3/7/2015 Report & Conditions

Saturday, March 7th Report:
Fished from 9:30am-12:30pm. Sky was clear, wind in the valley was a non-issue (gusty on the blufftops), temperature started at 32 and was ~38 when we walked out of the valley. There was still plenty of snow on the banks and ice shelves in a few stretches. Fishing was slow, but there was one stretch with ample sunshine + emerging midges that brought fish to the surface. This was a first outing for 3 of us fishing, each caught our first trout of the year on a Griffith’s Gnat (and a couple more to boot). In this particular location, fish were up in the current, actively feeding. Additional fish were caught on an orange scud. In many other stretches that were still shaded, we caught nothing despite our best efforts.

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.

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.

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.

3_3_13NathanFish

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?

YAFFflier1-13rev

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.