May 2009


Saturday, May 16th, 2009
Well, here we are in St. Croix County. Hudson, Wisconsin. It’s Saturday, the 16th of May. I am here with my brother Joe and we are going back to the oldest of haunts: the Willow River, the Rush River, and the Kinnickinnick River. We’re going back to the early 90’s this week, bringing the skills of over 16 years to bear.

We stop by the Cty A crossing on the Willow River to have a look at our original stomping grounds. This is where it all began. We have not returned here for over 8 years – a measure of the other waters available here in Wisconsin. As we walk along the edge of the river, my memory echoes the laughter and banter of my children all those years ago. The water twists and slides along, rushing against mid-river boulders and gurgling over rocks and timber strewn about the near bank. I stand there listening to its soothing sounds as I revisit precious memories. We would camp at the Willow River State Park – always at the same site. We tent-camped in Laacke & Joys original canvas tents made right here in Milwaukee. We would always bring a cooler with a small block of dry ice to keep the milk and eggs cool and the ice cream frozen. We did this every year from 1994 through to about 2001. We always found our way over to the Willow River at this Cty A crossing, or just below the mill pond dam, or further downstream by the “Willow River Race”.  We may return to visit these sections later, but for now we are headed south to try our hand at the Kinnickinnick River and its abundant brown trout.
We pull off at the State Park Wildlife Refuge at Cty F where it crosses the Kinnickinnick River. There are about half a dozen cars here and an empty canoe rack – so some people canoeing the river today. The sign here says “no hunting or trapping”. You have to have a State Park sticker on your vehicle to park here. We stopped up at the Willow River State Park and got ours there. Let’s explore the Kinnickinnick River and see what a category 5 water in Western Wisconsin has to offer us.

Walking upstream, our map of past years tells us to hoof it for about 30 to 40 minutes to get to some select water. There is a path on the north bank of the river that runs along the river for most of its course.

This allows us to watch for flashing and rising fish as we work out way upstream. I recall from past years an extremely small spring brook flowing into the K from opposite bank. I sampled the insects there and was delighted to discover a rare species of caddis – identified from photos that I took back then – pointing to the outstanding nature of this fishery.

We hop into the river after about 30 minutes and warm up our casting as we hop and skip over each other to sample different sections of the river – still continuing upstream. I am just above a nice S-curve with Joe fishing the slot below me when. I can hear him call out that he has just lost a nice brown. I have yet to even tag a fish up through these pools. It is tremendously deep here, so I am fishing a very long leader with a tungsten bead-head prince stonefly – my own variant.

Prince Stonefly Variant (Tied by Paul Stillmank)

This Kinnickinnick River is about as pretty a river as I have ever seen. Perhaps we should have been fishing it all these years. It has beautiful limestone walls, some of them just seeping with water – reminiscent of the early Willow River before they removed the dam at the old Mill Pond. That Pond piled a lot of water into the surrounding limestone for a dramatic effect downstream. That is all gone now along with the trout. The Dam removal was botched and shallow springs were wiped out. There are still trout to be found here, but it is more of a warm water fishery now. Sad. And one of only a few situations where a Dam removal produced a poor result.

The Kinnickinnic is a natural wonder – there are no dams at all here. I trace my way back along a small fork in the river that runs up to a low limestone ridge. Water is seeping from the porous stone. It is cold here. Life is drawn both to and from this spring. Where the water seeps from the stone, dark mosses are growing –hanging down as they follow the water toward the river below. Where the spring enters the river, the water is as deep and dark as that moss – no doubt harboring large Salmo trutta in its depths.

I just fished through a beautiful piece of water which I have no doubt had trout in it, but I am walking away fishless. I’ll be analyzing why in my mind as I work further upstream. There are bugs coming off. There are birds on the water in countless numbers, swooping down and taking Caddis as they take flight from the water’s surface. However, no fish rise here except for a red horse that startled me as it leapt more than a foot out of the water about five feet away from me. I’m moving up to find Joe, see how he’s faring, and pick out another piece of water.  

When I catch up with Joe, he is fishing along another limestone bluff. It is deep here with some wood down below. It is a deep and dark hole. Joe throws a little pheasant tail nymph back in there and is rewarded with a nice 12-inch brown trout. So Joe’s into fish and I’m still fishless!

Joe Casting Along a Limestone Wall

I photograph some of the bugs here. There are some Stenonema Vicarium. There are also some large mayfly nymphs from the clinger class that I will have to look up when I get back to make sure we get them properly identified.  I photographed some of them along with the appropriate imitations from my fly box. Have a look:

Matching Underwater Insects

I know I’m getting to the bottom. I know I’m swinging the fly right. Where are the trout? Finally on the way back downstream, we come across a large rock outcropping cutting a line in the water. I work my same rig since the water is both fast and deep coming off of this rocky ledge. Bang! I finally hook up with a nice one – just north of 12-inches.

When I catch back up to Joe, he reviews his day noting a couple of browns in the 12-inch class. He also describes a big one that got off. He was mid-river in a nice, deep run and he got the brute all the way to the scoop when he realized that he had no scoop! Another one for the memory books! He said it went at least 17 inches. He truly put it together much better than I did today. We noted on the drive back out that he was fishing much lighter bugs and shorter leaders. With some of the hatches present, that might have been warranted – the fish were looking up!

Sunday, May 16th, 2009
A new day, a new river. It’s afternoon already. Having noted the condition of our backs at the end of our long day yesterday, we decided to get on a bit later today, affording us a little reserve strength for the evening hatch. We’re headed to the Rush River area. We turn off of Hwy 72 and head south. It amazes me that these old roads used to have such fantastic names. We used to get into this river at a bridge on “Stonehammer’s road”. Now it’s called nnn-th avenue. In any case, we will start out today on a tributary to the Rush River that we first fished back in 2003. This little tributary is another beautiful creek with limestone walls and a couple of deeper pools. I recall a nice brown trout in the 16-inch class taken on Ross Mueller’s “dark ribbed yellow” nymph http://bit.ly/5PSxhs . We may actually fish through this area and on into the woods above. It’s heavily posted there, however the regulations say that we can go through there as long as our feet are wet and our purpose is intent on fishing.

We’ll finish up on the Rush River itself later today – perhaps on a new section. Then we will wrap up the day with an evening hatch on the section above our old Stonehammer’s Road.

We begin on that tributary first. There are some smallish trout here. We can see them finning in the different pockets. The creek here is perhaps 15 to 20 feet wide. There are limestone bluffs along its edges. I’ve moved up just below a memorable location. This is where I took the largest of browns from this water in 2003 (see image to the left).
The lesson here is that rivers change and the memory of a spot is never quite the same years later. And that is the nature of rivers. The water was a bit deeper here in 2003. The corner where I had caught this fish still hosts the large bolder that I remember jutting in from the edge, however the bottom is much shallower now perhaps ravaged by 6 year of spring flooding. There is still a nice foam line here paried by the large boulder and I have a go at it. As I work the section hard and it only yields a 6-inch brown to a combination rig of a #4 Elk hair caddis and a #18 bright green crystal flash caddis emerger with a puffy black head. The trout takes this trailing fly.

