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The New Fishing Year began for me with a foray into the depths of the South Branch of the Root River in Preston, Minnesota; air temperature of 27°, water temperature 39°, flow rate at Carimona about 200 cfs and crystal clear in spite of the relatively high winter flow. At mid-day, very few fish at the surface, but enough action on the purple prince and olive woolly bugger to hold my interest until my fingers would no longer close on the line guides firmly enough to dislodge the ice.
Catch and release will prevail here until the traditional opener in mid-April. The lower temperatures in the winter fishery present a more benign environment for handling live fish, in contrast to summer water temperatures in the 60s. Keeping the fish wet while dislodging the hook remains the key to high survival rates upon release. Experienced anglers will also recognize that the fish are somewhat less vigorous in fighting the tackle but this does not mean that anglers will land a higher proportion of hooked fish. Icy streambanks and close monitoring of weather changes require additional vigilance if your winter fishing is to be safe and effective.
Fly patterns, too, will reflect seasonal changes. Midges will be hatching in every month of the year, but there are some very good January hatches of caddis and tiny dark stoneflies, also known as “snow flies”.
My choice for Saturday’s fishing was a #14 Bead Purple Prince. The white biots and grizzly collar in front of a “Vikings” purple body wrapped down with copper wire made a colorful offering that would fish close to the streambed. While at least 2 hook sizes too large to imitate anything crawling about in the gravel, it has an eye large enough to thread a tippet through, and, without that…….
If it is not seduced by migratory urges in the next few months, the fish posing for the photo above will await you near the long slick between Holes 7 and 8 of the National Trout Center 9-hole fishing course in Preston.
Wishing you all the very best in the New Year!