Hit the creek on a mild January day to fish for spooky natural reproducing browns and brookies in low water conditions. Airtemp felt brisk on arrival but compared to last year it should be looked at as a heat wave. It’s weird walking around in waders, crossing the creek whenever simply because the conditions allow for it. This is January in Minnesota of all places, weird is an understatement. So the day began with a mile or so hike downstream to location A, a sexy run with a deep center channel holding both Rainbows and Browns. We arrived early enough to watch the sun crest over the bluff to take the layer of frost away. Seated in position we waited for the sun to top the trees, hit the creek and hopefully make the midge begin to emerge. After fifteen minutes the sun wasn’t moving fast enough and we opted to try small nymphs. A #18 BH Pheasant Tail was trailed by a #20 Miracle nymph, pretty standard winter rig for this time of the year.
An unexpected guest in the form of an 8 year old boy with a spinning rod approached our initial spot and tossed his spinner in the creek, a bit of frustration ensued but rather than scold the young man we moved on further upstream and allowed him to work his home water. With a longer leader and a single additional split shot even spooky fish were hitting the #20 Miracle nymph. A #8 SMB was employed for a bit but when the trout showed no signs of wanting the larger meal I switched back to the small nymphs. A most satisfying moment came when several small browns were nymphed up from a slow section where every cast sent the pod of fish scattering, making long casts to get the flies down at the right point to fool trout that know your there is one of the things about winter trout fishing I love. Small as those trout were they were every bit as enjoyable to catch knowing the challenge I was presented with.
Further upstream a #8 Hairball was employed for a brief time but seeing the trout ignore it forced my hand and the small nymphs came back into play. Sershen working upstream of me with a #20 PT was stalking a large brown when I landed a handful of smaller fish on the #20 Miracle nymph. As I was preparing to send my flies far upstream with a long cast the cry for aid was heard, my rod was immediately abandoned. My flies hooked one of my gloves as I tore off upstream to grab the net for my friend, I dropped my glove en-route and stood with the net readied as he moved it out of a thick swatch of water cress and away from a structure that would have most certainly caused his 6x line to break. With one quick motion the beautiful female was brought to hand. A 20 on a #20, what a beautiful thing. The lesson to take home here is that if the trout don’t want your streamer or larger nymph work the flies they are willing to take, even the big ones will eat a small meal. With the trout released we lay on the bank adrenaline still pulsing through both of us. What an awesome way to wrap the afternoon up. Maybe thirty more minutes of fishing was had, came across a large buck decaying in the creek, I plan to come back and attempt to remove the portion of the carcass I want for home. The last notable event occurred after a couple bad casts resulted in a tangled mess of my two nymph rig, knowing the day was basically finished I opted to cut my line back to my 3X tipped and put on a #8 SMB, sending it through a run a charge and quick swipe from a most beautifully colored brookie was seen, the fish tasting hook spit my fly before I could set the hook and instead of disappearing it remained holding less than five feet from me. I jokingly sent my fly to it again, nothing but it didn’t run for cover. Another attempt caused the brookie to move and look but not take, another attempt and it hit lightly but not enough to get a hookset. Again it remained holding, three more attempts and it moved on my fly one more time but didn’t hit. Finally I gave up and enjoyed watching those bright white fins from the bank. What an excellent way to end the day.
Looking for new, unexplored winter trout water I found myself streamside at the usual hour for this time of year ~11:30am. I rigged a #16 Orange Scud to start the day with the hopes that by the time I was getting ready to make my first cast I would have to re-rig with a #20 Midge but despite the excellent conditions for the day only a scant few midge were seen and very minimal rising fish, I counted only three all day. With a projected high of 20degrees with literally NO wind we picked a spot that would otherwise be a windy nightmare. Setting boot to snow pack I was confident the snowshoes could sit in the car but after a few minutes of hiking I did a 180, turned around and grabbed the shoes, this made the day more comfortable and helped us cover alot more ground without sweating to death. If you have them, use them.
