"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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Winter. Ugh...

Minnesota has a well-earned reputation for being cold in the winter. I don't think Wisconsin has quite the same reputation, but it should, since much of Wisconsin is just as far north as Minnesota, and it tends to get the same weather that its neighbor to the West gets. Since both of these states can be so cold, I had long ago given up on doing any wintertime fishing. Back in the day, when I was young, dumb, and full of enthusiasm, I used to do quite a bit of winter fishing, either in the Northeast part of Iowa, a state which has no closed season, or in the Southeast section of Minnesota, which has had a catch-and-release season that has opened on or around January 1st for the last 20 years or so. Now Wisconsin streams, which are actually closer to my home, have a similar winter season. But, slowly over time I inevitably got less young, miraculously got less dumb, and for some reason lost my enthusiasm, so I haven't gone fishing in the Winter for more than a decade, and I have to say I hadn't really missed it. In fact, I had no plans to go fishing until at least late March, when the daytime temps are consistently well above the freezing mark.

But, then my buddy Ted sent me a message. He was going to be in town and really wanted to fish the Kinnickinnic, which is one of the highest quality trout streams in the Upper Midwest, as far as trout per mile go. And he wanted me to go with him. Despite my reluctance at fishing in the Winter, I said yes, pretty much instantly, which shows that my enthusiasm might not be as degraded as I thought...

Ted. How could I say no to that mug?
Sunday was a beautiful warm February day here, at least as far as we are accustomed to. A high temp of 45 degrees meant that many of the native people were walking around in light jackets, or even no jackets at all, and everyone had a bounce in their step. Unfortunately we didn't go fishing until Monday, when the high temp was 25, and it either snowed or pelted us with freezing rain all day long. Oh, and I forgot to mention the wind which seemed to be gusting to 30 knots, only I don't know what a knot is, so that might not be accurate. It was windy, let's just leave it at that.
Ted in the snow.
We got to the Kinni at about noon, which I figured was just in time for the trouts to get their metabolism at a high enough level that they might actually move for a fly. In theory that sounded good, but theories don't always work out the way you think they will. Ted and I flogged away for a couple of fruitless hours. I spent most of my time either tying on new flies to replace the ones I lost in trees and/or shrubs, trying to untangle my leader which was being blown in multiple directions by the gusting winds, chipping the ice out of my guides with my frozen fingers, or blowing on my frozen fingers to try to get them to thaw out enough to tie on another fly or untangle another leader. It was a normal winter fishing trip, as far as I was concerned.
Frozen guide. Ugh...


Me, looking grumpy after untangling my leader for the umpteenth time...
I had tied up some new purple/pink scuds the night before, so I tried one of those first. From there I moved on to a tiny black wooly bugger, then to a bright green wire-bodied thingy, then to a Spearfish Special, then back to the pink/purple scud I had started with. I hooked lots of rocks and branches on the bottom of the river, so I think I was getting my flies deep enough, but I never got so much as a bump from a fish. After a while I caught up to Ted, who had just caught his first fish on a fly he tied himself! It was a healthy 11 inch brown on a Pink Squirrel, and his excitement renewed my determination to keep fishing, which we did fruitlessly for another hour or so.
Purple/Pink Scud which caught no fish...
Spearfish Special, which also caught no fish...

At the end of the day, the two of us caught exactly that one trout, although Ted thought he had at least one other bite. The best thing that happened to me was that I found out that my long underwear still fits despite my expanding waistline. It was exactly as I remembered Wintertime fishing to be, and I hope that I don't do it again for at least another 10 years. Unless somebody invites me to go, then I will probably drop everything and run out the door...

The gear for the day, which worked flawlessly despite my efforts.

Gear used: I used my newly acquired Fenwick Fenglass 7'6" 5wt fiberglass rod. It's one of the new glass rods by Fenwick, and it was awesome. I paired it with my trusty old Lamson LP-2 reel, which balanced it very nicely.




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