As I swap out my rig, a fly box hits the drink. Ouch!  I’ll have to dry that box out this evening to avoid hook rust.

I reach another bridge and cross it to find a fast run of pocket water. I recall this spot as well. A dark, beadhead mayfly nymph trailing a short line to a strike indicator did the job last time. I rig it up. Again, the water is much shallower, especially for this time of year. The water is cold. I don’t have my thermometer, but it is trout cold.

We didn’t do so well on that first section of water. However, at 6:30p we are still on that same tributary. Why? Because we moved downstream to do a bit more fishing on a new section where the water was a little bigger. We saw some trout finning here above another bridge and decided to hit it. We moved through the small gate attached to a tree. Joe took a little nap on the grass here while I distracted myself with a few small brook trout, the largest was 7-inches – a mail with good colors.

Next, I headed upstream while Joe headed down. The upstream section was beautiful and cold. I ended up walking along an underwater ledge on the upstream left side of the river and watching the glide next to me as a large, behemoth brown moved up and down the river. I tried in vain to catch this brute, but he was much too old and wise for me. I would have to fish here after dark sometime with a mouse or large streamer.

I finished up this section trying to swing fly down to my quarry – a pass lake wet. No good. I headed downstream to find Joe. Amazingly, Joe was also fishing the Pass Lake Wet when I caught up to him.

This downstream section has some incredibly deep, green pools flanked with limestone and downed timber. Joe found a spot where he could cast his wet fly up stream into a nice pool and strip it back down. He took successively larger brook trout on each cast:

Successively Larget Brookies With Each Cast

Rush River Tributary

Joe and I fish down a bit further and to some sporadic risers before heading back up to the bridge in hopes of an evening hatch on the section upstream of Stonehammer’s Road.

Caitlin Extracts a Brown Trout in the Rain – Rush River 2003

 

Stonehammer’s Road

We arrive Stonehammer’s much too close to dark. I high tail it straight for a specific spot. Joe dives into the river about half way up. I arrive at my destination. I remember it very well. I remember a little sleuce dumping into a massive pool below. There are fish rising above.
River’s bring back memories. This is where Caitlin and I fished together. I remember leaving Caitlin to her own means and then returning later to find her intently working on a rising trout. She had been using a nymph here and greasing it so that it would stay in the surface film – and I was truly amazed at everything she had learned. I mean she couldn’t have been more 11 or 12 years old. She hooked that fish and there was an old, left over remains of a beaver hut – obviously gone now – and I remember Caitlin getting here line wrapped up around those sticks as I tried to help her net that well-earned fish. I wanted it so badly for her. And of course it got away. But the memory remains…

The next year she landed her prey, albeit amidst a drenching rain.

I’ve walked a little further upstream now. More memories. I could not be happier with the time and energy that I invested discovering these places years ago. It is a treasure to come back here. I step into the old spots and let new water flow over my waders. I swing flies to rising brown trout and make some new memories.

Back at the hotel, I pull all the bugs out of that soaked box and dry both them and the foam to avoid the risk of rusting the hooks. The flies look like an army lined up for battle as they dry out over night.

Drying Out the Nymph Box

Monday, May 17th, 2009

Back to Stonehammer’s for a partial day. We will finish early, heading back to Waukesha and Milwaukee in time to see the babies before they go to bed. We decide to push beyond the bend that I finished on last night. That spot always seemed to be the upper end of the water that we ever walked into on this river. We are now well above that looking at what really has to be a fantastic spring creek. There are deep green pools running along towering limestone bluffs. Some plunge pools. There are some smaller fish rising to dries here. I was able to get one in. We are fishing heavier rods here due to the brutally heavy wind that we have to contend with. We’re hitting the 6-weights. The fish are small and the stiff rods do not have much give on smaller fish, allowing them to flip off before they come to hand. It’s gorgeous back in here and we vow to return her for an evening hatch – not today though.

The walk back out takes about 10 minutes from this spring creek like water back down to “Caitlin’s bend”. It is another 8 minutes to the car including the time to snap a few photos of the forest floor:

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Tuesday, May 12th and Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
 

Planes are steadily coming and going from the General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The FJ is parked outside of baggage claim for only a short time when Ingemar emerges, bags in hand. Ing and I have known each other for about 8 years. We worked for the same company in different cities back in the late 90’s. However, it wasn’t until the aftermath of the dot-com bust in 2001 that we were thrust in front of each other as we fought to get a fledgling company off the ground. We immediately hit it off. We both approach work and play with the same intensity, passion, and resolve. Life eventually took our careers in different directions; but we stayed connected through our fishing – making occasional treks in late March for Michigan steelhead on famous rivers like the Rogue, the Manistee and the Pere Marquette. In all that time, we never fished my home waters, so I feel pretty damn good about heading out with Ing for a couple days to a favorite spot or two.

We are headed for Vernon County: a county that sits right in the middle of the “driftless area” and is host to hundreds of miles of trout streams. “Driftless” refers to the lack of glacial drift meaning the material that gets left behind by retreating glaciers. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, this area was spared one last pounding by the driving nature of glacial drift.  The Wisconsin Glacial Episode was the last major advance of ice in the region, and its retreat started far to the north of this area. Being spared helped to preserve deep valleys, high limestone bluffs and the perfect chemical make-up for some of the best trout streams in the world.

Driftless Region

Driftless Region

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driftless_Area

Ingemar always introduces me to local fly-shops during our forays in Michigan, so our first stop is a fly fishing shop in Viroqua called The Driftless Angler. Mat Wagner is the owner. Mat left his Rocky Mountain paradise in the winter of 2006/07 to pursue a new paradise right here in Wisconsin: The Driftless Area. He opened his shop in February of 2007 and has never looked back. Mat maintains a fishing report for the area. .  The person tending the shop is very helpful, but tells us that the river we came to fish has been pretty off this past week. Caddis seem to be the fare though, so we grab a few extra bugs from the shop and head for the river.

It is pushing almost 5 p.m. when we finally get to the river – those of you that have fished with me know that spot. We step into a bend and face up stream. Above us is a deep, right-angle corner in the river that pours water through a riffle into a fast, short run that terminates in a pool at our feet. We have our caddis flies in tow, but having fished here for years, I rig up with a black stone fly #10 and trail it with a #14 prince nymph. The length of leader between the bugs and my poly strike indicator is about 8 feet to start.

