The year 2012 marked the sixth year of my journey into the world of fly fishing. This journey has taken me to places I never would have imagined, both mentally and physically; and 2012 was no different. Each year provides an opportunity to grow and improve, to never become satisfied with the status quo. Everyone has this opportunity but it’s only up to you whether you take advantage of it or let another year pass doing the same things you did last year.
Catch 1,000 trout in a single season? Wow, that is a lot of trout. Is that even possible? Is this a realistic goal that I could have a chance of attaining? You should always have goals that force you to push beyond your current abilities and that require sacrifices in order to achieve but they need to be realistic otherwise you’d set yourself up for constant disappointment.
Well, I wasn’t completely sure about some of these questions surrounding the goal to catch 1,000 trout in a single season, but I knew that it would take my fly fishing journey to another level regardless…so that was enough for me.
Trout are one of the most elusive fish on the planet, mainly due to their wariness of predators. Their ability to sense trouble or that something just isn’t quite right, makes them a difficult task for any fisherman. To catch trout in numbers on a consistent basis takes a tremendous amount of dedication, knowledge, and determination. In short, it takes hours and days logged on the stream by yourself before you really start to see things click.
In Wisconsin, the trout season begins on the first Saturday in March (3/3/12) and ends on September 30. With Spirit Streams based out of Coon Valley, WI, we are walking distance to one of the top trout streams in the nation. That being the Timber Coulee stream complex. This complex includes Timber Coulee Creek, Bohemian Valley Creek, Spring Coulee Creek, Rullands Coulee Creek, and Randall Coulee Creek. You can get to all of these streams within 10 minutes of each other and each one provides a different feel. In my mind, the Timber Coulee Watershed is one of the premier watersheds of the Driftless Area. If you disagree, spend just one day with me and you’ll be a believer.
On March 3, 2012, we began the year on a section of the Timber Coulee complex. By the end of the morning 15 trout were tallied on my calendar. We hit another section in this same area the following day on March 4; another 8 tallied on my calendar. By the end of March, I only got on the stream for a total of six outings, but managed 91 trout for the month. Not too bad, but I knew I had to pick up the pace in the months to follow.
- April: 10 outings; 129 trout
- May: 14 outings; 173 trout
- June: 15 outings; 178 trout
- July: 8 outings; 122 trout
The dog days of summer in July and the first half of August really limited the outings, but after July the total count was at 693 with just two months left. At that point, I was feeling fairly confident knowing that the prime September month was ahead where the brown trout feed furiously before their spawning action begins in October.
To this point, I was able to cover many different streams in the Wisconsin Driftless Area and extensively discovered the entire Timber Coulee complex. But it was now time to switch it up a little bit. We planned a trip out to Pennsylvania and to the Catskill Mountains of New York the last two days of July into the first week of August. We are originally from Pennsylvania (around the Wilkes Barre area), so we had family we wanted to visit and streams we wanted to explore. I was younger when we moved to Wisconsin but my father, Jim Martin (who is the other half of the Spirit Stream team), spent the majority of his time growing up and into adulthood mastering and discovering all that the Pennsylvania trout streams had to offer. This trip was a homecoming for him and a new experience for me. Destination #1: The Beaverkill River near Roscoe, NY.
The Beaverkill River is considered the birthplace of American Fly Fishing and as soon as you enter the closest town, Roscoe, NY, it screams fly fishing! It is here where fly fishing comes first, everything else comes second…exactly as it should be.
As we drove parallel the river, we passed pool after pool. At each of these pools, there was an historical marker which provides the name of the pool and the purpose behind the name. Many of the fly fishing legends walked these same banks in search of the elusive trout. Legends such as the great Theodore Gordon. You can easily become consumed by all of the history that this river has to offer, but once you wade into the river and gracefully place your dry fly on the river’s surface it becomes you and you become it. Everything else disappears and you are left surrounded by nothing but nature and God.
The pool we settled on first was Cairn’s Pool, which is quite possibly the most famous pool in all of trout fishing, being several hundred yards long and producing good hatches of virtually every insect that lives in the Beaverkill. Normally this pool and most of the river is lined with fly fisherman, but it was hard to find a soul on the river over the couple days we spent there. The weather had been very warm over several days causing the water temperature to remain elevated; and all the locals were quick to tell us that the trout would be few and far between. Adding another layer of difficulty to an already difficult sport.
After about twenty minutes from our first casts in Cairn’s Pool, I glanced downstream and noticed the familiar curve in my father’s rod. He quickly motioned for me to come his way. I knew it had to be something big. It was quite a trek to wade down to where he was, but then I saw the head and tail of this beautiful large brown trout emerge from the water. After a 15-minute fight, he was out of energy and beached. The trip was already considered a success; a 25 inch brown trout on size 18 dry fly in the heat of summer, who would have seen that coming on the great Beaverkill? Later, this trout became known as George.
