2017 was a year full of fly fishing for the two of us. Living in Minnesota, near the Wisconsin border, offers us a great variety of water to explore and fish to target. In 2017, we enjoyed each of the seasons and embraced the benefits and challenges that came with them.
Winter in the Driftless can be tough. With average temps below freezing, trout become lethargic and slow-moving. In addition, accomplishing simple tasks, such as tying on a fly, become more challenging. We had to tough out some cold days and scratched ice off the eyes of our rods hundreds of times, but on the flip side, we enjoyed the peace and quiet that comes with winter fly fishing. Senses are heightened and signs of life stand out. Little things are appreciated and time is valued.
We started the year off strong and were fortunate to get out most weekends. When brown trout were finicky, we enjoyed finding aggressive brook trout in pools deeper than many of the creeks were wide. Each fish we caught was a treat, and considered a bonus to any day.
Winter had its perks and offered some great experiences, but we welcomed the warmer weather that came with spring. For me, spring started with a quick trip to Tampa where I caught my first saltwater fish on a fly rod, and brought some of the warm weather back home.
In the Driftless, spring is one of the best times to fish. Water temps rise and fish become more aggressive. Trout in the net became less of a rarity and our horizons broadened to include more species. I was able to add carp to my fly fishing resume thanks to some great teaching from my buddy Josh and Abigail caught her first pike on the fly. The boat saw the lake for the first time of the year on a rainy day in May, with our crew landing some largemouth and northern. In addition, my net held a 20” brown and a WILD tiger trout for the first time ever this spring.
A trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota acted as our spring season finale. We had the chance to explore multiple new streams and meet some great people. Fishing an unfamiliar region offered challenges that we enjoyed working through and resulted in the satisfaction that comes with realizing improvement.
Summer was the season of the mouse. We explored new areas during the day, only to return during the cover of night in search of aggressive meat eaters. We became creatures of the night, spending dozens of hours in the dark using the moon and the lamps strapped to our heads as our guides. On many occasions, success was found; but on every occasion a story was created. Mousing is a different game and one we still have more to learn more about, but we made large strides this summer.
When we weren’t “fishing in the dark” (see what I did there?), we were out on one of the thousands of lakes scattered across our region catching crappies, bass, pike and in Abigail’s case… musky…
Fall is our favorite time of year, especially in the Driftless. Fish become opportunistic feeders and the changing colors create a beautiful backdrop to every outing. The trout season in the Driftless closes in mid-October, so we tried to get out on the streams as much as possible. There are few things more exciting than seeing an aggressive brown trout rise from a deep hole, or logjam to crush a 6” streamer ripping just below the water’s surface.
After the trout season closed, we took a few shots at the fish of 10,000 casts, and were rewarded with a few pike and follows from curious musky. I also took a quick trip to a Lake Michigan tributary with my buddies Drew and Nick and caught some big ol’ coho salmon and Abigail and I headed back down to Florida where we enjoyed amazing weather and caught some snook.
While most streams closed in October, Minnesota’s “State Park Season” allowed us to scratch our trout itch in between the fall and winter catch and release season. We made it down to a few of these southern Minnesota parks and enjoyed time on the water with people that we don’t get the chance to fish with often, and some that we were able to meet up with for the first time.
From the salt water of Florida, to the Black Hills of South Dakota, up to cold Lake Superior tributaries near the Canadian border, 2017 was a great year of fishing and adventure. We have enjoyed the places fly fishing took us and the people it allowed us to meet and build relationships with. We are anxiously waiting for the 2018 season to open and have high expectations for what it will bring. We appreciate the support we’ve received so far and look forward to exploring new water with new people as well as good friends. We hope you all have a good 2018 season and look forward to seeing some of you on the water.
Micah & Abigail