid hanging up in trees. But this is not something that all anglers like to do. And every angler will let loose that one poorly timed cast that drifts from control… and hangs up on a snag.

I believe most anglers will do everything they can to remove their tackle from a snag. But sometimes it is not practical, or even safe to retrieve the tackle. And we leave something behind… like this spinner bait swaying in the wind.

I waded over to the brush pile and cut the spinner bait free from it’s tangle. Even though I rarely fish with a spinning rod, I am building quite an impressive tackle box for my spinning rod on gear that I have rescued from the water. On this same day, I also recovered a Rapala crack bait, and a foam grasshopper fly. All good signs that I am fishing a spot where others at least think they will find fish as well. And each reminds me of all the flies that I have lost to snags and fish.

I consider losing fishing tackle a forgivable sin. Like I said, I believe that most anglers do everything that can to avoid losing tackle… replacement costs can add up fast. But it is a part of fishing. I would rather find a 1000 spinnerbaits and Rapalas in the lake then a single piece of trash on the beach.

Losing a fly does not bother me; even if I spent a lot of time on the tying vise creating it. It is just a part of the experience. I am only bothered losing a fly when one breaks off in a fish. A fish with a fly is stuck in its mouth is at a higher risk for mortality; and one that I always feel I could prevent if I was a better fisherman: if I had tied a better knot, if I had set the hook sooner, if I had done more to turn the fish from the snag…

This feeling does much to drive me to become a better fisherman…

After a few hours of casting and no bites, I decided to pack it in. I hiked back around the lake… over my footprints, and footprints of anglers who had came hours before me; past the brush that I had rescued tackle from; past the trash on the beach; past the entire world of nature…

As I reached my car, I stopped and took one final gaze back toward the lake…

Again, I thought of the sign I passed on my way to the water; and its words screamed out in the silence…

“Leave nothing but your tracks.

Leave nothing but your tracks.

Leave nothing but your tracks.

Will you help?”

As I looked down the gravel to the boat ramp, I had my final epiphany…

I did not think about the trash that I passed but did not pick up; the flies I had lost in this lake in trips past and could not recover; the footsteps on the beach that I had left; or about the fishing tackle I had saved that day.

I thought about myself. My soul. And why I come to the lake in the first place.

And with apologizes to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the order is too tall to fill. I always leave something behind at the lake…

With every cast, every fish caught or escaped with my fly, with every moment caught breathless looking out of the water, I leave something behind…

Sometimes it falls out of me effortlessly. And sometimes I have to fling it away with every cast… as if I am somehow trying to flick a piece of myself off the end of the line; off of the fly; and into the depths of the water.

Physically, I try my best to leave only my tracks.

But I always leave something behind…

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With spring being right around the corner, that means the annual opening of open water fishing season is about to start. It also means that another tradition takes place…

My annual “jumping-the-gun” fishing trip.

As soon as there is an opening in the ice big enough to cast a fly line into, I feel the need to strap on the waders and give it a try. Call it cabin fever. Or fishing withdraw. Or both.

Of course, all common sense goes right out the window… like the fact that it snowed last night…

Or the fact that the air temperature was below freezing… the cold doesn’t bother me; but trying to keep the guides on a fly rod from freezing up makes the experience a little more interesting.

No; undaunted, the eternal optimist in me says “if you can just get a fly in the water, you can catch a fish”… “You have a new fishing pole you bought this winter, and it hasn’t caught a fish yet”… “what else are you going to do today anyways”…

So I wade out into high 30 – low 40 degree water, crunching through 1/4” ice on the banks, to get to a place where I hope the fish are.

I say “hope” because I know that the vast majority of fish are hugging the bottom of the deepest part of the lake. In the middle. 6 to 10 feet deeper then I can deliver a fly to; even with my sink-tip line.

“But hey, I caught fish standing in this exact spot this summer,” I say to myself. “And eventually the fish will start to come up to the shallows to spawn. And when they do, I will be the first to catch them!”

