WOW this is a long one, the report and followup, the fish too.
This report is from the weekend Feb.10-11.Fish were caught on both days and some midge activity was observed. Small fish on the surface. Larger fish 12-13″ in the deeper slower water. Some action on the edges of fast water. Nymphing with standard 2 fly prince nymph, pheasant tail rig and assorted midge larva patterns. The air temp warm-up had just begun on Friday and little additional water had run off from the melting snow. Today flows have remained pretty steady along with the 34 degree temp. Tomorrow may be different with warm temps on the way. I will see some water later tomorrow and should have a better feel for what future fishing might be as we continue this winter thaw.
In other news efforts are under way to install a turbidity meter and a live Kinni cam on the lower Kinni. If all goes well, access to this additional informational technology will be found on the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust Site. I will keep you in the loop on this one.
Fly fishing Film Tour in River Falls F3t on Friday, March 3 will include wine and craft beer tasting event on Saturday March 4th. More details and links to come.
Tom Helgeson’s/MNTU Greatwaters Fly fishing Expo- I will be speaking on Friday March 17th- They asked for a nymphing presentation. I will bring prizes to give away at this presentation. Be there. More later.
I hope to kill two birds with one stone(just an analogy) and answer an approach question from the goats FB page.
Friday was beautiful. A nice walk in the woods into the lower Kinni under partly sunny skies made me
cry realize how out of shape I would be on the walk back up the hill. Time to shed the winter weight. The spot we were headed for was just down stream of one of the old mill complexes on the Kinni . Oddly enough I had just read a diary entry from May 23, 1860, written by a lady named Abbie Leavitt about the exact spot we were headed to. “We crossed the Kinnickinnic at the Mills and wound among the bluffs and ravines through one of the most romantic places I have ever seen” I could not agree with her more. OK, enough with the romantic stuff. On to lip rippin.
For the first hour, the 3 of us fished long, medium deep runs that were mostly sandy and brushy with a few rocks and stumps for current breaks. In the spring and summer the trout locate here in good numbers. On Friday, no fish were seen, spooked or caught out of this water. We moved down stream.
The destination now was a big 90 degree bend pool with a swift run leading into it. The water enters from a fast, flat, rocky run about 50 yards long and slams into a 200ft bluff and changes direction. The stream bank of the bluff has numerous old growth willows, sprouting from between the shoreline rocks. A trickling spring emerges at the elbow of the bend. The spring is covered in brush from floods past and old willow trunks. Few know the spring is there and only patient and observant listeners will hear the gurgling trickle from the base of the bluff. On the upstream side of the elbow there is a 40 yard back eddy, complete with foam and swirling skigma that catches flotsam from the run and main pool. This fluff and food circulates round and round and round. The majority of the back eddy is 1-2ft deep, but where the seam shows on the surface current, it abruptly drops off to the depth of the pool. This can be a productive seam. This run into pool scenario will be used to attempt to answer a question of approach in my last ask andy post.
As we walked down to the pool we observed changes in the river as compared to last year. The water seemed deeper and faster in the run leading up to the bend pool, more rocks and scoops. A good sign. Last year by mid summer this bend pool had almost filled in with sand and was pointless to fish by the end of the season. Next we noticed that the bluff would shade the pool. In the heat of the summer this might be good, but in the winter, the sun might give us and the fish some much needed warmth to be active. A bad sign.
When we arrived at the complex we observed the run and pool as a whole, from the high bank on the inside of the bend, and came up with an approach based on our observations. This is the approach I would have used if fishing alone with a nymph. My position is on the inside of the bend. I would split the river up into 3 sections from close to far across the river, the close side, the middle, the far side. I would start at the very back of the pool and fish the tail out first,,,,on the close side. I would make depth adjustments and proceed to the middle and far side from approximately the same position. Depending upon my success at catching I would move my feet up stream a step or two and adjust my drifts and mends. I AM NOT MAKING LONG CASTS UP TO THE HEAD OF THE POOL, I AM FOCUSING ON FISHING THE TAIL OUT, on the close middle and far sides. Next, I would move my feet up, make adjustments for indicator depth and weight and fish the depth of the pool,,,,,,,,,, close, middle, and far. If I was not catching, I would keep making adjustments which also could include changing fly patterns and focus on the head of the pool or the drop zone,,,,,,,close, middle, far. I believe the angler will have more success at catching if he/she has a focused approach on specific features of a run pool complex. Fish those features well, then move on. To try and fish all of the features in a run pool complex requires different adjustments for different features. Fishing slow water requires little or no weight. Fishing the depth of the pool requires more length between the fly and the indicator. To try to drift long sections of highly variable and dynamic water, with one setting, will leave the angler fishing most of the water with the fly outside the zone where the trout most likely will be. Similarly, standing in one spot, with the same set up, throwing the same cast, to the same place, over and over again, will cause the angler to miss many of the fish holding features and opportunities of a complex like this. Making adjustments to your feet, your weight, indicator length, mending, fly/s etc. is many times necessary to be a productive catcher.
