November 7th, Juniors in River Falls. 6:00 pm.Tim Stieber and Josh O’Neil will be speaking to us. Tim is the Land and Water Conservation Administrator and Josh the Conservation Planner for St. Croix County. They will be talking about their stream improvement projects and ways we can help.
Watch for an upcoming announcement of the Kiap-TU-Wish annual Christmas event, on December 5th.
By Greg Olson
Hello, fellow KIAP-TU-WISHers! Hope everyone is doing well. As for myself, I am still in mourning over the events that happened on October 16th. I awoke that day knowing the inland trout season was now closed – the saddest day of the year. The trout season again went by too quickly! I found myself in River Falls on October 23rd, perhaps the warmest day we will see until May 2024 and I stopped by the upper Kinni. I sat beside a favorite fishing hole and watched and listened to the water flowing past. Suddenly there was a smattering of BWOs coming off and I spent an enjoyable 20 minutes watching a pod of trout sipping them off the surface. So fear not, the trout are still there! We will give them a break to go about their spawning business and we can all get some streambank time during Randy’s work days which have now begun! Come on out, it is a good time!
Our chapter “year” has started off well. It was good to see your familiar faces at our Rush River Brewing kick off in September. In October, we heard from our happy TU campers Ben Hassing and Elazar Haas. Then we had an exciting talk on spey casting from guide Josh Boeser. In November, Tim Stieber and Josh O’Neil will be speaking to us. Tim is the Land and Water Conservation Administrator and Josh the Conservation Planner for St. Croix County. They will be talking about their stream improvement projects and ways we can help. Save the date, December 5th! We will again have our holiday banquet at Juniors and I hope to see everyone there! More details to follow! Finally, our chapter auction will end on February 18th. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year. If you have any items to donate – fishing equipment, gift cards, vacation stays, guided trips, etc. – please contact me. Thanks for your support!
The Thrill Is Not Gone
By Greg Olson
I let out a loud groan and with outstretched arms, threw my head back and looked to the heavens. I don’t know why, perhaps I was asking for some divine intervention. None forthcoming, I just as quickly dropped my head and with slumped shoulders reeled up and slogged back downstream to my car. On this warm, early September morning, I had suffered a beat down of epic proportions. After two months of eating tricos almost every morning, the trout were experts on trico appearance and were not having any of my imitations in the low, clear, slow water. I rose two fish the whole morning. For the first one, I had finally got my fly to float into an eddy under an overhanging bush using a lot of slack in my cast. When the very large head of a brown trout came up to sip my fly, that extra slack and an excited hook set conspired to break the fly off so quick, I wouldn’t think the fish even noticed. It must have, however, as it never came up again.
After another hour of putting dozens of fish down while trying upstream, downstream, across stream presentations on 7X tippet, I emitted the groan, eluded to at the start of this story. Another large fish, sipping trico spinners under a tunnel of streamside grass, slid downstream with my fly just under its nose, then let it go by. My heart sank. Suddenly it turned, chased my fly down and sucked it in. I tried so hard to wait. I didn’t quite get to the end of the sentence,”God save the Queen”, but I got close. My forearm started to come up. Wait! The fish had dropped to the stream bottom, but had not turned back upstream! In my head I screamed at my right arm to stop! I did slow it down, I think, but you know – physics; an object set in motion, tends to stay in motion. With the fish facing me, I pulled the fly right out of its mouth, eliciting the groan. It amazes me that I could have so many thoughts in an event that took a few seconds.
I was beating myself up pretty good on the way home. All these years fly fishing and hundreds of trout later and I was still breaking off flies and striking too soon. I had switched primarily to slower/softer bamboo and fiberglass rods to off-set my over exuberance, which helped some, but shouldn’t I be one cool customer by now, instead of a 5 year old on Christmas morn? Before I got home, I recalled a story my high school best friend’s father, Jack, told me.
With my friend, Erich, graduated, Jack and his wife, both Green Bay natives, had moved back home. After a high pressure career of getting 3M out of multi-million dollar lawsuits, he took a job with a small law practice. One of his clients was none other than Ray Nitschke, a 15 year veteran of the Green Bay Packers, a fearsome linebacker on Lombardi’s championship teams, and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This was quite the thrill for Jack, a long time Packer season ticket holder, who grew up watching Ray and the Packers. In fact, he was unable to play his trumpet as his high school marching band paraded around Lambeau Field for its dedication. He couldn’t stop staring at the magnificent structure, the greatest he had seen, save for a field trip to Madison to see the capital.