Needless to say, I didn’t catch any fish.

But to be honest, I didn’t really expect to. It was nice to get outside for a while and spend some time at one of my favorite lakes. To actually tie on a fly and cast it into the water. To practice casting on the lake instead of my snow-covered lawn.

Knowing that I *might* catch a fish is all I need to get me out of the house; however slim that chance might be. The only time that you are guaranteed not to catch a fish is when you don’t have a line in the water.

Fishing is not always about the fish. Sometimes just trying to catch one is all you need.

And if I do this enough times, I might be the first to catch one after all…

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Day two of my fishing blowout weekend did not turn out the way I expected. I thought I would try something new, so I went to the recently opened Lake Wanahoo. They stocked the lake with Northern Pike, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to make a hitlist strike.

Instead I got skunked…

We got some pretty bad thunderstorms last night. While I normally have good luck fishing in the rain, I never have luck fishing the day after it rains. I think there is an unwritten fishing rule somewhere that says “don’t go fishing the day after it rains”, but I have never been one for rules. Especially when I have limited opportunities before I have to pack away my gear for the winter.

I don’t mind getting skunked on a trip (even though it hasn’t happened for a few weeks); that’s part of fishing. But the sad part of this trip is that getting skunked on a regular basis at the end of the year is a sign that the season is over…

Lake Wanahoo was an interesting lake… Everything is new and nice, but there are not any trees around the bank. There are, however, tree in the middle of the lake. When the lake was built, the state left the trees that lined the banks of the creek that was damed. They’ll make great fish habitat; but as my picture above shows, it feels like fishing in a flood zone. It’s really eerie float tubing between a forest of dead trees…

The state stocked trout today though, so hopefully I can eek out at least a couple more fishing days.

See you as I am chasing the stockers!

E

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So, I have some other blogging and work projects to work on… that I was hoping to get today… but I was giving an offer that I could not refuse. The chance to go fishing!

I have been nominated for the “One Lovely Blog Award”, so I need to put together my acceptance post; which is a little more work then I thought it would be. I was also trying to coordinate that acceptance with my 1000 hit; which should be here today or tomorrow.

In the mean time, I have in-laws who are in town who offered to watch Little E for a couple hours specifically so I could go to the lake. So I was gone…

Yesterday it rained for a little bit. Right before and during the rain is a great time to go fishing. After the rain… not so much. Fishing is always a lot harder after the rain. Undaunted (at first), I pressed on…

First fly to be tied on: A Royal Wulff. Optimism Level: 100%

At first, the signs were promising… I watch a couple pull in a channel catfish off the bottom using worms. They said they were having moderate luck; so I was feeling pretty confident; even though they were using a completely different fishing method them me. I started delicately casting my Royal Wulff onto the water, hoping for a strike. And hoping. And hoping… Then begging… And begging some more…

After I walked a big “C” shape around the lake, leaping from my favorite spot to spot, I finally conceded that the fish were not going to hit dry flies. Thanks to the recent rain, there was a nice new shine of new algae growth that had deteriorated water clarity… making tough for fish to see my surface flies.

“No big deal”, I thought. No fly is right all the time. Switch flies and keep moving.

Next fly up: Green Bead Head Reaper. Optimism Level: 80%

This fly represented a complete 180 in strategy. Instead of fishing a bug intimation on the top of the water, the idea here is to fish what is a tiny bait fish in the top few feet of the water. You cast the line out and quickly pull the fly back toward the bank; like a bait fish running for cover. Works great against a variety of species, including Bluegills and Crappie.

I mean normally works great… not today.

There are few guarantees in fly fishing… catching fish is definitely not one of them. Fly fisherman always say that fly fishing is not just about the fish… days like today put that statement to the test.

