small stream trout

Fly Fishing the Root River

During the past long weekend, we camped on the South Branch of the Root River for a few days of good fishing and hiking. The Root is one of the premier trout streams of southeastern Minnesota’s Driftless Area (Fly Fisherman even ran an article on it). Winding through valleys bordered by limestone bluffs, the Root harbors a great population of wild browns approaching a few thousand a mile in the prime reaches. The river is born from springs in the headwaters after taking a trip through the subterranean passages of Mystery Cave, emerging as a cold, clear stream enhanced by the nutrients from the cave. We pulled in the campground late Friday night and set up camp in the dark. I had heard and read about the Root and it’s prolific trico hatches before, but we’ve never fished it, so I was pumped when we decided to head down for the weekend. I was so excited to get on the water I hardly got any sleep!

Mist blanketed the river when we arrived down the steep bluff trail early the first morning. The river was amazing. The sound of rushing water and the crisp morning air produced the tranquility and peacefulness only a trout stream at daybreak can create. I quickly tied on a small Trout Snatcher under a dry, setting up a similar rig for Noah. Despite the crazy heat we got in the past few days, the stream was icy cold when we hopped in at 6:30 in the morning. I started the morning by hooking into a feisty little brown out of a riffle, but he popped off after a few jumps. Noah picked off a few chubs in a side pool before we moved upstream.IMGP1520

I had hoped to see a few tricos, but they never showed themselves in the riffles and pools we were fishing. A few fish rose once in a while, and the odd trico would float down the river occasionally, but the hatch never materialized. The stretch of river we fished was gorgeous. The turquoise-blue water wound through a mature forested valley with mostly gentle, riffled stretches, but occasionally rubbed up against a bluff and formed a deep, blue hole you couldn’t see the bottom of. I waded up below a good riffle and started nymphing the skinny water. I caught my first trout of the morning along a root wad in the riffle, a pretty wild brown of about ten inches that ate the Trout Snatcher. I landed one more trout on the nymph and another on the big orange Stimmy. Braden found a sweet corner pool in a meadow section and had good success on the nymph. He pulled out half a dozen browns to twelve inches on the Trout Snatcher. A few came up and smashed his Bomber before we waded back to camp.

South Branch wild brown with some great colors

South Branch wild brown with some great colors

One of Bradens' browns

One of Bradens’ browns

Another wild brown Braden got on the MTMN

Another wild brown Braden got on the Trout Snatcher

 

Later in the afternoon I hiked up a small feeder stream. This little spring-fed creek was glorious, ice cold and super clear with a handful of deep, blue pools stacked with wild browns. Lined with burnweed and brush under the canopy of old trees, casting was difficult but a well-positioned cast seldom went without at least a strike. The trout were ultra spooky, so a stealthy approach and a reasonable, unobtrusive fly were a necessity. Just the kind of trout fishing I love.101_5389

I carefully began working the little riffles and runs, softly landing my trio of flies in likely spots, and sometimes in the trees :). My first wild brown was only about eight inches, but still a respectable small stream fish displaying some awesome colors. I found one particularly good pool where a riffle flowed into the opposite bank, creating a deep blue hole riddled with a few logs and lots of trout. I crept into position behind some tall weeds and enticed three browns on a #20 sunk trico spinner.

My rig consisted of a big #8 orange Stimulator followed by a #14 Mercer’s Micro May and a #20 sunk trico spinner. The sunk trico proved to be deadly, as the fish are accustomed to seeing these bugs get washed down the river all summer, even in the middle of the day. I ended the afternoon with around half a dozen wild browns. None were big, averaging nine or ten inches, but they made up for their size with some amazing red spots and feisty attitudes.

Today was a great day of trout fishing, and I really enjoyed it since I’ve been looking forward to a solid day of small stream fishing for a long time. I tied up a few sunk trico spinners by lantern light while sitting next to the fire before crawling into the tent. Tomorrow we’ll hopefully get into a trico hatch and some more wild browns on dries!

 

11-3…October Caddis, A Small Stream, and Dry Flies

Whenever I think of fly fishing in the Smokies, I think of dry flies. Beautiful, pure wild trout eagerly grabbing a small, well-tied dry in some pocket water. I, like most fly fishers, find dry flies to be one of the most exciting aspects of the game. The thrill of watching a trout rise up to the surface and eat your fly just never gets old. As I looked at it more and more, I realized that the places more cherished, talked about, and dream-inspiring than any other fishing destinations revolve around dry flies. For me, the Smokies have always been a fly fishing dream, and maybe that is why.

On the last day of the trip, we experienced some dry fly action. The target was a small rainbow trout stream with some awesome plunge pools. The weather had warmed up enough to bring out a small hatch of giant October caddisflies. If we were going to get any dry fly action, this was going to be the day. Braden and I got in at a small stone bridge and started the climb downstream over the rugged terrain. Almost immediately, Braden tied into a small rainbow on a #20 pheasant tail.

