Many of you have written to me asking “why are you no longer writing in your blog?”  In truth, I never truly stopped keeping my journals and photography up to date – I just have not had the time to polish my stories to the degree I like for WiFly (you probably can tell that I am not a casual, weekly blogger). Today, I published a poem that I wrote over the Christmas Holiday called “Ode to the Cedar Tree”. That was fun to write and match to photos taken from this past season on the Bois Brule River in northern Wisconsin. Getting that post up was a breakthrough amidst a torrent of obligations to work and family. And now I’m motivated to close that gap since 2012. I likely get to it when I can and even tuck in a few stories from my past trips out west (Yellowstone country) along with my first jaunts to Alberta Canada and Lower Michigan.

In the end, these blog entries chronicle time spent in woods and water through my lens for my family to read in years to come. I’m even pulling this content into a book format for that very personal purpose.

So…no apologies for the delays = life happens! You can get a sneak peak at some of the content that I’ll be sharing by following me on Instagram: https://instagram.com/pstillmank/


Paul Stillmank (aka WiFly)

Sunday, May 9th, 2010 – Mother’s Day
The road to Fennimore a few weeks back was not a direct one. My route took me through my home-town of Janesville, Wisconsin. I stopped over to see my dad. There’s a lot of nostalgia in that big, old house. Dad has a slide projector set up in the dining room at all times and we peel through the pictures of our youth for a couple of hours. It seems fitting to include that reflection here as Mother’s Day Approaches.

Looking back all of those years, it strikes me that as children we don’t really think about time. It’s one of the gifts of youth: to happily go about your business with little consciousness of the years rolling by. The next wheel of slides drives the point home. It shows the family picnics that my paternal grandmother Loretta Stillmank organized at Traxler Park from time to time. My parents, grand-parents, and cousins are all in attendance. I see my Grandma Dorothy Dain and Uncle Jack Dain. They were very integral to our lives –  as formative to how we turned out as our own parents in some ways. The slides glide by. At the age of eight, I didn’t realize that my parents and grand-parents were in the throes of their lives – and that we as children were just a part of it and not the only priority. We were just having fun, running around and getting into trouble.

The next slide is a photo of my mom that resonates most with how I remember her: dressed up for church, smiling, and enjoying a sunny day out with the family. I miss her. She’s been gone for over a year now; however, for me she’s still here as a part of my Dad. Over 50 years of marriage has a way of making two people into one unit: “Mom & Dad.”  So now with her gone, there’s not half of them left – it’s more like three-quarters remains behind – it’s hard to convey. Perhaps that’s because Mom was such an overwhelming part of their equation. I’ll always remember her at her best – and that’s how it should be!

– WiFly –

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.


The fly fishing rigs mentioned in the blog-entry “Big Green River – Day Trip (April 23rd, 2009)” are some of my favorites. There was an inquiry for some illustrations to help clarify how these rigs are built so I am adding those here. I am repeating the formulas for easy reference.

Before we look at those, let’s get some basic terms defined:

  •  Fly Line: the colored stuff on your reel that you throw around to carry your flies out to where the fish are.
  • Leader: The clear, tapered line that attaches to your fly line on one and and your flies on the other. The leader needs to be tapered to allow it to “unroll” as your flies are delivered to their landing spot.
  • Tippet: As you change your fly from time to time, you are clipping away precious inches from the end of your leader. At some point, you need to add some line back to the end (tip) to extend it back out. This is called tippet material and it is used to both extend the leader and to add a second fly to a tandem rig (called a dropper).
  • Top Fly: The first fly tied on to the end of the leader.
  • Dropper: Any fly tied off the top fly. Some rigs use a single dropper and some use two. Some droppers are tied to tippet material extending from the bend of the top fly while others are extended from the hookeye of that same fly.
  • Point Fly: This is the term applied to the fly out on the point. If a single fly is being used, then it is the point fly. If a dropper is at the end of your rig, then that is the point fly.
  • Fly Sizes: #16, #14, #12, #10, etc. – these numbers are part of a system that is used to guage the size of the flies that we fish with. They are actually the guage for the hooks that the flies are tied on. A larger number correlates to a finer/smaller hook size. So a #10 fly is larger tha a #16.
  • Tippet Sizes: 6x, 5x, 4x, 3x, etc. – these numbers are part of a system that is used to guage the diameter of the tippet material (both the very end of the tapered leader and the spools of extra material used to extend the leader and to add flies to a rig). The larger number correlates to a finer/smaller diameter material. So 3x tippet is much fatter and 6x tippet is much finer. This is similar to the lb breaking strength we were used to when using monofilament to spin fish. In fact, each tippet size has a correlating breaking strength as well. For example 3x correlates to about 8 lb test strength.
  • Florocarbon: This is just the type of material that the leader and tippets can be made of. It is a little more expensive, but posesses properties that make it less visible to the fish.

