2018 Driftless Trout Pics and Reports.

Unknownflyman

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It was a cold one on the river today, yesterday was no go 13 below in the morning. Today it was 23 degrees rising to 26 and the water temperature was 34 degrees and probably falling. The ice is melting quickly above zero, increasing ice berg flow in the late day. The only reason why it’s not frozen solid is the river is mostly spring water, a steady 48 degrees.

I didn’t know what kind of condition the river was in but I knew it was well frozen after 3 weeks of sub zero temps. Fished from noon to five and swung a black holographic soft hackle and only had a bump.

I had to keep moving and that kept me somewhat warm, but winter fly fishing is dealing with cold hands and feet. Nothing rising no trout activity and it was clear. I knew the odds were stacked against me and the hours beat me down, I fished harder as the sunglasses came off and the night was about to happen. I came up to a nice long stretch that was fast, deep, wider due to the water melting ice, the water felt colder and I shook off the fact my hands didn’t work well, I didn’t wear gloves all day, I normally don’t.

The soft hackle had to go, my confidence waned I looked through my streamer box quickly as the sun was about set. Fumbling around I found one of two classic Mickey Finns I tied last fall. One was fully dressed and the other sparse. I picked the sparse one and groaned as I could barely make the knot my fingers stiff and numb.

A new found confidence as I cleaned the ice out of the guides for the hundredth time, stripped out a good amount of line and sent it to the far bank. On the third cast right before the darkness set in looking west to the glowing orange and purple sky, on extended long cast my line stopped in the middle of the river, it wasn’t a hit, a tug or anything. I knew it could only one thing, I swept my rod to the side the rod heaved and a beautiful trout caught air and bolted down river my clicker and 3 wt rod bucking. Had all my line out and the fish was running under ice and back into the flow, there was no way to get out of the river due to shelf ice and no way to get the fish to slack water, the current was swift. I did it the hard way pulled that trout up river to me and flipped the fish on water submerged ice shelf because I didn’t have my net today, grabbed my phone snapped a pic, pulled the fly and let it bolt away.

Five hours of swinging flies had passed, and I didn’t even hold a trout yet see it for seconds. It was a nice brown and I had landed it in very difficult conditions, I was warm happy and a smile appeared as I saw the glowing sky. Reeling up my line getting ready to wade up and cross dangerous ice to get back to land, I sensed something watching me, I look across river and see an opossum gazing at me, got a couple pics, gave a nod and made my way back to my truck, where heat, coffee and chocolate would be better than anything.

To most people, well, I know It doesn’t make any sense this fly fishing and during January at that, but it does to me. The means justifies the ends.
 
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Ard

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Great pictures Steve!

The scenes remind me of here only it appears to be colder there. Lots of critter tracks and that shelf ice makes it tough huh? Congratulations on having a great day buddy.

Ard
 

Unknownflyman

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Thanks Ard, just a friendly reminder to say ice is never safe. I know my rivers well there are areas way over my head, please be safe out there. It’s cold, and a swim can be deadly. Driftless ice is in a constant state of melting, it’s never safe. Beware of ice flows being trapped by shelf ice and thigh high water, a guy can’t escape.

Normally I’m off work this time of year, but this week should be great until the snow storm Thursday and then it’s sub zero again. Get out there! I have to work. :(
 

polson

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New to the sport. Went out this weekend to Bankston Park



Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

mcnerney

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Polson: Welcome to the forum and congrats on the beautiful bow!

Steve: Great trip report and congrats on the beautiful brown! Thanks for sharing all those beautiful winter photos.
I'm just not much of a soft hackle fishermen, I probably should use them more often so I can have more confidence that they will work.
 

Unknownflyman

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Thanks Ard, Larry, Dewayne. The rivers were in better shape with somewhat warmer weather, but the 13 to 17” snowfall yesterday with warmer weather Till the weekend is going to make a mess of things. Cold this weekend. While it’s good to be employed, I’m not able to capitalize on these occasional days in the upper 30’s. And I’ve been working weekends also. :( Seen some really remarkable Brook and Brown trout pictures, on the good weather days. Browns in the 20-24” range.

