Fly fishing is a contemplative sport. I often come back from an outing having explored thoughts “that often lie too deep for words.”1 This week’s outing is a father-daughter excursion. My daughter Caitlin has a single week off between now and the end of August and we’re spending it together. I couldn’t be more delighted. She is working toward her Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree at Marquette University and spare moments are a rarity these days. She didn’t get out here at all last year – a shame considering her upbringing on these waters! To have an entire week is simply unheard of. The week is filled with great trout and good times, making me reflect on my relationship with my daughter: the little girl who grew up to be my friend.

1 Normal MacLean’s “A River Runs Through It”

Friday, May 13, 2011 – Timber Coulee Cottage

Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up, walk out the front door of a small cottage, waltz over to a trout stream less than 30 yards away, and spot a rising fish. We’re headed for Timber Coulee Cottage which sits on its name-sake creek.

The drive out here is via a 4-lane stretch of highway that is temporarily down to only two lanes – one in each direction. We crawl along for some time adding almost two additional hours to the usual drive. But no worries: we have some new books on tape form audible.com (Grave Peril by Jim Butcher); we have our music (Caitlin is into Jazz right now); and we have each other (neither of us shy about filling any dead air with conversation).

We arrive with a smidge of daylight left and waste no time in going down to examine the creek. There’s a light rain falling, but that won’t put us off. It’s been too long since Caitlin has approached any trout water. We throw on our Filson jackets and grab a single fly rod, a box of flies, and a pair of hemostats. As we approach the water, we see that a few fish are rising.  Caddis. No words are spoken. I tie on a #16 Elk Hair Caddis and hand Caitlin the rod. She moves down below a steady riser. The water’s surface is dappled with rain, but the bugs keep coming. Her form is excellent as she leans into to her cast to eke out an extra bit of distance. It’s just enough. The brown trout is wild, colorful, beautiful.

So we’ve kicked off what is going to be a week-long sojourn wandering around the West Fork Kickapoo River, Timber Coulee Creek, and exploring some new water. We have a few interruptions planned as we shuttle back to Milwaukee for a couple of events: a first communion and a company marketing event. Caitlin has a Jury Duty obligation every morning as well and we’re hoping that she doesn’t get pulled back. We won’t let those interruptions dampen our spirits. We are in one of our favorite places on Earth about to spend no small amount of time in pursuit of that most ethereal of fish: the trout.

Saturday, May 14, 2011 – Kicking up a few on the Kickapoo

We spend a gratifying day on the West Fork of the Kickapoo River. Every time we come out here, the local fly shops tell us the river is not fishing very well; and every time we come out here we have an absolutely spectacular outing. Perhaps they’re helping to frame our psyche! If this is what the river fishes like when it’s “off”, I can’t imagine what it’s like when it’s “on”. We don’t see any of the truly large brown trout that we’ve had here in the past; however, we experience steady action over the entire course river that we fish.

It’s chillier than it was last week: mid to upper 40’s right now. The air temperature reaches about 50-degrees and holds there throughout the day. There are heavy, intermittent clouds with sunshine poking through now and again. In fact, it’s going to be cool and overcast for the next several days. And we know what that means: good hatches and good fishing. When we get to the river, we get an added bonus. The water is a bit off color – just enough to  conceal us a tad more. That also means we’ll be using darker nymphs today until we figure out what the trout are taking. “Dark day, dark flies” is an old adage that has proved its worth over the years. The idea is that bright, artificial materials look unusual or out of place on a low-light day whereas a darker fly fits better with the darker, stained waters and darker light conditions. Light colored flies are generally better in clearer water and brighter conditions because those conditions light up naturals equally in that fully-lighted water world.

We are on one of our favorite stretches (we won’t say where) and it does not disappoint us. We rig up our 5W and 4W Sage fly rods. I fish the 5W using larger #12 or #10 bead head nymphs with much smaller dropper flies below like a #16 scud or hydropsyche larva. Most trout today take the dropper fly. Caitlin fishes the 4W with a single #14 bead-head fly (various patterns). Caitlin lands 4 nice trout with the largest pushing 14 inches. I land 8 notable fish, the two largest going 14-inches and 16-inches.

