Sunday, September 30, 2012

Food For Thought

So I happen to be acquainted with the manager of the state wildlife area that holds Trout Lake and Brookie Lake and several more lakes. I was chatting with him the other day, complimenting him on his work, as usual, and filling him in on some of my recent experiences.

So I asked him if Trout Lake is drawn down through the summer because of irrigation. He said, no, it's just that the lake doesn't hold water. They tried using it back in the Twenties to hold water for agricultural purposes, but found out that it leaks. So water flows in and flows out, and by late summer/early fall there simply isn't enough water to keep the level up. I'll never refer to it as "still water" again.

Then I asked him about a little lake I can see in my drive into the wildlife area. You can see it right under the "Two mile hike" legend in the photo. He passed over that one--nothing to write home about--and casually mentioned the existence of yet another lake beyond that little one. A two mile hike in, and you have to pack a float tube in with you. That means no boats. He said the fishing was good.

So I asked what's in there. He said, "I saw a man catch a twenty-inch eastern brook trout out of there." I scoffed, in a respectful way. He said, "I have a picture of it somewhere..."

Now that gets you thinking.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Brookie Lake/Trout Lake Report: Expedition

You've got all afternoon and evening, so you make it an expedition. You rattle right past Trout Lake and go on down the dusty, rutted road a couple more miles to Brookie Lake. You've been wondering about it, and aren't sure what you'll find there. You have a vague memory from a few falls ago of barren mud flats.

You're delighted to pull around the bend and find the lake full to the brim. No draw-down here, perhaps an enlightened approach to brook trout management. Not only that, with the weeds dying off there's more open and fishable water now than there was back in June when you were here last.

But you don't see a rise anywhere, and the campground is deserted. You wonder if there are still fish. You launch to find out.

You check out the channel to the spillway and don't see or raise anything. But a kingfisher flashes by, and you relax. You can trust that master fisher not to waste his time where there are no fish.

You kick out into the lake and begin to spy little brookie heads coming up here and there. You lay your elk hair caddis down in a handful of likely looking places. But it's not until you give it a fast strip that a brookie leaps clear out of the water and takes. You can never tell if they take it on the way up or the way down.

The strip is what they want, and you get more airborne hits and misses. Then a good fish just swirls up under it and takes it down.

Since you're stripping, you wonder if they'd take a muddler.

You find a little brookie-sized one on your fly patch, and the fly finds a brookie.

So you go ahead and tie on your trusty size 10, and fish of all sizes come to it eagerly.

It starts to sprinkle, and your rain jacket is in the truck. You're ready for a break, too, and you'd still like to get to Trout Lake. So you say your goodbyes and kick in. One more month in the season; you don't know if you'll get back here again in that time. But it's good to know that these jewels are still here, and that they'll be here waiting for you next spring.

It isn't long until you're kicking out into the channel at Trout Lake. You pick up where you left off and begin stripping the muddler. Almost immediately you catch a brookie-sized rainbow.

You move down the shoreline thinking a bright brown would go well with those brookies. But the fish you catch is a long and lean rainbow.

There are fish coming up as the day begins to wind down. You decide to stick with the muddler, and kick out into open water and chase rises. There are several boats out, and you maneuver around to stay away from their trolling lanes, and their loud conversations. You head back to the channel.

There are plenty of rises, but the fish seem to be small. Every once in awhile one will chase the muddler, and sometimes you hook one.

As it starts to get dark the boats head in, but you stay out. You're going to stay to watch the full moon rise over the ridge. You still stick with the muddler, and begin a slow kick to nowhere in particular letting the fly drift in the darkness behind you.

You love these times. It's just you and the lake. The bats are out, and pluck your line almost as if they think it's a funny joke on you. Ducks whistle by overhead, and an eagle passes close enough to hear the sibilance of his wingbeats.

And there are fish out there. You catch some, but, inexplicably, miss more.

But it doesn't matter. All this time the world of the lake is slowly filling with silver light, first the high clouds, then the sky, then the western mountains. You watch as the moonshadow creeps silently down those slopes, the world growing brighter with each foot it descends. You kick over to the western shoreline, to be where the moonlight will flood the lake's surface first. And then it wells up through the pines and spills down over the lake, and you. You begin the kick back to the truck, leaving a silver wake.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To Infinity--and Beyond

I've been keeping my eye on the night sky. I'm grateful that we live in a universe of light, and that light waves are not bounded by the division between night and day. And I find that a few minutes of gazing at the night sky definitely keeps things in proper perspective.

The Big Dipper continues to dominate the northern skyline, but it hangs lower and lower now.

And now it has been joined by the other giant constellation, Orion. A few weeks ago the Hunter was just showing his head and shoulders in the eastern sky, but now he strides in full view where he will remain throughout the winter.

A few weeks ago I took a shot of the Milky Way straight overhead. I was amazed and delighted to discover what happened when I elevated the exposure. Buzz Lightyear has it right: "To infinity--and beyond!"

Trout Lake Report: Mellow

It's an overused word when applied to September, but that's because it's the perfect word. The smoke was gone, it was on the warm side of cool, the wind blew itself away, there were fish willing to take a fly, there was nothing to do but take in the beauty of the evening, and everything was simply and perfectly... mellow.