4,152 miles, 7 states, lots of outdoor adventures…oh, and lots of fly fishing. By the time you read this column, school will just about be open, again! That is hard to believe as school seems to start earlier each year; right now my focus is on as much fishing as possible. June 22 found me and Vickie packed up and heading west; you may have followed our unfortunate woes…we were to wind up in Montana but due to some car issues we turned it around and headed back towards home. No complaints however as the next 20 days found us enjoying some awesome scenery and found me waist deep in lots of water just full of fish waiting to be caught. So, let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
My first big/nice fish came early on while we were enjoying the Rapid City, South Dakota area. I was fishing just under the monstrous Pactola Dam in the Stillwater basin that lies at the bottom of the reservoir. I started very early (about 4:45am) with my 6 weight rod, Rio sink tip line and silver shad pattern in hand. I pushed off in my float tube with no great expectations in mind; I made a few casts into the middle, toward the deeper portion of the basin. I was stripping line like any other time when I felt a huge jab/take and immediately strip set the hook. The next few minutes were full of wonder as the fish attached to my fly-line was towing me around this cold, clear water. A few minutes passed and eventually my 27 inch Lake Trout played itself out and I slipped my net under…and jostled it, so that it would fit in the net.
Grove Lake in north-central Nebraska would find my next big catch; my first day upon the small public lake found me coming home with a 5 bass limit that weighed in at 11.5 pounds. The next day I was up early and on the water before the sun had fully risen above the many trees that guard the lake on the east. My second day would find completely different conditions; the sun was up and high in the sky. I knew my chances of once again landing a big stringer would be limited…but alas I pushed off in my float tube, 6 weight rod and large white streamer in hand. I had some takes and even landed a couple small guys but as I turned, crossed the main part of the lake and started to make my way back towards the dock I made a long cast under a large, overhanging tree. I counted to five and then started making long, jerky strips when I felt a pop, strip set and for a couple minutes wasn’t sure what I had on the other end. A minute later I was able to confirm that there below me was one large bass…a few minutes later I was able to reach down and lip a 22 inch bass that I estimated would weigh somewhere between 6 and 7 pounds as it had already spawned out.
A few days later we would roll into northeastern Iowa, Decorah to be exact. Waterloo Creek which was about 10 miles from the southern border of Minnesota would find me waist deep in stained water; my 3 weight Winston rod and heavily weighted optic green streamer in hand. I had to water load my cast due to the overhanging limbs behind me and upon my first cast I skirted a tree limb on the opposite side of the stream. I let the fly settle down then started with an erratic retrieve when I felt a pop and immediately strip set with my left hand. I really wasn’t sure what I had hooked into but knew it was going to be a tough go on a small 3 weight with 4X tippet to boot! Ultimately I eased my stream net under a 21 inch Brown Trout that had some of the most beautiful markings I have ever seen.
Two days later I would be walking amidst dairy cattle on French Creek with my 6 weight rod and a streamer adorned with light optic lime colored marabou. The stream was tight at this point and it required an accurate cast…I let the fly drift and wiggle through a likely area when I watched a large figure show just behind my fly and then engulf the offering. I set the hook and could quickly see that this wasn’t the expected brown trout from earlier in the week. I carefully worked the fish down to a sandbar and slipped my net under a 16 inch Brook Trout. I snapped a few photos and was quite impressed with the beauty and markings of the fish (see my photo above). It wasn’t until a couple days later when I ran into the local hatchery manager and he told me that brookies hadn’t been introduced or stocked into that drainage. He claimed that this had to be a rare native or at least a fish that had moved a long ways from where it was originally stocked; either way this awesome fish, taken in the middle of a cattle pasture would be my marquee fish of the trip.
My last trophy would come at the 11th hour; my last day of four upon Bennett Spring in Lebanon, Missouri. I had only two hours of legal fishing left and knew that the next day I would be driving the six hours home and my fish-cation would be over. I had my lightweight 6 weight rod and a sink tip line attached to a tan streamer that I had tied over lunch; I was making long, quartering down casts and catching fish on quite a regular basis. The water was crystal clear and thus I could see my fly from a long ways away…I was mid-strip when my fly disappeared, I quickly strip set with my left hand felt a heavy fish on the other end. I gathered in line with two powerful strips; up out of the water flew a large female rainbow. Once again I gained line with a few more hefty strips then reached back and released my stream net…slipped it under a 20 inch beauty that would weigh somewhere between three and four pounds. I moved a few feet upstream and asked a young man to snap a couple photos and mid-photo made an unplanned release of the fish back into the stream.
All the miles and the many hours of casting were well worth it as my summer fish trip came to an end. These three weeks were very special as we were able to travel and truly Enjoy the Great Outdoors.