1/23/13 Window into Stream Conditions

I had a few chores to attend to today, so while on my travels I stopped by to check on a local trout stream. It looked as fishable and clear today as it would on any other winter day, even after 4 straight days of an arctic blast and sub-zero temperatures. Water temperatures were clearly withstanding the latest arctic pounding well; shelf ice was limited and sparse on this particular stream. This stretch isn’t open for winter season trout fishing, but I’m sure streams that are open for winter season near this one look very similar.

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Pouring into this stream was a beautiful run of spring water, which in maintaining a very consistent temperature has also maintained bright green plant life.

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This time of year, stream conditions are rarely the limiting factor in our decision to fish as much as our comfort level.

Crappy Fly: Griffith’s Gnat

Still sticking with some of the basic essentials at the desk lately… Sitting at The Disaster in my basement is a tad cold recently, so I only coughed up a few flies today. Stupid arctic airmass + old house = cold basement.

Griffith’s Gnat. With only a hook and 3 elements, this should be easy.

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I tied the hackle, then the peacock herl near the bend…

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Wrapped thread up to behind the eye…

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And then wrapped the hackle over the herl up to the eye and then tied off. Okay…

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Acceptable, but a little crowded around the eye…hopefully that’s not going to interfere too much with tippet, so I trimmed as well as I could before putting in my pile of flies to be fished.

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Of course the herl wasn’t always cooperative. I hate you sometimes, stupid peacock herl. Yeah, yeah…should have wrapped that herl around the thread first, or just been a bit more careful with my thread.

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I tied a few of these up and they’ll fish. The hackle is a little oversized for the fly – I was using size 20 hooks but working through my grizzly hackle from a size 18 100 pack of Whiting’s. On a couple flies I substituted peacock ice dub for the peacock herl when things didn’t work out as well as they should have.

Griffith’s Gnat
Hook: TMC 100, size 20
Thread: Gray (12/0 Sheer Gordon Griffith in this case, but any lightweight thread will do and I don’t think color is critical)
Body: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Grizzly

Weekend Fishing Weather – Southeast MN

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Bottom Line: Mild and gusty Friday turning much colder and windy Saturday afternoon

What the graph above is telling you is that temperatures are going to spike above freezing Friday morning, nearing the 40s in the afternoon, it will warm up again briefly Saturday morning, and then the bottom drops out on temperatures from Saturday afternoon until the end of next week. So, if comfort is what you’re after – get it while it’s hot. Enjoy if you get out, and feel free to drop a report on the message board.

With Friday’s warm up, it will still be gusty. Winds will range between 15-25mph Friday, occasionally gusting as high as 35mph. There will be more clouds than sun Friday AM, but more sunshine in the PM if all goes to plan. Clouds return Friday night with a chance for a little, light snow, Saturday morning will turn milder, back above freezing with winds out of the west 10-20mph until about Noon, then it’s going to turn very windy and much colder through Saturday afternoon with wind gusts pushing 45mph. We’re back down to single-digit temperatures Sunday, and Monday’s high may just barely reach above zero if at all.

Today’s Fly: Tan Chironomid (Midge)

This is a midge larva pattern, and it’s easy to tie…very easy.

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Here’s my recipe…

Hook: TMC 200R size 16
Head: Glass bead – I used black, translucent purple, red, and clear…just to be safe, I guess
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Tan thread – Uni-Thread 8/0 in this case
Fuzzy-buggy part of the head: Black nymph dubbing

Put bead on hook, thread in behind the eye, attach wire just behind the eye and wrap thread over it to the back bend of the hook to avoid the “big butt” look…especially since the body is merely thread and it’s hard to put spanks on that bugger to trim its hips. Once thread is wrapped back to the bend and it’s a good starting place for the wire rib, wrap the thread back up to behind the dirty-nymphing bead, then wrap the ribbing back up to the thread, and trim the wire. Dub the thread, wrap around just behind the bead as needed, and half-hitch. I trimmed the dubbing back a bit, but merely so it didn’t look absolutely ginormous in the close-up picture, it’s probably not necessary, but from the chironomid pictures I found through googling, it doesn’t appear they’re really “leggy” in larva form.

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.

Fly: Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail

This is my shot at a Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Nymph – with a shiny, glass bead.

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I tied a little over a half dozen in my downtime Monday, and they’ll fish, but they’re not great. Since I didn’t have any partridge hackle handy I just used pheasant fibers as hackle and tied it on both sides of the head, just behind the bead.

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I’m looking forward to tying these with a more appropriate wet fly hackle, namely partridge, but for now this’ll do for a fish-able fly.

Today’s recipe:
Hook: TMC 200R, Size 16
Bead: Pearlescent “glass”
Thread: Olive 8/0 Uni-Thread
Tail: Pheasant Tail
Body: Pheasant Tail
Ribbing: Copper or Silver, Brassie Size
Wingcase: Flashback or Flashabou or just something Flashy-flatty-ish, c’mon man!
Thorax: Peacock Ice Dub

On the Bench: Making Progress

My focus is still on being able to clean out my fly box and start with new flies for the 2013 season. So far, I’ve stocked up on scuds, pheasant tails, midges, skinny nelsons, and a few, larger attractor nymphs. I’ve avoided Prince Nymphs so far and am wondering if I’m going to tie a couple dozen as a staple fly or not. Size 12 or 14 Princes? Probably size 14, but would you go larger for the majority of yours? Not sure what I’m going to do with that one yet…I despise tying biot tails, but I probably need to do it just for the practice.

Here’s where I’m at so far. This is about 80-85 flies, so I still have a long way to go and want to fill-in with more variety in flies and sizes.
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Simply for the purpose of avoiding monotony in my flies, I bought some glass beads from J. Stockard recently and am putting them to use in some of my patterns, from midges to nymphs.
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But so far, mainly on the midge larva patterns, which range from size 14 to 18.
photo (51)I go a little stir crazy after tying the same pattern over, and over, and over, and I’m a little stymied as to what to tie next. My PT nymphs so far are primarily only size 18, so I’ll be filling in soon with a couple dozen in size 14-16.

For you fellow, dirty nymphers, what do you recommend in the lineup of staple flies? What is your go-to fly pattern?

1/10/13 Stream Report

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I fished a popular winter trout stream north of I-90 Thursday afternoon. Temperatures hovered in the mid to upper 30s and at the bluff tops there was a stiff wind, but in the river valley I felt hardly any wind. Skies were overcast but polarized shades were still necessary.

There was a very minor midge hatch. In a few hundred yards of stream I saw 3 fish rise…not much to get me giddy, but a clear indication that a midge trailer behind my scud would be wise. Did I do that? No…too lazy yesterday.

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Water was slightly stained (image above from a 1.5ft deep pocket of water) but plenty of visibility, seemingly due to the slow snow melt. The thaw in southeast Minnesota has been occurring slowly for a few days now but has visibly sped up since rain started Thursday afternoon and temperatures have remained above freezing overnight.

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Fish caught were on an orange scud, size 14, and bites were very subtle, to be expected in winter season. Keep a tight line, dirty nymphers. I only fished for about a half hour as I was also messing around with my new GoPro camera that Santa brought me for Christmas. I’m working on a little video for the trip report.

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.