Looking for a warmup to the April 16 Minnesota trout opener?
I was, also, and on a recent day drove to the Namekagon River, fishing it during Wisconsin's early catch and release season near where it winds through Hayward, Wis.
The Namekagon is 100 miles long, and originates at Lake Namekagon, Wis. Historically, it was visited many times by the famed Wisconsin outdoor writer and storyteller Gordon MacQuarrie, as well as trout aficionado and writer Ernie Schwiebert.
Brook trout swim in its northern stretches and some tributaries, but browns are its most abundant trout. Below Hayward, smallmouth bass and muskies can be found.
The Namekagon is part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and is a favorite river, particularly south of Hayward, among canoeists. Entry and takeout points are numerous.
The river has a reputation for giving up its trout very selectively at times, an appraisal I found accurate the other day, wading the Namekagon with my son, Trevor.
We fished a variety of nymphs, most bead-headed, and Trevor at times trailed behind his a variety of small (Sizes 16 and 18) caddis and other imitations.
We hooked only one fish, a brown, taken by Trevor. The fish was fooled by a Size 18 midge, fished as a dropper.
We were on the stream about five hours, and saw only a few rises during that time.
The Namekagon is flush with stoneflies, easily found the other day in the larvae stage by turning over a river rock or two.
Stoneflies are found worldwide, and are indicators of healthy, oxygenated streams. A cleverer angler than I would have tied various nymphs to match those found in the Namekagon so early in the spring season. We settled for nymphs we had, which more or less imitated black stones, and also fished a few streamers.
We saw only two other anglers, talking to one, who agreed fishing "was tough.''
Action will improve as the water warms and caddis hatches occur. Clear and fairly low when we fished it, the Namekagon likely is running higher, faster and more off color now with the recent snow melt.
A great river to fish under any circumstances, however, and few are prettier.
The early trout season in Wisconsin runs to May 1.
For more on fishing the Namekagon, check out www.haywardflyfishiingcompany.com