What could make trout fishing in SE Minnesota on a beautiful sunny day in the middle of February in low wind better? Catching nothing but brookies and enjoying every minute, that’s what. On the nicest day of the winter season Carl and I decided that the typical locations would likely be crowded by antsy anglers who had remained inside during the harsher days. With that in mind we opted to hit a spot I’ve driven past but haven’t had optimal conditions to fish until now. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I love fishing the tiny streams but they can be truly challenging. Whatever happened I could fall back on the fact that it was the nicest day to fish so far this season and I would rather walk a creek than do just about anything else.
- Arrival Air Temp: ~23° F
- Arrival Time ~12pm
- Sunny Skies
- ~5mph South Wind
- No Ice Shelves
- No Midge on Arrival
We pulled up and smiled as we drove over the creek. Ice free, gin clear and looking nice…really nice. Snow was pretty deep in spots, the wind from this winter has drifted some places several feet deep and in others its near bare ground. With the sun, gin clear water and spooky trout in a small stream the approach was going to make a big difference. Army crawls and slow low approaches were going to catch trout. Due to the lack of bugs and visible rising a choice between nymphs and streamers was the debate. Nymphs would work, however, a typical upstream cast and drift would result in quite a few snagged and stuck flies due to slower low water. A large streamer would result in creek bombs, nothing but a splash followed by an explosion of trout scattering in all directions. The best option in our minds were mini-streamers. #10-12 Flies with minimal weight, these type of flies can be fished deep like a nymph but also swung down a riffle when the size of the creek or the presentation demands it. The first spot we could see looked very nice and Carl’s approach was spot on but no dice.
Upstream I was roll casting and lost the first legitimate strike due to a lack of line management. Poor show. I witnessed the flash as I set the hook late, the trout was on for all of a half second. On a stream this small one opportunity is about all you can expect to get with a streamer. Each run, pool or reasonably deep riffle got a mini-streamer. Unfortunately every excellent looking spot was void of trout, in a couple hundred yards of creek we didn’t find more than a handful. Concern was beginning to set in, it just didn’t make sense. The water looked good, substrate was alittle mucky and sandy but the depth was present and cover seemed to be everywhere but the fish…
We pushed on, I drank my coffee watching Carl make an attempt at a seriously nice looking run and after nailing the first few casts we basically stuck our heads in to find nothing, not a single fish. We agreed that if something didn’t change and change quickly we would bounce to the nearest road and head to a consolation creek we knew of not too far away. When we kept seeing perfect trouty looking runs it was too hard to walk away. I peered over the bank after belly crawling to the edge to see a most excellent sight. The distinct white fins, bright and loads of them. Brookies… I made one simple downstream roll cast into this group and it was a feeding frenzy, almost too easy but the hookset wasn’t so. I bet I missed 5:1 but I did end up pulling quite a few brightly colored specimens out. The days goal had been officially met.
Carl had gone upstream from me just a bit and was into the same situation. He landed a couple nice sized brookies from a faster riffle with the same downstream mini-streamer approach. Why mess with what works? I didn’t think much of it when I took the first photo of a trout with messed up looking gills. Then Carl caught one and I looked closer, then I caught another…and another. Each one looked to have something stuck to it, almost like a parasite of some sort. I snapped photos and I have sent them along to the DNR fisheries biologist who specializes in brook trout in Southeast Minnesota. I’ll let you know what I find out. This discovery of the gill issue on all these beautiful brook trout was concerning to say the least. We moved upstream and found a few more brookies willing to hit a mini-streamer hard. The day was basically complete when we ran out of water that was of adequate size to fish. The hike back to the car in the sun was glorious. Winter brookies…