Friday I had the opportunity to get over the Rush River again with a couple good friends. The Rush is one of those small spring fed rivers that keep trout guys thinking all year long. It’s also one of those rivers, typical in Wisconsin, where most of the stream bank is in public trust making it accessible to middle-aged fat guys in rubber pants.
I got the invitation to go on Thursday and after much consternation decided that the fact that my calendar was completely empty was in fact a sign from the Fates that I was supposed go fishing.
For me, a fly fishing trip to the Rush looks like this. Get to the river about 8:00 am. Walk upstream from the car park, hit the several holes I like, spend a 1/2 hour in each, always moving mind you, then make your way back to the car. Call it a 4 hour excursion. If you’re interested in the evening hatch, well just wait until about 4:00 and do the same thing.
The fellows I was fishing with are a bit harder core than that. For them a day on the river means; start at 8:00, spend several hours in each spot, and if the fish aren’t biting, stay on the river and wait for the evening hatch. Whenever that comes. This is a strategy that doesn’t work with my adult onset ADD. It doesn’t work for a couple reasons…
We stopped for breakfast a greasy spoon miles north of where we were going to be fishing. The direct route from Apple Valley Minnesota to Ellsworth Wisconsin is to go through Hastings, crossing the Mississippi at Hastings. Since the collapse of the freeway bridge in Minneapolis last summer the state of Minnesota has started getting serious about bridge inspections and, what they’ve found, is the bridge in Hastings, well lets just say you don’t like hearing officials saying “lucky” and “bridge” in the same sentence. In order to reduce weight on the structure while they repair it, they’ve reduced traffic to one lane. 20 minutes east bound.. then they allow 20 minutes west bound. Meaning 40 minutes at least it seems, to cross the thing.
That’s 40 minutes at least.. plus 2 minutes of thought provoking mental discourse with yourself as you cross the sucker thinking about the State Transportation guy’s comment “We’re sure the bridge is actually safe, but so far we’ve been lucky.” I’m not sure how those to words go together, but without giving it too much thought the better answer is GO AROUND.
Around means 10 miles upstream or who knows how far downstream.
At breakfast, the guys ordered some hefty meals. I was so proud of my new eating light lifestyle choice, that I almost crossed the line to smug, a decision I would come to regret about 2:00 when, while on the river I realized that, to my dismay, we were NOT in fact going to stop for lunch.. Live and learn.
When we finally did get back on the river, the day was fantastic. The foliage is still quite low from winter, making the woods and the stream bank feel more like a park than anything else. Experience is, in about 4 weeks the weeds will be about 8′ high and nearly impassible.
The fishing was, well it was really really slow. So slow I didn’t even see any fish as I was walking along the bank. Moving up the bank I followed my friend as he started treking upstream. We went farther up than I’d ever been. Following the water we came to a fence with home made cattle gate. The sign on the fence said, “Please respect my fence by not damaging it. Have a nice day.” I assume that means come through the narrow gate. The problem was, the gate was designed for about a 34 waist.. which for me corresponds to about the 8th grade. As I attempted to shimmy my fat ass through it I caught my waders on a piece of barbed wire.. Barbed wire is the sworn enemy of all plastic pants and I managed to tear a nice hole in mine. Luckily it was well above the point where I was planning on entering the water so it wasn’t a show stopper.
Moving into the river I stepped over the fence and we kept going. As we got up farther we came to a pasture, the river at that point was hugging the side of a very steep cliff of about 100′ in hight. The was greenish blue limestone, decorah shale. Neat for a backdrop. The river had a few spots where rocks from the cliff had dropped in making some nice eddys and pools. At the most promising one my pal tied on a beadhead prince nymph and promptly plucked a 15 inch brown from the water. Nice fish. Buoyed by this development I tied on and started fishing.
Fishing is more about the place it takes you than the fishing. Alright, that BS, but it is about the scenery. The beauty of flyfishing in a stream is you never know what’s just around the bend. In this case the scenery would change dramatically as we moved upstream, and it was all beautiful.
There has a been a new development in my fly fishing world this year. The development is I can not tie on a fly without wearing glasses. It sucks. My arms aren’t long enough to hold back the fly and the line to see where the eyelet on the bug is. With my glasses, it’s a whole new world. This trip was the first time I brought my glasses, and spent I the morning switching between readers and sunglasses, a pain in the butt frankly.
We continued to fish, and for the next 3 hours caught nothing. Nada. I did find a long deep pool with tons of fish in it.. when I would cast my bug, I could see fish coming up to look at it. They’d examine the bug, and return to the deep, rejecting me in a way I felt sort of personal about. A rejection mad more acute when one my buddies came lumbering up the stream and cast into the same pool 6 tunes and caught 3 fish, including the “big one” I had dubbed General Sherman. I don’t know where it came from, but every big fish I ever see I dub General Sherman. Sherman turned out to be an 16 inch brook trout. Monster for that species. Obviously Shermie is also a picky SOB and a massive tease. I wanted to fillet his ass but he lives, returned to the stream to fight again.
By about 2:00 I started to realized that these dudes were hardcore and we weren’t getting off the stream for a long time. Frankly I was started to get a bit hungry and since I hadn’t caught but one small fish the whole day, I was ready to do something else with my day. Not wanting to come across as the pansy in the deal I walked down stream a bit to cast to a bunch of fish I’d seen rising in a flat stretch of river. Deciding to switch out from nymph to dry fly, I went to switch glasses. There was a little plink sound as the left lens from my reading glasses fell out of the frame and into the river. There was a louder sound as the “F” word resonated across the river valley as I watched the lens sink into the stream. Luckily I found the lens but because I just had to have those trendy “Framless” glasses a few years ago, there was no popping the lens back into the frame for me, I was screwed.
Moving back up stream, I explained what happened and was told.. “get some cheaters”. Good idea, but seeing as how I did not remember passing a Target on my hike upstream I didn’t see how that could help. Kindly my pals tied on a new bug for me and I went back to fishing.
The next several hours were spent throwing dry flies at rising fish, not one of which made a pass at the bug had one. I didn’t feel to badly as no one else caught anything either. There’s few things more frustrating that standing in a pool, with fish jumping all around you, throwing everything in your box at them, only watch one fly after another drift through the ripples of slurping fish unmolested.
Finally, at about 5:00 the leader of our little band called time and off we went. Score for the day, was 21 hours of fishing between all of us, for 11 fish. 9 for one guy, one each for the other two. Still it was a good day, the only thing I would have rather been doing was helping my company achieve even better results by being in the office. Not.