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Started another day in the heart of the Driftless Area of Southeast Minnesota onstream at ~7:30am. The creek was at normal flow and gin clear. I picked a challenge this May morning, a long hundred yard stretch of very slow moving trout water slightly weeded up and about 4-5ft at its deepest along the far bank across from me. Over forty feet wide with a fair amount of obstacles behind me I chose my backcasts well and relied on a rollcast the rest of the time. In my first two years fishing the Driftless Area I spent many hours here landing few fish and getting snagged on high brush and trees quite often. Now, a bit wiser I got hung up only a handful of times and spent two hours figuring out what the trout wanted and how they wanted to see it. Upon arrival I noticed the wall of Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard) moving out of the forest and into [singlepic id=2629 w=300 h=220 float=left]the field adjacent. It’s moving fast and is borderline unstoppable, note the pictures below that illustrate its progression through this field. Soon it will take over and the diversity of this forest will be at serious risk to this invasive specie.

A #14 CDC and Elk was trailed by a #16 Sparkle Larva about 12inches down and after that a #16 Hot Yellow P&P. With the low light in the early morning hours I contemplated tossing a streamer but the slow moving gin clear creek made me think twice about tossing anything heavy. I didn’t want to start the morning sending trout fleeing upstream only to disturb the fish I would eventually be casting to. I also witnessed a handful of slow rises, I thought midge and damn small too. This made me confident that the fish were active and near the surface, thus the choice of a dry/dropper rig. I wasn’t expecting the dry to get much action and it didn’t but it makes for a good indicator and with this slow moving weedy water I didn’t want my flies to sink to the bottom and get hung up fishing a no indicator rig. I make my choice to [singlepic id=2626 w=320 h=240 float=right]fish an indicator or not based on the situation and the water, here it was important to keep the flies where I wanted them 12-18inches below the surface of the water. Interestingly enough it took a couple long, almost two-three minute drifts before my #14 CDC and Elk slowly sank, I set the hook on a 6inch Brown sporting some beautifullycolored fins. The #16 Hot Yellow P&P was the only one of the three to take fish but it did and I’m confident that it would have continued to catch more but slowly and with the fish all likely to be small.

The next twenty minutes saw two more smaller Browns come to hand but the action was slow and I knew they would take something else more readily. I also knew there were a handful of nice 18-22inch fish cruising this area and with that I swapped to a Black #8 Kiss My Leech. I chose the KML because I tied them much lighter than the SMBs I’ve been fishing which I was hoping would help keep the fish calm with less of a surface impact. A couple casts in and fish were following but few were striking, I missed two and landed one a bit larger at 12inches. I kept at it moving slowly upstream making long casts across the slow pool working my flies back to my feet but the fish remained hesitant and time was running out. I decided to swap to a less flashy #8 Hairball with a tungsten bead, on the second cast I felt a strong tug. The first of over a dozen lay at my feet just over 12inches. I doubled back and sat for a couple minutes sipping my [singlepic id=2632 w=340 h=260 float=right]coffee before proceeding to work the entire stretch up again with the #8 Hairball. The sun that greeted me at 7:30am was now hidden behind a thick layer of clouds.

Working up-stream going slow and staying as low as possible I began picking off trout ofter trout. The #8 Hairball was the fly they wanted and would take readily. When fishing streamers I typically try any number of retrieves and this morning the fish wanted a very slowly stripped in fly, almost dragging it across the bottom. A number of strikes were missed but a nice 19inch female Brown rolled and showed me her colors jumping a few times attempting to shake my hook to no avail. She came to my net and we hung out for a minute before I sent her back to the creek. I continued at it until my hourglass was almost empty, I landed a bunch of fish in the 12-14inch range and lost one that was pushing 20inches for sure. I watched it roll as I was stripping my line in, it tasted enough hook for me to know it wouldn’t be striking my fly again. With that I took off for work as the sun came back out and turned up the heat on the creek.

Post Note: Invasive species are here and our presence affects their movements. Learn what you can about them and know how they are spread and move. That knowledge can help you keep your effect on the environment around you to a minimum. Garlic mustard seeds in its second full year after the plant dies for the season and the long thin stems filled with seeds catch on clothing or fur. Deer spread this stuff quite rapidly and the seeds stay viable in the soil for up to 10 years. When I’m out during the time of year when the plant dies I wash my boots off afterwards to try to get any tiny seeds off, waders too. It should be noted that just being in a forest infested with Garlic Mustard you run the risk of picking up seeds from prior years and spreading them say clung to your boots in mud. I’m not sure how much of a potential risk that would present but something to think about year round. I’m hoping this helps me from spreading it to other areas I love. Forest diversity is important.

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  1. John Montana: Tie a few. Easy tie and productive.
    Justin: Nice catch. I have been in western WI and will send you some pics soon. Numbers but nothing awesome. I have seem some monsters but they wont hit…

    Be well.

    avatar Paul
  2. very nice fish. Grew up down in SE mn, and check your posts regularily, thans for keepin’ up with the writin’ I’ve been up in Ely for the past 15 years guidein’ smallmouth anglers. if you ever get the bug to try the BWCA let me know, the smallies are great on the fly. wouuld love to see the recipe for that hairball fly if you get the chance. thanks

    avatar Steve
  3. Justin,

    Your note about invasives is right on. My girlfriend works on a conservation crew and they’ve been hitting the Garlic Mustard hard this spring trying to beat it back. Stuffs pretty tough.

    Nice fish.

    Really like the first “swimming away” pic. Lots of action in that shot. The turbulent water contrasted with the calm makes the shot.


    avatar Nic
  4. Hey Paul, I’ve been guiding for a fella named John Herrick for the last 14 years. He has a lodge called the Moose Bay Company. He has been around since the late 60’s we catch some nice fish. John has a website for the MBC, it is http://www.moosebay.com I think? My email address is zinger_55731@yahoo.com if you’re lookin’ for any info on the BWCA. drop me a note. I’m on facebook too, but don’t use it too much.

    avatar Steve

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