Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Gopher Three

The rivalry between the football teams of the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Wisconsin Badgers is among the most storied in all of American collegiate sports.  In the the fall of 2013 the battle spilled onto the field of fly tying and that's where things became really exciting.

The confidence I had in my Gophers had been bolstered by the success they had at the start of their 2013 campaign as well as the faith I had in head coach Jerry Kill.  Ever since I listened to coach Kills introductory press conference I have been confident that he is the one that will eventually lead Gopher Nation to Pasadena.

The confidence that my friend Kyle Schaefer has in his Wisconsin Badgers is primarily based on results.  Since Barry Alvarez took over the Badger's football program in the early 90's they have been on quite a run.

During the weeks running up to the big game tensions between fans of the two teams had never been higher.  I'm surprised I didn't delete Kyle as a Facebook friend during that period of time but you know what they say about keeping your enemies closer.

During one of our conversations about fly fishing streamers I changed the subject to football and challenged Kyle to a friendly wager.  Whoever's team lost the game would owe the other guy 3 streamers tied with their own team's mascot's fur.  So if I lost I would owe him three streamers tied with Gopher Fur and if he lost it would be 3 streamers tied with Badger Fur for me.

After the Badgers cruised to an easy 20-7 victory over my Golden Gophers I was devastated.  Not only would Paul Bunyan's Ax be spending another year in Madison it also meant that I was going to have to learn how to tie flies.

Its not that I had never tied a fly before its just that I have yet to become awesome at it like I am at everything else I do in my life.  I get these headaches every time I sit down to tie.  The pressure I put on myself is made even worse by the fact that my dad is pretty much one of the best ever fly tiers.  If I didn't call him dad I would probably call him, "Mr. Perfect".

While one can purchase Badger Fur at pretty much any fly shop I quickly discovered that Gopher Fur was not readily available.  I guess the tanning of gopher hides is not "Economically Viable".

While I have a long track record of giving up every time I have ever been faced with a challenge in life I was determined to lose this bet in style.  Kyle didn't care if I used actual gopher fur for the streamers but I did.  I knew full well that if he had lost I would have demanded streamers tied with badger fur.  My search finally took me to the website

 Never in my life did I think that I would ever end up on this corner of the internet but I heard that is where people go when they needed things.  I put out a plea to see if there was anybody that could help me.

When a man from Glenwood Minnesota named Daniel B said that he was willing to help I was ecstatic.  I guess there still are awesome people in this world.

I wasn't sure what the going rate is these days for a tanned gopher hide so I figured I would make it worth Daniel B's time by offering him 50 dollars to help me out.

The next few weeks felt like an eternity.  I would have loads of anticipation every day as I ran out to check the mailbox only to walk back to my front door sullen with disappointment.  Then one day I was happy to see that I had received and envelope addressed to me from Daniel B.

 When I opened the envelope a found a letter.

I also found what looked to be one tanned gopher hide.

I was so pleased with the finished product that I decided to sit down and write Daniel a letter thanking him for his fine craftsmanship.

I was relieved when word came that Daniel had received both the money I had sent him as well as the thank you note.

I spent the next few weeks gathering the other supplies that I would need to complete the streamers.  I bought any fly tying materials I could find that were colored maroon and gold.

This last week I have spent recovering from foot surgery at my parents house in Taylors Falls Mn.  I knew that I would be able to use this downtime to complete the flies.

My surgery was on Wednesday morning and by Thursday evening I was feeling well enough to get started on the gopher streamers.  I spent a couple hours getting everything unpacked and set up to tie.
 Once I had everything set up I became tired and had tiers block.  My dad wasn't tired though and he even had his gophers sweatshirt on.
When I went back down to the basement to resume my tying Friday morning I saw that dad had left me some examples of his work.
Knowing that my flies would probably not look as good I had a deadline staring me in the face so I just started tying.  My first concoction turned out pretty good.  Hopefully it will catch a fish.
For my second fly I wanted it to be articulated the only problem was that I had never made an articulated streamer before.  When my dad arrived home I asked him for some help.

