I’m going to cut to the chase. Things could be awful tough at times growing up on the mean streets of Marion, Iowa. By the time I was in high school in the late 80′s gangs had begun to ravage the primary “suburb” of Cedar Rapids. If I recall correctly a particular group referred to themselves as the “East Side Boyz” which was largely comprised of young lads from a rival high school. They were easily identifiable by their “gang” names printed on the side of their LA Kings hats. They’d take to the streets making money any way they could, often times partaking in such careless activities as bagging groceries at the neighborhood Hy-Vee grocery store or flipping burgers at Burger King.
I had the good sense to steer clear of such gang nonsense other than my unexplainable secret adoration for NWA. For me there was no greater rapper than Eazy-E. I wasn’t much of a rap fan, as I was bent to the punk and indie/alternative genres (I suppose before the terms indie and alternative had been coined).
While Gangsta Rap was sweeping the nation’s heartland, my crew and I often opted to cool ourselves in the murky waters of Indian Creek and the Cedar River. These streams along with a few local impoundments make up the bulk of what I referred to as my “home water.” Much of what I use today in search of trout was honed on the local warmwater system of my youth. My early exposure to trout came from my father, as one of his best friends hailed from the trout mecca of Montrose Colorado. Trout trips to southwestern Colorado were par for the course, but somewhat of an abstract concept compared to the small water, small fish of my neighborhood. I can recall watching in disbelief my dad skillfully extracted a pile of chunky Rainbows from the fast moving water of the Cimmaron River. In my kid brain, it’s as if he plucked the trout right from the clutches of Niagara Falls. His hook covered in feathers and long fiberglass rod were a far cry from my Zebco 202, casting bubble and salmon eggs. My trout fishing progression has been a marathon not a sprint. Warmwater creek fishing on the other hand was ingrained in my daily life.
This is only an educated guess, but this might be the most photographed spot in Minneapolis, if not all of Minnesota. Minnehaha Creek bisects the western half of the Twin Cities with Minnehaha Falls being the tragic last step of the creek before it makes it’s grand exit into the Mississippi River. It’s practically the sworn duty of every Minnesota resident to make a pilgrimage to the Falls, as if we’ve never seen water before. As it turns out the creek is the “home water” of my adopted “hood.” I drive across it multiple times a day, jog across it a few times a week, and regularly wade in it if the mood should strike.
Like my adopted streams of Waukesha County Wisconsin
few “serious” fisherman deem this small fishery worthy of pursuit. To date I’ve only ever seen two other fly fisherman, one was last Sunday and was comprised of a father and son duo enjoying the afternoon, the other was another guy that I stumbled upon in the midst of a “freshwater bonefish”
battle. Shhhhhh…don’t tell anyone, if you’re one of those “trendy” anglers seeking the much maligned carp you can find you match on this stream. On any given day you may see a few bait guys bypassing the creek all together in transit down to the mouth in search of loftier goals, or a few neighborhood kids wetting a line. But for the most part the fishing pressure is light.
The first rule of fishing below the Falls is you do not talk about fishing below the Falls. Shit. Ok, the second rule of fishing below the Falls is do not bother going on a weekend. This little gem has a non-stop flow of tourists visiting it, and on weekends in the summer it becomes a makeshift “Waterpark of America.” The uppermost portion of creek below the Falls is a super fake channel that I call “the Steps.” No joke I caught close to 20 smallmouth in the Steps the day before I snapped this pic. In recent years there has been significant habitat improvement work on the stream
, and in this case I’m a staunch supporter of the plan. While some sections aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing with placed rock structures and bank stabilization, they left enough real Freestoner in it to get my nod. At times you will almost feel like you’re exploring a small mountain stream and completely forget you’re in the belly of the 16th largest metro area in the U.S. Typically a tourist will wander by and ask you what you’re fishing for, which will help keep your daydream in check.
This volatile little stream can be full of surprises. You just never know what you’re going to find. From season to season and week to week water conditions and species can change. I spend most of my time chasing bass. Smallies for me aren’t some sort of midsummer methadone to give the trout a rest, I pursue them with the same intensity I did back in the Iowa Gangsta days. The 2012 campaign has found me struggling to find bigger fish. If you catch a Smallie pushing 17″ it’s a real treat. Much of the holding water has turned up a mix of little Walleyes and Smallies. The Walleyes will sit in the heavy current right alongside the bass and smash a streamer in the surface film. Not exactly classic Walleye behavior, but it works nevertheless. I’d prefer that a few of the Pool 2 trophies wander their way up from the big river, but I’m not holding my breath.
Pound for pound the Smallmouth is revered as one of the best freshwater fighters around. I’m sure Jeremy Wade
would render a much more educated opinion, but I tend to agree. For Minnehaha duties I opt for a 4-weight rod. You’ll find yourself overmatched if a bigger fish is screaming drag in heavy water, but that’s half the fun right? Generally speaking these fish aren’t picky, as any number of streamers or surface flies will do the trick.
I’m not sure if there are more mosquitos or pike in Minnesota? You can find them in the vast majority of our 10,000 lakes. Pike are a treasured fish on the fly for many, but virtually receive roughfish status from other angler segments. High water events out on the main river are a good time to explore the creek. Often times this will push fresh fish up into the lower section and this is when pike fishing is at it’s best. On this day they were crushing my Sloppy Joe fly!
Enough with the kid already? As if Jackie boy hasn’t gotten enough air time on the blog lately. Pay it forward is what I say. Will Minnehaha Creek be Jack’s Cimmaron River?
This is just another run of the mill neighborhood fishery. It’s both special and commonplace. Don’t we all have a quickie spot that we like to escape to? By giving my neighborhood spot airtime on Adrift I risk increasing pressure on this little wonder. I don’t spend much time worrying about it as the Falls is an urban fishery located in “South Central” Minneapolis. Many fisherman just don’t seem to be interested in “risking” life and limb to go fishing in the big city, and that’s just fine by the small cult of anglers who enjoy what urban life has to offer. Perhaps the old “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” phrase is applicable.
It’s sitting there in plain sight. I guess we’re all just Boyz-n-the-hood.