Woke at 3:45am on an air mattress with a dog snout in my face. Liz and I stayed at her parents house after a late evening dinner so I could be closer to optimum Trico water. I woke and readied my gear and mental state while Liz lay sleeping until 4:15am when I abruptly woke her with the line “Time to go, Trico’s wait for no one.” She dropped me of at Wendy B’s house at 4:35am then drove home to fall back asleep. Wendy B. and I left promptly for Trico rich trout water. Onstream at ~5:35am we rigged rods as the sun came up around us while drinking coffee and swapping stories. Once geared we assessed the creek and with no Trico’s about we headed downstream through head high grass wet with the morning dew. We hiked until it seemed we had put enough distance between us and the vehicle to make for a full morning. With the only visible bugs around being borderline microscopic and the fact that the Trico’s hadn’t made an appearance yet I rigged a #8 Olive SMB, third cast next to a small rock outcropping pulled a 10inch brown from the stream. Landing the fish I saw the first clear rise for a Trico. I took a water temp of ~62°F at 7:07am after the first rises were observed. Very few if any spinners were visible in the air, over the course of the next hour I tossed the SMB and a #8 Hairball with minimal success.
At ~8am the cloud began to form, this event is one to witness as photographs and video do the human eye no justice. Fish were surfacing in a regular rhythm but not at the boiling rate I was expecting to see. Wendy B. and I split up to fish runs with rising fish on them, shortly after I got my first of a handful on a #20 Trico Spinner I had tied last year for mornings just like this. From 8:30am until 10am fish were seen rising but getting a strike required precision and stealth, unlike the previous time I had witnessed this event the fish were skittish and would spook easily despite the bounty lying in the surface film. I could see them float past and yet the fish remained hesitant to take an imitation. I scooped a couple up for comparison and though my tails were a bit long and the body color Black rather than a Charcoal I thought my imitations were in the ball park. We moved further upstream after the cloud grew ever larger only to find another fella enjoying the spot we had planned to fish, the consequence was excellent. Forced to move on rather than disturb the other angler we fished upstream and saw water new to both of us. Trico’s were dying off in the upstream reaches but the handful of fish we found rising seemed much more receptive to our offerings, a creel was being filled in short order.
Somewhere around 10:30am the Trico’s all but disappeared, the only signs they were here were stuck in spiderwebs along the creek bank. A truly awe inspiring event to see a Trico spinner-fall. If you haven’t, I suggest setting the alarm clock and making this morning appointment, it’s worth it. With dry flies out and two fly nymph rigs in play Wendy proceeded to school me landing 5:1 easy on me, something was off and a particular tasty run gave up many fish to my friend but refused to let me land much more than a single 6inch brown despite my best efforts. The worst came when a dogger was hooked on my lead fly (#8 Hairball) only to escape when the 6inch fish mentioned above swooped in to tag the trailer (#16 Black PT), somewhere in the ensuing fight tension was released and the dogger swam away unscathed and un-photographed leaving me holding the 6inch fish. The consolation was that we both got to see the whole thing go down which more than made up for the lack of big brown stink on my hands. With the morning fading, the sun and temperature rising combined with creek chubs becoming ever more aggressive we called it a day and a good one at that. Thanks for the Trico trip Wendy, a good time as expected. This must become a yearly event, it is for the bugs and fish anyway, mid as well join in.
Fished a creek with Sershen yesterday, we’ve been able to get out a handful of times lately and it’s been good. I’ve advocated creek dueling with a friend before. I dig talking trout, tactics and everything else while fishing with a good friend. Everyone has that person who matches their style well and things just work, simple. Simple is good. Once onstream we hit the creek hard and hiked close to a mile downstream without stopping or checking the creek out much. We moved far from the banks and took in the forest around us. Cooler air temps have created excellent afternoon fishing this August with hoppers hopping and BWO’s popping.