In retirement, Ray had many business deals that needed tending to and Ray always insisted on meeting at a small café for breakfast for their meetings. Even in the late 80s, Ray drew a crowd and the meeting was always interrupted for autograph requests. Ray would even get up, run to his Cadillac, and retrieve 8 x 12” photos of himself to sign. One day, Jack asked, “Ray, you know I have to charge you $100 an hour for these meetings, including all these interruptions. Wouldn’t you rather meet at my office?” Ray waved him off, saying he would rather meet at the cafe. Jack then asked, “Ray, don’t you ever get tired of always being pestered for autographs, photos, and the chitchat that goes with it.” Ray responded that he still got excited when people asked for an autograph and it would it would be a sad day when that thrill was gone or folks forgot who he was. I consoled myself with Ray’s words. Yeah, I get too excited with dry fly fishing for trout. I wish I could be more calm, cool, and collected at times, but it would be a sad day if it became so old hat that the excitement and thrill was gone. If that meant losing some fish and flies, so be it.
Jack gave Erich and me his Packer tickets for below freezing December games (even die-heard Packer fans have their temperature limits). In fact, we were there when the Lambeau Leap was invented by safety LeRoy Butler on what was then the coldest game other than the famous Ice Bowl. Before that game, Jack presented me with a photo. Ray had spent a minute at $100 an hour signing a photo for me. He wrote, “To Hudson High’s finest defense back [an exaggeration, I assure you]. Keep hit ‘em hard! Your friend, ol’ 66, Ray Nitschke.”
Calling all Kiap-TU-Wish Members! We need Silent Auction items for our chapter’s Annual Online Fundraiser, which will be ending February 18th. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and raises over half of the funds needed for our chapter’s Trout-in-the-Classroom, Stream Monitoring and Habitat Restoration Projects.
*** No Books or Bulky Items. Please! *** (they are hard to ship)
Ideas of items that are easier to ship would be:
- Tickets to Sporting or Cultural Events (Yes, some trout fishers are interested in cultural events.)
- Vacation Stays
- Gift Cards (Think of the possibilities!)
- Smaller items, like jewelry, craft items, maps to secret fishing spots …
- Lightly used fly rods, reels and other fishing gear.
- Guided trips and experiences (Fishing, Hunting, Mushrooming or other Foraging) …
- Dinner parties, Panfishing on a Pontoon for a family, Sunset boat rides for a couple, Be creative …
- Fly casting lessons, Drawing lessons, Painting lessons …
- Or any other kind of lesson or experience that you think other members would enjoy.
For experiences, stays, or lessons, contact Greg Olson (firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-300-8970).
*** Drop off donated Silent Auction items at Mend Provisions Fly Shop, Lund’s Fly Shop, or at a chapter meeting preferably by January, 2024! If dropping off at Mend or Lund’s, please include a name and contact info – we want to thank you!***
Call or email Greg with any questions.
Thanks so much!!!!!
By Jonathan Jacobs
Nothing cuts into your fishing time like death. – A.K. Best quoted by John Gierach
After learning in a July email from Michael Alwin of the wading misadventure he eventually wrote about in the August 2023 article titled The Grim Reaper as Your Guide, I did what I’ve been doing for decades: I wrote a response to him pointing out everything he’d done wrong and what he should have done instead. Well, that’s not true; Mike has been invaluable to me as both a mentor and friend over the years and thinking about his near drowning was mortifying to me. I did respond to his email with some suggestions on wading safety and I’d like to share them with you and expand a bit on them as well:
The first consideration in wading safely is constant situational awareness. You should ask yourself this question frequently: What happens if this doesn’t go well? This may make you rethink your approach and develop a new plan, or you may have no choice but to proceed, but at least asking – and answering – this question will force you to look for contingencies. The link (https://howtoflyfish.orvis.com/how-to-articles/trout-fishing-articles/tips-for-safe-wading) to the Orvis Learning Center that Michael included in his article provides excellent advice on instream wading. Since I can’t improve on it, I’ll stress only two points regarding technique. First, one of the most common mistakes that I’ve made and have seen others make is trying to wade while casting. This is an invitation to disaster. You’re striding along, watching to see if a fish will rise again, when you trip on an unseen rock, stick or sudden depression in the bottom and plunge forward in a desperate but futile effort to regain your footing. The second thing I’ve seen, and to my misfortune have done myself, is stepping backward while turning around. It’s so easy to forget about the big rock immediately behind you, the one you waded around carefully a bit earlier, while watching a friend land a fish. This is mostly something done in shallow water, so while the danger of drowning is minimal, getting wet and cold is extremely likely. Worse, it’s likely that you’ll land hard in shallow water, which can lead to bruising and contusions if you’re lucky, or to broken bones or a skull fracture if you’re not. This may sound alarmist, but this is exactly how Datus Proper, the author of the book What the Trout Said, came to a bad end when he hit his head on a rock in shallow water while fishing Hyalite Creek outside Bozeman, Montana several years ago.
I would like to discuss some equipment that can help us wade more safely:
Leggings and quick-dry shorts: You hear about the value of a belt that tightly cinches your waders about your waist to prevent filling your waders with water in case of a fall. That’s true, of course, but how about, when it’s practical, ditching the waders altogether and investing in some leggings and quick-dry shorts instead? You’ll present a sleeker profile in the current, which will lessen the hydraulic pressure on you and, if you do go down, you’ll not be weighted down by the water in your absent waders. Also, I think I’m correct when I say that most of us are averse to the chilling effect of cold water on our nether regions, causing us to think twice before we wade deep enough to dunk said regions.
