March 8, 2007 at 8:47 a.m.
Jeremy Gubbins and I had just such a day on Knapp Creek last Sunday. Jeremy is a transplanted English chap and a good friend. If trout fishing were an illegal activity, the police would surely bash through his front door in Coon Rapids and haul his proper British arse directly to jail. No doubt about it. Over the past few years, we've tossed flies on various rivers and streams and I find him to be perfect company. Like me, he's a hopeless trout addict and believes that an economy of words and relative quiet while fishing is a virtue. He and I both know that there is nothing that will ruin a perfectly good day on the water quicker than fluffy, inane conversation.
Jeremy and I arrived at Seven Pines Lodge around 11:30 a.m. and began to rig up our rods and discuss fly patterns, techniques and strategy. Consistent with all Midwest trout water this time of year, we knew that the fish in Knapp Creek would feed in earnest during the warmest part of the day, around 1-3 p.m. in the afternoon. In March and April, trout need only a fraction of a degree increase in water temperature as an excuse to strap on the feedbag, so to minimize the risk of playing our hand prematurely, we decided to save the most promising stretch of the stream (a deep section that historically holds some sizeable trout) for that two-hour window of time.
Huffing and puffing, we trudged our way along the stream through knee-deep snow and slipped into the water below the old wooden footbridge at the appointed hour. Jeremy had made only a few upstream casts into the current rushing under the bridge when his strike indicator slowly sank below the surface. Rearing back on his light, 2-weight rod, he enjoyed a brief taste of what lurked below the dark surface of the water before being rewarded with a slack line -- minus a fly. "Bloody hell! What happened? Maybe it was my knot." I was excited by this mishap, realizing at that moment that the stars, barometer, sun and whatever else just might be in our favor that day. I casually replied, "A really, really big fish just broke you off."
For the next 90-minutes, Jeremy and I caught more trophy-caliber trout than a couple of guys deserve to catch in perhaps a decade. I'd guess that we put 10 or 11 rainbows in the net that taped out between 20 and 25 inches. Jeremy caught most of the big fish and I wouldn't have had it any other way. On a number of occasions, he kindly offered to trade places in the stream and allow me to fish the current seam he was doing all the catching in, but I declined more times than not. No, I felt perfectly satisfied watching a few of those marathon fish battles unfold, and the outcomes were anything but a sure thing. Seeing Jeremy's dainty 2-weight rod literally bent to the cork under the strain of a heavy fish was indeed a sight to behold. I had the distinct pleasure of composing and snapping over fifty unbelievable photos of oversized trout that I might not see again for a quite some time.
Every once in a while, it is highly satisfying to do more observing than actual fishing on a stream. Last Sunday, I slipped my wooden landing net under the largest trout Jeremy had ever caught and I honestly couldn't tell you which of us was more excited.
I know there are even larger fish in that stream -- a particular 26-inch brown trout comes to mind -- and I have an entire season ahead of me to contemplate fly patterns and strategies. Maybe I'll hit that spot again soon. And who knows, if I time it right and everything lines up just so, I just might fool that fish.
Although, it's not enough for the heavens to cooperate, you need things down here on earth to cooperate, too -- things such as the barometer, winds, sun and air temperature, to name a few.
Dan Brown's weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie's Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.