The weather cooperated for the most part this weekend and the fly fishing was solid. Snow showers were encountered yesterday and some rather strong winds today but the trout were undeterred. I worked on what I equate to the "short game" in golf. I fished small, intimate water where delicate presentations of small nymphs were necessary. My reward was Brookie Bliss in the heart of the Minnesota Driftless. One of the aspects I love most about fly fishing is the variety that it offers. From stripping streamers to gently laying in a size 22 Griffith's Gnat on 6X tippet I constantly try to learn and hopefully improve my skill set in the process. Area streams are in good shape but keep an eye on the weather as they are calling for an ice storm Monday into Tuesday. Also, we had a significant thaw a few weeks ago which created a layer of ice in most areas which was then covered with snow - be careful when navigating the streams!
Many have fished the Mother's Day Caddis hatch in the Minnesota Driftless but have you ever participated in the rare February 13th Birthday hatch? Well, that's precisely what I did yesterday! Once again, it was Midges being taken but the Browns were still readily taking my Elk Hair as long as I "skittered" them across the surface. Catching big Browns on the dry fly in the middle of winter - what an incredible Birthday gift from SE Minnesota! With temps in the 30's and 40's through the weekend (a slight dip on Friday) look for more of this action! Unlike in Spring, when hatches are plentiful, winter brings far less of this activity so when hungry trout feverishly feed at the surface, they seem far less discriminating. This gives cold, wet and numb fingers a break by allowing one to tie on larger dry flies which takes a bit less dexterity :-) When the surface action waned, fish were picked up by nymphing (BH Pheasant Tail & BH Hare's Ear) and slowly stripping Woolly Bugger / Leech patterns. Stop by the shop in Preston, MN and re-stock those fly boxes and check out all the new Orvis gear.
Expo show schedule for The Driftless Fly Fishing Company:
BE SURE TO STOP BY OUR BOOTH
Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association (March 2nd and 3rd) - Bettendorf, IA
Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo (March 16,17,18) St. Paul, MN
If you're on Instagram be sure to follow the shop's page
The Outdoors of SE Minnesota are truly amazing and I'm reminded of this fact often as I spend a vast majority of my time hunting and fly fishing year round in the Driftless Area. I had this point reiterated once again on Saturday while fly fishing an area stream. While nymphing, I came across a deep pool with an eddy that had many rising fish sipping helpless midges at the surface from a hatch spurred on by temps in the low 30's. My hands were wet, cold and not functioning well but there was no way I wasn't going to tie on a dry fly! I could only muster up enough dexterity to firmly secure a large Elk Hair Caddis which was obviously much larger than the hatching midges not to mention a whole different species. What saved me was a foam line which obscured the true profile of the fly and by "skittering" it, this small amount of movement prompted the strikes. This is where the wonderment of the Driftless lies ..... here I was, fishing a secluded valley, with snow falling, catching Brown Trout on a dry fly in the middle of winter. As Dorothy once said, "There's No Place Like Home".
Melvin Hayner is the owner of The Driftless Fly Fishing Company in Preston, Mn. He has been fishing this area for over 23 years and guiding here for over a decade. Some reports will be from other reliable sources around the Driftless area. Thanks guys.