- Midge around Noon.
- Little Black Stoneflies too.
- Active Brown Trout Taking Small Nymphs.
- Sun Shining, Low to No Wind.
Arrival time ~9am. Airtemp in the upper 20′s. With frost on the ground Carl and I began the morning hike downstream passing up over two miles of creek. I didn’t bother to stop once to look, the goal was to get to the starting point, a remote area that requires a serious hike from either direction to get to. This translates to a place where few frequent, the trout haven’t been pressured and the area is left untouched (for the most part). Places like this, far from roads, houses, people…they are rare and should be treasured. As we hiked downstream avoiding the temptation to glance at the water we were to see as our day progressed, the morning sun came out taking with it the frost and my need for an overcoat. January and I’m hiking the creek in a fleece because my traditional winter gear is simply too much for the almost 30degree airtemp at ~9am.
Once downstream I gazed upon large water with darting shadows, the shadows of trout, white suckers and the rosey cheeked creek chub. Due to the large water and not having fished this creek before I opted to swing a streamer. I fish a streamer in situations like this if the trout respond, my third roll cast saw a smaller brown chase the streamer almost to my feet, a good sign that my SMB would take fish this day. A couple casts later I had the first brown of the day on the line only to have it shake my barbless hook at the last moment. Minutes into the day of fishing and I knew my choice of fly was going to pay off. I’m not suggesting that nymphs wouldn’t have worked but given the size of the creek and not knowing the depth or location of the trout fishing a streamer was going to be the best choice for me. Upstream a bit I spied from the bank a larger shadow, clear blue water with big cover boulders piqued my interest. I opted to sit on it a bit, adding a splitshot and working my roll cast out a good forty feet I let my fly dead drift until my line came to a halt. I missed one but with the next pass my line went taught, a bit of a run and a fat splash showed a nicer 18 and a half inch brown trout, a Dogger. What a way to start the morning, second trout to hand pushing 19inches.
After releasing the larger fish I sat on that spot for quite a while repeating the same process landing two more and missing more than that. The slow lethargic strike was difficult to detect but the fish were eating the streamer and so it continued to be my fly of choice. My fishing partner Carl fished upstream from me and was doing quite well with his streamer choice, we continued to work the creek up enjoying the beautiful conditions. Further upstream the wind began to pick up a bit but not enough to make me put my coat on, we sat and watched for any rising trout. A few scattered midge were spotted hovering over the creek but by 11am we’d only seen a couple trout surface. I kept the streamer on for the next hour, by 12pm we came upon a run/pool system showing regularly rising trout. We crept up low and sat in the brush watching the trout and the midge, we swapped our large streamers for longer leaders and #20 flies. The wind made things difficult, as did the clear low water but Carl’s approach resulted in a fooled brown. I tried for another further upstream but was unsuccessful, even an attempt with a #20 Miracle Nymph was fruitless. Although a handful of fish were rising regularly they were hesitant and I opted to move upstream and put my streamer back on.
The beautiful day was made as fish chased down my streamer, a handful more came to hand and many were missed. No ice in the guides and sun on my shoulders, I can’t stress enough how wonderful these places are and the excellent weather was the icing on the cake. The rest of the day was much the same, following the winding creek upstream we ended up where we started the morning, fished out by 3:30 or so I was content to call the day successful and every bit as satisfying as any other day in the peace of the Driftless Area. Good to take full advantage of good airtemps and low wind in January, it can’t last forever.
- AT: 8:46am, DT: 3:50pm
- AAT: ~36°F, DAT: ~37°F
- WT: 8:46am 42°F, 11am 44°F, 3:50pm 46°F
- Wind Nil until 2pm
- Clear Water on Arrival
- Midge in the Snow on Arrival
I planned to assess the water where I parked then hike downstream but after taking initial water temps and checking the rocks, the trout rising at ~9am were too much for me to walk away. I told myself one or two then downstream, a dozen or so later and it was 10am. I was fishing a longer (11ft) leader and had some trouble getting it to open up completely with the slight breeze coming at me. I moved maybe 6ft in the first two hours, thinking to the recent reading regarding the speed of sound through water. Trout less than twenty feet away and my clunky boots grinding the gravel. The midge in the morning were larger, #20′s with a few #22′s mixed in. As the day would have it the trout did not stop rising.
