The recent weather consisting of 40+ degree days and rain has made it feel much more like March than January here in the Driftless Area of SE Minnesota. Unfortunately, this along with field runoff is leaving a lot of streams looking like it is March as many are running very stained to blown out. However, there is fishable water out there and one only needs to do a little scouting or check at the Driftless Fly Fishing fly shop as to what is fishing well and what flies are working. I found success this weekend with leech patterns as well as Pink Squirrels .... that is, after I finally located a stream in fair condition. Snow is in the forecast this week along with lower temps so thaw run off should ease and streams will clear quickly. As they say, "don't like the weather here in Minnesota, wait 15 minutes, it will change" :-)
Temps once again cooperated making their way into the 30's and once again, the trout waters of the Minnesota Driftless beckoned me. Because of a "snafu" the only fly I found myself with as I arrived stream side was one of my hand tied "Cat's Meow" leech patterns. Luckily, this what the Browns wanted and I was happy to oblige. Like yesterday, most takes occured on the dead drift or on the pause during the cadence of the strip. Keep this in mind the next time your out. Be sure to stop in at the Driftless Fly Fishing fly shop for the latest "intel" on what the hot flies are in the area!
Today was an extra special day for anglers in Minnesota as not only did we usher in 2017 but also the opener of the catch & release trout season. Temps only crept into the low 30's but it felt down right balmy with little to no wind and full sun. The trout today were in their typical winter haunts - in deeper pools and by structure providing cover not only from predators but the elements as well. I discovered today that Pink Squirrel nymph patterns with an indicator and Woolly Buggers worked through pools on a dead drift was what triggered strikes.
Start organizing your fly fishing gear and head to the Driftless Fly Fishing Company to replace and restock because all area trout streams will once again open for Catch & Release fishing January 1st! No need to go into hibernation mode as there is some incredible winter fly fishing to be had in the Driftless Area of SE Minnesota.
As you're at the calendar flipping it to 2017 next weekend, be sure to mark it with the dates of the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo, March 17-19 at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Driftless Fly Fishing Co. will once again have a booth and Mel Hayner, owner and Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide will be one of the featured presenters at the event. Be sure to stop by to say "Hi", check out the latest Orvis products, book a guided trip and /or just talk with us about what a gem the Minnesota Driftless area is to us fly anglers!
Happy New Year to all and hope to see some of you at the shop, at the Expo or on the streams!
I know that it hardly seems like November 11th here in SE Minnesota as temps have remained very mild with even the 70 degree mark being reached last weekend. Blue bird days with temps still firmly planted in the 50's and 60's make it difficult to turn our thoughts to snow and ice but rest assured, like always, it will come! But there is no need to pack up that fly fishing gear and wait for the arrival of Spring. Instead, check out the attached article (page 60) that I wrote on winter fly fishing in SE Minnesota (Nov/Dec issue of Midwest Hunting And Fishing magazine). Fishing opportunities are still out there in our area's State Parks (Beaver Creek, Forestville and Whitewater) and come January 1st all streams will once again be fair game! Also, remember the Holiday Season will be here soon so shop early and fill those stockings of your favorite fly angler with gear, flies or perhaps a gift certificate for a guided trip from the Driftless Fly Fishing Company!
***** PLEASE NOTE: the Woolly Bugger pattern mentioned in the following article was inappropriately represented with a Spinner bait lure by the editor using Stock/Googled images) *****
Great stream conditions and fall weather is continuing the trout fishing and catching! The South Branch of The Root River is clear and trout are still active. CATCH AND RELEASE FISHING IS OPEN IN ALL THREE STATE PARKS! Look for the tiny Blue Winged Olives this weekend when it warms up during the day. Streamers can still hook that big trophy. Swing big buggers, Clouser Minnows and our Creek Chub or Baby Browns in cut banks and wood to coax one out. When they hammer the streamer, they want to kill it so hang on! It is all good. Iowa streams are open all year and tributaries of The Upper Iowa just south of the border are fishing great with nymphs like the Pink Squirrel, Pheasant tail or Copper John. Some BWOs and even Caddis were spotted last week and some fish taken on dry flies in October! It doesn't get any better than this unless it could last into December, probably not though. It will get cold soon. Count on it and get out this weekend. See ya, Mel
The past week has been filled with excellent weather for just about any outdoor activity. All rivers, and creeks appear to be clear and around average levels creating great fishing conditions for a variety of fish and anglers, there are many places to fish, yet so little time. Where to start? Stop by the shop! We will point you in the right direction.
