Stream trout are not just for anglers who are purists
Although Minnesota's stream trout season opened last Saturday, April 12 without much fanfare, trout anglers are quietly navigating the banks and beds of our area streams.
Most notable for trout aficionados is the Straight River, although a few reputable streams lay within a 30-minute drive.
Inland lakes, however, are not open to trout fishing at this time. Blue Lake, for instance, had an open winter trout season this year, but the season closed mid-March. Since it's not a stream, trout fishing remains closed on the inland lake until the season begins on May 10, the same day as the walleye and northern opener. The stream trout season on lakes runs through Oct. 31. Anyone fishing for trout throughout the year must possess a current Minnesota fishing license and trout stamp.
Doug Kingsley, Park Rapids Area Fisheries supervisor says that brook trout have not been stocked in the Straight Creek, the northern stream that trickles into Straight Lake, because of the snow cover. After two failed attempts, the introduction of "catchable" 6 to 8-inchers will still take place.
"Fortunately, we're seeing some natural reproduction in both the Straight River and Straight Creek", says Kingsley.
If you choose to head out to the stream, you may notice two types of trout anglers; traditionalists, and, well, not-so-traditionalists. Trout fishing traditionalists fish within a certain set of parameters. While brook and brown trout are the challenge, equipment, bait and ethics are the fundamentals. A fly rod, waders, creel and a small box combining both wet and dry flies are the only items required by traditional stream trout anglers.
However, not all trout anglers are purists. You might receive some gentle ribbing if caught with a container of nightcrawlers, even more so if you've stuffed a bag of pastel colored marshmallows into your fishing vest.
I'm not a traditional stream trout angler, but admire their dedication. My stream trout experiences typically begin with a frantic search for gear; a pair of waders improperly stored that may or may not keep me dry, typically the latter, a spinning rod that will undoubtedly hang up in the brush lining the bank, a small tin box of hooks, spinners and even a few tiny floats, otherwise known as bobbers. My first trout was fooled by a cheese puff, undoubtedly a non-traditional bait.
Yet no matter what type of trout fishing you do, traditional or otherwise, there are a few parallels. The first commonality is simply the setting. There's an ambiance to the sound of the moving water, the glassy lines drawn on the surface by the current, swirling eddies that gather floating debris and an earthy smell that's revealed beneath each cautious footstep across the river bottom.
The second similarity is the joy of landing a stream trout. Sure, the rhythmic cadence of casting a fly rod and battling a river dweller is unique, but when a trout is lying in your wet hands, its appearance is mesmerizing. They're quite possible the most beautiful freshwater fish available.
As both traditional and non-traditional trout anglers hit the streams this season, they'll hopefully unite in conservation. It's disheartening to discover an aluminum can or candy wrapper under foot. The stream trout resource is fragile and it's the angler's responsibility to remove any evidence of their expedition.