As I am working my way up stream through the middle of the pool, I begin to let my fly swing through the tail out. My drifts become longer in duration because I am now casting to the head and swinging through the tail,,,,,inside, middle and far. Previously I would just be dead drifting the fly a short distance. Now I am dead drifting and imparting action to the fly as it moves through different zones. Next I concentrate on the drop zone. At this point I will be standing on the close side, back from the edge of the drop of the depth change. I will work this area most diligently. My mending will become more aggressive. Adjustments to figure out how much weight I need to cut through the top current and get my fly to tumble over the edge and right into the mouth of a big hungry trout are necessary. Work from close to far, inside seam, middle, outside seam and then into the slow swirl of the back eddy. Don’t forget the back eddy!!
Now I am at the run above the pool. In this case it is flat rocky and two feet in depth. From close to far it is generally featureless to my eye from above but I still keep my same method of approach. My experience tells me it is too fast moving of water for these temp and this time of year. I fish it anyway because you never know and it is part of the approach . I make my adjustments to keep the fly just off the bottom, fish from close to far, move my feet, Change patterns if no eats. SIMPLE.
When I get to the top of the run, I reverse order and do the same exact focused approach from upstream to down. I probably will have more line on the water and impart more action to the fly. I will mend more to let the fly sink and will probably make fewer adjustments to my weight and indicator as I come back down stream. Some days I will start at the top and work down. Remember when you work from top to bottom, the fly is the first object into the trouts window of vision. Working from bottom to top, not only do you have to cast line or leader over the fish but it is likely your line is more visible than the opposite presentation.
On this day there were 3 anglers. We took turns in the big run and pool for nearly 3 hours. We mostly covered the big pool because we all thought the fish would be there. Cast and mend, inside to outside. Standard rigs were bead heads of different sorts, p.tails, hares ears, prince nymphs. We covered the water well. My friend Randy had touched two to three on the inside seam in the slow water just below the drop zone. The bites were super soft. None came to hand. I asked him what pattern he was fishing. He had just switched to a non bead #18 prince nymph. It was getting late. For what I thought was my last turn, I switched to a little beadless peacock fly called the red-ass. It is basically a prince nymph without the white wings and red hackle for the tail. I stepped into the water 6 feet above the drop zone and kept to the inside. We had maybe neglected this water a bit because it just seemed to be too fast and shady to hold fish. All three of us had fished it though. On my first cast I hooked a fish off the inside seam. I had 3 ft of fly line out of the end of my rod. I hooked a second, then a third. My friends hurried their cigars and beers and called me off the water. Both the other anglers stepped in and caught a fish on the inside seam but down in the pool section. I climbed back in to the exact same spot in the fast water above the pool. 2 casts, 2 fish. The third broke me off and we decided that was a fitting time to end for the day.
Inside seams 10 feet from my wading boots are rarely the most productive fish catching spots for me. They however, are part of an approach that enables this angler to cover the water in the most effective manner for catching. Many days, in this exact complex of run into pool, the fish are not caught on the inside seam. As to the whys, I cannot be certain. I am left to ponder, knowing I will never know definitively. It is part of the fun. Was it the fly, the time of day, the drift, the tidal pull??? The thing I do know is that I sticking with a broad and general approach coupled with diligent focus eventually pays off like it has many times before. By applying a broad and general approach it systematically allows the angler to possibly identify some specific trends for the day. Fishing for trout on any given day can be hit or miss. In my experience, that is the plain and simple truth. Method/approach is truly determined by the individual and can be difficult to explain in spoken or written words. Some of it is feel, some is recall…… Time spent enables the vision. Success can both clarify and confuse. Word.
The photo above was from a nice trout I pulled from the kinni a number of years ago. I realize the snow photo is out of vogue but I assure you he swam away happy and unharmed.