Bugs…Beer…Browns…. My yearly excuse (birthday) to take some vacation time occurs during one of the best times to be a trout angler in S.E. Minnesota. The end of April, typically rather nice, bugs about, hungry fish too. This year I lucked out, three days sandwiched between two seven day long periods of nastiness. The 25th was a quick precursor, more of a warm up my casting arm, to be followed by the 26th and then the 27th. The 26th involved a four mile hike on the way in to turn around and fish my way back out. I wasn’t in any big hurry, I parked around 9:30am right behind a fellow who sat in his truck sipping coffee waiting for the urge to go catch a fish. We chatted a bit, I asked if he minded if I parked behind him and I assured him if I did so that he wouldn’t see me again the rest of the day, he did not. I hiked, then hiked some more. I took a water temp at the first riffle I crossed, 48degrees on the dot at 10:15am. I checked rocks, saw a decent number of free living caddis larva and a few Baetis looking ready to pop but not a ton. The recent high water events had scoured most of the creeks pretty well and I’m wondering if a fair amount of the invertebrate population went downstream in the Wonka river. That translates into two thoughts, the first…fewer hatching insects, the second…hungry trout.
Downstream four miles (give or take a tenth of a mile or so) and I was staring at near gin clear water and to make it even better I only passed one other angler on the hike in, a bait fisherman who was contently perched on his bucket. The entire hike in I was looking for rising trout and saw nothing, I thought I saw one rise but I can’t be sure of it so I’m going to go with nothing. I started swinging my usual, streamers. Why? Because I wanted to move quickly. I felt like hitting every nook and cranny for almost four miles of creek, that’s hard work and you can’t linger too long in any single place to make it happen. I’d take a few trout from each spot, toss to where I thought the big one was and move on. I tried a handful of different streamers in various sizes including a new smaller streamer I think is finally ready to be released for public viewing. All in all things couldn’t have gone better, fishing upstream I was stripping layers off and down to a t-shirt by 1pm.
At 1:30pm I saw the first rise and then another and a moment later another. I put on a good stretch of 5x tippet and a #16 BWO, I then removed one of two Ranger IPAs from my bag and sat down. I watched the fish while I drank the first just happy to be outside in the sun again watching trout do their thing. When that bottle was emptied I started swinging, the wind didn’t help any but trust me, I wasn’t complaining one bit. I managed a good dozen trout from that spot over the course of the next hour and a half. When I was satisfied with dry fly fishing for the day I pulled the second bottle from my bag and sat back down to watch those trout keep on going. I didn’t see much more for rising after about 3:30pm and I didn’t see much for bug activity other than the few BWO’s that came off during my time on that single run. I should note that while fishing those dry flies I heard a bunch of rocks slide down the bluff above me, I looked (expecting to see nothing or a squirrel) to see something I’ve never seen before, what I believe was a coyote. It was up a good ways and watched me the entire time, it was tan and had a long bushy tail. I’m not an expert but it was bigger than what I imagined a coyote to look like. That animal climbed to the top of the bluff watching me as it went then stood on a rock for a good two minutes before leaving my sight, very, very, cool. I should also note that I did see several deer carcasses around that area and two were pretty fresh, one still had meat on a section of a hind leg that had been removed.
Upstream a good mile I’m back to swinging meat and the trout are darting, charging, and slamming it. It was a damn good day and by the end of it I questioned if that wasn’t the best use of vacation time I’ve ever had. It might have been the sun and the scenery, that combined with the eager trout, either way it was a day to remember. So I’m fishing across from a cut bank when I hear mud dumping into the creek, not unusual in any way except it continues and continues. I look back to see a basketball (or larger) sized snapping turtle dig it’s way out of the bank and drop into the creek then promptly dive to the bottom of a seriously deep hole. Shortly there after a TON of fish went shooting out in every direction. Sweet sight number two. Several hours later and my day was coming two an end, my pedometer logged me at over 9 miles by the time I got to the last stretch of creek I fished. I hadn’t caught anything huge all day, maybe a 16in fish around 4pm but nothing super small either. I was broke off once by a fish that felt strong but I didn’t see so much as a flash from that one, it wasn’t until the last cast of the day did I get to touch a nice 18 1/2 inch brown. I took one crappy ass photo of it too, low light and I didn’t dink around with him too long but hey, not a bad way to end a seriously excellent day. The birthday presents you give yourself are often the best especially if it’s a day fishing for trout.