The state parks as always will have catch and release trout fishing until the season opens back up next year. If you are searching for a different kind of trout fishing opportunity, Iowa supports trout fishing on their creaks year round. A temporary Iowa fishing license is inexpensive and will open up new creeks you may have never known existed.
Many of the local creeks and rivers in the South-East Minnesota area that are not designated trout water harbour fast and aggressive smallmouth bass. Whether you catch 30 little ones or 3 big ones the style of fishing is different from the more delicate ways of trout fishing and either something new to learn, or something to give variety to those burnt out from a bountiful trout season. A strong five weight flyrod up to a fiberglass six weight are the perfect tools for the job. If you are unsure of what fly to start with, most any bass will take a white Clouser.
I fished a local non designated creek last weekend and will post some of the pictures below. This creek had some of the most spectacular bluffs I have seen in this area. These little guys were a lot of fun, but next time I'll have to slow down and try for the bigger ones.
Today brought the end to Minnesota's regular catch & release trout season but don't fret, trout fishing remains open on waters within the area's State Park and Fall can be an excellent time to fly fish for Smallmouth! The last few days were often wet, dreary and cool but the streamer action was red hot. It was a phenomenal way to bring the season to a close. Be sure to stop in at the Driftless Fly Fishing Company fly shop in Preston, MN to replace that older worn out gear, upgrade that fly rod, restock the fly box or it's never too early to start Christmas shopping! How about a gift certificate for a guided fly fishing trip for someone special ..... or maybe just treat yourself :-)
The end of the catch and release trout season is near, however the end of fishing is far from over. Smallies and State Park trout will be more than willing to steal a few of your flies on many of the local rivers and in the State Parks for trout. Big flies for big small mouth are a great way to practice your cast on some of the more pleasant late fall days this year. On the off chance that you miss the sounds of the calmer streamside fishing, catch and release trout fishing will continue for state parks Beaver Creek, Whitewater and Forestville.
The cooler temps of late along with normal stream flows and fishable water clarity has made for some incredible trout fishing here in the heart of the Minnesota Driftless Area. Throwing large streamer, Leech and Wooly Bugger patterns have remained the key to success in landing bigger Browns. This time of year, during the pre-spawn / spawn timeframe, the larger breeding trout are on the move and feeding aggressively so they can enter into this period in peak form. This increased health and weight will also serve them well in the coming cold, winter months. The catch & release season closes here 10/15 but will remain open in the area's State Parks so take advantage of this great opportunity, enjoy the beautiful Fall weather and seek out your own trophy fish here in SE Minnesota!
- My streamer box is either half empty or bursting to the brim lately. While occasionally I can blame the teeth of an aggressive trout for a few of the flies, sadly trees rocks and bushes make up for most of the other flies that have gone missing over the past few days. Thus is the life of a streamer in the fall, low and bouncing in-between boulders or mere inches from grass and roots. As expected on much cloudier days I am allowed more room for error, and more strikes seem to be common place.
The root river below Lanesboro is now clear enough to fish, however wading is restricted still as the water level is quite high. Further up in the branches of the Root River wading is possible however canoe or kayak may be a more effective method. Be sure to prepare for any boating trips and check the water before hand to make sure for yourself that it is indeed at a safe level. Ever since the recent flood, blockages around narrow sections of any part of the rivers are possible and can be hazardous.