If it’s nice get out there, large fish are taking Nymphs, Midges and Stones, with some large fish rising on the warmer days.

One thing I’ve noticed is lots of redds from the fall, while I believe all the fish have hatched and moved on, please please watch your step and stay off fresh clean looking gravel, our wild fish need all the help they can get, from the looks of the things the fall spawn was excellent in numbers.
 
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ia_trouter

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My daughter has been on me to take her fly fishing since she finished school and finally has some time. Weather forecast yesterday was 50F! It came true and we didn't go because this careless idiot tried to stop a table saw blade with my thumb a few days ago. I got very lucky for sure but I won't be tying any knots for a long while. But I've been tying knots for her for 15 years so it's time she stepped up lol. She knows the clinch and if she'll watch some vids and learn to pre-set up some flies on short tippet with loops this could be easy enough and we'll be back in business. :) I am dying to get back on the stream. :) It's been months.
 

itchmesir

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I could've only hoped we'd gotten 13-17" of snow. Instead we got rain and January flooding here in the Wisconsin driftless. I would've gone out and taken pics but I've been laid up from the sickness.
 

Unknownflyman

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I got 16” at my place north of the driftless maybe a little more. Snowshoes needed on the river today I bet as there was a foot or more on the ground previously. Dewayne damn dude be careful and Eric sorry you are down with the sickness, it’s bad. As you know from FB I actually had the start of the flu when I started this thread. I didn’t feel quite right fishing that day. I was down for five days, 104 fever.

At first I was afraid I was going to die. Then I was afraid I wasn’t going to die.

I’m fine now though, took a another 4 days after the fever broke to feel good again. Lots of sleep and pounded water, that dehydration gets people sent to the hospital.
 

ia_trouter

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I got 16” at my place north of the driftless maybe a little more. Snowshoes needed on the river today I bet as there was a foot or more on the ground previously. Dewayne damn dude be careful and Eric sorry you are down with the sickness, it’s bad. As you know from FB I actually had the start of the flu when I started this thread. I didn’t feel quite right fishing that day. I was down for five days, 104 fever.

At first I was afraid I was going to die. Then I was afraid I wasn’t going to die.

I’m fine now though, took a another 4 days after the fever broke to feel good again. Lots of sleep and pounded water, that dehydration gets people sent to the hospital.
That sounds rough Steve. Flu is not too bad around here but I have read it is ALL over the country right now. Back to fish talk soon. :)
 

Unknownflyman

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I’m back to my old self again, but yes I need to get out fishing again soon. I might have to pick up some snowshoes. I had some small ones, cheap and plastic, I might have accidentally ran them over in the garage. I should buy a pair of nice Wood and leather northlander ones, but I don’t want them too big, also there is something to be said for light aluminum ones. I’d want to remove them and hang them on my pack so I can wade.

I’m going to be heading up the gunflint trail here at some point maybe ice fish for some lakers, brookies and splake. See what they have in Duluth for sale.
 

Ard

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Hi Steve,

I'm a hard head traditionalist who has been walking on a pair of 48" Michigan style snow shoes since 1981 when I bought them at Cohick's Trading Post. However.............. I am considering a pair of tricked out aluminum frames for this winter. My Michigan's are ash and rawhide but they are heavy and 48" long too. I carry them on the snowmachine when there is deep soft stuff. Having a small light pair would have me carrying them always.
 

Unknownflyman

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My good friend’s dad made them back in the day and yes out of ash and rawhide and varnish. Two different sizes. Should of bought a pair. I’ll have to surf around and see what’s interesting unless you guys already did that and can post what you like. I think we are going to need them the rest of the season this year, for sure on the steelhead opener, but that’s pretty typical.
 

Unknownflyman

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Pretty tough fly fishing yesterday, the temps were supposed to be 40’s it never got above 32 degrees. Ice in the guides all afternoon and the water was cold and clear 34 degrees. Caught one little Brook trout and I couldn’t keep two nice browns pinned. I got to see one on the surface hooked jaw and much larger than average.

