March 19, 2010


A sure sign of spring: snow geese.

snow geese
On the way down to the river, the sky was filled with snow geese and canadian geese, both lessers and greaters, on their annual migration north. Coupled with the sound of rooster pheasants crowing to their harems of hens, the sky was busy with noise. The fields were bare and only the shelter belts held remnants of snow, a drastic differnce from two weeks ago, where nearly two feet of snow still blanketed the earth. You can guess where all that snow has ended up...

geared up
Flows were crazy, record for this time of year. I sound like a broken record, but it's been the damn truth; a stream gauge does not lie. Flows have been at or near record levels on the Otter Tail for the majority of the winter, and above the 80th percentile for nearly the entire duration of 2009 and all of 2010. High flows during the winter I can handle; the cold minimizes any melt and the river runs (fairly) clear. During the spring melt, however, the water is stained with suspended clay sediments, the turbidity making it nearly impossible to see into the water column. Besides the dispersal of fish escaping areas of high current, the high turbidity also affects a fish's ability to take a fly. You damn near need to bump them on the nose with a fly in order for them to notice it.

a face only a mother could love
No surprise that the only fish I managed to catch were shorthead redhorse. These guys are the olympians of the river. They love fast water. Take a look at the size of their fins compared to the their body; they are a swimming rudder. I typically find shortheads and greater redhorse holding in the highest current areas of the river. These fish can swim.

Fishing was brutal. I foul hooked a few buffalo and a golden redhorse in addition to catching the shortheads. The only thing that will improve fishing at this point is time. Time to let the flows simmer down, and time to let the water temps rise. Once water temps begin to rise above 40°F fish will start getting active again. They're gonna get ready to get their schwerve on. Until then, I need to get my act together and get busy filling in a few bare spots in my fly boxes.