I fished a #8 Yellow Hopper first hoping that the pasture we found ourselves in had seen its share of these creatures and the fish would readily rise for a big meal opportunity. My instincts were right on, shortly after dressing my fly to ride high I was into wild brown trout. We fished a larger creek offering with it the opportunity to spend an afternoon in knee deep water tossing flies, I typically avoid standing in the creek but if done properly one can take quite a few fish from a single run even standing next to your prey. A bruiser took a swipe at my fly as I drifted it through a small piece of pocket water, it came riding by quickly and I think he simply missed the mark. I enjoyed seeing his backside flashing me before he dove for the depths.
We took a handful of trout with Hoppers and Stimulators as we worked the pasture up, splitting runs apart back and forth was common place, we also randomly drifted apart at times to get entire riffle/run/pool sections alone. The depth of the water was pushing me to see what a streamer might produce but the lure of the rise had me and it took a while to put the SMB on. Eventually working through a forested section I switched flies and roll casted my streamer to the opposite bank as we moved upstream. A handful of BWO’s ranging from #18-22 were seen and netted in my hat but few fish were surfacing. Working a deep hole a couple brookies chose to give up a picture with the Sprinkle Me Baby, I love catching brookies and I love seeing it go down even more. I watched as my fly drifted deeper and deeper until a white mouth opened wide and with that a tight line.
We pushed on but the setting sun forced us off the creek and to water closer to home before the day would be done. The first stop gave up a brown and two rainbows in ten minutes while a swarm of mosquitoes took their toll on exposed flesh. These super skeeters cut through shirts, pants and even my buff. Normally bugs don’t bother me but this was the exception. Ten minutes was all I could handle and we were off to the last spot of the evening. On location we peered through the weeds to see a scant few stocker rainbows, my dinner stop. I knew a few were around and with previous experience at this spot I slapped on a #8 Hairball and a single splitshot. A nice roll cast to sink the fly as close to the weed line as possible follwed by a short dead drift into a swing resulted in a handful of rainbows for dinner. Bows take the Hairball all day long. I found a smaller 8inch fish that took my fly as I dapped it on its face to get hooked and off only to get right back in line for another round with the Hairball. I figured this fish would only give it up twice but a decent drift with a twitch at the end put him right back on my Hairball for a third and final time. With dinner in one hand, my rod in the other and the sun setting behind me we took off for home. Brown, Brook and Rainbow, damn Southeast Minnesota has been good to me.
Spent some time searching a new creek for the fabled “honey hole”. Guys talk about these secrets using code, the only way to find them? Get in and start hiking, simple as that. We always want the easy, the right in front of us, the too good to be true, put some work into it and it adds a whole new sense of worth and value this is true of most everything including trout hunting. Some of my most favorite places to be are places no human has been in a long time, when you are in these places you can feel it. A friend of mine and I decided to go searching yesterday. We hiked upstream noting fishy lies, numbers and specie of trout along with the sizes we were seeing. The goal here was not only to catch a fish but to find those spots no one else knows about.
Notable Happenings: Heath had his hopper stolen from him by a fish that turned and chased downstream after his fly only to smash it so hard it left with it stuck in its jaw. While hiking in the stream only three feet wide with 6+ft tall weeds all around us we woke something that left both of us re-thinking continuing on. Likely not a deer as we would have seen it bounding away. It was bigger, or it sounded bigger, maybe a coyote sleeping in the grasses? Several times we came to points of no return…we continued on.
The cooler air temp and lower humidity has made it a bit more manageable to get out during peak hopper hours. Heath and I have been fishing together since I began fishing for trout just over three years ago, he has been a sounding board for ideas and tactics, when we fish together we often stick close to one another and analyze flies, locations and presentations. The stream we fished was running gin clear and as we hiked downstream the five foot tall grass gave up the awe that is the plague. Hoppers, thousands in all colors and sizes, so many it bordered on the ridiculous if not the absurd. Rigged and ready we split up for a couple minutes, me with my Brown/Tan #10 Foam Hopper and Heath with what looked to be a #16 EHC. I took one on the second cast, a plop gave way to an aggressive strike from a 13inch brown. I fished back up to Heath and watched as his small EHC took a smaller Brookie, somewhere along the way Heath swapped to a hopper of his own and we progressed upstream. A short time later I heard something to the effect of “this is my first fish on a hopper.” Whaaaa?? A bit of floatant and a couple minutes later he fooled another, then another and another.