So now let’s get back to those favorite rigs that I described in my last post:

Tandem Nymph Rig:

  • 15-foot leader end-to-end (that includes the leader and tippets all the way through to the dropper).
  • The dropper (point fly) is a #16 tan scud that was separated from the top fly by about 18 to 36-inches of 5x florocarbon tippet. Other droppers can be used as noted below and depending on the insects available in the river you are fishing.
  • The top fly was a #10 caddis larva (hydropsyche) attached to 24” of 4x florocarbon tippet attached to a 10’ 3x leader.
  • A strike-indicator is placed anywhere from 6 feet to 10 feet above the top fly depending on depth of water being fished.
  • A micro-splitshot (or two) is occassionally used 8-10 inches above the top fly to help get down faster.
Fly Rig: Tandem Nymphs (Color Coded)

Fly Rig: Tandem Nymphs (Color Coded)

Caddis Fly with Dropper Rig:

  •  10 and 15 foot leaders are used here.
  • One fly combination is a #14 Goddard Caddis for the top fly with a #16 bead-head prince nymph dropper trailing by 3 to 5 feet. This is the rig that my brother-in-law chcuk used to extract his fish this past week.
  • Another combination is a #10 Elk-hair Caddis top fly with a #10 hydropsyche caddis larva dropper  trailing by 36-inches of 5x florocarbon.
  • The dry fly served as a strike indicator and as fly in both of these combinations.
Fly Rigging: Caddis Dry with Caddis Larva Dropper (Color Coded)

Fly Rigging: Caddis Dry with Caddis Larva Dropper (Color Coded)

These most favored of setups are used when plummeting the pools of almost any of our Wisconsin Rivers. The two caddis larva (hydropsyche and Rhyacophilla) are very common. I often use a small olive or black mayfly nymph for the dropper fly on the tandem nymph rig – there are a tremendous number of mayfly nymphs available in all of our streams as well.

Of course there is no single, perfect formula for setting these up – that is why the lengths for the leaders and tippets are shown to vary. You will need to learn to adjust the length on those droppers based on both depth of water and behavior of fish.



Hope this helps you in your trout outings this year!


Mid-summer, 1991. That was when I first witnessed someone flyfishing in my home state of Wisconsin – downstream from the Cty Tk A bridge on the Willow River near the town of Hudson. I returned that next spring with a fly rod in hand to sample this sport for myself . . . and a lifetime of exploring Wisconsin trout streams ensued.

Over the next several years, my brother Joe and I logged more time on the water than most people do in a lifetime. Our pursuit of that most ethereal of fish already had us ranging ever further from our homes near Milwaukee. Milwaukee, although blessed with close proximity to Lake Michigan and several of its tributaries, is extremely lacking in the environs of inland trout. We had a growing library of reference material and were working our way west and north as we read about different rivers, their hatches and their trout. In the west, Grant County with its Big Green River, Castle Rock Creek, Crooked Creek and Blue River. Vernon County with its coulee spring creeks and the West Fork of the Kickapoo. St. Croix County with the Willow, Kinnickinic and Rush Rivers. Moving north we first ventured to Waushara County to visit the Mecan River and the White River – Hex Madness ensued. Further north to the Tomorrow River, the Wolf, the Oconto and the East Branch Eau Claire River. And there were more: Otter Creek, the Trempealeau, Lunch Creek, Black Earth Creek, the Onion, the Pine, the Little Wolf, Flume Creek, Duncan Creek, the Pemebonwon, and the Brule/Menomonee. Not to mention several spring ponds. So much water and so little time. Eventually, our travels lead us to the fabled Bois Brule River: rich history, protected forest, pure waters and awesome trout. Part of this blog will recount past and upcoming experiences from our week-long pilgrimages to this most promised of lands . . .

This blog is intended to share past and present Wisconsin flyfishing experiences including information on locations as well as flies and techniques used . . . and we’ll see where it goes from there. Feel free to add your own experiences through comments.

– Paul