There are a couple of scenarios worth noting here. First, there is a spot where a very large tree overshadows the river along one of the wider stretches. Just upstream, a fast riffle gives way to a deep pool as the water slides beneath that tree. Look for spots like this on any river: a change in water depth; an insect factory fueled by the shallower upstream water; plenty of cover from an over-handing tree. I fish a #12 BH prince nymph and a #14 pass lake wet through this water, picking up a few brook trout with their splashy rises. These mini “streamers” are skirted just below the surface and sometimes I can see the wake of a brookie coming up stream to catch that fly.

Another spot presents a scene where the river rushes beneath a dead fall as it gives way to a deep tongue at the head of a pool below. The water barely slows down to form a pool before entering the next run. The trick here is to cast my heavier nymph rig all the way up to that dead fall and mend it into the seam on either side of that tongue. A few on-target casts allow that suspended rig to ride right into the deepest trough of the pool delivering a number of fish including this 16-incher.

Another bit of erudition comes when we get to the last two big bends of this stretch. We each take one of the holes following through from one of the bends – Caitlin upstream with me just below her.  I lean against a tree to adjust my rigging and decide to just watch Caitlin for a bit.  She sits down just about half way through the length of the pool, tucked low, obscured by the brush and high bank. She casts her single-fly, bead-head nymph up stream to the head of the pool and then guides it back down through to the end of the bend. She typically makes only one adjustment (some might call it a mend) while the fly is still in the upper half of the hole. Then she repeats with another cast up to the head. She is fishing Czech Nymph style and doesn’t even know it. She gets several hook ups and lands a few nice browns.

So the key take away here is not the style of fishing so much as the fact that we have the ability to nymph a hole continuously despite catches, misses, and lost fish – and continue to have success. We are not resting these holes more than a minute or two before fish are back on again. We are using some of our favorite rigs.

We wrap up the day just before 6 p.m.  I wouldn’t mind hanging around to see what kind of evening hatch is in the making; however we’ve both had a good number of fish and Caitlin has been in the field with me for a very long time – something that might be unbearable on its own merits let alone the after effects of final exams wearing her down. At one point she tells me that 7 hours of sleep just isn’t enough to go out and spend a long day in the field like this – ah youth!

So now we’re headed back to the cottage where Caitlin prepares a special chicken dish that she’s mastered. Where am I? Scavenging a couple of pools on the Timber Coulee Creek behind the cottage!

Monday, May 16, 2011 – Birding & Brown Trout

We make a late start today, planning to have more time on the water later in the day. The morning is spent carefully approaching the myriad of birds flitting about the trees near the creek and cabin:

Spring Cardinal

Red-breasted Gross Beak

Purple Finch

Red Bellied Woodpecker

With breakfast, birds, and coffee behind us, we decide to pick out a new piece of water that we have never fished before – an entirely new creek. We enter the river off of a County Trunk Road and work our way up through several small pools catching some 10 to 12 inch brown trout. This is “visible fishing”.  I can see the target trout very clearly. I lean on a downed tree in front of me to steady myself before casting to a specific fish. That fish disappears in a cloud of silt. Extra care is needed to avoid bumping into any of the timber that I am climbing over or leaning on as I cast to these small pools.

Eventually, I take a nice brown trout or two giving me the chance to record a couple of underwater movies as I release them. I have a new, small, water-proof camera and it works nicely. It’s a Pentax Optio Wg-1. Here’s one of the videos we shot.

Caitlin is downstream fishing off of a small island below the bridge. I stand above her on the bridge like a sentinel – just to observe. She works out more line as she gauges the distance to the head of the pool. Her eyes never leave the water. Concentration. Her intensity is a true reflection of my own. The first cast produces a slash, but she misses. She sits back, fly line coiled by her side. She is resting her back as much as the pool. After a few minutes she is up again. The fly lands softly in the quiet pool. The water is deep and slow. She draws in the extra line as the fly moves back. A sudden wrist action. She’s twitched the caddis to incite a rise. It works. She catches a remarkably beautiful brook trout and insists that I come down to photograph the little jewel. She wants the picture to capture in a drawing.

