It seems as I get older, time has increasingly become more valuable. I've become the king of double booking. Setting up weekend trips, only to end up making them day trips. Even when I make fishing a priority, something tends to come up. This summer was going to be different. My wife gave me a green light, most any weekend I wanted. I thought I was in heaven early on. Then I noticed a pattern. Every weekend I decided to make plans to go camping, by Thursday the weather report had shifted and rain was predicted.
In the 2014 trout season I survived the 3 worst storms of my camping and fishing careers, and actually cut a trip short only hours before a tornado touched down. It was the season of Mother Nature, as she rained out 4 trips, and sent a seasons worth of biting gnats and mosquitoes every day the wind was down. But I managed to get out and fish on my birthday, got to fish with someone who I've been trying to get on the water with for about 4 years now, met some great new friends on the stream and caught plenty of fish. I managed trout on hoppers in June, and threw more dry flies than any season before and introduced fly fishing to a handful of new people.
The last weekend of the season didn't disappoint either. The gnats were terrible when the wind wasn't blowing and the intermittent rain provided a nice cooling off, but seemed to only excite the mosquitoes.
My first night I was joined by a couple of great guys who happened to be regulars on the Driftless Trout Anglers forum. We traded stories, enjoyed some beers and the smoke of a good bonfire. As I rolled in late and wasn't able to grab firewood, joining them was great luck and a lot of fun.
Saturday morning started slow as I fished a spot Jonathan Marquardt and I found this summer, where two creeks merge and create a beautiful, deep hole with a slight riffle. I sat and watched trout rise through the bubble line for a while before throwing on a size 20 midge, only to quickly embed it up to the shank in my finger tip. After a quick hook removal, I was on my way. Or at least I thought. The following five hours proceeded to be some of the most frustrating I've had in years. I lost count at a dozen fish missed through about a quarter mile of water, without even hooking one. By the time I had reached the car, I had been shut out. I had produced more rises by my estimation than I had all year. Without hooking one. So it was going to be one of those days.
I grabbed a bottle of water, hopped in the Pathfinder and headed back to camp. Upon my arrival I decided to fish a run right there at camp, mainly to try to knock the skunk off. After throwing a dropper rig on, I was able to pull a few fish out of a nice pool and felt good about myself again. After getting back to my tent, cracking a beer and taking my leaking waders off, I was hit with a conundrum. Would it rain as expected tonight? We only got a few minutes the night before, but with the summer I've had I didn't want to take any chances.
Maybe it was the Spotted Cow, maybe the rising fish I sat watching, or maybe it was the second beer. But either way, I quickly pulled together a game plan for the afternoon and was off. It would be hoppers or bust all afternoon, with high hopes of doing some sight fishing.
I had a somewhat secret spot. Or at least a spot I knew would be so overgrown that I didn't think too many people would be willing to deal with the overhanging brush. Turns out I was wrong. First spot was taken. Went up to the next pasture and had the place to myself.
For the next 5 hours, until the sun set, I caught trout after trout, gorging themselves on my foam hoppers. Actually had to retire the first one, wasn't enough foam left on the hook to float. That's when you know you're having a good day. Stalking trout, from one hole to the next, I saw fish and a good cast was one that just didn't get caught in the brush. Fish moved from side to side, up and down runs, chasing the "plop" anytime it got close.
When the sun began to set, the fishing slowed and I walked back to the car as darkness began to set in. As I returned to camp I ran in to Jerome, the camp manager who was offering firewood. He gave me the update on the weather and as I started the coals and fired up dinner. After grilling and enjoying a beer, the wind picked up and within minutes, one of the worst storms of the season blew through. There were a few spots there where I was pretty confident my tent was about to be blown away. As it rained throughout the night, my chances of fishing on my way out of town dwindled.
After waking and looking at the chocolate milk that had been the stream the day before, I decided to pack up and hit the road, stopping by a few spots to see if they were fishable. As I reached the last spring creek and saw more stain than I'd like, I came to the realization that my season was done. As I hit the road I called Stuart to see how they did, hoping he'd still be on the water. When I got his voicemail I smiled, daydreaming of another day chasing trout.