Monthly Archives: May 2014

5/23-5/26 Report – Turkey, Trout, and Morels

I’m not a hard-core turkey hunter, and neither are my friends, but we like to take advantage of all that southeast Minnesota has to offer and grab over-the-counter permits for one of the later seasons. This year, due to busy schedules, the only one we could settle on was the final spring season. I took a 4-day weekend off work and we hunted this past Friday, Saturday, and Memorial Day – at least a portion of each day anyway. While it’s not the most sought after season for turkey, my good friend still shot a turkey within the first half hour of hunting, and we didn’t even hit the field until about 10am Friday morning. Hearing that solo gun shot was one of the finer points of the weekend. I figure turkey hunting is a lot like deer hunting, in a sense. When you’re sitting in the woods and you hear a single gun shot, it’s more than likely it was a successful shot. And it was…

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Turkey down.

So, that was about 10:30am Friday morning. I got that pic via text along with a message that my buddy was going to field dress the bird, have a beer, and go fishing. Being such a warm, beautiful day, and being that I wasn’t hearing or seeing any signs of bird life where I was perched, I figured I’d join him – for the field dressing, beer, and of course, the fishing.

Our other friend kept after the turkey hunting and we headed down to the stream. It’s pretty sweet having a great trout stream running through the same place we hunt. On the way down to the river I found a little snack along the trail.

morel

The stream was running clear, a touch low, at least in comparison to what we’d seen in the weeks/months prior, and there were a few fish rising. There weren’t a lot of bugs to be seen, but there were enough caddis, gray and brown, to keep the fish very interested in actively feeding. We traded off after each fish, and there were plenty of fish brought to hand.

brown trout

 

We caught fish on copper johns and any flavor of caddis pupa/larva as a trailer. Fishing faster, shallower water with the nymphs on a lift was very successful. So was taking a break to let the other guy catch a few more fish before jumping in again – you know, to cool down.

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After another hunt Saturday morning (no turkeys seen, but more fish caught), we met up later that evening to grab enough morels out of the back yard to complement a meal of wild turkey. A 5-minute harvest.

morels

There was some leftover bacon grease in a pan, so why not bread a few? They were eaten up quickly.

fried morels

Then we sauteed the rest with some onions and enjoyed that with the turkey. It was amazing…

morels and onion

 

grilled wild turkey

morels and wild turkey

That was just one half of the turkey breast, and 3 of us couldn’t finish the whole thing. The meal was one of the best I’d had in a long while.

We hunted again on Memorial Day after a Sunday break and even though we didn’t reap any more bounty from the hunt, the fishing was, once again, remarkable.

I can’t say it enough – southeast Minnesota is hard to beat if you enjoy the outdoors.

Fishing Attractor Dry Flies on Driftless Area Streams, Part 1

It’s interesting to me that two of our sport’s most iconic “hatch matchers” also were enamored with “attractor” dry flies.  After all, attractor flies are, in a sense, the opposite of these tyer’s well known hatch matching patterns. This little observation should stand as a lesson of balance for all us Midwestern fly fishermen.

Doug Swisher, along with coauthor Carl Richards, wrote the classic book “Selective Trout“.  In it they describe a new fly they invented, the now legendary “No-Hackle” (not a very catchy name!).  This fly is the epitome of hatch matching flies.

Gary LaFontaine, with his book “Caddisflies“, taught us how to fish this prolific hatch.  His Sparkle Pupae and Emergent Sparkle Pupae patterns are extremely effective hatch matchers and a staple in many, if not most, fly angler’s boxes.

Okay, so these guys knew/know their bugs.  But they also studied and came to understand the importance of pure “attraction” in regards to dry fly design and what triggers a trout to take a fly. Swisher invented the Madam X. Not only an awesome fly in its own right, but also the prototype for many subsequent attractor dries.  LaFontaine wrote two books dealing with attraction:  “Trout Flies: Proven Patterns” and “The Dry Fly: New Angles“.  While less well known than Swisher’s Madam X, LaFontaine developed several innovative, effective attractor dry flies, such as the “Double Wing” and the “Air-Head”.  Gary’s daughter Heather also designed a great attractor dry, the “Mohawk“.

It’s my observation that many angler’s here in the Driftless tend to overlook or marginalize the attractor dry fly.  If there is not a hatch going on, many of us default to dredging nymphs.  If we see an occasional rise, we may tie on whatever hatched recently, generally going smaller if the fish won’t take our initial offering.  Of course, these methods do catch fish.  But I’m here to tell you that if you are not fishing attractor dry flies, you are missing out on some fun, and maybe some nice trout!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll talk about some specific patterns & how to approach fishing an attractor dry fly in the Driftless.  In the meantime, please read my latest fishing report, which tells of the effectiveness of the attractor dry fly on our local streams.

 

 

Slot Limits and Harvesting Trout

Thanks to improved land use practices, habitat restoration, and a focus on wild trout management, Southeast Minnesota, is blessed with a great abundance of trout.   This great abundance is most obvious on our streams that have a special regulation called a “Slot-Limit” placed on them.  The  slot limit you will find is Southeast MN is a 12″ to 16″ protected slot.  This means that you must release all fish you catch that measure between 12 to 16 inches in length.  For the exact wording of the regulation, and which streams have it, see this MNDNR page.

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One 10 inch trout makes for part of a great breakfast.

When fishing these slot limit streams, an angler may actually be doing the trout population a favor by keeping a limit of trout.  This is because these streams typically have such a high population of trout, that they can’t grow to their greatest potential.  So, by protecting the trout that have grown to a larger size, while at the same time reducing the numbers of smaller trout, we hopefully end up with a more balanced size structure with more large trout.  That’s the theory.  The reality is that there just aren’t enough trout harvested to make much of a difference.  And that’s the bottom line: there’s just not a lot of harvest going on on many of our streams to negatively impact the overall trout populations.

Of course there are scenarios where harvest could possibly affect a trout population:  Streams that have low populations of trout may be negatively affected by over harvest.  This is not common here in MN.  Another scenario is that when anglers harvest too many larger (over 12 inches in our case) trout.  This has the effect of eliminating the stronger, faster growing fish from a stream, while leaving the smaller fish to reproduce, effectively stunting the overall fish population.  And this is another reason we have the slot limit protecting these larger fish.

So, next time you are planning a trout fishing trip to Southeast MN, consider fishing one of the streams with a slot limit, and plan to keep some trout.  Not only are these wild fish of gourmet quality on the plate, they need to be thinned out in order to better balance their populations.  At the very least, you won’t be hurting anything by keeping them.