Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Road Work: Driftless Miles

At left, Wisconsin from the 1718 map by L'Isle hosted on wikicommons.

Some things pull on you. That 3 wt rod in the corner of the closet ? "I don't even like little trout," you say; but, the rod pulls on you.

Sport. That's sport playin' with you.

I've got something playin' with me now: the Driftless.

I wanted to go this year but as usual things snowballed into what things always snowball into. I wanted to get out to the Columbia, too; but, that snowballed into the same rolling dungheap of responsibility and obligation.

I've got writing to do. I've got commerce to pursue. I've got scotch to drink around  a campfire.

I'm going camping in the Driftless next year.

My reference books are spread all over the desk here as I try and plot a trip. There's a bunch of water I want to see and a dash to Iowa I'll have to make (fishing buddy is from Iowa and those folks have something in them about their state as if they like it or something ...).

Water of interest?

Castle Rock Creek.
Big Green River.
West Fork of the Kickapoo.
Timber Coulee.
Tainter Creek.

In Iowa:
Waterloo Creek.
N and S Bear Creek.

Now, some of you know the waters in this area. I've made the SW Wisconsin cut here.

The next step? 

Finding the small tributary branches with pubic access and the endless "also ran -- but not in the guide book" waters.

I want the chalkstream experience. I'm not sure I'm fully there yet. Gin clear water with lots of limestone and green scuds holds some interest. I'll tie a batch of simple soft hackles and a couple dozen soft hackle dries and head over for some trout hunting.

Camping, of course. It'll be a trout trip on the cheap which is ultimately the sort of trout guy I am. It's a good trip when I pay for gas and roust the rest of the needs out of my fridge and pantry.

I think this might be the sort of water -- certainly the sort of trout density -- that helps the Amber Liquid guys. It'd be nice to fish an open stream where an overhead cast can be made from something other than up-and-down the streambed standing mid-current. Michigan is very brushy.

We need a scouting trip before personal recommendations and I'm throwing myself on that job. I'm throwing myself on the sausage cooking over the fire, too.

SO, the Driftless is an itch I've got to scratch.

Trip planning is about one-sixtieth the fun. It's right there with finding an unopened pack of smoked sausage in the bottom of the fridge you smuggle out to take camping.

It's fun; but, not as fun as the dinner to come.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Planning 2017 Outings

At left, public domain photo of the 1922 British Everest Expedition which worked from the North Face.

They all look so happy here. This troop recorded the first seven deaths on the mountain and failed to summit. Also, first group to try oxygen at altitude.

I don't see their fly rods in this picture.

Outings for 2017?

I'm flying into the Wabakimi Wilderness park in Ontario again. Northern Pike on the fly, walleye on jigs. Toothy critter leaders.

Apart from that, my trip agenda looks local. I'd like to get out to the Columbia but we'll see how that shakes out come fall. The budget is somewhat constrained next year as I prepare the final alignment for Beargirl's retirement. I'll never stop working but she wants to so there is a little adjustment in the run rate that has to be made.

Boardman River - Forks Campground. The Boardman is the birthplace of the Adams fly and I didn't make it there this year. Priority outing next spring. Late May. Will try and catch the early mayfly hatches.

South Branch Au Sable. This will again serve as brown trout homewaters for me as I camp at Canoe Harbor. With a new trout car, I'll have much better access to the upper river including Daisy Bend. Warm April, May. October.

Deward Tract, Upper Manistee. Brook trout central for my efforts. Again, with a new trout car I'll be able to navigate the extremely rutted sand roads for better access. Last year, the three mile hike-in became daunting. There are better places to hike. May. June. September.

Club Stream and Sturgeon River - Green Timbers hike-in. I'll make a Friday-Saturday-Sunday hike-in and wild camp (allowed in Green Timbers) covering both the Sturgeon and the Club Stream. It's taken a bit to get the gear pared-down to make this sort of event comfortable but enjoyable. Early July looks like a good time. Maybe June. Could be June's "big trip" pretty easily.

Mainstream Au Sable. There is a canoe/tent campground upstream of a great deal of angler activity [ Au Sable River Canoe Camp]. Night streamers for large trout. September.

