Humility is a good thing, sometimes the creek may knock you down a notch or two. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s good to reflect and perhaps learn something when the creek spanks your ass sending you home crying. It happens to the best of us (I hope?) and on the 28th it happened to me, didn’t touch a single fish. It’s not like I want to admit this to [singlepic id=2239 w=380 h=300 float=left]you or myself but I started the fly factory as a way to record the good, the bad and ugly of this journey through the creeks of Southeast Minnesota so it would be counter productive to leave a day like this off the books.

We arrived at the creek at ~10am with a decent air temp in the lower 20’s. We expected a bit of sunshine but found none, just gray skies with the occasional light snow creating the winter wonderland I’ve come to enjoy. I was expecting the higher air temp and overcast skies to keep the fish a bit more active and maybe less hesitant. I chose a spot with big rewards if you can fool the trout but thatsa big if. Slow moving, gin clear water withsprings all around keeping the water temp warm and the midge popping. The trout were out and active sipping midge pupa just under the surface. I would have just stuck on a #20 andtried drifting it with a really long fine leader but honestly I’ve tried this and I’m not their yet. When your fly line gently landing on the water sends them running it becomes counter productive.

I brought a friend with me who spin angles for trout in our area. We have a similar thought on the resource and we’d been discussing going out for a while. He tossed a smaller (roughly #8-10) Jig with an olive chenille body and marabou tail. I liked the simplicity and the subtleness of it right way. The [singlepic id=2233 w=340 h=260 float=right]next thing I noticed was the minimal impact it made entering the water despite the weight of the jig something I been thinking about ever since.

Cam was onto fish within the first fifteen minutes we were at the stream, he landed a good sized brown close to 13inches within sight of the vehicle. It’s good to see girthyfish getting enough calories to not only survive but thrive, I have a feeling it has something to do withthe number of springs feeding this system. I had rigged my rod with a Brown #8 SMB following the previous success I’ve had swinging this fly. I hooked into one sending my fly down into a cut bank but lost it trying to get the fish up a riffle.

We moved downstream and I kind of sat back enjoying the day. I had minimal cares and plenty of time with water infront of me so I kindof “ho-hummed” it as another friend of mine would say. Within thirty minutes of our arrival I began seeing the army crawl through the snow, I could spy trout sipping them from a distance in the slowest water.  We got to a spot I knew held gold bellied fish and larger ones at that. I was anxious and sent my streamer down through a riffle and into the run hoping that if I presented it this way I might pick off one hanging in the shallows who would be forced to make a quick decision, to strike or not to strike. Nothing struck and yet when I had progressed through the riffle I kept going sending a mile of line downstream smacking my fly into the slower water, this was maybe [singlepic id=2235 w=380 h=300 float=left]not the best plan. Likely I sent most of the fish running and almost certainly anything with any size went to hunker down.

We waited a bit and approached the situation from a different vantage point. Cam twitched his jig back to his feet and was getting strikes despite the slow clear water and the fact that I had approached the same spot moments before so poorly. He picked up a good sized brown a bit later and continued to landa second fish over 14inches out of the same spot that I couldn’t get anywhere with. Later after arriving home and thinking more about the progression of the day I’ve come to the conclusion one of two factors and maybe a combo of both allowed his jig to illicit strike after strike in the slow water while my #8 SMB did not. 1st, the minimal impact on the water has to have something to do with if not everything. I need to remember to lighten it up in the slower water, it’s in slow water I can let my fly sink. 2nd,  the [singlepic id=2236 w=320 h=240 float=right]lack of obtrusive flash. I am learning there is a time and place for flash and the slowest sections where your sight fishing your prey may not be the place and if the fish arn’t responding switch it up, try something else. I did not and continued to get nowhere.

We moved downstream and broke up for a bit, I spied a deep dark nasty looking hole, just thinking about it now I’ve created a puddle of drool on my keyboard. I sat there limited by nature, forced to try and feed my fly down and in making strike detection incredibly difficult if not impossible but there was no other approach, I would have had to [singlepic id=2237 w=360 h=280 float=left]wear waders and cross the stream to get any kind of drift on this hole. I rolled something big but lost it right away likely due to a late hookset. I look over my shoulder to see Cam getting ready to land a nice brookie. Sweet.

I’m still at zero and the day is almost over. Cam landed a few more, I moved downstream andmade a few more attempts but found nothing. For the life of me I can’t explain why I didn’t try nymphing. I should have. We began hiking upstream, I fished a few spots but found either no fish willing to strike my #8 SMB or when they did I was late on the hookset allowing the fish to toss my hook. I fished pretty steadily back to the car but still landed nothing despite hooking into a handful of browns. By this point I became desperate and put my flies in any spot I thought might hold trout even if it meant loosing my fly to any number of snags. I missed a few more then dropped my rig through a shallow riffle with a down and across swing hooked into a nice 14inch brown but lost it when it lept up the riffle. The day was over, I was out of water and my hands lacked the signature trout smell I’ve grown to love, bummer. After the drive home and bit of time to reflect I would have changed several things about how I approached the day, the water and the trout but learning these lessons and having them stick takes time.

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  1. Nice to see someone else having luck landing the fish and you being a good sport about it. Now you know what the rest of us feel on a more consistent basis! Thanks for posting the article. Its going to be a bit warmer this weekend and even more warmer next weekend. Hopefully that will change your luck!

    avatar Gary Puetz
  2. Great reflection. On the 28th, I spent the day in meetings. I’ll take a day on the stream even without a bite over that anytime.

    BTW – looked on the site, but couldn’t find a pattern for your SMB. Any willingness to share that?

    avatar unclehoppy
  3. Thanks for sharing. I got spanked that day too up on Hay Creek. It was my own fault though, my inexperience was showing. it was a lot colder out than I expected, but being out on the water is always better than not.

    avatar Kingfisher
  4. i tied more jigs today. they are close to the same but i used two new materials. one i know will be a sure thing and the other im not so sure. time will tell. if i have a good day at work tomorrow i think ill be trying them out on fri.

    avatar s.t.fanatic
  5. My fishing buddy and I laughingly refer to that situation as “wearing the white stink of shame”. Those are the days that I have to put in to appreciate the productive days and to remind me that as much as I think I know, there is always more to learn. Thanks for admitting that you’re human like the rest of us.

    avatar Tom Raabe
  6. Thanks all, I hope I don’t have to write more posts about my poor choices but like Tom says there is always more to learn, then re-learn and then learn to remember the lessons you re-learned. It’s a process and I’m getting there one trip at a time. And yes being on the water is better than not and a good thing to keep in mind.

  7. WFF-Been enjoying your site for over a year now, great content. I carry a diamond file with me when I’m out, if multiple fish shake me off I’ll refine my point. Probably more mental than anything, but maybe the “time-out” keeps me sharp and attentive.

    avatar Ben Koski
  8. WFF – Great site you’ve got here. Just found it a few days ago and have thoroughly enjoyed browsing through a good number of your posts. Last summer I took my first trip to the Driftless Region (Iowa) and fell in love with it , can’t wait to get back.
    Your photos are great and I really appreciate your fly pattern shots. Thought you might have a few quick tips for me as I can’t seem to get good clear pics when shooting fly patterns for my blog. Appreciate any suggestions….keep up the excellent work.

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