Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Couple Driftless Brook Trout

While most people think of brook trout as an eastern species, They are native to the Driftless as well. Unfortunately they have a harder time competing against brown trout in the slow spring creeks common in this area than they do in mountain streams, so they are somewhat rare here.

Luckily, I've found a couple small streams that support them. Interestingly, I've found that the Driftless brook trout are much paler than those in the East. I think this is likely a result of the light-colored stream bottoms common here, but it could also be a genetic difference.

Below are a couple pics of fish I caught last weekend on one of the nearby brook trout streams. Both fish hit streamers. These fish will hit dries, but I find it easier to present a streamer with a downstream presentation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Speed Up or Slow Down?: Some Thoughts on Fishing Speed

One element of fly fishing I've always found difficult is determining the amount of time to spend before moving to a new spot. Sometimes I feel I'm going too fast, while other times I feel I'm going too slow. Over time I've noted of some of the fishing situations that lead to those feelings in attempt to improve my approach in the future.


Trout are the fish I target most often, so let's begin with trout fishing.

When to Speed Up 

A stream fit for fast fishing

I've found it important to move fast when fishing small, high-gradient streams. The food supply in these streams tends to be the limiting factor in trout density. Because trout densities are low, each pool will likely have only one or two trout, and fish will tend to be in the best habitat - deep pools, undercut banks, and other areas with a lot of cover. This means you should fish faster, as trout will tend to be spread out. Skip over the less desirable habitat and head straight to the nice pools.

Once you get to the fish, another reason to speed up becomes apparent. Again due to the low food supply in these streams, fish are typically eager to strike a fly. If you make more than a couple casts to an area without a strike, the trout there are probably either spooked or not present at all.

I made the mistake of moving too slow when I started fishing small streams - I would try to get a perfect drift in every likely-looking part of the stream, but the few fish I caught were almost always on one of my first few casts. I soon realized that the fish in these streams didn't care if I got a perfect drift. I started moving quickly and subsequently started catching a lot more fish. The one thing to be careful of when moving fast is not to let the fish see you. Luckily, most streams where moving fast is helpful are high gradient enough that trout can't easily see what is going on around them.

When to Slow Down

A stream fit for slow fishing
On larger, lower gradient streams, I've found that slowing down is often a good idea. These streams tend to be more productive, so trout densities are much higher. The trout also become more selective, as they have more foods to choose from and don't have to eat everything they see to survive.

This means that trout will care a lot more about drift and fly selection, so it's worth staying in a spot for longer, especially if you're confident there are fish there. The trout in these streams can also see you a lot better in the flat water, so it's important to move slowly so as to not spook them. Lastly, low gradient streams tend to have a lot of sediment, so quick movement could ruin the fishing downstream.

When I fish in the Driftless I have to remind myself to slow down. I always catch more fish when i slow down, but it can be hard for me to get over my urge to move faster.


Bass tend to be solitary and bite relatively quickly if they are interested, so they should be fished similarly to small streams. Because most bass lakes are hard to access from shore, a boat is ideal to quickly move between spots.


Panfish, on the other hand, usually live in schools, so I usually try to find the best spot and stay there. I'll move if I get bored and want to explore, but otherwise I'll typically stay in one spot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Baby Brook Trout Streamer

Brown and brook trout coexist in many streams in both New England and the Driftless. Because browns tend to be somewhat larger and more piscivorous, it's likely they feed on smaller brook trout from time to time. Plus, insect hatches are over for the most part at this time of year and browns are fattening up for the spawn, so now is a great time to fish streamers.

With that in mind, I set out to tie this baby brook trout streamer. I'm sure someone has made something similar in the past, so I'm not claiming any originality here. The olive back and white belly give a good general impression of a brook trout, while the rubber legs look a bit like a brookie's orange fins and provide some movement. Given that many species of fish have a dark back and a white underside, this fly could also imitate any number of baitfish or juvenile gamefish, especially with differently colored legs.

Hook: Size 8 4XL Streamer
Bead: 3/16" Brass
Tail and Back: Olive Marabou
Body: Palmered White Crosscut Rabbit
Legs: Orange Rubber Legs

This fly worked well on the Upper Kinni, helping me land this brown near the mouth of a small brook trout stream.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Week in the Whites

I spent the last week of August fishing and camping with a friend in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. The weather forecast leading up to the week looked iffy, with at least a 50% chance of rain every day, but we elected to go anyway - a little rain rarely inhibits fishing. In fact, some of my best days of fishing have come in the rain.

In the end, the weather turned out better than expected. Though we did get rained on a few times, it was mostly overcast with temps in the 60s - perfect trout fishing weather.

Our first destination was my favorite remote pond. I was hoping to match the success of my previous trips to this pond, but unfortunately conditions did not cooperate. We found the pond quite low and fairly warm. The only place we found fish was at the mouth of a frigid tributary, but we stopped fishing after realizing nearly every fish in the pond was holding there.

On Day 2 we drove north to fish a few streams originating high in the Presidential Range. The first stream emerges at over 4000' in elevation, then falls about 2500' over 3.5 miles before entering a relatively flat meadow in the valley. We knew the meadow stretch would have cold water due to the stream's high elevation and steep gradient, but would also likely have deeper, slower water than most of mountain streams, and therefore could possibly have some bigger fish.

One of the prettiest fish of the trip 
Wild Blueberries
We caught brookies in nearly every pool. It's rare to find a nice meadow stretch in New England - most meadow streams are too warm for trout. The combination of deep, slow pools and ample casting room made for some fun fishing.

Later in the afternoon we fished the Peabody River, which also has its source in the Presidential Range. We caught stocked brookies, stocked rainbows, and even a few small wild rainbows. The water here was crystal clear, and the fish were much more selective than typical mountain stream trout. The fishing was a little slower than the morning, but it was a fun challenge.

Peabody River wild rainbow
Mt. Jefferson covered by clouds
On Day 3 we packed up camp and fished the upper section of the Pemigewasset River in Franconia notch. We both caught several nice brookies in the deep pools formed from the granite bedrock. The water here was crystal clear, so we could see the fish dart through the water column to smash our hopper patterns.

Pemi Brookie with a broken mandible
After that we headed home, satisfied from a great fishing trip.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Back in Minnesota

I'm back in Minnesota for the school year, so I'll mostly be posting reports about fishing here and in Wisconsin for the next few months.

It's been a busy few weeks moving back in, but I've had a few chances to fish.

The fishing has been a bit slow for me - I spent the whole summer fishing for eager brook trout, so now I have to readjust to fishing for browns in slow spring creeks. I did manage to catch a couple fish though.

More reports are soon to come!

Kinnickinnic River wild brown trout