March 5, 2014
Places fished: Black Earth Creek @ Hwy F and Scherbel Rd
Air temp: 18 deg
Water temp: 37 deg (Hwy F), unknown (Scherbel Rd)
Fish caught: 1 brown trout (bh olive-br bugger, sz 8)
The best laid plans…
Serves me right for spending my Tuesday evening poring over stream maps and gazetteers in search of a spot to fish this morning. I settled on Gordon Creek south of Daleyville, with possibly a side trip to Kittleson Valley and Mt. Vernon creeks. A few of inches of snow changed those plans. I made it as a far as Highway 78 South, which was poorly cleared and made worse by blowing snow. After driving past several smaller side roads that were still not plowed, my city boy instincts kicked in and said nope nope nope nope. I turned around and headed north, through Mt. Horeb and toward Black Earth. I figured that, if nothing else, Black Earth Creek would be fishable.
A short detour to check Vermont Creek at Hwy JJ. Opening day it was heavily iced with only pockets of open water. Today was more open, especially downstream of the bridge, but still not fishable.
Black Earth Creek at Hwy F was finally open, a nice change from Saturday when large sections were still coated in ice. This is probably my favorite section of BEC, largely because it is fairly open but also because I’ve had most of my success here. BEC is a harsh mistress: I can count on one hand the number of fish I caught here in 2013, and I wouldn’t even need all of my fingers. I went 0-for-2 here in this early season already (Saturday and Tuesday afternoon). It’s not my favorite stream, quite frankly, and that’s sad, considering how close I am to it.
One of my goals this year is to figure this mother out, though, so let’s do it. I tied on a size 8 beadhead olive-brown woolly bugger to my 9-foot 5-weight and began swinging the fly across-and-downstream, slowly working my way upstream after a few casts and clearing my guides of ice every so often. It wasn’t long before I had my first trout of the day, which hit the bugger as I paused it at the end of the swing.
12, 13 inches. Not bad! Of course, here comes my BEC curse: every time I have caught fish here, I catch em early and then get shut out the rest of the day. Hoping to break that trend, I fished on, working my way upstream toward the Hwy 14 bridge while swinging various buggers downstream. There were certainly fishy looking spots, but nothing to show for it. I did end up losing my (two-day-old) stream thermometer. It wouldn’t be a proper trip if I didn’t lose something!
I did see a “fish” rise, which certainly caught me off guard. A heckuva splash, too! Must be a huge fish… or maybe just this guy.
A short rest in the car for lunch, and then a drive down to Scherbel Road to pick up where I left off. Apparently Scherbel is the last road between Cross Plains and Black Earth to get plowed. A few guys were already fishing upstream of the bridge, so I parked near Salmo Pond and began downstream, working some holes behind the pond and the outhouses. I switched to a shorter rod here to contend with the tighter casting spots. After a while two of the guys who I first spotted upstream of the bridge were now at an open hole in the ice at Salmo Pond.
Nothing below the bridge, and with the path clear I hiked upstream to a spot that I’ve been to before that looks fishy. I’ve never been successful here, though (what is it they say about the definition of insanity?). I decided at this point to take off the streamer and do a two-nymph rig.
I reached into my vest for my fly box and…
Oh. Oh no.
(At this point I should mention that I currently carry three fly boxes. Last year I carried one medium-sized box, and then after resolving to simplify my approach I switched to… two small boxes that hold about two dozen streamers (size 6 and 8), and one huge box that carries more than three hundred nymphs, wets, and dries (sizes 12 to 22). So much for simplicity.)
The big fly box is gone, and along with it two months’ worth of tied flies.
Needless to say I hauled ass along my tracks in search of the box, back downstream behind the outhouses where I thought I may have dropped it. After a thorough search I came up empty.
Suddenly I realized that, while switching fly rods, I removed a beadhead stonefly nymph from the short rod and set it back into the box. Oh please tell me I left it in the car…!
Yes, I did. Crisis averted. Well, with all that trudging through the snow I at least earned my dinner tonight. I headed back to the fish looking spot, cast a pink squirrel/phesant tail combo for a little while, and after coming up empty and more than a little hungry I decided to call it a day.
I did encountered to other anglers on my walk back to the car. One gentleman was just leaving after fishing near the Scherbel Road bridge with some streamers. He said he didn’t catch anything, but also admitted to “not knowing what (he) was doing.” Another guy was just setting up with what looked like a Tenkara rod near Salmo Pond. Apparently the two guys I saw earlier were his buddies, and they did pretty well catching rainbows in the open water of the pond.
That was almost enough for me to give it a try, but I was pretty much done for the day. A hot shower and some food trumped fishing for stocked rainbows.