Sunday, September 28, 2014

Two Old Men...An Annual Trip back to a Favorite Destination

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We all have a favorite place (or places) we try to make that annual pilgrimage to each year to refuel the soul. For some it might be the destination itself ,the quality of the fishing or maybe it's just getting together with the same group of guys to do something you all love that makes the trip so looked forward to. While I've got several local (local for me being within 250 miles of home) trips that I try to make happen each year , this particular one is more of a roadtrip and has become a tradition going on six years now. For me , this trip is all about the destination.
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Not because it's a glorified spot you might read about in your favorite fly mag or hear about on the local fishing forum , just the opposite. What makes this place special for me is the beauty of the area and the noticeable lack of people out on the water enjoying it. This year nothing got put on the books in ink with any of my usual fishing buddies so when I ended up with several days off mid-week and no plans , I made a last minute decision to head North for the Driftless Region. I've only got one fishing partner who never balks at the chance to hit the road for several days , even on such short notice , so Monday morning Joe and I hopped in the already loaded truck and pointed the nose North for four days of Driftless solitude.
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The ride up was uneventful , a few extra pit-stops were needed during the 8+ hour drive than I remembered making last year , but what do you expect with two old men? We arrived around 1:00 and set up camp in our favorite campground next to a nice little creek.
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This isn't roughing it by any means , I prefer the comforts of home when it's feasible to bring them along. That way I don't wake up in the morning feeling like I've been hit by a truck (at least not from the sleep itself , the prior nights intake can be another story altogether).
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By the time we got camp complete and the first beer of the trip cracked it was approaching 3:00 , plenty of time left to spend several hours playing around on one of the streams close to camp before the sun disappeared. We spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying the Fall sun on our face and the peace and quiet of a small Driftless stream.
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We fished until it was too dark to see the path we'd walked in on and then made our way back to camp. That evening we slummed it for dinner and ate cold fried chicken and potato salad in the dark , washed down with a cold beverage. The tent made it's calling early on this night , it'd been a long day of travel followed up by an afternoon of fishing for these old men. Rest was needed...tomorrow we would do it all again.
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Tuesday we woke to another brilliant Fall day , sunshine and temps starting out in the 40's are about as good as it gets in my book. After a quick breakfast sandwich we loaded up the truck and headed about twenty miles away to hit one of my favorite little streams in the area.
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This place is strictly wild browns , no stocked fish and it's catch and release only.
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If you put this same stream in my backyard of the Ozarks you'd have a parking lot full of cars seven days a week , all vying for the best section of water. Just as expected though , we pulled up to an empty parking lot and the entire stream to ourselves. We hit a couple of my favorite runs and a few new ones as well , picking up several small buttery colored browns in the process.
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I fish lots of water at home , like the White River , where if a brown doesn't hit the two-foot mark it's barely considered a decent fish. This is different...while I know the fish aren't big by any means , I find myself truly appreciating their beauty as well as the beautiful places they live in.
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After a tailgate lunch and some R&R in the shade of a big tree we headed off to try something new , a local warmwater river and hopefully a shot at some smallies.
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This was a first for me in my six years of coming to this area. I'd always focused on the trout streams and hadn't given much thought to anything else. After some on-line research I located a couple bodies of water in the area which were said to have a decent smallmouth bass fishery and decided ahead of time to spend at least one afternoon checking things out.
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The weather was great , the water looked fantastic and we didn't see a single smallmouth the entire afternoon! I'd guess we waded close to two miles of water , me throwing small streamers at every likely looking spot , and still came up empty handed at the end of the day.
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We had an enjoyable afternoon of fishing regardless and I'm not done with this challenge just yet , I may have to plan an extra day into the trip next year that I can utilize solely to target smallies.
That night we got back in camp early enough to cook up a decent dinner before the sun set , one of my favorites , Camp Succotash.
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A few cold ones and a good cigar finished off the night sitting around the campfire...not a bad day.
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After the previous afternoons skunking I woke up with a strong desire to redeem myself and actually catch a few fish the next morning. I'd done a little research on some new-to-me creeks in the area before the trip , but decided to spend the morning on some familiar water instead to try and wash a little of the skunk smell off. This stream has browns , brookies and rainbows swimming in between it's narrow banks , a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity.
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To my relief it didn't take long to break the previous days cycle and put a fish (or two) in the net.
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We spent the next several hours hiking our way upstream and plucking fish out of good looking runs until the hunger pains in our stomachs told us it was time to turn around and head for the truck.
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A quick handful of crackers along with some summer sausage and cheese and we were back on the road heading for another stream.
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This particular creek was one that I hadn't fished before on any of my previous trips , a little bit farther from camp but still well within an hours drive time. We arrived to the same old story , beautiful piece of water and empty parking area , just hate it when that happens.
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Ask anyone that fishes with me and they'll tell you that I like to cover some water when I'm fishing. You know , one of those guys that's always thinking the grass is greener just around the next corner. This particular spot had miles of fisheable water and it all looked good enough to keep you wondering what was around the next bend , a junkies fix for a guy like me.
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We kept it up all afternoon , some more ,until both of us were feeling it.
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There were a few steep banks that I had to assist Joe with traversing , he still did much better than I could have expected considering that he's almost 13 years old.
Then there was the clay bluff with about a 10 foot drop to the water that I tumbled off of. As I laid there at the edge of the creek , checking limbs and fishing rods to make sure nothing was broke , I could picture in my mind Joe running back to town (lassie style you know) for help.
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"Timmy fell off a cliff into the creek , I told the fatass he was getting too close and would probably fall off into the water but he just kept insisting that he get a little closer to the edge to make the cast to that midstream boulder. He's a dumbass , but he does take me on some pretty cool fishing trips so can we try and save him??".
Needless to say , we both survived the adventure. Scraped , bruised and a little wore out but with a nice new piece of water that made it all worthwhile. Later that night I told Joe that maybe we should take someone younger and in better shape along with us next year , you know just in case the two old farts have an accident or something.
That night we had a little mexican fiesta for our last nights dinner and then enjoyed one more evening around the campfire.
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Thursday we woke to cloudy skies that hinted to rain in the near future so we decided to take down camp before doing anything else for the day. With the work complete and the truck packed back up for the journey home we picked one of the closer creeks to spend our last few hours fishing on.
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We hit a couple of good spots , fishing in a light rain , until the skies darkened even more shortly after lunch. With the rain becoming more persistent and the thought of an eight hour drive home with a wet , smelly hound weighing heavily on my mind we finally decided to call it a day.
What more can I say , four days spent with my best friend doing something we both love....I can't think of anything better.
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