Sunday, July 25, 2010

Days 11b - 13

You read the title correctly: "11b." I actually went out again on day 11 for some evening fishing out at BWCA with my adoring wife. She is still new to flyfishing and occasionally chooses a regular casting reel/pole over her fly outfit (and that is ok), and this night she did exceptionally well with it.

On her very first cast she pulled up a beautiful 12"+ LMB, and she continued to do this over and over again putting me and my fly to shame! In this one spot she brought 4 to hand and lost one.

Finally it was my turn to start catching, and for the next 20 mins C and I went back and forth catching great bass and having an amazingly fun time.

The climax came when we caught 2 at the very same moment. Hers, for the record, is the one on the left in the photo. She kicked my ass and I couldn't be happier!

Day 12 was a nailbiter. I got a call from my boss the night before asking if I'd cover his closing shift at work. Knowing that the morning stuff still had to get done at work, I worked a 6-10:30am/3-10pm split shift. This put my fishing into a mid-day frantic rush. I knew I was going into day 12 having brought something to hand everyday, and thought this might be the end of that. I went to Tilles (again...ugh) and got this cute little BG. While getting a fish each time out is not part of the requirements, it'd be a nice tagline at the end.

For Day 13 festivities, Chris and I headed out to a lake with a known Hex hatch this time of year. Our goal was to fish the evening and wait out the hatch for a finale. Chris tore it up on Redear, BG and even a cat...while I watched with fishless cast after fishless cast. We laughed about it and had a really great time just being out there hanging out. It'd really been too long since we'd last fished together.

My fishless streak ended with this 10" Redear girl on a hopper. This was one of my three or four fish for the night (I lost count of Chris'), but what a fish to get. This made the night for me.

A few hours into the fishing, watching the sunset around some beautiful clouds over Chris' shoulder (as he was undoubtedly unhooking another RE), I commented on what looked like what I imagine the cloud that Jesus comes back on would look like. Naming it the Apocalypse cloud, Chris and I discussed:

Me: "With that cloud over there, we'd better get our affairs in order."
Chris: "I'm out here fishing, aren't I?"

And that pretty much summed it up. The Apocalypse we expected never came; a hell of a storm sure did, though.

About 10 mins after this was taken, the water went from calm to bluewater. Lightning that lit up the sky, lit up the boat, and lit up the shore flashed like a strobe light. We kept fishing, of course, because the fishing got better as the storm approached. Sure, we were at the furthest point from the dock; sure, we had no rain gear; sure, we have wives and families. But as I said in a conversation I can't fully record here, "I haven't seen what the fish that lives over there looks like." When the lightning became too ridiculous for us to continue and it got too dark to do anything except when it did lightning, we started back.

About 3 minutes into our ride back across the lake, we heard the wind in the trees. We knew we were in for it and started frantically gathering up our things and bagging everything we could. A gust of wind stole my favorite and very sentimental fishing hat and sunk it into the waves before we could swing back around for it. My Tilley is gone.

Arriving on shore still dry, but wind beaten to death, we packed up the boat in record time and got the hell out of there. Once it started to really rain, we didn't even say "bye" and just drove off. I got a call a few minutes later from Chris that the office had some leftover brats from that days expo, so we pulled into a lake's parking area down the road. We stood out there in the rain looking at the backside of the storm we had been in--I think it hit us then, as we ate our cold brats--what we had just escaped. We just looked at each other and laughed. My hat died a good death; we caught some amazing fish, and survived some serious weather. Damn good night, I say.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Days 10 - 11

I am still fishing away like a total bum, ignoring the real responsibilities of life and falling further and further behind in....everything. In my hunt for 30 consecutive days fishing, Im now on day 11. The past few days I haven't taken many photos for whatever reason, but here are a few more to keep you all interested.

Day 10 was at Tilles Park again. I've been at this little lake too many times to count now and I'm growing a little tired of it. The fishing is horrible; there are too many kids; there are ignorant walkers who, without warning or pause, just somehow show up right behind me at the start of a backcast. Additionally, I see more and more dead fish washed up each time. They are new each time, and multiply in number and species. Im starting to wonder whether they are all just dying from trauma; I think something else is going on. Not good.

