Maybe it was all the snow and the cold mornings. I’m not sure why angler numbers are down this year? But for whatever reason I only saw one other vehicle on the stream when I finally found time to get out mid afternoon on Sunday. The tracks in the snow told it all.
Parking on Trout Brook Road I headed up the wild Willow River. But just as I was getting my gear situated a couple of spin fishermen came trudging out the snow. I could tell they weren’t doing well by t he way they answered my “How they biting?” inquiry. Seeing it was probably their first time out this year they didn’t have the catch phrase ready to cast back at me so I expect they actually told the truth. That in itself is unlike most anglers I know but it’s still early in the season!
“We only caught a couple of small ones,” was their reply as they quickly walked passed me and headed across the road. You could read it in their eyes. They just weren’t ready for the onslaught and inquiries I tossed at them.
Finding just one set felt wader shoe tracks on the snowy trail I headed upstream in hopes of finding trout rising and deer crossing the stream. The tracks in the snow told the story. I followed the “man tracks” upstream and soon I found “deer tracks” filling the man tracks just a little ways upstream. That told me two things. Number one was the angler was here yesterday because the deer tracks had begun to melt in the man tracks indicating the deer tracks were made last night after the angler had left.
The second thing I knew from the sign was that there are still plenty of deer in this part of the park You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.
The next first I had to make was which fly or nymph to use first. I decided to take my 26 year old sons advice and tie on an orange scud. That was his suggestion and since he has grown into a much better trout angler than I ever was I decided to take his advice. But don’t tell him I told you that because he was not able to join me this year for the opener.
Walking upstream I went much farther than I had wanted. With all the snow on the ground, trees and river banks and since it was exactly a year since I had last fished the Willow River, my recollection of secret places was way off line. After trudging down the snowy trail I came to the bifurcation. That is the area of the Willow and Race Branch of the Willow River that run side by side only separated by a slim jutting of land. It’s a very special place in my book of trout waters.
This place brings back lots of memories of past times at this location back when I worked for the DNR Fisheries Department. We had studied fish populations on this neck of the river and had actually rebuilt parts of the bifurcation. I can still see Roger Fairbanks, Chuck Goosen, Scott Stewart and many others sharing wisdom and enthusiasm for this stretch of the river that is so much loved and appreciated by the local chapter of Trout Unlimited . The Kiap-TU-Wish Chapter!!
Placing a jointed twist-on strike indicator on my line above the nymph I began to work the orange scud up stream. On about the 5th offering the strike indicator suddenly came to an abrupt stop in midstream in the middle of my drift. Very surprised I was very slow to react to my first take by a trout! I lifted the rod tip and felt the surging power of the wild brown trout that was to be my first fish of the season.
Maybe it was because I still had two tip-ups in the back seat of my car. Or maybe it was because of all of the snow on the ground. Or maybe it was because I decided not to go ice fishing today. But what ever it was ….. it made this battle with the decent brown so very fun.
The fight between fish and angler began down and deep but soon this fish would change tactics! Suddenly the feisty fighter took to the air for a pair of great leaps!! Next it was a mad rush toward the opposite shore and bush to pull free on. Using the current to put twice it’s weight on my rod this little trout was doing it all right. And it paid off. A second later I had lost my first fish. The fish had pulled loose and was gone as quickly as it had come.
A couple casts later I had another first. A snag in midstream right where I had caught the brown. Not wanting to lose the fish catching nymph I waded out to the half sunken limb and gathered back my prized nymph that Josh had tied for me.
Moments later it was another first when I placed this great nymph high up in the tree behind me. Another first. A second later after trying to get the nymph out of the tree I had lost my first fly of season.
It won’t be my last lost lure nor will I be the only trout angler to leave little lures in the trees. It’s all about firsts today and there is always something special about those first times! Even if it is just another trout trip to get tangled in trees or to tangle with trout!!!
WILDLIFE QUIZ: When flickers and starling fight for nesting holes who usually wins?
Answer: You would think the woodpecker would but starlings usually do.