Something that is guaranteed in fly fishing? Wind knots… I am pretty sure that in the process of creating the universe, a deal was cut to create fly fishing… that in exchange for the infinite pleasure and passion that the sport provides, fly fisherman were to be contractually obligated to deal with wind knots as often as possible. Here is my “at least once per trip” contractually obligated wind knot…

Two tried and true methods had been defeated. All I had brought with me to the lake was my ultra-light 3 weight dry fly rod. My rods designed for my heavier flies were left at home. At this point I had realized that I was probably about to get skunked by mother nature.

When man comes close to reaching his breaking point, his methods become more desperate. Here was my act of desperation…

Fly number three: A red Chernobyl Ant. Optimism Level: 25%

Sure, I had just tried to fish a dry fly with no luck… but I thought I had just seen a fish hit the top of the water (whether I really did or my mind just wanted to see a fish hit the top of the water is a different story)…

This fly was the biggest fly I had brought that my poor little 3 weight rod could handle… this foam concoction lands on the water with a healthy “plop”, and can be pulled back with a giant wake behind it with legs wiggling all the way. It’s not suppose to look like anything; at least anything outside of the Chernobyl Containment Zone. It’s just suppose to look buggy.

I started casting to where (I thought) I saw the fish hit the water. After a couple casts, I felt my line tighten!

But it was on this… (Optimism Level: 5%)

But I still pressed on! I even tried sight casting to a tiny baby bull frog; who at least showed the slightest bit of interest…

Until I caught a weed on the bank… (Optimism Level: 0%)

What can you do but laugh at this point?

Well, laugh… and try to think of cool things to say about the whole trip on the fly fishing blog that you just started a few weeks ago.

At this point, I surrendered. Might as well have fun, and try to get a cool photo for the blog. I thought it would be neat to get a picture of my fly line uncurling over the water. Here is what I came up with…

This last one is the fly line zipping back past me on a back cast. I only took about 60 pictures to get three that turned out half way decent.

And of course when you are trying to take pictures of yourself fly casting, you are not really paying attention to the act of fly casting… and this inevitably happens…

Oh well! Getting skunked while fishing is better then to not have fished at all!

Thanks to my in-laws for giving me the opportunity to go out! I needed a break in my crunch time at work!

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So I think it is time to talk about the trip that led to me starting this blog…

Last Saturday, I was home alone. My wife and daughter left to see family, and I had the whole day to myself. No commitments, nothing to do, nothing that needed to be worked on… except maybe my Master’s Thesis. But hey, how many days to you have to up and go fishing all day?

Back in February, I made a trip to Lake Ogallala, Nebraska and went trout fishing in moving water for the first time. It was a blast… and while the vast majority of my fishing is warm water fishing, I do have to say that the thought of trout fishing is exciting.

The closest “trout stream” to Lincoln is a little place called East Verdigre Creek. I had seen some people on a blog that I follow talk about it, and had nothing but good things to say. Verdigre Creek is a small stream about 3 feet wide. And best of all, it is located mostly on public lands.

10:00 AM Saturday morning, I decided that making the trip would be a good way to send my day.

Three hours later, and a 127 miles to the north-northwest of Lincoln, I pulled up to the state park the creek is located on. Here is what was waiting for me…

Beautiful right? That is where the enjoyment of the creek ended…

I started by trying to walk along the creek and sneaking up on any unsuspecting trout lurking along the edges… except the grass along the edges was shoulder to above my head high. So I decided to walk in closer to the creek… and then I would step in hidden wash outs and fall on my face. I did this about three or four times, and felt like a turtle trying to roll himself over each time.

Making an unholy racket, I decided that I might be better off to wade up the stream. The day was a muggy 95 degrees, but the water was flowing at a brisk 65-ish degrees. Before I starting walking, I took the above picture. Then as I went to put my camera way, I noticed that the pocket in my fishing vest where I keep my phone and wallet was completely empty…

I frantically starting looking everywhere for my wallet. After a few seconds, I spotted it… floating down stream in the creek. Several splashy steps later it is recovered. And any hope of finding a fish in this section of the creek is gone.

