Underbody Tan, Green Overbody...Knowing that trout are opportunists, and that as the seasons progress, the available food source for the trout that live in our driftless streams morphs throughout the year. One of my goals has been to understand at a basic level why things work the way they do in an effort to use nature to my advantage to further my goal; of catching trout. With that said it is getting to be that wonderful time of the year when the hop-ass winged-wonders arrive in droves. The Grasshoppers.

To find the best conditions for mobile grasshoppers I chose to fish later in the day getting to the water around 4pm. I know it is still early and that as the next month and a half progresses there will be better opportunities to fish hopper patterns but I my goal was to scout out a place I believed would yield a plague. Grasshoppers are ectotherms, meaning they use external sources to regulate their body temperature, such as the sun. Knowing this and the fact that it has been much cooler recently made me choose the height of the day for the search. Hopper patterns will be best fished later in the day after the naturals have a chance to warm themselves to the minimum 101.5 degree mark, signaling activity. Note: the graph below compares different specie healthy adult body temperature.

Human Homo sapiens 98.6° F 37° C endotherm, homeotherm
Dog Canis familaris 102° F (± 1°) 39° C (± 1°) endotherm, homeotherm
Pigeon Colomba ssp. 106.6° F 41° C endotherm, homeotherm
Lizard Sceloporus spp. 87.8° – 95° F 31° – 35° C ectotherm, poikilotherm
Fish (Rainbow Trout) Salmo gairdneri 53.6° – 64.4° F 12° – 18° C ectotherm, poikilotherm
Rattlesnake Sistrurus miliarius barbouri 59° – 98.6° F 15° – 37° C ectotherm, poikilotherm
Grasshopper Melanoplus sanguinipes 101.5° – 108° F 38.6° – 42.2° C ectotherm, poikilotherm

I rigged a F*** ****** (shhh…it will come in time) with a Sparkle Larvae hanging off the end about 18 inches and put it in the first drink I arrived at. Two casts later I was pulling in the first trout of the afternoon, a beautiful 10in S.E. Minnesota brown trout. I kept swinging and pulled a few more tiny ones out all on the Sparkle Larvae, I did get one strike with the secret weapon but the Sparkle Larvae was the clear winner today. Going on six trout nymphed from the same spot I felt kind of selfish but I was the only one around, move on? Nope.

Lucky #7

I put my flies in again hoping to bring lucky number seven to hand when I saw the take, with a #16 barbless scud hook I’ve found that if I set the hook too sharply that it pops right off but if I make the hook set a slow but immediate response the hook sticks, something to keep in mind for winter trout nymphing. Back to “Lucky”, I set the hook in the slow manner, difficult for me at times, as I brought the fish in I saw what I thought was it’s shadow elongated by the angle of the sun. It was not an elongated shadow, no this was the real deal which I became very aware of as the fish came easily in to me and promptly turned and took off. Normally a bit of a run is cool but this was awesome, ran three or four times and really pulled hard. At this point I got in the stream and landed this fish downstream before the stream turned into nothing but a riffle. Big Fish (18in)…Small Fly(#16), just a thought for any of you who like to catch “large” trout.

Brook Trout Colors

GrasshopperAfter landing number seven I proceeded to take two more making the count nine and I hadn’t even looked around for what I came for, the hoppers. I put the deadly weapons away and moved downstream but found that a bovine presence had altered the stream to a boderline unsuitable condition for fishing, however I was greeted with each step by about a dozen hoppers in their early stages bolting in every direction. Hoppers go through six stages of development beginning with a nymph and ending with a fully winged adult. I was finding several thousand around me in the first two stages and with varying color. I moved upstream and rounded out my time on the water working towards a brook trout spot I knew of that is well hidden and in the height of the summer the only thing getting back there other than me are deer. I picked up a beatutiful Brookie and kicked out to head home.


