camping

Dry Flies and Driftless Tricos

The past few days have been a little chilly, but it was downright cold this morning when I hit the river before sunrise. I was freezing by the time I had waded a few yards upstream in my shorts, but the crisp morning air got me excited for the cooler fall days ahead. Fishing was a little tough this morning. I fished for about an hour and only pricked a fish, tangling a few rigs and losing a few flies in the process. I got my first trout of the morning indicator nymphing with a #20 pheasant tail in a sweet hole that brushed right up into a big logjam. Once I landed that first trout, things started to pick up. I managed a few nice browns in the riffles before coming upon a good run that flowed against the rip-rapped bank, very similar to the pool we found tricos in yesterday morning.101_5403

A few fish started rising against the bank and I spotted a few tricos floating downstream. The trico spinner fall was on again! I switched to a dry-dropper rig with a #20 trico spinner. I had a blast casting to selective trout in the run. Again, there were fish taking flies in the faster water along with slower eddies on the bank. It was a fun challenge to get the perfect drift through tough currents and hook the fish on the tiny dry when he finally ate it. I took half a dozen on the trico before the fish slowed down. Once the trout stopped rising, I tied on my dry-dropper nymph rig with the big orange stimmy as my dry, a #14 squirrel and copper, and a #20 CDC trico trailing a few inches behind the nymph.driftless brown on a trico

wild brown tailThe drowned CDC trico proved to be deadly. I kept hiking upstream and pulled wild trout from the riffles and seams. I think I’ve found the ultimate rig for this time of year in the Driftless. A small, dark mayfly nymph is always a good choice, and the fish get so accustomed to seeing tricos over the summer they eagerly sip the sunk trico, even late in the day. A big terrestrial dry for the indicator rounds out the rig and covers the other major food source in a trout’s diet during the late summer, terrestrials. Most fish ate the trico, but a few took the squirrel and copper in the fast water.

Wild brown with a trico stuck right in the corner of his mouth

Wild brown with a trico stuck right in the corner of his mouth

A few awesome pools flowed through the open stretch I fished.

log jam pool in the Driftless AreaI hiked way upstream to the confluence with a small spring creek where I found a sweet pool where the currents swirled together. I took a few trout in the big confluence pool on the nymphs. I ended up losing the nymphs and just fished the Stimmy. A feisty brown surprised me by smashing the big dry right in the riffle, a great way to end the morning.

The confluence pool

The confluence pool

This weekend was amazing. It was great to finally hit the Root and sample some of the excellent trout fishing it offers, especially the legendary trico hatch. There’s nothing like a solid weekend of relaxing and trout fishing in the Driftless.

Fall and hunting season is coming up quickly…should be a great season!

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

 

Fly Fishing the Driftless Area

This weekend Dad and I camped in SE Minnesota. I recently finished an online hunter safety course, so we were down there for the field day. I just happened to plan it close to a bunch of trout streams, so we obviously fished. We arrived Friday night and set up camp. The next morning it was off to the field day. After that Dad and I got a bite to eat at a small pizza place in town, and then we went to one of our favorite streams.Dad fished a pink squirrel, while I threw on a #16 ant. Three casts later I landed this beautiful brown.I kept fishing, but found that my ant wouldn’t float. I should have put another ant on, but, not thinking, I put on a deer hair hopper. Dad was fishing down stream in a hole that has produced for me before.

Hooked!

Dad's fifth of the day!

 Dad stayed in one spot and pulled out five nice brookies, while I walked around and didn’t catch any more. I also met a very nice fly fisher who gave me some flies. (Thanks Mr. Schulz) Definitely not a bad trip.

The next morning Dad and I hung out at camp for a while, but then got caught in the rain. So we quickly got packed up and hit the road. On the way home, we fished a new stream, and it was a good choice.

Very beautiful Driftless Area stream.

