Time To Head Out
My husband and I roll down the car windows and turn up the radio as the heat of the day creeps up. We turn onto the back country roads that run parallel to the river, and listen to the crunch of the wheels on the gravel roads. Once we reach the easement to the river, we park on the side of the road and prepare for fly-fishing.
Chest waders go on first, followed by our fly-vests. The leather harnesses of our split-willow creels are draped across our chests – though we never seem to keep the trout we hook. Two-way radios are hooked onto our vests to communicate on the stream, and waterproof cameras stuffed into pockets to capture the moment we catch a lunker. We grab our fly-rods and head out.
Tall grass and wildflowers greet my husband and me as we step off of the road. Five-foot tall stinging nettle threatens us as we near the trout stream. We lift our arms and rods high in the air to avoid its sting, while dodging the outstretched arms of nearby trees grasping at the tips of our rods. A light morning fog appears before us – a sure sign that the icy water of the stream is imminent. We crouch beside the bank of the trout stream as we approach the water. The water is clear, but alive. An ever-observant brown trout darts from under the bank beneath our feet – spooking several other fish in the process. My husband whispers that he is heading upstream. I will stay here as there are fish to catch.
I enter the waiting waters cautiously as my husband tiptoes away. Swift currents and smooth rocks underfoot threaten my balance. I take my time – feeling out each step before fully committing. Cold water presses my waders against my legs as I move toward the center of the river – cooling me from the heat of the day. I have my eye on an undercut bank on the opposite side of the river a few yards upstream. I stop in the middle of the river – it needs to rest. The water continues to rush past me, carrying away the evidence of my arrival, and the trout calm – a sense of peace restored.
The Rhythm Of The Cast
Bringing the fly-rod straight up, I grip the fly-line with my rod hand as I release the fly from the hook holder with my other. I peel line off of my reel, letting the hook and line drop beside me. The floating line moves with the tumultuous water – curling and twisting around me before straightening as the water carries it downstream. I grip the line by the reel with my free hand and raise the tip of the fly-rod into the air – keeping the rod in line with my forearm. In a straight and fluid movement, I bring the rod tip down in front of me – pausing to let the fly-line follow. I repeat the pattern, but this time I allow the line to unroll on the surface of the water after the last forward movement. The fly lands in the quiet water near the undercut bank.
Moving water carries the line back toward me as I watch carefully for any movements indicative of a strike. I slowly pull the slack line through the guides on my rod. As the fly approaches, I begin the rhythmic casting again. The process repeats until I see the slightest pause in the movement of the fly-line as it floats toward me. Everything surrounding me disappears as I focus solely on the line. I hold the fly-line and raise my rod tip straight into the air as I feel the erratic pull on the line – fish on. Keeping the rod tip up, I strip the line steadily while keeping the line taut. The fish attempts to dart back under the bank, and I lose my footing for a moment as I try to maneuver the fish, but remain standing. Up stream, down stream, through fallen trees, and around large boulders – the fish tries to escape, but I am patient. Soon I land the 10″ brook trout.
Keeping the fish underwater, I gently dislodge the hook. The scales are so small that the trout feels smooth – almost scaleless. The gold color of the fish is highlighted by red spots rimmed with an electric blue. I observe the most obvious sign that I have caught a brook trout – the contrasting white accents on the bright orange, lower fins. Gently, I lower the fish deeper into the water allowing it to swim away. It swims slowly to the river bottom – pausing to recuperate before moving on. I radio my husband to notify him of my catch.
Time to move. I move upstream; looking for a new place to land my fly. Downstream of fallen logs or large boulders, deep holes – often appearing turquoise in color, or another undercut bank will do. My husband and I fish a couple more hours as the fog disappears under the heat of the mid-day sun.
Submersed in Beauty
We pause for a lunch break, a quick dip in the water – yes, it takes our breath away, and an hour of reading by the trout stream. My husband goes back to fishing late in the afternoon, but I choose to sit on the bank near where he fishes. I enjoy watching him fly-fish as the cast of a fly-rod is one of the most breathtaking displays – an art. The rhythm of the cast and the silent movement of the fly-line in the air is captivating. The way the line rolls out on the surface of the water is awe-inspiring. I sit for an hour before the fog begins to return as the sun lowers in the sky.
Twilight arrives and sparks of light begin flickering throughout the foliage on the sides of the stream. Fireflies surround me within moments – blanketing me in a sea of sparkles. With the sound of the rushing river in my ears, the smell of wild flowers permeating my nose, and the hundreds – maybe thousands – of fireflies putting on an amazing light show for my eyes – I feel as though nature is putting on its best show for me. A summer paradise.
Shadows of trees spread across the prairie grasses as my husband and I make our way back to the car. We discuss the best fishing holes, the types and sizes of the trout we caught, and the beauty that surrounded us throughout the day. Fishing gear gets stuffed in the back of the car, and we slide into our seats and roll down our windows. Scents of dew-tipped grasses, spicy wild monarda, and sweet clover invade the car – making us smile. We drive away as we reflect – listening to the crunch of the tires on the gravel road.
This is fly-fishing in Minnesota.
Join me in two weeks for an informative post on fly-fishing: how to begin fly-fishing, tips on how to outfit yourself (and your family) for fly-fishing on a budget, why fly-fishing is a lifetime activity, where to search for free fly-fishing events, and more. Watch for my post, Fly-Fishing: A Lifetime Activity for Everyone, on Wednesday, February 21st – right here on Unbound Roots.