Caitlin makes beautiful works of art to reflect trout and the things that they eat.  She wants to replicate this little char in colored pencils. Here are some examples of her recent work:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 – Kickapoo Valley Reserve

Tuesday is one of those days that we have to scoot back to Milwaukee again – work related. We decide to stop by the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, an 8,000 acre tract of land located between the villages of La Farge and Ontario in SW Wisconsin. There are several groomed trails here that run along marshy areas. We see more colorful birds (finches, orioles, etc.) and traipse across a couple of bridges as we explore the place.

On the way out, the attendant asks us if we captured any good photos. We show her my camera replete with a left over grizzly photo from last year’s Yellowstone trip. She gasps at the sight of it and we laugh and tell her a story or two.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 – Timber Coulee Creek

We head back to our trout sanctuary in SW Wisconsin this morning, scouting a few rivers on the way back from Milwaukee. Pine Creek and Willow Creek among others. We cut through the back-country as we get closer to Fennimore, climbing small ridge lines and descending into deep valleys. These aren’t Blue Ridge Mountains, but the effect is the same. Morning mist drifts across the landscape painting a picture of rolling hills in the distance.

The cottage makes for a relaxing retreat as we let the day warm up – still hopeful for a mid-afternoon or evening hatch. We eventually head for Timber Coulee Creek: a stretch that we have fished often. There is an older gentleman walking off the river just as we begin to head downstream, compelling us to hike a good 20 bends down river before fishing our way back to the FJ.

We see some small mayflies and caddis coming off. A handful of trout fall to dry flies with some nicer fish taking our nymphs. The best fish, of course, gets away. There’s a tree on the east bank here just below the 2nd island in this stretch. I’m fishing a tandem rig. The anchor fly is a big, poxy-back green drake nymph. The dropper fly is a #16 BH prince nymph. I toss this rig up into the water above the tree and watch the suspender glide down into the water below the tree. Wham! A nice brown smacks the nymph. I lift the rod to set the hook, turning him over in a magnificent, gold-bellied flop. He throws the hook and disappears into the depths. What a fish! We know bigger ones are in here – and now we know where to probe for one the next time that we come.

Another day with over ten good fish landed. I’m quite satisfied with this outing and stretch of water. Working through twenty bends of river with different hatches and water depths means a lot of fly changes and other adjustments to our rigging. We’ll need to retie our rigs in the morning and set out to fish the West Fork once more and then head back here again in the afternoon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011 – West Fork Kickapoo River

This morning finds us back on the West Fork.  Countless trout are landed with two larger ones working their way off again. Caitlin lands a very nice 15-inch brown trout. She’s very proud of herself!

We’re hungry for some lunch so we stop off at the grocery store in La Farge. The deli there will make you a sandwich and wrap it to go. We head down to Hwy 82 intending to fish upstream; however, there are other anglers here. We head downstream instead to a section that is outside of the catch-and-release water. The water here looks just as good as the water upstream. And of course the trout no nothing of the artificial barrier that classifies this stretch differently than the one above. Nor do the Bald Eagles. No sooner are we near the river than we see one take off, ascending to an incredible height and then soaring in circles above us.

The first couple of holes produce browns between 9” and 11”.  The next fish is a shockingly large chub. Some of water here is very, very deep and probably requires probing with a sink-tip line or much longer leader to get the flies down deeper for a longer drift.

Caitlin climbs the high bank. I wade the river channel. From her vantage above, she spots a couple of large shadows moving up stream in the water. At first she think they’re monster fish (trout on the brain), bit then realizes they are big old beavers.

This section merits more attention in the coming years. The water is a bit degraded compared to upstream, but that just tells us that it’s big brown trout water. Something has to eat those over-sized chubs!

We reach the Highway 82 Bridge by 7 p.m. and decide to venture upstream to examine that water as well. There are more big runs and wide bends up here and we note that this section merits a full day to explore as well.

