Saturday, August 2, 2008


Catch up post #3: Posted on Aug 2 but fished on July 5.

This comes from George Cleveland, Uber moderator and insect overlord at the Wisconsin Fly Fishing Message Board . After many postings about the Prairie River during the regs change fight last spring, I finally had the opportunity to fish the river, my first, and G.C. made the time to guide me along the ex-special regs water. This is his post about our trip:

By George Cleveland

The interwebs are a strange social landscape. They give one the perfect disguise, enabling a person to alter their persona to whatever template they may desire. So it is always interesting to meet someone with whom you have only communicated in the past via message board postings and IMs.

Hdw IMed me late last week and wondered if we could do a little fishing Saturday evening. He was going to be in our area picking up his Brittany "Gryffindor" from a trainer. Gryff had been attending Bird Camp while Harlan and his family did the Sound of Music tour in the Alps. A couple text messages led to a scratchy cell phone call from Gilman, Wisconsin. In an hour or so I knew I'd be meeting hdw in the flesh. And sure enough, with a little help from his GPS, the Volvo with Illinois plates was soon pulling up to the curb in front of our neighbors house.

The guy who unfolded himself from the Swedish tank was taller and a bit grayer than I expected. (As a writer he comes across as a younger man.) But there was an air that came from him that I can only describe as "authenticity" and made me comfortable in an unusually short time for an old curmudgeonly Norwegian such as myself. My estimation of him grew as I watched him interact with his dog, Gryff and later with my son and my wife. Add to that the fact that he didn't noticeably act disgusted by the chaos that exemplifies what could laughably be called "housekeeping" in the Cleveland shack and he attained the vaunted "O.K. By Me" status, in my mind.

The next couple of hours were spent in comfortable conversation which at times approached the subject of the evening's fishing. It had been in the 80s all that day and I was dubious about the River's temperature. Trying to steer him towards the bass that live in the Wisconsin instead, hdw averred that he really wasn't that enthralled with smallmouth. So we decided to try some of the cooler waters that flow through sections of the late, lamented Special Regs section. After transferring his equipage from his Volvo to the Taurus we made our way up the highway to the access point.

It wasn't until almost 7:30 that we found ourselves be-wadered and be-rodded and standing in the reassuringly [b]cold[/b] water of the upper River. Before we even had a chance to feed enough line from our reels to fish a small riseform spread beneath the tag alders opposite us. Harlan had tied on a chunky looking soft hackle and he cast it to the fish. But on the second cast he snagged an over hanging willow behind us. At his urging I fished to the rises with my Pass Lake and after 4 or 5 casts, hooked and landed the small brookie that had been making them.

We continued upstream. After missing a few fish with his soft hackle , Harlan changed to a Goddard Caddis. There were sporadically rising fish scattered through a thigh deep, timbered section. Including one that was feeding just off an Entish finger of deadwood pointing out into the current.

The Goddard seemed to elicit more solid takes and the Pass Lake did its usual thing, so we played trade-a-fish while we went upstream. First Harlan would catch a fish and then I'd step up and take one. The only break in the pattern was when one of us would tangle with an alder and then the other would cast to the trout while the other fiddled with his tackle.

As dusk deepened we came to a long deepish run that had been HIed decades before. The fish were still rising but both Harlan and I found ourselves missing more fish than we were hooking. Both of us struggled with hook eyes and tippet held up against the fading sky as we fumbled to change flies. Harlan finally got his attached, a big Stimulator, and flipped it to a fish that had started feeding a rod length away.

While the take wasn't splashy the commotion that followed the hooking was. H's rod, a 4 weight built on a Sage LL blank, formed an almost perfect arch as the fish fought first up and then down the stream. I cautiously tried to back away and not spook the fish. After a few minutes Harlan led the trout to his net. The 14" brook trout lay quietly long enough for me to take a quick pic and then Harlan snipped the tippet, leaving the deeply embedded fly in place and returning the chunky trout to the River. Then it was grins all around.

It was near dark now so we turned about and fished down through the water below toward the car. I had managed to get a bushy Catskill dry on my leader and other than a few taps had not had any real luck with it. But near the middle of the timbered, deep run my twitched fly brought a solid hit and after a short fight the 12" brookie was being photographed like a Hollywood starlet. (I wonder if brook trout get those little purple spots on their retinas from camera flashes.)

We continued downstream, hearing rises back in the log jams from fish that would never be caught. Shortly after joking with H that he needed a 20" brookie next, Harlan's fly was engulfed by a shockingly large rise. He failed to connect solidly but the inferred size of the fish made any joking reference to a 20" brook trout seem less absurd.

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