Glad to See These GuysStarted the morning hoping to find trout rising to tiny Trico’s, the infamous “dimple.” Water levels seem low but rain last night helped to cloud the water slightly helping me out a bit. I took a water temp of 56 degrees, noting that 56 is ideal for hatching Trico’s. I moved upstream and observed steady dimples but no flies. I took a chance and rigged a 12ft. leader with 7x tippet and tied on the smallest imitation I had. I hadn’t gotten a chance to tie my own Trico spinners yet so I rigged a #20 Jujubee Midge and let loose. I could barely see the fly so I scanned the water looking for a dimple, I got a take and set the hook too sharply. I found you really only get one shot at each fish, they aren’t going to fall for it twice. Although I didn’t see any Trico’s I did get two more strikes on the Jujubee Midge before noticing a small yellowish mayfly come floating at me. The Little Blue-Winged Olive’s (Plauditus punctiventris) are out and in size #18-20. I need to tie some of these up, pronto. 


Check out the VineAlthough I didn’t land any fish on the midge pattern I was pleased that I was able to fool a few takers and as water temps rose I noticed fewer and fewer mayflies. I re-rigged with two caddis larva patterns, a larger #14 and a smaller #18. First run I got to with the new set-up made me feel like a rookie. Stumble to the water and immediately kick upstream a nice 18-20in brown, lookin’ healthy, then in an effort to get started I planted my two flies in a 6ft tall weed. Note: the flies must be in water to catch trout.  A little frustrated I retrieved my flies and concentrated on getting them down deep to fish lips. First fish up to bat was nice and it felt good to see one of these guys again, it’s actually been a week or more since I saw one up close and personal like.

Brown TroutSecond fish went down like this…larger fish comes up the run past me, I don’t know why I thought I could cast to a cruising larger brown but I did and the first cast didn’t get anywhere. I made a quick second cast probably 4ft in front of his nose and what resulted next is one reason I love trout. He caught a glimpse of the larger caddis larva I had on as it hit the water and just nailed it, like a charging bull, no need for the strike indicator here. He faught well and was promptly released to fight another day. I worked upstream taking a few creek chubs and smaller trout when I happened upon a sucker that was still breathing turned upside down in a shallow pocket of water. Seeing him struggle I attempted to see if he could be released but to no avail, this fish was on it’s way out. Curious. I wonder what might have hit this thing, perhaps a big bad daddy brown, either way everything will eat well when he settles to the bottom tonight. 


Other quick note-ables: The nymphs are beginning to show up on the rocks again. I’m pretty sure the image above is of a Trico (Lower Right) and a late season BWO (Upper Left). Also, I was pissed to find a 4ft fire pit on the edge of the bank today with burnt trash and beer cans in it. Someone camped out on one of the best holes, go somewhere else and illegally camp (I was on WMA land) and make a mess. If I can’t trust you with making and cleaning up a campsite how can I trust you with our cold water resources? F*** You. I apologize to those of you who are respectful and would never do this, which I hope is most of you, sometimes the Fly Factory has to vent some steam or I may explode!

Smile.For everything I can catch on a fly rod. It is my goal to acquaint myself with all varieties of fly fishing and fish that can be caught on the fly. Thinking about it, I live on the Mighty Mississippi River with a large variety of fish and places to fish. So with that, when the moment struck for me to play around with my 3wt on a recent cloudy/windy/generally crappy day I made lemonade… out of sunfish. I played around with various streamer patterns and eventually settled into a few sunfish taking, of all things, a bright yellow Baetis nymph I tie for trout. It just looked like it would work so I went with it and it did. Funny to see my strike indicator slowly walking away from me, I laughed. I will be on the lookout for more opportunities to take warm water species so you should be on the lookout for more from, The Winona Fly Factory.