So I waded further upstream. I did manage to spot a couple of trout… as they darted between my legs after I about stepped on them in the weeds they were hiding in. After about an hour of falling in and out of the creek, I gave up.

Verdigre Creek is the tributary of Grove Lake, and being mentally prepared to get skunked on the creek, I decided to break out the float tube and fish the still water.

I fished for another three hours in the lake, had one fish throw a hook, and landed two… if you count this as one that is. It is a record for me as being the smallest bass on a fly I have ever landed. After throwing a different combination of Clouser Minnows and Woolly Buggers in a variety of colors, I did manage to land one more fish… a Bluegill. Now, bluegill are one of my favorite fly fishing targets. Call them easy to catch, call them small, call them whatever you want… I love fly fishing for bluegills. This particular fish had quite a look to it. Sharp lines, beautifully patterned scales… awesome. I love seeing how bluegill in different watersheds have slightly different appearances.

Okay, so this fish is no record setter on its size. But for me, size is not every thing. I measure my success in fishing in a simple formula: Fish Caught vs. Flies Lost. Based on this formula I guess I did “win” the day… 2 fish landed vs. 1 fly lost. But if we break it down based on the body of water I was on, the score would go: Grove Lake: 2 Fish vs. 0 Flies Lost, Verdigre Creek: 0 Fish vs. 1 Fly Lost. I guess you win some, and you lose some. And I only saw one other fish caught on the lake while I was there… so if no one is catching fish, they must not be biting, right?

Before I went home, I did try to fish a different section of the creek… one that had been recommended by a fellow fisherman on the lake as having more trout… but I found the same experience as the first attempt. Like the song goes, “you have to know when to hold ’em; know when to fold them”.

What I learned that day is that I am no small stream fisherman. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t regret the trip. But when I get the itch to go trout fishing again, I think I will head west to Ogallala again!

But if you are going to drive 3 hours to get practically skunked, you might was well do it with these surroundings:

Happy Fishing!

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So I have been thinking about starting a fly fishing blog for a while now… since the fishing was crummy this weekend, it gave me a chance to start it!

I wanted to start this because I follow a few fly fishing blogs and magazines, but they tend to focus on mountain fly fishing for trout, or salt water fly fishing in the tropics. While these are all well and good; I live in Nebraska… which is close to neither. Nor do I have the financial capability to make numerous trips to either destination.

I wanted to start a blog about the type of fly fishing that I do… warm water fly fishing on the great plains. The types of fishing that I do I think are common for a lot of people. You have a few hours to get out and fish here and there. Most fishing trips are impromptu trips to the local lake… with maybe the occasional planned trip to a destination. I hope this blog fills that kind of niche.

Now I am not an expert on fly fishing… or even fishing in general. I would put myself squarely in the intermediate range. But I enjoy it. And I have passion for it. And hopefully people can learn something from it too.

Fly Fishing seems to have an aura about it… people think that you have to have something magical to do it. Well… they are partiality right. There is something magical about doing it… but anyone can learn to do it. In fact it is really easy to learn. Heck, if I can do it anyone can.

Another common belief about fly fishing is that it is incredibly expensive. Also, only partially true. Just like golf, it can be as expensive as you want it to be. Believe me, I don’t have the kind of money to spend on the sport as I would like to (although I am sure my wife is convinced that I spendway more on it then I should!)

Is fly fishing better then more common (relative to where I live) forms of fishing??? That depends on the situation, but probably no. But for me it is much more fun. And it gets me outside… and something I can pass down to my daughter. And isn’t that what life is all about?

Plus, writing about fly fishing gives me a chance to actually use the creative writing degree I picked up in college!

Now, why did I have the time to start this blog??? This is my weekend in a nutshell:

This is my journey into the addiction that is fly fishing. Hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do!

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