Ing watches intently as I complete the setup and then offers me first cast so that he can see how I fish this rig. I am two casts into the lower part of the run when a fish takes. I play him out in the softer water below – a fat, 13-inch brown! Not bad for kicking things off.

Bead-Head Stonefly With Zug Bug Dropper

Bead-Head Stonefly With Zug Bug Dropper

This first fish makes me realize that I left my net back in the truck. Yes, I am a net man. I can land fish without a net, but after years of this habit I prefer to net my fish. This stretch has produced some bruisers in the past so I head back to the truck to grab us a couple of nets. When I return, Ing informs me that he has had couple of nice fish here and one that got off. He is a true gentleman and offers me another shot at the run before we move up. I decide to move down a little, cross the river and approach from a different angle. This affords me the ability to drop my rig close to the top of the run and get a pretty good drift down the long seam that heads into the pool. On my third, consecutive drift a fish strikes hard and heads for a spot deep in the bottom of the pool. It is a heavier fish than the first one and it takes me a bit to coax it down stream. I finally land him and he is a solid 15-inches. It is another nice brown trout. Ing grabs a camera and snaps of a nice photo before we release him back to the depths.

Vernon County Brown Trout

Vernon County Brown Trout

We are both enthused by this bigger trout and continue to work our way toward the head of the pool for “the big dog”. We never raise a fish at the head of the pool, but you should always work that spot hard. It is a prime spot for big fish.

Next we approach the deep water above this spot. There is a fish rising at the head this next pool, so we immediately switch to a #14 elk hair caddis and go after him. Several drifts do not raise the fish. After a few more casts, he rises again. We mark the location. The next cast is spot-on, but the hook set is too quick and the fish is only stung. He is gone.

A couple of bends up, there is a reputed hole where water rushes down a literal drop-off and into a partially submerged tree. Below the tree the river forms a nice pool. Further down is a large, sub-surface timber that lies across the river. We draw nearer, using this log to mark our approach and never moving closer than within a few feet of it. I am already rigged up for this spot, so I hand my rod to Ing. After a few casts, he is into a respectable, fat brown trout and he lands it.

Satisfied Angler!

Satisfied Angler!

I ask him “do you want the good news or the bad news.”

He replies “give me the good.”

“You just caught a nice little brown trout.”

“Then there is no bad news!” he quips.

“The bad news is that it’s my turn at this hole now!”  Ing hands the rod back to me and I check the fly. I notice an abrasion about 6 inches up the line. I don’t want to risk losing a big fish so I decide to retie the rig. It is a good idea to check your line often, especially after playing a fish. Since I had to re-tie anyway, I moved to a more heavily weighted fly. The water here is very fast and I want to make sure the fly is getting down quickly. I am rewarded with another nice brown –

There is some friendly banter over whether the fly change was a known recipe for success here. I toss the rod back to Ingemar and remind him that I am not his gillie today! We both laugh as he works another fish. We continue to take turns extracting fish from the pool by working the seams on either side. Wonderful. The river is “on” like I have seldom seen it before. Ing is getting spoiled by one of my favorite Wisconsin streams.

Deep Run, Big Brown

Deep Run, Big Brown

Evening is sneaking up on us so we hustle up to a spot where a spring comes in and the colder water holds some nice brook trout. We switch to bead-head prince nymphs and start swinging the flies down and across. Just like below, I am demonstrating the technique to Ingemar when a fish strikes right away. It is a female brook trout. We rig both rods the same way and I move up river a bit to give Ing some room. He strikes a nice fish a few casts later and I come back down to photograph a beautiful male brook trout – his first.

Ingemar's Square Tail in Full Colors

Ingemar’s Square Tail in Full Colors

I head back up river again and this time I notice a large, flat boulder with a nice pocket right below it. I stay well across river from the spot, but position myself about 15 yards upstream as well. I work out some line and start my down and across swing. I continue to lengthen my line until there is enough to swing my fly right through the pocket, exposing only the leader to the slower water in the pocket. Thump! I feel the fish and set the hook. He leaps into the air and runs down toward Ing. It is another nice brown trout. The light is falling so the picture is a little fuzzy, but I had to include it – the biggest trout of the day.

Twilight Trout

Twilight Trout

Monday, May 11, 2009th

Mother’s day weekend is spent at home – time well spent with a wonderful woman – some would say a saint! . We have a 2 ½  year old on the run and another little guy arriving sometime in August. And so I have left the Mother’s Day caddis hatch to future years. Nonetheless, as Monday dawns immediately following Mother’s Day, I am back on the water for a few days with two good friends.

There is nothing as venerable as good friends heading out to spend time together in pursuit of trout – I always leave such excursions even closer to the companions that join me.

First up is my friend Joe – not to be confused with my brother Joe who is also a truly great friend. This Joe lives in ‘Tosa. Let’s call him ‘Tosa Joe. I roll into ‘Tosa Joe’s place early Monday morning and we head out for what will be the last spring pilgrimage to SW Wisconsin. After this it will be time to follow hatches to the north. Our first stop is the little river that I have now fished with my brother Joe and my daughter. Each visit reveals a little more about this small fishery. In truth, I tried to focus on water where Joe could work on his casting (first time out for him this year) and still have a shot at some fish. He doesn’t disappoint.

'Tosa Joe Works His Way Into a Fish on a Small River

‘Tosa Joe Works His Way Into a Fish on a Small River

He does, in fact, get a nice brown in that first spot and then he joins me while I plummet the depths for the devil trout that escaped me the last time I was here. Will I ever give up on that spot, that fish?!

Satisfied Angler!

Satisfied Angler!

Satisfied with our first trout and the fact that Joe has his casting groove intact, we head for bigger water. Joe and I separate after awhile – he knows what he is doing and we each seek our trout on different stretches of the same river. His cast improves steadily over the course of the day.  In fact he is throwing much tighter loops than me; so I make note that I need to get out and do a little more casting practice of my own!  In any case, it is a good day in that ever-so-favorite of stretches.

Workin' it!

Workin’ it!

After Joe moves back down river, I step into a spot that regularly produces some nice fish and rig up with my standard DEEP rig that I use here. I fish it from below. I fish it from above. I dead drift. I swing flies. I add more weight. More drifts. More swings. Nothing. I then go back and fish this same spot from down river again – casting upstream. That’s when I switch over to an elk hair caddis with about a 36 inch dropper. Bang! That rig put me into a fat, 13-inch brown trout. So shortening up and fishing lighter actually worked in a spot where I usually fish very deep. Make a note of that. The fish took the dropper.

