April 27th, Spring: the Driftless Area

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The day started as the previous few have. On the water around 8:45am, early enough to ensure I got a front row seat to any and all mid-day bug activity but not so early as to have me shivering stream-side. This spring has been exceptional but it still gets chilly overnight and in the early morning hours, for now I’ll leave the 6am arrival time for another month or so, then the window of opportunity widens to match the longer summer hours.

My goal was to hike up past a stretch I’ve fished (not many but a few) and get into a tighter valley, out of the open cow pasture where the wind could have it’s way with me and into an uncharted area for me, I was looking forward to the natural challenges of an un-improved stretch of forested trout stream. Today also signified the arrival of a much needed piece of gear that I am frankly reluctant to quickly adopt, a new camera. The work horse that I have used since day one with the Winona Fly Factory has been the Sony Cyber-Shot camera that I permanently borrowed from Liz in the beginning of my trout fishing career. Since that time it has performed beyond every expectation one could have for a camera like this, it’s a general point and shoot digital camera that I have grown to depend on. As of late though the lens has been sticking as I turn the camera on and off, it has also been having a hard time focusing on smaller things like bugs and flies, this is unacceptable and has been causing me some frustration. Not to mention the dust [singlepic id=1616 w=260 h=180 float=left]stuck inside the housing and lens that is becoming more noticeable. Liz noticed and decided that my birthday present should replace the old camera, I’d been looking at the Panasonic Lumix as not only a replacement but a serious upgrade. Giving up old dependable isn’t easy, despite the Lumix’s 12.1 mega-pixel rating over the 6.0 from the Cyber-Shot I just couldn’t blindly accept it would do what I needed it to. So I’ve been giving it a run for it’s money.

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This thing is waterproof to 10ft and gives me the option to get a new perspective on the environment I study, I am excited about this. I never dropped the old one, never got it wet, and I would expect the similar to continue despite the Lumix’s offering of Shockproof from 5ft and the water to ten. Take care of your gear and it will take care of you. Honestly, I never read the other manual, I read this one, twice and it’ll be a while before I can use it to it’s full potential. (Example: After reading the manual again I am convinced the spot focus combined with the Macro function [singlepic id=1595 w=360 h=280 float=left]will help produce clear, sharp bug/fly photo’s) After this first outing I think this new camera will only improve what you see from the Winona Fly Factory. I won’t ramble too much about this thing as I’ve yet to get to the day of fishing but take note of the image difference between the two.

My 1st water temp was almost 50 degrees by 9:31am. I rigged a streamer just to toss occasionally as I hiked upstream. Nothing came of this. I hiked for close to an hour and fished a bit, enjoyed the sun alot, and took a few photo’s trying to test the two camera’s I had with me. I got into the wooded section I was aiming to fish and after a second water temp and noticing a few rising trout I began to get the feeling I might get on the Grey Caddis again. I worked upstream until I came to a choice, turn around or wet wade to obey the law. I knew I was going to have to come to this, I hadn’t seen the stretch so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I contemplated it a bit, decided to look downstream and caught a glimpse of leaping trout, the Caddis were on. Upstream? A big question with no rising fish to tempt me forward, I wanted to see it but put it aside for a different day.

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Downstream I noticed the classic signs, smaller 6in fish just going bananas over the pupa’s emerging, the full body launch, none of the larger trout were taking anything on the surface and adults were not present in any noticable numbers. I rigged a two fly nymph rig, just to see. I tried a Peacock and Partridge Soft-Hackle pattern that PT put up a while back and let me just say, this thing wails in S.E. Minnesota trout water. I trailed it with one of my recent BWO nymph patterns, this one to be exact. Each took fish, an hour later I had landed 10 or so fish, most of which were above 10inches. One nicer 14 from the very head of the riffle. Then like a switch it went dead. Nothing would touch my nymphs. I went downstream and tried two other runs with nothing to show for it. By this time the Caddis adults were [singlepic id=1608 w=360 h=280 float=left]clearly visible near the banks and on rocks, it was time to swap. The dry fly came out and the classic EHC took the stage, whack, whack, whack…then nothing again?? Maybe five or six fish to hand and they all stopped rising, wouldn’t touch the EHC. Hmm……

I re-rigged my nymphs and put them back on the fish, similar result as before. They wanted nothing to do with them, that or I was clearly doing something wrong. I did notice as I moved downstream (which I do not like to do) that most of the trout were holding extremely far up each riffle which may have contributed to my lack of nymphing success. Who knows… I do however know what a rise to an emerging Mayfly looks like and it came later in the afternoon, at 1:42pm when the water temp read 58degrees. Dark Hendrickson’s? I know I watched a scant few mayflies hatch on top of the few scattered Grey Caddis that were around. The Caddis hatch was spotty and brought fish up for a short time, the Mayfly hatch was similar. I felt like I this creek was transitioning, one hatch petering out, maybe a different hatch ramping up, just something I noticed. I know Lt. Hendrickson’s are on their way soon too, seem that most hatches have pushed up this season and are running maybe as much as two weeks ahead of last year. Anyways, the bug situation got kind of messy on the stream today. I tried to fish Hackled Mayfly patterns and a few emergers when I [singlepic id=1604 w=340 h=260 float=right]could but for the most part I was in the wind by this point and my casting seemed to go downhill, couldn’t get that damn fly in the right spot at the right time.

I put the dry flies away and busted out a summer favorite perhaps a bit too early, the Sparkle Larva, which proceeded to take two trout as I hiked back out. I felt like I got caught off guard with relation to multiple emergences, neither of which were very prevalent. I should have tried a few other nymph patterns until I got what they were looking for, instead I kept tossing something shiny in the event that one or two trout might want to say hello. I hiked in the sun on the way out. I enjoyed the day, nothing too spectacular but I’d take this over most anything, especially on a Tuesday in April. The Driftless Area, this place kicks.

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2 Comments

  1. You dog – what a sweet day. Glad you got out. Camera looks good. The pic of the camera is trippy.

    Important features for camera, IMO: (1) water proof (if for no other reason than not worrying about dropping), (2) good macro feature, (3) good video when called on for that.

    1. I looked at the camera picture again, your right man. I’m still not fully convinced that this camera’s macro feature is as good but I’ll get used to how it works and It’ll get better. I didn’t mention this aspect of the camera but it’s the only point and shoot digital that’s water proof and has HD video that you can zoom during video recording. Haven’t messed with that yet but I plan to. unfortunatly I can only take 8min worth of HD video with the card I currently have, thats the same as 1000 photo’s at highest quality. Woah… BTW, sometimes I am a dog.

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