Monday, December 15, 2014

A walk in the park

Saturday evening found me spending time relaxing at home when Taylor texted me asking if I wanted to go ice fishing with him on Sunday.

 While I have come to enjoy ice fishing more and more with each passing year I'm not willing to endanger my life doing it like I am with fly fishing.  I didn't want Taylor out ice fishing on Sunday either so I invited him to go fly fishing with me on Sunday instead.

 It didn't take much convincing and Taylor was on board.  The only thing left to do was to choose what southern Minnesota state park we would visit on Sunday.  Having our choice between Whitewater, Forestville and Beaver Creek Valley state parks I ended up choosing Whitewater because it was the closest.

Shortly after 5am we set out on our journey.

On the way down I said to Taylor, "I wonder if people ever show up at Whitewater State Park with rafts and kayaks expecting to find some class 5 rapids", knowing that although there are some nice riffles the term whitewater is a little misleading.  Taylor informed me that it's called Whitewater State Park because the sediment gives the water an off white tint during periods of flood.  I guess you really do learn something new every day.

 The river was very beautiful.  Definitely a December to remember.
 I was so happy to be out fishing.
 A small spring seep fed the main river a steady supply of water.

 Taylor found a nice pool to drift his nymphs through.
 Taylor's constant bs wasn't the only bluffs I had to deal with because we were literally surrounded by towering bluffs on all sides.
 I found a nice spot for a picnic.  If I ever get a girlfriend I will take her here.
 I call this photo Ice on the banks.
This photo is called No ice on the banks.
Having had some success with winter trout fishing in the past my mind told me to tie on a zebra midge at the beginning of the day but my heart insisted that I tie on a streamer.  I fished various Muddler Minnows patterns and Wooly Buggers for most of the day only switching to nymphs for a short while before getting bored and switching back.  The end result of my efforts was zero fish to hand for me.  Taylor did manage one small Rainbow Trout on a size 8 rust colored bugger.

After finishing up with the first stretch of water we decided to hit one more section before hitting the road.  Foxy was unhappy that I left her in the car for the first stretch so I decided to let her accompany us for round 2 on one condition.  She had to be able to cross the river on her own.

 I wasn't too worried about her.  She has always loved the water.
 At one point she started to get washed downstream but I told her to use her little claws.
 Unfortunately my advice worked and she successfully forded the river.
 We ran into another angler on the stream.  His name is Clayton Griesbach and he just moved to southern MN a few months back.  He is no stranger to trout fishing though because before taking the Driftless by storm his previous stomping grounds were the freestone streams of Montana.  Turns out Clayton is no stranger to the internet either because he has a fly fishing blog all his own.  The address is

It's always nice finding out about new blogs because it's a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what's going on in a certain area.  I have been following the blog to stay informed about the conditions in southern MN but Ryan Frick only decides to post blog updates about 2-3 times a week.
 It's always nice to get out.  Even if it's just a walk in the park.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Hunt for Trout October: Crossroads

The daytime hours of October 14th dragged on as I toiled away at my day job while the words of my many doubters echoed loudly in my head.  "Don't quit your day job" they shouted and cackled between their repetitive yelling.  With the ides of October quickly approaching I desperately wanted to get out at least once more before the season ended on the 15th.  I didn't know what the 15th would have in store for me but at 2:00pm on October 14th I was literally at a crossroads.  I had just finished up doing some work for the guys at Crossroads Collision in Lake Elmo and my plan was to head home, grab my gear and make a bee line to one of my favorite creeks.  That is until my phone rang and one of my best customers had a job that needed to be done in Albertville.  While the Albertville job definitely threw a wrench into my timeline working with the scraps I am given I make miracles every Thanksgiving.

So after finishing up in Albertville I made it back to New Brighton, grabbed my gear and was on my way south around 4:00pm I figured I would be fishing by 5 and that would give me almost two hours to bask in the glory of  the Driftless for one last time before the long winter.  After parking my car at a spot that Taylor told me to check out I opened my tailgate and started suiting up.  After putting my waders and boots on I reached into my bag for my fly fishing vest and to my surprise it wasn't there.  "How could I forget my vest?" I asked myself remembering the commotion I was in as I scrambled to grab my gear and get out the door before traffic really started to pile up.  After digging through my bag I found one of my small fly boxes that contained a couple streamers.  Having about 10 streamers to choose from I chose a white Bow River Bugger that I remembered purchasing this summer at Mend Provisions in Minneapolis.  After tying it on I didn't even have a clippers to clip of the one inch tag of 2X Flourocarbon and there was  no way I was going to use my teeth to bite it off so I made the snap decision to leave it on.  Without clippers I knew that unless my line broke by accident that this fly was going to be my only option for the evening.

This is what a Bow River Bugger looks like wet.

Once I was good to go I started through the forest on my way to the river.  I was quick to notice how light I felt without my vest.  I was just a guy with a rod.  I decided to use this to my advantage so I started running through the forest like the natives from the movie, "Last of the Mohican's".

I thought about Trapper too as I remembered fishing with him earlier in the summer and thinking he was on to something when I noticed the micro fanny pack that he wears fishing.