Next, I fall back down to a spot just above a small island that I like to fish. There is a fast little run here that shoots around two large boulders before dumping into a pool and heading down toward that island. Here, I rig up with an even bigger caddis (#8). It serves as my strike indicator. Behind it I tie on about 3 feet of tippet and a #10 hydropsyche larva. I take a couple of 8-inch browns about half way through the pools as the rig returns to me. That’s not what I want though. I want the fish at the head of the pool – the prime spot where the big ones hang out. Here, big trout get first dibs on the insects washing down out of that fast little run. I start to adjust my rigging. Joe sees me repeatedly casting up to the run and shouts for me to move on – “there can’t be anything there”. At this moment a black cow steps into the water behind me and Joe snaps off a surreal picture of this cow looking over my shoulder as I continue to cast to my target area. Joe heads down below me reminding me as he passes that it might be time to let this spot rest. Oh, really? A few more casts and I decide to adjust for a deeper presentation. Fishing deeper does not always mean adding more weight to the leader. In this case, I choose to add about 15 more inches of 5x tippet – just extending the dropper out to more than 4 feet below that big caddis.

The casting ritual is repeated again and after several attempts I connect with a solid 16+ inch brown trout. He runs into the pool, sees me and then heads back upstream to the fast little run. I turn him. He runs below me and I step across stream leading him to the shallow water just above the little island. He heads back to the pool again. On the next pass, I lift his head high and net him. Wow, look at the shoulders on this fish! I have to thank Joe here – he hustled back up stream to snap an awesome photo of this fish – it actually looks like a shark with that dark eye.

Bovine & Squaoliformes Trout

Bovine & Squaoliformes Trout

 Thanks ‘Tosa Joe, it was good to get out there with you.  Too bad we couldn’t have stretched it.

Paul

Monday, May 4th thru Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Paul’s Orvis “Super Fine” 7-foot 4-Weight rod with Able Reel – A great little rod for fishing small streams amidst woods and tight stream brush

Paul’s Orvis “Super Fine” 7-foot 4-Weight rod with Able Reel – A great little rod for fishing small streams amidst woods and tight stream brush

Wisconsin Fly Fishing Fever continues!  I dropped my brother Joe off at his home in Waukesha last night and then drove into Madison to pick up my daughter Caitlin and we headed right back out to SW Wisconsin. It was a rough round trip last night – 6 hours of driving to switch out fishing partners. I actually had a pretty good night’s sleep. Caitlin, however, is still sleeping at 7:30 a.m.  One of the challenges when I am out trout-ing is that I really don’t need a lot of sleep and I tend to keep pretty extreme hours. That’s not the case for those that I travel with.  So I am sitting here reading “Techcrunch” for updates on Twitpic, TweetPhoto, and facebook’s open APIs – all on a fabulous little device created by Amazon called the Kindle 2.

Once Caitlin is up and moving, we head out to the small, category-3 river that Joe and I fished yesterday. In fact, the next few days will be focused on three small pieces of water all located in Grant County, Wisconsin:  one labeled a River, one labeled a Creek, and one labeled a Brook.

It’s Monday morning and we have a pretty good looking sky right now – the sun is out. However, the weather forecast for the next couple of days is less than ideal: rain tomorrow and extreme electrical storms on Wednesday. We had better make good use of today as we are likely to be hunkered down tying flies later in the week. Rain very seldom pushes us off of a river, but an electrical storm is another matter. You don’t want to be standing in a river waving around a graphite rod when that kind of weather starts to roll in.

Check out these lightening safety tips to consider when fishing:

http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/215841/travel_tips/lightning_safety_tips_for_fishermen.html
http://fishing.about.com/od/basicfishinginstruction/a/fishing_light.htm

http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/emergency/weather/lightening/

A Small River. Let me just say that the first stream to be fished today can be referred to as a “younger sibling to a big brother”.  It is always a good idea to investigate the tributaries that feed some of our larger trout rivers. They can be surprising in terms of the fish that they hold. They also become havens for trout during the heat of summer.  This particular piece of water has few areas that afford an opportunity for easy casting. I guide Caitlin to one of the nicer openings where she can work until she gets her casting rhythm back (the college years leaving little time for pursuit of trout). We’ll leave the debate to the annals of time as to whether she should be looking over her shoulder to watch her back cast unwind or just focus forward to where her fly will land – like her dad tells her. Some of her best casts do come when she is keeping an eye on that back cast. However she does not get into fish until she finally relents to my barmy rant and focuses all attention forward. Her first fish is smallish, but with the knowledge that she is no longer “skunked”, things seem to come easier.
My Daughter Caitlin Faces Off With the Trout on a Small River

My Daughter Caitlin Faces Off With the Trout on a Small River

We stay here and hit a few of the pools that Joe and I hit yesterday. I just finished up on that sweet little run where I took that 16-inch brown yesterday. Things go a little awry today compared to yesterday: snags, lost rigs, and not paying enough attention to the trees. Despite all this, we still manage to hook another sizeable fish in here. It is a complete replay of yesterday except without landing the fish. This bruiser charges for a deep, undercut bank further up in the run. It is lost despite my stalwart efforts to soak my arm to the shoulder again. I walk back through the woods, the residue of sadness lingering with me for having lost that trout.
Whenever I lose a substantial fish like this, I always analyze the situation: looking for lessons-learned for next time. Here are some thoughts on what to do in a situation like this:
  • When you hook a big fish and it heads for cover, do not switch the angle of attack with your rod. You cannot turn your fly rod in the opposite direction. For example, if you are leading a fish downstream and it ducks for cover, you cannot turn your rod upstream – you’re just letting the fish control the situation, embedding itself in the roots, tangles and debris beneath the bank. You need to keep your angle of attack the same and tug that fish back out the same way that it went in.
  • Don’t feel compelled to keep tension on the fish once you get to the bank and have control of the leader with your other hand. Instead, induce some slack to allow your other hand to work the fish free – you just may get your trout back!

Use Your Fly Rod to Manage the Proportions of Your Rigging. We head back to the first good pool of the day, but now it is my turn to work the spot. I am fishing with a #16 bead-head (BH) Pheasant Tail (PT) nymph for the point fly. About 18-inches above that I have a #14 BH Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE) nymph that is tied with some really spiky dubbing. My rod is a 9-foot 4-Weight Sage Z-axis fly rod lined with 4-weight line. Let’s review the proportions of this rig relative to my fly rod. What I’ve got here is a point fly that is placed in the little ‘catch’ near the cork handle where you can hook your fly. The next fly up the leader is just above the first guide. The strike indicator is all the way up at the tip of the rod before the line turns to go through the last guide. This is exactly the proportions that I noticed coming out of this hole yesterday. I may measure it later, but I really don’t need to. All I need to do is make sure that I have the dropper fly in the ‘catch’, the next fly at the first guide and a strike indicator at the top. Noting proportions like this makes it easier to set up the same rig again. The next cast may be into the bushes and you will have an easier time rebuilding to a rod-proportional leader recipe.