This particular day was a little fun, though. I was supposed to head out to Busch Wildlife CA, but some severe weather killed that longer trip. I decided I still had to go and ended up at Tilles just ahead of the storm. The skies turned a really eerie green, then black, then wet. It rained for a good half hour, but the really spectacular part was the lightning. It was a fireworks show out there! I had a great view from under the tallest tree around as I cast under an overhanging branch; I figured if I were to die, it might as well be casting.

My nerves kicked in for the first time when from across the lake I heard a passer-by inform some other fishermen (I wasn't the only lunatic) that a tornado was headed our way and they ought to turn on a radio. Spinning around to assess the incoming clouds, I saw what convinced me that there probably was a tornado coming. I put on my raincoat preparing for heavier rain...and kept casting. Again, if I'm going to die, why not fishing in a tornado? After the wind kicked up, the storm came overhead and I got into a good position to cast and to watch the sky. The fish woke up and I started catching BG on every cast. As soon as the storm blew over, the fishing and rain both died. I wrapped up and went home wet and smiling.

Day 11: I have no problem getting up at 5am for these. End of story.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Days 5-9

While the contest is over and I am two 'nators heavier today, I'm still goin'. My goal is still to fish 30 consecutive days; I just got back from day 9. Here are some fish from the past few days:

I pulled up this pretty Spotted Bass out of a place he shouldn't have been. He seemed pissed off to be so far from a stream.

I keep getting into large BG, especially from one pond. Anyone who doesn't respect these fish as genuine sportfish is...inexperienced.

Hopper season is coming!

That is 9" of pure fight I'm holding.

This fella' was so fat I really had a difficult time getting a good hold on him to unhook. I love seeing well-fed BG!

9"+ BG on a 3wt in front of storms on a small pond--now that is life.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Contest of Wills

Actually its a contest of just one Will and a Chris, but whatever. After some discussion and challenging, Chris and I decided to see how many days in a row we can fish. The kicker is that the loser buys gas for the next road-fishing trip and the winner picks out two flies from the loser's flybox. As a failsafe measure for our marriages, we later capped the contest at 30 days, so there is a chance that it ends in a tie.

Trying to not lose has gotten me out everyday this week. I thought I'd share some photos from the week out.

Trying to find a somewhat off-trail pond, I got into some really great hiking. This was almost as much fun as fishing.

I won't tell you where it is, but if you find yourself looking at this scenery and go in the direction indicated--you'll find it. Good luck, ha!

I caught a few decent BG at this very unfished pond, and I think I would've done better had the weather been on my side. It was exactly 163 degrees in the shade that day.

These are not quite as large as I got used to catching at another pond, but they were just as much fun.

I couldn't survive all week on stillwater, so had to go find some moving stuff. This was Day #3

The fish population at Tilles seems to be healthy; I caught lots of 4-5" BG that shows me there is a good fish base. I think this Redear died from trauma, not illness. It was a nice fish, sort of a shame to see it like this. This was Day #4.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I've hatched the idea to plan a trip to the northeast to visit a great friend that left STL after he graduated in 2009. I've heard stories from him about the backcountry where he lives, the hiking there, and--of course--the streams and fishing. I am trying to get some photos from him, but this one is what I imagine it to be and is in that area (I think). Needless to say, just the thought of fishing a stream like this with a friend like Joe (and Chris if he can come too) gets me beyond excited. Fly fishing in the best of places should only rarely be done alone. All I can say is that as I fall asleep at night, I try to make myself dream of fishing in western New York in a stream like this...catching brook trout and pretending there aren't 1000 miles in between a best friend's house and mine.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Title Change

Update your links/bookmarks if you want, but the URL is the same. I just think this is a more appropriate title.

Return to a Favorite

I went back to a favorite spot for some pre-storm fishing on Monday afternoon. I had a great time out there and caught 15-20 8-9"+ fish. The 2-3 largest measured 9.5" and that leads me to believe there is a solid 10" BG in that water. I'll go back for more soon and try to find out. At one point, a snapping turtle joined me on the bank to keep me company (presumably for all the fish that were constantly coming that way).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More on the Eight Streams

I just found a better summary of the waters I'm slowly checking off the list. Go to this link at the MDC page and read the information there. From a conservation point of view, this is crucial information that, I think, the vast majority of St. Louisans are NOT aware of...and may never be. Unfortunately, people who don't get down into these streams don't pay any attention to them; some may only consider them when they flood. The mindset that creeks, streams and tribs are just exposed plumbing for drainage (incl. sewage) really needs to be set right.

