I had been getting the itch to fish all week and by Wednesday it had become too much, some vacation time was requested and with that I put together a plan that would have seen me hiking into a remote area I’ve never seen. Plans change, even the best laid plans. The original plan saw myself and Carl hiking deep into a stretch of winter water, it involved lunch creekside, I opted for the typical hotdogs, Carl was unimpressed. Steaks, the guy brought STEAKS! and we cooked them over a fire the same way I would have the hotdogs. The steaks were awesome, I might even go so as far as to say that those steaks were the best meat I’ve ever cooked over a fire with a stick. I’m getting ahead of myself, I guess I am still thinking about that slab of meat dripping onto the snow as I bit chunks off of it while it was dangling from a two pronged stick carved moments before flesh met flame. Damn it was good.
The morning commute took a bit longer than expected, the plan was to be at the creek early around 8:30 or s0, turns out due to a slow start on my part and witnessing a multiple vehicle car accident on the way and in my coverage area (I’m on two volunteer fire/rescue departments and currently working to advance in my medical career) I stopped, donned turnout gear and did what I could while my friends and fellow members were on the way. That’s a whole other story but helps explain why we were more than an hour and a half late getting to the creek. Slower safe driving put us creekside staring into a slightly raging creek that was brown, not Wonka chocolate river brown but enough that it was discouraging. We opted to continue anyway, we had already driven the distance and gone through a multiple vehicle accident to get here. An attempt was made but after an hour of fishing and hiking it became obvious that our efforts were to be wasted if we continued.
This is when it’s always a good idea to have Plan B ready. I must be off my game; Plan B didn’t enter my mind even in the slightest. I wasn’t taking into account the several days prior and all the warm weather, wet snow combined with a long watershed. The combination made for a river that was up but in fact receding, the high water line was a good couple feet up from the level we found it at. You’re never too old or wise to be humbled, a good plan was crushed. Sitting on the banks we had to devise Plan B on the spot. If this water was blown what was fishable? I didn’t just drive this far to turn tail. Two choices came to mind and we opted for the closer of the two, the clouds that began the morning were dissipating quickly and soon the sun would be shining.
At Plan B we got to work, I fished a new smaller mini streamer I’ve been working on recently. It pulled a 10inch brown out quickly but wasn’t the best choice for this much smaller lower/clear creek. I chose to stick it next to tree limbs and any dark hole I could find, I missed a few others over the course of the first few hours. By 12:30 or so a decent number of larger #18/20 midges were around and a pretty good number of little black stoneflies could be seen crawling away from the water. Bugs were out, the sky was turning blue and the sun was now out in its full glory. Rising hadn’t begun and rather than continue up we opted to make those delicious steaks I mentioned earlier. We sat, cooked our lunch and watched waiting for a rise, it didn’t happen. We continued upstream, just kept going looking for spots to put a nymph or small streamer waiting for the opportunity to put on a #20 Griffiths Gnat.
Around a few bends and through the thick forest we came upon maybe the best part of the day, save the slab of meat that has me still drooling, the pod of fish with a few strong risers. The approach was a good 8-9 on the difficulty scale, trees everywhere, low clear water. It wasn’t going to be easy. Carl gave it a shot from behind a downed tree, it didn’t happen. I opted to belly crawl through the snow and cast from a laying position, my second or third cast saw a small trout bolt for my fly but I bungled the hookset. It was lost, the trout came back and began rising again but they wouldn’t have a dry fly of ours. I put on a #20 Miracle nymph and pulled two out easily and missed atleast two others. Sight fishing, seeing the fish turn and estimating your flies location with relation to the trout’s mouth…that’s driftless.
We sat on that spot for quite a while and afterwards moved upstream looking for other risers to fish to, none were found. The day had worn on and after close to two miles one direction it was time to turn back. It was a damn fine day to be a trout fisherman in S.E. Minnesota, sun on my shoulders most of the time I was out, low wind, beautiful scenery, this is what the winter season is all about for me. Thanks to Carl for coming on another trip and bringing the meat.