Today we made the trek down to Iowa and spent the afternoon on some great streams. Winter trout fishing is much different than summer fishing. The trout are holding in the deep pools and aren’t feeding as heavily as they do in the summer months. Nymphs are the weapon of choice, although hatches of midges and early black stoneflies can bring fish to the surface. Ice in the guides can be a problem on some days, and cold hands make tangles and knot tying a whole lot more difficult.
After three hours in the car we finally got to the creek. It wasn’t very big, but it had some good looking water. There was a small midge hatch, and a trout would occasionally rise. We tried scuds, stonefly nymphs, midges, and tiny dries, but the fish were really hard, so we moved on. The second spot we fished was a different branch of the first creek, and supposedly had better fishing. It ran along a bluff and then snaked through a field. Typical of many Driftless Area trout streams, there was an endless series of riffle, run, pool. Braden still had a tiny dry on, and I had a scud with a early black stonefly nymph. The trout were very spooky. Walk right up to a pool and a dozen trout would shoot downstream, spooking the next pod of fish. After hiking a ways downstream from the parking area, I carefully started working the pools. Dad was fishing in a deep pool with almost no flow, and hooked two trout on a miracle midge, including a fifteen inch brown, but they spit the hook. By this time Braden and Noah had stopped fishing and built a fire.
I lost my scud and stonefly in a tree, so I hiked further downstream into the field and found some trouty water. I tied on a Hare and Copper and started fishing. A riffle spilled into a run and then cut into the bank, forming a deep pool, the perfect spot for trout to hold. I knew if I was going to catch a fish it would be in this spot. I drifted my fly on the edge of the run. My indicator twitched, and I set the hook into twelve inches of winter gold. It was great. A brown flopped on the bank. I slipped the hook out and released the fish, possibly wild, the last one in 2011. I hooked two more trout, but they both spit the hook after a brief struggle. Even though we didn’t catch many fish, we had a great time exploring the Iowa driftless on our first winter trout trip.
Tight Lines and Happy New Year!