Our erratic winter weather patterns continue. Normally it’s subzero snotsicles here in Minnesota, not today. An investigation of the freshly minted habitat improvement section of Hay Creek was in order with the opening of our winter C&R season. It’s almost blasphemy that I’ve never fished this stream over the last 15 years, as it’s one point of the Twin Cities “Bermuda Triangle” of trouting (along with the Rush and Kinni), but for some reason I’ve never been particularly interested in fishing it. This little creek has been ground zero of Twin Cities TU habitat improvemnt efforts over the last few years, the extent of which I wouldn’t comprehend until I walked it’s banks. I didn’t do exhaustive research before my departure other than a quick review of the arial maps compliments of our friends at google. This stream’s reputation proceeds itself, a high numbers small fish buffet line.

 

I can’t be certain that it hit 59 degrees today, but that’s the temp that the bank in Red Wing was showing so I’ll go with it. This is practically unchartered territory for early January. Typically I’d be sitting in my ice house starring at blips on my Vexilar struggling to stay warm and sane. Instead I find myself staring down at my legs wondering, “are my freshly patched waders leaking or is there an excessive sweat issue to contend with?” Thankfully it was sweat.

 

There’s a good reason why you won’t find me ice fishing the big pond right now. Take a look at this fascinating pic of Minnesota walleye mecca Mille Lacs from our good friend Paul Douglas. Does that ice look safe to you?

 

I knew based upon reviewing the maps that this section was a promising looking pasture stretch, what I underestimated was the freshness and extent of the HI work done by TU. It’s a sterile environment devoid of any cover, and the winter season only exacerbates the issue. You would be hard pressed to find any manor of natural wood or cover along this stream. Not a layown, shrub or tree for that matter. I’d imagine this is what fly fishing would be like if there was significant water on the moon.

 

 

After spooking a few fish with a small streamer I switched to a small nymph rig. No dice, the fish were extremely skittish and a stealth approach was in order. I decided to just walk the stream for awhile to get a better survey of what fish holding lies have been created. I soon concluded that midges and possibly BWOs were going. A trusty dry dropper rig was just what the doctor ordered with a tiny adams and emerger dropper.

 

Unfortunately for me these fish were temperamental and you rarely got more than one shot at a riser before putting them down. Slogging through the muddy moonscape on your knees was the only approach to get at these fish, otherwise it was game over. I don’t know who felt more exposed the trout or the angler?

 

 

 I only made it as far as this corner pool, which looked like it was freshly lined with tombstones and shipping pallets as the undercut. The number of anglers upstream (and my growing desire to move downstream to check out some of the natural water) forced me back to the truck. I hadn’t prepared very well for my new job as the “one man movie crew”. Clumsily, I hadn’t charged the battery on my GoPro all the way, and only compounded the problem by unknowingly leaving it filming several times which quickly drained it. I only captured the first part of my outing.

A quick run down past the campground to explore the wooded sections proved to be fruitful with more tiny browns to challenge. Honestly Hay Creek will not make it on to my go to places to fish, but how can you complain about warm weather and rising trout in January? I just hope the Minnesota DNR expands the stream list for the 2013 winter season to include more quality streams in the Driftless region.

Hay Creek: One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?