Our next stop is a small stream that is labeled a “brook” on our older Wisconsin gazetteer. It is a bit of a drive and we lose some time when we stop to examine large numbers of peacocks at a farm as we make our way east.  We are losing light fast by the time we reach the water. There is a stream re-hab project in the works here. We can see the timbers for building lunker structures and the rock piles that will be used to secure them in place. Lunker structures are used to provide in-stream cover for trout while also stabilizing stream banks:

Lunker structures Provide Cover For Trout While Also Stabilizing Streambanks

Lunker structures Provide Cover For Trout While Also Stabilizing Streambanks

We decide to fish much further upstream so we drive to the upper-most bridge. We are on the water for less than 15 minutes when we start getting into fish. I am using a #12 Bead-head Prince Nymph, casting it down and across this narrow stream and then stripping it back in as it swings across current.  I manage to land a couple of nice brook trout right before dark. One of these square-tails exceeds 10-inches, is quite fat, and has beautiful coloration. Sorry – no picture. The light is just too low..

Getting Even. All light is gone save for a three-quarter moon when we decide to head back to the truck. Now is my chance to get even with Caitlin for hiding the truck from me back in April. She gets into the truck and closes the door just as I slip between the two rear wheels – underneath the truck! I just wait. I can hear Caitlin adjust her position as she looks around. She calls my name. I do not answer. She opens the door just a crack and calls for me again. I remain silent. She closes the door. After a long wait, she decides to exit the vehicle and head to the bridge overlooking the stream. Perhaps she thinks I wandered upstream for a look around. I let her have it with the full “Cape Fear” effect as she turns back to the truck. Now we are even!.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009. Rain has moved into Fennimore, although it is fairly light. The forecast has changed from rain today with thunderstorms tomorrow to rain and rain. Hopefully it won’t be that bad. We’ve got the “Filsons” ready to go. Filson Wading Jackets are made from waxed cotton which makes them very water proof and yet very breathable. We love them. In our early years, we would fish right through a torrent in them and stay pretty warm and dry.

So we don our Filsons and head back – to where? Why to the little river with the big brown that escaped us yesterday. So here is a lesson in trout fishing – or perhaps it is a damnation. There is a trout that escaped me yesterday. I feel compelled, as I think most of us do at some point, to go back and take another crack at that fish. This is no longer about exploring new water. It is about knowing a spot a little better and then tackling-up a little smarter to wrestle a big, wary fish into submission. I am bent on catching that fish, but alas, he is nowhere to be seen. So after more than an appropriate investment of time trying to coax him from the depths, we head back to our little “brook” in pursuit of new water. I must return here in the fall or next year to try again!

A Honey-of-a-hole. While driving to the upper stretch of our little brook trout fishery, we notice a fisherman’s access well down from where we finished up last night. It is fairly obscured with no style available. We slip underneath some tight barbed wire near the posting. The banks here are really steep – some plummet as much as four feet down to the water.

A Small Wisconsin Stream Supporting All Three Species of Trout

A Small Wisconsin Stream Supporting All Three Species of Trout

We are fishing a couple of nice little runs here. I can see that Caitlin’s rod bent with a fish, but now she is working out a tangle in her leader – it must have gotten off. I wander down her way to see how she is doing. When I arrive, I see that she is sitting on top of a veritable “honey hole” – she has hooked several trout, but they all get off as she attempts to land them. She is mildly frustrated and asks for help. I remind her that she has not been able to dedicate much time to the sport for the past few seasons and that she just needs to get back in practice.

She has a nice little ledge that she has been casting from on the stream’s steep bank. I guess you could say that I am getting a chance to “take her to school” a little bit on how to play these fish to the net.  We switch places and she makes ready with the camera. I successively land a rainbow trout, a brown trout, and what has to be a trophy brook trout for this water – going more than 11-inches and in the full ceremonial dress.  Wow! Look at the size of the mouth on this brook trout. Brook trout are actually not a trout (genus Salmo), but rather are a member of the char family (genus Salvelinus Fontinalis). They are native to Wisconsin and I prize catching a nice specimen above all else.

Salvelinus Fontinalis – Wisconsin’s Native Trout is Actually a Char

Salvelinus Fontinalis – Wisconsin’s Native Trout is Actually a Char

Having a chance to see a few fish successfully landed, Caitlin jumps back into position. She decides that she has been futzing with her reel too much and that these fish simply need to be played by stripping in line and managing line tension. Good observation! She gets off a nice cast and is into a brown trout almost immediately. She strips in line quickly and reaches down to the water to net the fish –got it! This is a case where a net is almost mandatory – the banks are steep here and the fish need the support of the net so that they are not being pulled from the water head first.

Caitlin tandem of pics wit brown trout

My Daughter Caitlin Lands a Nice Brown Trout

Caitlin asks me how big I think her brown trout is. I say “10 inches”. She says that she thinks it is between 11 and 12 inches. So we take one of the pictures where the fish is squared up to the camera across her hands and take some measurements. Upon measuring Caitlin’s hand and the fish in that picture, and her hand in real life, we are able to create a ratio and gauge the size of her trout. It comes out to over 11-inches. She had estimated it to be between 11 and 12 inches so she is feeling quite pleased with herself. So I am feeling quite obliged to have her make me another peanut butter sandwich – reminding her that there is a pecking order out here!

We decide to rest this spot and head back to the upper most section. Seeing it in daylight, I realize that Joe and I were here in 2005. It’s the same water, but we were all the way up in the headwaters section looking over the huge spring that is this stream’s namesake. It is steadily raining, so I throw on a Filson and hike up to the spring while Caitlin reads in the car. We are a wrap for the day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009.We shot up to a small creek just north of Fennimore to have a look at things. But we decided to go back to the stream that we finished on last night. We’ll start with the “super hole” and then move onto to explore some new sections of it. This time, our route takes us past a tin house. Tin house? Yes, a tin house! This house has a red tin roof and silver tin siding. We wonder why anyone would have their entire house sheathed in tin – it must get bloody hot in there. There were many beehives on this property as well – maybe that has something to do with it. I searched the internet and the only thing that I could find was a reference to temporary tin houses being erected in some locals to accommodate displaced people. Twenty years later and these are now permanent residences in some places. This is not the case here, but it does speak to the fact that some people do live in tin houses.

As the road turns to drive along the still somewhat distant stream, Caitlin spots a bald eagle feasting on a fish on the high banks. We back up to get a better look while grabbing a long lens for the camera. Alas, the eagle picks up it prey and takes to the air. Still, it is good to see a bald eagle out here. It is the first one we have seen in this part of the state.

When we get to the spot we fished yesterday, we see that there are very few fish present. Are they tucked into the bank? Did they move up or down stream? Is this an effect of the pressure change? We make a note in our journals to keep this in mind for later reference. Rain and lightning are rolling toward us, so we decide to exit the scene and visit a small, local winery that we notice yesterday while driving about.

