A chance encounter with a three individuals from Lanesboro spurred a conversation about southeast Minnesota, the driftless area and a love of trout and trout streams. This brief conversation resulted in a question in which I was expecting little if anything to come from it. “Do any of you guys own property on a trout stream? And would you let me fish it?” Two of the three look at me and shake their heads no, the third replies “sort of.” “What do you mean sort of?” I came back. “I own property off a small stream and in the past couple years beavers dammed up a spring, I think their are brookies in there but I can’t be sure no ones ever fished it.” My interest had been piqued. I tried not to sound too excited and promptly asked if he would consider letting me check it out. He said “Sure but its a trickle and probably overgrown with no path back, you may have to hike a ways.” With that I took down his name and the information I needed to find this spot. The next day I started researching, the nearest creek is listed to have only browns but maybe brookies got up that far, trout move and a spring fed pond sounds ideal for brookies to hang in. Fairly confident that I found the property I was looking for I made arrangements with Carl to meet up as soon as possible.
Thursday comes and it’s ridiculously hot, 90’s with high humidity but it was going to be my only chance to check this out for two weeks. We left at 4pm and made the drive accidentally passing the inconspicuous driveway before we figured out where we were. We pulled off a gravel road to find multiple no trespassing signs and just as the guy said a gate chained closed. We drove as far as we could down a path only wide enough for one vehicle with grass approaching the height of the windows on Carl’s truck. At this point I’m giving it a 50/50 shot we will find anything of significance but this was less about the end result and more about the adventure. I know where to find brookies, this was a chance to explore something completely untouched. We pulled into a clearing and down to the lowest point we were able to get to. End of the line. The truck was buried in almost head high grasses, no stream could be heard let alone seen. The heat was significant down in that humid low point of the valley. I cracked open a beer, sat on the tailgate and looked around. The logical move was to hike a straight path to the center of the valley where the most likely chance of any water would be. Gear was prepared, beer finished, sweat was pouring, and through the jungle we went.
It took a few minutes before we stumbled across a trickle…not looking good but we were here, in the middle of nowhere and I wasn’t about to leave before we searched high and low for this pond. We opted to follow the flow upstream first, it felt warm and no fish were seen as we hiked the water. After a ways the decision was made to hike back down. We figured no way could their exist a pond holding trout in this tepid water. Downstream we went and things were looking grim, flow was low and no feeding streams were connecting, no signs of beaver activity either. I could have been misinformed or had no idea what side of the valley this pond was supposed to be on, couldn’t see more than a few feet downstream and the gnats were out in droves. Never give up. We started noticing pockets of stagnant water, beavers were here. Eventually we figured out we were on a small feeder spring that flowed into the downstream edge of a beautiful dark blue pond, more over I spied trout immediately through the weeds. No brookies on first glance though. A small uninhabited shack could be seen across the pond in the distance.
Elation. We sunk back into the tall grass and a plan was hatched. We would hike back to the truck and then as far downstream as we thought we could handle leaving enough time at dusk to fully explore and fish the pond. We figured maybe a step-down system of pools might be in the realm of possibility so it made sense to leave this and come up from below. Downstream after hiking through the grass we came across a stream that was no more than a couple feet wide and shallow. No one fishes here, no one. I had left my rod in the truck, I was concentrating on my camera and taking the entire scene in. Opting to trade fish with the one rod we had between us we started fishing upstream noting the pristine condition of this water. No footprints, no trash, no signs of humans whatsoever. The water felt cold, colder than I expected with an air temperature of 90 degrees. Carl had rigged an Adams and we were casting to anything and everything that looked like it might hold fish. Nothing was coming up and as we hiked upstream we weren’t seeing any fish.
The sun was slowly setting in the distance and the cooler water was putting off a light fog. Condensation attesting to the temperature of the water and the heat surrounding us. Bow casts, roll casts and on occasion a back cast were employed. The stream was crowded and often we were forced to climb over logs to progress further up. Finally reaching what I kind of expected, a step pool downstream from the pond the first few trout touched came from this spot, all readily slammed a dry fly. Nothing in terms of size to write home about but the uniqueness of this situation was next level. The owner had told me that no one had ever fished this to his knowledge and he has owned it his entire life. My guess is that the trout holding in these ponds have lived here most of if not their entire lives and never seen anything artificial.
We moved slowly upstream until we were at the edge of a 4ft beaver dam. We sat obscured by tall grass, waiting and watching. After a few minutes rising fish were spotted and the first few casts made. A smaller brown came out, then another. A long cast far upstream brought up a fish that stole the fly and left us wondering what might have been. Another Adams was tied on and we left the fish rest a bit. The sun had disappeared behind the bluff at this point and the insects were coming out in full force. I snuck away to photograph Carl from a distance. The Adams had stopped bringing trout up, a cranefly pattern was employed but nothing was having it. Once that fish broke us off it was the end of it. We hiked around the far edge and ultimately back across one section of the pond. It became apparent we needed to come back when I stumbled upon a section of the pond that was waist deep and crowded by weeds, a significant cut bank was noted and the possibilities here became very interesting. As the sun set and thunder clouds rolled in we headed back to the truck. We thought about staying later but circumstances and lightening nearby demanded we leave. Very few places have made me feel this isolated from human influence. I hope to return but maybe only a couple of times. A balance between wanting to return and respecting the feeling created by it’s untouched existence needs to be maintained.