The day started at 4 am for me. I rolled over in my hammock and looked down at the time. I fell back asleep for another two hours then I waited. At 6:30 am I yelled to Ryan that it was time. Get up, get going, climb the bluff and be warm. It was 12.2F when I checked the temperature on my digital thermometer. I bring a thermometer camping in the winter to gauge my gear and my perception of temperature. Accurate temperature readings can give you valuable insight into how your body deals with different conditions. We packed a bag with my fancy feast stove, water, coffee and the reflectix for sitting on. First light happens as we are climbing the steep section of bluff heading to the rock outcropping. By the time we get to the top I can see the orange and red hues in the clouds through the trees. As we walk out onto the rock outcropping the sun has yet to crest the horizon. The stream is down below and with it our fate for the day. We start boiling water on the fancy feast stove for coffee and just watch in silence. The clouds are out and the sky is full of color. The coffee is black and strong. The wind doesn’t seem to bother either of us. When the last drop of coffee is gone we pack up and head down the bluff. Camp is broken and we pack everything up. The worst part of the morning is putting our feet into frozen waders and boots which have been sitting all night. We stuck the boots in the spring water behind camp for an hour and thawed them out but my feet were still pretty cold at first. With cold feet and heavy packs we hiked downstream warming up in the process. Once we got far enough down we ditched the heavy packs and rigged our rods.

I’m fiddling with my leader and tying on my first streamer for the day when Ryan, three casts in, lands his first brown. He’s already having a great day and it’s not yet 10:30. We have a lot of daylight and a lot of water to cover. My first brown of the year came a bit later on a deep swung streamer. I watched my fly rise from darker water and with it the brown that crushed it the second it came near the surface of the stream. I fished my Black and Blue Dirty Mop for a while and took photos along the way. I watched Ryan fish and enjoyed the water we were fortunate enough to have all to ourselves. Fewer anglers are willing to go to these lengths to get water to themselves. Not much to say about the day other than it was unseasonably warm topping out at 18F. The sun shined the entire day and when you were standing in the sun it felt glorious. The water was slightly stained in deeper sections but otherwise very clear. Ryan moved quite a few fish with his streamer and sinking leader including one fish pushing twenty inches but his anxiousness resulted in a premature hookset and a lost fish of the day. I ended up accomplishing another goal of mine for the day when I switched to a two fly nymph rig and fished a handful of runs pulling out multiple browns on both the #12 Hairball and the #16 Flashback PT nymph I was fishing. It felt good to reacquaint myself with nymphing, I managed to cast all afternoon without getting hung up or tangling my flies together.

We fished all the way up to our original campsite and beyond. We looked up at the rock outcropping that we sat on early in the morning as we fished the stream under it. It’s a very satisfying feeling to set a goal then make it happen. We didn’t fish much past the rock out cropping. It was approaching 3:30 pm and we had to hike back out, get our packs and make it to the truck. With the heavier bags I wanted to avoid crossing the deeper water in the dark if possible. No rising trout were seen and no midges or other flies found along the stream or on the surface of the water. Streamers and nymphs did the job and for a January 1st opener it will go down in the books as a special one. As I hiked out I thought of the woods up on the ridge and the spring and summer to come. Before the door shut on the truck to drive us home I had already begun scheming my next camping trip in this place. Next time it will be on the ridge and it will be in the early to mid summer. Things will look and feel very different but I will drink my coffee on that rock outcropping just the same.

6 Comments

  1. An amazing adventure. I sure wish I had the energy and ambition to make such a trip in the winter time. The sunrise photo is really nice. Good call on getting up early to make the hike and watch it.

    avatar William Schlafer
  2. I love it! Only in Minnesota would 2 men leave there warm beds, homes and families to camp under the stars on New Years eve! To hike up a bluff, watch the sunrise, make coffee and then proceed to spend New Years day flyfishing a spring creek for the 1st trout of the year! There is no better way to live! Passion and soul! Dammit I’m jealous and heading down this weekend to get me some!

    avatar J.D
    1. Thanks JD. I try to take advantage of the time I have these days. I did pretty well this outing. I wish you the best of luck this weekend. Check back later today and throughout the week on the stream reports tab. I need to go check a few streams but the rain from the other day combined with warm weather and snow/ice melt has turned some systems to mud. I’ll post a stream condition report on the site soon.

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