Our Outdoors: Cream of the Crop

By Nick Simonson

A shellacking. A beatdown. A butt-whooping.  All these terms paled in my young mind when describing a drubbing on the baseball field when compared to the term “getting creamed.”  That descriptor suggests that the opposing team had swung their bats so mightily and so frequently and with such success that they converted our pasty-white, pre-summer milky makeup into slow-moving whipped cream on the diamond.  While disappointing to be on the end of such a creaming, it made the idea of a slice of apple pie and some Cool Whip seem like a pretty good consolation prize after such a game.  While some of my summer rec teams were the Bad News Bears while growing up and some were more akin to the success of the rag-tag Sandlot nine, the phrase always remained one of my favorites for describing any blowout win – from either side of the box score.

This past weekend, however, it took on a different meaning as stocked trout hit the waters around the region. I’m not going to lie, I feel the slightest twinge of guilt going after these fish, but they are so fun and willing to bite on just about any fly or lure.  Starting off with a black woolly bugger, I managed a handful of the mixed rainbow and brown trout that had been recently dropped in a small prairie impoundment.  Moving to a more reliable brown bugger with a rainbow beadhead, I nabbed a couple more and a nice smallmouth mixed in.  For the rises I was seeing, and for the schools of fish that were beginning to disburse from the north end of the lake where they were placed, however, I felt the action should have been faster.  Thinking that maybe they were acclimating, I made one more switch for the afternoon that brought me back to the top of my streamer box, and a season a few months prior.

These woolly buggers were tied with some of the cream-shaded marabou from a late season pheasant. Simonson Photo.

Each December, I harvest one late-season rooster pheasant that has the pelt to beat all pelts.  The feathers are full and vibrant for the purpose of tying wings and bodies, the tail is often long and trimmed with lavender for the best possible nymphs, and the underside marabou is thick and luxurious and comes in multiple hues – black, gray, brown, bronze, and yes, even cream.  While I don’t inspect the feathers that closely at the time I bag the bird, I know it when I see it and mark that rooster to be processed carefully when we return home, saving the skin for my offseason fly tying efforts.

So it was last winter, when I plucked a few cream-tipped marabou feathers from below the rump of a pheasant and tied them in as a tail at the back of a brown-sparkle beadhead bugger. I admired how they stood out, much lighter than the bronze hackle of the fly and set the pattern apart from its contemporaries in my fly box.  I think I managed a couple more of them with the light beige feathers before moving on, and likely sacrificed one of the flies in early spring panfishing adventures this year. 

Tying on the pattern to the end of my tippet, I hauled back and sent the fly line rolling out over the surface.  It was as if lightning had struck the water and it seemed like every rise I cast to produced a hit, and even when I missed them, the fish seemingly came back for the offering until they were hooked.  In the final hour, I lost count of the trout that came to hand, but it was easily in double-digits and the once fresh cream-tailed bugger began to look pretty whipped as I called it more than a successful day.  While I put “tie more cream buggers” on my list of things to do for the night, life got in the way and the two remaining patterns didn’t multiply, despite the success.

John Paczkowski of Bismarck with his first trout on the flyrod, coming on a cream tailed woolly bugger. Simonson Photo

Leaving a voicemail with the report for my buddy John, who is learning the fly rod and always up for an afternoon of angling, I suggested with a similar calm, sunny forecast for the following day, we should meet up and fly fish, and through texts confirmed the outing.  I arrived early at the lake and fished a small shallow stretch while waiting for him, and with each cast of the cream-tailed bugger, the water churned with action.  By the time John got free from work and was at the launch, I’d caught and released a dozen.  Picking him up at the dock and assessing his leader and fly selection, I added a length of tippet and tied on the well-worn bugger for his use and found the best remaining approximation for myself.  From that point on, we tested the ten-run rule, and blew right through it.  John caught both his first rainbow on the fly, followed by a hard-fighting brown, and then more as his casts began to come together and the rewards of just getting out and practicing were flashing and flipping before us.  By the time we finished, we had caught and released countless trout.  On his second-to-last fish, the hackling broke loose from the collar of the fly and was hanging back from the body and the tail.  I simply snapped it off and told him to just cast the featherless bugger back out.  With the cream marabou tail still intact, his final trout of the day slammed it and came to the boat, testament to the fly’s continued magic.

While we slowly motored to the launch to load up, throwing our last few casts with our streamers, we discussed the reasons why that color seemed to be particularly effective and settled on the idea that the hue likely matched the color of the pellets the fish were fed in their rearing facility before stocking.  While it wasn’t exactly matching the hatch as the term is used in the parlance of long rodders, it sure whipped the trout into a frenzy and provided for a day we could both describe as a solid win…in our outdoors.

Featured Photo: A large holdover brown fell to the allure of a cream-tailed woolly bugger the author offered up. Simonson Photo.

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