Clover Spying the Trout I caught. (Can't see the fish in the photo, I tried though)I agreed to watch my neice Chloe yesterday and with the nice weather I decided that we needed to get out of the house for an hour or two. Being realistic with my expectaions I picked a place that was easy to traverse, close to a public restroom and a park so we could play around for a bit should she decide that staying in the pack was not what she wanted to do. We arrived and I rigged my rod with a Caddis larva and a Pink Patrick prior to getting the little one out of the car seat and into the pack. I was smart to think that once in the pack she would not want to sit still so I prepared everything I needed prior to getting her out of the car. In the pack we quickly set off, I brought the rod but really didn’t think I would be fishing that much.

Trout StreamWe hiked downstream walking near the stream and listening to the flowing water. Clover did well in the pack and we hiked downstream to the spot I wanted to attempt to take a few fish quickly with the random noise, burp or giggle coming from the fifteen month old along the way. With Chloe on my back I started swinging my nymph rig careful to keep the hooks in the water, the Pink Patrick immediatly took a smaller brown trout and as the fish jumped I heard laughter from behind me. I landed the fish showing the Clover what I had caught, her first trout.

I took another fish and sure enough as the splashing started I heard happy noises from behind me. I managed to nymph up a nicer brown but it released itself from my barbless hook before I could get a photo of it. We moved upstream and Chloe began to squirm a bit but as I began to hike she passed out taking her nap on my back. With the little one asleep I was free to swing at a few more fish and I took the opportunity. The Pink Patrick nymphed up two smaller browns and a brookie that I lost before it came to hand.  I fished for a bit longer and then I woke Chloe to play in the park before leaving. Fun to show fly fishing to the youth, probably more fun for me at this age but fun just the same.

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Brown on a Trico Spinner #24Goals for the day:

  • Find Trico’s Hatching
  • Catch fish on Trico Pattern
  • Enjoy another day on a S.E. Minnesota Trout Stream
  • Work Hoppers Later in the Day

With the goals laid out before me I set out at 5am. Getting to the spot I wanted to fish was going to require a longer drive than normal but this provided the opportunity to find some rising fish, fish new water and see a stretch of water that I rarely get to visit. I met Joel, who became my Brother-in-Law this past Sunday at 5:30am. This outing was his last as a single man and it felt good to get him out.

Trico Mayfly

Trico (Natural) next to Trico Spinner (Imitation #24)Explaining the goals for the day to Joel was simple enough, first up, use a ridiculously small fly to tempt rising trout. Upon arrival at 6:40am the water temp was already above what I was expecting to find pushing past 60 degrees but the trout were rising steadily and we rigged a bit of 7x and a couple of #24 Trico Spinner patterns I had tied for this morning. We would have been better to arrive at 6am and no later, something to keep in mind for next time. Joel, still new to fly fishing was naturally going to have a difficult time taking a fish on a Trico pattern but tried just the same and although he walked away a few hours later empty handed he surprises me with his patience and lack of frustration even when his fly ends up in the trees/weeds more often than not. At one point he was less than 20ft from rising trout, standing in the stream up to his thighs and couldn’t quite get his leader unfurled far enough to present the fly well enough. I tried to help as best I could but he knew he just needed to practice and was content trying his best until the moment was over.

New Caddis Larva Pattern Tied by The W.F.F.I worked around Joel and managed to take a few risers, felt nice to finally get one of these fish to hand using this pattern. Although small there is something about catching these fish feeding in a frenzy on such a small imitation. Joel and I even caught creek chubs rising to eat the Trico’s. At 9:00am everything stopped almost immediately, no rising fish but still a cloud of Trico’s all around. We waited to see if the spinner fall would begin but after thirty minutes and burning daylight we pushed on to a second spot on the same stream. Unfortunately we found almost Trout Stream w/ Habitat Improvementno life other than a small Brook trout I nymphed up with a new caddisfly pattern and creek chubs. Water temp at 10:30 explained it all, pushing 66-68 degrees, I can only imagine that the trout were either concentrated in the deepest of holes or had moved downstream to colder water. At 11am Joel and I pressed on to a stream that I felt provided the best opportunity to take trout on hopper patterns. The section flowed through a cow pasture that was downstream from the source of the small creek, pouring out cold 51 degree water. Cow pastures and grasshoppers go hand in hand, combine that with the water temp being ideal for active trout at mid-day with the sun beating down and your in business. The second we got to the stream we knew we had picked the right spot.

