August 7, 2022

A Summer 2022 Update

I thought it would be appropriate to give what amounts to and end of summer update. The last post written was about an early June trip to the Driftless, and a few things have happened since then.

Nothing huge, and honestly, not much (if any) fishing, but stuff worth chronicling nonetheless, if only for future personal reference. (When you have a blog as old as this one, it's fun to revisit posts of years past from time to time).

We had steel drums at summer work happy hour... that was fun!

New York City

We didn't really have a "big" summer vacation as a family this year. That said, we did spend a long weekend in New York City right before the 4th of July. Now I'm not a big fan of NYC, I'd prefer to retreat to the mountains as opposed to the city any day, but with Broadway re-opening after being largely closed due to the pandemic, we thought it would be a good opportunity to go see some shows.  

See, Lilly is really (and I mean really) into theater (theatre?) and wants to pursue theater design in college in a few years. She's obsessed with set & costume design, props, and puppetry, and is an encyclopedia of theater knowledge, just like an avid angler would be with fly patterns.

In all, it was a fun trip, although it was really, really hot outside. Luckily most of our activities were indoors. I didn't go to all the shows that Lilly & K.C. attended (I did see "Into the Woods") but while they were occupied I wandered around Manhattan eating ever tasty thing I encountered. They just don't have food in Jacksonville like the kind you can find in Northeast.

Lilly & I did have a little father/daughter time at the American Museum of Natural History while K.C. was seeing Moulin Rouge solo. So I got to enjoy a little bit of "outdoors" stuff, even though most of it was taxidermy. I love spending time with Lilly, especially now that she's older (she's so intelligent and has a very unique mind). Lilly seemed to enjoy herself too. She loves all animals, although I'm sure she would have preferred ones that were alive.




A Date with Rona

Well the one unexpected souvenir I took back from our trip to NYC was a bout with coronavirus. I had gone the whole two years or so without getting it, but I started feeling symptoms that put me on the shelf for about a week. It wasn't too bad (I've been vaccinated), but nobody likes to deal with aches, fever, and congestion.

K.C. got it too, and it seemed to hit her a little harder than me, but interestingly Lilly seemed to dodge it. She had it during the last school year so perhaps she had some fresher antibodies. Who knows... either way, the virus' visit to our house, and its lingering effects, kind of limited most activities through mid to late July. 

Tenkara Angler Stuff

While I haven't really fished much (other than in the neighborhood), we have been busy over at Tenkara Angler. We re-launched our "Level Line Podcast" at the end of June and spent some time talking to Bill, Amanda, & Nate about a recent tenkara event they participated in up in New Hampshire. It was a fun conversation and we're looking forward to doing more of these.

We also published a few articles, the most popular being the "Big Fish Tenkara Rod Guide" which lists many of the tenkara & fixed line rods available to chase fish way bigger than the ones I catch. We also posted a video from 2016 that Jason Sparks dug up of a Tom Sadler tenkara demonstration. That one was fun to watch, it was like going in a time machine! I sure miss those days.

SCAD

Remember how I mentioned Lilly's love for theater? Well, she got to spend time at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) at the end of July pursuing her passion. It was her first (I guess) unofficial college visit, and one she earned herself by winning a scholarship to attend the week-long seminar. She had two workshops, one in fashion design and the other in production design (costumes & sets).



It was weird dropping her off and helping her set up her dorm room for the week. I'm not sure I'm ready to do that for real in two years. I'm happy to report the little bohemian inside her thrived in the classes, I never heard her quite so talkative, exited, and expressive giving us the debrief after we went to pick her up.

The Nephews

I have two rad little nephews, and they and their equally rad parents (K.C.'s brother and his wife) came to visit us this past week for a few days. The boys can be a handful, but it's fun to have little kids running around the house again... cartoons on TV... and toys scattered all over the place. Especially when those kids are not yours.



Labor Day Weekend Smokies?

Which kind of brings me to present day. Lilly actually goes back to school this week, Junior year of high school! So in effect, our summer is over. (Although somebody needs to tell Mother Nature that, it's been 98 degrees here every day for like ever).

I am going to try to sneak up to the mountains one more time before the NFL season starts and my weekends get consumed by work. I'll most likely make the run up to Cherokee that I've done each of the past two years (2020, 2021)... but who knows, maybe North Georgia will be more manageable. I definitely will need to get away somewhere, a trout streams have been running through my head since I left Wisconsin.


