Category Archives: fly fishing

Do You Suffer From F.S.S.?

If you’re not catching fish with a Pink Squirrel, check your drift & depth before changing flies. It’s a rare day that the Pink Squirrel won’t catch some trout!

F.S.S., otherwise known as Fly Switching Syndrome.  We all suffer from it at some point.  Sometimes it hits you during a heavy hatch of bugs, or while casting over a pod of trout that you can clearly see huddled near the bottom of a pool. No matter what the fishing scenario, a sure sign of Fly Switching Syndrome is a fly patch that has more flies stuck on it than what’s left in your fly boxes!  So, is there a cure for F.S.S.?  Yes! Well…sometimes…At the very least we can learn to minimize the traumatizing effects of F.S.S.

So, what are the cures for Fly Switching Syndrome?  In no particular order, they are: Confidence; Patience; Observation; Experience.  Experience could also be expressed as the combination of knowledge and skill.  Let’s take a look at how these 3 ideas combine to minimize F.S.S. and help you catch more fish while using fewer flies.

Insect hatches can be magical fishing experiences,  or lessons in frustration.   Often times we focus on what fly to use, when we should be focusing on how we are presenting the fly.  This can lead to major bouts of Fly Switching Syndrome.  Patience and observation are very important when fishing a hatch.  Through those, we can gain experience & knowledge.  Before you even move into casting position, take the time to find out what is hatching.  Once that is determined, watch the fish to see what kind of rise form it is making.  This will be how you choose your fly.  Observe your surroundings to determine what is your best casting position.  NOW you can start to fish.  During a hatch, timing can be critical.  You may have to make several casts to any one fish before you get it timed to the fish’s rise.  Don’t automatically think you have the wrong fly just because a trout isn’t taking it on the first or second drift.  Analyze your timing & the “quality” of your drift before you decide to change flies.  Be patient; observe; have confidence in your fly pattern; catch fish.

If you don’t have years of experience, how do you choose a fly that you can have confidence in?  This is where you can lean on other’s expertise to help you choose.  Look to local knowledge for the best advice.  The message board here at MN Trout Forums is a great place to find solid, up to date information on what flies are working throughout the season.  I can also say, with confidence, that all the fly patterns available through Bluff Country Flies have been thoroughly tested throughout the Driftless Region over the past 10 to 20 years.  I developed many of the flies while overcoming bouts of F.S.S., and now rely on these relatively few patterns for the majority of my fishing.  They are my confidence flies, and can be yours, too.

An angler may never totally overcome Fly Switching Syndrome, but through patience, observation, confidence & experience, we can minimize it’s effect and better enjoy our time on the water.

Try a Bigger Fly!

I think I should admit, right here at the start, that I have an aversion to fishing small flies.  Oh, I’ll fish with them if I have to, like during hatches of BWOs, midges, or other tiny bugs.  If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it, but during an average trout fishing outing in the Driftless, I rarely tie on anything smaller than a size 12.  My experiences have taught me that not only do larger flies do just as well as smaller flies when “prospecting” for trout, they also have added benefits that smaller flies do not.

Larger flies…let’s def016ine that as size 12 & up…are often more “attractive” than smaller flies, leading trout to move quite a distance to take the fly.  I’ve seen this numerous times with both dry flies & nymphs.  My favorite dry fly, the Slurpster, is a monstrous size 8.  I’ve watched fish move several feet & even halfway across a decent sized stream to take this fly (<–see pic!).  I’ve not had the same reaction with smaller, more standard dry fly patterns.

It can be the same with larger nymphs as well.  I remember one occasion filming an episode of “Northland Adventures” with Dave Carlson.  I had advised Dave to put on one of my larger nymph patterns for this particular stream.  He insisted on using a size 14 Pink Squirrel, which is a great fly, no doubt.  Well, after several drifts through a nice run with zero takes, Dave was ready to call it a day.  I asked if I could have a shot at the run before we wrapped it up & he said sure.  I had on a large, size 6 or 8 rubber legged nymph & on the second or third drift hooked & landed a beautiful 19 inch brown, which was captured on film.  After releasing the fish, I made another series of casts higher up near the head of the run & hooked another large brown that got off.  My guess is that the smaller pink squirrel just wasn’t worth the big trout’s effort to swim up & grab.  Either that, or it went unnoticed in the swift current.  The big fly, though, did the job well.

I believe that larger flies also attract the larger fish within a school or pod of fish, leading you to catch fewer really small fish.  I’ve noticed this with nymphs in particular.  A size 12 scud is very effective at catching average & above average sized trout, but I catch very few of those little 4 to 6 inch trout that can be common (and annoying) when fishing smaller nymphs.

Lastly, I’ve also found that larger hooks sizes do a better job of physically hooking the fish and keeping it on the line.  I guess that is pretty self explanatory!  Even switching from a size 14 to a size 12 has increased hook-ups for me, both with dry flies & nymphs.  My favorite streamer pattern, the Bent-Head, is not a giant fly by any means, but it is larger than many trout streamers, and has a large hook gape for its body size…it practically hooks the fish all on its own.

You may think that larger hook sizes might lead to a chance for greater harm coming to the fish.  This has not been my experience.   With the larger streamer hook, it seems that the trout are less likely to take it deeply, as most of the fish I catch are hooked in the jaw, rather than the throat.  With the larger dries and nymphs, when a fish is hooked a little deeper, there is more hook to grab onto with a hemostats & so in that regard are actually easier to remove than a smaller, more obscured hook.

