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Fly Fishing at Whitewater State Park

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Fly Fishing at Whitewater State Park

(upbeat guitar music) – [Bret] Today, we find ourselves down in southeastern Minnesota, in an area known, as the drift-less region. It’s called that, because this was an area, that the glaciers missed.

So, that left us with high bluffs, and cool, clear, running creeks, and rivers, like the Whitewater River here, that’s next to us. I’m gonna learn how to fly fish. I don’t know how it happened. I fished my entire life, but for whatever reason, I never picked up a fly rod.

And when you have an area like this, kinda right in your backyard, ya have to try it out. So, we’re gonna go after some trout today. I’m gonna learn how to fly fish, with Mike Alwin, who’s been doing it for a long time.

So, wish me luck. Mike Alwin has been teaching fly fishing lessons, since 1980, and owned Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop, at Lake Elmo, for almost 20 years, before retiring in 2013. Before we headed to the stream, Mike taught me two types of casts.

Aerialized casting, where the line leaves the water, and anchored casting, where the line stays on the water, to load the rod. The most common, is the roll cast. – Your key position’s gonna look like this.

And the roll cast is gonna go like that! – Okay. – Slowly, lift that rod. Key position, nice. Now, drop the rod, we’ll make the cast. Good. Good, try again. – Okay. Now, the key here, is to get it up here, so that line can come back, and form that D, right? – Yeah, you want that thumb vertical.

The deal will pass it, behind your shoulder. – Okay. – Okay? Drop the elbow, make the cast. Good. (upbeat country music) There’s your roll cast! You got that, Bret? Oh, oh, there we go! Fish on! – [Bret] How’s it feel? – It’s a nice fish.

– So, here we are, five minutes into fishin’ here, at Whitewater, and you hook into a fish. And I thought we’d be catchin’ mostly browns down here. But, what do ya got there, Mike? – This is a rainbow trout.

Looks like, about, nine, ten, 12, 12 inches long. About a foot. Nice pink stripe. Dark stripes on the, dark spots on the top. – [Bret] Beautiful fish. (upbeat guitar music) – [Mike] And I’m gonna try to cover all of this water, between me, and that far bank.

And at this point, I can’t cast far enough. So, I’m gonna have to put a little more line out. And this is how you shorten it. Just like that. Here, you try. Come out here, and get a natural drift. Nice cast.

A little short. – Yeah, it didn’t quite go where I wanted it to, but… – Don’t ya hate when that happens? – (laughs) Yeah. – Okay, now. Let go of the line, on your rod. That’s it. Throw some line, into that riffle, but try to stay outta the tree, on the far bank.

A little bit wider. Straight, that’s it. Okay, now, roll that upstream. Good, nice cast! Keep the rod tip up! Oh! Rock? – Yeah. (Mike groaning) – (laughs) I got all excited, too! – [Mike] (laughs) Dang! Remember, the rod tip is what directs the fly.

It’ll, directs the fly line. The fly line is always gonna follow the rod tip. You want it over there, point the rod tip over there. – [Bret Voiceover] We moved upstream, to a shallow, rocky area, called a riffle, where fish hide out, in the pools.

– [Mike] See how the water, comes around like, if you go way up, to where you can see the water break this way, and then, it breaks this way, and then, it gets down to this run, and it breaks that way.

Okay? So, most of the food is gonna be concentrated, from the middle of this crick, to that bank. Now, this is where all the food is produced. And these chunks are hiding places. The pole lies, and that’s where fish like to hang out.

They’ll hang up in the deeper water, too. – I’ve heard of a lotta lies, when it comes to fishing. – Well, yeah. – Usually involves the size of the fish. – Yes. – [Bret Voiceover] There is much more to the art of fly fishing, than learning to cast.

Reading the water, and tying on a fly, that matches what the fish are eating, is fundamental. – Most of the people that I know, who like to fish, we like to fish dry flies. And a dry fly is a fly that’s designed to not penetrate the surface.

But, trout only feed on those mayflies, or caddisflies on the surface, about ten percent of the time. Yes, the time they’re underwater, making a living, munching bugs off the bottom. So, we fish on the bottom.

Lots of times, when these insects emerge, most of them swim to the surface. So, we use a wet fly, to imitate that. And a wet fly is just a, a fly that has some motion in it, and it’s cast downstream, and it swings through the surface.

When we fly fish, it’s a very athletic process. But, it’s really… A limitation that we put on ourselves. If the idea was to catch fish, to go on with a boatload of fish… – [Bret Voiceover] There’s easier ways to do it.

– [Mike Voiceover] Whether you’re fishing with a worm, or a minnow, or whether you’re fishing with a stick bait, for bass, or muskies, or somethin’. Or, whether you’re fishing with flies, or a Mepps spinner.

It’s just a different limitation. – Ultimately, you’re challenging yourself, to some extent. – [Mike Voiceover] Oh, yeah. Yeah. (soft guitar music) – [Bret] How’s my lesson going so far? Am I figuring this thing out? – Yeah, you’re doing fine! – You have confidence, that we’re gonna see me catch a fish on the show.

– No. (Bret laughing) – Great! – Those are two separate questions! (laughs) – [Bret Voiceover] Mike was right. I had a fish on a line. But, I didn’t land it. However, fly fishing isn’t something you learn in an afternoon.

Those with a passion for the sport, never stop learning. – [Mike Voiceover] I got introduced to this in 1972. I had a friend, who was in the Air Force, and he was stationed in Great Falls, Montana. And he said, “Come on out! “We’ll go fishing, in the Rocky Mountains, and backpacking, “and we’ll fish for trout!” And I grew up fishing, you know, throwing hardware, for bass and pike.

I had no idea what a trout was. So, we went out there. And he was the only one with a fly rod. And I watched him cast, and I watched him catch fish. And I thought, I missed something. There was nobody, in those days, to learn from.

So, you had to do it on your own. You watched a few people, and you read some books. And after three years, I was so… Demoralized. I took a fly fishing course, in West Yellowstone, Montana. And then, I started catching some fish! And I was just.

.. Entranced, by the whole thing. I was the first person, in the twin cities, to start actively teaching people… An organized system. And I kept working at it, and getting better, and better, and better.

It’s taken me 35 years, to get to the point, where my casting curriculum is really good. Ask him. The reason, you choose to fish with a fly line, and a fly, is because it’s interesting. There are tons of things to learn.

The last time I counted, there were 600 species of mayflies, in North America. Over 1,200 caddisflies, in North America. Thousands of species, of Midges, in North America. Well, that’s just a ton of stuff that’s interesting to learn.

You see what I mean, when I said that it was an athletic pursuit? – Sure. – It’s not… It’s not the same as fishing bait. It’s not the same as throwing a, you know, plastic worms into the lily pads, or bulrushes.

Here you are, out on a crick, nice surroundings, you never know what’s around the next bend. You look upstream, and you think, jeez, I wonder what’s up there. It’s just cool. – [Bret] It is! The surroundings, I think, are half of it.

Seein’ a landscape, like this, I mean… It doesn’t get much better than this. And, I like a challenge. I mean, I’ve, you know, I’ve fished for a long time, and… Never fished like this. And it’s definitely, it’s definitely a challenge to it, an art to it, a finesse to it.

And… That’s fun. You know, a fish may not have been very big, but… It’s fun. – [Mike] This is, this is just beautiful country. Why wouldn’t you wanna spend your time down here, doing this cool thing? (upbeat guitar music)

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