June 19, 2022

Another Great Visit to the Driftless

The Driftless region in southwestern Wisconsin has become one of my favorite places to fish. My excuse to return this year was yet another tenkara gathering, being held in Westby. Unlike last year when I carpooled with a friend and made the long drive up from Florida, this time I flew in to Minneapolis, rented a car and drove the short two hours down to my eventual destination. 


(I had reserved a Toyota RAV-4, but upon arrival they didn't have that model and upgraded me for free to an Audi. Score?)

Considering that I flew in and didn't want to haul too much gear, I didn't camp this year. Instead, I stayed in a wonderful one room cabin on a gentleman's farm along Spring Coulee outside of Coon Valley. It was a great place to have as basecamp, as it afforded a hot shower, comfortable bed, and a bit of a escape from Mother Nature, particularly during a few of the wetter days of the trip.


Thursday

Thursday, June 2nd was coincidentally my 45th birthday. It was also my first day in the Driftless. After that drive and upon arrival I quickly got on some nearby water to remove the skunk from the trip. A dozen or so healthy browns in a quick hour or so of fishing made it a happy birthday for me.






In the evening I headed over to the campground where the larger gathering was being held. It was good to see my friends again. We ate, drank, and caught up with each other. 

A nice stretch of creek also flows right through camp, so I was able to pop in for a few casts for an enjoyable night cap.


Friday

Friday's plan was to hit two very different creeks. The first was one that I was introduced to in 2021. I had a really great day there last year, catching the largest fish of that trip. 

While I didn't quite replicate the size of the fish from a year ago, the numbers added up very quickly despite the cloudless, bluebird skies. And let me tell you, it was HOT in that sun... and that's coming from someone who lives in Florida!








Fishing through the early afternoon on the first creek, I wanted to switch things up and fish a bit more intimate water. And by intimate I mean the size of the water, not necessarily the venue. 

A short drive later put me on a very small creek, only 4 or 5 feet across in most places. The stream also happens to run alongside a popular tavern. I had people watching me fish from the outdoor deck! Fortunately, the fish cooperated, quickly removing any performance anxiety the audience may have created.





After a quick stop at the cabin to cool off and clean up with a welcomed shower, I headed back over to the campground for another evening of hanging out. 

(My friend Zoan summarized the vibes from the Driftless gathering...)


Saturday

Bring on the rains! Weather allowed an opportunity to sleep in a little bit before meeting up with my friends Anthony & Bryan on one of the more popular streams in the area for a morning of fishing. Fortunately, the threat of weather must have been keeping other anglers away, as we had the preferred section of the stream to ourselves... well, with the exception of a very friendly farm cat.







Eventually, Bryan had to leave, so Anthony & I ran into town to grab some lunch before we parted ways as well. 

Really wanting to catch some brook trout, I spent the rest of the afternoon (in steady rains) pursuing my quarry in some "new to me" water. At least the soaking was worth it, catching several browns and even more small brookies before bringing a solid 12-inch brook trout to hand. A definite highlight for this stream.






Sunday

Weather-wise, Sunday was not much different than Saturday. Light, but steady rains fell for most of the day. However, the temperatures were cooler and the fish were active. Very active. Extremely active. Basically eating anything. I was most successful with beadhead kebari, nymphs, and leech patterns, but I don't think it really mattered much what was on the end of the line.

I'm not one to count fish, but if I were actually keeping track, 100 wouldn't have been a stretch to describe my tally from what is quickly becoming my favorite creek in the Driftless. Each riffle, run, or pool seemed to yield at least 7 or 8 fish. And I ended up fishing a lot of riffles, runs, and pools!  











Getting tired of reading yet? Don't worry, only one more day.

Monday

This was the final day of fishing for me on this visit to the Driftless. While most of the region is generally flat, or what I'd consider rolling, countryside, I took the opporutnity to go down into one of the hollows that requires a bit of hiking before you're able to fish. Honestly, it's not that hard to get down into the valley floor where the creek is... but coming back up and out after a long day of fishing on the other hand...

I'm happy to report the extra effort was well worth it. The fish were plentiful, and the last fish caught, the one I'll call the "walk off brown", may have been the largest of this trip at 16+ inches. While that might not sound like a huge fish by Driftless standards, wrangling it on the Nissin Royal Stage 320 tenkara rod made for a fight of rodeo-like proportions.









And then just like that it was over. A return to the cabin, an evening of packing up clothes and gear, and one final night's sleep concluded this year's fishing fun in Wisconsin.

Tuesday morning brought a drive back to Minneapolis, killing a few hours at the Mall of America before catching a flight back to Jacksonville. 

Now back at home, the longing for the "next time" has started to kick in a major way. Spring of 2023 just can't come soon enough!