The rest of the afternoon was about as enjoyable a time I’ve had fishing since spring, taking turns casting big dry flies and enjoying the takes, splashy rises and sometimes awesome refusals. I eventually swapped to a #6 Brown/Yellow Foam Hopper simply because I was curious if the larger offering would produce larger trout. It produced one very nice fish that was improperly hooked and thus not landed, it also produced many, many taps and tugs from smaller fish. They were hitting the larger food item despite the fact they couldn’t fit it into their mouths, almost comical. Heath scored a rather nice looking brook trout to take the fish of the day and despite the fact that we had more time to fish we opted to head home. The heat was bearing down on us as a bit of cloud cover broke and we had gotten everything we came for. Fish the Driftless Area, Fish it Hard.
Post Note: A quick observation. How does a hopper end up in the creek? I figure one of three main ways, 1st the wind. 2nd, a disturbance in the grass like you or me… or cattle. Third, the random poor decision. I feel the first two are far more likely. So then it leads me to question: If cattle have recently come through and perhaps “primed” the creek by causing a handful of hoppers to become lunch will you have more luck as an angler because the fish have just had a consequence free meal? Or saw more hoppers in the creek in a shorter amount of time? Thinking out loud here.
Being of an analytic mind I enjoy spending time formulating hypothesis and attempting to test them under semi-scientific circumstances. During hopper season each year I tend to visit a single run for a couple hours a handful of times to hone and test some thoughts on fishing hoppers and patterns I’ve tied for the hoppers around here. At the creek with my line strung through my guides I searched the grass around the banks downstream for close to fifteen minutes counting the numbers and varieties of hoppers I could readily catch. The two pictured here came in the largest numbers with the Brown/Yellow out numbering the Green/Yellow by almost 2:1. This information is important and can help you catch more trout from a single run which was my goal: see how many fish could be taken from a single run with a hopper.
Matching the size, shape and color of the hopper matters more when attempting to fool several fish from the same spot, if you’ve got the time and the creek you can bounce from place to place taking one or two at each spot with a less-exact imitation but I’m of the opinion that the closer your imitation is to the natural the easier trout will be fooled time and time again even after seeing their friends surface for the bait only to meet a net in the end. I rated my hopper imitations pretty low on the accuracy scale with respect to the naturals I was seeing. My boxes contained hoppers of the correct size but the colors need a bit of tweeking, I didn’t have a yellow bellied foam hopper on me and both Green and Brown hoppers had yellow bellies. The Green on my hopper imitation is a bit off but maybe would work, the legs are totally wrong and should be adjusted for next time. The Brown hopper imitation was a bit more accurate and scored more points for the matching legs, the natural has barred orange and black legs. Yet the wing is too light, it may help me see the fly better but doesn’t help convince the trout. My assessment led me to fish the Brown hopper imitation first because I found twice as many of them and I had a better imitation with me. Pretty simple stuff here.
This riffle/run and mini-pool is roughly 20ft long, the riffle is about 6ft long and is deeper along the left side, this always holds between 1 and 3 Brown’s, don’t let the depth fool you they are there. The run is short between 3-4 feet and drops into the pool that runs roughly 10ft or so. Fish stack in the run below the riffle at a depth of a couple feet, when undisturbed they hang out here. Smaller fish hang back scattered in the pool. My assessment told me to stick my Brown hopper right at the bottom of the riffle just as it hit the run, my hopper would fly past the trout in the run quickly and they would be forced to make a decision. The first cast came after I positioned myself and waited a couple minutes to lull any disturbance I may have caused entering the creek. Sticking the cast a nice 13inch Brown surfaced almost immediately taking my hopper. I quickly backed the trout out and landed him in the riffle I was standing in. My eagerness typically gets the best of me and I want to get right back at it but in this case I forced myself to literally set my rod on the banks. I dried my fly, made sure my tippet wasn’t twisted from casting the bulky hopper and began searching for invertebrates. Scuds were the clear winner with all the instream vegetation around.