Much to my excitement and dismay I was in the mood for some technical dry fly fishing and I saw some very nice heads rising however I forgot my reading glasses and there was no way I could tie on a size 20 midge. I tied on a larger size 14 black stone and casted to the rising browns along the far bank. Complete refusal. All fish on the Mickey Finn. They didn’t want leech’s, soft hackles, larger dries or anything else and I didn’t want to drift nymphs which would have been impossible anyway where the fish were feeding.

Watched some nice fish rising while I swung streamers in the late afternoon and they stopped rising well before dusk. A number of people out, seen one set of tracks in the snow which was knee deep, the water I fishing was worked over well by other fly fisherman, snowshoes are in play, wading is much easier than walking. It was good to be out and the fishing was great, the catching was tough.

I have one more thing to add that Itchy and I were talking about.

I was doing a river cross at dusk, a couple more casts near my truck and call it a day.

I’ve crossed here many times and everything was fine until near the bank it got silty and and another step and I sunk in. The more I moved the deeper in went down. There was about 2’ of water and I was in the silt up to my knees.

Panic started to set in, no one was around and no one was coming to save me and the night was about to happen. I was cold and stuck.

I was near the bank my only saving grace, I flopped over and I clawed and pulled and squirmed and got free.

The floods from last fall changed my known places so much what was a easy cross became a Hazard. Ok the worst that could have happened was I climbed out of my waders, getting soaked and ripped my waders out of the mud and walked back to the truck wet and freezing.

Happily I got free, fine but rattled, swung some flies till the end of legal. Candy bars, Red Bull and truck heat was welcomed. Survived another one.
 
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mcnerney

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Steve

Wow that was one tough day on the water and a very close call at the end of the day, glad everything worked out for you.
I hate it when the forecast says a high of 40 and then you get out there and have to fight ice in the guides all day long.
 

Unknownflyman

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Thanks for commiserating Larry, it was tough all around, went through every fly I could see to tie on in my box. My casting was frustrated, I lost flies in trees. Bad presentations.

I’d make a cast to a rising fish out there, and make a huge splash two feet down from the target point only to see a wake blow out of there..... out loud myself saying Wow, Really???

Can I still do this??

I’m not sure yesterday was fun, but enjoyable, I had to do it and I’ll do it again.
 

mcnerney

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I feel your pain, fishing when it is cold can be frustrating, my last time out I didn't land anything but small dinks. Hooked into a real nice fish, but he came unbuttoned pretty fast.
 

Unknownflyman

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It’s been too cold for man or beast lately. Tie flies watch the Super Bowl. I’ve got a corned beef on for Ruben s .

They have certainly been banging Minnesota out to the cheap seats on the world stage. Word on the street, it’s too cold here. We had two small snow storms and below zero temps at night single and teens during the day.

7 below this morning, high of 3 hope everyone has been enjoying the party, now let us show you the door. Buh bye
 

Unknownflyman

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Has not been all that great weather wise and haven’t really seen any great reports on the far northern driftless. Cold, lots of snow, and another storm tonight. It’s the snowy time of the year now, by me we have 30” to 36” inches of snow on the ground, with another 12” tonight. North has 48” to 72” of snow and spring steelhead looks problematic with snowshoes in play everywhere central to Canada.

Looks like the central driftless Minnesota Iowa border and Wisconsin is fishing better after a tough go.

Great Waters Expo by Minnesota Trout Unlimited is looking much expanded this year with great presenters and exhibitors, I’m looking to meet many new friends and hang with my old ones. Bill and Colin from the New Fly Fisher TV program are presenters and hanging out amongst many other talented fly fishers. Ger Mua is going to be there, I’ve posted his driftless giant brown trout pics here on the forum, Here’s the link.

Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo – The Upper Midwest's premier fly fishing event presented by Minnesota Trout Unlimited.

I would label the Expo this year as a Do Not Miss event. Hope to see you there!
 
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