May 20 and 25, 2023
A few tidbits from my last two guiding trips: MN Driftless streams are in very good shape. There is some instream green (early for this time of year) in some streams. We haven't had any real flooding or gully washing for a long time, so the green has been safe. It's good for the fish, but tough for anglers.
Hatches: I've seen a few random caddis and Light Hendrickson, but not enough to get any fish feeding on top consistently.
The Good: The warm weather trend we are experiencing will be good for dry/dropper anglers. We covered a bunch of skinny water with dry and dropper, and the dropper was the ticket. No hang ups, no fuss.
The Bad: Big time warm weather is on tap, so timing your outing is in your best interest. If you don't wet wade, now is the time to learn. You'll thank me later.
I had a buddy get tangled in some overhand, so I went and retrieved his fly, and this is what the overhang coughed up:
Free tip from your helpful guide - leave the Sofa Pillow fly in your "going out West" box. Way too big to consistently catch fish in the Driftless. The others in the mix? Maybe.
May 4 and 6, 2023
I spent two days with two different sets of anglers with two very different weather conditions. Thursday may have been the nicest day we've had all spring - mid to upper 70's, light breeze...just fantastic. Water levels are as good as they have been in years. They're full but not raging. There was only a brief window Thursday of a few fish rising to something minuscule. A cripple BWO trailed by the Cat Turd nymph was an effective combination.
Jim and his son Ryan were fantastic guys to fish with. Pleasant, good sense of humor, and willing to take advice to hook up over 40 fish combined that day.
Saturday was a different story. Significant rains north of I90 late Friday didn't touch the southern half of the Driftless, leaving those streams in fishable shape all over. I met Callaway and Cassie streamside. We had to do some logistical navigation as there were cars parked all over well before 8AM. We managed to avoid crowds for the most part and had a wonderful day nymphing.
More rain throughout the area on Saturday night into Sunday AM, but the rest of the week looks great: 70's and no rain until next weekend.
April 29, 2023
Clarity continues to improve in southeast MN. Stream volume is not an issue, which is a pleasant surprise, considering what the past few years have been like. Hatches should start coming off with more consistency as air and water temperatures start to climb and stay there.
Saturday was nothing complicated - tandem nymph rig and fish the sides of the faster water, where the fish were holding all day. It was cold, windy, and even rained on us, but we stuck it out and did very well overall.
Next available weekend opening: May 20 and 21.
April 22, 2023
The trip from Saturday was a huge success: clients eager to learn more about fly fishing, casting, reading water, fly choices, and, of course, getting on some fish. I did quite a bit of driving around on Saturday morning and looked at several different watersheds after getting some reliable intel that the streams in and around the highway 52 south corridor were a mess. Stream conditions vary tremendously right now with last weekend's barrage of snow, ensuing melt, and more rain this week. The good news is that the southern driftless will get a chance to dry out over the next few days. The bad news: temperatures are not expected to be north of 60 for two weeks.....and, more rain.
The best free advice I can give is if you like to streamer and nymph fish, this is your wheelhouse. If you like hatches, I'd pack for a little bit of everything: BWO, DH, and caddis.
April 7, 2023
I had the privilege of fishing with Mark, an exceptional fly fisher, who has traveled the globe pursuing species in both fresh and salt water. What started as an unseasonably cool morning transcended into a sublime dry fly fishing experience.
If you follow my page routinely for the past 25 or so years I have been guiding, I often opt for nymphing, not that I don't love hatches and trout that want to stick their noses out of the water to take a relatively decently tied imitation, but it comes down to a simple fact: if you want to catch fish, learn how to nymph fish. This time of year, with overnight temperatures plummeting and often taking time to rise during the day, one is forced to nymph until that magical moment where air temperatures and water temperatures intersect, and the bugs start hatching.
The trout started to take naturals around 1:00, so that was our cue to give them a fly to consider. What started out as a belief that we had a true BWO hatch on was quickly dismissed as we got a closer look at the duns, a larger #16 mayfly. It became apparent that we were on a Blue Quill emergance, so a change to a larger dry fly, and it was the proverbial lights out thereafter. Days like today, where a fish rises on about every other cast, to your dry fly are not long forgotten.