I fished the first two hours in the same spot in just my long sleeve shirt with the net handy quickly landing trout and cleaning up my fly. Landed quite a few fish with a single #20 Jujubee Midge, nothing over 12inches and nothing under 7inches a steady hard fighting group, most were picked off by sight, waiting, fishing to the rise in rhythm. A handful came as pleasant surprises when a poor cast was allowed to drift long or an unintended target swooped in for the take. At 11am I had fished the run through and either put down or caught every fish that was rising, some remained striking the surface in upstream reaches but they had slowed and were in slower slack water. I put on my coat and hiked downstream.
Swung a #8 Black SMB for quite a while getting nowhere. Looking for a bigger brown or rainbow but neither were seen. One long distance release on a brown that looked to be roughly 14inches. I rigged a #8 Hairball and trailed it with a #16 Black Swimming PT, my Dark Hendrickson (E.Subvaria) nymph imitation. The PT took more fish than the Hairball but it got a couple in. The afternoon was kind of slow, hiking back upstream fishing a pocket here or a run there picking up a bit of trash as I went. Sad to see such an excellent fishery with such life littered with aluminum and plastic, in my time visiting here this seems to be the rule and thus the name Trash Creek.
I rounded the day out hiking further upstream than I had planned but I saw aggressively rising trout and didn’t want to waste the opportunity. My #20 Jujubee Midge fooled three but the rest weren’t having it, size does matter. The majority of the afternoon midge were much closer to #24/26. I swapped back to the #8 Black SMB and fished a couple more deep holes managing a handful of 12-13inch browns. Hiking upstream I took note of brown puddles created by perhaps a concerning amount of cow manure coming from a pasture area upstream. Piles of manure all the way to waters edge, this can’t be good for the water quality. Trash Creek, bummer. I finished and hiked out taking a final water temp (46°F) in the same riffle I took the morning assessment. Final Note: Ephemerella Subvaria and Baetis were here in large quantities, Baetis in the slightly slower water upstream from faster riffles and the Subvaria all over the rocks in the fastest part of the riffles. Get ready, provided things go well with the melt April looks to be excellent.
- Onstream ~12pm to ~3:15pm
- Arrival Air Temp ~25°F, Departure Air Temp ~31°F
- Wind ~10mph from the SSW
- Overcast with No Sun
- Midge in the Snow on Arrival
- Rising Trout Observed at ~1:15pm
Sunday I made it out for a few hours, my goal was to take it easy, enjoy the stream and hopefully the fish. Some days I plan to hike forever and I end up hiking maybe more than casting, that’s just the way I am about this place. I have a desire to see every bend, every run, every fish knowing full well that I’ll never get close. The desire this day was to see all the fish. I just wanted to catch a bunch of fish, didn’t care what size, I just didn’t want to spend the day hiking or casting. With midge in the snow shortly after arrival and with a higher predicted air temp it was inevitable that the trout were going to be rising as the afternoon wore on. I prepped my leader (8ft long tapering to 18inches of 4x tippet), then prepped two rigs. The first a #8 Hairball with a #16 Hot Spot Scud (Pink) trailing it with 16 inches of 6x (I’d ran out of 5x). The second was a simple #20 Midge Dry Fly with 18-20inches of 6x tied to it. I did this so I could easily switch back and forth between the two, just clip my line at the 4x knot and either tie the nymph rig on or go straight to the 6x tippet with the Midge dry. I left the one I wasn’t fishing in my chest-pack with a bit of tippet hanging out.
I fished with and without an indicator, I know some who swear by an indicator and others who would never touch a “bobber.” I on the other hand let the trout, the water and my fly selection dictate my choice to use an indicator. With that said I sat on a handful of decent runs I knew and picked off trout after trout. I was trying to create a numbers day. By the time I saw the first serious risers I had already touched a dozen brown trout mostly in the 8-13inch range. At ~1:15pm I saw consistant rising from several trout up and downstream from my location. I cut my nymph rig off at the 4x tippet connecting my #8 Hairball and trailing fly, packed those away and pulled out the #20 Midge Dry with 18inches of 6x tippet. This made for a quick and efficient transfer allowing me to pick up three more with a dry fly. Fishing a midge dry in the winter months with gin clear water producing committed strikes, few experiences top that.
