Flowing Water, Magic Wands

My Dad and I tried to chase away Winter this Sunday in Wisconsin

Everybody who knows me would tell you that I am an ice-fishing nut.  I really enjoy braving cold temperatures, getting out and breathing the crisp, cold air, and figuring out how to catch big, non-traditional ice targets through an 8" hole.  Ice fishing, to me, is always an expedition.  This ice season was a very good one. I learned a lot, battled a lot of great fish, and had some good fish frys to boot.  But now it's March......

And March 1st marks the opener for the catch and release stream trout season in Wisconsin.   Out come the flyrods, waders and flyboxes.  We've got a day above freezing and the river is calling.  Even if we don't catch anything, the drive East through bluff country will make the trip worthwile.  Hopefully some of my hotspots are't iced over.......

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It's a foggy day, with air temps hovering around 38 degrees.  Perfect.  Ice shelves shroud the banks,
and boulders wear frosty hats, but the holes and runs are ice-free.   A foot of wet,sticky snow makes hiking a little strenuous.  Wearing felt-soled wading boots, with each step another inch of compacted snow grows on the soles, so you get taller and taller as you walk.  Once 6 inches forms, you have to knock it off on a tree trunk.  The river is low, and a favorite hole doesn't pan out.  Storms last Fall filled it in with sand.   I walk the river, making fruitless casts into pocket water, before coming to a subtle run split by a mid-stream boulder.  Clouds of midges float in the still air, and carpet the snowbanks.  Half a dozen trout sip midges along a current seam here.  I drift a nymph around the boulder, and my indicator shoots sideways.  Fish on!  It's a small brown, maybe 11 inches, but I was still pretty happy about it.

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I catch a few more, lose about the same due to my barbless hooks, then my Dad shows up and I defer the run to him. He catches two browns, and I decide to leave him alone and take a hike upstream.

This is new water to me, and I think about the possibilties it holds for the Summertime hatches. While not great

Winter water, it's riffles and rocky runs hold promise for June dry fly fishing. But June is still very far away.

I return to the run to find my Dad fighting a pretty good Brown. It leaps high four times and tailwalks, my Dad

laughing. He nets it, and we admire a nice 14-inch wild brown.


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 He lands a few more, all hard fighters on a 4 weight flyrod, before his feet get frozen and I step back in.  Drifting nymphs past the boulder, i get one more trout before they shut down for good. We had caught probably two dozen trout from this little spot, which was a suprise.  

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A steady mist now turns into a light drizzle, and the fog increases.  

The fog,  drizzle and trout make me forget about the long winter, drilling holes through 3 feet of ice, and staring at my Vexilar until I see the bright colors in my sleep.  Open water season is here.  My Dad and I stood in the river, waved our magic wands, and Winter melted away a little bit.  Sure, I will fish through the ice again this month, but at least it's getting warm enough that open water is an option.

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