General trout, fishing, conservation, or anything outdoors related discussion. Trip reports and stream conditions welcome, but please do not name streams.

Postby shebs » Mon May 21, 2018 10:37 pm

I spent this weekend down in SE MN on my annual folk music and trout fishing pilgrimage...it never fails to exceed my expectations.

Left Thursday morning, and made a stop on the way down to fish a stream that I have standing permission to fish, as long as I leave a 6 pack on the front porch. It's a pasture section of a fairly low numbers/good average size stream, but between the land access and the cow pasture, it's one of the few places I can convince the lady to fish with me. She caught a little 10" brown on her first cast...but thinking that was a good sign, we didn't bother to photograph it...ended up being her only fish, unfortunately, and she made sure to remind that I didn't take any pictures of her with fish :oops:

We worked our way up the creek, and I picked off a few decent fish here and there, but she kept getting follows from tanks who just wouldn't commit. About halfway through, she had a 20+ brown almost run into her feet, which at least kept her going for a while, despite the frustration.

A few nice fish in the 14-16 range. Best fish was a chunky 17. Nice colors on him though.


Made it to the campground, set up camp, and went off to catch some dinner before sundown. Fished a popular stream known for an abundance of skinny 10 inch browns, got a limit quick, and went back to make some dinner. yum yum. (no pictures - I was on a mission.)

Woke up the next morning, had breakfast at the best (only?) diner in town, and headed off to a remote section of a stream I have had good luck on in the past. Sun was bright, water was clear, and the local chubs were very interested in my huge spinners. I caught a half dozen chubs, including one that was pushing 14", before I finally tied into a decent trout. 16". Good start. But these are not the droids you're looking for.


This is exactly the type of stream you would expect to harbor monstrous fish. Deep, fairly slow, marginal temps, high collapsing banks, horrible muck along the sides...the kind of stream where the food sources vastly outpace the suitable spawning habitat. I found myself sunk way past my knees in mud fighting large fish a few times...adds a whole level of difficulty to fighting an 18"+ brown when you can't move your feet. Clever use of drag knobs and a large net helps, but I did lose a couple nice fish due to my lack of mobility.


Best fish I managed to land on Friday afternoon was a chunky 18 inch brown. Solid. But not what I was after.

By this time I was getting sick of slogging through deep muck, and hungry, so I wandered off to check out a couple of other streams. Limited success. Decided to finish the evening on an eased section of a very small stream that I know has some big bastards lurking...but due to the fishing pressure, they're rarely seen in daylight. But with an easy walk out, and the sun quickly setting, I figured I had a chance at least.


Managed a few smallish browns, before I finally got into something that put a bend in my Ugly Stik. It fought a lot harder than any 15" brown should have, but it was a gorgeous fish, so I was plenty pleased.


Kept working as quickly as I could, knowing I had about 30 minutes before it was too dark to fish even somewhat effectively...the nice thing about small streams in cow pastures is that you can just just jump from hole to hole, knowing any fish worth catching is not in a riffle at that hour.
Came to this hole with all the enthusiasm I could muster after 12 hours of fishing and driving around the county...(sorry for the blurry photo, it was getting dark quickly, and I didn't care for multiple takes after landing the beast that lived here)


First cast under the tree, and BAM. I think this is the fat little sister of the 5+ pounder I caught here last year. 19" and just obese. I guess this explains why I haven't been seeing all the tiny brookies I used to see in this section...


Again, terrible photo, but it was almost 9 PM at this point, and she just would not hold still, so in the interest of a safe release, I decided this was good enough.

Wandered back to camp with a smile on my face, had a few beers, and went to bed knowing I had one more full day to get the tanks I was really after.

Got to my stream the next morning, and after my three mile hike in, I realized the stream was somehow running chocolate. I was 50% pissed, and 50% confused. It hadn't rained. Did someone beat me to this remote location?! NO WAY! No cars at the access point. No footprints on the bank, or in the stream. What the hell?!

Somehow caught a fish on my first cast anyway...I must have plopped my spinner right on his head, because he was hooked before I had the bail closed. He was also (sort of?) foul hooked - he had it in the bottom of his chin. I think the water just so dirty he was sort of swiping blindly...who knows.