Joel with a Brown TroutJoel and I set ourselves up with Hoppicators with trailing nymphs, I chose a Sparkle Larvae and Joel a Caddis nymph. I have walked this section of stream a few times before but had been unable to stop and fish it. I picked a run that I had previously spied a very nice sized brown hunkered down the last time I had been here. After getting used to the current and setting the right depth the Sparkle Larvae took a smaller brown and soon I was back at it. Second pass through and I felt a nice tug and soon my fly was heading deep, I tried to turn the fish but unable to do so soon enough resulted with the fish pulling me under old habitat improvement and soon I knew he had wrapped my line around something. I was forced to break my flies off and start again.

Trout Stream SourceWe worked upstream to where I wanted to relax and eat a bit of lunch before fishing our way downstream and out for the day. On the way I plopped my hopper pattern just outside of a deep run located next to habitat improvement and watched as a brightly colored brown shot like a rocket to my fly, hook set and soon it was hopper time. I took one more in a similar situation on the next run while Joel nymphed up a few downstream of me. We arrived at the source and took a water temp of 51 degrees. I managed to get a nice strike from a brookie on my hopper pattern in the hole caused by the pouring of water from the rock wall, very cool but I lost the fish before I was able to get a good look at it. We took a few pictures and smiled, this is one of the best places in Minnesota to be for sure. We worked our way downstream and out heading home at 2:30pm. All goals met for the day, very nice.

Brown Trout

August 13th, A Quick Hop

August 14, 2009

Hell Yes!Stopped by a spot I visit every so often returning from CSMP work and dropped a hopper pattern looking for a quick dance with a trout. Not much time to fish, just trying to get one or two to come up and say hi. Noon with an air temp of 82+ degrees makes for happy hoppers warmed and active. Today there was a stiff wind making for tricky casting but I’ve found that some of the best hopper fishing involves wind, hoppers tend to end up in the water after wind blows in mid-jump or flight. I planed to fish a section of pasture that was easy to access, difficult to fish and offering large rewards.

1st run really doesn’t look like much but to make that mistake would be foolish. Often the crack between the massive amount of in-stream weeds holds plenty of fish, combine that with being close to a bank containing weeds filled with hoppers and you have a good recipe for fun. With the first run I made probably eight really poor casts landing mostly in the weeds (both in-stream and on shore). Three or four more decent casts but fly line hung on weeds caused for a poor drift, finally the right cast, good float….and? Yes! Although small this was what I came for, pulling trout from the depths.

1st Spot, Tight Lane

I moved downstream and attempted to take a few more, got one strike from a decent sized fish but a poor hook-set allowed the fish to take off. If this happens I highly suggest stopping. Dry your fly. Honestly, move on in the hopes you can tempt one more on the pass on the way out. If the fish tastes hook you need to let them be, and how often do you think a grasshopper really gets blown into the stream, certainly not in the time it takes an anxious angler to make a few false casts, trust me I know, I’m that guy at times.  I moved down stream and working from a higher vantage point I let the fly splat with a nice bounce, I think it is that bounce that really gets the trout.

Trout StreamNoticing the time I sat for a moment and took photo’s of the hoppers surrounding me. Hundreds in several sizes, makes me want to work on a kind of micro hopper (I’m thinking a #14 hook standard length). I spied an orange hopper, green, grey, all kinds of hoppers.Today most of the hoppers were #12 but I carry much larger hoppers down to a #4. Find a few and tie your best imitation on and get swinging. I moved back upstream and attempted at the run I lost the  one fish, sure enough the third cast a fish came up and I lost that one too. I moved back to the first run, the place I had taken the trout from earlier. Although I didn’t get a strike here I did watch a nice brown turn all the way around to spy and deny my fly, had the drift been drag free for a second longer I think I would have had a chance at that fish as well. Honesty sucks at times.

 

Early AM DimpleSunrise in Mid-Stream

#22 Trico tied by The Winona Fly FactoryStarted the day early, waking to coffee during the pre-dawn hours preparing to take on the day and hopefully a few trout on dry flies. As it were it was not to be this day. Think of three points A. The house, B. The Spot for the Day and C. Trico Possibility. C was smack between A and B so I pulled over and watched the water for ten minutes drinking my coffee. I spied enough rising fish to make me think it was worth the effort, 6ft tall weeds soaking in morning dew made for a very wet fly factory. I knew the difficulty based on the stretch of water, slow, very slow. No virtually still, especially in the early hours of dawn. I rigged a long leader and a bit of 7x tippet for my trico attempt and then waited for the sipping to begin, it never really did. I put the fly on several risers and struck out every time, my casts were alright but I’m sure I could have landed the fly a bit gentler a few times. After close to an hour I picked up and left for point B.

I love this picture.

