Friday morning I was awoke before the sun made an appearance by the sound of distant thunder rumbling through the hills. I'd checked the forecast the day before and knew there was a chance so I had prepared camp the night before just in case. I got up anyway and made sure the tarp lean-to was still covering my gear and checked the windows on the truck before crawling back into the sleeping bag for a couple more hours. I stirred several times after the sun came up but upon hearing the constant din of raindrops on the fly simply rolled over and went back to sleep.
It was about 8:00 when I finally dragged my butt out of the tent , the sky was still dumping rain but I couldn't lay around any longer. The stream in front of camp had already risen a few inches and was a little dirty so I was concerned that I might not have many fishing options if this kept up for too much longer.
I grabbed a couple of granola bars for the pack and stopped off at the camp store for a cup of coffee before hitting the road to see what the day had in store for us. We decided to stay a little closer to camp for the morning , just in case the weather took a turn for the worse.
After a short two mile drive we pulled into the access and found an empty parking lot , big surprise. The rain was still coming down, accompanied by lightning flashes and cracks of thunder every other minute. Joe isn't a fan of storms , for a big tough looking dog he's a total baby when it comes to thunder in particular so I knew I wasn't going to get him out of the truck. I realize that the intelligent thing to do would have been to sit in the truck with Joe and wait out the storms ,but hell I just drove 500 miles for the chance to fish these creeks and wasn't about to let a little weather deter me. After making sure Joe would be comfortable in the truck for awhile I donned the waders and raingear then started the hike for the creek. When I arrived at the water I could see at first glance that it was up about a foot and stained pretty good. I knew right away that the caddis pupa and stimi setup wasn't going to cut it today under these conditions so I sat down on a rock and put on a short piece of 10# flouro and pulled out the streamer box. This was pretty much new territory for me , although I'd been here on several trips before the small creeks and clear water really hadn't prompted me to try any serious streamer fishing. Brown trout , high off-colored water and a steady downpour all said the same thing to me...streamers. I chose a large black mink sculpin pattern to start off with and started working my way back downstream towards the parking lot. I couldn't have made more than a half dozen casts before the first small brown came rocketing out of the water with my fly in the corner of his jaw.
I knew right then that it was gonna be game on until the water got too dirty to be fished. The next four hours or so was the best fishing I've had up there in all of the trips I've made. I don't know how many wild browns I caught that morning during the rainstorm but the fishing was good enough that after fishing my way back to the truck and checking on Joe I changed fly patterns and headed back upstream to fish the same section again.
A couple of the nicer fish for the weekend came to hand that morning and I lost a brown that would have easily been my biggest to date from any Driftless stream. Unfortunately the constant downpour made taking pictures a lost cause , I managed to get a couple of shots of fish early on before everything I had access to was totally saturated but even they left a little to be desired. I know a lot of folks that love the excitement of dry fly fishing but give me a good streamer bite anyday! Those wild browns were hellbent on eating that streamer in the rising water and at times I thought every fish in the creek was chasing my fly. Sometimes you just get lucky and hit it right , the conditions on this morning just happened to be the "perfect storm" for tossing meaty flies to these little wild fish and I was happy to be there when it happened.
By the time I got back to the truck for the second time the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to make a brief appearance. The water had continued to rise and was just slightly less brown than chocolate milk but the fish didn't seem to mind too much. It was close to 2:00 and I still hadn't had lunch yet so we headed back to camp for a little break and some grub. By this time the thunder had moved away and Joe was glad to be out of the truck and back to his jovial self.
We sat around camp for a couple of hours , drying out gear and just relaxing before finally deciding to go back out and check on the conditions of a stream a little farther away than the mornings location. Surprisingly that creek was about normal and only slightly stained , these little creeks all have different watersheds and just because the one in this valley is blown out doesn't mean that two valleys over the waters not running clear.
We proceeded to hike and fish our way upstream , completing the "Driftless Slam" again with browns , bows and brookies all being caught.
I was enjoying the nicer weather conditions and clear water but in the back of my mind I kept thinking about that 20 inch brown that I'd seen and lost earlier that morning. That dirty streamer water was calling my name and I just couldn't rid myself of the nagging thought in the back of my mind. After fishing a couple more holes and catching another fish or two on the nymph setup I made up my mind to head back over the valley and finish up the day chucking bigger flies in chocolate milk. Normally leaving fish to find fish doesn't work out too well for me , I almost always wish I'd stayed where I was at.
For once things went just as I had planned and Joe and I fished the downstream section of the mornings water with the same results as earlier in the day.
That big brown never made it to the net but I know he's still in there swimming around and I'm gonna get him next time!
It was pitch black by the time we made it back to the truck , owls were just starting to converse on the hillsides and several deer snorted at us as we made our way back along the creek, the denizens of the night were just waking up. It was too dark to see it but I'm pretty sure I was grinning ear to ear as I tossed the gear in the car and we headed back to camp.
Being the last night (and also being dark-thirty) we slummed it for dinner and finished up some leftovers from earlier meals that were still residing in the cooler. One last campfire and a nightcap of Makers finished off the evening before we made our way to bed.
The last day at camp always sucks , especially when you know you've got an eight hour drive to get back home , and today was no different. The only good thing was that it was a Saturday and I knew we'd be leaving just as a new weekend crowd began to show up.
After breakfast Joe and I took a little walk upstream from camp and hit a few of our favorite holes before starting the process of taking down camp.
By 10:30 we'd already caught a few fish and got the truck packed up and ready to go. I probably should have just hit the road and got home at a decent hour , but I'm not that bright. We stopped off at another stream on our way out of the area and spent several more hours introducing ourselves to the locals.
By the time I finished up and headed back to the parking lot Joe had already found his way back and was lying in the shade waiting on me.
Some things just don't change , I'm always the last guy back at the truck...the one hollering "Just one more cast!!"