TRIP THREE: MISSISSIPPI RIVER
I left Thursday, August 20, 2009, for the third of my "Back-to-Back-to-Back” smallie trips. I rode with Ken Hammer, an investment adviser with the Royal Bank of Canada. Our destination was the Riverwood Inn, an event center, in Otsego, MN on the banks of the Mississippi above Minneapolis.
We joined trip organizer Joseph Meyers of One More Cast fly shop and five other anglers. Friends Donna and PJ Smith are landscape designers at the Morton Arboretum. Donna is an FFF certified casting instructor. PJ just got his Wisconsin guides license.
I fished recently with Joseph, PJ and Donna on an evening trip to a private largemouth lake in Indiana. We had great fishing from dark until almost ten that night. A cold front came through and dropped the temperature and the bite shut down. But not before I caught eight nice bass on a weedless deer hair popper. We might have caught a few more but they were swallowing the fly so deep that carefully removing the hook with a flashlight was a two man operation which slowed us down.
Friend Steve Culen is a retired union president and former medical college trustee. Steve and I have fished together before in Canada. We’ve also fished together on the Menominee, Flambeau, St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers during a four rivers in five days trip, that was aptly known as the Trip from Hell, due to the evening drive from river to river, then driving home the last night arriving exhausted at 2 A.M.
Bob Harris, an investment advisor and friend Deb Stange rounded out the group.
Kip Vieth, from Wildwood Float Trips, and three of his guides provided the Clacacraft drift boats that were to carry us on the mighty Mississippi for the next three days.
Last year on the previous Mississippi trip, Ken Hammer caught two six pound class smallies. A replica mount of one of these fish now hangs on a wall in Ken’s home. This year Donna caught another big smallie for top fish of the trip.
The day before we arrived, Minneapolis was struck by a tornado and heavy rains. The river was relatively cold with some floating sediment for most of our trip and the fish were off their feed and hard to locate and pattern.
The first day’s fishing was some of the most difficult for fly casting I’ve ever encountered due to very strong winds. We managed to catch a few on poppers and a few on weighted streamers but the fishing was disappointing. The next day the wind died down but the fish were not hitting. The third day was warm and sunny but the fish still were not cooperating.
We fished Friday, Saturday and Sunday and left for home at three o’clock on Sunday. A traffic jam between Madison, Wisconsin and the Illinois border caused a massive backup. Ken and I inched along for an hour until Ken turned off the interstate at the Edgerton exit. We drove down through Janesville and Rockford before cutting back onto the interstate and arrived home at midnight. The others stuck it out on the interstate and arrived home at 2 A.M.
The continuing cool summer cooled off the top-water popper bite. Smallies seem to hit poppers best in hot whether. Perhaps it’s because their metabolism is at its highest when it’s hot.
I have plans for a smallie day on the Milwaukee and maybe I’ll still have time for some days on the Fox and Kankakee. But I’m starting to run out of summer and salmon and steelhead time are coming.