Then I heard a rumbling from over the bank, and saw my culprit...the field was being plowed. Knowing that there were 3 or 4 field road crossings and twice as many drain tiles along the bank upstream of my location, I poked my head over the bank, got the farmer's attention, and secured permission to hike upstream until I found clear water. thank heavens, because I was not about to slog 3 miles upstream legally in a stream that's hard to wade on a good day when the visibility was 3" at best.

Continued working my way upstream, catching tons of nice browns, and dealing with the occasional plume of chocolate. The farmer was still working the fields, but at least now I knew what was happening, and could just take a smoke break whenever it happened as I approached a nice hole, wait it out, and keep going. Started to get close to my exit bridge, and still hadn't found the monster I was hoping to find. Came across the last good hole in the section...and boom, here comes another plume of chocolate and grass. I was less than 30 yards from the last field crossing, and he had just mucked up the last good hole. Whatever, I knew what I was in for, so I just keep chucking my spinner, expecting nothing...but then I'm being pulled hard left, set the hook...and it's on!


At this point, I'm thigh deep in the mucky island - just to the lower left of the photo, completely unable to move, line screaming off my spool (which if you know how I set my drag, is a red flag that I'm into something huge).
After about 30 seconds of this fish thrashing back and forth across the hole and covering me in mud, I finally have her close enough to net...but she doesn't fit in the net. Not even close. Thankfully, two hooks are buried in her jaw, so I was able to keep her on after two or three failed attempts. I wish I had my buddy Ron and his GoPro with me taking video on Saturday, because I'm sure it would have been absolutely comical the way this fish was just slapping her tail in the mud at me while I failed to net her. Eventually beached her, crawled my way out of the mud, and pinned her long enough to take a photo.


At this point, she is still hooked in the jaw, and that's my blood on her face (my braided line sliced my finger when I grabbed hold of it to net her).
I grab my forceps, force open her jaw, wrench the hook out her jaw...and then she chomps down on my thumb - at which point I instinctively recoil my hand, tearing massive wounds in my fingers, and losing the lure back into her gaping maw...and then she literally swallows my half ounce plus spinner. Like, past her gills. The treble hook is now in the flap of her throat, and she's thrashing again, and now she's toast. It was actually so far down her throat that I couldn't reach it with my 6" forceps. duck. I just killed a magnificent beast...I really try not to kill big trout, but she wasn't in any mood to help me. I'd feel a lot worse about it, but she got me pretty good on her way out...


So I decided she was done for, and at this point we're both covered in mud and blood (mostly mine) - I remember that it's trout days in Preston, and that this fish would almost certainly qualify for the biggest fish contest, so I haul ass outta there to get to the National Trout Center before the 3 o'clock deadline...I arrive at 2:45, and learn that the contest rules have changed since last year, and that only fish caught in the South Branch Root in Preston proper are eligible...god damnit, I killed her AND I don't get the $200 prize...that would have covered a good chunk of the taxidermist's fee! But they did at least take some photos for me.


60 cm on the board. Enough to win the contest by a long shot...but not eligible.


Did some quick googling, made a few phone calls, and found a taxidermist in Rochester who would answer the phone on a Saturday afternoon...can't wait to get that one back. Measured 24" with the tape measure, and that's without pinching the tail...too bad they charge per inch, she's gonna be some expensive wall art :lol:

Went back to camp, told some fish stories, and decided I couldn't top that on Sunday, so I went home and took a nap instead. My thumb was too duck up to crank my reel anyway, I think I'm out of commission for another couple days...

Worth it.
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Postby S.T.Fanatic » Tue May 22, 2018 7:07 am

Not the end of the world. You'll be able to enjoy the mount the rest of your life. I have a nearly identical fish on my wall due to a somewhat similar happening. I tried to revive her for several minutes and I just wasn't confident enough to let her swim off.
“What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?” Aldo Leopold
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Postby shebs » Tue May 22, 2018 7:50 am

I'd probably feel more guilty about it, but I'm pretty confident there are others her size in there...
That's the third 20+ I've caught in there, and I've only fished it a half dozen times.
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Postby Skinley2 » Mon May 28, 2018 7:34 am

Love the "Fish Pic's and Report" for 5/18-19...

I am New to Minnesota, only living here for 1 Month, and Caught my First Rainbow couple of weeks ago. I was so Excited, 14"er and Thick and Healthy!
I will start writing about my adventures and Post Pictures! Great for Trout Public Relations, and Awesome Entertainment...
Thanks for the Report! Great Read during my Morning Coffee!

Good Fishing,
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