Guide Trip Report: Stream walkin’

Yesterday morning I guided a half day trip for a fella who had great skills and a younger angler who is just starting. He progressed well over the day! Both landed fish but the newer to the sport angler landed the most.

He did well fishing a San Juan worm deep. Shortly after this fish was caught he lost a much larger one that pulled him quickly into a deep undercut. A learning experience!

The stream had a light stain but fishing was a little tricky. We spotted very few rises and got very few swipes on the streamer.

One of the guys texted me later in the day. He fished a bit further upstream. He ran into the land owner who told him that the stream has seen a ton of pressure since the catch and keep opening day. On my way home I heard a report that this year saw the highest fishing licenses “in a generation”. Lots of pressure. Streams remain low and clear-tough conditions.

Conditions: Hit or Miss

I drove past a stream that usually clears up quick after a heavy rain. We received over 3.5 inches of rain yesterday at my house. I checked the 24 hour rainfall totals and found that most of south eastern MN go between 1-2 inches, with heavy rainfall very much localized. I headed out after work to check a spot that I fully expected to be running dirty. With the streamer rod ready to go I hiked down the hill to find crystal clear water! The wind was fierce but I managed a few on a twitched caddis.

I landed at least a dozen over 2.5 hours with most being quite small. I did break off on one chunky one of 16 inches or so. The moral of the story is check the rainfall total maps before you go fishing when rain pushes through. You can cut down on some driving and find fishable water.

Trip Report: Tricky

With the caddis activity slowed to a trickle and very few mayflies sighted, I headed to a stream that’s full of trout and hard to fish when low and clear. That and full sun worked against us as we fished, he with a spinning setup and me on the fly. The banks on this medium sized creek are quite high necessitating conscience navigation and judicious wading.

Fishing was slow for my buddy. I started out fishing a sz 16 quill mayfly to sporadic risers. A few 5-6 inchers came to hand but it was slow. After every two or three steps we could see trout darting away, spooked by our silhouettes and the vibrations of us walking heavily up river. Eventually I conceded that they weren’t gonna eat on top. I tossed on a small indicator with a size 16 Brassie trailing a size 18 rusty orange mayfly nymph. I chose this fly after matching it to similar natural I found overturning a rock that sat under water in 8 or 9 inch deep riffle. This worked, but still spooked plenty when it hit the water.

I know I’m holding it waaay out but this was still a great fish with a pair of shoulders and a good story! My buddy spotted it as I stood in the middle of a slow current the was planting to pull my line downstream. After he keyed me in I landed a few good casts, but spooked him a little. I proceeded to pull quite a few chunky little 10-12 inch browns out, sometimes on consecutive casts. After a dozen or so my buddy, standing on the high bank behind me, spotted the fish again! I tried a few more times as he decided to move upstream. After 5 or I’d casts I landed one at his feet. I saw the fish move a tiny bit to his right and the indicator dipped. After a quick battle he was in. I found a few more productive pools, pulling 5-10 fish from each one. Again, small average size fish, but one sporting one!

Trip Report: 24 Hours

The wife is out of town this weekend so I fished a whole lot over the last 24 hours. The lawn needed mowing last night but when I wrapped it up around 730 I still wanted to fish. After a quick dinner I headed out mousing! I arrived on stream at quarter to nine. The sun had set but there was still a glow on the horizon. As soon as that glow went away fish started snappin!

Unfortunately this was the only one to come to hand. I have a smaller mouse pattern that would’ve increased my bite to hand ratio. I landed 1 but had 8 or 9 hits. Some felt and sounded substantial. I was home by 1015pm.

I woke up late this morning and after some indecision decided to hit a smaller stream that’s less pressured. I saw plenty of fish but couldn’t coax any to the top. I landed one small one on a nymph before heading to another spot. To my surprise the lot was empty!

