8 Years, 10,000 Casts and One Big Payoff!

My brother and I have been fishing together for over 25 years.  It is amazing to me that I have done anything in this world for that long.  That is almost two-thirds of my entire life.

Eight of those years have been spent trying to help him catch his first legitimate steelhead. After I moved to Minnesota, it took me a few years to get my first steelhead and now I can consistently catch them.  However, when he visits for our annual steelhead trip, he only has 1-2 days to try to maximize his casts and hone his steelhead tactics.  He has been overdue for a nice steelhead for quite some time.

I am so glad that I happened to be fishing side by side that day with my brother. Both John and I got to share in the excitement and pure joy of Adam’s first steelhead.  There is nothing quite like watching someone experience the adrenaline of a steelhead on the fly, and first time experience too!

Even after 25 years, there are still new experiences to find on the river.  Have you ever gotten someone onto their first fish on the fly? Feel free to share it in the comments section below, and enjoy the video.



The End of Winter is Near . . .

After a long, hard winter in the upper Midwest, we Minnesotans start to monitor the temperatures and ice outs for the first day with good “fishable” weather.  The winter was spent acquiring new fishing gear, organizing fly boxes, filling those same boxes with new, untested fly patterns, and of course, a copious amount of scheming.

The anticipation for the return to nature in search of hungry trout grows exponentially with rising outdoor temperatures.  It always culminates in a wonderful first day on the river.  Sometimes, it doesn’t always end with fish landed.  But new stories are made, legends are forged and a new year of fly fishing is ushered in with the song of the fly line soaring through the air.  What was your first day out like this year?

Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS) Tip


It occurred to me that I have never mentioned CFS before.  CFS stands for cubic feet per second.  It is a very simple thing, but CFS is very important aspect of my fishing preparation.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), https://www.usgs.gov, has put flow meters in many of the main rivers and tributaries within American watersheds.  I personally use check these almost every week for my local waters to get a good feel for how healthy the streams look.  Add in my prior experiences, and I can estimate whether or not a particular day will be easy or hard to fish.

This past week, we had so much rain, I thought my local waters would be unfishable.  Driving an hour, only to find out a river is blown out, is not my idea of fun.  So I went to the website to check the CFS, and here is what I found:

CFS Kinni

Notice the flow peaked on 10th, and then had another peak on the 11th.  This was due to the rain storms we had.  Fortunately for me, the river recovered very quickly, and by the 13th, it was ready to be fished again.  Some of the best fishing I have experience has been during the downward progression about 10-20 CFS above average,

Without this tool, I would have decided not to fish this weekend.   Even though it is slightly above average, this looks very fishable to me, but I will let you know how it goes.

If you are not using the USGS water flow readings, maybe it’s time to start.  You can easily enter a google search with your river name and the words USGS and CFS.  And if you really want to improve your “fly fishing IQ”, keep track of which water levels produce the most amounts of fish at certain times of the year and maybe you will be able to duplicate your successful days.


The Trico Hatch

Every year from starting in late July through the end of August, I head out to Wisconsin’s Rush River to fly fish during the Trico hatch.  This amazing hatch can be brilliant when you catch it right.  Thousands of small insects (smaller than 1/2 a finger nail) flit about in the air, mating and then becoming part of the great circle of life.

Eager trout start rising everywhere like water boiling.  It is quite a scene to witness. However, fun and frustration are two adjectives that quickly blur together while fishing. Due to the tremendous amount of available food on the top water, my fly offering is more likely to be taken randomly than due to my own skill level.

With that in mind, over the years I’ve developed some techniques that seem to work well for me:

  1. Stay low and quiet. This is true for all fly fishing, but even more so for this hatch.
  2. Start with nothing bigger than 5x tippet.  If 5x isn’t working, go to 6x tippet.  If 6x isn’t working, then go to 7x tippet.  There’s a company that makes 8x tippet . . . (http://www.shop.trouthunt.com)
  3. Keep your leader long, at least 12 – 15 feet.
  4. Size 22 flies are NOT too small.  In fact, they may be too big.
  5. There are actually quite a variety of tricos in the air, so grab some out of the air and find your best approximation.
  6. Don’t be afraid to drop something really small off that trico, like a size 22 emerger with a little sparkle in it.  Sometimes, a smart trout will take that offering to conserve energy.
  7. If you are targeting rising fish, as opposed to prospecting, then try to time your cast to land in the feeding lane when you think the trout will be ready to eat again.
  8. Have fun, try not to get frustrated, and change your setup frequently until you find what the trout are looking for.