 

Friday, May 20, 2011 – Transition to Fennimore area – Fenway Hills Motel

It’s our last day on the West Fork Kickapoo before heading down to Fennimore for the weekend. The weekend’s arrival is marked by numerous anglers coming out to enjoy the river! We sneak off to a couple of hidden spots for some solitude – fishing only three or four holes for our entire time morning. We’re nymphing these holes up close with Czech Nymph rigs and techniques. We learn that the fish can be rested very quickly, returning to rise after only a handful of minutes; and this despite the fact that we hover on the edge of a somewhat tapered bank taking trout after trout. We take several brown trout from each hole, trading positions from time to time.

We hop back on the road and scoot over to the Bishop’s Branch for a look. Enticing. Nonetheless we decide to get an early start for Fennimore, stopping by another treasured, small creek on the way down. When we arrive at our treasured creek, there is a tree that has fallen into one of my favorite holes. That small stretch of creek is ruined for the time being – at least from a fly fisherman’s perspective.

Father and Daughter – The Early Years

Down in Fennimore, Waukesha Stillmanks drive in to meet us for the weekend: my brother Joe, his wife Brenda and my nephew and niece Nicholas and Violet. We all stop in at the Cottonwood Club on Highway 61 for some pizza and beers. We play around with some pool cues and chat about life.  Brenda reminds me that Nick is 8 years old now – the same age that Caitlin was when we indoctrinated her to these waters. That’s a lot of water under the proverbial bridge. I recall very well that year. Brenda took an iconic picture of “father and daughter fly fishing for trout” along the Blue River near Bowers Road. Caitlin is 24 now so that was 16 years ago. All those years ago. 16 years! We’ve all enjoyed every minute of it.

Back at the motel, we check in on the weather for tomorrow. There is a possibility of electrical storms. We’ll have to keep an eye on that. My weather radar shows most of the rough weather pushing through well north of us. It’s definitely going to be overcast. Hopefully it will treat us well and Joe & Brenda can help their own “young of the year” get a trout tomorrow.

Trouty Stillmanks

Saturday & Sunday, May 21 & 22, 2011 – Big Green River – RJ and Waukesha Stillmanks Join the expedition

My good friend RJ Reimers arrives from Chicago today to get some of his first schooling on a fly rod. He is one of those fellows that are so adept with map and compass (and GPS) and are able to navigate just about anywhere. And so RJ meets us at a remote spot out on the river.

By the end weekend, my piscatorial progeny, Caitlin, has had what can only be described as the best outing of her life. On Saturday, she catches a 17-inch+ rainbow trout on a #14 elk hair caddis while fishing in “Daniel’s Hole”. We’re pretty much out of that #14 caddis now, having burned through the few that we had between the trout and the trees. We still have some of every other size between #18’s and #12, so we’ll make due.

And then today, Sunday, she puts together two additional trout gems. First she catches a really nice 14-inch brown from a piece of water that we typically pass over to get to more familiar spots. She replicates the Czech Nymph style approach that she apparently mastered on the West Fork Kickapoo. She is using a tandem nymph rig with a larger cress bug on top with a #16 black nymph trailing (black GRHE Nymph with a PT nymph style tail). The brown trout took that

Later on, she replicates that technique further upstream near “Daniel’s Hole” again. This time she’s using a single fly: #12 BH PT Nymph. She’s well below the tree that marks the that hole and right where the water deepens as it bounces off the rip-rap to form a long pool. She is using the 4W with a strike indicator and tossing the rig up along the current line and letting it drift down. When it swings below her, she tugs it back upstream and repeats the ritual.  On about her 4th cast, she is suddenly up on her feet and shouting for the net – she has knocked down another size-able rainbow. I hustle to her side and she battles the brute to the net three times before I am finally able to nab it. My God! Just beautiful colors. Congratulations Katy Molly – well done!

 

I take a couple of nice browns in Hole #1, suspending a cress bug drifted behind a Hydropsyche larva.

RJ gets some of his technique down, landing a couple of smaller trout. Those are big trout as well – because they are first trout. The beginning of something special. He is a quieter more reserved man, but I can tell he is excited to be out here. No doubt! I think RJ is hooked enough (pun intended) to join me for part of the Bois Brule trip coming up here in June.

 

 

Advertisements

Saturday, May 15th, 2010 – Back in SW Wisconsin.

