I had the pleasure of leading seven Winona State University students on a backcountry hike and fly fishing adventure on the upper South Fork Root River in Fillmore County, Minn. The recent snowfall made snowshoeing our mode of transportation as we embarked on a three mile hike through the road less section of river from Million Dollar Bridge to Deer Road Bridge. Each student bore a fly rod and basic instructions on how to catch trout.
As we hiked we discussed the natural world presented to us in this valley. We did not notice the 10 mph wind as we scuttled over two bluffs and down one 150-foot bluff side on our butts. Lunch of hot dogs was cooked over a small fire near the confluence of the South Fork and Wisel Creek.
This section of river is but a remnant of former glory years. Heavy silt has shallowed runs and pools. The macro invertebrate population of Dark Hendrickson, Black Midge and Little Black Stonefly were prevalent however the wild population of Brown Trout seemed to be diminished.
We traversed a section of valley that seemed to have received the brunt of a very heavy wind storm where most of the mature trees had been rooted. We noticed little sign of mammalian inhabitants.
We had a wonderful experience with a wild Bald Eagle that was perched and resting on a down tree over the creek located very deep in the valley. Amazingly enough the female Eagle allowed me to approach it within five feet which afforded me the opportunity to achieve close up photographs. As the sun began to recede behind the bluffs we reached our destination. Participants of the hike professed that although they were tired and disappointed in the low catch rate of trout, only one two inch Brown was handled, that they appreciated the natural beauty of the hike through the backcountry.
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