I write these posts as a way to log my time on the water, I do this mainly so that I have a way of going back and remembering what conditions were like or what trout were doing on a certain day under specific conditions. This site is not about promoting gear or the grip and grin culture (you get plenty of that on instagram and other websites) it’s about honestly discussing my fishing experiences in southeast Minnesota in an attempt to learn from and improve upon my abilities as an angler and fly tier. I put it on the internet so that other like-minded individuals can gain some useful information to aid them on their own fishing journey. I am pretty much self-taught with regards to most things fly fishing and fly tying. The past two days I put flies in the water I was looking for a specific outcome, maybe that in and of itself was my biggest mistake. It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the act, the places and being far from the rest of the world and the people in it. All of this prefaces what I believe to be the critical decision I made on the days leading up to March 28th. I was sent a recipe for a most excellent streamer, in my haste to tie a few up and get after larger trout on larger water I used a circle hook in the patterns articulated tail. I believe this to be the critical mistake which would result in multiple lost fish.

I had never tied flies with a circle hook before, never fished with them so I didn’t know to expect anything different. I had a few #6 nice looking hooks laying around (given to me by Wendy Berrell prior to a carp fishing trip) and figured this would be a good time to use them up. Flies were tied, fast forward and I’m hiking a muddy cattle path past some of the deepest darkest looking trout water I know of. The fish in here are few but the ones who do hold here are often larger. I typically fish this stretch in the early spring and late fall in search of those monsters we often over emphasize the importance of. The water was low and about as clear as this stretch gets. I tossed my flies into everything that looked dark or didn’t have sandy substrate. Fish came up and one after another I missed the hook-set. I’ve had days where the trout are just tapping my flies and won’t commit, this felt different. After a few nice fish came out and the closest I got to seeing them was one that popped off at my feet I began to question the fly. I shortened the tail thinking maybe the trout were getting a mouth full of zonker and no hook.

I continued fishing the flies I had tied and trout continued to come up. I finally landed one and it was barely hooked, at this point I began to question the circle hook. Admittedly I was ignorant as to its intended use and just figured it would set like most other hooks I use. Turns out that circle hooks aren’t meant to be set the way I am used to traditionally setting a hook, instead they require a slower set where the fish almost sets the hook on itself, or that is what my research has led me to believe. I eventually swapped to a different pattern I had and landed a couple decent fish but by this point I had seen and missed my opportunity for the largest fish I’d have a shot at. I fished into the evening and later, under the light of the moon I thought back on the day and my earlier frustration. A couple days later I have thought about it more and I ask myself, what did I have to be frustrated about? There will be more large fish and if large fish is what you’re doing this for then you’ll be leaving the driftless trout game before too long. Catching big trout is nice but it shouldn’t be the focus of why you go fishing, the act of fishing, being outside and in a remote beautiful area enjoying nature and the sound of running water are the reasons that sustain this driftless trout angler.

8 Comments

  1. I think much the same and it’s very refreshing to hear someone else state it. The Driftless is a journey and not so much a destination. A quest for something deeper lies beside these streams. To quote a line from a song “I’m frightened by those who don’t see it”

    avatar JD
    1. I have concerns with the popularization of the driftless but at the same time I want like minded people to enjoy the places I love, I just don’t like seeing the area use to make a buck or gain some sort of fleeting and irrelevant notoriety. I became so attached to this place after I learned to fish here I vowed I would never move, I live in the county in an old house on the ridge between two streams. This place defines me and I hope that I can give something back by advocating for it, speaking with the DNR when I see questionable practices and by picking up as much trash as I can while fishing.

  2. Great stuff Justin!

    I’ve had similar experiences where I persisted with fishing the wrong color or wrong size fly and was frustrated all day with short strikes and misses. Then, there are other times when almost anything I thew at Trout they would eat. It’s always a puzzle.

    The hook up rate on my flies noticeably improved when I began using wide gap hooks. In particular with Hopper patterns or other large body flies where the material tends to crowd the hook gap.

    avatar Bill
  3. Don’t give up on that style of fly. They’ve worked really well for me. I tie on a senyo shank and attach the hook using 20lb maxima intruder style. The key is getting the hook at rear of the fly and materials to stick fish even if they are short striking. From the looks of your streamer in the picture, do you think the hook point could have gotten lost in wet zonker and marabou and just not stuck?

    avatar Jake
    1. Jake, I’m certainly not giving up on this fly. I ordered some different hooks and I’ll tie a bunch more up. I do think I could trim the zonker strip back a bit but I am going to try a #4 octopus hook as opposed to a #6 circle hook and see what difference that makes. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Those are perfect hooks. I think you’ll like the results. And I’m diggin the new blog layout and renewed frequency of posts. Hope to see you on the river sometime.

    avatar Jake

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