07 Nov 2011 / Stream Running
Took a friend fishing the other day, woke early and drove for more than an hour to get streamside. That’s an hour for me… and over three for Paul. Coming from St. Paul this guy woke at 3:30am to get to my place at a good hour for the drive to the stream. Boots hit the creek at 8:05am with a water temp of ~52 degrees. The creek had very minimal stain bordering on clear but the deeper holes were a bit off providing good conditions to pull trout out with heavy streamers. I stuck on the fly of the month, a #6 Black Kiss My Leech and put Paul on the first hole we came to. A couple missed strikes and we moved on, I put my leech on the tail end of a pool allowing it to sink a couple feet before picking my line up. Again I can’t stress enough how many fish I have taken recently just by simply raising my rod to bring my streamer up and out slowly, often an aggressive fish is following close behind. This morning my leech was trailed to the surface to be crushed by a nicer 15+inch brown. Shortly after Paul landed his first fish of many for the day and we busted ass to cover as much creek as possible in a single day.
By noon we covered a good mile of creek pounding each spot with streamers only lingering if fish were caught with any regularity. The trout were on and aggressively hitting a streamer all morning. I wanted to get Paul a bit further from his usual fishing haunts and cover as much of this water as possible. Rainbow bridge (a spot known for it’s stocked rainbows), gave up nothing and we moved upstream. I was a bit disappointed, I was hoping Paul would get a Brown, Rainbow and Brook all on the same creek but after striking out at Rainbow bridge I was pretty sure we’d only see a Brook and Brown. Turns out I was way off. Upstream just a bit and the rainbows were out numbering the browns which is very unusual, typically I notice Rainbows in a very specific spot on this creek but today they were everywhere, more than a mile from where I would have guess I’d find them. Paul nailed his fair share of rainbows stripping his version of an SMB back to his feet but as the day would have it the Brookie would not be seen, a goal for next time. We worked alot on roll-casting and getting a weighted fly up and out of the water with a smooth motion, this keeps your weighted fly as close to the surface of the water as possible when you go to start your roll cast. The result: less tension from the water on your fly allowing it to roll out nicely despite it’s weight. On a side note: I landed the first fish I’ve ever caught with someone elses fly stuck in it’s mouth… I promptly removed both flies and let the fish go about it’s way. Not the brightest trout…
Further upstream we busted out of the woods and found ourselves in a trimmed cow pasture, a beautiful dark dogger was seen but not caught, it moved on my fly and despite my best efforts refused every presentation. The bluff walls around us were sporting the beautiful colors of fall, many leaves were hampering drifts but the weather couldn’t have been nicer. At ~1pm we made a choice to travel into the unknown, unknown water for the both of us. A much smaller creek giving up brown trout and creek chubs as we moved upstream. My opinion of creek chubs is grim as where there is one there are usually many and they will often hit your fly before a trout can. The flipside to that coin is that where there are brown trout and a ready food source like the Rosey Cheeked Creek Chub you will find larger trout. The second creek had a few interesting attributes, the first and most notable was the swarms of #20-22 Trico’s that I was spotting at each riffle we came to, at 1pm in late September… that’s quite interesting but few trout were rising. The second notable item would be the stain on the creek that was clearly not mud but something else all together.
The final note would be that as we fished upstream we caught fewer browns and more creek chubs. I ended up loosing the one KML that had taken every fish up to that point in the day. I decided to swap to a heavy as hell #8 Hairball with a tungsten bead and nymph some deep water, then something spectacular occurred… I caught a Carp on a trout stream, on a designated freakin trout stream. It was awesome! Trout and Carp love the Hairball, my 3wt looked like I had 6lbs of Brown trout giving me hell and all from a tiny carp. This thing was so small I bet the ones on the Columbia are born bigger! This fish totally made my day and I wanted to stay and tempt more but time was running out and another hour long drive was in order so we split, and that’s how Paul and I spent the last Saturday of the season, catching many trout and one awesome carp. Crazy.