Many creeks in the south-eastern Minnesota region are not only fishable, they are a wonderful seasonal sight with fall color burning bright in most trees, and cold clear water cooling off the scene allowing for an amazing view from almost anywhere on any creek. Simply look around you as you are fishing to remember why we are all here fishing in the first place.
Water levels are dropping, creeks are clearing, and the fish are a-biting. Every day I am hearing about a new 20+ inch brown trout pulled out of this or that creek or even seeing the trout with my own eyes.
Thankfully, we all have another couple weeks until the end of the catch and release season for most creeks. Now is the time to fish your favourite stretch or to catch a big brute out of quiet little creek you've never fished before but have had your eye on. In a day or two the South Branch through Preston will be ready to kayak or canoe for practiced boaters, and a few more rainless days after that will provide a prime stretch of river from Preston to the Old Barn Resort for those seeking a leisure cruise or a big brown trout bonanza.
This recent cool Autumn weather will not last forever. Take advantage of the peaceful trickle of a clear creek around bends and boulders, birds singing your worries away, and an eager trout awaiting the retrieve of the next pass of the streamer from the back of your box that you've never thought of using.
The trout pictured below was caught using a heavy leech pattern streamer in crystal clear water on a small South-East Minnesota creek only two days after the last massive rain event.
After some very heavy rain events at the end of last week, I didn't have high expectations today of finding much fishable water let alone catch trout but like so many times before, the Driftless Area of SE Minnesota did not disappoint! It was one of those Epic afternoons - slightly stained but clearing water combined with cooler temps and cloudy skies proved to be the key ingredients for success. With Fall inching its way ever closer and trout approaching the pre-spawn / spawn period they are on the move - feeding and moving to their Redd locations. I was throwing my hand-tied Wooly Bugger and Streamer patterns and landed well over 20 Browns, including this nice Brown. With conditions improving everyday, be sure to explore the streams while you still can!
Multiple rain episodes have blown out all streams in SE Minnesota, The South Branch of The Root River will take some time to recover. Small streams are high, muddy and unfishable. We will continue to scout the headwaters and report when some clearing occurs and fly fishing is possible in Driftless Streams. In the mean time go to your favorite bass pond, trout lake or tie flies in preparation for great fall fishing in The Driftless Area of Minnesota.
SAME SPOT FROM TH BRIDGE AFTER MANY DAYS AND NIGHTS OF RAIN HERE. WHOAA!
Small streams are clearing and fishing can be great. Go upstream to find clear and fishable water. It is out there. While the main branches in The Root River system are high and murky the small streams are very rapidly becoming fishable and trout are hungry. Some nice trout being taken on nymphs, streamers, hoppers, you name it.. Leaves are changing and we don't have much of this great weather left so come on down and get out there while you can!
OVER 2 INCHES MORE OF RAIN IN SE MINNESOTA ON ALREADY SATURATED GROUND HAS MOST STREAMS HIGH AND MUDDY AND NOT FISHABLE FOR A COUPLE DAYS. STAND BY FOR UPDATES. YOU STILL HAVE TIME TO ENTER ORVIS 20 DAYS IN SEPTEMBER CONTEST AND WIN A RECON ROD OR OTHER GREAT ORVIS GEAR. GO HERE TO CHECK IT OUT. http://www.orvis.com/news/fly-fishing/day-one-2016-20-days-september-contest/
While fishing on the South Fork of the Root River last weekend, I found a fully loaded fly box. If you are missing one, contact the shop to identify it and we will be sure to get it back to you!
