One Fish

The Subaru was loaded up and ready to go at 10 a.m. on Saturday. I picked up Phil from Angry Catfish shortly after. He was waiting for me with two sprinkled cake donuts as requested. It was a wonderful way to start the morning. We were off and rolling to Whitewater State Park, one of the few areas in the state to fish trout this time of year.

This weekend marked the first time I’ve done anything outdoors in four weeks. When my doctor said I needed to rest 4-6 weeks to recover from pneumonia, I chose the smaller number. Four weeks of staying inside and resting is hell. No way could I wait two more weeks. Besides, trout aren’t going to catch themselves. It was sunny and 30F, but it felt like sunny and 75F to me. The fresh air with my new fly rod in my hand was all I needed.

Whitewater is a place I’ve caught plenty of fish. A day in June was one of the best fly fishing days of this season. I only stopped catching fish when I walked away from the river. Browns and rainbows, non-stop. That very spot was my first stop of the trip. What was a lively shallow pool teeming with hatching bugs in the summer was desolate on this trip. Water was up about six inches from normal. One soft bite was all I could muster after working a double-nymph rig for a half hour.

A friend of ours fished the river about a week prior to us making the journey down. He said the fish were biting like I experienced in June, though he didn’t say exactly where on the river. Time to hike.


To my surprise, bugs were hatching in the sunny areas of the river. We saw a handful of bugs rise from the water. In warmer climates, bugs hatch all year, but this is Minnesota. Maybe they’re confused on the location? (Mental note: bugs have no idea where they are).

We got to another area of the river. The plan was to hike until we could find the spot we heard about, fishing any fishy-looking spots along the way. Not much action was happening. I closed out the day at a good-sized pool about six feet deep. I knew it had to hold fish. After 15-20 minutes of nymphing, I saw something strange. A rainbow rose to the surface to feed on a bug. I thought it was strange to see a hatch at 30F, but this hole was in the shade and the sun was setting. It couldn’t have been warmer than 25F. Ah well. I saw it as an excuse to cast my new rod with a dry fly at the end. A caddis was the bug of choice. The rod is a dream to cast. On my first cast, I dropped the caddis exactly where the fish was holding. It emerged from behind its rock to examine this unexpected item on the menu. From a foot below the surface, it watched my bug float with the slow current–with a PERFECT drift, might I add; wonderful fly presentation–then swam away. That was the last I saw of that rainbow.

Phil had some luck at a different spot, so we won’t waste any time in fishless holes when we go back to the river this coming weekend. The temp should be 50F, perfect for fishing. Maybe we’ll get to use a few more dry flies this time? Cross your fingers.

Also, thanks to Phil for involuntarily modeling.


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