So, this season don’t be afraid to try a larger than average sized fly.  You might catch fewer small fish, but your catch rate for average or large fish might increase.  And, for me at least, nothing beats watching a nice trout inhale a big ‘ol dry fly that you don’t have to squint to see!

-by Brian Stewart, bluffcountryflies.com

UPDATE: MinnAqua Youth/Adult Mentored Fly Fishing Weekend

MinnAqua

I got a note from the coordinator for this, and the deadline to apply has been extended. If you know anyone who might be interested, let them know! It’s a great opportunity to get your feet wet in the sport of fly fishing for trout.

Just wanted to let you know that MinnAqua has extended the deadline to apply for the Youth/Adult Mentored Fly-Fishing Weekend until APRIL 1, 2013. Only seven applications have been received, and we have space (and mentors) for 20 youth/adult pairs! This awesome event features mentors from FFF, TU-Hiawatha, TU-Headwaters, Fly Fishing Women of Minnesota, the DNR, and other partners with additional support from the Izaak Walton League Bush Lake Chapter.

Thanks for letting the new fly anglers in your world know about this unique opportunity to learn from the experts. Please encourage them to apply today! Contact me with questions: deborah.groebner@state.mn.us

March 7, 2013 Update

As of March 6th, the snow depth at the Rochester International airport is over 12″ for the first time since February 16, 2011. The recent snowfall varied from 5-12″ across southeast Minnesota. The highest totals were reported in northern Goodhue, eastern Wabasha, and eastern Winona counties. March 5-6, 2013 snowfall totals.

Current snow depth from the National Snow Analyses
nsm_depth_2013030705_Upper_Midwest

I got out for a couple hours this past Sunday, prior to our fresh layer of snow, and fishing was pretty good in the afternoon despite being on the downhill slide of stream temperatures. As expected, catching was more productive where sun was hitting the water as opposed to shaded, colder portions of the stream. There were midges on the snow, not swarming, but plenty, and there were a few trout rising in slower water downstream of a few riffles/runs. The water was only slightly stained, and air temperatures were around 28-30 degrees from 2-4pm. I caught a handful of fish on a skinny nelson and one on a rainbow scud.

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Any reports on recent outings are appreciated on the message board.

Interested in Learning to Fly Fish for Trout in Southeast Minnesota?

Are you interested in fly fishing for trout but just haven’t made that first step into learning the basics yet? More importantly, are you interested in learning with one of your kids or a young mentor?

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This is an excellent program put on by the Minnesota DNR MinnAqua program and is a great opportunity for a hands-on learning experience. For details on how to apply, go to mndnr.gov/minnaqua.

I’ve personally taken part in this event in the past as a guide to a father and his son and it was a well-organized, very worthwhile event.

Missed Opportunity, but Still Productive

There was a fair amount of time spent tying flies today between bouts of staring out the window, wondering why I didn’t go fishing as soon as the kids were off to school. Lenny thought it curious, too. He spent a lot of time watching me tie flies and wondering why we haven’t hunted birds in 2 whole weeks! He’s going to have a long winter.

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It was perfect for winter fishing this morning! Temperatures were just below freezing for a while, the sun was out, and certainly there must have been eager fish before snow melt increased. That’s how I see it in my lunatic head, anyway – catching so many fish my arm hurts and 28″ browns with kype jaws trying to tear into my neck after I wrangle them from their underwater bunkers…

Instead, I continued working at my goal of all-new flies for 2013 and starting with a fresh stockpile. I’m at 4 dozen so far, which isn’t much considering my poor production-fly-tying skills…but I’m working on it. Not even halfway to what will be needed this season and a wide variety to go yet.

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Last night and this morning was spent tying more Skinny Nelsons.

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Winter trout season, for me, seems to be more about seizing opportunity when it presents itself rather than planning an outing well in advance. I’ll confess to not having my gear in battle-ready mode yet as it is typically during the bulk of the season. I’m not in grab ‘n go mode yet.

Southeast Minnesota Winter Trout Season

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Winter Trout Season is now open in southeast Minnesota. Just go! And layer up. And don’t keep any fish – it’s only open for catch-and-release. If you’re new to the idea of winter fly fishing for trout, I recommend not getting your hopes up for the catch rates of spring and summer. While springs keep our trout streams open, even on the coldest days, lower water temperatures this time of year mean a lower metabolism for fish. Midges, scuds, small PT’s are the usual, winter fare.

Make sure you know the regulations and which streams are open. There are still only select streams open for winter trout season. Have you heard Trout Run is open for winter fishing? It’s not. At least not the one you’re thinking of in Fillmore County with the famed Bucksnort Dam. There is a little stream in Whitewater State Park also named Trout Run – that’s the only Trout Run open for the winter season.

If you want to know exactly where you can fish, it’s very easy. Here are the maps of streams open for Southeast Minnesota’s winter trout season.
Fillmore County
Winona County
Houston County
Goodhue County

Stream conditions? The usual winter fare. It’s a rare winter’s day that our trout streams are anything but low, clear, and cold. If you’re uncertain, check here or here to see if there’s an update.

Reports, pictures are always welcome on the message board.