 Beadalon Wire works well for making articulated streamers.
 Don't forget the beads.  Some guys use two, others use three.

 The third fly in the series would be modeled after the Dahlberg Diver.  I found out that the secret to making streamers using deer hair was just to start doing it.  It's really not that difficult.

I was pretty proud of the finished product.
Go Gophers!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rainbow Warrior

When I scheduled my foot surgery for February 19th on January 9th my plan was to get out fishing a few more times beforehand because I wasn't sure how long I would be on the disabled list for afterwards.  Little did I know at the time that frigid temperatures would keep me away from the magic that is the Minnesota Stream Trout Winter Season.  The thought of going two months without catching a trout on a fly rod was too much to bear.

News came Monday about a heat wave that was supposed to happen on Thursday.  Seeing that the temperature was supposed to get as high as 37 degrees on Thursday was quite a surprise to me since I had forgotten what that felt like.  I was having trouble deciding whether I should go fishing on Thursday or if I should spend time with the girlfriend but then I remembered that I didn't have a girlfriend so I decided to go fishing.

At first I thought that it would be fun to have somebody come with me on Thursday but when everybody I invited to accompany me couldn't make it I decided that I would rather go by myself.  At the very last minute Foxy invited herself and famed fishing author Ross Mueller was sitting shotgun to my right.

 I would recommend the book Fly Fishing Midwestern Spring Creeks to anyone who knows how to read.  It would also help if they have an interest in Fly Fishing Midwestern Spring Creeks.  It has great advice on what tactics and flies to use during the different seasons.  It even has a section on fishing in the wintertime. 

I had originally thought that spring was going to sprung on Thursday but high winds and blowing snow created blizzard like conditions on the Driftless Express.  

After receiving a hot tip from fellow "Streamer Dream Teamer", Ger Moua, I charted a course towards Fillmore County.  

When I saw this lone Oak tree standing firm against the elements I took it as a sign of solidarity and made up my mind that I would look up the definition of solidarity when I returned home from this voyage.

Here is Google's definition of Solidarity.  I don't know what I was thinking.

Solidarity-unity or agreement of feeling or action, esp. among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

I always thought that small town folk were supposed to be friendly but the only thing waving at me in this one town was five American Flags.  It reminded me of the Winter Olympics going on and I thought about the odds of "Winter Fly Fishing for Trout" becoming an Olympic sport.  
A few weeks ago I wrote about the creation of the "San Eddidino Worm".  Today the "San Eddidino Worm" earned its spot in the Fly Hall of Fame when I landed this Rainbow Trout on it.  I was so happy I took three photos of that little bugger.

 Speaking of Bugger I also caught a Rainbow on an Autumn Splendor Wooly Bugger.  A few casts later a tree stole that Bugger from me.  I think I am going to vote for  cancelling Arbor Day this year.

I was able to make friends with a small herd of cattle today as they followed me as I fished along a fence line.  It was kind of nice to have some company for a change.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pierce County Sunday

While everyone else was sitting on their davenport watching the Vikings lose to the Bears Eddie and Nick were knee deep in the cold, clean and clear waters of Western Wisconsin's Pierce County filling their creels with trout caught on a fly.

When we arrived at the river it was still pretty dark out.

Not my personal best but not my worst either. Can you tell I've lost weight?

 Gotta love the selfy! I only share the ones I like best.
 Nick Wilson decides how close is too close when approaching a cow and her calf. Watch out for the cow pie!

 I think he gets annoyed when I take too many photos. That's partially why I do it.
 The lower Kinni shortly after day break.

Expedition Ontonagon

The year was 1937. Two friends suffered an automobile breakdown near the town of Trout Creek, Michigan. Thankfully in lieu of a toolbox they had brought some fishing gear along.

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