November 7, 2009
Another wet fall. Flows on the Otter Tail are three times the normal for this time of year, and the highest they've ever been on this date for the Red. Nothing like fishing spring flows in the fall. I showed up at one of my tail water spots only to find one of the gates open. Bad news. There's no way you'd catch a carp out of those whitewater flows. I gave the run a few drifts and ended up taking a digger, breaking my fall on my rod and wrist. I somehow managed to keep my rod from falling into the abyss but did not save the graphite from a few nasty scratches on the rocks. It'll still fish, but I also ended up with a dirty gash to the wrist. No pain, no gain.
I had zero visibility in the foam, and it was even worse further downstream. This is utter bullshit. I recall only one week out of the entire year where flows were normal, and the day I fished it the Corps raised flows that morning. This high dirty water sure gets old. My guess is that things won't improve anytime soon and these flows may become the new norm.
You have to be willing to spill some blood to run with the buffalo.
I fished a Tobacco Caddis and blindly fished a current seam. The water was so high I was all out of sorts and had some difficulty making structure. Fish were not holding where I thought they would be in the heavy current and it totally caught me off guard when I had resistance on the line. I didn't have enough line stripped in and had to manually set the hook by grabbing my line up high, fumbling around to get that line on the reel as fast as I could. I saw a pretty healthy wake and knew I didn't want to lose this fish. I gave myself plenty of chance to fail, but somehow pieced it together. Thankfully, the cold water temps (near 40°F) kept the fish docile and my incompetence at the rod luckily didn't alert the fish that it was hooked. The one thing about cold water buffalo is that they don't fight as robustly as they do in the summer. To my fortune, the fish stayed out of the heavy current and I was able to play it to shore without incident.
That was a solid fish. It's in the top five fish of the season and is a serious contender for number one overall. An oil tanker. I fished that heavy seam and hooked up with a trout sized carp. It smoked my fly. The fish torpedoed around breaking the surface a few times just like a rainbow. I stripped the fish in by hand (a rare occurrence for carp), chuckling that the fish was really a trout trapped in a carp's body.
Same fly, same current seam. Another Sea Donkey. This fish was longer and broader than the first buffalo. I had difficulty landing it in my under-equipped net. I scoped over the Brave, noting the battle scars to the cheeks and tattered dorsal fin. This old warrior has seen his share of battles. I struggled to bring the fish to hand, the brute strength poised in its muscles nearly overcame me. Pride aside, I raised the fish in salute of the seal of slime he adorned his victor with.
The spirit of the warrior shines on.