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Woke early again (~5am) to prep gear, coffee, breakfast and to spend a decent amount of time assessing precipitation totals and weather conditions. The wind was predicted at 20mph from the West all day long. Walking out to the truck at 7am was not encouraging, gusts up to 35mph were going to be common during the day and this combined with recent rainfall totals would determine the creek I ultimately ended up fishing. Picking a tight valley that ran perpendicular to the West wind would be critical in turning the lemons I was given into lemonade. With my mind set on one location I left the house to meet the guy I’d be fishing with for the day.
I met Paul parked off a side road, after a short hello we left for the chosen location. Parking, I was again a bit concerned regarding the wind and air temp, it was cold with the blowing wind and I knew it would hamper the days progress if we were unable to escape it. A bit later and a couple hundred feet down into a tight valley we were pleasantly surprised to find minimal wind with the occasional gusty moments that almost dictated we stop to avoid making poor casts into the wind. We chose a short hike downstream after viewing a fellow with similar thoughts on avoiding the wind fishing upstream from our access. The morning saw us chucking streamers into higher stained water with the water temp at ~44°F around ~9am. The creek was still up a good six inches which created faster flows and deeper water.
We got a couple strikes earlier in the morning but nothing stuck and we didn’t dwell on any one spot for too long. In retrospect I think had we sat alittle longer and maybe added more weight (I was already chucking the upper end of the weight spectrum I typically use) we might have stuck a couple more but the higher flows really seemed to hamper our flies ability to get down and stay down. We fished a few shallower riffle areas with minimal success, the first hour saw no fish come to hand. We progressed upstream and fished a couple areas out of the wind hunkered next to the bluffs enjoying the simple fact that we were able to pick a location that provided us with decent conditions given the situation. Still no trout to hand by ~10:30 or so, Paul had switched to a two fly nymph rig and my stubborn ass [singlepic id=2581 w=320 h=240 float=left]chose to continue tossing the SMB despite its lack of action for the morning. Here is where I admit to myself that I should have given nymphing a shot for a while, some good nymphing water around and I chose to toss a #6 that was getting me nowhere.
Upstream and maybe a half hour later on a down and across swing I hooked up with the first fish of the day, a small 6-7inch brown. After continuing with the same approach and getting nothing we continued on. Around the next corner we witnessed perhaps one of the saddest things I’ve seen fishing the driftless area. A dozen or so cattle had gotten loose from their pasture on the ridge and wandered down to the creek, with the females were two calves both very young. A howling moo came from one of the cattle that was stuck in the mud to its shoulders, nothing could be done. The cattle, exhausted lay in the mud. We moved on and saw yet another in the same situation, both looking very [singlepic id=2583 w=320 h=240 float=right]stressed. Their was little we could do to help get a full grown cow out of the mud stuck the way it was and rather than linger we moved on.
Upstream we came upon the angler we had seen earlier in the morning. From behind I spied a backpack that looked very familiar, the white hat, it was a friend of mine. I hollered out and interrupted his fishing like a boob (sorry about that one man). Paul and I let Wendy B. fish out the area he was on then met up for a couple minutes to say hi and discuss the morning. After a couple minutes we parted ways allowing Wendy to continue upstream while we hung back to tempt a very fishy looking location. After adding even more weight to my rig I managed to get down deep enough to tempt a couple moe browns but the fishing continued to be slower for us.
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Paul had yet to land a trout and I wanted to shake the skunk for the day. We moved upstream bumping into Wendy on his way out. He provided delicious cold pizza from the house of Berrell which was a welcome brief lunch for our day, thanks for that one man. Paul switched back to streamers but we both continued to struggle to bump a trout. Upstream and almost out of time for the day saw us fishing a couple deep spots when I look over to see Paul smiling, gripping a nice 14inch brown with a flashier looking streamer hanging from its jaw. We took a couple photos and sent the brown downstream. Paul informed me a minute later that he caught the fish on an SMB that he had tied, that was a day maker for me. We hung around a bit longer but continued with the slower than average day. Pleased that we were able to avoid the skunk and the wind we turned to hike out. Downstream I checked in on the cattle, one of the two had been able to escape the mud. The rest of the roaming cattle seemed to have moved on but the one still lay stuck close to its neck in the mud. We fished one last spot on the way out but our luck wasn’t changing and we excepted the end of the day. Thanks Paul for a good time and some good discussions along the way. On a follow up note I did contact the MN DNR and the Winona County Conservation Officer regarding the cattle. I gave a detailed description of the area and was told they were going to contact the potential owner of the cattle before nightfall.
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