"Sometimes, you just need to go downstairs and waggle a rod..." - Scott Hanson

"Write what you know. If you don't know, make it up..." - Scott Hanson

"A dude can't live on just two fly rods alone..." - Scott Hanson

Man, I have some deep thoughts...

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Trout & Turkey 2021

For the past several years my friend Bryon and I have gone on at least one Trout Trip per year. These trips have always been around 3 days long, and have taken place somewhere within either Minnesota or Wisconsin. For this year's trip, Bryon proposed that we invite a 3rd person, his eldest son, Matt, and that we extend both the length of the trip, to seven days, and the distance from home to 11 hours away in western Nebraska. Oh, he also proposed that we turn it into a Trout & Turkey trip, as he and Matt would take the opportunity to try to shoot some Merriam's turkeys while we were there. After about 4 seconds of deliberation, I agreed to all these things. He had me at "Hey, wanna..."!

Some of the beauty of Fort Robinson State Park

I am going to make the assumption that most of you would never think of Nebraska as a destination for trout fishing. I feel safe in assuming this, because everyone I have talked to about this trip had never thought of Nebraska as a destination for trout fishing. Most of Nebraska is not a good trout fishing destination, but there are some sections of the state that do harbor trout streams, and some pretty high quality streams at that. You just need to know where to go.

Crossing the Missouri River on the way to Nebraska

We ended up in the far western corner of the state, not too far south of the South Dakota state line, in a section of Nebraska known as the Pine Ridge. The topography in this section reminds me a lot of the Black Hills of South Dakota, which are just a couple of hours to the north. There are rolling prairies, impressive rock formations, pine forests, and lush coldwater streams, some of which are home to brown, brook, rainbow, and even some cutthroat trout. There are also numerous ponds that hold all sorts of fish species.

White River

Sunset on our first night in Nebraska

Bryon's first fish of the trip

My first fish of the trip

We stayed in Fort Robinson State Park, which is just outside of the little town of Crawford. Fort Robinson is a big, sprawling expanse, and home to mule deer, antelope, turkeys, and they even have a resident bison herd. It also holds a section of the White River and Soldier Creek, both of which are home to trout. A bunch of little man-made ponds are in the Park, too, filled with a wide array of different fishes. Check out the following pics to get an idea of what we did:

Another sunset pic from the first night

Next morning we checked out some ponds. This was jam-packed with newly planted rainbows...

Plus a tiger trout or two (this was my second tiger ever)...

Plus a few big ol' sunfish

While we were fishing we realized we were being watched by some bison.

Another pond. This one had largemouth bass and panfish.

Then I hiked around in a little stream to see what I could find. Have you ever seen naturally occurring cement blocks in such a handy spot?!?!

First brown trout of the trip


Second brown of the trip
This pond was packed with miniature smallmouth bass.

One of those miniature smallmouth bass...

Then we stumbled upon a pond that was home to chunky brook trout.

The next day I dropped Bryon and Matt off at their turkey hunting lodge, and I spent the better part of the next four days hiking and fishing all by my lonesome. First I checked out the South Fork of Soldier Creek, in the Soldier Creek Wilderness Area. This creek had a new beaver pond around every corner. And fat brown and brook trout in each pond.

The first beaver pond I came across

This pool was stacked up with fish

A lovely, out-of-focus, brown

Scott F794/4 and Ross Evolution 1.5

The ever-present afternoon thunderclouds


The next day I hiked deeper into the Soldier Creek Wilderness Area in search of cutthroat trout. I heard that there were some hidden ponds a couple of miles in that held cutties, so I strapped on my backpack and headed out. It was a lovely hike, and all my gear worked great, but that is about the best I can say for this excursion. Trout were seen, but not caught. Let's never talk of this again, ok?

Your brave hero, heading out in search of cutties. The neon yellow shirt was on purpose, so as not to get shot by turkey hunters. It worked.

The weather changed every 4.5 minutes or so...

First of three secret ponds. I saw two trout swimming in this one. They both suck.

My pack and gear.

GFA Hoppers accounted for about 75% of the fish caught throughout the week.

These trees must have a death-grip on the hillside. Second secret pond sits below them. It had about 10 trout in it, that I could see. They all suck, too.

A rainstorm hit me without much warning, so I hung out under this tree, waiting for it to pass.

The sky cleared up on my hike back to civilization. What a pretty afternoon!


About 10 minutes after I got back to the truck, these clouds appeared, bringing rain, hail, and high winds.

As the storm was petering out, I drove around to see any wildlife that might be out and about. This was it. I call this one "Rainy Burros".

Sun came out about 3 minutes before sunset. 

Crazy clouds after the storm. I did not alter this shot at all.

One night I drove past a pond that was almost empty of water, for some unknown reason. I figured there was maybe 2 feet of water in the bottom, yet I was sure I saw something dimple the surface as I drove by. Being the annoyingly curious person that I am, I stopped the car and climbed down into the pond bottom, which was both smelly and mucky. I cast my hopper out about halfway across the muddy water, and it was immediately inhaled by a small but healthy looking sunfish. not only that, but my landing that sunfish caused the other inhabitants of this seemingly lifeless pond to go crazy. There were signs of fish moving around everywhere! I couldn't believe it. I spent the next half hour catching fish after fish after fish out of this mudhole, and they got bigger or more unbelievable as the night went on!

The muddy "pond", from the floor 

First sunfish from the "pond"

A chunky bluegill from the "pond"

I couldn't believe there was such a big ol' bass living in such little water! That is just mud on his belly...

Even a little crappie was living in there. What?!?!

My last day of fishing was filled with more adventure. First I bushwhacked into another secret pond, which was supposed to hold brook trout. I figured a secret pond that nobody knew about would be sure to have big, dumb brookies that would be fighting over my fly. Instead I caught one little perch in a couple of hours of flailing away. Ugh.

A lovely, secret pond

These two mule deer showed up to see what was going on.

Bison? Longhorn? Sasquatch? Who knows...

I left the first pond that sucked, and went back to the brook trout pond I had had luck at. And these two mule deer showed up again. I am pretty sure they were the same ones I saw at the first pond. I would go on to see them three more times that day......

This longhorn steer wanted to see what I was up to. He seemed quite impressed with my angling skills...

Brook trout on a Mushroom & Swiss Bugger

Painted Turtles were everywhere 

Another fat sunfish

The brook trout seemed too colorful for this time of year...

Last trout of the trip

Sunset on our last night

The moon.

Thanks for checking out my trip report. If you ever have a chance to head to the trouty part of Nebraska, I say go for it! I think you will have a good time!