American Fly Fishing

A Waterfalls Wonderland
By Carl Haensel, with Jade Thomason

Baptism River and Tettegouche State Park, MN

Palisade Head towers hundreds of feet above Lake Superior just a mile south of the mouth of the Baptism River. The promontory offers sprawling views of Minnesota’s North Shore and is one of many fantastic features of Tettegouche State Park. Photos by Carl Haensel and Jade Thomason

The roar of the rushing water filled my consciousness as I worked to push a roll cast closer to the churning froth at the base of the falls. The swirling waters made casting challenging, and the moment the small streamer landed, it was ripped away by the swift current. Still, I believed a large trout was sitting there, waiting. We had seen them jumping, trying in vain to ascend the falls, not knowing that it towered dozens of feet higher than they could leap.

After another 10 casts, I nearly gave up and headed downstream to easier pools and runs. I stuck with casting, however, pushing the 5-weight rod as far as I could, working around the dark basaltic rocks that stuck out at odd angles from the shoreline. Then, in an instant, a fish struck. Diving deep into the tannin-stained water, the fish fought doggedly against 3X tippet, using the current to its full advantage and almost leaving the pool.

When the fish finally tired, I was able to glide it across the surface of the water and slip it into my net. There it lay for a second, the crimson belly brilliant in the mist-speckled sunlight. The white edges of the fins and the red spots surrounded by blue halos were unmistakable markings of another wild brook trout. Emptying it out of the net, I watched it quickly disappeared back into the depths of the pool.