Rush River: Brown High Water Yields Big Brown

When I moved to Minnesota, I started fishing the Kinnickinnic River in River Falls, Wisconsin (the Kinni, as the locals call her).  This is a typical Midwest small to medium stream in the heart of the northern driftless area with beautiful, naturally reproducing brown and brook trout.  It wasn’t until after a couple years of exploring the Kinni that I realized there was another gem about 15-30 minutes further east called the Rush River.  From Baldwin all the way through Martel and Ellsworth, the Rush River winds through beautiful farmland with ample natural trout and seasonal hatches.  In particular, the Trico hatch, BWOs and Sulfurs are very healthy hatches on this river at various times.  Both the Kinni and the Rush are subject to large changes in water flow following rain storms and showers.  This brings me to the point of this post.

A lot of fishermen shy away after a rain storm, but I’ve found that sometimes I can have a wonderful day on the river after a storm with a little strategy and the right flies.  After the most recent Minnesota and Wisconsin deluge, I decided it was time to put thoughts into action.  The river was running higher than usual, and was fairly ruddy, but it was not dangerous to wade (I hear my dad in my mind saying “safety first Michael!”).  At the first hole I went too, I struck out big time, including losing my whole rig within five casts.  Not the epic night I was hoping for.  However, after adjusting my rig a little, I started catching fish after fish as I went upstream from hole to hole, with virtually no one else on the river (ostensibly scared off by the recent storm).  After all, the fish do have to eat, regardless of the weather.  I was already into double digits for the night, and then the fishing got relatively quiet.  The biggest trout I had released so far was 10 inches (with a range of fish caught from 4 inches to 10 inches, both brookies and browns).  I had about a quarter mile walk back to the car, so I figured I would tie on a Stimulator and hit the same pools and riffles on the way back.  On my way back, I noticed a section of river I had previously ignored because it was difficult to get too, but the storm had padded down all the grass and made access much easier.  No sooner had I made a few casts then I was doing my best to pull in a nice 15 inch brown, which is more of a rarity on the Rush.  This was a fun fish to land on my newly minted Helios-2 (4-Weight) with CFO reel; this was really the first fish to challenge this rod.  A lot of people shy away from Orvis for a variety of reasons, but Orvis makes fantastic gear, is committed to environmental conservation and their customer service is superb in my experience.  I have products from Orvis that are over 20 years old, so I am a loyal customer.  I released this brown, as I do all my fish, counted my blessings and continued my walk back to the car, grinning from ear to ear about the last fish of the night.

Caught this beauty on the Rush River before dark after a stormy couple days.

Caught this beauty on the Rush River before dark after a stormy couple days.

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