Once I made it to the river I remembered Taylor telling me to head downstream where I would find a large pool.  I ran downstream knowing that I only had about 90 minutes left to fish and remembering how fast time can fly when fishing.  The pool definitely looked fishy and I wasted no time dissecting it piece by piece with my casts.  Either the fish didn't like the Bow River Bugger or their was no one home.  I decided that my best option was going to be covering as much water as possible not wasting any time on marginal spots.

Once again I sprinted as fast as I could upriver until I made it to the next pool.  I figured out that this was probably the pool that Taylor had intended for me to check out first.  I made casts and stripped in with confidence remembering how Taylor ranted and raved about the amount of fish that he had nymphed out of here.  Still I failed to manage even a follow but was enjoying the process of discovering new water.   I was amazed at how easy casting was without 20 pounds of gear hanging off my shoulders.  I kept running.

As I ran upstream I stopped momentarily to see the sun sinking past the western horizon.  This made me run even faster.

As I a ran past a section of slower shallow water I noticed a slight disturbance that could only have been made by a fish.

I cast past where the disturbance had been made and started my jerk strip retrieve.  It surprised me how quickly I was rewarded with 13.5 inch brown.  It felt so good to get the skunk off my back.

I was so happy.

Now that I had caught a fish I no longer felt the need to run but still wanted to make good time so I began skipping upriver.  Fishing 3-4 more pools without any luck I came upon a rather nondescript pool that I figured was worthy of a few casts.  After the 3rd cast I left my streamer in the water while I took a few steps upstream to prepare for my next cast.  As I pulled on the streamer to take it out of the water for cast number four it appeared that it had gotten caught on a rock.  Then I noticed that rocks has headshakes!  I guided the fish into shallow water where I admired him and picked him up to be photographed.  He was a little bit bigger than the first one measuring in at exactly 14 inches.

I made it up stream to the next big hole and by that time it was really starting to get dark.  I decided I should start making my way back to the car so I wouldn't have to be walking through the woods using my cell phone for a flashlight.
 On the way home I called Taylor and Dustin.  They were driving home from an evening fish as well so we decided to meet at Savoy Pizza in Saint Paul.  In my opinion Savoy is the best pizza in the Twin Cities.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Hunt for Trout October: Sunday Morning Fish

Earlier in the week Kyle and I made plans to fish together on Sunday.

On Saturday we finalized those plans.

We started fishing right around 6:00am.  The morning mist still hung heavy in the cool air.
 It was my first time on this river.  I fell in love.
 I located the third of the seven seals.
 This was another spot that looked like it would hold a lunker but neither of us got a bite.
 Although we beat the crowds by arriving early we might have shown up before the trout started to feed.  While the ass crack of dawn is prime time during midsummer it may not be in early October.  Being that this is the first year we have had an opportunity to fish trout in October it looks like we are learning the ins and outs.
 Afterwards we visited a creek that I felt had a good chance of being Grass Creek based on clues that Mark has given me.  Even though this creek had the grass it didn't appear to have any trout.
 My hunt for Grass Creek will resume next spring.

The Hunt for Trout October: The Seven Seals

I hadn't fished with my dad since our vacation to Wyoming in early August so I decided he needed to get out one more time before seasons end.  We met up in Saint Paul on Saturday October 11th at 7:00 am and traveled to a stream that Taylor had recommended to me.  I was a little worried that somebody else would be fishing there but was relieved to see no other parked vehicles when we arrived at the spot.  Being that I had never fished this stream before I was unsure what to expect but figured it must be awesome since both Taylor and Mark had encouraged me to check it out.  It definitely lived up to my expectations.  Our plan was to walk downstream to a certain point and then fish our way back upstream to the vehicle.

 While walking downstream through this bend I spooked a large trout.  I was hoping he would be settled down by the time we made it back up to fish this spot.

When we arrived at our turnaround point we had a coffee break and while I was drinking my coffee I noticed a peculiar triangular looking stone that stood out among the gravel.  I remembered finding a similar looking stone last March while fishing the Rush River in western Wisconsin.  When I found the stone last March I picked it up and had a spectacular vision of an ancient stone mason shaping the stone into the shape of a triangle with large hammer.  I never really understood why I had that vision but over the course of the summer I have wondered about it from time to time.

When I picked up this stone I again was transformed into a trance like state and was brought back many centuries to to a time when a race of giants ruled North America.  Again I witness the mason shaping stones into triangles but this time there was another person there and it appeared to be the son of the great giant.  The son asked his father, "Why are you shaping stones into triangles?".  The mason answered, "Many centuries from now will emerge a great fisher who will long to know the location of Mark's Grass Creek.  We will scatter seven stones around the Driftless Area and once he finds all seven they will transform into a map that will lead him to the location of Mark's Grass Creek."  Upon hearing the exchange I felt a spinning sensation and when I opened my eyes I was back on the creek in the present day.  It was all so clear now.  All I have to do is find the five remaining stones and Grass Creek will be mine for the plundering.

 We started fishing upstream taking turns fishing.  I was helping my dad with some of the finer points of fishing streamers on small water also referred to as the Short Game.  He is used to fishing larger water like the Kinni and the Rush.  After a brief fight I had a fish in the net.
A beautiful Brown Trout that upon measuring came to 14 inches.  Not the 20+ that I had pined for but still a nice specimen.
I was so happy.
We continued upstream until we made it back to the car.  On the drive home we got to listen to the Gopher Football team crush the Northwestern Wildcats.  It was a good day.

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