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Winter season in Minnesota opened this morning, a friend and I proceeded to follow a ritual seen this day for the last four years. Wake, prep gear, drink coffee and drive to the spot. This spot is particular in that no matter the conditions the bugs are active and thus the fish follow suit. Some years this has worked better, some not as well but today was awesome. Windy as all hell on arrival but we found pockets of the valley void of wind and when we did get wind came in bursts allowing us to fish between gusts and see many fish come to hand. Interesting notes off the bat: the fish were very active on arrival and the fish activity tapered off around 1pm then proceeded to drop off a cliff after 2pm. Also, the creek was a bit stained, certainly not gin clear as I was expecting which perhaps benefited us. Finally, the bug activity on arrival was good, very good. My attempt with a #20 Griffiths Gnat saw many fish move for and even aggressively chase downstream leaving a wake as they came after my fly. Arrival airtemp was ~30degrees with a 26-30mph sustained wind from the WNW.
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Several fish were nymphed up with a #20 Miracle nymph and a #18 Beadhead PT, those were the hot nymphs for the day and Sershen did quite well landing many right after I put all the rising fish down with a couple bad hooksets on the Griffiths Gnat. I swapped to the #20 Miracle nymph with a Hot Blue Wire rib rather than the traditional copper and it got crushed. The fish were hungry and active, so much so that fishing a no indicator rig was generally easy as they tugged line rather than slowly sipping the flies. As the morning wore on we moved to a spot that has in the past given up few fish but looks so damn good that it’s hard not to spend a short period of time with. Due to the depth and potential for larger fish I opted to try a new streamer pattern that is still in the proto-type phase and is not fully ready to be unveiled but I can tell you this much… the fish certainly enjoyed it. I’m calling this fly the “Jungle Boogie” and it’s for a couple reasons but I’ll get into that perhaps down the road a bit. All you need to know is that it brought trout after trout out from dark hiding places all the way to [singlepic id=3140 w=320 h=240 float=right]the surface of the creek to be smacked time and time again as I watched. I like fishing a dry fly as much as the next but watching a trout come from the depths of blackness following your fly to then open wide and hit it hard is a beautiful thing and I watched it happen several times this day. White mouth then hooked trout, brilliant.
At one point fishing the same hole we saw a double as I hooked a 15 3/4inch rainbow on the Jungle Boogie with Sershen hooking into a 16inch rainbow on his #18 PT nymph, because the net was closest to me I scooped my fish up then moved upstream ten feet to land the second trout, this was the first winter double I’ve been a part of. Shortly after this occurred I hooked another rainbow and pulled a rookie move shaking my glove off with my back to the creek only to find it floating in cold creek water. Note: always have a spare set of gloves, I’m glad I did. After landing a few more rainbows bringing the count to close to twenty apeice we decided to leave the comfort of rising rainbows and aggressive stockers for less pressured water containing browns and brookies. I continued to fish the Jungle Boogie as it was still producing trout after trout and I saw no reason to argue with its effectiveness. I managed a handful of browns that exhibited the same aggressive charge on my fly throughout the early afternoon. The last brown of the day was seen but not hooked as I made a short cast stripped my fly in [singlepic id=3152 w=320 h=240 float=left]and watched as a ~16+inch brown darted out from a rock that I was practically standing on to smack my fly startling me thus hampering my hookset, this was another highlight of the day. I don’t mind missing a fish when I get to see things like that.
After the couple mile hike upstream we headed back to where we started to find the wind picking up, the airtemp dropping and with it the fish activity. It doesn’t take much of a change in water temp (+/-1 degree often) to drastically alter feeding behaviour. At ~2pm the trout that had been previously so aggressive and willing to chase my streamer down were now looking and if presented properly were willing to hit it but not nearly as hard. Often it was sipped and not hit with the fervor of the earlier morning. I landed three or four more rainbows then opted to hike out, the wind was continuing to pick up and I had enjoyed the opening day of the winter season thoroughly. I saw no reason to sit in the wind struggling to force feed a handful of smaller trout. It should also be noted that the fish that were willing to strike in the afternoon were consistently smaller than the morning trout, an interesting note if you ask me. Despite the lack of snow it was a good day, very glad to be fishing the Minnesota water I love so much. To the 2012 trout season, it’s here and I plan to take full advantage of the time I have. Hope some of you got out and braved the wind to touch a trout on the 1st, I love the smell of trout stink on my hands.
Post Script: My 8’6 3wt Sage Flight was sent in on Dec. 4th, I shipped it regular mail to the factory in Oregon. After discussing my need to have the guides looked at and possibly replaced I was told upon inspection that several of my ferrules had cracks in them. Sage built me a brand new rod, cork handle, reel seat, guides and all. It was shipped overnight back to me on Friday Dec. 30th, just in time for the opener. Thank you Sage.
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