Welcome to our Home Waters Series

SE Minnesota Home Waters
By Craig Thorpe, (chub), Minnesota


Minnesota is a place that many people think of in conjunction with fishing. With over 10,000 lakes and additional thousands of miles of waterways available the state has a natural allure for the fish seeker. Southeastern Minnesota is rich in cold running trout streams, with very good fishing throughout the area.

On a beautiful summer day last June my charming bride and I set off on an expedition to really no place specifically, just out to tour Southeastern Minnesota. As the Twin Cities started to fade in the mirrors we were heading down highway 52 south looking for and at trout streams. We turned east in Oronoco and headed for Plainview. As we approached Plainview I had the same reoccurring thought as to why would settlers have named a place with a name like Plainview. They probably didn't expect much of themselves or their new home; not really overly thrilled to be there, just didn't want to ride in the wagon anymore. South on County Road 4 to 25 then to 26 and we were in the town of Elba, one gas station and two bars with grills. It's also at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Whitewater River and Trout Run. One of the DNR listed premier streams of the area is the Whitewater River. Quite a bit of it runs through the Whitewater State Park and it's a money funnel for the DNR.

As we drove through I quickly scanned the river and concluded that there had to be someone fishing about every 150 feet. Way too crowded for this man, so we moved on. We headed south down 74. Crossed I-90 and went through St. Charles. We discussed dabbing a fly in Trout Run Brook but decided since it was the middle of the day we probably would do better to go into Chatfield to see about a place to sleep, then come back and fish.

Chatfield is a nice town. Looks as if it's claim to fame was the trucks rolling up US Highway 52 on their way to Rochester or Minneapolis/St. Paul back in the forty's or fifty's. Now it's an old town/new town place. The doctors from Rochester are building houses up on the hills around town overlooking the old town area. Right in the middle is the very reason that they have a valley, Mill Creek. We stopped at the Val-A Lodge in Chatfield where it says on the card Alice Ernster is the Boss Lady. It has maybe 17 rooms of which 4 or 5 are theme rooms. Imagine what the Africa Room would look like and you're probably close. After we secured the room we hopped back in the truck.

Just to the north of the lodge, at the end of the parking lot, is the road that crosses Mill Creek. We crossed the creek and took the first right. Stopping at the first farmhouse, I hit pay dirt. The older guy on the riding lawnmower was the owner of the pasture that was between us and the creek, and when I asked if I could fish it he told me a very long story that was completely appropriate because neither of us had anything else to do. Then he assured me I could fish the creek. Since there where cows in the field I asked if there were any bulls. "Oh sure," he says, "but he won't hurt anybody." I had told my wife that I would be taking her out for dinner, and it was almost dinner time, so I decided I would begin fishing in the morning. Maybe the cows and his highness (the bull) would be in the barn, a guy could get lucky.

The next morning I awoke to find it raining. Not a hard rain but one of those slow rains where the water doesn't seem to weigh enough to fall. You'll see tiny little raindrops going all different directions and it would take you quite a while to get wet. When your in a rural environment with a rain like this, your obligated to say "Good rain for the farmers" and if your talking to someone they say "yep, really good for the corn" and if you find yourself standing in a crowd the third person says "knee high by the fourth of July." (Believe me, this entire exchange makes a lot more sense if you're standing out in the rain.)

I grabbed my gear and headed down to the stream. The stream in this area is 3 to 6 feet wide, and ankle to head deep. Over centuries, it has cut itself into the pasture to a depth of 6 to 10 feet, so when you're standing at creek side you can't see the pasture. In most areas it probably drops off at a 60 degree angle. That really adds to the secluded feeling; even though you could walk up the bank, across the back pasture, over the fence, and you're at Subway.

When I jumped the fence and walked down the bank all the cows that where at that end of the pasture had to do that staring thing that cows do. Perfectly normal behavior for a cow, it's when the human that you brought with has to stop and stare back I worry. Another benefit to fishing alone, for those of you who are keeping track. Have you ever noticed though that cows have brown eyes. I think it's something like 85% of the human population has brown eyes. I personally think brown eyes are very expressive. It seems like you can almost read the mind behind the brown eyes. Don't you think? Oh well, I'm way off the topic here, back to the stream story.

Mill Creek is fairly typical in that it's a series of pools connected by riffles and packed with brown trout that are 12 to 15 inches. I was the only person I could see fishing, and I was having a ball. I worked my way across the pasture from south to north, and about half way across I ran into a pool that was too deep even at the edges to get around so I had to walk up the bank and across the pasture to get around it.

When I climbed up the bank and was standing in the pasture my gaze fell onto the largest bovine I had ever seen. He looked at me and I looked at him and all the cows in the vicinity looked at both of us. All of the cows were looking at him with their expressive brown eyes with a look that said "Welllll!!" He looked back at the cows with his big brown eyes and shot them a look that said "Ladies, I have this under control." And I swear you could almost hear a collective thought from me and the cows that said "That's a lot of bull." Just with different inflection. So before anything in the situation changed I turned and slid back down the bank to the creek.

I was able to pull 5 or 6 nice browns and a rainbow from this larger pool. Rainbows are fairly rare in Southeastern Minnesota. Although Mill Creek isn't rated too highly by the state, I would recommend it as a nice place to spend a day or two. I hope someday, you'll be able to enjoy it too.

Hey, if you find yourself in the Mpls/St. Paul area and have a fly rod in your suitcase, call me and we'll do some fishing. ~ Chub

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