I promised a “trip report” when I finally got back in the office, so here goes. I have been out of the office much more than in the office for the past two weeks, so to start this report you have to travel back in time to the last weekend in March. . . .
My kids had some time off from school so we got out of town for a few extra days. Of course we headed “out west” for some of the best Nebraska has to offer, and we visited family in North Platte and Valentine. Even though the weather was beautiful for several days before we left town, it was relatively cool and windy to begin our trip. If we had some nice weather we had some cool or even warm-water fish that we would have pursued, but I knew with the cold water temps. of early spring and cool, windy weather our best bet would be to go trout fishing. So for the first couple of days we headed up to Lake Ogallala.
The trout fishing on Lake Ogallala and associated waters is absolutely en fuego right now (a little Spanish lingo there, my high school Spanish teacher would interpret that as “on fire”). I have fished there for parts of four different days in the past two weeks and on three of those trips caught fish on my first cast. I am not sure how many fish my son, my dad and I have caught there on those trips because we did not keep track, but I am guaranteeing you it was dozens, 30+ fish days. The first day I hooked 3 fish on my first four casts. If I had been keeping fish, I would have limited out in less than 20 minutes. We have caught rainbows there all the way from 10-inchers that literally came off the stocking truck very recently all the way up to the biggest at 20 inches. The average size trout we have been catching there has been 14-15 inches with lots of fish over 17 inches. All of those fish are fat little piggies and the biggest fish we caught would have weighed near 4 pounds. I have over-dosed on Lake Ogallala trout in the past two weeks and I am telling you I wish I was right back there again today!!!!!!
Those fish have been gorging on cold-water stressed, 3-4-inch alewives and we caught fish on artificial baits that imitated those bait fish. Spoons and jigs accounted for most of the fish we caught, but I know folks were also catching fish on a variety of other popular trout baits. If you look close at my pictures, you will be able to tell exactly where we were fishing, but again I know folks have also been catching fish from Lake Ogallala itself and from the canal. You do not need me to tell you exactly where to fish and exactly what to fish with; get out there, get on the water and you will figure it out; the fishing is that good.
After a couple days in North Platte, we headed up to my cousin’s place above Fishberry Creek.
That is what it looked like when we got there. Here is what it looked like the next morning.
You can see my daughter and her guide bagged a real nice snow buck.
If you have fished very long, you have had trips where the weather ruined your plans. We intended to do more trout fishing, but while we were at my cousin’s place we had 5+ inches of snow, it snowed at least some for 3 straight days, and when we drove home to Lincoln we drove in snow, heavy at times, all the way home. I checked the roads one morning to see if we could head out to fish and they were snow-packed and icy and I was not going to drive very far in those conditions. So we stayed “in” and made the best of it. Yes, we had a lot more fishing we wanted to do, but our trips almost always include family too, and we spent lots of time with them playing cards, and eating “picnics” in the wall tent.
On Saturday evening two of my cousins and their families and me and my family attended the Sandhill Strikers chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation banquet. We all had a great time there and even won a few door prizes and raffle prizes. The National Wild Turkey Federation is another excellent conservation organization that I would highly recommend. They have chapters all over Nebraska, join one and get involved! http://www.nwtf.org/in_your_state/lists.php?STATE=NE .
At times it was hard to get around, but we managed a little sight-seeing.
I have head of frost on the pumpkin, and now I have seen frost on the bison.
And then we spotted a jackrabbit.
And now I have to tell a story. My son spotted the jackrabbit and I stopped and backed up so we could get a good look at it. My daughter was disappointed this one did not have antlers. My son and I told her that he had probably already shed his antlers. Ha.
My kids love hearing my “old man” stories, you know the ones about the “good ole days”. When I was a kid growing up in western Nebraska we saw literally hundreds of jackrabbits. It was nothing for us to run over 3 or 4 of them driving from our place four miles over to my great aunt and uncle’s place. We used to run over them and then pick ‘em up, slam their feet in the door and drag ‘em home to feed to the dogs. We do not see jackrabbits nearly as often these days, so when we see one we like to get a good look at it.
Another story for another time–ever seen the look on a Pennsylvania boy’s face when a jackrabbit takes off running in front of him?
I was busy last week and finally last weekend was back to North Platte for an outdoor expo they had there, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2011/03/outdoor-show/ . As always I enjoyed talking fishing with the folks, and when I was not fulfilling my obligations at the expo, I had a chance to run up and catch some more trout! I actually caught my two biggest of the last couple weeks while fishing there last Friday with my dad.
Dad finally caught a nice picture fish that afternoon, but I was just downstream of him with the landing net and did not hear him hollering at me. Sorry, dad. You will just have to take my word that he caught fish too.
My son and I did keep a few of those trout. I had a workshop last week and I needed some fish for a fish-cleaning class. So, we kept a few of the 14-15-inchers. They were darned good when we grilled them up; besides teaching how to clean the fish, I also taught the participants how to fix them. Those are the first trout caught anywhere that I have harvested in quite awhile. I like to smoke trout and will keep one or two now and then, the hardest part is getting them lit (sorry, just could not resist), but by far most of the trout we catch from fisheries that can support trout year-round are released, and we make a special point to release the big fish. I do that for selfish reasons, I want to catch those fish again, but if someone else has the opportunity to catch one of those “recycled fish” that is all good too! I would ask that you do the same for me!
One last comment before I shut up. I know gas prices are higher now than we would like, and that may impact some travel plans. Honestly, a trip around Nebraska is not all that much driving and since we are blessed to have family in several parts of Nebraska we can do a “spring break” trip relatively cheap. Every time I am able to do that, I come back home more convinced than ever that “There is no place like Nebraska”!