Looking at the small watershed map, the interesting thing is that there are two very distinctive groups of streams. I've had the pleasure and privilege of seeing the distinction on the ground with my feet wet, but for those that haven't--look at my photos and follow my posts on these creeks. After that, you really need to get out there and see things first hand. It may change your perspective and awareness on STL fishing and overlooked conservation opportunities.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lookie there...!

I don't think I've ever really been written about before...but I have been now:

Teak Phillips post on my creek fishing

The rest of his blog is worth reading, especially since he is based in STL as well and has a similar appreciation for a multitude of species beyond trout. Visit some of his links, too; interesting stuff there.

Friday, July 9, 2010

We're a Couple of Bums

A trip that my friend Chris B. and I concocted while at Hunneywell involved some dedication, but neither Chris nor I think we deserve the comments of our being "insane" or "crazy" from wives and friends. We settled on driving 540+ miles Thursday (a day off for both of us) out to Hartell C.A. that is very well managed and catch-and-release. We figured we could get into some pretty big Bluegill, Redear and maybe even a nice bass or two by accident. Sure we only got 2 hours of sleep the night before, sure we'd only fish 60% of the time we'd spend driving (10 hrs total), and sure it meant leaving STL by 3am to get there in time for a morning fish...but crazy? Insane? We're just a couple of bums that love laughing over big bream.

We got there just before 8am ready to go. We loaded up the single boat off Redear Lake (including our new tradition of bringing a stove and percolator on-board) and set to investigating the far bank. Early fishing was great and we were both able to catch some very solid and pretty 9" right off the bat. We watched as midge hatches came and went, damselfly activity came and went, and the fishing itself rose and fell. We went through long periods of no fish which gave us opportunity to re-tie tippets, talk about the fishing and, of course, brew some coffee.

The fishing was worth the drive, but I don't think either of us really felt like we blew it out of the water. We failed at catching a 10"+ sunfish (though one of Chris' redears may be above that and I got a 13" crappie that sent both of us into laughter). We didn't really zero in on the BG either; we caught some, sure, but we also caught redear, crappie, bass, and green. It's an interesting lake in terms of ecology and management and I'll go back one day for sure. The real fun of the day was sitting in that boat, drinking coffee and fishing in the suspense of well-managed water...knowing we were bums.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Femme Osage

Another day off meant I could try to get one stream closer to fishing all eight. I found that Femme Osage bordered the southern edge of a Conservation Area and had semi-simple access. A 1.5 mile hike down a farm road brought me right to the creek. It is becoming a regular feature on this quest to have to hike through some really thick brush. I had to again today and I was really surprised that I saw no snakes--I was in their territory for sure.

I think every fisherman always has preconceived ideas about what the new water will be like, look like, and fish like. Mine consisted of a small, floodplain stream that was maybe 25' across and basically structureless. I was wrong. I couldn't see the creek until I was almost in it, and my view then was of a large stream. It was large enough that I contemplated for a moment if I had taken a wrong turn and ended up at the nearby Missouri River. I don't know exactly what the limits of the term "creek" are, but I know this one stretches it to its upper limit. Compared to LaBarque and Kiefer, this creek is a monster. It'd be like comparing Rhode Island to Texas.

I fished it for a while doing the best I could with the tight quarters, even getting in some drifts up and across the current. True to form for this type of stream, I had no bites, no rises, and no fish--only lots of mud. Having fished it honestly, I began the trek back. On the way in, I hiked past the slough that it either feeds or once formed. It bears the same name and looked fishable, so I stopped there. I caught a few BG and lost a few of my favorite flies.

I'm now at 5 of 8--pretty good progress so far, I think. I'll take Thursday off from my chase for a more insane run at fishing with Chris (more later).

Friday, July 2, 2010

Busch Wildlife

I had the great pleasure of finishing out my day on the water. C and I met my dad (who taught me to fish and would faithfully take me growing up) out at Busch Wildlife C.A. (where I grew up fishing and learned to fish in the first place; it's also where dad taught me to drive a stick when I was 14). We had a great time out there!

I was sorely beaten by my wife who caught a nice LMB and a great black crappie, both on topwater about 8pm. It was honestly more fun watching her take the strikes and reel them in than catching fish myself. She's a great fishergirl and is doing a wonderful job of learning to flycast (she's already caught several fish on a flyrod).