That would stand for Super Secret Sexy Streamer Stretch. Say that five times fast… Better yet? Hike around the Driftless Area for a couple years looking for the most amazing piece of streamer water holding some of the largest trout in high quantities, then if you find it… keep your mouth shut. It’s approaching the end of the season and the trout are putting the feed bag on in anticipation for the fall spawn, this means big fish looking for a big meal. I’ve been spying a new stretch of creek for a while now waiting for the right moment to tackle some steep banks and thick vegetation, with the cooler weather it seemed like the time was right. Sershen and I got on location and made a decision to hike downstream to point A, fish up to point B quickly then concentrate our efforts from point B to point C, a thickly wooded section of creek that just looked daunting. My fly of choice was a #6 Black Kiss My Leech as I have exhausted every last Sprinkle Me Baby that I own, the only ones left sit in the ceiling of my fishing vehicle, the only real trophies other than photos I collect when big trout strike. Conditions were about as good as I could have hoped for, a bit of overcast on arrival with the creek stained a bit. We knew this could turn out disastrous with few fish caught while struggling through a thick forested mess, on the other hand the potential for hooking into large fish lay on the other side of the coin. I guess I’m a gambling man and I’m of the opinion that unless you hike it and put your flies in the drink you really don’t know what’s out there, you have to see it with your own eyes.
Downstream ~45min later we were at point A. That’s right, 45 minutes of hiking through thick ass brush, weeds taller than the average man and more burning nettles than I think I’ve ever cursed before. Along the way the first of many trout was nabbed as our path forced us to cross the creek in a particularly tasty location, a deep drifted Kiss My Leech very slowly brought to the surface revealed a 14inch Brown trailing it only to strike within an inch from the surface. My experience has shown when drifting anything really really deep bring it up slowly, so many times I’ve had a fish trailing the fly all the way to the surface. I look at it like this, if the fish strikes, excellent. If not you now know a depth that a fish was holding at or at the very least that you were able to get deep enough to find a trout along the way back to the surface. If you arn’t getting your flies to the fish they will not strike. So the first fish showed its ugly face… literally. This fish looked like it picked a fight with a Heron or something, the jaw was busted in several places and was all bloodied up yet it still nailed my fly…
Downstream at point A we took turns presenting streamers to tasty looking water spending only a few minutes in each location. It’s important to spend enough time to be confident that your flies are getting to the right locations in the creek but not so much time that your wasting your afternoon. We tag-teamed specific runs and others we split and each took solo. Point A to B went quickly and a handful of Brown’s ranging from 13-15inches were caught before I managed the first dogger of the day. 18inches according to the tape, this trout caught me a bit off guard as I had pulled a smaller 15inch fish out just prior to hooking this guy and was not expecting much to come of a second pass, I was wrong. Several nice head shakes and this fish was working me over pretty well, I thought about reaching for my net as I hollered back to Sershen for assistance but ultimately opted to keep my hands on the rod and line which kept this fish from wrapping me around a tree limb. I eventually moved him to a shallow section full of mud and scooped him up with the net. Dogger #1.
We moved upstream and the #6 Kiss My Leech could do no wrong, it hit the creek and the brown trout turned and hit it just as quickly. The strike to hookup ratio was almost 1:1 by this point and things were looking excellent. We reached point B and took assessment of the thick jungle. We opted to hike the forested edge at first but I got sick of that after attempting to climb a steep bank up and out of the creek only to end up sliding face first into a bunch of nettles. Shortly after I hopped in the creek for good and made roll casts to any dark or deep peice of water basically continually moving upstream until I found something super tasty: like this, at which point Sershen and I would take turns attempting to pull something out.
This water was giving up 12-16inch Brown’s left and right to the Kiss My Leech, for a good hour I could do no wrong just put the fly on the fish, often they hit it so hard I didn’t have to do much to set the hook. As time wore on we began noticing the random aggressive rise and shortly after Sershen pegged the cause, big, ugly, flying beetles. There were so many that at one point I took more than one to the head and neck. I came to fish streamers through big ugly Driftless water so I stuck with the Kiss My Leech as it was kicking ass, Sershen opted to try a foam beetle pattern after loosing his streamer to a snag. He did manage one trout but before he could land the fish and retrieve his fly we watch the fish wrap him around a tree branch, shake once and take off. The streamer was re-applied in short order.
Bouncing through the creek bank to bank is not the ideal way to go in my opinion but some situations call for it. The fish, despite my un-coordinated trudging remained eager to eat and relatively un-affected by my presence. I managed a nicer 16inch Brown along with a handful of 14-15inch fish along the way, they were promptly released without me so much as touching them, a simple grab and twist of my barbless fly put the trout back in the creek and kept me making casts and landing fish. We worked the wooded section up and came to a couple deep spots that deserved a bit more attention but only a couple shadows were seen, it was the faster deep riffles that held the bigger fish for the day. Sershen, after putting on a #8 Hairball, pulled two nice fish from a deep riffle then turned around and landed an 18inch female sporting a serious gut. This was the icing on the cake, Dogger #2. With both of us content and promising it wouldn’t be long before we were back on this water we quickly fished back to the vehicle with Monarch butterflies following us on our way out.
