As I waded out into the Whitewater River I remembered how long it had been since I had fly fished for brown trout. As a fish and wildlife student at the U of M I had fished browns quite regularly, but having moved back home to the land of the walleye my fly gear had been put on hold.
This last weekend my family decided to hold our annual camp out at Whitewater State Park near Winona. This area is perhaps Minnesota’s best known trout fishing area, so I tossed my trout gear in the back of the truck.
Wouldn’t you know it, a rare rain storm hit the park just after we arrived and turned the streams into rushing rivers of milky colored water. So I opted to start fishing with a brightly colored streamer. But the trout didn’t appreciate my choice.
Then up ahead a small brown rose and grabbed a bug off the surface. Why is it a fish less than a foot long can send a grown man’s heart palpating and turn every finger into a thumb? I don’t know, but that old wonderful feeling swept over me. It was like meeting an old girlfriend.
Then just a few feet from my leg I watched as a caddis fly dipped it’s way across the surface and was suddenly taken in a splashy rise. “So it’s caddis flies they want,” I said out loud to no one. I pawed through my fly box and dug out a fly called a Rat-Faced McDougal. It was brown and small like a caddis fly, and just, perhaps, a trout may believe it was one.
I felt clumsy and rusty as I worked out line to reach the small riffle where the trout had rose. You have to be very cautious with browns. Some of us think they are the smartest fish that swims. The least bit of unnatural drag on the fly will scare the spots off any brown.
Even though my cast looked good to me the trout would have nothing to do with it. In fact, it smugly rose and took a live caddis right next to my fake, and I mistakenly set the hook. Ah! The frustration of fly fishing for trout. That swept over me like an old girlfriend, too.
I reeled in the line and found a rock to sit on. Sometimes it is the best thing to do. Likley, Mr. Trout would forget about my botched setting the hook and I would try again.
Oops, there he came up and grabbed another insect. This time I was more careful. The fly line snaked out in a neat roll, and the fly gently touched down. It floated lightly over the trout’s feeding spot. Bloop! He took it.
The trout was not big, but he bounced back and forth in his pool like a pinball. Gradually he slowed and I slid him to me. He was a creamy brown color with ruby-like spots that shown like neon. I had no need for fish to eat, and the little guy fought valiantly. So I let him go into his little stream. It had been too long since I had fly fished for brown trout. Other fishermen who seek larger quarries may scoff at us who love the little fish, but everything is relative and I was glad to be reacquainted.
The boys at Davis J. Hennes, the parent company of the Rod and Rifle Rag, have been hard at work developing a Fly Fishing Rag. The anticipated release is tentatively planned for the end of June…