Month – September 2012

9-29…Wood Ducks

The canoe glided into the bog. Andrew and I threw a bag of decoys among the lily pads as the rest of the crew did the same around the corner. We pulled the canoe into the cattails and set up our blind. I could hear mallards quacking in the distance.

The duck blind is an awesome place to be at the crack of dawn on a cold fall morning. Today it was hot with bluebird skies, far from ideal duck hunting conditions, which made things tough. We had a few shots around sunrise, and I managed to connect on a beautiful drake wood duck, but that was it for the day, besides a few coots.

Wood ducks are just awesome, fully reflecting God’s glory. I’ve never shot a drake woody before, so I was pumped to get one. He had some beautiful lemon wood duck flank, and a bunch of great feathers that I’m very excited to use for flies.

A great drake

Duck Opener

Duck opener was on Saturday here in Minnesota. We hunted with our cousin Andrew on a private lake in central MN. We got going a little late, but had some wind and an overcast sky to work with. Andrew shot two, a nice drake mallard and a hen woody, and we ended up both shooting one duck, a good drake. I’ve gotta say, I’m very rusty, as I haven’t shot since last October. There’s nothing better than grilled duck after a long day of hunting….I got a few bags of feathers, including some awesome cdc, and mallard flank for Zoo Cougars and other streamers. It was a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to go out again.

 

9-15…Watercress and Wild Trout

My fingers were already cold as I tied on a dry-dropper rig in the darkness of the early morning. Down here in the valley, the temps were almost as cold as the Driftless spring creek that carved it, around the mid fifties. We were camped out for the weekend way down in southeastern Minnesota, right in the heart of Driftless country. Our first stop was the aptly named “Big Spring”, where the creek literally poured right out the side of the steep bluffs, beginning its meandering trip through the narrow wooded valley. It was one of those numbingly cold, super clear spring creeks where wet wading is unthinkable. The stream flowed a wavy green, lined with watercress and thick weeds in the middle, with the occasional deep blue hole. We fished our way down from the spring, throwing streamers, nymphs, and dries to the pockets. The brown and brook trout are completely wild in this creek, and they haven’t been stocked for a long time. Just the way I like it.

The first good hole came a few hundred yards down. A huge moss covered boulder had been tossed in the middle of the creek, and behind it a pool had formed. I imagined it being ripped off the side of the bluff in some spring flood years ago, and randomly thrown in the stream. The first two fish of the day came on the trusty #14 brown MTMN, a 9″ brown and a smaller native brookie.

The best part of this spot was the miles of hiking trails that went right along the creek, so you could fish for miles and get into some un-pressured water. Once you got back in there, you could easily find solitude in the pristine valley. I hit the trail after breakfast and found a nice run with a bunch of trout stacked up in the tail. The nymph produced three more nice browns around 13″.

Later in the afternoon, Braden and Noah hiked up to try some fishing. Noah fished the tail with a MTMN under an orange stimmy. He got some good drifts and nymphed up two nice wild browns after losing one on the MTMN.

Fish on!

The average brown for this creek was pretty good, running 13, 14 inches. There were definitely some bigger fish in there, lazily sitting on the bottom, not even willing to look at a fly in the middle of the day. Water was low and crystal clear, which made the trout ultra spooky. Combine this with lots of aquatic weeds and thick brush, it got a little tough. Crawling on hands and knees was really the best way to go. I like this kind of fishing. Stalking the fish, figuring out the best angle, and shooting the perfect cast with the right fly make it a lot like hunting.

The next hole I came to was a dream. The riffle poured under a log and bottomed out to four feet, with a long, shallow tail. The trout were stacked up throughout the pool, drifting back and forth flashing their white mouths, and occasionally grabbing something off the top. They weren’t doing either of these with the consistency of a hatch, though. The browns completely disdained my nymph. My first thought was midges, so I tried a few midge patterns without more than a few turns. Next I tossed a caddis emerger under the stimmy. That got ignored too, but as it was drifting over I noticed a few trout float right up to the stimmy. Ok, they’re taking caddis. I switched to a #16 cdc and elk tied with some cdc from a duck I shot last year. First cast below the log and bang, a trout smacked it. Good little brown, about a fourteeen. I fished back to camp until sunset and ended with nine trout, a brook and eight browns.