March 26, 2023
I got out south of 90 on Sunday for most of the late morning into early afternoon. There were a few guys out already when I was driving around trying to decide on my plan of action. The weather was fine, but I should have opted for Saturday as the Sunday clouds and north wind prevented some real BWO action from materializing.
That said, the midges were prolific. They were already off in swarms when I hit the water at 10:30 and were around all day. Fish were rising in many areas to them, so I did a lot of rigging and re-rigging early on - managed a few on top, but the action wasn't consistent enough for me to wander the river with just a dry and emerger.
Water temps were still plenty cold as east facing slopes still have some snow. Everything else has melted and the frost is starting to move in many areas. Unlike the rest of the state, we do not have a snowpack of any significance. What we do have are consistent stream flows and clean water (for now).
The only picture worth the outing ( and not a great zommed in cellphone pic) was this eagle sitting in her nest atop a massive cottonwood. She was none too impressed with me walking in her vicinity, circling me and chirping from above.
March 5, 2023/March 8-9, 2023
I got out Sunday for a few hours. The weather was very good to start, and the fish were on, even in 38 degree, early morning weather. Then, the clouds rolled in, the wind started to blow, and things shut down completely. Observations: stream levels are still on the low side. The slow, deliberate snow melt hasn't gotten area streams out of hand in the slightest. They're clear, cold, and in need of a good flushing.
March 8, 2023
I'm on spring break, but I'm not some place nice and warm, just 40 degree southeast Minnesota. I hit three different streams over a seven hour fishing day. The sun was out and minimal wind to start. I nymphed early on and did well: scuds, Copper Johns, midge larvae, Zebra Midge, midge mergers - nothing complicated.
By the time I hit the second stop, the clouds had rolled in, and the east winds had picked up significantly. Most of our Driftless streams either flow east or north, so fishing with the wind at my back was unusual, but the midges started to come off for real. Fish were visible, taking emergers, sipping right off the top, so sight fishing them wasn't too complicated. Getting a cast on point with a size 18 or 20 pattern was the biggest challenge.
Oh yeah. Forgot to mention that I switched over to a streamer for a while - my version of Mayer's Jig Leech. I managed enough to keep it interesting, but I soon switched back to nymphs.
Now, the not so good of southeast Minnesota. High cut, dirt banks like this, that will only continue to erode are not uncommon. I could get into the row crop situation, but I'll save that for a rant on another day.
This is also not uncommon - pull over on the side of the road, suck down some poorly crafted macrobrew, and just leave the empties there, because, well....because.
February 12, 2023
It's been a while since the last fishing outing update. A myriad of reasons are out there: the weather sucked, I was too busy...anyway, I did manage a morning into early afternoon session Sunday. I got out to my first stop of two plenty early, as in 8:30 early. Temps were still in the lower 20's, so it wasn't "ideal" winter conditions, but the fish were cooperative out of the gate.
This is the only pic I got of this guy. I got better video (see my Insta page). At any rate, stream conditions were good - a little on the tingey side due to Saturday's runoff, but good, nonetheless.
By 11:00 I was off to my second stop. High sun, a slight breeze, and crystal clear, low water was in store. Catching was a little tougher. Midges were not prevalent on top, but the trout were all over the midge trailer I had on.
I did well enough out of each deeper run to keep things interesting. Speaking of interesting, some real rain is on tap for the southeast Tuesday into Wednesday, so streams could be a little wonky in the short term. Personally, I'd love to see some more serious precipitation. The southeast corner of the state is in dire need of more snow and rain to recharge the overly dry fall we had.
January 15, 2023
I got out this morning for a few hours before the Sunday playoff football tilt. Area streams are clean and in their typically low threshold for the winter. Fish were responsive to a variety of flies, but the scud outpaced all others I tried with the Zebra Midge being a close second.
Shelf ice is minimal after being in the deep freeze most of late December. Snow pack is also not a barrier as you navigate up and down the river.
The extended forecast gets a little complicated with MLK day slated to be a rain out followed by decent enough winter fishing weather all week before the real January weather reappears.