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

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.

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.

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.

Clean/Clear FlowsI got on site slightly later than I wanted but thankful for time near cold flowing H2O. At ~9am the water temp was approaching ~61 degrees and although the first section I fished showed some stain within an hour and after traveling upstream found me quickly casting in crystal clear water. The water felt great and without realizing it I was wet wading through places that were deeper than I typically do, the reason? I was casting and watching everything in front of me and was so comfortable it made little sense to get out. Staying in the stream allowed for much further casting opportunities for the most part and made for a cooler day. The downsides? Casting upstream and moving can be tricky, you have to go slow and take your time, plan to tackle a shorter stretch of water. The clear water and my fly line, even with a delicate cast (trying not to slap the water with your fly line or fly), spooked fish upstream as I went. 

ButterflyI started the day fishing the SMB on a shorter leader but after a poor start casting and watching fish look, look again and snub I put it away. I observed “random” rising and immediately thought the trout are taking caddis fly larva/pupa from the sub-surface and it is not “random” but sporadic. Noticing fish leaping fully out of the water every so often combined with little to no surface flies helped support my hypothesis so I positioned myself to take advantage of this. I rigged a 9ft leader with 3-4feet of 6x tippet, the lead fly was a recently tied Stimulator #12 and trailing it by about a foot was a caddis fly larva. I went with the Stimulator as mainly an indicator but after a while it started taking fish and I felt the more it took fish the more willing the fish were to strike.

Brown Trout on a W.F.F. tied Stimulator

Working longer casts made things fun and challenging, I got strikes on both flies and every once in a while I would get a trout to launch out of the water striking the trailing larva pattern, excellent. Noticing that the larva wasn’t getting as much attention in deeper areas made me lengthen the distance between the two flies. I also tried changing to a slightly more weighted pattern but I couldn’t manage to get the fly subsurface very often, I could have put a tiny split-shot into the mix but I felt that with the spooky fish the way it was I didn’t want to further complicate the equation. Something to keep in mind the next time at the bench with the caddis pupa patterns.Soon To Be Dinner

I moved upstream and caught and landed several smaller trout the largest being 10-11 inches, caught on the Stimulator and the trailing fly. I lost several takes I think due to excess slack in my 12ft leader. The Stimulator attracted three or four larger fish but all seemed to throw the hook within the first shake or two, bummer. Working the heat I continued forward enjoying a beautiful day in the sun, this is the summer push and I know I want to be fishing later or earlier hours but when the opportunity arises I don’t overlook it. 

Trout Water Under Sunny SkiesMy goal today was work upstream of my put in location roughly 2.2 miles to get to a location I saw once last year, fish it for twenty minutes and break down to hike via road back to the truck. As I neared the final destination I found myself peering over an 8 foot bank down through very clear water at several larger brown and rainbow trout. I watched for several minutes without being caught by the fish, long enough to convince me to switch back to the SMB. A few minutes later I was singing, if you know what I mean? Wow, so cool to go un-detected and get away with chucking a heavy fly and getting some awesome action. I could see perfectly my fly in relation to the fish, I could cast upstream and across far enough to compensate for depth and twitch the fly with two or three quick two inch pulls to get the reaction I wanted. The stocked rainbows hit the fly without hesitation almost the second it moved after sinking, a few came home with me for dinner later this week. The best thing about this whole situation was that I was casting from a different angle/approach than I had ever tried before and I came up rather sucessful.

Rainbow TroutAt one point this rainbow hit the SMB and was on only to get off a second later. I watched the fish move downstream and deeper in the water making a gumming motion probably not too excited about the result of his decision. For some reason I decided to try for the same fish, I let the fly sink to right in front of his nose and stripped it quickly, he took it again, this time not to be so fortunate. Made me think of tailing carp with Wendy B., sneaking up from behind to present your fly seeing the action go down. I fished this spot for a bit, surprised to do so well and afterwards got to my goal and fished for only a few minutes to go back and take a few more from the stretch I had just found. Excellent to gain a new way of approaching the fish that I now know to be successful for me.

Brown Trout

Fished for two short hours and the Light Hendrickson’s were everywhere. I fished one dry fly the entire time, never lost it and it took a beating and still took fish, close to a dozen, maybe more, one really nice brown and a bunch of 12-14in others. Things are starting to really pay off for me, three casts in and I was onto some serious action. Light Hendrickson’s must be going strong on other area streams, keep a look out for the larger March Brown too.