First things first. Does it count as a skunk if you don’t see a fish at all and it’s new water?
It was an unseasonably warm day today. 60 degrees in early March when it’s normally 40. I’ve never actually fished this early in the year before. But I dug out some DNR maps and decided to explore a new area. I drove 90 minutes and got into a county that has several trout streams within a dozen miles of each other. At least one of them has a reputation for good sized trout.
But the problem with much of the trout streams in WI is that you really don’t know how fishable they are from a fly standpoint until you get there. A lot of them are narrow and fenced in with brush or have a tight tree canopy. Spincasters can make good use of them, and are the cause of their reputation as good trout streams.
Or, perhaps some of them are open enough to get a fly rod on. But they might be deep and silty and the fish are generally munching on larvae and other subsurface critters the majority of the time.
That’s what I found today. After scouting out the area, I saw only a few spots that looked suitable for a fly rod. After scrabbling through the thick brush that seems to be requisite at all WI public fishing points, I got onto a fairly nice looking stream. It was about two feet deep with a firm but silty bed. Flow rate was just about right for dry flies, so I picked out a Parachute BWO. A standard spring fly for the Midwest.
As I was tying it on, a fish (at least I’m assuming it was a fish) jumped about 30 feet upstream from me. A very promising sign.
I proceeded to start casting and it all went downhill from there. Actually, you might say it ended there. I never saw another sign of a fish in two hours of casting, changing flies and wading upstream.
But after I got about 100 ft up, it got noticeably deeper. In several spots I had to double back and walk along the bank because it was dangerously deep. Another 100 yards up and that was the norm.
It was a series of pools that looked very trouty, so I gave in to my baser instincts and tied on a beadhead. One of the emergency ones that I keep in my fly box and swear I’ll never use.
After about six casts, and feeling like I should be sitting in a folding chair with the rod in one hand and a cheap beer in the other, I cut off the nymph and tied on an elk hair caddis.
So, I didn’t catch anything, but I did learn something. I am a dry fly fisherman.
Incidentally, that spot is perfect for a hex hatch. I might go back in June and try my luck then.
I wouldn’t call that being skunked. It’s a day of exploring more than anything. And you learned quite a bit from what I read from it. Now if you go back knowing what you know and still no fish, well then, you got skunked.