One of my passions in life is fly fishing--something I acquired from my grandfather before he died. I've been fishing bluegill ponds for years with great success. This Spring Break, however, a friend and I decided to take our fly fishing to new heights and head to Northeast Iowa in search of trout. Trout streams aren't what you would call "native" to Iowa, especially in the Southern part, but I've been hearing about the Northeast streams for years. We headed up to Delaware County with three streams in mind:
It is important to note before this experience that I have done NO trout fishing of any sort. I've done a fair amount of reading, however, and I certainly realized it would be one of the hardest types of fishing I've ever done, especially with a fly rod. We entered into Bailey's Ford after a three and a half hour drive with extremely high hopes. On our first trip down the stream, we were greeted by the visual of trout in the water. After intense reading and discussion with those who have made the trip themselves, we decided on an arsenal of wooly buggers in both brown and black. We spent roughly three or four hours at the stream with no luck at all. We had a few fish chase the fly and one solid bite, but no luck.
Our next stop was the stream connected to the Manchester Hatchery. Right out of the car, we visually saw HUNDREDS of trout lining the sides of the stream. This was more than pleasing to us, and we were eager at the opportunity to fish. After placing the flies in the water, we could clearly see it would be more difficult than we had imagined. If we were lucky, a fish would follow the fly, but often times the fish would simply swim away at the first glimpse of it. I actually managed to catch my first trout--a 13 inch brown trout off a dry fly.
The rest of the evening was spent at useless attempts to catch my first rainbow trout, but no luck. My friend managed to catch a couple rainbows and one brook trout. The next day, I struck out on fishing, not even getting a bite the entire day. My friend caught on to a little tip which assisted him in landing a few fish during the day: weight down the fly. He did this at first with a piece of split shot, making it unable to cast like a conventional fly. When we retired for the evening, we took to making new flies with a lot more weight.
Our last day, we decided to head to Richmond Springs. This was by far the most disappointing trip. Richmond Springs lies in Backbone State Park in Delaware County. Our first problem with this site: Nothing was labeled. We're lucky we even found the stream. All the gates were closed going into the park, making a very long and treacherous hike. We eventually found the stream, but only actually saw one fish and not as much as a nibble on the flies.
On the last day, we headed back to Manchester Hatchery and pulled in a few more trout, but nothing with a large enough size to keep (there was a 14" minimum in this stream).
While the weekend wasn't a total loss, I do have one complaint: There appears to be a huge class issue with my fellow fly fishermen. I'll admit, I haven't spent a TON of money on my fly gear. I'm a college student with outstanding loans and little income. Most of my equipment is meant for function in the field, and I daresay it suits me well. I find it odd, however, that just because I wasn't decked out in the latest waders, fly vest, and designer fly fishing hat, I didn't get the time of day from the fishermen who were. This being my first trip to the streams, I was personally looking for helpful tips and friendly conversation with those I encountered. Only one man was actually willing to talk with us about fishing over the whole weekend. They seemed to be cheerful to those of their own kind, but definitely not to us. Apparently blue jeans, hunting boots, Rolling Stones sweatshirt and a baseball cap doesn't qualify me as a "real fly fisherman." If by any odd chance you find yourself reading this and decide this might be you...STOP IT. If you want to be a real outdoorsman, open up your mind to a new emerging generation of outdoorsman. And come on...can we not make it about money?
Overall, the experience was worthwhile. It is always fun to test new waters, especially in fly fishing. Will I go back? Maybe...the output wasn't nearly as worthwhile as I imagined. It is difficult to commit myself when hundreds, if not thousands of fish are in the streams and ignore my flies for almost three days. On the plus side, the scenery was beautiful...and it is always nice to get outside during Spring Break.