Jordan River. Pocket water fishing in the heat of the summer. Brookie fishing. The waters of the Jordan remain cold. Running the river involves some hikes. Great! July, August.

Fox River, Two Hearted River. These Upper Peninsula rivers are obligatory scout trips. They are deeply linked to Michigan lore. I've a short 5 wt. from Chris Lantzy that is perfect for pulling nice fish out of timber. I look for a fair amount of hiking to be required so say, a four day outing. June, definitely. I'll have to plan my season around this expedition and the end-of-July fly-in to Ontario.

I want to make it to Isle Royale but my outing to Wabi is going to eat into the true expedition time in 2017. Canadian fly-in to a park or boat-in to U.S. park: I'm going fly-in. There's more adventure in a two-and-a-half hour floatplane ride.

How about you?

Time to plan. I've got more snow to shovel here after dinner (blower engine has a compression problem: valve). I'm at about nine inches for the day so far.


Thursday, December 8, 2016


At left, my own image of this year's Trout Unlimited premium for a fundraising effort.

The image is of a large Stanley brand steel insulated vacuum bottle travel mug. It's quite nice. It holds more than a a large cup of coffee -- maybe 18 oz ? -- and has a positive control button for releasing access to the liquids within. Quite nice. Passes the "bear test" here tonight.

Will be a fixture in the new "trout car."

I'm replacing the existing trout car because it isn't suitable for any but the most civilized of access points. It can handle gravel, but not sand.

I kid the Senator about his Subaru as a lesbian-mobile. He has two of the things. Yes, they are driven here in Ann Arbor by a number of lesbians. Yes I'm friends with several. No, they aren't amused by my antics most of the time, either.

Subarus are however infinitely practical and quite nice vehicles. The inside always seems well proportioned to me though I am a little short of statue. I'm not sure how they fit larger anglers.

The Senator's wagons have great ground clearance hold a ton of gear. I think we went fishing in his with wader bags and all when there was an entire bed frame in the back once.

I've a buddy who is a serial WRZ STI guy -- which is Subaru's fast little compact. It's a monster and plenty quick. I looked at one for a long time some years ago but went with a specially prepared Infiniti G35 with the ATI twin-turbo set-up. I like to go fast and be comfortable.  The WRX was almost rally-ready straight out of the box.

It hurt to crawl behind the wheel.

I never had the G35 off pavement. She was a doll. Black-on-black and loved to eat Pirelli's. Never quite could make the continuous 100+ mph commute. Ninety plus many times but could never make the continuous 100+ club. I had a twenty mile drive that was two rights, a stretch for twenty-two miles, a left and a right. I did many mornings horn and lights all the way. I bought a fast car for a reason.

Can't do that here in Michigan. They drive slow on this side of the state. I mean sloooooooow. Stupid and slow, too. Oblivious, maybe? West side? My type of drivers. Stay right if you don't have the horses.

I grew up where we'd drive six hours each way to play high school football and when Nixon put the speed limit at 55 mph, it was ignored west of Russell. Nobody is going to take eight hours to drive to Denver. That's just crazy.

I know exactly how fast a 500 cu. in. 1974  Eldorado can go if you give it all the reigns it wants. Vonda was a tremendous machine for the day. ( 1965 Miss Arizona, Miss America - Vonda Kay Van Dyke ... family friend and thus, car named for her. Miss Kansas won in '66 and we didn't know her). Snow eater, too. Went to South Bend in January of '78 when the ditches were full of trucks and Notre Dame closed for the first time. Yea. First time ever.

I'm going with something in the rally league this time. More the Paris-Dakar rally. Heavy beast. Factory ready.

It's sad they limit the route of the rally now due to "political unrest." I'm an FAL guy but I'm getting old. I'm not sure I can sling an FAL out the window and drive at the same time. FN FNC? No problem. That's why your elbow bends. Convenient for the driver.

Anyway, the Senator drives a very rugged Subaru.