I’m pretty sure a buddy hooked and lost this fish earlier this week. The fish came from the exact same spot and took the same fly! Fish didn’t seem too interested in a dead drifted fly but when retrieved quickly with a short twitch fish responded well. They also seemed to like the fly twitched upstream, against the current.

Temps reached the low 80’s and I noticed very little bug activity. The stream was crystal clear at first but I’d guess someone was fishing the upstream private section of this river because the water became more stained as I walked up.

There are lots off dinky little trout in the rivers right now. I think this bodes well for the next year of fishing! Lots of new fish and lots of food for the big ones! Tomorrow looks stormy so stay tuned for updates on conditions.

Trip Report: Spotty

I got out yesterday evening and today. While caddis were around surface activity was spotty. So we’re the trout!

A few smaller fish took the fly dead drifted but I found much better luck, and much larger fish, when the fly was sunk and twitched or skittered. We had a few rain events earlier this week but it’s had very little effect. The rivers I fished were both still very low and clear.

This little guy has very unique markings! While there was no discernible hatch I didn’t deviate from the gray sz 16 caddis until I threw a streamer on the hike back to the car. No love. Today I decided to cash in a personal mental health day that my job offers (sweet deal, right!?) to chase trout and de-stress. With temps forecast in the mid 60’s and sunny skies I anticipated a great hatch. What I found was wind. Still, fish came on a caddis dry dead drifted, skittered, and (most frequently) twitched. Driftless trout love a little movement on the fly.

I’ve noticed that the bigger fish tend to push farther into the run and porpoise as they eat. This pattern helped me target larger fish and avoid the hundreds of young of the year dinks that are numerous.

Around 30 came to hand with many more small fish than the last few times out. I think because of the wind the bigger fish weren’t willing to surface for less payoff. The rain may have also cooled the water down and messed with the hatch. I found two distinct periods of hatching caddis, around 1230 and another around 130. A size 18 (spotted sedge I believe) and a size 20 black caddis. The size 16 gray I fished all day seemed to work just fine.

I suspect the caddis are waning, but will continue for at least another week or two. Yesterday I spotted a few mayflies, but far more caddis. Streams are busy but vegetation is still low so hiking is easy. Spread out and go get ‘em!

Guide Trip Report: Caddis

Today I took two fellas from the great state of Wisconsin for a foray on one of my favorite stretches of trout water. I hoped conditions would be good for caddis but with cloudy skies and windy conditions we didn’t see a blanket hatch. Still caddis came off all day with a frequency that led fish to rise all day. Early on fish responded well to the fly twitched. For most of the day fish wanted the fly dead drifted. They also responded fairly well to the skitter.

Jon briefly hooked into a good one on a streamer before switching to a dry fly. This was a good switch and he landed fish at a prolific pace.

Jaime threw a side armed cast under the rainbow branch in the background to hook this fish on top.

Jaime put a hurt on em! We never really had caddis coming off heavy but fish rose all day. While lots of smaller fish came to hand we also saw plenty of above average ones! His last cast of the day hooked into a 16+ inch brown that snapped off his 4x tippet in short order.

Toward the end of the day these guys had a solid double. I have no idea how many fish came to hand but it was many. Jon and Jaime were great company and quick learners. I’m hopeful the tips and techniques shared today will lead to more and bigger fish for these guys in the future.

Trip Report: Dreary day

What a dreary day. When I arrived on stream, around 1115am, temps hovered in the mid 50’s, rain spot from the cloudy sky, and the wind was just strong enough to mess with a good cast. It didn’t help that I chose a skinny stream. I hoped to see caddis but they seem to like it a little warmer. I though for sure Olives but none. I chose to fish upstream with a elk hair caddis. Dead drifts worked ok but a slow, steady twitch retrieve triggered good action.

This solid fish put up a great fight. He was a consolation prize as I missed a much larger on minutes earlier. I continued to pick up lots of 8-10 inch trout with a few good ones interspersed before walking up to a run/pool with a willow hanging over. It would be impossible to fish it casting upstream so I snuck to the head of the run and whipped a sidearm cast under the willow and into the current. It was snapped up quickly as it swung through the current.

