June 15, 2008

The Esoxer and I met up yesterday to do some roughfishing. Derek has been on a muskie on the fly tour over the past month, and roughfishing was a nice break from the rigors of chucking half-chickens with a big beastie telephone pole rod.

The weather was favorable throughout the day, a departure from the wet and dreary weather cycle we have been on, which has left everything in a soggy state. High flows on the Otter Tail have been the norm as of late, and yesterday was no exception. Flows were even higher than on Thursday, at around 1200 cfs. There looks to be no relief in sight, until things dry up for awhile.

We decided to fish the tailwater at Orwell. Always a good spot for fish. Derek tied on a blue and white deceiver and managed to catch a few of the Otter Tail's legendary smallies. I bottom bounced a crawler and hooked up with a bunch of goldeyes. They are definitely an underrated fish in these parts. They are quite feisty, providing acrobatic fights; this is about as close as you will get in the midwest to fishing an American shad run.

We moved downstream to fish a major current seam where I had spotted a herd of buffalo. I tossed a few nymphs and a san juan carp killer to no avail. Derek caught his first bluegill on a fly. I caught this chunky smallmouth with beautiful mottling before we packed up and moved on over to the backwaters.
When we arrived at out carp spot, we saw a fish continuously rising near a culvert. Derek rigged up his rod a dropped a prince nymph in there. After a few drifts, he hooked up with a largemouth bass. Fish were here alright, but things were not looking good for carp fishing. These silt choked waters are so turbid, you can't even see a fish right at your toes. Literally. I was up in the flooded grass trying to stalk a few carp, when a pair of fish swam up within a foot or two of my boots to spawn. They had no clue I was even there. I wouldn't have any idea that they were there either, save for a couple of fins breaking the surface of the water. Carp fishing was slow. I hooked up with a few bullheads and moved to a different spot.

After checking with Derek, he was having no luck convincing a carp to ditch the spawn and take a fly. I launched a half crawler into the pool he was fishing and almost instantaneously had a hookup. The fish leapt out of the water. Turns out it was a smallish female, full of eggs.
That bite was a false indicator of how the next few hours would go. We had to work for fish. Derek even gave up his fly rod and grabbed a spinning rod. We caught a few robust bullheads, including a nice little channel cat that weighed a couple of pounds. Would have been good for the fry pan.
A few more carp were caught before we called it a day and packed up for home. For my standards, I thought it was a pretty slow day. Derek enjoyed himself, and just catching a fish, any fish, was better than a thousand casts for muskie with no return. He managed to catch his first carp on a crawler, and was welcomed to the sport of roughfishing with the traditional carp splash on the release.

Tight lines!


  1. GREAT post. I've always been amazed at the color variations of the S.M.B. - They're really a pretty fish. Sort of a "junk" fish when you're after Buffalo, though, eh? ;-)

  2. definitely an interesting variation. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the pattern on the SMB appeared spotted in full sunlight, almost like a leopard. Those Otter Tail smallies have a pretty cool coloration.