The sea speaks in many voices as it was written some time ago. The stream also echoes its sentiments. The mid-September temperatures have seen stretches of mid-summer to mid-October causing confusion with the trees before turning to their full autumn splendid. The butternut squash are making their final growth spurt as the end of the growing season dwindles to mere days before the frost sets in and establishes its dominance of the turning of the season.
On our minds is butternut squash soup, “the quintessential fall soup,” as noted in the Gunflint Lodge Cookbook. We fell in love with its brilliant orange color and complimentary garnishes that crown this delight of fall. On the horizon, Minnesota grown Harelson apples will make their appearance in supermarkets. These excellent baking apples don’t last long, so you better buy them while you can. We are going to dust of the pie making equipment and indulge in some Harelson apple pie and apple crisp. The apple tree in the back yard took the year off as it produced a bumper crop of apples last year that had us making apple crisp nearly every other day. It is a year on, year off kind of tree. We’ll await that crop next year.
With the turn of the seasons comes the end of another season, inland trout fishing in Minnesota. I had circled a couple of days at the end of September this year for a fall trout camp. I did the same thing last year, but unfortunately, some medical issues had come up in the family and we had to cancel the trip. This year, we were fortunate that everything played out to where we could get in a little trout fishing this time around. I packed the gear in the car and headed north for the stream. Along the route the maples and ash were just starting to take on color. The 90s we had earlier in the week abruptly switched to more seasonal temperatures in the mid-40s on the way up north.
I still recall when we first started doing these camps. One of the first was up near the Canadian boarder on the Cascade River in search of fall run salmon. I hauled up all the podcasting equipment and did the first on-site podcast. It was a lot of fun to do and embarrassing at times especially when tourists walk into your outdoor studio and casually linger as you are trying to do your show from the shores of Lake Superior. Our German series was in full swing during that time as well as we were making our very own homemade bratwurst in time for Octoberfest.
This trip was early in our adventure camp series as was our ice fishing adventure for Lake Trout. Neither effort resulted in any satisfaction. No bites to speak of. But, it wasn’t a total loss as sometimes the journey itself only needs to suffice. When spring rolled around the following year, I got in touch with my dad to see if he would be interested in doing a Brook Trout camp. He agreed. We had been skunked up to that point and it was starting to get a little embarrassing admitting that on our adventure camp podcasts. I remembered my mom always used to tell me that dad used to fish for brook trout on the Rocky Run, a small trout stream located somewhere in northern Minnesota where my dad spent his childhood. I had never been there nor knew of its location, so it had its own family lore associated with it.
Dad quickly broke our adventure camp drought by hauling in two fish out of the first hole he fished. Two decent sized brook trout. It turns out dad is quite an angler. The years between casts didn’t have any effect on his fishing instincts. I nicknamed him the “Trout Whisperer” due to his amazing ability to read the water and present his bait. Usually, he is able to out fish me usually by a three to one ratio with the exception for the spring trout camp. But that seemed to be an aberration. It turns out for spring and fall angling for brookies, a change in location strategy may be a primary consideration.
Brook trout fishing is something we have kind of hung our hat on. It can be very leisurely fishing when you find a good stretch of water, but often times, you need to exercise caution wading through the stream and avoiding falling over on a slippery rock. It is also like mini rock climbing in places to get from pool to pool, so it is a good form of exercise especially if you have to scale a gorge to find your way out of the stream’s flood plain.
We packed in plenty of snacks to keep the hunger pangs at bay and often snack on the last camp’s snacks that were forgotten and stowed in the creel the time before.
Our latest trip to the trout stream was our first fall trout camp. Usually, we do these in the spring shortly after the season opens. Upon arriving, we found the water level to be up with a good supply of rain during the summer. This provides more possible pools and locations that the trout could reside in. If the water is low, there are only so many places these fish could be. After we strapped on our gear, we decided to split up with dad taking the upper reaches and I worked my way downstream.
The rocks provided good footing as I said a prayer the night before for solid footing and that prayer was answered. In the spring, we had rain that fell overnight on the second day of camp and the footing was treacherous at best, so I was very thankful for that. It wasn’t long before the light tugs were felt on my line as I drifted my worm through the current.
I quickly hooked a scrappy eight incher that fell off the hook once I got it to the surface. It seems each pool has its first fish that will hit right away. If you catch it or lose it, chances are you are better off finding a new hole to fish in, because I often don’t get another bite no matter how long I stay there. I moved a couple holes down and quickly had another one on. Probably a five inch fish or so that fell off my hook as I was about to grab it as I lifting it out of the water. That was all good. It is nice not to hook a small fish too deep so its chances at survival are good after it is released.
I slowly approached a larger pool after about 30 minutes of fishing. The head of the pool had some good faster water that flowed into it followed by a long quiet stretch. It was here while floating the worm through the current, I had a typical tapping strike, but I was too eager to set the hook. As I raised my rod tip, all I felt was the weight of the fish and a large flash underneath the surface. I didn’t even move the fish as I raised my rod tip. When you are catching a lot of small eight inch fish, you can usually get them on the surface. That one didn’t strike again, but my first fish of the day did, an eight inch trout. I hooked it solidly but I managed to release it back into the stream.
I hung around a bit more, hoping the larger trout would strike again. After around 15 minutes I decided to head to my secret hole a little further downstream. I cut through the brush to avoid wading through the long stretch of quiet water from the last pool in the event I wanted to try it again on the return trip upstream. When I got there, the water was moving pretty fast and the bait would not get too deep in the pool before it got swept downstream.
This was the same pool I caught my largest fish of Brook Trout camp a nice 12-incher and have had several larger fish to strike. It took a bit, but soon I felt the taps on my line and quickly lost one. Half the worm was gone, so I put a new one on. The vantage point where I was fishing, I could drift the worm from the upstream current, the downstream current, or fish in the white whitewater below the pool.
I did this for a while and later hooked an eight inch trout that swallowed the hook. As I was reeling it in, I glanced behind me, and like an apparition; my dad was sitting on the bank right behind me. “How’d you do?” I asked.
Just then, dad presented a zip-lock bag full of trout. There was a beautiful native trout he had caught. The underbelly was a brilliant red with white trim on the fins. A gorgeous fish. It is too bad the DNR is stocking the stream as a lot of the brilliant coloration of the native fish are being muted out with the stocked fish. There is quite a contrast between the native stock and the stocked fish. Native trout have deep orange fresh, like a salmon. The stocked fish, the flesh is nearly white.
At this point dad had four fish to my two. I continued downstream while dad decided to clean the fish and put them on ice. Later I found out, the fish he caught in the upper reaches were fish getting ready to spawn. Some were filled with eggs. It seemed the lower downstream I got, the fewer strikes I had.
We ended up fishing for several more hours before calling it a day. We nearly exhausted our supply of worms. Dad took the season Trout Camp this year for the most fish and the largest fish. He caught nine, to my four on this day. On the way back to the car, there was another father and son fishing that arrived after we did. There is nothing like building memories with your kids, no matter how old you are. We’ll see you again for Brook Trout Camp 2018 in the spring.