After I took the few with the dry fly I swapped back to my nymph rig rather than hike in search of more rising trout. I worked one run for a long time pulling out brown’s every couple of minutes. The smaller fish took the smaller #16 Hot Spot Scud in larger numbers and the larger fish took the larger #8 Hairball, it was a pretty even 1:1 ratio between the two as the afternoon wore on. Around 2pm I opted to head back out to fish the spot I began with, as I peered over the bank to the stream I could see chasers, risers, the midge. I love watching a trout run around picking off randomly located surface flies or items from the drift, I refer to these fish as chasers. I played pick your fish for the next forty minutes or so. With one poor back-cast I allowed my #20 Midge dry to remain in a weed behind me about twenty feet. Rather than move and risk putting the trout down I tied on a #20 Jujubee Midge. The CDC is kind of a pain in the ass but this fly produces, period. I used it to pick off close to a dozen trout including one that continually rose every couple of minutes on the far side of the stream. I watched that fish rise over and over again until I had pulled all his friends behind him out then I played the timing game, on the third attempt I had him, that smaller 12inch brown was as satisfying as any fish I’ve caught. Pick your fish, dry fly fishing. Not a bad way to round out February.
Enjoy a minute from the Feb. 14th outing. Remember to change the video settings from 360p to 720p in the lower right corner after the video begins playing. It will take alittle longer to load but well worth the wait. Thanks Wendy B. for another excellent day on our Driftless Creeks.
The Field Report
- Arrival: ~8am, Departure: ~4:30pm
- Airtemp: Arrival ~35ºF, Departure ~42ºF
- Wind: NW 18mph at 8am slowing to 8mph at 4pm
- Water Temps: ~12:30pm 39ºF, ~2:45pm 41.5ºF
- Midge in the snow at 10:30am, Rising trout at 1:15pm
Wendy B. and I met roadside a bit before 8am under sunny skies. The wind was predicted to be a beast for the early morning hours dying down as the day wore on. We chose a spot that did not compliment the wind well, right in our faces for most of the day. With that said it posed minimal comfort issues but made casting a pain in the ass. After hiking in a ways we broke up and began casting nymphs. I played around with a #12 Hairball (tan) trailed by a #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud for a majority of the day. I know we sent most the fish at the first few places scattering, the wind was a hindrance the first hour or so. Winona County was under a wind advisory until 9am on the 14th. Just ask my 50ft white spruce that came down while I slept the night before.
Fishing was a bit slow the first couple of hours, we hiked and fished looking for good places to get out of the wind and into the sunshine, had their been no wind I would have been in a t-shirt most of the day. We sat on a few runs and I eventually landed a fish around 10am. Picking up a couple nymphing, the #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud out fished the #12 Hairball 2:1 easy over the course of the day. Wendy B. was successful with a #14 Orange Scud earlier in the day. We hiked upstream, the plan was to fish a while then access a second stream to finish the day out.
At site two I took an initial water temp and checked the rocks. Interesting how one stream will put off midge like crazy and the next puts off tiny black stones in large quantities. We had hoped to find a reason to fish this second site as far as the winter regulations would allow but after half a mile we hadn’t found what we were looking for. At 12:30pm we stopped in the sun and out of the wind to make lunch. I often want to bring lunch and stop to eat but rarely do, today the longer hours and distance travelled through thick wet snow almost demanded re-fueling. I managed to bust out a crude fire in the snow with a lighter and what nature had to offer around me in a reasonable amount of time. Wendy prepped kindling while I prepped the site and got the tinder needed to get flames roaring. Fifteen minutes later we were stuffing hot dogs topped with all the fixings down enjoying the moment in the snow. Trash packed away and fire covered with a foot of snow we busted out to find a trout, a decent lunch in less than thirty minutes.
We thought for a bit about hiking a ways and fishing something we both knew but decided instead to peek around the corner, glad we did. Once back on-stream we noticed rising trout almost instantly, consistently rising trout, launching trout. After watching a handful of brown trout propel out of the water we dropped our gear to rig 18inches of 6x tippet with a #20 Midge Dryfly. A few minutes later on my second drift a smaller brown came up for my #20 Jujubee Midge. We thought about splitting up but if done properly back to back trout dry fly fishing can be fun with a friend. The one who wasn’t fishing was taking pictures and landing trout with the net. I continued with the Jujubee midge but found that once the CDC wing was slimed the fly was useless. I believe it has its place in my box for finiky trout that demand the look and behaviour of this fly, the first two drifts showed why CDC can be so effective. I opted for a #20 Midge that had hackle rather than CDC for the wing/legs. We continued catching nicer back to back browns ranging from 10-13inches over the course of the next hour or so, we would have landed more if the wind hadn’t fouled a fair number of casts up. Nothing like watching your leader and tippet blown straight back at you as your line is laying down on the creek, it could have worse though. The dry fly hour can make a day, it did this day. The trout ceased rising at ~2:30pm, the water temp was 41.5ºF. We continued upstream swinging streamers through a few deeper sections with minimal results.
