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
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