This little winery is called “Spurgeon Winery”. I found a website for them if you are interested in sampling their fare: http://www.spurgeonvineyards.com/. So we wile away a couple of hours sampling wines, eating cheese and chatting with the owners while the rain moves through. Very pleasant. I did get a little crazy (possible inebriation) and bought about dozen or so bottles of wine including several bottles of sweet, crisp cranberry wine. That’s a Wisconsin original!

The rain has stopped, so we head back out on the stream to examine the remaining bridging on this water. At one bridge, we see some sizeable brook trout. The water is crystal clear and we are easily able to distinguish the browns from the brook trout. Caitlin stays up on the bridge while I slink to a far corner of the bridge-work and start roll casting a #12 caddis with a deep dropper.  We are just starting to get the rigging tuned to the water depth when a big storm rolls in. BIG storm. It is a deluge of rain out here. The horses in the field have run for cover in the barn and we have run for cover as well. We get a little bit soaked, but are excited to have seen those fish.

Some confusion as we got off the water.  My wading boots are pretty muddied up from the muck I was standing in at the base of the bridge, so I head a little upstream to rinse them off. Caitlin yells through the howling rain “what are you doing?” I shout back “I am rinsing my feet!”  She hears  “I lost my keys” and brings her sorry little butt back down to the water and starts looking on the ground for m keys – getting more thoroughly soaked in the process. I thought I would just capture that memory for her for later on.

Anatomy of a seam. Here is a look at the seam below the bridge. There is a very nice foam line on the left. Remember, wherever the current is pushing the foam on the surface, it is pushing the insects below the surface. Wherever the insects are drifting through, that is where you will find the trout. We spotted pockets of trout all the way from the bridge up to that little tongue at the head of this pool. These are marked with a “T” in the photo below. Where ever there is an “X” is where we took fish. Caitlin also notices some fish on the left side of the sand in this picture – one rushed to have a look at our dry fly, but did not take it.

Anatomy of  a Seam

Anatomy of a Seam

Well, that’s a wrap for this outing. See you oth the other side of Mother’s Day Weekend! If you get a chance to fish the “Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch” enjoy it – we have found reliable little black caddis up and arround the streams surrounding Iola, Wisconsin. Enjoy!

Fauna and Fowl of Fennimore

Fauna and Fowl of Fennimore

Well here we are on Sunday Morning, May 3rd – our 2nd day of opening weekend. Today we are headed for a much smaller piece of river. It is labeled a river; however it is much more the size of a small creek. The drive takes us through a significant change in elevation, past limestone bluffs and leads to some beautiful views of the valleys out here in the driftless region.

We park at the edge of a small wood. The spot looks somewhat familiar. As we approach the water, we see a large log fallen across the river and I realize that I have indeed been here before. The water is crystal clear and there is a deep pool that is situated just above this log which no doubt is an unreachable haven for some large, brute trout. Perhaps we can draw a fish out of this spot with a downstream presentation on the way back out.  There is a nice little sluice below this log as well. Joe heads downstream to explore with a prince nymph while I head up a couple of bends to see what this stretch of water has to offer.

This “river” looks to be anywhere from 3 to 20 feet throughout its course. The spot that I stop at first has a fairly sandy bottom. The sand is marked with gentle ridges that seem to be a reflection of the water’s surface. Boulders are strewn throughout this fishery along with short old-growth logs providing both cover and breaks in the current for fish to hide. It is a beautiful looking stream. It is quiet here and yet I am struck by the sounds that fill my senses – birds singing, current flowing – it is a peaceful and thoughtful place. It is not a piece of water for two people to fish together. It’s not big enough. However we can hop and skip over each other as we explore for the next couple of hours.

A quick look at some of the aquatic grasses and rocks at the shallower parts of the Little Green show that there is a tremendous volume of #18 olive and black mayfly nymphs throughout this water. I also see some rhyacophilla larva as always and various cased caddis as well. There are several aquatic grasses intermixed here. This vegetation is rich with insect life and the little fresh water shrimp that fly fisherman refer to as “scuds”. These are light grey in color and range in sizes from #18 to #14.

"Scud" - Fresh Water Shrimp

“Scud” – Fresh Water Shrimp

OK – I am at a bend in the river and I can see a nice little pocket ahead of me that holds about 3 or 4 bathtubs of water. It is a nice little pool that easily shows a few small trout finning in its deepest recesses. I throw my bead-head prince nymph up in there (still having that on from the prior night at Crooked Creek) and watch as these trout move about to investigate it as it drifts through. After a few casts, I decide to rest the spot a little while I change out my rig. I now have a feel for the currents flowing through this pool as well as its depth. This is another progression that every fly fisherman makes as they evolve their craft. In my younger years, I might have left this spot too quickly. Now, when success does not come easy, I take my time. I consider what I have just learned and I adjust my tactics. I equate the time it takes to modify my rigging to resting the water and giving the fish some space. Here,  I now switch to a tandem rig with a #14 caddis on top and a small olive mayfly nymph dropper. I want to see if I can induce one of these little trout to take my fly. Here is the rigging detail:

I will be able to watch the Goddard caddis drift through the pool and hopefully one of these trout will take the nymph.

Several casts later and I am thinking that my fly is not getting down far enough into the pool – meaning I need to lengthen the tippet material leading to my dropper fly. So I double the length of the leader to about 30-inches and I have now moved the micro-split shot to about 6 or 7 inches above the fly. I am still using the Goddard caddis – it is getting a little soaked, but I can easily blow the water out of it every couple of drifts.

A few casts later and I am releasing a 6 to 7 inch, fat little brown trout. Not a big fish by any measure, but very satisfying nonetheless. In this crystal clear water with these super spooky fish, it is very satisfying to adjust my rigging and presentation and then be rewarded by watching my little caddis ‘pop’ as it disappears when a fish takes the nymph; to lift my rod tip and feel that little trout on my light rig and then bring it to bear. The trout took that olive nymph right at the lip. You can see in this photo how big the nymph is and the beautiful coloration of this little brown trout. I am able to just grab the nymph and slip it from the trout’s lip without even handling the fish – helping to preserve the fishery.

Small River Brown Trout

Small River Brown Trout

My top fly is pretty soaked and I realize that I left my “dry shake” in the FJ – I will need to make sure to get that back into my vest for the next piece of water. Dry shake is a product that contains both a desiccant for pulling water out of the fly and a powdery floatant that helps the fly stay dry and ride higher on the water for many casts.

Joe has caught up to me now. We discuss the situation and how this little river is actually therapeutic. it’s like therapy to sit on a small streamside boulder or log and listen to this little water and watch the stream until a trout gives away its location by rising to take an insect on top or flashing below the surface to take a nymph. Joe shares that there is a nice pool downstream with several small trout flashing to tack nymphs. So the quarry here is small, but the relaxation is profound.

