With rain and high winds keeping me off the water mosta the week, I decided to do a little boatless fishing and take a walk on the wild side with WWW political correspondent Sarah Palinen, paying Woodtick Crick a visit on the full moon.
The wind had been whistling all day, but died down to barely a ruffle in the treetops as we tugged on our hipboots and waded into waist-deep ferns, then up to our armpits in Joe Pyeweed and every species, make and model of goldenrod known to man. When you come up for air covered with purple and yellow pollen like Mardi Gras body paint, you know you're there.
"You can't get to the brookies without doing a little bushwhacking, but it's no place to be if you've got hay fever," said Sarah, 'That's why they call them sneezeweeds.' She may not always know what she's talking about, but adds a hint of intrigue, political and romantic interest to the column.
These Elysian fields alone are worth taking a walk on the wild side for; everything is growing wild and in full bloom; fleabane, foxglove, fireweed, thistle, yarrow and Queen Anne Lace adorn the banks of the crick.
Bright red mountain ash berries and partridgeberries, white birch and popple aspiring to be birch glow in the last rays of the evening sun; salmon-tinted clouds the color of brookie flesh reflect in the dark water. Vivid cobalt blue dragonflies mate in mid-air.
A possessive kingfisher flits from branch to branch scolding us for trespassing on his brookie crick. We duck down in the tall grass, out of the sight of a wary great blue heron stealthily spearfishing the shallows at the edge of the shadows, apparently so used to hearing the kingfisher complain, he pays it no mind.
It's bewitching hour for brookies, the last hour of daylight as the sun slips behind the trees leaving the stream and banks in shadow. These deep, dark meadows are home to brookies the size of beer bottles in water the color of Leinie Creamy Dark. They've taken cover and hidden beneath undercut banks all day, but will come outa hiding for a juicy well-presented hopper, halfa crawler, or the provocative flash of a small Swedish Pimple, Mepps or Panther Martin spinner.
Brookies prefer moving, cold, well-oxygenated water, but this time of year, they're not fussy and will settle for any water that's deep enough to cover their backs and keep the ticks off.
'Every brookie crick has ticks,' said Sarah, 'but checking for them is half the fun."
Woodtick Crick flows through long-abandoned farm fields gone to seed, fragrant apple orchards and tall stands of lush ferns just now turning brown. Some stretches are deep meadows with thimbleberries lining her banks. Another stretch rolls through woods with riffles, rapids and plunge pools; Another protected by impenetrable tag alder and blackberry bramble with thorns that puncture your hip boots, waders and flesh.
You'd think with such a bumper croppa hoppers, the brookies would be well fed and off the bite, but no. This is hybrid fishing and here's why; I consider a hopper both live bait and a dry fly in that it sits on toppa the water, albeit not for long; a twitch or two and the wake of a hungry brookie shoots out from a deeply undercut bank, inhales the hapless hopper, then disappears back where he came from. You set the hook and feel the big yank. The line vibrates in your hand as he splashes to the surface. We hit a hot bite where every hopper we cast upon the water got hammered and we went home with a half dozen keepers, the key ingredient to a brookie, brie and broccoli omelette.
Like most Finns and Yoopers in general, I'm hardwired with a genetic predisposition to be pragmatic," said Sarah. 'I'm not as conservative as those Tea Party types, but you can't get any more frugal than trapping your own minnows, picking your own crawlers, and catching your own hoppers, she added. 'You won't catch many city girls doing that, unless they happen to be from Copper City.'
WWW Outdoor Calendar:
Saturday, 2-8 p.m., Copper Country Chapter Trout Unlimited Billy Lehtinen Memorial Summer Social & Steak Picnic, Camp Christopherson near Redridge. TU members and families and the public invited. Dinner $10, kids $3. Info and reservations, Tom Rozich, 482-2422.
Saturday, Carl Olson Memorial Adventure Trail Run, Chassell Classic Ski Trails keweenawtrails. com, 482-9669.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.