I fished with a friend again today each bringing our own perspectives to each potential spot to fish. Winter fishing is difficult enough but then to combine it with unseen water can make for a fish free day. When I can I like to get a second perspective on the situation. Fishing with a friend, sticking close and discussing the options can really work well. The #16 Orange Scud got a #20 Miracle Nymph trailer after a few strike free passes but on the third cast got lodged on a snag and I was forced to break my line. Note: Pinch your barbs at the vise, better than in the cold. I re-rigged the same flies and continued but with minimal success. The first stretch we fished was an obstacle course requiring slow movements and roll casts. Unfortunately 90% of the fishy lies were clogged with sticks, logs, debris, habitat, nature’s defense against anglers like myself, you get the picture.
We continued hiking passing thousands of trout knowing that an attempt could be made but neither of us felt like spending our entire day losing flies every third cast. A few snaggy spots were fished, some so fishy looking I would have thrown an entire box of flies down there if I would have thought a fish was going to come up intime for me to get my flies out without something fouling up the works. Enjoyed the winter sun again, very few January days (especially weekends) will produce 20 degree air temps with no wind. The combination of the two made the day.
The stream eventually opened up a bit and we found a few good deep runs to spend a bit of time tempting trout. With the #16 Orange Scud and #20 Miracle Nymph trailer I got no strikes, not a single one. I put on a second splitshot to ensure I was getting deep enough when I snagged something and lost the entire rig down to the 4x tippet on the end of my leader. I made a choice, rather than spend the time to tie on a stretch of 5x tippet and top it off with a few smaller nymphs I opted to go straight to the #8 Olive Sprinkle Me Baby I had used the last time I was out. No additional weight, just the conehead and wraps of weighted wire to help sink the fat fly. A few passes later and I knew I was on to something as I had several noticeable strikes. I was expecting slower strikes but my fly line was jumping as if summer nymphing. Eventually I managed to get a good hookset and began the afternoon of back to back Brown trout.
Once we figured out where the trout were and what they were willing to take we each hooked up with several trout over 12inches. We each landed a few 14inch browns unfortunately I rolled and lost two approaching 18inches. That can be a bit disappointing but not when compared with the excellent weather conditions and otherwise cooperating trout. It seemed the larger the trout the slower and less pronounced the strike. I got to the point where any slow in my line resulted in a hookset no matter how insignificant it seemed. One of the larger trout lost was hooked in this manner but I was too late by the time by the time my line slowed. In a few instances the smaller 10inch trout would be willing to almost surface in pursuit of the streamer as it rose on the swing. A note worthy event considering the amount of calories burned by those trout chasing down my streamer.
This scene played out under the mid-day sun until close to 3pm when the sun eventually hit a bank of clouds, the air temp took a nose dive and the trout activity followed suit shortly after. We each landed a dozen easy and lost probably three times that many more, for a while it seemed every third drift resulted in a noticeable strike, on the #8 SMB of all flies, one reason to bring your streamer box with you everytime. There are some hungry trout out there just waiting for you to toss a meal in front of its nose, even in the dead of winter trout still have to eat.
22 Dec 2010 / Fly Tying
Notes of Interest:
- Arrival at ~10:30am Water Temp 42 Degrees, Air Temp Upper 30′s
- Nymphed up smaller Browns on a #20 Miracle Nymph
- Swapped to Streamers at 12:30pm. Water Temp ~44 Degrees
- Landed ~10 Browns/Rainbows between 10-14inches
- Stream Clouded up quite abit around 3pm, Fishing Slowed (No Water Temp.)
- No bugs today other than a few scattered midges, minimal rising from the trout.
- I emailed the DNR regarding the concerning Dam, I was told it will be removed ASAP.
Onsite arrival: 11:45am. I geared up and decided to take a quick peek at the situation prior to my compadre arriving at 12:30pm. I dawned a pair of new waders and boots today for the first time, my first set of breath-ables, about time… Snowshoes were a noticeable help immediately, it was very apparent we would be trailblazing after a hundred yards or so. Thanks to Sershen for lending out a pair so I could lend out mine. I was greeted by three large steers watching my every movement, I avoided them for the most part but managed to get a few good poses from the group. I rigged a single #16 Pink Patrick and let loose on the first hole I found fishy enough, several passes later I had just a twig from the bottom to show for my efforts. I chose not to dwell long and instead hiked back to the truck to meet Wendy B. Read the rest of this entry »