I tied on a bead-headed olive woolly bugger that I got from Mr. Schulz. The brown trout were nibbling it, but no solid bites yet. Then I saw a flash and moments later I brought this vibrant brown to hand.

Notice the bright red tail

Clear water

Dad opted not to fish, since the stream wasn’t very big. I fished my way upstream and lost quite a few flies on fish. Then I switched to a Chernobyl Ant, and got quite a few takes but missed the hook set. Finally I hooked one, but just as I was about to net it he threw the hook. I kept fishing and had a few more bites, but nothing stuck. It was a great weekend of camping and fly fishing.

Next we’re headed up to the lake for some warmwater fly fishing. Smallmouth on the fly should be lots of fun!

Tight Lines,

Braden

 

St. Croix Smallies

There is something special about fishing very early in the morning. The air is crisp and fresh, the sun is just coming over the trees, and the water is dead calm. Mist is still blanketed over the river, and somehow the sound of rushing water wakes you up. This is how the St. Croix River found us on Saturday morning. We camped over the weekend in St. Croix State Park in northeastern Minnesota with a big group of friends and managed to sneak a few hours of fishing in.

The St. Croix is known for its smallmouth, which none of us had ever caught on the fly. The river runs fairly clear here, only slightly stained by the tannin in the water. Around a hundred yards wide, it is not overwhelming, but is certainly larger than the trout streams we are accustomed to fishing. A few riffles break up the steady flow of the gentle water.Early morning mist on the St. Croix

Anyway, the three of us were up and on the water at sunrise. The mist hadn’t cleared yet, and added an almost surreal element to the river. Braden tied on a new crayfish pattern that he had been working on, and Noah fished his Persuader on a sink tip. Only five minutes into it Braden hooked up. To say that these smallies fight well is an understatement. Braden’s 5 weight was doubled over, and the smallmouth took line a few times. After a good three minute fight and a few spectacular jumps, Braden landed his first smallmouth on the fly, a nice 14 incher, pretty good for his first. That was all the action we had for the morning. A few fish were jumping around us, but no more took our flies.

Braden caught this smallmouth on his Braden's Crayfish fly

Braden's first smallmouth.

The mid-summer heat makes it tough, and you really have to be on the water really early and fish for a few hours around sunrise and sunset. I hiked down to the beach for an hour of fishing in the evening. I fished a black wooly bugger, swung in the current with a few strips mixed in. As my mind drifted over the river and the pines, my fly got hammered, and of course I missed it. So, thinking that maybe the fish would think it was stunned, I drifted the fly in the same spot. Again, the fly got hit, a little softer this time, but definitely hit, and again, I missed. This was getting frustrating. All I could do was cast there one more time hoping for the fish to miraculously eat. Sure enough, against all odds, he ate, this time just a little tap. I didn’t miss. He took off into the current and gave me a few hard runs before the fly slipped out just before I was going to land him. Great.

The next morning I slept in a bit, but was on the river at a respectable 7:30. I fished a rocky run between a midstream rockpile, just the place I imagined that a smallmouth would hang out. I had the black conehead wooly bugger on my new TFO 8 weight that I got for my birthday. Around fifteen minutes in I hooked a fish, just a little guy, but still a tenacious fighter, my first smallmouth on the fly. Unlike largemouth, these smallies just don’t give up. After that I fished the run hard, waded out to the rockpile, and hooked a few more fish, but none stuck. I swung my wooly bugger in the tail of the run, and hooked into another fish, this one a little better. Again, he was a great fighter, bulldogging around in the current and jumping. I slid him into the net, a respectable 12 inches. I freed him into the river and called it a morning, a great way to spend a few hours on a beautiful Sunday in Creation. I really like this style of fishing, wet wading with a chest or hip pack and minimal gear, although I tend to jam way to much stuff in my pack: ) The wide open river and bigger water was a nice change of pace from brushy trout streams.

First bronzeback

 

Tight Lines,

Conner

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