- The up and down temperature swings are making the fish turn on and off with the weather. The bite windows (times when fish are most active) will become shorter as temps continue to drop. Take advantage of any sunny, warm days from here on out! The temps are taking a sharp downward turn for the rest of the month. Fish will become even more sluggish and move to deeper water (which is warmer) or seek out warm water influxes.
- Two clear strategies emerge this time of year: throw the biggest or smallest patterns you have! As fish prepare for winter, their feeding behavior changes. Depending on the species and size of the fish, some will target large minnows, suckers, or other bait fish to put on some extra pounds. Though the drawback of this strategy is that chasing baitfish takes a lot of energy. Fish being cold blooded, they will want to conserve as much energy and calories as possible in the colder months. An easier approach for fish in the winter is to hunker down in deep water and slurp tiny insect larva like they’re m&m’s or peanuts. By not using a lot of energy/calories, they can easily supplement their diet with smaller food. Whichever strategy you choose, remember to move things slowly! Make their food easy to catch and hard to refuse.
- Consider doing some scouting for ice fishing. It will be here before you know it! Early season spots are shallow vegetation and drop-offs that concentrate fish as they head deeper throughout the winter.
The FFA team fished several trout streams in northeastern Iowa and found hungry trout willing to take a variety of patterns. We waded and floated through some less than desirable weather conditions but had great fishing regardless. It was extremely fun to fish nearly every style of fly: indicator nymphs, euro nymphs, swinging soft hackles, stripping streamers, and drifting dry flies! Iowa has a year round fishing season and is a great option to try while Wisconsin and most of Minnesota trout streams are closed. Streams are still very low and clear across the driftless so 6-7x tippet was required to catch fish.
A few bass, pike, and muskies are still active in the lakes and rivers. The sharp decline in temps have got them hunkering down in their deep winter holes. Larger streamers, jigs with paddle tail soft plastic minnows, tube jigs, or live minnows/suckers are the best way to elicit a strike from them. It won’t be a numbers game, but your chances of getting a true giant are pretty likely. The recent rain and snow have raised water levels on the St. Croix, Mississippi, and their tributaries a good amount.
The Brule received a much needed drenching of rain, just as the fat lady is singing for the season! Flows rose to prime levels around 250 cfs. This bump in flows will inspire a big push of steelhead to swim into the river and help them travel upstream throughout through the winter. Steelhead season closes on the Brule on Nov 15.
Take a look at these braggin’ board photos from Iowa Camp that took place November 4th-6th!
Dates and times: 12/10 (1 spot left), 1/14, 2/11, 3/11 with two slots each day from 1-2PM and 2-3PM
Keep the rust off and come practice your fly casting!
We’ve rented out the gym at the downtown Dayton Minneapolis YMCA. Come cast for one hour with our guides! We can work on many different casting skills, including accuracy and double hauling . Beginner to advanced casters, welcome! Bring your own fly rod if you have one, otherwise a limited supply of fly rods will be available. Pre-registration is required:
Learn to Ice Fish Programs!
Fishing isn’t just a summer activity! Once our lakes freeze over, we can venture out and catch fish through the ice. We partner with various parks and rec departments around the MSP area. During our 2hr Learn to Ice Fish programs, we’ll show you how to use all the equipment, find/understand where the fish live in winter, and practice reeling in crappies, bluegills, and bass. All the equipment is provided including one large Clam pop-up shelter and heaters! Programs are available Jan-March, depending on ice conditions. This is a wonderful winter family activity!
2023 Camps Coming Soon!
You’ve been emailing, you’ve been calling, the wait is almost over! We are finalizing our 2023 camp dates this month. We expect to release camp dates and registration in early December for our existing clients, so you all can get first dibs. Then we’ll open them to the general public in early January.
If you have camp suggestions or ideas, let us know. These camps fill up super fast, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our Fishing Journal in December. We are very excited to be offering some new camps and lodging options in 2023!
Tips and Tricks!
