Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dry Fly Season

Here in the Driftless area, we're fortunate to have productive aquatic ecosystems, which means we have plenty of hatches. The downside is that fish get picky. In Massachusetts I know I can catch a fish on a dry pretty much any time the water is above 50 F. Fly selection doesn't usually matter, so I can fish a big, bushy attractor pattern.

In Wisconsin I have to match the hatch, even in small streams, at least until terrestrials start showing up. This sort of technical dry fly fishing is new to me, but it's even more rewarding than fishing a big attractor back home.

During my last two trips I saw a few sporadic rises, but nothing consistent enough to merit switching from a nymph to a dry. Yesterday, however, was a different story. I arrived at my favorite pool, a large one underneath a bridge. I began by sight fishing a nymph to some fish in the tail of the pool, but I couldn't convince any of them to take. Just as I was about to move on to another pool, a ripple caught my eye. As I looked more carefully, I noticed several fish rising at the head of the pool. These were not obvious, splashy rises. The trout were poking their snouts just above the water to sip something I couldn't see. I tied on a small dry and some 6X tippet, slowly moved towards the head of the pool, and made a cast.

I wish I could say this first cast was perfect and that I hooked a fish immediately, but alas that was not the case. My tippet and fly landed in a pile and drifted downstream untouched. To make matters worse, I noticed a nice trout spook and race past me downstream.

After a few choice words I sat back and waited to see if the trout kept rising.

They did, and my next cast was on the mark. I watched as a dark shadow followed my fly downstream, then I saw a head peak above the water and I set the hook.

I felt weight on the other end, and the fight was on. I soon had this nice wild brown in my hand.

Unfortunately the fish stopped rising, and I couldn't find any more fish for the rest of the day, but his one fish made the whole trip worthwhile.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back to Brook Trout

This winter I caught a lot of brown trout. I enjoy catching browns, especially when they're wild, but the thrill of catching a small, beautifully colored brook trout in a small stream will never fade.

Yesterday I went to a small stream in western Wisconsin in hopes of reuniting with the brook trout. I didn't arrive at the stream until 4:30, which is a bit late for this time of the year, but this stream is a true limestone spring creek, so the water temperatures were ok.

I started out fishing a large, deep pool underneath the bridge where I accessed the stream. The size of this stream is unique - it's small enough to step across in some places, but opens up into 5+ foot deep pools with almost no current. This was one of those deep pools. I crawled the last 30 feet to the pool, as the fish here are among the spookiest I have encountered.

I tied on a size 14 bead head prince nymph with a small water balloon indicator and cast into the pool. Just as I started to think I may have spooked the pool, I saw my indicator shoot under the surface. I set the hook and felt weight on the other end, and soon I had a beautiful wild brookie in hand.

A few casts later I brought another brookie to hand. This one was surprisingly skinny - hopefully he'll fatten up this spring. In the next hour I also caught two browns, but both got away before I could get a picture.

Skinny, but colorful
At this point the action was slowing down and darkness was falling, so I decided to head home. A glimpse of the sun peeking out from behind the clouds was the perfect ending to a long day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March Part III - Success!

Wisconsin Meadow Stream
I got out to fish today from 8:30 to 11:30 AM. I started at a small meadow stream in western Wisconsin. This stream is a spring creek and has plenty of fish, but the water is glossy and crystal clear, so it can be hard to fish without spooking trout.

After spooking several nice pools, I decided I needed to slow down and focus on stealth if I wanted to catch a fish. As I approached a large pool I got on my hands and knees and crawled the last 30 feet to the stream, stopping 10 feet from the bank. I waited for a gust of wind to break up the surface, then I cast slightly upstream. My indicator drifted a few feet and then went under. I set the hook and finally brought my first trout of March to hand.

Later I moved to the Upper Kinni but didn't catch anything, despite seeing a number of rises.

I did get this nice panorama though

Monday, March 23, 2015

March Part II

I went back to the same stream on Saturday in hopes of redeeming myself after being skunked on Tuesday. Despite similar water temperatures and lower flows than Tuesday, I was skunked once again. I took advantage of the lull in fishing to get some pictures of the stream and its surroundings. 

A little color in an otherwise white landscape

The stream flows through a steep-sided ravine wooded with hemlock and beech. The steep walls block all sounds but those of the gently flowing water and the occasional deer moving through the underbrush. This ravine is wild home for wild trout in the middle of heavily developed eastern Massachusetts - hopefully it will remain this way far into the future.

A panorama of the ravine
I'll be fishing in the Driftless tomorrow - hopefully I'll have a report with pics of my first trout of March.

The road out

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Yesterday I got skunked, but there are worse ways to spend a beautiful March Day.

Despite good water temperatures, I wasn't able to find any interested fish. The water was a bit high and off color, so I think I was having trouble getting deep enough for the fish. It didn't help that the bright March sun shining through the currently leafless trees and casting harsh shadows on the water.

I'm also a bit out of practice on casting - I ruined a couple nice pools by getting snagged on overhanging branches and having to wade out to free my fly.

That's enough for excuses, though. I did see a lot of bugs on and around the water. What I believe were black stoneflies in the size 18 - 20 range were everywhere, as were some midges. I also found some nymphs under rocks(see pics below). There's food in the water and the temps are rising - we should be getting into good fishing soon!

A small mayfly nymph (~18) - possibly a BWO
A small caddis nymph (also ~18)