Last winter, my mother-in-law asked me if I would be willing to offer up a day of guided fly fishing as part of a silent auction for a charitable cause. Of course I obliged. Susan Gramling is the recipient of that gift:  a day out in the field with rod and fly. I spend an early morning just outside of Fennimore scouting for water clarity while Susan is still making her way west.  There are some thin clouds lingering about, but I expect we will have a very bright day. No worries as I know where to go even on the brightest of days to tease a trout from a deep pool or from a stream running through a shadowy wood. I am very much looking forward to sharing what I know with someone who is eager to learn about this sport.

It’s about 7:30 a.m. and I’m  headed over to take a look at the river below the Collins Road bridge. I haven’t hit that stretch yet this year and did so well there at the end of last season. The river at here is a bit high and demands a weighted presentation. I don’t have time to finesse a trout from here this morning and make it back to pickup Sue on time, so I walk the banks to examine the water. It’s quiet save for the sounds of nature: the rushing and gurgling of the river; the birds tweeting and singing about the edges; the wind blowing high in the trees. It feels like a good day and that is exactly how it turns out.

Sue caught trout on every piece of water with over five fish landed in total – a few others got away on her. We hit the Big Green, the Little Green, and the Blue River. I also ran down to take a look at Castle Rock Creek, but it was chocolate-colored once again. That discolored water almost caused us to skip the Blue River, but Sue wanted to see some spots that she could hit if she returned again. Once we got to the Blue River, I was surprised to see the orchard had been torn out and a significant stream re-hab project had been completed. The water looked plenty clear and we saw rising fish throughout its course. I caught and released a very nice 14-inch brown on this stretch – our biggest fish of the day.

Sue was great to guide for. She knew her way around a fly rod and she came with the expectation to learn with any fish caught being a bonus for the day!

 

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I creep through the town of Cobb, Wisconsin on the way to Fennimore. It’s the earliest of early-season trout for me this year. When the forecast earlier this week said that it was going to be 75oF in Fennimore, I knew it was time to set aside work for a day and pick up my fly rod. I am planning to fish only select holes on a few pieces of water today. It’s nice to be familiar enough with the water out here that I can have an enjoyable day of it even with the 2 ½ hour drive in each direction. I’ll end my day near Spurgeon Winery and get a couple of bottles of cranberry wine before heading back in time to help put the babies to bed.

The drive out here provides just enough time to make the changeover from work to play. And when two-and-a-half hours are not enough, there are three land-marks that exude their calming effect to help nudge the transition along. First, there are the limestone bluffs that start to appear on the far side of Mt. Horeb. They tower in the distance and where they meet the road, walls of porous rock seep with water. Next are the long rows of wind-mills. These are not a natural landmark, but they count down the remaining miles to Fennimore and so have become synonymous with trout fishing out here. And finally, not really a landmark at all, are the Palominos. We see these horses in more numbers out here than anywhere else in Wisconsin. These three unique icons of the area will always beckon the years spent here and the tranquil effects that they oblige.

More mindful of such landmarks, I observe an old chimney in a field amidst the last of the towering windmills; the only remains of an old house. It would make a superb picture to wander out in this field and take a perspective shot of this old chimney standing there with the large, more modern windmills as a back-drop…

I begin to notice the names of the roads on the last bit of the drive. Blue River Road is the last road before entering Grant County. “Fennimore 11 Miles” a sign reads. County Trunk G is next and leads the way north to the Blue River. Holzer Lane. Anontin Road. Preston Road. Orr Road. Each road bearing the surname of a farming family no doubt. The Fennimore water tower comes into view.  Fennimore, population 2,347.  And here is County Trunk Q bearing North. That’s a turn that I have taken countless times as we drove up to Castle Rock Creek – the indoctrination water of Caitlin and Daniel. We usually stay at the Fenway Hills Motel. The Eagle Creek Inn has sadly gone out of business – forever known to us by its former name “The Silent Woman Inn.”

One of the nice things about coming out to Fennimore is that the Wisconsin Gazetteer is no longer needed for this area. I am sure the inhabitants of the area know these roads much better; however from a trouting perspective, I know these roads better than most! And it wouldn’t be a trip to Fennimore without the company of Van Morrison. “And it Stoned Me” with its references to fishing rods and water has crept into the annals of time for us – a song that can never grow old.