I waited for over five minutes before I touched my rod again. Logically, even under windy conditions, a hopper doesn’t fall or jump into the perfect spot on a run every minute let alone every thirty seconds which is what it would take if I just kept casting allowing my fly to drift back to me. My thought here is that less is more, way less… could be way more. I took aim and made my second cast but stuck it too far left in pool. I picked my cast up and waited another minute or two then sunk it in the same spot on the lower riffle, right into the run and… nothing. I picked my fly up, dried it off, stood and waited some more. I knew if I sunk it further up the riffle that one of the potentially three fish would hit it no question but I wanted to wait and see if I could pull more from the run and pool. I let one cast bounce of the weeds and into a slack portion of the pool, a long slow drift resulted in a sharp strike from a small 8inch Brown.
The process continued as I walked the fish out, dried my fly and waited. I had two more strike-less drifts in the pool and decided to wait before casting to the couple fish I knew were hiding up in the riffle, far to the left (you can see in the picture the slightly deeper water caused by the direction and force of the flow). The first drift resulted in a strike immediately but I was just a hair late on the hook set, that or the fish didn’t hit the fly well enough. I waited a couple more minutes and presented to the riffle one more time, this time I stuck the hookset and landed a 9inch Brown that was hanging in the lower end of the riffle. I dug the spotting on this one alot. I swapped to the Green hopper imitation and waited as long as I could before casting it to the same group of trout, second drift I brought one more fish up. I made a couple more casts in the last fifteen minutes I was there but nothing else would stir. My goal is to increase the number of strikes with better presentations using more accurate imitations next time.
Post-Note: I’m wondering now if the Green hopper is an earlier/younger of the Brown hopper. More research is needed.
Wendy Berrell has managed to describe perfectly the situation I found myself in yesterday, the doldrums of summer. Hot and humid, taking perhaps fewer fish due to a handful of botched casts and hooksets. I’ll blame the casts on the weeds, the hooksets are all my problem. I managed roughly a dozen on Bitch Creek, a favorite spot of mine that I’m giving this name because it has truly gone downhill in the last two years and it’s dis-heartening bordering on disgusting. Holes that once contained large 16-18inch Browns have been silted in, I walked over one with less than a foot of water covering what was once five feet deep easy. Instream vegetation slows the water down allowing it to warm and put the trout in a state of lethargy. Not good, for me or them. Everything in moderation, lots of good comes from the instream veg. but when it gets to the point of backing things up and nary a seam to drift a fly can be found it has become an issue. Weeds crowding the handful of approachable lies complicated the matter of hooking a trout during the lull of the summer months. Flies that worked: #8 Hairball, #10 Tan/Brown Hopper and the #16 Free Range S.H. The best moment of the day came on a hopper rise. I love landing a long cast to be rewarded with a shadow charging from the depths.
Wendy has it right, January is much more productive and frankly enjoyable than July or August. I’m not at the point where I’m praying for snow or anything but I do love the winter season. AM Tricos should be on your list, they are at the top of mine. Water conditions around here are decent, water levels are about par with this time of the year if not a bit higher than normal due to frequent rain. I fished in gin clear water but drove past some that was chocolate. With the rain being semi-constant and random you may have to drive a bit to find what your looking for but be assured… it is out there. Fall is fast approaching, just two more months then I’ll be making the trip to Iowa. Looking forward to Iowa. Thinking a camping trip is in order.
Also, two relatively lame videos for you to enjoy. 1st: Trying to get close to a pod of Brown’s. Not gonna happen man. 2nd, chasing a swarm of grasshoppers after they scared the crap out of me when the weeds behind me kept moving for no apparent reason.