Monday, November 8, 2010

Passing on the bird-hunting tradition

My son Dave has hunted with me since he was a little kid. I used to take his sisters and him with me on antelope trips. The girls outgrew their interest in those outings, but Dave continued to tag along until he turned 12 and could hunt himself.

His early hunts were for pheasant with a single-shot .410, which was replaced with a .20 gauge barrel the next year. A few years later, he received a .20 gauge pump shotgun with choke tubes for Christmas. That's the gun he still shoots.

We hunted pheasant together today. This is the first season he hasn't been eligible for Wyoming's youth hunts because he turned 18. But it's also the first season we can hunt together, rather than me just guiding him and handling the dog on the youth hunts.

Today wasn't a typical hunt with Dave, who is usually a deadeye shooter. He got the first bird that went up and by the time we broke for lunch, he had two pheasant in his game pouch. But then a streak of poor shooting and missed shots ensued. He was getting frustrated, but I tried to let him know that these streaks hit everybody.

At the last spot we parked, we heard a rooster cackle. I was eating a sandwich, so Dave and Xena took off in the direction of the cackler. They pushed him into some cattails where he soon launched himself. Dave knocked him down and Xena made a good retrieve of the wounded bird. It was a great ending to a nice November day. The only blemish on the outing was the rattlesnake I nearly stepped on.

I like hunting with Dave. My dad took me a few times when I was a teen, but I don't remember ever having any success.

But I still hunt with my father's Remington 1100. I also hunt with my grandfather's Winchester Model 12 and Browning semiautomatic. I like to think that someday these guns will be taken afield by Dave and his son.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last chance for fall brown trout?

Our wonderful fall weather is running on borrowed time, so Sam and I headed for a local lake yesterday to cash in on some November brown trout. When I was there a couple mornings before, the lake had ice extending out about 50 yards in places. But this day was warm and sunny, with afternoon temperatures probably in the 50s. Not bad for Nov. 6 at nearly 8,000 feet.
The morning started promisingly. I landed two browns on egg patterns and had a few other hits. Sam nailed a few on wooly buggers from his favorite spot off a point of the lake.
Then it slowed down, and we decided to take a break. Back at the vehicles, we pitched lawn chairs between our rigs to get out of the wind that had picked up. The sun felt great, and beer and lunch felt great, too. We listened to Colorado blow a 45-17 lead to Kansas, watched other anglers through binoculars, and had a few laughs at other people's expense.
I was thinking about a nap, but Sam brewed up some coffee and, refortified with energy, we returned to the water around 3:30.
Our timing was perfect. The trout had moved closer to shore, and we enjoyed steady action on buggers. By 6 o'clock, it was getting dark, and the water was getting cold. We quit, glad for yet another fall day on the water.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November surprise: Trout still looking up

Fishing is full of surprises, and this fall has brought probably the most unexpected surprise of all. Back in August, I accidentally discovered that large rainbow trout in a lake would hit grasshopper fly patterns even though there had been no visible surface-feeding activity. This dry-fly action continued through September and October with bows up to 24 inches inhaling the hoppers.
All along, I kept wondering how long this unusual behavior would last, figuring it would shut down any day. It's weird enough to catch fish that size on dry flies, but even stranger when they're still hitting hoppers after numerous freezes and even a snowstorm had killed all of the naturals.
So on Nov. 1, I decided to head to this lake once more to see if by chance the big bows were still looking up for hoppers. My first cast answered that question as a nice fish lazily rose to my fly, and I missed the hookset. A half hour later, I managed to hook another big bow, but after a couple powerful runs, he got into the weeds and broke me off.
I moved to the other side of the lake to take advantage of the wind and soon hooked up with the bow in the above photos, this time managing to bring him to net.
I never expected dry fly action at 7,000 feet in Wyoming in November. If the lake doesn't freeze by then, will December bring more of the same?