There was just enough wind to fly a kite Sunday, if your kite was light enough. Full sunshine along with that light wind made for a great day to venture outdoors. A buddy and I got out for an impromptu afternoon of fishing Sunday, an idea shared by other sun-loving anglers this past weekend. We fished a watershed north of I-90, which isn't any different than all the other streams and rivers in southeast Minnesota right now - the water was low, cold, and crystal clear.
We fished the same place we deer hunt, and we walked the same snow-covered (barely) trails the deer have been walking. There were no other boot prints streamside, which is a nice rarity in a mild winter.
I tagged my first few brown trout of 2012, all of which took a size 14 orange scud. Despite a decent hatch of midges in the mid-afternoon warmth, the trout weren't interested in mine.
There can be a lot more fishing than catching in the winter trout season, although there are exceptions to that rule. March can be amazing in the right conditions. It's rare you'll catch as many fish in January and February as you will from April through September simply due to colder stream temperatures and, in turn, lower metabolic rates of fish. But they still need to eat. Low, clear water works in favor of the fish too, and we're in the midst of one of the warmest winters on record in addition to a drought.
If you're new to winter trout fishing in southeast Minnesota, here are a few tips:
-Fishing is catch-and-release with barbless hooks.
-Not all streams are open for winter trout fishing. Check your maps first. Just because there is an easement doesn't mean you can fish there before April 1st. The DNR maps clearly label streams open for winter fishing. Here are maps for the Winona County area, Fillmore County, Goodhue County, and Houston County.
-Keep a low profile and keep your distance. If you stand right over the hole you're about to fish, odds are you'll not catch any. Make your casts count. Once you've thrown a handful of casts at one pool, you've likely put the fish down for a while. Move on to the next fishy looking spot.
-It happens, but it's not too often you'll be catching trout on dry flies in the early to mid winter season. Small nymphs and scuds fished deep with the help of a little weight tend to be more productive.
-Have fun, dress for comfort and keep your hands warm. Flies have an uncanny ability to find the smallest of tree branches and you'll need to occasionally re-tie or re-rig your leader.
Meet Lenny. He's an English Setter.
After a few hunting outings this fall, a seed had been planted to consider getting my own hunting dog. In a "what would you like for Christmas" conversation with my wife, I casually threw out, "I'd like a puppy [insert pregnant pause] a bird dog." She was cool with that. So it was decided this past fall that our house and family could handle another dog. We have a 10-year old yellow lab who never took to hunting birds - his prey are tennis balls and random sticks. The old dog needs a buddy. He doesn't yet agree with me, but I think he'll get it when Lenny is a little bigger.
The choice of an English Setter was an easy one for us. A friend of mine has a couple which are great bird dogs and excellent family dogs. Another friend has had the same great experience with his Llewellin. I knew I wanted a pointer who would have the same, great abilities with kids that our Lab does.
After researching, searching, and calling, I contacted Berg Brothers Setters and everything fell into place to pick up a puppy in late January. We visited the kennel, the dogs, the owners, and it was all good.
Since it had been years since I'd raised a puppy and conveniently forgotten just about everything that goes with that (like the first night at home away from the litter), I got back to the books. The Monks of New Skete were our guides 10 years ago - we like their style - so I picked up their updated "The Art of Raising a Puppy" for the first months of training. I've been pouring over bird dog training material too, but right now the focus is on housetraining, socialization, and eventually getting back to sleeping 8 hours straight. So far things are going well - with housetraining and socialization. And even though it took a couple days, he understands he's not the Alpha.
In April he'll go back to the Bergs for a few weeks to get immersed in birds and some preliminary training. Additionally, a friend of mine who is active in our local NAVHDA chapter has drawn me into their group. We'll start training days with them this spring. I'm looking forward to training my bird dog, learning from my dog, and eventually, hunting with him.
Until then, we're enjoying puppyhood and trying our hardest to keep legos, shoes, rugs, hats, gloves, cords, underwear, our dinner, socks, remote controls, the sofa, art projects, fly tying material, small children, homework, and books (I probably forgot a few things) from the fateful jaws of a 10 week old puppy.
Puppy kindergarten starts this Sunday.