We continue upstream together agreeing to alternate fishing as we hit each spot. The next bend up from the spot that I was just fishing, Joe spots a nice little run coming around a hard right angle turn corner that is pushing water against some rocks on a far bank and dropping about a 10 to 15 foot foam line along the left bank facing upstream.

So I rebuild my tandem rig with different bugs that are better suited to this situation. I am now using a pair of nymphs and a strike indicator. The top nymph is a #16 olive scud pattern and 12-inches below this is a #16 BH Pheasant Tail nymph as the point fly. My strike indicator is only about 3-feet above the top fly. The first cast in and a fish chases it – a bite. I miss setting the hook and get a little snagged up in some shrubbery so I have to to re-build the rig again. It happens.  A couple of cast later and a 7-inch brown is taken.

LGRiv Brown Trout

 Looking this little run over, I can now see that the water is deep and dark right where it is churning and pours into the bank.  There are obstacles to overcome here. There is a tree overhead on my left requiring the cast to slice into the area at an angle from the right. I will also need to avoid a tree behind me on the left that overhangs the river even more.  And just for fun, the right bank is lined with plants and the dried out remains of last year’s burr plants – all waiting to take my fly if I make a mistake.

Anatomy of a Seam

Anatomy of a Seam

Joe and I discuss the difficulty of the cast and then I work out some line into a few false casts before making the business cast up into the run. I use a reach cast to the left to get everything coming straight downstream on that left side. The rig and strike indicator land right where we wanted them. No sooner has Joe uttered “nice cast” when a brown strikes. I can tell that it is a bigger fish, but it is not until it comes down below us that we realize that it is a sizeable brown trout – surely a trophy for these waters. That fish takes a couple of good runs and fights like mad as I try to hurry him to the net. I know that I need to control his fury quickly in such tight quarters. I finally get him on the reel and as I work him in I can see that he has some pretty nice shoulders on him – a very nice fish. My first reach with the net sends him running for the bank where he wraps around some obstruction in the deep undercut  – the line goes taught – disappointment swells over me – this is usually a sign that you have lost your fish. However experience prevails here as well. I rush to that edge of the river and plunge my hand into the water running it down the leader. I make it to the first fly – he is not there. I push down further and get to the fish on the second fly. I am able to flip him back into the main river where I quickly net him. Unbelievable!  And Exhilarating!  This is a very charcoal brown fish with clear spots accenting his flank in a very distinct manner.  Joe’s utters his ever famous quote as we extract a large trout from a small water: “they’re in there!” He snaps off a quick picture before we release this brute back to the depths. Thanks brother! You can see that my sleeve on my right arm is soaked from reaching under the bank to retrieve this trout.

15-inchBrown Taken in Small Water

15-inchBrown Taken in Small Water

We check the river upstream and note a few nice holes for next time before moving back downstream to fish some water that Joe felt merited attention before we left. The spot that he selects is all the way down stream to a spot where a barbed wire first obstructs our path. In true predatory fashion, we walk well wide of the river here and we also walk softly. We believe that heavy footed walking send vibrations that can warn larger trout of our presence.

Well upstream of this barbed wire and with plenty of room to cast is a beautiful deep pool coming out of another small, fast run. We take a couple of 10-inch brown trout here as well and I have no doubt we could have taken a few more if we had picked it over more carefully.

This is a beautiful little piece of water. I am here with my daughter Caitlin next week and we now have a couple of good holes in this section that she can work over.

Paul and his FJ Cruiser

Paul and his FJ Cruiser

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009 – Opening Day of the Regular Trout Season

Windmills on Hwy 18 En Route to Fennimore

Windmills on Hwy 18 En Route to Fennimore

Well here we are on opening day weekend in Fennimore, Wisconsin and I am finally out with my brother Joe – appropriate on an opening day in 2009. The first order of the day was to knock out a quick blog post covering a little controversy on the blog with respect to how much detail is shared on streams that we fish (see below).  The controversy being that sharing too much information could bring an overwhelming number of people to a fairly fragile resource. Having considered input from a few readers, I am now going to chronicle the detailed information offline for my family (generations to come) and then pare down the detail for the blog, maintaining information about general locations, hatches, techniques and more. This way, the blog still captures the stories and fishing reports that might incent others to get out there and explore a little. In some cases I will still provide stream names for well-known waters. Seems like a good balance.

It is just about time to get on the road so we gather together our gear including the digital recorder that I use to capture my thoughts while I am “out in the field”. Last night, I used that device to capture my brother’s melodious wood-sawing as he piled up cords of wood in our room up at the Fennimore Hills Motel. Thanks brother!

Our first stop is not a river, but a restaurant – a little breakfast to start the day. If you make it out to Fennimore, stop by Friederick’s a the north end of town on the corner of Hwy 18 and Hwy 61 – it is a great spot for breakfast and lunch. We recommend the polish smoked sausage as part of breakfast and you will definitely want to try the turkey club for lunch – it is essentially a BLT with moist turkey in the mix – it is raving good!

After breakfast we head to the river. This is open pasture land and lends itself a little better to keeping track of two rods on the river, so I set up both a 4-weight and a 5 weight.:

  • The 4W rod is setup with a #12 elk-hair caddis and I will add a dropper at various lengths once I get to the river.
  • The 5W rod is setup as a nymphing rig with a #10 hydropscyhe larva as the top fly and a #14 grey cress bug as the point fly.
  • You can see the setups for the general rigs that I fish in the blog entry titled “Favorite Fly Fishing Rigs”

Joe is using a 5-weight St. Croix rod with a #14 Bead-head Prince nymph. He may add a smaller fly as a dropper when he gets to the water. He likes to use Ross Mueller’s “dark-ribbed yellow” for a dropper.  Joe ties his prince nymphs using gold-colored goose biots at the collar of the fly (as opposed to white ones) and then wraps a small, webby black feather around the collar as well. One of the benefits of tying your own flies is that you can experiment with materials and adjust flies to your liking or make up your own patterns. We have “tuned” our bugs for Wisconsin waters over the years.

The Old Barn on Cty Tk K

The Old Barn on Cty Tk K

We unlatch the gate to the farmer’s field, but we take care to double check that it is secure before we head to the river – we do not want these cows to get out! We hear one cow bellow its moo and we take notice of the echo coming back to us from the limestone ridge across the road. We are on that ever-so-favored spot on the Big Green. We seldom see people fishing this stretch, however this morning there is a pair of fisherman working over some of the pools that we like to fish. So we head well upstream. The fisherman that is further upstream is sporting hip waders and smoking a big old stogie. He isn’t very chatty so we walk well around him. Good protocol here is to walk well wide of others and their water – say 50 feet or more – and leave a good stretch of water well above for them to work through. Stay wide of the river all the way along – you do not want to spook any of the nice fish that someone else may be working up to. We continue upstream for quite a ways.