Meet My Stream Buddies

July 16, 2009

Looking Downstream at the WallI visited my CSMP sites today for my weekly visit and took this photo of the fish that inhabit the area near my first location. I counted close to twenty fish, all brown trout, as I sat watching from behind the concrete wall. I’m pleased that I haven’t found much in the way of trash since I was here last. As the site is near the roadside I expect to see a fair amount of trash accumulate in the rocks that form the bank closest to the road. I took my typical readings and during periods of no rain it remains fairly constant, recently a rain fall event of .39in found the stream transparency to be affected even the next day. This stream will remain quite clear most of the time and to get more accurate measurments of stream transparency the MPCA sent me a longer transparency tube. At 100cm, what seems crystal clear may not actually be as clear as you think. 

My Friends

I decided to sample and monitor a second site downstream from this site at a bridge location to see the difference between the two sites as rain fall events occur. I have added a second data sheet and will include the second set of data when turning in the total summers data. I have begun to really enjoy this time near the stream and the trout, with fishing not typically on my mind I find I approach the fish wanting only to observe, get to know my new friends and after a while I might have names for a few of them, at least the biggest brown.

Still Water Fly Fishing

July 15, 2009

Popper RiggedThis past weekend saw the W.F.F. casting to warm water species on a lake in Northern Wisconsin. I was struck by the difference between the still water environment compared to the stream/creek environment I am so used to. We arrived Friday afternoon and after setting up the tent and getting settled I rigged a Black Popper and started swinging from the dock. There were several patches of lilies and I attempted to get the popper as close to them as possible without getting hooked, I did get it stuck quite a few times though. Having never fished a popper I questioned my approach, should it be stripped in hard and fast, once in a while made to pop? I tried both and after a bit I hadn’t gotten very far, the dog was begging me to let her go swimming distracting me from the bass that came up and smashed the popper less than five feet from the dock. I had stripped it in close to my feet and left it in the water when my dog came a whining. I heard the strike and instinctively set the hook and I was surprised to find that I hadn’t lost the fish.  I played it for a minute before landing it from the dock, I took pictures and released it.Wading the Lillies1st Bass On a Fly RodHaving to make dinner and get things for camp ready I put the stick away to try again at a later point and that did eventually happen. I tried the popper in and around several lilies all weekend, near downed trees, near grassy areas, any place I saw fish jumping of which there were many. I wet waded the sandy sections near lily pads enjoying the feeling of the water, not often am I submerged to my waist and swinging, it made me feel more connected to be in the water. Several turtles made appearances near me while fishing which was cool to see but after three days and several attempts I had yet to reproduce a fish. I tried different color poppers at different times of day with different styles of retrieve and nothing would bite. I’m glad I got the opportunity to spend time near the lake and work on fly fishing for other species of fish, a goal of mine I plan to continue.Smallie On The Popper

#16 Sparkle Larvae tied by The Winona Fly Factory

Note: On order, Beavertail Foam Cutters for Hopper bodies. Thanks to Mat at the Driftless Angler for a few ideas and being a nice person. I’ve got a few ideas cookin’, keep your eyes peeled for something awesome soon to come. 

July 3rd, Goal Met

July 4, 2009

Driftless Area Trout StreamWoke at 4:45am to drive. I met Joel at 6am we grabbed a mug of the black stuff and headed towards flowing water. The goal for the day was to get Joel, my soon to be brother-in-law, his first trout on a fly rod. I posted a while back about lending him my old rod/reel to practice casting and I know he practiced, it showed on the stream today. I’m no guide, and I don’t have all the answers but I was hoping with some willingness and a bit of luck I might get this guy hooked. We arrived and took a water temp of ~60 degrees at 7:15am and upon assessing the stream and the fish I decided to get him a trout we were going to have to go deep and nymph fish. I brought my rod but did not rig it until later, for now I was concerned with making sure Joel could ask questions and get information and advice as we went. I rigged his rod with a #14 Caddis larva pattern with a trailing PT nymph, knowing the water I added one small split-shot and explained that casting this rig with an indicator was going to be very different from the practice casting in the yard with no weight. 