First Stop. It’s 10:30 a.m. and the rods are strung up and ready to go. I have fresh 12-foot leaders on both rods with some favorite prospecting flies:

  • 4W Sage SLT with a 12-foot 5x leader and a #16 Elk Hair Caddis
  • 5W Sage SP with a 12-foot 4x leader and a #14 Bead Head Prince Nymph

I’ll be starting with that devil of a fish that eludes me from time to time and escapes most times even when hooked. He’s an artful rogue. I’ll see if I can entice him up from the depths before dropping downstream into some of the easier pools. I don’t get far before spotting a rise below a bend in the river. There are caddis flies on the water. I apply my craft with the 4W and take the first trout of 2010: a plump 10-inch brown trout. And on a dry fly, no less.

If you’re going to fish long leaders, be prepared to patiently work out a few tangles along the way. Long leaders are wispy things and even a slight breeze can play havoc on them. Remember, every tangled line is an opportunity to rest the fish.

I reach the devil-fish water and although I hook and lose a fish, it was not the fish – not nearly heavy enough. Having disturbed the water here, I head back downstream to “the third pool.” The third pool produces another 10-inch brown with beautiful coloring: white trim on its fins and deep red spots throughout its flank.

There are #16 caddis hatching here and fish continue to rise in regular fashion. They are smaller and I have but one day, so I decide to move on to another piece of water.

On the hike along the creek, I see some obvious holding water that we have often looked over in the past – it just looks trouty. This time, however, I see two to three large trout finning in the currents there. This little run is short and the current is fast. I need a rig that will get deep quickly. I rig up a #8 Hydropsyche Larva and place a foam indicator about 3 feet above it. I end up having to leave these fish for another time as well – I spooked them. It’s an upstream cast to the left bank – there are little bits of this-and-that jutting out to catch the leader, making it a difficult situation. It’s a good, heavy fly that’s wanted here – it has to be cast softly and then get down quickly. I’ll have to think that over. I am sure that over time and with the right rigging, I’ll be able to extract a trout from this fourth pool.

Second Stop. I am now walking the banks of one of my favorite trout rivers – and as early in the season as I have ever been on it. The weather is gorgeous. The sky is bright, it’s blue luster smeared with white and gray clouds. It is warm with a slight breeze. This may be ideal. Why do I love this river so much? Probably because it’s singular in its capacity for large trout. It is most certainly the place where I have had the most repeatable bouts with large rainbows. This is where I caught “Goliath”, “Slab On A Bug” and “The Twin Titans”. That’s why I’m back here. I’m here to handle a big fish and muscle it to the net.  That’s the big draw to this river.

I see some nice splashy rises going on up in hole number one – or should I say “the number one hole” J My Goddard Caddis (I fished it for you Chuck) brings a 12-inch brown to hand. This fish did not have a fleck of red on him – he had more of a charcoal caste to him. That fish was making a small, splashy rise, so I suspect there are larger fish here as well. As I dry out my bug, I notice the caddis flies on the water are smaller than a #16. They are tan. I catch and release another nice brown trout before moving around the bend.

I am fishing up into a run above the next pool. Then it happens. A rainbow! Not a behemoth by any means, but a respectable 13+ inches. It leapt from the depths no less than three times. It took a #10 Hydropsyche Larva fished about seven feet below a foam indicator. This fish marks one of many like it for the rest of the day:

I finally reach the spot where my brother-in-law and I fished last year when I took another size-able rainbow.  I never gave that noteworthy fish a name. On a second outing here, we ran into that monster of a Snapping Turtle in the same spot, so I think I’ll have to work that into naming this fish. I don’t get a fish nearly that size this time, but I do manage an 17-inch fighter that snatches up a Rhyacophilla imitation.

My net goes just under 21-inches from end-to-end with a 13.5-inch opening.

Rhyacophilla Larva

This Rhyacophilla fly is an Oliver Edwards tie, using a technique that calls for twisting strands of fine yarn together and then thinning them at the ends to get the tapered effect. Tying in the partridge legs on this fly is the hardest step; however all can be mastered with time.

