Yesterday was my first outing of the year. Ice fishing you say? Nope, open water, fishing a beautiful spring creek. Minnesota has a January 1 catch and release pre-season.I was so excited that I could barely fall asleep Thursday night. I kept thinking of a nice fish tugging at the end of my line.
First I decided to hit lower Hay on bigger water, fish with a spinner for a little under an hour. First fish of the day around 9:30 she put up a decent fight. She fought stronger than her size. I expected much bigger, especially from such a large pool. Ended up being 12-13″ by my eyeball estimate, best fish of the day.
Parked on the shoulder, I swung a U turn and thought the shoulder was solid, wrong. My truck sunk way in at a fairly steep angle. I was stuck. A few trucks stopped by, nobody had a pull rope. Some offered me a ride into town. Five minutes later another truck stopped by. I asked if he had a tow rope and he said yes. Thank God. I hooked up to my bumper hitch and was slowly pulled out of the ditch. I thanked the guy and offered money. He said no charge. I slipped him a $5 anyway, least I could offer. Live and learn. One should always have a tow rope in the back of your vehicle, be prepared for Minnesota winters.
Shortly after around 10:30 I met up with old neighbor I grew up next door, buddy Nate. Our goal was to fly fish and this was Nate’s first time. We left the spinning gear behind. Nate parked his car and the 325th bridge upstream and then we drove down to the next bridge down, where recent habitat improvement work was done. There was even a nice parking space for anglers, off the main 325th road, perfect. I had Nate all set up with my 5wt palsa indicator, pink squirrel fly all set. We practiced casting at the first pool by the parking lot for a bit, then moved upstream.
Honestly I have not taught many to fly fish before. We took turns with the one rod so I could show him what to do what not to do. This included accelerating at 10 and 2 (like a clock) sifting out a foot or more of line each direction. Nate thought you only sift out line on the forward cast. The other critical lesson is on your final cast to let the line shoot out. Sometimes Nate just did not have any slack line to shoot out so the fly would drop where it was versus extend further. Also bringing your pole down closer to the water on your final cast to lad down your fly is critical. At times Nate was whipping the fly rod so hard you could hear a strong sound, not necessary. Fly fishing should feel effortless, as long as your tail loops are good, slow it way down. No need to muscle your cast.
After about 30 minutes Nate was really getting the hang of it. He even had one brown trout on briefly. Fly fishing the pasture I only landed two little browns and another shook off. The first one was caught on a Trico trailer, the only thing I had in my box that resembled the midges we saw crawling on the snow banks. The midges themselves look like a mosquito, long legs extending out at 90 degree angles.
Fishing was not easy. Most fish seeded to be at the edge of faster water near plunge pools. Others were spotted in the shallows, huddled together likely trying to stay as warm as possible. Fishing downstream up even my fly casting line above them spooked them and if not the casting line, the pinch on orange Palsa indicator would. We fished 11-3 and this was supposed to be above freezing however our guides were icing up. One had to carefully crack off the ice. In the process the one and only guide on my fly rod popped out. In the process I threaded my line through the guides to grab and fix later. The guide center (that attaches to the metal ring on the rod) slipped out of my hands and into the deep white snow, never to be found. I’m not sure how important this one and only guide is. Casting line on bare metal for all the other guides. Probably with a stronger fish not having the ceramic guide on there will eventually wear out my WF casting line faster. Fishing without it I did not notice any difference.
For the four hours we were there we saw roughly nine different parties. Nate was not the only one who got skunked. There was a guy on snow shows who seemed to know what he was doing who was there only about 45 minutes and hooked on to a half dozen fish. Back at our vehicles for a couple of beers before we hit the road, one angler said his grandson caught a 12″ brown on a Rapala. Also interesting closer to the 325th bridge I found a hook with a now frozen crawler threaded through it and a small split shot wrapped around a small branch where my fly got hung up. Clearly some people do not follow the pre-season artificial only rule.
We had a pleasant time. Honestly I hoped more fish would have been caught. It was a dreary overcast day as it had been all week. I figured that would be to our advantage however these wild trout are smart and get a lot of pressure. Overall I like the habitat improvement on this section, amazed to see how far downstream it now goes. I did not get to all of it, mainly just fishing the first bridge to 325th.