Wading boots: Yes, most of us already have specialized wading boots, but are they ones that will do the best job of keeping us vertical? For many years felt soles were the standard of the industry. They do work well on bedrock and on cobble, but I’ve never found them particularly grippy on large rocks or on algae-covered substrates. They’re lousy on muddy or snow-covered banks and none too good on grass. While their performance improves with the addition of studs, they’re implicated in the spread of invasive species, so it may be best to give them the go-by. There are a great many variations on the rubber sole boot. The high-end boot from the Orvis Company features a sole developed in concert with the Michelin tire folks. I’m not sure what that guarantees, but I note that the boots can be outfitted with studs, which are always helpful. The Simms Co. offers a plethora of boots with felt, Vibram and rubber soles. Many of them can be equipped with studs as well (Simms offers multiple types of studs, too). The Simms website has a chart that compares things like traction, support, and weight. You may have noted that I’ve mentioned studs several times. I think they’re a godsend and wouldn’t be without them. My personal choice for really tough wading conditions are Patagonia Foot Tractor boots with leather uppers by Danner and rubber soles equipped with replaceable shaped aluminum crossbars secured to the boots by Allen bolts. I can’t say enough good things about them. I can say that, on the downside, they are hellaciously expensive and that I was fortunate to find cosmetically imperfect ones on sale at a deep discount. In the big picture, though, at a time when top end fly rods have pushed past the thousand-dollar mark, half that amount for the most comfortable and effective boot I’ve ever seen may be a value.
Wading staff: I was fortunate to win a Simms wading staff at a Wisconsin State Council TU banquet several years ago. At the time I was just trying to get rid of some bucket raffle tickets and had given little thought to how I might use a staff. I discovered how when I ventured to southwest Montana. It was instrumental in helping to keep me upright when I found myself on the wrong side of a river with no easily fordable crossing in sight. Using the situational awareness I wrote about earlier, I picked the “least worst” option and set out. The staff hummed and throbbed in the heavy current when I leaned on it more heavily than I thought possible, but I inched my way to safety on the other side, arriving there with a stratospheric adrenalin level and a pulse rate to match. Admittedly, my leg strength isn’t what it used to be, and I’m walking around on a couple of artificial joints that don’t offer the support of the original equipment, but as the philosopher said, time and tide wait for no man, so it’s wise to be ahead of the game and to start carrying a wading staff today, even if you’re not superannuated like me. Simms sells a staff equivalent to mine for around one hundred fifty dollars. Patagonia has an elegantly designed one for ten dollars more. Former chapter president and frequent angling companion Tom Schnadt tells me that he’s taken to carrying an old bamboo ski pole with him. It’s lightweight and floats on a tether behind him. The downside here, he acknowledges, is that the pole could possibly shatter under heavy load and effectively become a punji stick on which to fall.
The dangers are not solely in the stream and a wading staff can be useful in other circumstances. It can help you negotiate a steep or muddy bank when you enter or exit the stream and it can serve as a test probe as you travel the heavily vegetated banks along it. There are often little gullies, beaver holes or even logs hidden by overlying grasses.
Stationary bike: I can picture you shaking your head in disbelief about now. What I’m getting at is that we should all do our best to tend to our most basic piece of wading gear – our legs. A regular exercise program can help you maintain leg strength, flexibility and, consequently, balance. A stationary bike is but one tool you can use. A health club or YMCA may be able to help design a program for you using additional or other equipment. Even long walks involving substantial changes in elevation are a huge improvement over doing nothing.
Now get out there and have fun and come home safely.
Views from My Side of the Vise
The Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE) nymph has been a constant in my fly box for many years now. Before I get to that, did you know that I actually started tying trout flies before I started trout fishing? The first trout I ever hooked in the Driftless was on a GRHE. Did you notice that I said hooked and not caught? Not long after that I had a very memorable day fishing on the Missouri River near Craig, Montana with a very simple GRHE.
Now where was I? Oh, yeah: the GRHE has always been in my fly box. I always had a supply of them, tucked safely in the back corner never to see the light of day. They stayed there until a couple years ago when I was on a multi-day fishing trip down in the Driftless with a couple buddies. One day, Jason was having a better day catching than I was. That’s not allowed, so I caught up to him and asked what he was catching them on and he said the GRHE. I dug into my fly box, blew the dust off one of my GRHEs, tied it on and started to catch some fish.
The truth be told, I still do not fish this fly all that much. However, every time I do, I seem to consistently catch fish. Maybe this reminder will encourage me to use them more often.
I like to tie GRHEs on a size 16 1xl nymph hook with a gold tungsten bead. Most of the time I will add a flashback. I think it is a fly that is so versatile that you really cannot tie it wrong.
Do you think that maybe James Ogden and Frederic Halford really knew what they were talking about when they started tying and writing about the Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear in England over 150 years ago?
If you have any questions about this fly pattern or any of the flies that I tie, please let me know.