The plan was to meet up with Carl and cast dry flies hoping to find eager brook trout mouths. I worked the night before 5pm-5am and after getting home, getting my daughter to daycare I took a very brief nap. I woke to a text message at 9:15am instead of the 8:30am I had intended, late… I rushed to get things ready, we were an hour behind schedule when we parked on the edge of the stream. The plan was to get an initial feel for the possibility of a BWO hatch and if it was eminent to move upstream to a section containing brook trout quickly and if not then we would hang back and fish deeper pools with streamers working up to the brookies. I put my gear together and walked to the first riffle, temp was just shy of 50°F. BWO’s typically start at about 45°F and the ideal is 48°F. It was 11am, in the upper 40’s for an air temperature and the clouds were disappearing rapidly leaving the sun to warm things up further. I feared that the hatch had already come and gone, my hope was that upstream the water temp might be a bit cooler and perhaps we would find rising trout. We moved quickly to a long slow pool and observed the first two rises of the day. Long, slow, clear water… the most difficult conditions to fish a dry fly. We sat on those trout for a good half hour with not much to show for it, nothing rising consistently and no BWO’s seen.

At this point I opted to put on a lightly weighted streamer I had tied up the day before. I had two of them and I tied them in a direct response to the other Dirty Mop variants I had been tying which, although terribly effective in larger water, left too much of an impact on smaller streams in low and clear water conditions. I chucked my fly across the pool to the opposite bank and it barely sank. I slowly twitched it back in, moments later I watched the first flash and I was into trout. I managed a good half dozen fish from this first section before making a poor cast in the wind. I turned to find my fly dangling from a tree branch. I only had two of those flies and I was dead set on retrieving it, the problem here was that it was too high for me to climb to and hanging directly over a seriously deep section of water. I waded in and stood under the fly, my waders dangerously close to filling. Carl pulled my line taught from the opposite bank breaking the tippet off. My fly, falling through the air, my hat acting as a net… I missed it. In slow motion I can see this all play out, the fly is sinking, I sink my hat to use it as a net but the violent submersion of my hat causes movement of the water and shifts the fly in front of me and I miss it a second time. This results in my dropping the hat and reaching in after it as fast as I can. Success, soaking wet, success.

Fly in hand we moved upstream, Carl rigged to fish a dry fly and me with my re-acquired streamer. I fished every where I could, one shallow pocket next to a log moved the nicest brown on the day who came out so fast he startled me a bit. Moments later we are upstream and noticing the water turning brown, Cattle? None were seen, the bluff closest to the creek glistening with water gave it away…run-off. This would cool the water temps down, it was at this point in time (approx. 1:30pm) under sunny skies we caught a handful of BWO’s emerge. Carl grabbed one and I managed two photos before it decided to take off on me. The streamer game in the dirty water was unstoppable. I came to fish dry flies and had the fish wanted that over the streamer I would have obliged but instead I continued to crush brook trout after brook trout with a handful of smaller browns mixed in. Carl abandoned his dry fly after a bit and landed a few fish on a Royal Coachman. This continued as we fished through several deeper slow sections perfectly stained by the run-off, enough to give us plenty of cover but not so much as to put a halt to the feeding.

Upstream and an hour or so later its approaching 3pm, I’ve basically had the best afternoon I can think of and what happens next words almost can’t express. I stop to get a few images and some video of a frozen river of run-off from a dry run that is flowing down a steep bluff side as Carl moves way upstream. As I approach I notice in the distance he is laying on his stomach. He’s smiling. I army crawl up next to him and peer over the bank to spy dozens of brook trout, many of them much larger than expected, feeding on subsurface and surface midge. The angle perfect for capturing video of them rising and rolling under the surface as they ate. We sat here for the next hour and a half watching, filming, and eventually casting to and catching brookie after brookie. Carl tossed a #20 Midge dry fly several times with only one taker, the majority were feeding sub-surface so we opted for a #20 Miracle nymph which worked beautifully. Carl pulled one out, we waited and then I pulled one out and so forth. After a while I crossed downstream and tossed my streamer in the same pool and stripped it back in knocking several more aggressive brook trout, all in all I bet I touched close to twenty or more fish from this single spot. It was past 5pm at this point and we had to hike back out. I had dad duties to tend to and I considered myself one of the fortunate few who were able to take advantage of the day, I couldn’t complain one bit. On the way out, on a whim I tossed my fly down a run I had fished earlier containing larger brookies. The result would be the largest brook trout I’ve caught to date, a beautiful fish to end one of the best days I’ve had fishing a driftless area trout stream. I expected to fish dry flies, I wanted to but instead opted to adapt and as such was able to make the best of one of the better days we’ve had this spring trout angling season.

2 Comments

  1. Great job Justin! Adapting to the stream conditions and mood of Trout is the key to success on our Driftless Area small streams. That last big Brookie looks primordial, and mean.

    avatar Bill

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