Euro Nymphing (Link to a great article by Nomad Anglers)
Nymphing carries some contention in the fly fishing world. You either love it, hate it, or do euro style. I personally believe if you want to catch numbers of trout, that nymphing is the way to go. I love nymphing because trout love nymphs. In fact, so do panfish, bass, and carp! No matter where or when you are on the water, there are going to be nymphs (or insect larva) in the water and fish will eat them. The conventional method of drifting nymphs under a strike indicator (ie: bobber fishing- but you didn’t hear that from me!) can feel tedious or even monotonous, and isn’t always the most effective way to do it. Not so with euro nymphing! I am a recent convert to euro nymphing, thanks to the tutelage from our guides Bret and Ricky. After just two days of using their equipment while scouting for Iowa Camp, I immediately ordered my own and will absolutely be adding this technique to my guiding repertoire.
Euro nymphing is a tight line nymph fishing method, also known as czech nymphing or tight line nymphing. The actual origins of the method vary depending on who you ask, but the technique is known by the rod’s constant line tension, lack of strike indicators, and drag free drift. Instead of watching a strike indicator and misidentifying strikes or missing them due to waters that make line mending difficult, the euro technique simplifies fishing with nymphs.
Euro rods are typically 3-4wt, 10-12 feet long and utilize a very long leader of 15-20lb monofilament fishing line that connects to 5-7x tippet. Using just mono allows our heavy tungsten flies to drop fast through the water column and stay deep. You don’t need a heavy reel or fly line because you just cast the mono. There’s also no mending needed because the mono will be straight and tight, controlled by the raising or lowering of your arm.
The most fun part of this setup is watching the “sighter,” which is leader material that is red and green. This is your euro “strike indicator.” You watch the sighter line to determine how deep or fast to drift, or when a fish bites. This is all controlled by where you hold your arm. Proper form calls for there to be a slight downstream angle from your rod to “lead” the line as you’re drifting. This creates a slight droop in the sighter which will hesitate momentarily or straighten when there is a bite. The long, light weight rods are also extremely sensitive allowing you to FEEL when a fish bites your fly!
It’s best to tie a tippet ring to the end of the sighter, then put on your tippet. Having a tippet ring will save you a bunch of material and headache overtime. Typically, euro fishing uses tungsten jig flies. Depending on where or how deep you’re fishing, this rig can be a single or a tandem set up. If they are barbless hooks, we recommend tying on your dropper fly to the hook eye of your lead fly or leave long tag ends from a surgeon’s knot if doing a drop shot rig (heavy fly as dropper with smaller fly on top.)
Tangles do seem to happen often with this set up, though that could just be my lack of experience with it. Because your main line is regular monofilament, it can be hard to see and control, especially in wind. Casting also takes some getting used to. Practicing a tuck cast will save you some headaches. Essentially, you water load your line at the end of the drift, lift and swing the line up over your head, then forward swing. The tuck comes from a slight upward flick of the wrist on the forward swing. If done correctly, this flick of the rod tip will let the flies land before the belly of your main line. This flick lends to better accuracy with the light mono and helps the flies sink faster. Because you don’t cast a heavy weighted fly line in euro nymphing, the cast can feel wobbly and inaccurate at times. A couple other drawbacks are that you can’t fish past a certain distance, and it can be hard to switch to a dry or streamer due to the long mono line.
That all being said, this style of nymphing routinely outfishes the standard indicator rig, even up to 10:1 in my professional opinion. That constant and instant contact between you, your flies, and the fish is what makes this technique produce.
So if you’re a salty old fly fishing dog like me, you know the true joy of this sport is knowing that we will never master it. It’s fun to feel like a newbie again after 20+ years of fly fishing. There are simply too many nuances everywhere you go to ever claim to be a master. You can only hope the skills you do have can be adapted to whatever scenario you encounter. For me, euro nymphing is a fun combination of all styles of fly fishing. The effectiveness of nymphs, the visual focus on the sighter like dry flies, and the physical tug on the flies like streamer fishing. I’m very excited to continue learning and sharing this technique with newbies and salty dogs alike, because it’s just silly how effective it is!
Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop is starting to carry more euro equipment and supplies too, so be sure to swing into the fly shop and check it out.
