2015 was a shock and awe campaign
Opening day–All 14 anglers in our traditional opening day celebration were skunked! As each of the skilled anglers returned from their upstream and down stream forays, the goose eggs mounted This had NEVER happened, in 30 some years of opening up trout fishing on the Kinni. Conditions were perfect for catching. Air and water Temperatures were more than reasonable. The river received virtually no spring run-off. We got drunk, cried in our beer, consoled each other, were astounded, wanted answers, drank more, laughed a lot, played poker, questioned reality.
March/April– Catching results for many anglers was quite variable. The Kinni gave me 3 or 4 skunks in a row. The Rush was a bit more forgiving. Still there was anxiety in every outing. April is “Prime Time” for this guide and catching was still slow. Dry fly action was sparse. Air and river temps stayed cold. Spooky low water made little room for stealth mistakes. It was the slowest start for catching in these Wisconsin waters.
May/June– By late May catching began to pick up. Still, numbers of fish per outing for both my clients and myself were down. Prime, large holes were the savior but only one or two trout could be expected. Bad casts, slapping the water with the fly, snags followed by jerking to disengage all meant a walk to a new holding lie. Clients covered a lot of ground to have a chance. However the big fish began to eat. Bigger than the usual and fish over 15″ make folks happy. Fish in the 15-20″ make impressions.
July/August= Heavy Rains took a bunch of days away from these months. I completely missed the bulk of my favorite hatches. Streams were scoured and every rock was turned in some places. 3000cfs did incredible moving of the river beds. Smallish fish were found but not without effort. Even smaller trout (3-4″)began feeding and were reasonably easy but not so fun to catch. These small fish would eat through the rest of the season. Shocking results show we the trout hatch/class of 2014 was one of the best on record. There abundance is encouraging. Guide trips had these little buggers as majority share holders in fish counts at the end of the day. Beginning to know that guiding in 2015 is a tough business.
September– The catching was the toughest I have experienced in all my years of guiding. The warm weather continued until late in the season. Flows were above average and water temps remained unseasonably cold for the month. I expected better catching. Young of the year dominated until the last ten days. The first picture in this post is my friend Big Head Todd, the monster. He came on the Kinni 1 week before the end of the season. At 3pm on an 85 degree, bluebird sun soaked day, he ate. Should not have happened, but it did. Along with a number of nice fish and no anglers in sight on a popular stretch of I had an awesome outing by myself. No reason to the rhyme. On the last day, a spine surgeon from Kentucky was in town for a conference. He had heard of the Kinni and had time to fish. I told him his chances were slim. The river gave up her gold. It was his best day,,,,,ever, for the browns of fall. All great quality trout.
2015 was The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly(not necessarily in that order). It was a lesson in change. No doubt numbers are down throughout the area. No doubt there are some great quality trout still in the rivers. No doubt there was a great year class hatched last fall that made it through the big floods this summer. The Kinni gave up far less trout this year than in the recent past, however it gave me and my clients 4 fish at 20″ or better and some other dandies to boot. That has never happened in one season. The Rush fished more wildly for those anglers who were new to it. The first cast to a likely holding lie had to be your best. Any screw-ups and you could kiss that fish good by. The days of multiple easy fish out of good holding water seems to be in the past, but hopefully will be the case in the future. Some spots/stretches held more fish than others. Its consistency seemed either on or off, depending upon the day. The Rush can be quite finicky, but then again I believe it gets more pressure because of its easy access and past reputation. All and all my tactics were to cover more water. Find more spots. More spots, more chances. Never go the same place twice in a row. The flies and techniques were the same. Fish up, float the fly. Fish down, get down and dirty. Not to many dries thrown this year.
The two ladies I love(really there are 3, Hi Martha)have thrown me for a bit of a loop this year. For oh so many years they have been reasonably consistent towards my affection. This year, at times, they gave me a head ache, instead of the reverse. It’s OK to complain a little, but you know what they say. Love-um or leave-um.
Steelhead– At 5am this morning every constallation in the sky looked like a steelhead of some sort. The big dipper and the little dipper both looked like steelhead leaping skyward. Orion looked like an angler with a bent rod. Cassiopeia looked like a perfect S-mend of line lying on the water. The moon with its steely blue halo and crescent shape looked at me like the eye of a fresh silver bullet, wild and released. Yes, I have it bad. Steelhead on the brain and it will take some time to cure. Its just around the corner. I can smell the stale oder of the kro-bar and can see the rust on the bottom of the steel door of my hotel room. I love the punishment this time of year brings…… Stay Tuned. Can’t wait to feel the North.