Distancing in the Driftless

2020 Weeks 12-14:

March 16 – April 2

March was a month of transitions. Winter Park Colorado, Minnesota, and Corona virus. From leaving work as a ski instructor to living at home and from life as we knew it in early March to current life with the Corona virus.

Fortunately, my hobby of fly fishing is something that is doable with Corona and can be done with others. I can meet another angler at an access point (driving separately), fish all day long, and never be within 6′ of them. Works out fairly well!

March in the Driftless was awesome. Coming out of a long, cold, Minnesota winter, March always seems to be a time of high number days as the days warm up and the fish move into the riffles to put on the feed bags. We caught fish mainly on streamers (95% on a Fricks Fix), but also on dries during a few hatches, and with nymphs when we wanted to change things up. Literally everything caught fish.

March 16

My first day back on the water fishing in MN saw me with my friend Alex for a day of swinging meat on a low density creek. I was pretty stoked for my first fish in MN to tape out at 17″. This fish is still the biggest fish I’ve caught in Minnesota so far in 2020.

Alex stuck a 20″ further up the creek and as we moved up we caught a few other nice fish and moved a couple other upper teens to low 20’s fish. Sweet water.

March 18

Spent the afternoon fishing a new stretch of a creek near town with my dad. It fished fairly well for us and we stuck a few browns and rainbows.

March 19

Fished a rainy afternoon with Andrew from Fly Fish Finder. The river we hit had a decent stain to begin with and as we were there the clarity went from a few feet to less than a foot. As it stained up we stuck a decent amount of fish and had a good time exploring a beautiful valley.

March 21

On the morning of my birthday I fished a few different small spring creeks and had a blast catching little brookies and browns on my 3wt fiberglass rod.

March 22

Met up with Micah and Abigail Crider (Driftless Flyer) and we spent the day on a couple small creeks. It was a blast hanging out with them and catching a fair number of brookies and browns.

March 25-27

Headed down to Winona on Wednesday around noon to spend 2 nights and 2.5 days of fishing in the area. When I got down there I hit up my friend Hunter and we checked out a stream he hadn’t fished before and one that I hadn’t fished in years. Like I remembered, this stream was super small and clear but had a lot of fish in it. One big help for this stream was that it never stopped raining all afternoon, which helped us not spook as many fish.

After finding a few small browns here we packed up and met up with our friend Kristian at another stream where we spent the rest of the day. The last hour before it was completely dark we hammered fish on fixes as the rain dumped on us. It was a blast!

That night it rained hard enough that Kristian and I didn’t want to set up camp so we car camped in the Winona Walmart parking lot and rested up for an all day driftless walk and wade outing the next day. We woke up and were stream side around 8am. The fishing was ridiculous all day on all 3 streams we fished. Toward the later part in the day we found a few rising fish and were able to identify a small hatch of blue wing olives coming off. I put on a dry and managed to fool a few fish with it.

That night we set up camp and had a fire on some nearby state forest land. In the morning I was awakened to a nearby owl hooting and a turkey ripping out a gobble in response. They continued to call back and forth for some time while the ski slowly brightened. As the spring woods began to wake up it was as if someone was slowly turning up the volume of the world and before too long it sounded like every songbird in the area was letting out their music. It was a beautiful melody. I rolled out of my hammock and started to break camp. Kristian woke up shortly after and did the same. After we packed up we made a short drive and fished another section of the creek that we had ended the previous day on. The bite hadn’t slowed at all.

After fishing through that stretch of water we hit the road to another area stream. When we arrived at the access point there were bugs in the air and fish rising all over the place. It was easy to see that we had come across a prolific caddis hatch, the biggest that I’ve ever experienced. I tossed on a EHC and went to town for the next few hours.

March 28

Met up in Rochester with my friend Monty and we headed south. Monty showed me a sweet little creek where we landed a lot of browns, him with a spinning rod and me on the fly. Great time out there!

March 30

On my way to meet up with Alex for the my first day of fishing in Minnesota back on 16th I had to stop into Scheels to pick up an MN fishing license. Any time I’m there I have to walk through the fly fishing section of the store as well. While looking at some of the flies one of the workers came walking up to help out. Initially I recognized him and before too long he asked if my name was Jason. It ended up being one of the guys who I keep up with on Instagram. He had just moved to the area and is now in charge of the fishing section of Scheels. I told him that I would be in the area for a while and we made plans to get out and fish. Kyle and I finally made it happen on the 30th. After meeting outside of town we drove separate vehicles to the access point. We had a great day hooking up with browns that were loaded up in the riffles. Throughout the outing we saw small stoneflies flying around and fish sporadically rising. With about an hour and a half of light left I tied on a hopper dropper with a hippy stomper and a hares ear and proceeded to land fish after fish on both flies. It was a blast on the 3wt!

March 31

Met up with my friend and fellow former Costa TU 5 Rivers college fly fishing club president Colin for a day of small creek exploring. Before meeting up with him I fished a couple smaller creeks in the area. The first creek I fished in I caught a couple browns, the first fish I’ve ever caught in there which was awesome. The second creek (a creek that used to be loaded with brookies and the creek where I caught my first tiger trout 5 years ago) was completely leveled by flooding. Areas that used to be 2-4′ wide and 2-3′ deep were now 5-10′ wide and just inches deep. I was bummed to see the condition of the creek.

After Colin and I met at the access point we hiked in for a ways and spent the day exploring the creeks up in the valley. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day and the fish were super spooky because of those factors and more than likely because of other angling pressure as well. We saw 5 other anglers that day. All that aside, we had a great day on the water chatting about summer plans and we caught a few browns and brookies.

April 2

Spent the day on the water with Danny and Jeff. These are a couple fun havin goofy dudes that are both fishy as hell. It was a blast. We started on a small stream and as we prepared ourselves at the bridge to wade up the stream one of the landowners came down on a 4 wheeler to see how we were doing. We had a pleasant conversation with him then started fishing. We started hooking into fish right at the bridge and the fishing was solid all morning. This creek was loaded with browns, brookies, chubs, and I even found a tiger to complete the poor mans driftless slam.

Danny and Jeff each caught some nice fish throughout the day as well. I look forward to fishing with these dudes again!

Final Thoughts

Covid 19 has been ripping through the world and has changed many aspects of life as we once knew it. I’m praying that the next few weeks go well for my family and friends, our nation, and frankly our world. There is a lot unknown right now. One thing we do know is that we have an all knowing and loving God who we can put our faith in to get us through these crazy times!

God bless

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