What a fatty! This picture doesn’t do him justice. Check out this angle!

He was probably only 15 inches but he put up an outstanding battle. A couple dozen came to hand today with a smaller than typical average size. This is a good sign that big ol boom trout have plenty of decent sized food to chow on! The next few days look a little chilly but Monday should see a return of the caddis. If I were fishing this weekend I’d use caddis nymphs like the pink squirrel, hares ear, or anything sz 16ish, or I’d twitch the elk hair caddis with and/or against the current. Olives will be around too. Smaller mayfly nymphs (sz18), parachute dries, and other emerger should fish well at times. Don’t hesitate to nymph with a caddis imitation in a tandem rig followed by a small mayfly nymph.

Trip Report: More caddis

On stream by 1230pm and off by 430pm. A friend and I expected to find caddis but were a little surprised to see so many flying up the windshield as we drove in! We both rigged up a gray size 16 elk hair caddis and chased ‘em.

This guy somehow picked my artificial fly out of the hundreds that were floating by. He put up a great fight on the five weight.

Again the average size fish was much better than usual. I attribute this to being able to target larger fish based on rise form, and sometimes by sight!

This was my fish of the day. The picture doesn’t do him justice. He was hefty and strong. He plucked the fly off the surface as it drifted within inches of shore and put up a great battle. We ran into a fair number of people on the river today. Most fly fishermen seemed to do well while spin fishers reported slow fishing, probably because the fish were gorging themselves on caddis flies! Another beautiful day on the water.

Trip Report: Caddis madness

Hiked into a remote spot with a friend hoping for a caddis hatch. We got a late start, on the river by 10am. Midges came off strong at first but fish didn’t seem interested. We landed a few sporadic rising trout before fish started to key in on emerging bugs, around noon.

Fish ate on top until around 3pm, then rises continued on a sporadic basis. A few waves of hatches came through with most being sz 18 gray caddis. I fished a size 16 with great success.

I used the five weight fly rod again with a 12 foot leader and tippet combination terminating at 4x.

These fish were amazingly fat, stuffed to the gills with caddis flies. It makes a 12 inch fish feel much bigger and makes light or damaged tippet much more likely to break.

I didn’t count today but between the two of us I bet we landed 40 fish. They all came on Elk Hair Caddis dry flies. Long casts weren’t a must but certainly gave the angler an advantage as streams remain low and clear.

Trip Report: Do you ever…

…get sick of being wrong? Yes. But I’m this case I ain’t mad.

As I got within 20 feet of the stream I could see enough caddis in the air to know they were coming off strong. All but one of my elk hair caddis was in my car. I carried the 5 weight today with 10 lb test and a big streamer from yesterday. Luckily I did decide to bring 4x tippet and my small fly box. I rerigged immediately, although not ideally, and hit the water.

I didn’t think the caddis would come thick yet. I arrived at 315pm and the hatch was going. With the water low and clear the fish’s behavior could be easily observed. Small fish hit enthusiastically. Medium sized fish snapped up caddis adults with vigor and, in slow water, would “cruise” or patrol an area. They’d snap up a fly within a four foot zone or turn another direction to grab a natural. Sight fishing dry flies is the best!

As the afternoon proceeded fish kept eating. Check out the belly on some of these fish! They put a great bend on the five weight.

Fish initially wanted a perfect dead drift. By 530ish they started to respond to twitches, then to the fly being slowly retrieved with long, slow strips. I fished that one elk hair caddis the whole time! 2 dozen came to hand while I missed that many, if not more. Three came to hand on the walk back to the car. The general season (when you can keep trout) opens tomorrow. While I infrequently keep trout I don’t admonish those who do. Good luck, the mn driftless will see a lot of pressure over the next month or so! If you plan to hit the area manage your expectations with respect to finding solitude and be nice to each other.