On Sunday Dad, Grandpa and I started hiking mid morning. Grandpa fished the run I hit yesterday. He hooked a few on nymphs, but they all popped off. He moved up to the middle of the run and got a 10″ brown to eat his Bomber. Dad and I put some miles under our boots and hiked way downstream to the end of the trail. We found a huge pool where a creek of about equal size dumps into this one. It was about eight feet deep and the trout were thick. I could see some monsters finning around on the bottom from the old railroad trestle that spanned the creek. I threw a bunch of flies at them, but only hooked one for a second. It was right in the middle of the day by now, and most of the fish were sitting on the bottom. Dad caught a beautiful little brown on Mercer’s Micro May.

I love the parr marks on these little guys.

The valley opened up into a meadow, and the stream started meandering a little more. I bushwacked away from the trail through a field of nettles (ouch!) and thick brush. It payed off and I found some awesome bend pools with some old bank covers and habitat improvement. It seems like the best water on a trout stream is always the hardest to reach. The rock structures looked out of place way out there in the woods. Good for the trout, though. I hooked one good brown on the MTMN before I hit the trail again.

It was one of those days for me where nothing seemed to want to come to the net. A few caddis were fluttering around, along with some small mayflies, like BWO’s, and some midges, but not enough of any of these for the trout to really key in on them. I messed around with a bunch of flies before I switched back to the cdc and elk. I stuck two nice browns in the log pool before I ran out of daylight. Dad caught one more nice brown on his Micro May. Dad and I did about a five mile hike today, and it was totally worth it. I really should’ve pulled out my camera more, cause there was some sweet water, but its hard when there are so many fish. Great trip, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Looking downstream from the railroad bridge

 

Hunting season is here, and it’ll be a ton of fun. I’m practically out of cdc, so it’s good timing, because I’ll definitely be tying up some more cdc and elks. I can’t wait to get out in the duck blind or in the woods.

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

Driftless Hopper Fishing

Spring creek heaven

The pullout was empty as we drove up to the familiar little bridge over one of our favorite Driftless creeks. The hoppers were out in full force. I throw one into the creek and it gets absolutely destroyed by a brown. Noah and I quickly strung up and hopped over the stile while Braden started hiking the other way. The weeds have really grown up both on the banks and in the creek since we were here last. In some spots, the free-flowing center is only a foot or two across. The trout take full advantage of this and hide in the edges of the weeds, just waiting to pick off a juicy hopper or nymph that drifts by. Dodging cow pies and thistles, Noah and I headed upstream to some holes known to hold brook trout. I opted to take some pictures and let Noah take the first couple holes. His chernobyl ant was greeted with a few violent slashes, but nothing stuck. After the hole settled down, he switched to a #14 brown micro tubing mayfly nymph under an indicator. The weeds made casting a little tough, but after a few tries he delicately stuck it right in the middle of a channel and was rewarded with a gorgeous little wild brown.

Back into the icy water

Braden had hiked downstream and had some action on the chernobyl. He caught a really nice brookie pushing ten inches, and lost a monster that was at least a few inches bigger. A good brown around 16″ also came up and smashed his hopper.

Awesome brookie on the hopper

Braden's 16" brown

The MTMN was the hot fly for me today. I set up at the tail of one of the creek’s many sweet holes. A riffle spilled around the corner into a grassy undercut and deeper water, with weeds on the inside to give the trout lots of places to hide. First cast and a little brown exploded on my indicator. Should’ve been using a hopper dropper. I drifted my nymph rig along the undercut and landed this feisty little brown.The colors on these wild spring creek fish never get old for me. He still had some parr marks, along with intense red spots.The next drift along the bank produced similar results. A few more browns and a brook all fell for the MTMN. They were small, but made up for it with their attitude. Each raced around the pool and tried hard to get in the weeds, wiggling all the way to the net. The sun was going down fast, so we decided to pack up and hit a different creek that Braden fished a few weeks ago.

The next creek meandered through a wooded valley with steep bluffs on either side. A few fish were randomly rising in the deep blue pools. I hooked a few fish on a variety of flies, but nothing stayed on for more than a second. We fished hard into the night. Braden and Noah hooked a few browns on a little wooly bugger in the black of night, but nothing made it to the net. The browns really seemed to turn on right after dark, hitting the buggers aggressively, but nothing solid. Overall, our first night fishing experience was pretty cool, and I’ll definitely be doing some more of it. My hike out of the steep valley was a little sketchy though, stumbling through the unfamiliar woods.

Fall is definitely almost here, and there is only one more month until hunting opens and the end of trout season. It”ll be fun.

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