Fished with Ryan today from 10am-3pm under sunny skies with little to no wind. Air temp as we strung up rods on the side of a totally barren gravel road was approx. 38°F. Ryan temped the water at the first riffle crossing we came to (41°F), water was clear with a very slight stain to it. The night before saw lows in the 20’s which limited the amount of run-off and thus the amount of stain we encountered. As Ryan temped the creek I spied for baetis nymphs on the rocks, multiple immature nymphs were found but nothing that appeared to be mature enough to hatch. I would think that some creeks put up a few early BWO’s but I wasn’t expecting much today from the creek we fished. Instead we went with big flies hoping for aggressive fish. I had one last Dirty Mop in my box leftover from a stash sent to me by John J. I’d been saving it for the past two years for the right day and today it was.
Ryan showed me a stretch of creek I’ve never fished, that makes three days in a row fishing new water. I’m marking this reach as a new favorite and totally worth the drive. The stain on the creek increased as the morning went along and the fish were hitting streamers everywhere from the shallow riffles, deeper runs to dark holes. The water temp continued to climb as the morning went on. I dropped my Dirty Mop in on a snaggy little crag and horsed out a nice 17inch brown. I use 3x or 4x tippet when I’m fishing streamers for this exact reason. I love fishing the places where you risk losing your flies, no guts no glory. Unfortunately my last Dirty Mop landed a few other fish and was then lost to an unseen snag somewhere on the bottom of a pool deeper than I was able to wade. I should have gone swimming, it would have been totally worth it. We fished upstream taking turns on each spot that a streamer could potentially move a trout. We caught mostly 10-13inch brown trout and noticed only one rise all day long. I took note of the random midge in the air here and there but the trout were moving on the streamers and dry flies will have their day in S.E. Minnesota sooner than later for me (think BWO’s and Caddis).
Upstream I came across a scene I dream of often. Deep, dark, blue water with a drop plunge at the head. I made a roll cast to put my streamer up as far as I could into the run before the plunge then let it sink for a minute then stripped it back with nothing to show. I made a half dozen or so casts on this hole letting my fly sink deeper and deeper each time finally allowing my fly to hit the bottom on the last pass. I made short little bounces off the bottom and after the fourth or fifth short strip of line a very distinct strike followed, remember that adult brown trout rely heavily on benthos. Second brown of the day north of 17inches, probably pushing 18 or so. At this point the day was made for me with plenty of time left to keep exploring upstream.
We came across a long slow stretch of water and just beyond a set of springs fed cold, clean water into the creek. The personality of the creek seemed to change at this point, the water lost all stain from this point on up and it became more shallow. The valley almost felt like the grade kicked up a bit resulting in faster flowing water and shallower pools. We caught a handful of browns through this section fishing every riffle and pocket deeper than 6inches. We were hoping to find a few brookies but we may have ended our search prematurely. We called it a day and hiked out in t-shirts with the sun shining down both sweating under our waders. Early spring is here and it’s a great time to get out and see new water, hiking is easier and you can fish places that are much more difficult in the height of the summer.