Peruque Creek and Big River

I had the fun of fishing both of these yesterday on a day off. I actually re-fished LaBarque, but was run off that water early by something awful (only 2 people know and they won't talk). I had the plan of continuing to pursue fishing and catching in each of the eight streams, so I hunted Google and Google maps for an easy target that had some kind of park access.

Peruque Creek came up as the winner since it borders Dames Park in northern O'Fallon in St. Charles county. A quick drive out there got me to the southern and wet end of the park where I put my car out of the way, loaded up, and started looking for an open area to get to the water. Finding none, in fact each place I looked seemed more choked than the last, I doubled up my insect repellent and charged through 30' of the thickest "meadow brush" (for lack of better terms) I've ever seen. I immediately lost sight of not only my boots (glad I chose those to wear today), but damn near my entire legs up to my hips. I found that walking like a drunk Munchkin swinging my legs and feet in and then outward allowed me to catch and then stomp down a lot of it. It looked and felt ridiculous, but I figured it was my best chance for avoiding the metropolis of snakes, spiders and ticks that I was surely in.

After finding the main tributary to the creek and then the creek itself after another 50' of the same brush and Munchkining, I set to fishing it. After an hour with no fish, no bites, no rises except the very convincing but ultimately useless ones from the dragonflies, I gave up. The bank was muddy; the water was muddy; I was muddy. Even my reel, somehow, was muddy. I retreated through what I thought was the same 50' of nastiness that I came in through, but instead took the shortcut through the 65' of it and landed well north of my car.

I decided then that my pursuit and goal is modified--I just have to fish the creeks, not necessarily catch anything from them. While I may be able to go back one day with some 12X tippet and a #28 fly and land a trophy darter or topminnow, I just never want to go back there again. Fish or not, I did see a great example of a large adult male midge; that was as much fly fishing-related wildlife I encountered.

So I moved on to the Big River afterwards, hoping to possibly vanquish my fishless streak there. I had the option of skipping over it in my quest, since I had already fished it and by the new rules--that allowed me to cross it off. The Big River, however, has a reputation of having a great stock of fish, many of them on my favorites list. While in the case of the Peruque, not catching fish is just wise time management, but in the Big, it would have been lazy or defeatist. I'm happy to say that I almost immediately began catching fish, which came as some surprise to me.

My options were limited by drunken, local swimmers set on making as much possible noise with both their mouths and bodies. Only rarely were any of those sounds identifiable as human. I stayed upstream 90% of the time. The one time I ventured downstream I was asked by a pair of adolescents floating by if the green-handled golf club that was presently stabbed into the river bed was mine. I wanted to explain to them how ridiculous their question was (what would I do with a bright green putter while Im fishing??), but I decided to just take in their courtesy and reply that custody of the club was entirely up in the air. They pulled it out of the mud like Excalibur and found more use, apparently, for it on their float downstream than I did for fishing with it. I went back upstream and got back to drifting flies across currents.

See the rest of the pictures here:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I don't go fly fishing, I come

Many of my friends and family know very well that this time of life for me, especially in terms of my employment situation, is something that makes less than enough sense to me. I get asked every so often by a fellow employee who learns of my background, "What the hell are you doing here?" They recognize that I don't necessarily belong there, though I feel very welcomed everyday walking into work. I feel welcome and wanted most of the time; I never feel, though, as if I belong there. I do, in some way, belong there, but in so many other ways that seem to speak louder and more clearly...I do not.

So, as often as I can, and sometimes when I really shouldn't, I come fly fishing. It is indescribable to have an almost tangible feeling of belongingness when I'm beside some new stream holding some fish that probably has never been caught. When I spend so many hours so deep down under a sense that I got off at the wrong bus stop, a few hours letting out all the breath I'd been holding for days or a week works literal miracles.

I am sure that it borders on some sort of psych disorder that C could immediately diagnose, but the moment I get to the water, the moment I first see a fish, and certainly again when I catch the first of the day...I am compelled to at least say in my heart and with a genuine smile and import, "hello again, friends." The feeling may not go both ways, but there is a comforted, playful sort of mood I settle into when I'm around fish that I only ever have in one other place--home. It's nice to come home, regardless of which home that may be.