Once again, we immersed ourselves in nature and had a great time despite unseasonably cold temps, extremely high winds, and intermittant rain, snow, and hail. From left to right: Corey, MN Bowfin Angler, Rich, JK, Leakywaders, Andy, KPE, Chris, Spammy, and Clarence.
After a day of scouting turkeys, we fished Winnebago Creek. Gale-force winds made casting difficult, but we caught a dozen or so trout during a blizzard hatch of Blue-Winged Olives. The next morning, a single shotgun blast marked success for the eldest Geving - my dad had dropped a fine gobbler within two hours of the season's start. 22 pounds, with a nine-inch beard, this bird fell for a complex series of crafty calls and will make for a memorable Thanksgiving in the fall.
After the hunt, we returned to Winnebago. The stream was just too beautiful to pass up, and with much better casting conditions we thought we were in for a real treat. A true multi-hatch situation developed, with Hendricksons, Blue-Winged Olives, and Charcoal Speckled Caddis all on the water emerging simultaneously. We never really found the perfect presentation (if we had, we would've probably had the best day of small-stream trout fishing ever, as the trout were plentiful and rising frantically all over), but we still caught a respectable dozen or so browns and went away satisfied. This stream is top-notch in every way, and we even got to wave a quick thank-you to the farmer who owns that stretch of creek; he leases a large, very generous fishing easement to the state for all of us to enjoy, from local kids fishing with worms and cane poles to die-hard trouters from all over the state. It's a great situation and a first-class trout fishery.
We got no turkeys the next morning, but I did get to call at a bunch of very smart gobblers for several hours so I was happy. Andy also managed to find a few early morel mushrooms to go with our trout.
Then it was off to Peterson to fish the Root. We caught a lot of fine fish, including Silver, Golden, and Shorthead Redhorse, Brown and Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, and Mooneyes. This Big Silver Redhorse went 24 inches and put up a tremendous fight.
By the time we packed up and left, we had accumulated a nice collection of fish to eat, including several redhorse for making suckerburgers and a brown and rainbow trout. This is not designated trout water, but they do occasionally end up on your line while bottom-fishing. They often end up sizzling in a frying pan alongside sucker patties soon after.
The next day, it was off to the Roughfishing Roundup! After introductions and handshakes all around, it was time for the Species Contest to start. The rules: catch as many species of fish in the designated time period as you can. Whoever gets the most species wins. Any legal hook and line method is eligible: Natural Baits, Lures, or Flies. Leakywaders started out quickly with this nice brown trout. He took the lead with one species, but it was not long before others started adding species to their list as well.
JK was next, landing this White Sucker. A lot of white suckers showed up on the end of everyone's lines during the contest, but they were biting light and not easy to hook. Nightcrawlers and Angleworms were the bait of choice, and accounted for all the fish caught. JK managed to bribe the judges with his fine cigars, but for some reason the rules held firm.
The competition intensified and more fish were tallied and released. At one point a four-way tie for first place existed. Here, JK, KPE, and Spammy work a nice slow section, hoping for white suckers and goldens. KPE's excellent jerky was the talk of the Roundup, and everyone enjoyed a few strips of this "Fisherman's Ambrosia". With just enough spice to give it kick, KPE's jerky is both tasty and addictive.
Meanwhile, upstream with no jerky, MN Bowfin Angler, Andy, Rich, and Clarence worked the faster water, hoping for sturgeon but landing mostly white suckers, shorthead redhorse and a few silvers. Although lacking a ready supply of jerky, they still racked up a good species count.
MN Bowfin Angler joined the fray with a White Sucker. Folks, if you ever need any advice on catching this species, this is your man right here. Although MN Bowfin caught more fish than anyone, almost all of them were white suckers, and thus only counted once for the species contest. He landed over a dozen of them at the Roundup. Look for MN Bowfin's upcoming article to be published, detailing more great roughfishing action from his point of view.
Leakeywaders joined the four-way tie with this nice Silver Redhorse. These bruisers are always the star of the show, and lots of fish over 22 inches came to hand.
Leakeywaders finally broke the tie and took the lead with three species, after catching this beautiful Northern Hog Sucker. With a one-species lead and an hour left to fish, he ranged far and wide trying for a smallmouth bass or sturgeon to add to his silver, brown, and hog. Clarence also scored a hog during the contest.
A light tap turned into a quick splashy battle and then Spammy was on the board with this White Sucker, caught on a crawler after a long cast to the steep far bank. This was a new species to add to Spammy's lifelist, so congratulations were in order! Spammy also took a lot of great pictures throughout the day, and we're all anxiously looking forward to seeing them.
A few minutes later, Spammy landed this fine Golden Redhorse. It was anybody's game at this point, with Leaky holding the lead by one species and everyone else just a cast or two away from the title! This was Spammy's first golden, too, which was icing on the cake. His heavy weights and long casts were beginning to pay off.
Chris came on strong late with a white sucker and this nice Shorthead Redhorse. Shortheads were not caught in any great abundance during the contest, so landing one of them was a great pickup and essential for all the contenders.
Clarence wowed the crowd with this bruiser of a Silver Redhorse. This fish had some serious girth, and probably weighed close to seven pounds. The odd mirror-like scale pattern may be genetic, or possibly the result of an earlier osprey attack. In any case, this fish created havoc and put up a determined fight in heavy current. These guys are tough, and nothing to take lightly. I broke off on two monster silvers myself, so anyone landing one of these sporty redhorse gets a big thumbs-up from yours truly!
Then Spammy tied Leaky's lead with this magnificent Silver Redhorse, another new species to add to his lifelist! I'm not sure if anyone's ever scored three new species in a single day, but my gut tells me there is a golden fish award in Spammy's future! Leaky followed up with a rainbow trout to regain the lead, using his many years of professional trouting experience to the fullest. As the clock ticked down to the final fifteen minutes, the tension in the air was thick. Spammy and Leaky were head-to-head, fishing the same bank. Spammy's heavyweight presentation needed no recasting, so it maximized his fishing time, but Leaky's drifting method covered more water. It was anyone's guess who would come out on top at this point, but one of these two highly skilled and determined anglers was going to win it all.
Next, the two leading anglers both landed identical big silvers in an exquisite display of their advanced fishing skills. This was a big treat for the crowd, as they got to watch two great roughfishing warriors exchange salvos. They avoided each other's lines like the gentleman sportsmen they are. Here, Andy crawls out on a log to net Leaky's fish, and quickly releases it so the two veteran fishermen could get back to drumming up bites.
With time expiring, Leaky seals his victory with the Shorthead Redhorse that had eluded him earlier in the day. A turkey call sounded, marking the end of the contest, and I happily awarded Leaky the title of Champion.
Leaky shows off the spoils of victory, a hat and a dozen jigs tied by Corey and Andy. His final tally was five species in three hours: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Northern Hog Sucker, Silver Redhorse, and Shorthead Redhorse.
Well, what a great trip! It was a real treat getting to meet everybody, and I'm glad everyone who was there could attend. The fishing was quite a bit slower than in years past, but with ten die-hard and versatile anglers on the river, fish are sure to be caught. The next roundup (we might think about another one this summer) may be at a different venue; I'm contemplating the St. Croix or even scumfoot. I only caught one fish, by the way, but it was a big silver and put a smile on my face. Everyone, thanks for coming down (or up, as the case may be) and I hope to keep in touch with all of you.