As I waded downstream, I spotted a pool on the opposite bank that just screamed trout. A plunge pool flowed under some overhanging brush and rubbed against a large boulder, creating a nice dark hole. I got into position downstream and carefully placed my orange stimulator at the head of the pool. As the stimmy drifted through, a flash of silver rose from the depths, but the trout missed my fly. The next cast produced a violent slash, and a beautiful six inch wild rainbow was soon in the net.

Braden and I continued to pick up fish in almost every pool. A few trout took our pheasant tail or Greedo BWO droppers, but most crashed the dry flies. We could have gone forever. Around each bend, a seemingly-endless series of plunge pools full of good trout lies cascaded down the mountain. Casting was difficult in the canopy of rhododendrons that crowded the creek, but a well-placed cast was usually rewarded with a wild rainbow.

We moved on to another spot further downstream. A lot of the trout were a bit too small to take down my #12 stimulator, so I switched to a #16 tellico-style dry, which quickly got a splashy rise from a 4″ rainbow. The bows were wild and ruggedly beautiful, kinda like the streams they live in. Braden’s Adams Wulff variation got some attention, too. He caught around seven more in the last hour of the day, all wild rainbow trout ranging from four to ten inches. Braden found one particularly good pool at the bottom of a four foot waterfall, where he pulled out a few rainbows from the current seams.

It was a great end to an awesome trip. Winter is here in Minnesota. It’s time to tie some flies and restock the boxes. Ice fishing will be here soon, and hopefully we will get some solid ice this year.

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

 

Exploring

Today Grandpa, Noah and I fished a few local trout streams that we hadn’t fished before. First stop was a small creek that has a native population of brook trout. There aren’t too many holes or fish here, and you have to walk a lot, but I managed to catch one small brookie on a Pink Squirrel and LDR another. The thermometer measured 58 degrees on this overgrown, narrow creek. We fished a good chunk of stream and oddly, didn’t even see any more trout. After that, we checked out a stream that supposedly has some rainbows. We fished some sweet looking holes for about an hour without seeing any trout. The stream temp read around seventy degrees, which is at the high end of what trout can tolerate. The river was wide and slow for the most part, with a few riffles and deep holes mixed in. All we caught were chubs in this marginal trout stream. Tough day, but still fun to get on the water.

Brook trout stream

Where are the fish?

Stream #2 - big water

Sweet hole

Trout-less riffle

Braden is fishing the Driftless Area right now, so look for a (hopefully) trout-filled report in the next couple of days.

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

Bass, Brown Trout, and Summer Fishing

Fun weekend fishing and exploring at the cabin. We got up there Friday afternoon and dug out Grandpa’s old fishing row boat. This little boat was pretty awesome for fly fishing. It was nice and stable and had a deck for casting, without any extra hinges, rings, or obstacles for fly line to get caught on. So we launched it and started casting for bass around the lake.  Lately I have been using a Meat Whistle attached with a Rapala (non slip loop) knot for my bassin’. The Rapala knot gives the fly a bit more action, which I think is sometimes necessary for getting fish to strike. Fishing was pretty good in terms of size. We started at the mouth of the river and hit some submerged cattails. Noah took the oars while Braden and I fished. I caught a few little guys and then hooked a what felt like a decent fish. He swam off and came flying out of the water. Thats when we realized it was a big fish. I really thought I was going to lose it when it buried itself deep in the weeds, but I was able to get it toward the top and Braden made an awesome net scoop. Taped out to 17″, around 3-4 pounds, biggest bass on the fly I’ve caught so far A few minutes after I released it Braden tied into another good fish on a crazy new fly he tied. After that we caught a few small ones but nothing else of any size.

Braden’s bass

 

On Saturday we explored a small trout stream. In some spots you could jump accross. The weeds were high and the brush made for some tricky casting, so often the best approach was to get in the stream and wade up to the pools. The stream was very winding, almost doubling on itself many times. We started fishing a short meadow section, and Braden and I each got some action. The brown trout were tiny, but still fun to catch. It is ridiculous how much they can fit in their mouths. We caught all of them on #14 hare and coppers. We then hiked into a wooded section where the stream opened up a bit and had some sweet pools. For some reason we didn’t catch or see anything above five inches, although I’m sure there are some bigger fish sitting in impossible to reach snags and pools. Minimalist fly fishing and wet wading on small streams like this is a ton of fun. All you really need is a small fly box, floatant, and a pocket knife, no waders, vest, or other junk. Very clean form of fishing. Ended the morning with one trout, Braden three. Grandpa and I checked out a river on Sunday. We had been there once before, and I had caught a pike on spinning gear few years ago. A cold stream dumps into the river there, so it is a natural hot spot for fishing. I hooked a beast of a smallmouth, but he jumped and spit the hook. Grandpa had a pike follow his Rapala right to his feet, but that was it. The bass fishing really slowed down at the lake. They have moved into their summer patterns, cruising the deep weed lines. Grandpa hooked up the trolling motor to the row boat, so that made it a lot of fun driving around the lake. Much easier than paddling.

Pig sunfish that ate a #4 saltwater Meat Whistle. Hungry little guy.

We should be doing some serious trout fishing in the next week or two, so stay tuned. Hopefully the hopper fishing will be starting up. Nothing like trout hammering the big bugs.

Tight Lines,

Conner

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