Minnesota Drought Update – Good News?

There is positive news in the long range drought outlook, and hopefully the active weather pattern of frequent storm systems stays consistent through late winter into spring.


The US Drought Monitor provides a weekly update to overall drought conditions. Today’s drought status doesn’t show much improvement across Minnesota, nor should it, but recent trends in regards to precipitation have been good. Below is today’s updated drought monitor. Note that while 100% of Minnesota is in drought, there’s been a marked decrease in percent area in severe to extreme drought (D2-D4). There is usually minimal change this time of year since our moisture is either not present or sitting on top of the ground in the form of snow. Recent rainfall has actually helped a little, even though we’ve got a deep frost layer.


Minnesota along with much of the Midwest are in a long term drought, so relief from this drought will be a long process.



You can see there is a considerable moisture deficit over the past 6 months, and precipitation deficits actually stretch all the way back to August of 2011. In that 18 month period, precipitation deficits range from 5 to nearly 20 inches across southeast Minnesota reporting stations.

On a positive note is the recent precipitation trending above normal for winter, even if snow has been below normal, we’ve had unusual amounts of rain for winter. Call it what you will, but it’s moisture, and the middle of winter is typically the driest time of the year for us. Hopefully trends continue. Images below show the departure from normal in the last week and the amount of precipitation in the last 30 days.




And the groundwater monitored is finally making a comeback after the lowest recorded level in that station’s history. I’d have put a southeast MN station on here, but levels haven’t been updated since November.


Today’s Tie: Shillinglaw Emerger

This is a pattern based off of, but somewhat varied from the Shillinglaw Emerger pattern in Ross Mueller’s book Fly Fishing Midwest Spring Creeks.

Here’s the recipe I used for this fly today…note it’s not going to be exactly like the pattern in the book, nor is it as pretty, but we’re in the ballpark. This fly is intentionally “buggy”. (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it)

Hook: standard nymph, size 18 (I’m out of size 16 hooks today, otherwise I’d have gone that size)
Thread: dun or olive or black or neon orange (maybe not the orange)
Tail: wood duck or mallard flank fibers
Ribbing: strand of pearl krystal flash (or wire, or french tinsel, or something else shiny)
Wing: CDC or Dun Z-lon
Head: Dark and buggy…these were tied with a dark flash dubbing, but the recipe in Mueller’s book calls for “australian opossum”. Black nymph dubbing works fine, too.

Thread hook, tie in the tail.

Shillinglaw Emerger

Tie in rib, dub thread, wrap thread forward leaving room for the wing, and tie down ribbing.

Shillinglaw Emerger

Tie in the wing, secure with a couple wraps, and dub the head. Half-hitch or whip finish…done.

Shillinglaw Emerger

I did a little variety today and trimmed amounts of z-long in the wing so some were bushier than others. I also varied between a dark rainbow dub and a plain, black nymph dub.

Shillinglaw Emerger

Shillinglaw Emerger

Meeting the Deadline – My Fly Swap Emerger

Despite recent silence here (come on, it’s freakin’ cold outside), I’ve been at The Disaster the last few days.

The Disaster

Looks nice and tidy, doesn’t it? Heh. My organized friends are cringing…plotting….oh wait, here’s another view of my poorly organized space.

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OMGerd, that’s terrible. Loose flies, hook piles, pheasant tails on top of wood duck feathers…or are those mallard feathers? Idunno.

It’s entirely possible that I may be a fly-swap coordinator’s worst nightmare. Okay, maybe not the worst – I’m not that guy who comments on everyone else’s flies on the forum for weeks on end and then when the deadline nears, makes excuses like, “my dog ate all my TMC 3761 hooks and I’ve been in the emergency room for 64 hours!”, or “I’ve got really bad diarrhea and my kids are sick, or something!” No, I don’t think I’m that guy, but there always seems to be that one guy (or gal, let’s not discrminate) who hits the deadline and then loafs a few supremely-crappy flies to the swapmaster, keeping all the other worthy participants out of a dozen new, sweet flies until they’re all darn good and ready. I don’t think I’m that guy…

Anyway. Here’s my line of thinking (which may or may not have led to one particularly bad semester of college). If the deadline is February 1st, that means I tie my flies on January 31st and turn them in by the close of business on February 1st! It’s like e-bay…or filing your taxes…wait until the final seconds and then snipe before the cut off.

Okay, not really – but close. I sincerely had no idea what to tie for a swap of “southeast MN flies” without just handing over all my scuds and pheasant tails. I figured I had to tie up something that was a) effective around these parts and b) something that was truly effective and wasn’t a scud, one of my crappy midges, or a small pheasant tail…because that would be cheating. So, I tied up a baker’s dozen Shillinglaw Emergers for the swap. If you’re new to either fly fishing for trout around southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and southwest Wisconsin or new to fly tying, you owe it to yourself to read Ross Mueller’s Fly Fishing Midwestern Spring Creeks. The Shillinglaw Emerger is one of the marquee flies in his book, and I always make sure to have at least one in my fly box from March through September. This year, I will have many more on the ready, tied in a supremely crappy way, by yours truly.

shillinglaw emergers

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I’ll post the nice recipe of my crappy version soon…because I’m a “helper”…