It’s great to write those words. Brookies for days. Most Driftless rivers, where I usually fish, hold mainly browns. Some have a few rainbows. Select pools in select rivers hold brookies. My latest trip to northern Minnesota was a trip away from my usual rivers. It reminded me why I love fly fishing so much. Not like I’d forgotten, though.
The Baptism River flows through Tettegouche State Park. It’s about an hour northeast of Duluth on Highway 61, the road of Bob Dylan. Spring and fall fishing yield steelhead, which were initially stocked into Lake Superior, but have since begun naturally producing in the cold waters. Rainbows and brookies are quite common and can be found in upper and lower river segments. I came without a target of specific trout and was happy to see my results.
An evening of fishing the upper segments of the river near Finland, Minnesota yielded not-trout fingerlings. The fish were so small that when you would set the hook, you would pull them out of the water and throw them through the air. We’re talking three inches. I hit myself with a fish or two on this segment. Not even the deeper pools on the upper segment were showing much evidence of larger fish. It was time to hit the lower, larger river segment.
I posted up near a series of small waterfalls. Thinking this was the first large obstacle for fish traveling upstream, it would be a good spot to find holding fish. Foam was swirling below the tiny cascades, between me and my target water. While I was focused on the faster water, I neglected to see fish rising beneath me. They were rising literally under my nose. Because the foam was thick, they couldn’t see me. I thought it was too good to be true. Might as well try it out, I though.
First cast yielded a 9″ brookie. I placed a #12 Adams on the foam. It was gone in two seconds. When I was watching the fish rise, I couldn’t tell the species. What a fucking pleasant surprise to see a beautiful brookie to appear in my net.
As long as I wanted to stand there, I was landing fish. Few days in my trout-fishing past were as successful as my weekend on the Baptism. No matter the size, if you’re catching brookies on a beautiful day, you’ll remember why you love fly fishing.