The Field Report
- Arrival: ~8am, Departure: ~4:30pm
- Airtemp: Arrival ~35ºF, Departure ~42ºF
- Wind: NW 18mph at 8am slowing to 8mph at 4pm
- Water Temps: ~12:30pm 39ºF, ~2:45pm 41.5ºF
- Midge in the snow at 10:30am, Rising trout at 1:15pm
Wendy B. and I met roadside a bit before 8am under sunny skies. The wind was predicted to be a beast for the early morning hours dying down as the day wore on. We chose a spot that did not compliment the wind well, right in our faces for most of the day. With that said it posed minimal comfort issues but made casting a pain in the ass. After hiking in a ways we broke up and began casting nymphs. I played around with a #12 Hairball (tan) trailed by a #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud for a majority of the day. I know we sent most the fish at the first few places scattering, the wind was a hindrance the first hour or so. Winona County was under a wind advisory until 9am on the 14th. Just ask my 50ft white spruce that came down while I slept the night before.
Fishing was a bit slow the first couple of hours, we hiked and fished looking for good places to get out of the wind and into the sunshine, had their been no wind I would have been in a t-shirt most of the day. We sat on a few runs and I eventually landed a fish around 10am. Picking up a couple nymphing, the #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud out fished the #12 Hairball 2:1 easy over the course of the day. Wendy B. was successful with a #14 Orange Scud earlier in the day. We hiked upstream, the plan was to fish a while then access a second stream to finish the day out.
At site two I took an initial water temp and checked the rocks. Interesting how one stream will put off midge like crazy and the next puts off tiny black stones in large quantities. We had hoped to find a reason to fish this second site as far as the winter regulations would allow but after half a mile we hadn’t found what we were looking for. At 12:30pm we stopped in the sun and out of the wind to make lunch. I often want to bring lunch and stop to eat but rarely do, today the longer hours and distance travelled through thick wet snow almost demanded re-fueling. I managed to bust out a crude fire in the snow with a lighter and what nature had to offer around me in a reasonable amount of time. Wendy prepped kindling while I prepped the site and got the tinder needed to get flames roaring. Fifteen minutes later we were stuffing hot dogs topped with all the fixings down enjoying the moment in the snow. Trash packed away and fire covered with a foot of snow we busted out to find a trout, a decent lunch in less than thirty minutes.
We thought for a bit about hiking a ways and fishing something we both knew but decided instead to peek around the corner, glad we did. Once back on-stream we noticed rising trout almost instantly, consistently rising trout, launching trout. After watching a handful of brown trout propel out of the water we dropped our gear to rig 18inches of 6x tippet with a #20 Midge Dryfly. A few minutes later on my second drift a smaller brown came up for my #20 Jujubee Midge. We thought about splitting up but if done properly back to back trout dry fly fishing can be fun with a friend. The one who wasn’t fishing was taking pictures and landing trout with the net. I continued with the Jujubee midge but found that once the CDC wing was slimed the fly was useless. I believe it has its place in my box for finiky trout that demand the look and behaviour of this fly, the first two drifts showed why CDC can be so effective. I opted for a #20 Midge that had hackle rather than CDC for the wing/legs. We continued catching nicer back to back browns ranging from 10-13inches over the course of the next hour or so, we would have landed more if the wind hadn’t fouled
a fair number of casts up. Nothing like watching your leader and tippet blown straight back at you as your line is laying down on the creek, it could have worse though. The dry fly hour can make a day, it did this day. The trout ceased rising at ~2:30pm, the water temp was 41.5ºF. We continued upstream swinging streamers through a few deeper sections with minimal results.
On my suggestion we opted to hike 95% of the way back out and round out the day sitting on a few runs. This was maybe not the best choice, we busted ass through the snow and by the end we were both pretty beat. We split up and each took a spot. I swapped my rig to the #12 Hairball (tan) trailed by the #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud and began picking off brown after brown. The nymphing was almost as good as dry fly fishing, I couldn’t keep the fish off my line had I tried. A couple of times I lost a fish as it struck my flies emerging from the water as I prepared to cast again. In forty minutes I must have managed close to dozen brown trout from 8-12inches and one pushing 13inches from the single run. I lost twice that for sure, takes ranged from aggressive to sluggish making it difficult to anticipate a strike, sometimes your line would twitch and others it would come to a very slow stop. The sun began to hide behind clouds and the air temp seemed to drop a bit signaling the end of the day.
The Bug Report:
With the warmer weather I spent a bit of time checking rocks, beginning the count and assessment of the hatches for the coming season. I hope to get out to a few places I’ve caught decent mayfly and caddis hatches the last two years to check the rocks and see where I should concentrate my efforts come spring. I can tell you now that the Dark Hendricksons are on the rocks. Ephemerella Subvaria were pretty thick on the creek we fished, the wing pads still have a ways to go before they are mature enough to hatch but provided we don’t get major flooding the Dark Hennies should be good to go. Other bugs spied…everything! This creek is alive. Caddis larva of all kinds, Maccafertium nymphs (either Light Cahills or March Browns), Giant Water Beetles and Leeches all clung to rocks I examined.