Monday, June 16, 2014

Trespass or Free Pass -It's all in the eyes of the beholder.

Trespass or Free Pass - It's all in the eyes of the beholder.

     The quest for access is second only to the quest for trout in my world. There are a number of legal, ethical, and practical issues involved but the bottom line is achieving a drift to a likely looking  feeding zone without getting shot at, yelled at, or perish the thought, arrested by the sheriff.
      I don't like to be where I am not wanted. The culture in the United States provides a plethora of places for me to be unwanted. Somehow I've developed the sensitivity to be absolutely convinced that I'm always on the wrong side of the fence, in the wrong line, or have shown up at the wrong time. 
     In England for instance, walking paths through feudal estates have a tradition and acceptance by the lords of the manor. In the United States, setting foot on a stone at the edge of someone's rented camp site is treated like a federal offense.
      There are huge National Forests near Denver with idyllic trout streams far from the noise of highways. Unfortunately through legal mechanisms I don't understand yet, access to these streams is often landlocked by bordering private properties. A quarter acre plot of fenced and posted private property along a public road that passes through a National Forest effectively blocks the ethical and responsible fly caster from access to miles of stream and at the same time provides the private property owner with a 100,000 acre back yard at no cost. In Colorado, unfortunately, the property owner has title to the stream bottom. 
     So the public is denied access to their lands acquired and maintained at large cost while the neighboring private property owner is given control of land they don't own. On the other hand, the fly caster has not paid the taxes, mortgage, fencing, or surveillance fees for the property owner and a property right certainly is the right to enjoy the property without the annoyance of seeing or hearing a stranger crossing your land. 
     I've been researching ways of getting to this piece of water for three years and think I'm getting close. I've found a piece of abandoned property along the stream who's ownership and control is muddled in the Colorado and Indiana University Systems. There must be a right of way conveyance in bordering property deeds allowing access to this isolated mountain plot. I thought I locate it yesterday.

My goal was to be within the National Forest Service Boundary. 
The trail behind me seems to be the missing route to the abandoned mountain lab.

After an hour of bushwhacking along a canyon wall I found this obvious road to the lab.
There was plenty of elk scat but this is obviously a hereford patty which meant to me that I was on Forest Service  property leased to a cattle rancher which would make it publicly available for a free pass to the stream.
      I had to cross one ancient barbwire fence breeched by a fallen tree at least ten years ago. I keep carefully to the outside of a string of "Private Property" signs and well out of the sight line to cabins. I trekked down through a canyon with a tiny stream which held brook trout.
Healthy and colorful brook along the way through the canyon. 
Finally I spotted one of the lab buildings used to house students during summer projects.

Water in the main stream was a little high and unwadable due to the monster runoff of 2014.

Just as expected in a natural stream there were side pools where trout can rest and feed during periods of high water.  I worked this pool for 30 minutes with 10 flies, hooking one on a flashback size 20 nymph and finally releasing on that fell for a size 20 barrs emerger.

Feet up for lunch.

It's not just about the fish.

     There was no way I was going to trudge back up through the canyon to get to my car when I could just fish back upstream to the road. This meant crossing that one 1/4 acre plot of posted property along the shore line behind the trees and brush. I took my chances and did not encounter either the property owner, an electric fence, or a large doberman. But just thinking about it kind of ruined the whole great outdoors experience. I've got to figure out how to get a free pass.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Driftless Drifting to the Shiftless in the Driftless

Soluble limestone bedrock in Bad Axe creek creates a perfect habitat for trout in spring fed creeks.

     The "Driftless Region" of Wisconsin is driftless because it doesn't have any drift,  that is silt, clay, sand, gravel, and boulders usually left behind by retreating glaciers. 
     Crystal clear water after a recent flood exposed these pods of 10-14 inch browns. But they acted shiftless. Nothing seemed to interest them like the only teenager at a family reunion. They'd feed occasionally, ignored nice hatches of caddis and mayflies but completely refused every fly in my box.

Make this full screen and spot the shiftless brown trout pod.

     I knelt in the tall grasses along the banks and crawled up to get a shot at these browns with a 12 foot leader ending in 6x. I was rigged with a size 18 parachute adams, dropped down to a Lafontaine style size 20 caddis emerger, followed by a size 22 Pat Dorsey style foam backed chocolate emerger.
There were a couple follows and a refusal or two but I was completely ignored by these shiftless trout. My drifts were perfect. I had not spooked a single fish in the pod. Finally in desperation I started retrieving my fly back like a streamer at the end of the drift. Boris Momontoff, the Russian guide at Estancia San Pablo in Tupungat, Argentina taught us to do with prince nymphs in the fast water of the foothills of the Andes. WHAM, a nice strike on the first retrieve on the size 20 emerger. As I moved down the pools I found I could tease out a strike driftless with a teased retrieve instead of a drift. I first saw Alfonso Aragon do this to a couple shiftless golden dorado in Bolivia.

Golden brown.

Timber Coulee Creek was one of the first of the Driftless Area streams with habitat restoration. Most of the work was to correct grazing problem along the creek banks. 

Timber Coulee Creek

Browns here seem to have red fringes on their fins like brook trout.

Another happy release.

There are those who believe that all trout fishing destinations should remain undisclosed.  But since my followers number in the teens, the chances of a run on these banks is zero to none.  Unbelievably this spot can be scouted with Google Street View. Stand on the bridge and spot the trout and it's shadow in the water.

Vikemyr Rd
Viroqua, WI 54665
43.582456, -90.941668