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.
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.