Eventually we come to a wire crossing our path – an electric fence. There are a couple of them here as we work our way up. This first electric wire is high enough off the ground that we can slip underneath it. Do this with great care. I recall one outing where it had rained and with my hand pressing into some wet mud, I bumped my cap on the wire as I scooted under the fence – it was more than a shocking effect! I was stunned and initially was not sure what had happened. My jaw hurt for a bit afterward and I remember stretching it repeatedly to help shake of the after effects. Be careful of electric fences!

The first fish of the day is taken, most appropriately, on the Hydropsyche larva #10. We continue to fish this spot alternating between the two of us as we inch up. After about half-an-hour with no strikes, I decide that I might be fishing a little too deep with the heavily weighted Hydropsyche. So I switch over to a #14 Bead Head (BH) Gold Ribbed Hairs Ear (GRHE) nymph trailed by a #18 black Pheasant Tail (PT) nymph. A 9-inch brown trout comes to hand. It took the PT. We continue to fish here, but not with the success we had hoped for. When we walk up on the bank and look through the water with our polarized glasses, we no longer see the volumes of fish that had been here just over a week ago. Fascinating…they have either dropped down further in the river or perhaps moved up stream – in either case, we have to go find them now…

So this is the first time that we have come in at this location and then head downstream through a 2nd style (or over a ladder as it were). A few bends down and there is a nice little riffle that dumps into a big pool. I am still fishing the BH GRHE nymph with the black PT trailing – except that I add a little micro-shot shot above the top fly to help it get down a little further. This does the job as a very wild brown trout takes it on the third drift. This fishliterally jumps out of the water 4 to 5 times – quite wild – and he was hooked just in the lip on that little black pheasant tail nymph. This brown measures 13-inches.

Another noteworthy fish comes right as we are wrapping up on this stretch of water. I finish up the day with a similar rig to the one that I started with – except that the bugs are flipped around and are of differing proportions: a heavily weighted #12 Cress Bug on top and about 15  inches of 5x tippet leading to a smaller #14 Hydro at the point. The spot that I am fishing has a nice riffle heading into a bend in the river. The effect is a rush of water to the downstream bank of this curve in the river. This makes for a nice seam on the far bank and produces an obvious foam line. Foam lines are important when you are nymphing. They tell you where the main current is driving things – including the insects below the surface. Fish your rigs in and on the edges of foam lines like this and you will hook up with more trout. It is on the upstream, right side of that foam line where I hook up with my final brown of the day. He takes the fly with authority and then really throws his shoulders into a nice run. I think he is going to jump like the fish earlier today and I am ready to drop my rod-tip if he does. Dropping your rod tip when a fish jumps takes the pressure off the fish and reduces break-offs. This fish does not jump, but he does make a couple of more really good runs including one right when I had him at the scoop. I get him landed and snap off a quick pic. This beautiful brown trout measures 15-inches – a nice way to end the day.

Brown Trout Taken at Day's Close

Brown Trout Taken at Day’s Close

This stretch of river downstream of our normal haunts is really good looking water, however it merits being fished with deeper rigs. The wind has been a bit of a problem today – as it is any day that it reaches gale force levels and you’re out trying to wield a fly rod.

Before heading over to the Cottonwood Sports Bar for dinner and beers, we stop by Crooked Creek to look it over and consider it as a possibility for tomorrow. Crooked Creek can be reached by taking Hwy 61 north to Townhall Road and then turning north and driving for less than a half mile. The bridge here strikes us as reminiscent of the River Itchen at Warwickshire: it has two arches and is of stone and stucco makeup. I am sure it will be replaced some day and we will be sad to see it go as we have fished along this area over the years. That’s the crossing at Crooked Creek.

When we get to Crooked Creek, we are greeted by a fisherman from the Chicago area. He laments that he left one of his wading boots back at home. He is working from the bank in his sneakers – not to be undone! Fish are rising to some small caddis and he hasn’t any so we opened up our fly foxes and shared a few flies back and forth. He gives us a bead-head caddis emerger that worked for him on the Big Green earlier today. It looks to be tied on a #14 scud hook and the bright green chartreuse butt on the fly makes it stand out in our boxes –we will put it to good use!

The rises up and down the creek motivate us to grab a fly rod and head upstream. There is still a little day-light left! We left our fly vests and waders at the motel, however the FJ always has some spare fly-boxes, clippers, tippet, and an extra fishing license – so we are all set to hunt down a few more trout before sunset. We begin by working upstream with a #18 and #16 caddis, but after we put down the first few fish, we change over to a BH prince nymph and work a downstream and across presentation – that puts us into fish. My daughter Caitlin tied those prince nymphs this winter at our annual, winter fly tying party up at River Wild Life in Kohler. We take about 10 brown trout in this water before dark by just swinging that prince nymph down through little runs and slicks or upstream into certain pockets. It is a fun way to end the evening – wandering around in our dungaries and clogs to take the day’s final trout.

Paul

A Western Wisconsin Stream

A Western Wisconsin Stream

It is May 2nd, 2009 – opening day! I am “penning this” from a motel in a far corner of Wisconsin.  I felt compelled to get online and address concerns that a few readers have expressed over sharing detailed stream information in this blog. These readers raise excellent points. For instance, sharing this information will likely drive more pressure to our streams which, in turn, can have both a negative effect on this fragile resource and reduce the opportunity for solitude – the very nature of the sport for some. The counter-point here is that awareness of the resource compels people to contribute to preserving it – and more volume here is a welcome resource. Nonetheless, these are legitimate concerns so I have decided to adjust the style of reporting to remove some detail and not pinpoint specific locations. I like to chronicle this information like hatches, fishing details, flora, fauna, insect populations, and more so this puts me in a little bit of a quandary for some entries that I was planning – as the usefulness of the some information is diminished without the locations. I am not sure how I will address that, so please share your thoughts.

Rest assured that my intention is to only mention stream names for well known waters and share some detail related to likely crossings (bridges). I think that reporting on the first few fishing holes downstream from a bridge is a good balance. I do not plan to reveal any hidden treasures or report on some of our lesser known and quite frankly remarkable streams. Most of us who have been doing this for awhile know that you need to put on your hiking shoes and walk for a mile or two to get to some of the really special places.  I seldom see anyone doing that in all of my sojourns – so solitude can be had with the volumes of water available in Wisconsin.

I’ll close this post by saying that I can remember the difficulty in finding good water when I first got started. Some may think it is a rite of passage to do the research and log years on the water in order to gain this knowledge. Others just want to grab that one or two weekends a year and introduce their children to the sport. It truly is a conundrum.  If detailed information is shared, then a stream might get overwhelmed. So post a comment to this blog entry and let me know what you think.

Paul