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20 March 2006
'Secret Creek' fishing report [19 Mar 2006]

B with a monster 14-inch 'Secret Creek' brown troutB and I enjoyed a full weekend of fly fishing and fly fishing people. On Saturday, we drove across the state to the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo in Warren, MI. We had volunteered to spend a couple of hours at the Flygirls booth distributing information and selling raffle tickets and Flygirls merchandise. We saw lots of friends and made a few new ones while occupied there. Colleen, Nancy and Bill, Dorothy and Jim, Anne and Sandy were in and out taking turns at the booth. We chatted briefly with Bob Linsenman and the UP guys and a few other fly shop folks from around the state. If you can't go fishing, the next best thing is hanging around with these folks. Lefty Kreh and Bob Clouser were on hand giving a bunch of seminars and demonstrations, but I missed them all. We spent our 2 hours at the Flygirls booth and then spent another 2 hours taking in the rest of the booths, displays and people. One of B's flyshop friends is now a Sage rod representative and he invited us to try out Sage's new electronic casting analysis system. It works better than I thought it might - it actually made sense. My results were fairly symmetrical, but there's a small hitch in my backcast that explains my strong propensity for wind-knots even on calm days. (I think 'wind knots' must've been named by a very kind, unassuming fisherperson.)

On Sunday, we hit the road for 'Secret Creek' again. During the past week, we'd been hearing reports of incoming steelhead passing wiers and dams and fishermen around the state as a result of waning river levels following our recent rains. We figured there'd be a heavy crowd on most all rivers, so we headed for our favorite small stream hoping that the crowd might be on the light side. Overnight temperatures got down to a crisp 20 oF (6.6 oC), so we didn't head for the river too bright and early. We figured the cold night would cause the fish to be a bit inactive until the bright sun warmed up the water a bit, plus we weren't looking forward to chipping ice off our rod guides any more than absolutely necessary. We arrived at the stream at about noon and began to see vehicles parked at every access from the creek mouth upstream. Our favorite access has apparently become everyone else's favorite too; there were 11 cars parked there when we arrived. We kept on driving upstream a couple more accesses until we reached one without any traffic. Shoulder-to-shoulder combat fishing is not our preference. We parked, shimmied into our waders and, while we strung up our rods, another truck with a couple of friendly gentlemen pulled in. Friendly angler karma was in effect - we planned to head downstream and they were hoping to go up.

A beautiful 12-inch 'Secret Creek' brown troutIn this section, the small river winds through a narrow wetland at the foot of a series of gravelly hills. Hiking through the swampy flat along the river bank is fairly difficult. This is a stretch where we rarely encounter other anglers because few are willing to press on very far through the snaggy, snarly, brambly underbrush and squishy, muddy areas. It's not easy to thread a 9-foot fly rod through the tangle of branches and vines. The reward for all our trouble though, is bend after bend of fishy, sand and gravel-bottom water with lots of deep, tree-root covered holes and one big deep splashy hole at a man-made concrete overflow dam. We fished our way downstream, hopping from one good-looking spot to the next. The water was coming down from our previous outing and beginning to clear. Just past the first bend, we caught 3 nice brown trout, all on yarn eggs. B's was the fish of the day - a pretty 14" brown trout - a very nice fish for this little stream. We saw very little, if any, excavated gravel throughout this stretch. The steelhead do not appear to have actively begun any spawning preparations.

The day was much warmer than I'd expected. I'd dressed for a crisp, chilly day, but the bright sun made 40 oF quite comfortable. The afternoon was warm enough, in fact, that we enjoyed a pretty heavy stonefly hatch. At times, the number of 1" black stoneflies cascading down from the trees to the water surface approached a light snowfall. We were constantly wiping them off our face and neck. A few trout were actively smashing the surface, making a good meal of them. It was tempting to clip off the bobber, split-shot and egg/nymph setup and tie a Griffith gnat on a floating line and target the rising trout. But, I enjoyed just watching them. It was impossible to take 2 steps without stepping on the purple-spotted spathe of an emerging skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). It's apparently a bit early for marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) though; I didn't find any.

The 3/4 mile hike/wade back upstream was quite tiring. Struggling through the brush and mud eventually took its toll. We were tired and hungry by the time we got back to the road. The friendly fishermen were gone, but there were 2 new pickup truckloads of other anglers to take their place.

Fleece quotient: 1 heavy
Lost flies: 3 or 4
Ghosts-of-deer-past: 2
Wildlife sightings: various and sundry woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, red-tailed hawks, broad-winged hawks, wood ducks, grackles, black stoneflies (little and medium)
Steelhead: no action whatsoever
Air temperature: almost 40 oF
Water temperature: 40 oF
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Nein.
Enjoyment grade for the day: A-

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