It took several minutes to revive George, but the big boy slowly made his way back into his deep hole. This was just the beginning of a magical and almost surreal experience on this great river.
The Beaverkill requires you to do just about everything right. The cast has to be perfect, the float has to be perfect, the fly has to match the hatch, and it needs to float directly over the feeding lane otherwise don’t expect to see a glimpse of action. Throughout the following day, we discovered several pools and landed a few nice trout. Later in the day, we retreated to a pool that we knew had a chance to yield major results. It had the perfect “feeding trough” and soon we found ourselves in the middle of prolific hatch. Multiple browns started rising down the entire length of this pool and we promptly landed several nice trout in short order. I’ve never seen such intense feeding but knew it wouldn’t last long.
I saw a noticeably larger trout rising near the opposite bank and threw a cast in its direction. A bit too far. Threw another cast. He was a taker. Had him on for what seemed to be an instant before he escaped back into his run. After bringing my line in, I noticed that the fly was gone. It was now dark, but the trout were still feeding furiously. Calling it a night now wasn’t an option. I didn’t have my headlamp on me but luckily the moon was full. I pulled another size 14 dry fly from my fly box and lifted it up to the moon. Wrapped the line around a few times and clinched it down. Naturally, the next cast prompted another trout. This one was heavy. It took a ten minute fight before he was landed. Got a few pictures and was just about to release him before a thought crossed my mind. I looked in the trout’s mouth and sure enough, there was the fly I had just lost. Talk about getting the fly back the hard way!
Yep, magical time on the Beaverkill River.
After exploring a handful of streams within the Appalachians of Pennsylvania, we traveled back home to the Driftless. It was August 15 and the trout count was now at 758. A month and a half left, 242 trout remain. The “August Onslaught” was set to begin.
It was time to intensely focus on the matter at hand. I still had my full-time job consuming the majority of my time, but most nights over the next couple weeks were spent on the stream. It was go time!
- 8/19/12: 12 trout
- 8/20/12: 21 trout
- 8/21/12: 14 trout
- 8/23/12: 7 trout
- 8/24/12: 10 trout
- 8/25/12: 51 trout (morning and night outings)
- 8/26/12: 34 trout
- 8/29/12: 17 trout
- 8/31/12: 9 trout
The “August Onslaught” produced 175 trout, bringing the total to 933. Things were looking up.
The first two weeks of September were brutal. It was a very busy time at my job, where I was putting in consecutive 60+ hour weeks and only saw one day on the stream. So here I was on September 15 sitting at a total of 944 trout. As I was driving to the chosen stream, something told me that today is the day. That today will be “The Finisher”. Sometimes you just get those subtle feelings/voices. Most people let them pass, but those who listen and react appropriately are always rewarded.
My confidence was flying sky high and the stream I chose for that day was one of the purest streams in the Driftless Area. Upon arrival, it was 8:00 am; the air was perfect, the trico hatch was on, the stream temperature was prime, and the fire was in my eyes. Three and a half hours later, 58 trout were landed, all on a size 18 dry fly. The destination had been reached.
Remember though, this was about more than just landing 1,000 trout, it was about taking my fly fishing journey to the next level. I was able to be on the stream more this year than any other year past. This helped to drastically improve my ability to hunt trout and thoroughly understand the various insect life cycles. I was also able to discover more than 25 different streams. But the most important measure of success for any season is if you can positively answer this question: Have I developed a greater appreciation and love for fly fishing and gotten closer to understanding its true definition? After a season like the one I just experienced, that one is easy.
The destination for 2012 may have been reached, but this is just another chapter added to the journey. Now everyone asks me, “What’s next?,” or “How can you possibly top 2012?”. I reply simply, “Discovering the Unknown, that’s what’s next.”
The ultimate destination still remains and will always remain.
– Nate Martin, Spirit Streams
Postscript – Selected 2012 Trout Season Statistics
- Time Period: 3/3/12 – 9/15/12
- Total Trout Caught: 1,002
- Average Number of Outings on Stream per Week: 2
- Average Number of Trout Caught per Outing: 15
- Most Trout Caught during a Single Morning (let alone an entire day): 58 – “The Finisher”
- Largest Trout Caught: 19 inch Brown Trout (2) – one on a #14 dry fly, the other on a #18 dry fly
2012 Trout Season: In Pictures
A compilation of pictures taken in The Driftless Area, Northeast Wisconsin, The Beaverkill River, and Pennsylvania. The Driftless Area is shown as a slideshow, while the other galleries are listed below. Enjoy!
The Driftless Area:
The Beaverkill River: