Article by Jason Akl
The clock rang, six AM, it seemed as if I had just closed my eyes for a minute and now the sun was rising fast, burning the crisp morning fog off the fields. I was tired and disgruntled at my lack of rest. However, I did not hesitate to get up; for today is Monday, and that means a day of stream fishing out on my favorite waters.
Scrambling to get into the car, I make sure that I have all the essentials, fly rod, vest and waiters, it’s all there. I drive almost in a coma state still trying to steal a few extra minutes of sleep till I pass the first river on my journey the White. I glance quickly at the water level, to affirm what I was suspecting already; it is mid summer and the level is low and clear. I pass the old barns and silos along the way. It feels like I have driven this road a thousand times, I recognize every detail; this puts me into a state of auto-pilot until I turn down a dirt road which helps to shake me from my sleepy state. Reaching my friendıs house, I am greeted by his black lab who excitedly expects to join us on the journey up stream. Packing the car we talk anxiously about our past fishing adventures and fly patterns that we are placing our trust in. The river is close, and our lines will be wet soon.
In this Northern Wisconsin range there is a diverse amount of freshwater fishing opportunities and settings available. From smallmouth bass, pike and walleye fishing in the big lake (Lake Superior), to world class steelhead and salmon fishing in Superior’s larger tributary rivers. Our journey is a different one; we choose to fish the small streams that most people see everyday and never give a second thought too. Not many individuals realize the potential for quality trout fishing in these waters. Fishing these streams and creeks does not always produce the results of the bigger and better known rivers. None the less, these untamed waters hold a greater treasure: unexploited fishing and breathtaking scenery.
Fishing these types of rivers helps one to learn to be more conscientious of how he or she needs to present oneself to the water. A stealthy approach has to be incorporated into one’s repertoire along with many casting innovations to avoid the ever-present overhanging obstacles.
As we approach the river I stop, step back and watch as my friend creeps though the brush and takes aim to perform a slingshot cast with the “General” as he calls it, a hopper pattern carefully tied the night before. The fly lands just upstream of an undercut bank and drifts effortlessly towards it target. A small brown suddenly appears and delicately sips it. ‘Got it’, he yells; it was the first fish of the day, a magnificent eight inch brown. He quickly inverts the fish and pulls the hook free; releasing it back to the grassy bank it magically appeared from just moments earlier. We fish the rest of the afternoon landing many more small rainbows and browns, but it is not until later in the day that I first see what we had journeyed all this way for. It is a 15 inch brown surfacing, not a monster in most rivers but definitely a prize catch here, especially in the endless summer heat. I cast a White Wing Quill Gordon across a set of small ripples that run into a downed aspen, but nothing. I try drifting it at different angles, but coaxing this wise fish into biting is not an easy task. I step back and watch as my friend tried his luck by floating the now well chewed hopper pattern. As it drifts, we both tense up in anticipation knowing that any fish actively feeding in the area would be called to strike by the defenseless grasshopper, and then it happened in a blink of an eye. The fish viciously struck the hopper and the hook buried deep in the corner of the fishıs jaws. It was a valiant fight, but being caught was inevitable since the hook could not be thrown free. In it came; all 15 inches of its glory. In previous outings we had caught many fish larger than this, but none more beautiful. Maybe it was the remote location, the crystal clear water or the overgrown river but this was a fish for the ages, something that will always stay in the back of my mind and be remembered when I small streams tucked in the woods far off the highways.
Excited, we take long strides back to the car; it seems that the water has become cooler than it was a just a few hours earlier. The summer days are shortening and fall is creeping closer with every long shadow cast upon the water. I stop and take a moment to look around; gorgeous light and dark greens surround me. The river is crystal clear and the bottom is fine red sand looking as if someone had run a comb through it, finding a place to rival this beauty would be hard. My friend and I are addicted to the style and majesty of small stream fishing and I feel lucky to share adventures out here with him as we take the final steps out of the woods. It was a great day, and now all that is left is to sit around the barbecue and tell stories to those who were not fortunate enough to be there. Small stream fishing is not for everyone, but if you enjoy quality trout fishing in pristine waters, then I challenge you to try fishing some of the small streams in your area. See if it grows on you as much as it has on me.
Tight lines and Smooth Threads, Jason Akl