Heath Sershen

Heath Sershen has been fishing creeks in southeast Minnesota for 25 seasons.

Jan 1. Minnesota's Winter Trout Catch and Release opener.

Posted by: Heath Sershen under Fishing Updated: January 4, 2012 - 4:51 PM
A Minnesota Winter Rainbow.

Jan 1 has turned into a tradition.  I have spent the last four openers angling with my friend Justin.  In 2009 we began with a death hike through the bluff side in eastern Fillmore County.  Since then we have had a spot that we frequent that is out of the wind.  This spot bears bountiful trouts and active midge even on days nearing 0 degrees.  This is where we chose to angle today.  The morning began with the 60 mile commute to the creek in the hallow.

We, typically, catch more Rainbows here than anything else.  I tied up some #18 bead head pheasant tails with purple flash dubbing over the course of the last week.  I wanted to try these flies today.  I understand that the fish in this section of creek get conditioned to the flies I present to them.   I know that, with this knowledge, the first day of the season is a day when the fish are not conditioned to flies.  They will in fact take almost anything that is presented to them properly.

I fished a two fly rig.  My #18 PBHPT trailed by a #20 miracle nymph.  Justin had his opportunity with the fish first.  We found that our honey hole was in typical form with rising fish slurping on the invisible hatch.  I had my opportunity to make my first cast after about ten minutes of Justin getting the kinks out of his cast and coming up empty.

I prefer deep nymph-ing with no split shot.   I know weightless casting well. I find it necessary to be cognizant of the cast's requirement of feeding line, through my guides, with two hands.  I have become to know this cast as mechanical. I have fished in this spot for over 25 seasons and could catch fish here in my sleep.  Cast, plunk, drift, fish.  One cast one fish.  I made another cast, plunk, drift, fish.  This time a Brown about a foot long took the #18 PBHPT.  Two casts two fish.  I fished with this minimal effort until I became cold.

Personally, in the cold winter months I typically don't pound the water to catch heaps of fish.  With the fatigue of the elements playing into the factor I prefer to be close to my car and to angle creeks where putting fish in my hand is easy.  Starting out with two fish on two casts is a good way to start the year.

Dual angling - Angling the same hole with a friend in tandem.

Term use. Heath landed the fish and and removed the #20 hook from the trout's mouth. He then released the fish.  Justin now had his opportunity to try and catch a fish with is fly rod.  He made a handful of casts and ended up with a wind knot in his line.  Dual angling ethics afford the other angler to cast his line while the other is unable to cast.  Whether it be due to being hooked in a tree, wind knot, break-off, or to unhook a fish.

We fished the honey hole for another hour or so.  We caught numerous fish on #20 miracleA double rainbow day. nymphs and #18 PBHPT before getting cold and stiff and submitting to wanderlust.  We hiked downstream to the edge of the pasture where the wind was a staunch factor in casting and comfort however we faced it in order to share fish on a plunge pool that we know is deep regardless of its history of non-performace.  Maybe, just maybe, this year would be different.

We landed numerous Bows from this pool today.  Most of the bows were over 13-inches.  We had an epic "double" were Justin hooked into a 15-ish-inch Bow and while going for the net I hooked into a 16-inch class Bow.  Justin netted his fish in my net. He was kind enough to net mine as well.  He didn't bother to take his fish out of the net before netting mine.  We had two fish, nearly four-pounds of trout in the net at that point.  This was a neat memorable experience.

Two fish in one net.  I have experienced this before however not with trout.  In 2003 while angling a plunge pool, with my father in eastern Wisconsin, for King Salmon we ended up with a double.  A buck and a hen King on the line.  We ended up fighting the fish for several minutes before netting them both in the same net.  

A winterless Minnesota spring creek valley, jan 1, 2012.

Regardless, a memorable experience indeed.  The air temp and barometer was fairly steady through the course of today's adventure.  Upper 20s and a 29.00 isobar reading made fishing consistent at this altitude.  We headed up stream, after the double, in search of Brookies.  We climbed nearly 300-feet of altitude over the two mile hike on the creek as it winds up the bluffside.  This upper section of creek was more out of the wind than the lower section.   Funny that there was snow on the ground in the lower valley however there were no traces in this upper valley.  We fished a bit for Brookies but decided to head back downstream for some jerky snack and willing Rainbows.  It was nearly 2pm.  It is typical, in the winter, that the fish slow down at 2pm as the sun's pitch in the sky reaches a point where is no longer warms the ground below.  The wind had picked up and the fish had slowed down.

16-inch winter Rainbow

We angled for another hour or so.  Justin returning to the the double plunge pool.  I chose to sit on my honey hole.  We each put many more fish in our hands before calling it and making the one hour and 15 minute commute home for a hearty supper.

The day was a great one.  We left winter on the ridge top to find spring in the valley.  We caught over 50 willing trouts on hand tied flies over the course of about four hours on two miles of creek.  We stayed out of the wind, suffered no frost bite, and successfully logged another epic experience with the double Bow plunge pool.

Key factors in today's success included; staying out of the wind, moving when we got cold, understanding where the fish will be and how they behave, fly selection, and presentation.

 

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