Excellent View! Erosion at work.Point B was beautiful, I love being here. The water was stained upon arrival but in the distance upstream I saw a few dimples so I left the Trico on for the time being. I tossed it a few more times to risers but nothing again. Second stream with little to no rising fish, I was beginning to question why I got up so early just to walk around in the water when I thought I was rather fortunate to get the opportunity to try, to just have the opportunity to attempt a difficult task. I’m hoping before the season ends I can take a few trout on a trico pattern but first I’ll have to find a few hatching. Check out Wendy B.’s recent trico outing, great pictures.

I put the Trico pattern away and busted out a Bead-Head Caddis Pupa pattern and a Sparkle Larvae and expected to do fairly well. I missed my fair share of takes and landed a few fish. After my recent strikeout I was looking forward to seeing any, even the smallest of trout so that was good. The sun was quickly warming everything up as the morning hours faded. The Caddis Pupa and the Sparkle Larvae were each taking fish, almost every other strike from about 9am until 11am then everything slowed way down. I nymphed my way far upstream and spent more time hiking than Brown on the Pupacasting but I had the opportunity to be here at this time and wanted to make the most of it. I put my fly places that I have previously encountered trout of the Brown kind but today was different. Chub, chub, chub. Chub. Chub. Chub. My thought here is that at a certain point the trout were holding deep and were not feeding as actively due to warmer water temps and the chubs were taking advantage of the situation. Honestly, I didn’t put two and two together regarding the water temp and lack of activity until I was driving home realizing that I never took a water temp later after 11am, bummer.

Brown Trout.

Double Chub Rig...I took a few more chubs heading back to the truck and lost out on two decent brownies with poor hook sets after I switched over to the SMB for the last leg out. Notables include: While casting today I saw rustling from the stream side veg, expecting an otter/beaver I waited and watched as huge snapping turtle walked out. He looked at me and jumped right into the stream. Very cool. I was scared shitless by gun fire less than 200 yards from my put in. I stopped fishing a bit early and carefully approached the bridge I needed to cross to get to my truck finding three kids (under 18) shooting a variety of weapons at beer cans. I heard shotguns, rifles and I think a handgun. I was uncomfortable and wanted out of there, I announced my presence and desire to ascend to my vehicle. I rarely hear gun fire while fishing. On a lighter note I felt my casting was great today. I didn’t have to pull flies from weeds or trees but once or twice and I didn’t get the nymph rig knotted up at all. I concentrated on my roll cast almost 100% while fishing the nymph rig today and I was getting good close to the end. All in all a slow day for fishing but an excellent day to hike around a driftless area valley.

My Fly Mug

August 12, 2009

Liz’s father who is largely responsible for starting my fly fishing journey recently dropped off a mug that has several flies painted on it. I dig it very much and have added it to my tying bench where it will hold something useful I’m sure. I can always put coffee in it as well! Thanks Jeff, its very cool.

Excellent.The day was more about meeting up with a few friends of mine who happened to inform me of their camping plans not to far from my home but I managed to sneak a few hours of fishing in before they were to arrive. I had planned one route but as fate were to have it I made a wrong turn not thinking and decided to roll with the punches. I picked a spot that was close using this new route and drove, satisfied just to be in the moment of driving to my fishing destination.

Recent rain had muddied the stream a bit but I decided to press on. I had fished this spot once before and found it to be barren despite the appearance of greatness at the time. I don’t like writing a stretch of trout water off until I’ve given it a few attempts with failing outcomes each time, today was this spot’s second chance. With nothing rising and the heat on I rigged nymphs and attempted to go deep but found nothing but rocks on the bottom. I lost a few flies and managed to get almost no strikes, I did miss the one for-sure strike I had. After two hours of getting nowhere in the sun I pulled out to move closer to the final destination.

The Guys Hiking the StreamI fished up a second stretch that I had fished early in my fly fishing infancy and although I’m still learning this craft I have improved significantly this season and it showed on the stream today. Able to cast now to locations that had been so distant the last time I had visited here I was hoping for good fortune, all I found was spin fisherman and rusty looking water. I made only a few casts, the last one found me slipping on a rock while shooting line which resulted in a bruised and sore right leg and arm, this prompted me to go find the boys.

I knew that they were around I just had to find them, after a few minutes I saw two smaller lads and a larger fellow. I parked and was greeted by the two boys and Wendy B. We talked trout, gardens, kids and hung out while camp was prepared. Tenting alone with two young ones has got to be more difficult than fly fishing but Wendy made it look easy.  With my rod rigged we took the boys down to the water to play and attempt to take a trout or two but the one take I had I lost. Afterwards hotdogs were prepared and hungry stomachs were filled, excellent to see two young boys pay more attention to the raw onion over the hotdog and to hear James proclaim that the hotdog has more protein than the onion (smart boy). No fish for my efforts but it was a good day just the same.