On my suggestion we opted to hike 95% of the way back out and round out the day sitting on a few runs. This was maybe not the best choice, we busted ass through the snow and by the end we were both pretty beat. We split up and each took a spot. I swapped my rig to the #12 Hairball (tan) trailed by the #16 Pink Hot Spot Scud and began picking off brown after brown. The nymphing was almost as good as dry fly fishing, I couldn’t keep the fish off my line had I tried. A couple of times I lost a fish as it struck my flies emerging from the water as I prepared to cast again. In forty minutes I must have managed close to dozen brown trout from 8-12inches and one pushing 13inches from the single run. I lost twice that for sure, takes ranged from aggressive to sluggish making it difficult to anticipate a strike, sometimes your line would twitch and others it would come to a very slow stop. The sun began to hide behind clouds and the air temp seemed to drop a bit signaling the end of the day.
The Bug Report:
With the warmer weather I spent a bit of time checking rocks, beginning the count and assessment of the hatches for the coming season. I hope to get out to a few places I’ve caught decent mayfly and caddis hatches the last two years to check the rocks and see where I should concentrate my efforts come spring. I can tell you now that the Dark Hendricksons are on the rocks. Ephemerella Subvaria were pretty thick on the creek we fished, the wing pads still have a ways to go before they are mature enough to hatch but provided we don’t get major flooding the Dark Hennies should be good to go. Other bugs spied…everything! This creek is alive. Caddis larva of all kinds, Maccafertium nymphs (either Light Cahills or March Browns), Giant Water Beetles and Leeches all clung to rocks I examined.
22 Dec 2010 / Fly Tying
21 Nov 2010 / Fly Tying
I know it’s not a Caddis pattern but I needed a break the other day and was searching youtube for the usual fly fishing distraction when I came across a video from Frank Smethurst. He ties a midge pattern that peaked my interest. This thing has it all, it looks buggy as hell, it’s easy to tie, I’ve got all the materials and it has me pumped for the frozen tundra and midge season that’s coming soon. I love the use of the under-feather and it had me looking my hackle stash over for other varieties of under-feather, some of the smaller pheasant tail feathers around the rump contain excellent under-feather for this use. Most of your capes are going to have some of this under-feather on the larger hackle feathers. This is the only and best use I’ve seen for this material to date, the down side you ask? I’m now going to have a hard time tossing those “useless” feathers after I’ve used the palatable hackle, I’m sure in a few years I’ll have a box brimming with nothing but the butt ends of hackle feathers, a testament to my obsession. I hate waste and this fly is a great “waste material” fly. I looked through my waste pile of material trimmings and found enough spare materials off the bat to tie a half dozen.
- Hook: #18-22 1X Short Scud Hook
- Thread: Red 70 Denier UTC
- Body: Stripped Peacock Herl
- Wings: Pearl Krystal Flash
- Thorax: Under-Feather
Another anti-waste aspect of this fly is the stripped peacock herl. After reading a post from Switter’sB a year or so ago I’ve used only the herl on left side of my peacock quills for the fullness leaving several quills with the right side fully intact, now I have a good reason to strip those lengths of herl down to form quill bodies. I know there are chemical methods to strip the fibers off the quill but I’m not one to jump to chemicals if I don’t have too. A bit of my time and fingernails did just fine stripping the quills clean. I should also note that I used Zap-A-Gap to coat the herl body ensuring longevity. Always wanting to try my own variations I also fooled around with two colors of goose biot bodies, I love the look of a biot body. Check the video out, I enjoyed it.
28 Feb 2010 / '10 Winter Season
Notes of Interest:
- Adult Winter Stones and Midge on Arrival (~11am)
- BWO’s at ~12:30-1pm as the Water Temp Rose to 49 Degrees
- Despite Higher Water Temps Minimal Rising Trout
- Saw Four Deer When I Usually See None
- Found 3 Deer Carcasses, One Way Too Fresh To Show Here
- Attempted Bug Photo’s with Reference Tape in mm, worth the effort, will continue this practice.
- Flies that worked: #20 Zebra Midge and a #18 Pheasant Tail Nymph
- New Water Today With a Nice Trail, Google Earth Estimates 2.4 Miles Travelled One Way