Even with the rain events of the last few days, area streams are very fishable and quite productive as I found out this morning. Although the larger bodies of water such as the South Fork and South Branches of the Root are running well, I concentrated on two smaller, feeder streams. They were both running slightly stained but that was a positive and not a determent. A little slice of Brook trout heaven was discovered on my first stop as it had been several years since I last fished that stream. Well over 20 Brookies were put to the net using a small Brown Woolly Bugger, which incidentally is a great fly to throw during times of stained water. My second stop had my getting quite wet as the skies opened up once again but some nice Browns rounded off the day for me. Water conditions will only continue to improve and a gorgeous day in the Minnesota Driftless is forecasted for tomorrow!
Most of the rain went north and Fillmore County streams are in good shape for now. Nice weather for this weekend should be great fishing. as the water from the storms comes into the watershed and clouds some downstream sections, go to the small tributaries and upstream to find clear water where fish can see your fly better. In cloudy water use dark flies like a Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymph or Cone head Wooly Bugger to get deep and get their attention.
Driftless Fly Shop Guide Scott Blake gets a good one after dark-smile for the camera!!!
Most streams in the Minnesota Drifltess Area are in good shape, running clear to slightly stained with trout being eager to eat. Nymphing (with / Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tail, Pink Squirrel) remains consistently successful, surface action with dries including Parachute Adams & Elk Hair Caddis "skittered" across the surface has been producing as well. We are entering into one of my personal favorite times of year to fish - Terrestrial (aka Hopper Season)! At this time, I love to seek out streams that meander through pasture land. Not only do they provide the angler with better casting opportunities as they are devoid of the thick vegetated tree canopy of wooded areas but these are the areas that contain the insect life such as crickets, ants, beetles and grasshoppers. To escape the summer heat and sun, trout often times tuck themselves in undercut banks with eyes focused up waiting for the unsuspecting insects to either fall under their own accord or get blown into the water. Casting a Dave's Hopper along the edges produced several aggressive takes with many nice Browns put to the net. Be sure to stop in at the Driftless Fly Fishing Company in Preston, MN to stock up on flies, gear, information or just tall tales! :-)
Sometimes a little stain to the water allows the fly fisher better concealment and the bigger fish are more vulnerable. This was the case today. A bright flashy nymph like the Pink Squirrel produced numerous fish over 12 inches in a short time. Skating the Tan Elk Hair Caddis would trigger vicious strikes. The movement was key. The visibility did not allow them to hit the dead drift but some action usually resulted in a splashy take. Cooler and cloudy weather also made small streams q little easier to stalk fish. It was a great day in Bluff Country.
Yesterday morning I was on the water almost at first light to beat the forecasted storms and although I did for awhile and a tremendous outing was in the works, it was Mother Nature who had the last word and I was left scurrying for cover as lightning flashed and the deluge of rain came. Explored new water and it didn't disappoint as many good fish were landed along with same real dandies that failed to meet the net :-( With no hatches happening and lack of classic riffle / pool runs to nymph, I threw Woolly Buggers in an attempt to coax the big Browns from their undercut bank and vegetation mat hides. This turned out to be quite effective ..... right up to the point I had to bail for the safety of my vehicle. The rain continued throughout the day blowing most streams in the area, So, on tap for the day: writing this blog, tying more Woolly Buggers and patching the waders I ripped yesterday!
Most of the creeks near Preston-Lanesboro area have once again prevailed against the heavy rains this weekend. The rain fell very spottily throughout the south-eastern Minnesota region and is expected to do so again this next week. Stream fed creeks in the area are expected to have fast recovery times and even the South Branch of the root river looks clear and very fishable as it winds through Preston. Once again, most river and stream conditions will depend on localised rainfall events within your streams watershed.
If the water your fishing seems to be much cloudier than normal but still not a chocolate milk brown then switch to a darker or bigger profile fly such as a black wooly bugger or even a size or two up on your favourite bead head nymph. If you're fishing in the rain(no lightning I hope) and see rising fish, try for an emerger pattern or a soft hackle to imitate the insects that are stuck on the water because of the humidity.
On my last trip out I caught three colourful Brook trout all about the same size and I have a picture of one that I've placed below.
Best of luck - Scott Blake
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.