I’m off to the Rush River tomorrow to go after one of my favorite hatches.  What’s your favorite fly hatch?


Maybe I’ll get one of these colorful brook trout tomorrow . . .

Spring Steelheading

Where to begin? I’ve had so many good fishing trips since my last posting, it’s hard to break it all down. Well, we’ll start with the last Steelhead trip of the year.  Each year, my buddies and I venture into the wilderness of Brule, Wisconsin to fish for the magnificent Oncorhynchus mykiss. A steelhead is essentially an anadromous rainbow trout. That’s biologist-speak for a fish that migrates up a river for spawning from a lake, ocean or other large body.  Steelhead are known for their challenging fight and acrobatics. They generally drive fly anglers nuts because of how hard they are to catch on an artificial fly. For a fly fishing fanatic, there is no greater challenge than landing a fresh chrome steelhead.

With the usual suspects (Adam, John D. and John M.) visiting me to take a chance at fly fishing glory, we headed to our usual steelhead hunting grounds on the Bois Brule River in Wisconsin. This year had been a particularly good year already for us steelheading, as shown in this picture of John D. landing a nice steelhead in the early season (he landed another large one later that day as well).

john steelhead 2016

The real hero of this story though is my brother Adam, who broke his 5 year long skunk of not catching anything on the Brule River, and brought more fish to hand than I can count. This year was unique because we caught some browns and brook trout in addition to the skip jacks and chromes. The highlight was when my brother had his first “real steelhead” tighten his line.  This is the type of fish that is at least 20 inches and pulls out your line so fast, you barely have time to check if you remembered to set your drag.  Unfortunately, it outsmarted him before landing it, but now he knows what we mean when we say we’ve got “steelhead fever”.  As for the rest of us, we landed plenty of large brooks, browns, smaller rainbows, and plenty of skip jacks (teenage steelhead), and I had two chrome brutes on that danced in the air, winked at me and loosed my barbless hook.  It was disappointing not to land a big one on this trip, but a few dozen fish later, we had plenty of stories to share with each other at the “Crow Bar”, the local watering hole.  Now it’s time to start getting ready for the fall run!

The Rainbow Warrior Give-Away

This blog post is long over-due.  Thanks to my friend and fishing buddy, John Matulis, I finally landed my first rainbow trout (non-steelhead) in Minnesota.  And then I proceeded to land a few more!  John moved to Rochester, Minnesota from New Hampshire just recently, and he has been exploring the driftless area in effort to give me a reason to drive down to visit him.  He’s been scouting out the White Water River, and I finally found some time to join him in our pursuit of tight lines this past fall.  Well, the river did not disappoint.  After showing me around, John placed me right into his “pot ‘o gold hole” (affectionately now called JPOG) and with the help of a Rainbow Warrior fly, rainbows started crushing my flies.  I joked that I found rainbows at the end of the pot o’gold, rather than the other way around.  It was a great outing for my first time fishing in southeast Minnesota.

Lance Egan, a competitive fly tier from Utah, has invented many flies that produce staggering amounts of fish.  Two of his flies that I fish the most are the Frenchie and the Rainbow Warrior.  In particular, the Rainbow Warrior has been a deadly fly for me wherever rainbow trout are around.  There’s something about the flash and color scheme that seem to drive these fish bonkers.  Here’s my favorite video for how to tie the Rainbow Warrior by Tim Flagler at Tightline Productions:

As an added bonus this week, I’m giving away five size 16 Rainbow Warriors to one person drawn at random (tied with a tungsten bead, and the barbs mashed).  Post a comment on my blog and you get entered into the drawing.  Post a comment on multiple blog posts and you get two entries (maximum of two entries).  In my comments section, leave a comment and your email and I’ll announce the winner one week from today.  The winner will have five Rainbow Warriors mailed to the address of his or her choice.  Happy commenting!



Rainbow Warriors