Stonefly NymphI’m not the best at casting and without being overbearing I attempted to walk him through each approach to a run or hole. Joel never having fly fished before and never having fished a smaller stream needed some guidance with respect to the water and where the fish were. I explained how we move from opportunity to opportunity passing the sections of stream that the fish avoid. Riffle, Run, Pool. Early Am Spider WebWe went through reading the water and how depending on your casting location the current might pull your flies and keep them from sinking properly. Joel did very well casting the weighted rig with an indicator, we all know the potential for disaster, I did untangle a few knots and tie on a bit of tippet but for the most part Joel was making it look easy. Fishing a slower deeper section Joel got to practice setting the hook on creek chubs hoping one would turn out to be a trout. Determined to get him a trout I decided to pack it in here and drive to the second spot I had in mind. 

Rather than sticking with the nymph rig I set him up with a #12 Stimulator to let him get the feel of drifting a dry fly. We worked upstream from our access and each time we saw a rise form I explained how we would need to target a bit upstream of that location without giving our position away or spooking the fish with the fly line and fly. Joel had his first top water strike and I could see the excitement in his face, improper line management made for a poor hook set but he was enjoying the day and we had wonderful weather. 

Trout Stream

No surface flies and the sporadic rising scenario that seems to take place during the height of the day made me choose to rig both of us with a #12 Stimulator and a trailing Sparkle Larvae after my recent success with this set-up. We found a slower moving section of stream and was very wide and deeper on the opposite side. Never having fished this before it was a crap-shoot, might get something good but we might end up slowly drifting flies for the rest of the day coming up empty-handed. I started first and within three casts I was into a nice brown trout taking the sparkle larva. I knew if Joel could get his flies to the fish it would be nothing but smiles. I worked the fish downstream and set Joel casting upstream and across explaining that with the slower water he would have to allow for some slack so he didn’t drag the flies. 

The W.F.F. with Brown TroutPeterson w/His 1st Trout on the Fly

Peterson Fly FishingI stayed downstream of Joel and after a few missteps he made a great cast and sure enough a brown launched and I had thought it took the Stimulator but it turned out later that he rose quickly to take the Sparkle larva as it entered the water. Joel set the hook and was quickly looking over his shoulder as the trout ran around him. FISH ON! I loved watching this, it made my whole day. I watched him play the fish loving the feeling, a minute later the fish surfaced and his first brown trout was a nice 14inch fish that fought him hard. I took another fish as Joel worked upstream, although he only took one fish he did lose one and missed a few other strikes but I think as a whole he had a great time. Fly fishing isn’t easy and even with someone helping you it can be frustrating, working with Joel I never once felt frustration from him, very commendable. We talked trout on the way home and I explained a few things he might want to get before heading out on his own, I also gave him a few of my maps with some good locations and directions for him.

I learned alot just watching Joel work the fly rod today, I observed behaviors that I know I need to work on, the eagerness that causes poor casts and other things that seem to go unnoticed in the moment. Watching Joel I noticed a feeling of accomplishment knowing that it was only a bit over a year ago that I was in his shoes just starting to figure the stick out. He has plans to continue working the stick and I might just have to donate my old gear to a worthy cause for the time being.

Sparkle Larvae tied by W.F.F.Fished under cloudy skies today for four hours this afternoon. I fished two rigs; the SMB on a short leader and a #12 Stimulator with a trailing #16 Sparkle Larva on a longer 12ft leader, the fish just nailed the Sparkle larva. I saw little to no mayfly nymphs or surface flies on the stream again today which was the main reason for tying on a Sparkle Larvae, I’m glad I did. Approximately twenty fish were taken in a short time and the count was 12-14 brown trout that were 14in or above, Excellent. All fish caught in a hundred yard stretch of flat open water that I worked up very very slowly and then got out and worked it up again. I’m working on better casts, accurate mending and deader drifts. The wild parsnip is up and in full bloom, know what it looks like and avoid if possible. Enjoy the summer now, it will be gone before we know it.

Excellent Fish