Rainfall between 6am and 2pm.Fished early this morning attempting to find Trico’s hatching. Water temp was 56 degrees upon arrival and the stream was tea colored making for good conditions but no real hatch to speak of. I saw a rising trout and put a Trico pattern on it for a strike but a miss on the hook set. I was hoping for more from the trico’s but no luck so I swapped for a nymph rig. Caddis and Sparkle Larva on my line makes for a deadly fly factory.

I left the camera battery at home which may have been a blessing in surprise as the rain began at alittle before 9am and did not let up, I can see myself getting it soaked. I fished with my soon to be brother-in-law this morning who has only fly fished for trout once before. He did well and I only had to tie a few knots, for the most part Joel was on his own. The rain let up and the sparkle larvae out fished the caddis larva five to one. I took seven trout from a single run of twenty feet, that was sweet. I’m catching fish after fish and I look over and Joel has a fish on, and what a fish! He took the size prize landing a 15in brown for his second trout for the day. We left at noon walking out in the mud and rain, I loved it. The streams need the water, so does my garden. At home I checked the rain gauge at 6am when I left the house, nothing. By 2pm we’ve had more than a half an inch of rain which is more precipitation than we’ve had since I started taking daily measurements on July 1st. I will have to swing by my CSMP site tomorrow.

Down by the River

August 3, 2009

Down by the River.Pretty cool night tonight, there is a great Neil Young tune that goes “down by the river, I shot my baby.” I thought of it on the way back to the house. Liz and I took the dog out swimming the other day at a beach area near my house and found it to have some potential for fishing. Tonight I volunteered to take the dog swimming and brought the rod and one popper. I had to let her swim through the area quite a bit before I was able to wet a line. After some reading and asking questions a bit of effort paid off tonight. Lily sat on the beech chewing on a log while I launched a black and red popper with my…3wt. I need to fix this problem but for now I have to work with what I have. I can get it out there a good 40-60 feet but not with wind and it doesn’t look pretty.

Getting ready to go.

Smallie? This aside I was taking my time, popping semi-erratically and sure enough I saw the top of this fish emerge just prior to a toilet flushing on my fly. I set the hook and it was on. 1st difficulty was the fact that the dog was all over it trying to swim with it while I tried to land the fish…on the 3wt. I felt a bit under matched but to spare fish ten minutes of fighting I had it run up the beech landed with the dog sniffing the whole way. I sent the fish on its way and let the dog go swimming a while longer. She calmed one more time and sat on the beach. I put the fly in again, this time a bit further out into the Mighty Mississippi and stripped it in. At 10ft I saw a huge gulp and my fly was no more. Fish took my popper and sent me and the dog home. I will be back soon.

The Tiny Trico

August 3, 2009

Front ViewWhile out of town recently I visited a few fly shops in West Virgina and Pennsylvania, unfortunately my time was limited and I was unable to fish except for the last day, to my disappointment it rained pretty solid the three days prior causing the stream I planned to fish to become un-fishable. Every fly shop I visited had very nice staff and in particular a man by the name of Larry took the time to show me how he ties his Trico spinner.

Trico's #24

Tiny Trico tied by The Winona Fly FactoryFairly simple tie here were it not for the #24 hook. The process begins with the hook and the 10/0 black thread that is very, very thin. The body of the fly is just wrapped thread enough to coat the hook once on the way to the bend and once back to the eye. Gather two CDC feathers of equal size and spin a small amount of Wing N’ Flash in your fingers. Place the small amount of Wing N’ Flash between each CDC feather making sure to line the tips of the feathers. Wrap with two loose wraps around the CDC and Wing N’ Flash then pull the two feathers out until the smallest amount of stem is in the wing. Wrap a thorax of counter wrapping figure eight thread wraps and whip finish behind the wing to keep from crowding the hook eye, at this size it is imperative. Pinch the two wings together forward and clip to the correct size. No tail on this fly, I think it best fished in the film just a bit.

A very good source swears that the Trico in S.E. Minnesota is a size #24 and no larger. I have attempted to tie the best Trico’s I can in order to take a few “sipping” trout in the coming weeks. I will be bringing my scissors just in case I need to shorten the wing or thin it out. Trico time is going to be early in the morning but this season the weather has been a bit cooler than usual and I am thinking the best time to be rigged and standing in water is going to be 7:00am. That might be a bit early due to the cooler weather but as a general rule this hatch is early around here, might even want to get there at 6:30am just because its better to have more time on the water. Enjoy the fact that you will be unlikely to find another soul on the water and if you do, holler at them, you definitely have something excellent in common.

Daiichi 1110 #24 Hook UsedThread UsedWing N' Flash (Ice Blue)White CDC

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.

COMMON NAME GENUS SPECIES °F BODY TEMP °C BODY TEMP REGULATION TYPE
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.