Trout streams a good way to enjoy spring – St. Cloud Times
Saturday is Minnesota’s stream trout opener, although the significance of the “opener” has changed some in recent years with the liberalizing of catch and release regulations for stream trout in their concentrated habitats in southeast Minnesota.
Beginning in 2014, trout streams within three southeastern Minnesota state parks went to year-round catch and release outside of the harvest season. Beginning on New Years Day 2015, a catch and release season on southeast Minnesota trout streams in eight counties ran until the harvest season started in April, and tacked on an additional month of catch and release fishing from September 15 to October 15. All that extra opportunity over the past couple years saw more anglers purchase trout stamps at a time when other fishing license sales remained flat.
Without the threat of law breaking, the midsummer thaws and occasional early spring heat waves are reason enough to string up fly rods. A couple of weeks ago on an unseasonably warm weekend day, I headed to Houston County with fellow fly fishing enthusiasts Trevor Bear and Michael Schoenecker. The assembled cast was easy to please; our only goal for the day was to catch a few fish and enjoy the sun’s warmth.
The trout too were easy to please. Nondescript weighted nymphs caught plenty of browns and a few more were taken on wooly bugger streamers. A few fish even started rising to a midge hatch, but by that time in the afternoon, the winds had become so strong that presenting a dry fly ahead of a rising trout would have been difficult. Not that I didn’t try. After five minutes of highly variable presentation landings that spooked a few pools’ worth of trout, my preschooler-sized attention span ran short and I returned to nymphing to sooth my bruised ego. I’ll never claim to be a great or even good fly caster, let alone in warm and near gale wind gusts.
Walking a river gives a person a chance to see just how things have changed over the past year. In our stream’s case, the river had flooded the past September. Southeast Minnesota has become a bullseye for heavy rainfalls in recent years and the area’s rivers show it. The point bars showed new materials deposited and a few stream banks were badly eaten away where the floodplain could not be reached by the river to dissipate energy. Change came outside the river too. Pink flags put out by Houston County Soil and Waters Conservation District marked public waterbody setbacks, better known as buffer strips. The adjoining farmers were working in compliance, leaving their crop residues bare inside the flagged edge and completing tillage outside the setback.
Near the end of the day, cold beers and venison summer sausage sandwiches tasted like king’s fare after cell phone pedometers counted off over seven miles worth of steps. A good day of trout fishing tromping about in a pair of waders will do wonders for cabin fever, to say nothing of promotion of cardiovascular fitness. My physician would probably commend my activity while equally denouncing my diet.
Whether you fish trout for a meal over the grill or you love watching them shoot back into the current following a quick release, trout anglers of all types have it good during spring in Minnesota.
This is the opinion of outdoors columnist Scott Mackenthun, an outdoors enthusiast who has been writing about hunting and fishing since 2005. You can follow him on Instagram @scottmackenthun and on Twitter @ScottyMack31.