Kev drives a Grand Cherokee with every available option. If we poured drinks in our vehicles -- which I have done but which I no longer do -- then his would be the cocktail car. Bloody thing is a goat on trail and rides nicely, too.  I always feel I'm missing a martini when I'm in the back. We need more martini's in the back. Should come as a factory option.

Of course, you know what Bogart said on his death bed: "I should have never switched from scotch to martinis." There's that. A man who would know.

Big Bear has a new go-anywhere-pull-anything pickup. It's one of the new Ford trucks. I haven't been in it yet. I've been in one similar (guy who works for me) and I remembered the "presidential" series of continentals when I was in it. Wow. "Work truck" is pretty nice these days. Nothing wrong with that!

Mobes has a pair of Land Rover Discovery specials. One was Kev's from way-back-when (Niles) and one is an out-right acquisition. I'm jealous of both. Troll Hunter?  You've seen Mobes' Land Rover, then.

My mechanic won't work on Land Rovers so easier to get a new brand of vehicle than a new mechanic I trust. I had a '76 110 once that came with parts manuals! Yea. Not the greatest idea I ever had even back then. I had distributor problems with mine. Made it about five months. Traded it to a fellow for '52 International 5-Q that had been an ambulance for the army. I could work on that beast. Diesel. Wasn't allowed to park it at my folks house. Parked it down the street.

So, enough about trout cars -- except I need to order one. I have to do that this week. Takes a bit to do the build-to-order business and these aren't run off the line without a confirmed order. Happens.

We've snow here but only in the smallest sense. Lou the foxhound follows in the little field coat my daughter bought him. When you daughter buys your best friend a coat, yes, you put it on him and take a picture. No, he doesn't especially like it. He likes Erin though. Follows her around when she's here.

She probably smells better than I do. Smell is important to a short foxhound. He's snoring next to me now.

I might need another one of these.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Bark Eaters

At left, birch tree bark as photographed by Mariah.lobely and hosted on wikicommons. Used here for merely the attribution. Nice photograph Mariah, and thanks!

I'm pretty much a bear.

My doctor -- the vet -- tells me to chew on the bark of a couple birch trees, drink plenty of tea, and hibernate. If I still have a cold in the spring, make another appointment.


I've a cold. I've had this cold long enough now I should name it and buy it a Christmas present.

I want to be on the water.

I've some weighted spiders I tied last spring using the last of some tungsten beads I'd found in a bag. I want to get out and try some upstream contact nymphing while the weather is above freezing in the afternoons.

I've trout to hunt on my local restoration stream and oddly, this is one of my favorite times to really work a piece of water thoroughly.

The fly fishers I talk to this time of year are either fondling new gear or casting streamers. I nymph.

I get possessed by the feeling of a trout on the rod lift.

I like the sudden excitement of the wriggle from down deep at my feet when I've no business expecting anything expressing interest in my offerings. They're never large fish -- for me -- but I like the nymphing in the fall.

I dislike contact nymphing come spring. No good reason for that feeling, either.

I was out three times in November last year on my little Mill Creek stream and was able to really fish a section of water thoroughly. I didn't feel hurried and I had no expectation so I could just wade upstream like a heron and solidly fish the fifteen feet of water in front of me. By the third outing, I was confident in just barely leading my fly downstream and the takes managed to hook themselves on the lift.

"Are you there?"

That's the question Dave Hughes asks of the trout in one of his books. I think it is in Trout From Small Streams. I'm not going to dig for the citation this minute but if I'm wrong, it was a good-natured error and not a slight.

I like that routine. I get a kind of itch to be alone on a stretch of water and try to cover it completely while barely moving. I like asking the trout "are you there?" when I'm not impatient for the warming days to come.

I relax on the water. I know it is late fall my future promises ice. 

The gift of a trout way past "shoulder season"? Almost as good as a Christmas dinner. Almost.

I've had this cold and haven't been out since early November.

I need to eat my bark, get better, then put my feet in a cold stream.  My herons have gone. I don't think I'll have any trouble with their union if I give their routine a try.

I will put hot tea in my thermos with perhaps a little Bushmills for the flavor.

The trout won't mind the Irish one bit, either.