Highlight a Watershed
Yes, though this watershed is well outside of the twin cities area, our experiences fishing here compel us to share it with you! Especially because we held our first ever Iowa Driftless Trout Camp just last weekend and had an awesome time on the water. The Iowa Driftless is connected to the same driftless region as Minnesota and Wisconsin, so spring creek anglers will be very comfortable fishing in NE Iowa. Steep limestone cliffs and outcrops, indigenous history, and amazing trout fishing all call this area home.
The largest waterbody in this area is the Upper Iowa River. This is a tributary of the Mississippi River and has many different species of fish in it very akin to the Root River in MN. Depending where you go, you can catch trout, walleye, smallmouth bass and pike all in one outing. The Upper Iowa is navigable by kayak and drift boat, though most access sites are best suited for carry-in watercrafts. This region also has several great smaller trout streams, notably North Bear, Big Paint, and Waterloo creeks. The smaller streams are easily waded and the easements are well marked and maintained. Most of the streams in NE Iowa receive regular stockings of catchable-sized rainbow trout (12-14”) and have a healthy population of wild browns.
Due to the differing sediment layers and land use practices/regulations compared to MN or WI, Iowa streams tend to have muddy banks and sandy stream beds. Public access is also more tightly regulated. In Iowa, landowners own the river bottom, so angling access is limited to only easemented sections or state land. As always, know before you go! The best thing is that crowds are usually lighter than other nearby fishing areas of Lanesboro, MN and Viroqua, WI.
The fishing season is open year-round, so watch the weather for a warm, sunny weekend this winter and head down to the Hawkeye state! Feel free to reach out to us with questions about fishing in this area or to book a guided trip.
With Give to the Max Day coming up on Thursday Nov 17- Fishing For All wanted to take this opportunity to endorse a few Minnesota Nonprofits who we align with for this day of showing support. Please join us in giving generously to these fine organizations who do good work protecting and restoring our favorite rivers!
- Why we endorse: FMR is a group dedicated to protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Mississippi and its watershed in the Twin Cities. FFA is the only fishing service operating on the Mississippi in downtown MPLS. The river through downtown is an unsung, world-class fishery that deserves recognition and protection. We fully support FMR’s vision for the river and their hard work in maintaining/increasing access and habitat restoration. FMR is also facilitating conversations around removal of the Ford Dam and Lock & Dam No. 1.
- Why we endorse: We believe the crown jewel of warm water rivers in Minnesota is without a doubt the St. Croix and its tributaries. WRC is the friends group of the national park service, working in tandem to ensure the preservation of the river’s ecology. They enable and perform habitat restoration, forest management, invasive species removal, land protection/preservation, and water quality sampling across the watershed. Without their oversight, the St. Croix wouldn’t be wild or scenic or have such great fishing.
- Why we endorse: Trout Run, Hay Creek, Sucker River, Rush Creek, Garvin Brook, Whitewater- if you fish any of these streams, or many others across the state, you can thank MNTU. They are committed to conserving, protecting, restoring, and sustaining Minnesota’s coldwater fisheries. This is the state council overseeing big habitat restoration projects, having now completed over 82-miles of restoration work across the state. They also do state-level advocating for regulations to benefit trout, and oversee state-wide fishing and conservation education programs.
Ricky’s Riverside Recipes
The winter chill is upon us. Hiking into some of our favorite trout spots can be cold and feel like a lot of work. Here is my partner Jen and I’s favorite streamside ramen recipe to keep you energized and warm while fishing and hiking!
- 1 packet of your favorite instant ramen
- Beef meatballs
- Green onions
- Bean sprouts
- Silverware or chopsticks
- Jet boil
A lot of the meal can be prepared ahead of time. For the meat balls, I like to chop them so they reheat fast. You can substitute shrimp, pre-cooked chicken, or whatever you like for the protein. The onion, cilantro, and other veggies will be chopped as a garnish and can be put in a separate bag.
Grab your jet boil and get that water boiling. Start by cooking the meat balls since they will take the longest to cook. You can usually tell they are ready when they puff up.
Take your ramen packet contents and put those in the bowl. Cook the noodles to your desired firmness and shut off the jet boil. Add your veggies.
This is an inexpensive meal that is warm and delicious on any cold winter stream. The next time you are packing it in on a winter fishing adventure, leave the cold sandwiches at the gas station and treat yourself to something warm!!