Fall has hit the Rush River

The trees around Minneapolis are a sea of green broccoli with red and orange sugar maples sparsely mixed in like a seasoning for the autumn we are about to enjoy. It’s a different story just over the border on Wisconsin’s Rush River. Fall, it seems, has already arrived.


I picked up my buddy Phil for a Saturday afternoon trip. That’s him in the photo above. The Wisconsin trout season will be ending soon, and the Minnesota season on its heels, just a couple weeks later. With the sun setting before 7pm these days, the only way you can get on the river is cutting work early or waiting for the weekend–we took the latter, though that isn’t to say we aren’t above the former. The drive from Minneapolis to this foreign-to-me spot on the river is just over an hour, so after parking the car, scoping out the water, gearing up, tying on and hiking to a spot, it’s a full 90 minutes from door to fly.

What I love about driftless fishing is the geography–steep bluffs that edge the river–and take you away to a place beyond the Midwest. I’m not sure where, but it doesn’t feel like Wisconsin. As they say, “trout don’t live in ugly places.”

The mile hike from the car to a spot was facilitated by the local sportmens’ club, which owns much of the land lining the river and maintains ATV trails. When you need to hike over a mile from your car to the spot, it’s nice to do it on dry land and avoid fumbling around in a rocky river.

The first spot we tried didn’t have many risers. I had one small brown target the nail knot connecting my fly line to my leader. Another brown took a spider off the surface, which happened to be the BIGGEST SPIDER I’VE EVER SEEN this far north and was crawling on my wrist a few seconds before. (The spider was black and brown with a hairy body and legs. If you stretched the legs, it would have measured three inches from end to end. Completely harmless to humans, but startled me silly.) You could also see a couple larger browns darting around rocks stalking nymphs in the fast water. This little one was all I could manage nymphing before a summer-like storm rolled in. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but that brown was more purple than anything else.

With just one more full weekend before the Wisconsin trout season is up, I’ll see if I can make it across the border for another go at the browns of the Rush.

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