Something just had to be done. From within the confines of the Roughfisher Command Post, it was determined that it was indeed a nice day out. The sun was shining and temperatures were flirting with the notion of approaching the freezing mark. It was time to go browntown.
Dusting off the cobwebs from three and half months of idle time is never an easy task. That is far too long of a stretch to go without holding the rod. Unfortunately, I live in a climate where that is not always possible to avoid. Dealing with ice is a pain the ass. Frozen rod guides, iced up line, and trying not to fall on your ass are just a few of the issues dealt with by the northern angler. I only biffed it once yesterday, and on another occasion, somehow managed to regain my balance while stumbling and abstained from falling in to the river face first. That would have stung.
The river had opened up a bit on the stretch I was fishing, and the ice shelf that typically frequents my spot had receded back enough that it would not pose a threat to cutting my leader when landing a fish. Flows have remained well above normal throughout the entire winter, exceeding the 80th percantile and over twice the average cfs. The one advantage to this time of year, though, is that because the majority of the river sediment is locked up in snow and ice, the river tends to run a bit more clear. Perfect for sightfishing.
My casts were a bit sloppy to start. I was having some difficulty getting the short headed Elixir line on my two hander to cast well. I kept trying to adjust my casting stroke until I would finally realize that my casting wasn't the problem; It's damn near impossible to cast and shoot a line when your guides are just about frozen shut. Needless to say, I had to clear my guides about every 5 drifts or so, a consuming task.
There were plenty of fish up in the shallows. There were large schools of buffalo, with some quillback mixed in. The stray channel catfish would occasionally wander in and mingle among these other fish. I spotted a group of golden redhorse, and a few solitary shorthead redhorse making their way upstream. Carp were few and far between. They were likely taking cover underneath the large ice shelf adjacent to the area I was fishing. Every once in awhile, a big brute would come peeking out on the fringe of the shelf. No luck tempting them to take a fly, but I did manage to pick off one of the little runts, and broke the cyprinid cherry for '09.
Likely the most frustrating part of fishing the winter for cool and warmwater fish is that their metabolism is low and they are not very active feeders this time of year. Having to expend less energy and a low metabolic rate is likely a mutual benefit of having less forage available during the winter months. This can be very frustrating to anglers, however, as they can spot schooled up fish and drift flies right in front of their mouths, only to watch them largely ignore their offerings. The fishing was slow; nothing I offered the fish seem to really turn them on. I had high hopes for my Scorpion pattern only to watch it fail. To be fair, most every other pattern failed, even the tried and true Buffalo Soljah pattern. As Michael Gracie and Fat Guy Kyle have found these flies effective out in Colorado, I'm sure they will be killer here in Minnesota, once the water warms.
The productive fly of the day was a beadhead caddis nymph, tied with a green sparkle yarn and auorora Angelina dubbed body, partridge soft hackle, and peacock glimmer flash chenille. More details on the tie to come. I leave you with the beast of the day, a chunky bigmouth buffalo.
Hopefully the first of many to come in 2009.
- the roughfisher