Right before I caught this rainbow, a small and remarkable bird was running along the rocky area near the river’s western bank. Actually, there were two of them. They would flit in and out of the rocks, trilling and fanning their tails – perhaps a mating ritual. One of them settled into a spot just behind me and I was able to later identify it as a Killdeer.

Killdeer

I stay and fish just below this spot, connecting with a respectable brown trout that jumped so high when I hooked him that he nearly landed on the bank. There were some little black stoneflies hatching here as well – they went about a #10 in size, but were very thin. If I were to tie this fly, I would use a 2xL #14 hook and tie the wind a little long off the back.

Final Stop. It’s a 24 mile ride to the next piece of water. The peacocks are in the peacock house, tails hanging down…the perfect tree is just down the road…the tin house…  There is only enough time to walk the banks and re-familiarize myself with this next creek. I consider this Caitlin’s water, as Joe and I have yet to hit this stretch together. Trout are schooled up in the hole that she so enjoyed fishing on our first outing here.  I look forward  to a mid-Summer jaunt out here with her.   ~ WiFly

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

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

The forecast for Fennimore was sunny and 70-degrees today, so my brother-in-law Chuck and I high-tailed it back over the to Big Green River for one last foray before the regular season. We drove through some rain in Madison, but Fennimore did not disappoint us. The weather was nice with varied cloud cover and the sun peaking through on a regular basis.  We arrived at the river at about 11 a.m. and were greeted by strong winds. That made casting a bit difficult, so we moved in close and worked short casts with a combination of rigs:

Tandem Nymph Rig:

  • 15-foot leader end-to-end
  • The dropper or “point fly” was a #16 tan scud that was separated from the top fly by about 18-inches of 5x florocarbon tippet
  • The top fly was a #10 caddis larva (hydropsyche) on 4x florocarbon
  • A strike-indicator was placed anywhere from 6 feet to 10 feet above the top fly
  • A micro-splitshot was occassionally used 8-10 inches above the top fly to help get down faster

Caddis Dry With a Dropper:

  • 10 and 15 foot leaders were used
  • One fly combination was a #14 Goddard Caddis with a #16 bead-head prince nymph trailing by 3 to 5 feet
  • Another combination was a #10 Elk-hair Caddis with a #10 hydropsyche caddis larva trailing by 36-inches of 5x florocarbon
  • The dry fly served as a strike indicator and a fly. All fish took the droppers with only an occassional slash at the dry fly.

Streamer Rig:

  • 10 to 12-foot leader
  • A #10 soft-hackle, black crystal bugger was cast down and across stream and then allowed to swing to the near bank before being stripped back upstream.

There were some caddis on the water and whenever the wind died down, we did see fish rising.  The caddis looked to be about a #14. We both caught some respectable brown trout. Chuck’s Goddard Caddis rig worked its magic in more than one hole in the river.

The Author's Brother-in-law Fights and Lands a Nice Brown Trout

The Author’s Brother-in-law Fights and Lands a Nice Brown Trout

I fished rigs that ran a little deeper and was rewarded with a beautiful 19-inch rainbow: a truly remarkable fish. The back of this trout was a deep, rich green and its flank was well marked including the pronounced rainbow marking. This fish gave away its size as soon as it was hooked. The battle was short-lived as it ran close by and was quickly netted.

A 19-inch Rainbow Trout Taken on a Hydropsyche Larva Fished Czech Nymph Style

A 19-inch Rainbow Trout Taken on a Hydropsyche Larva Fished Czech Nymph Style

We had a chance to look over the water from a high bank and marked some good holes. One small stretch showed well over 100 fish in two nice slots that did not span more than 100 feet of river! We rested that spot by breaking for lunch and we were rewarded with a couple of more nice Browns for Chuck upon our return.

The Author's Brother-in-law, Chuck, with a Big Green River Brown Trout

The Author’s Brother-in-law, Chuck, with a Big Green River Brown Trout

The Big Green is a great fishery and we are not the only ones fishing it. Check out this monster snapping turtle that was cruising the river hunting for fish, frogs and anything else that it could find. You don’t get this big without ample food!

Paul's Other Catch!

We Did Not Fish Alone!