The Dry Run
Though our alarms went off at 5:30 AM on Friday morning, we took our time preparing for our final day of pre-fishing. Having put in eight-plus hours (and over nine miles!) on the water the prior afternoon, we both realized that it was in our best interest to dial down the intensity as we prepared for our dry run. Two days of fishing that counted were to follow, and exhaustion would not be to our benefit.
Instead, we sipped coffee and enjoyed almond croissants provided by my aunt (Jake’s mother) before heading on our way. It was enjoyable respite, if only momentary, and the caffeine certainly did its part to recharge me for the day.
Still we didn’t linger too long, and found ourselves sliding kayaks into the lake shortly before 8 AM.
Warmwater Round 2
Launching nearer the stretch of dead falls that we had fished late on our first day, we allowed ourselves a three-hour window to catch as many eligible warmwater species as possible. Largemouth, smallmouth, perch, crappie and sunfish were all of import, but Tiger Muskie remained our primary goal. While the other five could be found at numerous water bodies along our planned route, this site represented our only legitimate shot at a tiger.
Now armed with an intermediate line, I tied on the 1/0 Deceiver that had fared well the prior afternoon. Jake in turn tied a large white streamer, and we began alternating the lead position as we moved from dead fall to dead fall.
The bite that followed was fast and furious. Though plenty of hook sets were missed, and fewer pictures taken, we quickly checked off both species of bass. A sizeable, Deceiver-eating, yellow perch followed, and a nearby spin fisherman confirmed the presence of crappie for us as well. With three species landed, and a fourth confirmed, we were feeling confident in our plan.
At this point, we had been on the water less than 40-minutes and felt we were maintaining a more than competitive pace. Sunfish were plentiful at our launch site, so all that remained was the elusive Tiger. When my 7wt doubled over shortly there after, we were ecstatic.
Though no more than 22-24″, the young tiger put a significant bend in my rod and left me wondering if perhaps I was under gunned for such endeavors. Had the fish approached 40″, as they do in this lake from time to time, I’m not sure it would have ever made it to net.
Still, this one did. And after a brief photo shoot with my first Tiger Muskie, we returned to our launch victorious. A flip of a woolly bugger from shore checked off our Sunfish, and we were five fish in. Time on the water…45 minutes.
Making note of a small, unexpected brown trout cruising the shallows, we packed up and were on to our next location before 9 AM.
On to the Cold Water…with a few detours
While warmwater species represent a slight majority in The Mayfly Project’s 25 on the Fly, trout and associated cold water species still hold weight. With ten total gracing the list of eligible species (seven trout plus whitefish, grayling & sucker), there value should be fairly obvious. From our perspective, however, only three ranked among out must catch species: rainbow, brook & brown. Both common and accessible, these three fish qualified as must catch species if we were to compete. With this in mind, we headed northwest towards Jake’s home stream.
Confident that this small stream could offer up a few quick brook and brown trout, we detoured slightly along the way. Pausing first to check a local reservoir for yellow perch, before unsuccessfully scouting carp in a nearby pond.
Still we were on the water by 11:00 AM, and Jake had checked off three small browns and a large fallfish before my rod was even rigged. Adding one myself on a PT nymph (my first since 2019), we moved up stream.
Pausing at a small pool where Jake had caught brook trout in years past, he once again made quick work of our target species. The time was now just past 12:00 PM. And we had successfully checked off SEVEN (7!!) species in less than 4.5 hours!
Content to leave the remaining fish unmolested until morning, we headed for the car to review the remainder of our Day 1 plan.
Roughfishing and a Backup Plan
With seven of our primary targets down, we turned our attention towards common carp and the prospect of scouting a few additional warmwater locations before closing out the afternoon. While we had a few potential carp spots in mind, we quickly settled on a shallow, muddy stretch of waterway with multiple access points not far removed from our route.
The decision proved itself a positive one quickly as numerous carp were quickly sighted cruising among the submergent vegetation. Casting proved difficult, however, as trees lined the early stretches of water and a 10′ fence at our backs robbed me of a handful of flies.
As we continued on, however, the waterway shallowed and widened into a substantial mudflat. Vegetation was sparser in this stretch and numerous carp cruised and fed in the shallow water.
We proceeded to work the flat for an hour before acknowledging defeat. Though our flies drew the attention of numerous sunfish and bass, they simply weren’t of interest to the large bottom feeders as they churned the substrate. Admittedly two did turn for a Clouser’s Swimming Nymph, but not with enough conviction to strengthen my confidence.
In the end, we agreed to let the fish rest and made our way back to the car.
Knowing When to Call it a Day
It was 2:30pm by the time we were again on the road, and little remained to be done on this final day of preparation. We had checked off seven species in our first four hours and confirmed at least two additional. There were still a few back up locations that warranted our attention, but we largely made quick work of these. In fact, few in any casts were made at any.
Our Day 1 game plan had proven itself, and our Day 2 visit to Rhode Island allowed for numerous contingencies if needed. Following a quick stop at the local fly shop, we called it a day before 5pm.
We were both in desperate need of warm showers, cold beer and a good nights sleep before the fun really began.