July 25, 2019:
Welcome Back to the NTC’s The Voice of the Driftless: After the floods.
As soon as we posted the fishing report last week it started to storm. Friday we had to issue a Flash Flood Alert just the day after we were predicting great fishing. In fact some of the areas, from Preston south into Iowa, and east to Wisconsin, did not get flooding rains and fishing was great. But a large area, 20 miles on either side of I90 got hammered with more than 5” in the last week.
A large part of the Driftless in Minnesota had flash floods – the streams came out of the banks and rolled rocks and scoured the stream bottom. The Whitewater River system, all the way east to Coon Creek and Viroqua in Wisconsin got flushed and had significant damage in low lying areas.
The good news is that the South Branch of the Root River from Forestville to Lanesboro, and the tributaries to those streams were unaffected. We should have excellent fishing there until we get another shot of rain and the other streams have cleared and are fishable today.
It is worth considering the impact of flash floods on the streams. Tonight I went to a favorite spot on Gilmore Creek in Winona. Three weeks ago I was having good luck there and the trout were fat. I was catching a suprising number of 12”+ brown trout on this little stream. Before the flood last weekend every rock in the stream was crusted with caddis cases, a few mayflies were hatching, and midges were abundant. The trout were actively pursuing big Rapalas. Tonight was a different story.
As I walked the stream Wednesday night it was obvious that last Saturday and Sunday the water rose at least six feet out of the banks and the flood scoured the stream bottom. None of the bedrock or stones had caddis, and I did not see any rising insects. The trout were not as abundant and I only caught small fish, but they were hungry. I caught just two fish in 1 ½ hour. Three weeks ago in the same stream I caught four fish an hour and three of the seven fish I caught were in the 12-14” size range. Quite a difference. Im afraid that this same thing happened in the streams over a wide range of the Driftless.
I went fishing with some novice trout anglers this week and observed some real safety concerns as they were wading in the stream. I think that trout fishing is one of the most safe outdoor activites, but, you have to know how to walk in rushing water, on rocks, over logs and on difficult terrain.
As a geolgist I have been hiking over rough terrain for over 50 years; it is second nature to me, but most new people need some instruction. Here are a few of the tips I passed on to my novice friends:
· Use a hiking staff or stick. Three points of contact on the ground means that you can always lift a leg and still have two. This gives you stability. A walking staff gives you the stability and confidence to get to the exact best spot to make your presentation whether you are spin or fly fishing.
· Never, ever stand or walk on wood or logs…never. It will be slippery, the bark can come off and you can end up on your butt. Don’t step on wood!
· When you are walking on rocks there two important rules:
o Only step on embedded rocks that are buried in the sediment. Embedded rock won’t move.
o Never put your full weight on a loose rock that weighs less than three times your weight. Smaller rocks can shift or tilt and put you right on your butt in the middle of the stream.
· Be careful to avoid deep muck or quicksand. Walk around the muck. Mel Haugsted the old fishing manager from Lanesboro had SEVEN hernia operations from pulling his guts out trying to get unstuck from the mud. Getting stuck over your knees in the mud is a mess, and it can be dangerous; you might have to lay on your back or swim out of the heavy muck.
The fishing will be great this weekend around the area! Right up the road at Mill Creek the reading was at 35cm which is drastically better from last week. In town at Camp Creek the transparency was 46cm which shows the streams keep getting better and better here. At the South Branch of the Root in town the level was at 68cm this is an improvement of almost 30cm from last week and is amazing for fishing!
Get out there and go fishing this weekend! The forecast looks great for the weekend and the streams and river do too! The South Branch of the Root is the best condition of any that I have seen so come in town here and go fishing on our 9-hole fishing course!