Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wilted Spinach: Southeast Minnesota Winter Fly Swap 2018

"Simple soft-hackled wets were first tied more than a century ago for hill-stream trout in the border region of Scotland and England.  They were tied using sewing basket silks and the feathers from on occasional poached partridge or other land bird.  That's all the tiers had available, and they made it work.  Sylvester Nemes, in his brillian book The Soft Hackled Fly, brought these flies to the attention of American anglers.  His flies, and the basic methods he uses to fish them, still take trout well to this day."   - Dave Hughes, Essential Trout Flies, page 74

In 1999 John Montana added to the soft hackle pattern library when he designed the Wilted Spinach.  I've used the fly since with great success.  Sometimes I forget about it and it's always good to come back.  Its application is general here in southeast Minnesota: it's a leggy and buggy looking fly with a trailing shuck indicating the moment of vulnerability which is something trout seem to appreciate.  

Swing it downstream (especially in winter to trout rising to midges) or fish it upstream as you would a dry fly.  Hughes notes that originally, two or three soft-hackled wets were used on the same leader.

Wilted Spinach variation without dubbing and with peacock thorax, tied by Winona Fly Factory.  

Hook: 14-18
Tail: two loops of krystal flash
Body: dubbing (John used orange as pictured here)
Wing: soft hackle, typically a partridge
Head: built up red thread with drop of head cement

I didn't cement the brown thread versions because that is smaller thread and should hold tight on its own.

Varying the dubbing.  Did ten of each color.

Friday, January 05, 2018

 January 1, 2018

It was cold on NYDay.  But sunny and no wind.  First fish of the year is pictured here.  He was primarily liquid water and here he has gone to solid.  Sacrifices to be made.  16:02 CST.  And worth noting that first potential capture of 2018 was unseen because I set the hook so excitedly I broke off at the knot.  Understandable.  Later, in my kitchen I found that hook.

This whole deal is quite a contrast re stream-running.  There isn't much for scenery.  Little if any movement.  And you can't chase fish down.  You pretty much just set up.  One still line and one jigging line.  Things I like about it though: (1) don't have to travel anywhere; five minutes from home; (2) easy - no gear hassle (we were only people out there with no power auger and no shelter, both of which provide some ease and comfort but in this setting are largely unnecessary), (3) we can keep the fish we catch. 

It was cold so I routinely cleaned the skim ice out of the holes.  On one such circuit I turned around to find a "strike indicator" gone; down the hole.  I exclaimed as much and then missed the fish..  I was just getting ready to chide the kid for not watching while I wasn't watching, when he moved quickly to the adjacent hole and set the hook, presumably on the fish I'd missed.  Good.

This was 17:47.  Which gets to one of the key points: easy action close to home such that you can be holed up enjoying Grand Rapids MN beer (shared gift; thanks buddy) minutes after icing numerous trout.  In no way a replacement for true fish hunting and Driftless valleys but we'll take it and enjoy when it's cold and/or when we want some meat.  Speaking of: we ate those fish (finished with six total) last night.  Filleted them and my wife coated in oil, salt, pepper.  Pan fried and then applied butter/lemon/caper sauce.  We were not left wanting anything else out of a dinner.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

December 18, 2017 Trout Fishing

State of Minnesota now allows trout fishing on select streams in state parks and some small town settings.  Those areas in which hunting is disallowed; no hunter-angler conflicts should arise.  After deer hunting the last few years I have taken approximately one fall day per year to fish.  After deer and before the January 1 general trout stream catch and release opener.  December 18 was a warm day.  A local gauge shows that the air temp was in the 40s in the afternoon.  This all before the holidays and the onset of the deep cold.

First trout I've touched since late October.  Nothing remarkable but on the other hand they are all kind of remarkable.

Mostly I just wanted to get a long walk in, see good water and do some nymphing.  Walking to this hole I put a streamer on nice water but didn't move a fish.  Hopeful.  But it was empty water which is common in winter.  All the fish stacked up in holes like this one, which prompted me to rig up tandem nymphs.  Just deadly good looking.

The fish are in that hole and you can stand right next to it, knowing as much.  If you don't catch them the odds are that your flies are not where they need to be.  Iterative fiddling with beadheads, splitshot and indicator will eventually get the flies in the living room of the fish.  Try all the drifts; delay drifts and let flies sink; try it all.  This is not spring or summer when you are running around covering a lot of water with dry flies or streamers; in winter these good holes deserve some time.  In this case the fish were holed up in a little cushion adjacent to the main current.  The takes were all subtle winter takes: gradual sinking of indicator.  I think I took a picture of this fish because I hooked it on the first drift after adding a second splitshot.  

One fish out of here, right in the gray.  A little shallower than the previous water.

From there it was more of a walk; taking 1-2 fish out of each good hole.  Not really staying to pound away.

Big time action shot.

Will never tire of walking valleys like this one.

Looked for dead deer too; didn't find any.