So it went that the last day of the catch and keep season I went George hunting. I had spied this trout several times throughout the latter half of this summer season, I watched her come out twice on previous attempts but hesitate at the last moment only to slink back to the hidey hole thus eluding my net. Armed with a #6 Black Kiss My Leech, one large splitshot, 3x tippet on a 6ft leader and a big net I made three casts before I saw her come out. She moved and again hesitated, I thought I missed my opportunity but decided to cast to her again as she had not tasted hook. On a down and across swing (she had moved downstream from me after following my fly on the first attempt) I watched her come up and nail my fly ~3inches under the surface. This fish felt like a hog, I didn’t realize how much of a hog until I got her into the net. She taped at exactly 22inches and was probably the largest fish I’ve caught in terms of girth to date. And so it went that on the last day of the catch and keep season I nailed a George, smiling in the sun, knee deep in the creek I let this fish swim from my hands, splashing my face as she returned to the place she came from. Flies will take big trout around here, persistence helps, so does a big net and 3x tippet. Note: the crappy out of water photo was taken in a heart racing moment with adrenaline pumping, a typical scenario that I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a handful of times in my short career fly fishing the Driftless Area.
- AT: 7:00am DT: 11:30am
- WT @8am: 57°F @11am: 56°F
- Clear Water on Arrival
- AAT: 75°F DAT: 84°F
- Rising Trout on Arrival
Onstream at 7am…late for this time of the year. I hiked downstream roughly a mile and began working back upstream to the truck. Started with a two fly nymph rig consisting of a #14 Pink Squirrel and a #16 Caddis larva. Picked off a couple but opted to swap to a #14 Stimulator due to observed rising. I tossed the Stimulator for an hour and picked off close to a dozen trout in the 8-11inch range. Looking for one or two larger fish I swapped to a #8 Olive Kiss My Leech. I opted for this particular streamer pattern for two reasons. The creek was gin clear, the fish were active and nearer to the surface making a lighter streamer less likely to spook trout but still get the attention of those feeding anywhere near the surface. I did put on a decent sized splitshot to drift a couple deeper spots but for the most part I was tossing the streamer and stripping it in fairly quickly. Many strikes observed the second the fly touched the surface of the creek, a nice tight cast was needed to hook up with an instant strike. The stimulator made its way into action over the course of the morning a couple more times dictated by the situation. Weedy? Go top water. Risers? Go top water. I assessed the bug situation and believe the tiny Baetis nymphs I observed with dark wingpads were the hatching insect bringing trout to surface. A well dressed, high floating Stimulator did the trick just fine and was much easier to see than a smaller #18-20 BWO. When the thunder clouds rolled in I rolled out leaving the creek at roughly 11:30am. Get conditioned to wake early… Trico’s will be upon us soon.
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 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 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 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.
02 Dec 2009 / Fly Tying
Discipline By King Crimson. Check it Out, it might knock the hook out your vise.
19 Oct 2009 / Stream Running
The plan was hatched with little time to spare. The night before digging my gear from it’s hidden resting place, packing fly boxes, tying the last minute necessities and printing my stamp and license at home, sometimes you have to love the internet. We left with a few crappy maps (way to go Heath) to find trout in the state of Iowa, the place you go when your a Minnesotan in the off season if you want to scratch that itch that’s been nagging at you for seventeen days but who’s counting? We stopped off in La Crosse, Wisconsin to grab some winter gear that will be put to the test in the coming months (more on that later). After the stop we hit the road to ride the Mississippi down to our target. Read the rest of this entry »
15 Oct 2009 / Fly Tying
It seems an unspoken truth that if you combine the color black, some kind of flash and a streamer hook your going to be catching fish be it trout, carp, bass, panfish, or pike. With that in mind I did a bit of digging and found a few leech patterns that use Zonker strips to form the majority of the fly, with this idea and a few items unique to the Winona Fly Factory bench I came up with the Kiss My Leech. In similar fashion as the Sprinkle Me Baby this fly has a collar but it’s made of Peacock Ice Dub and brushed out to be scraggly looking, also in the spirit of the SMB I plan to be singing come on baby, Kiss My Leech, Kiss My Leech, Kiss My…..Fish ON! Read the rest of this entry »