Monday, July 25, 2016

Big Fish, Tiny Stream

Driftless scenery wisconsin corn and soy in valley
Deep valleys dissecting a flat plateau
I made two trips west to fish this weekend. On Saturday I was kept off the water by thunderstorms, but on Sunday the weather stayed relatively clear. Thanks to the recent rains, the first stream I tried was very stained. I decided to drive upstream to the headwaters in search of clearer waters.

Tiny Driftless Wisconsin brook and brown trout stream
The stream was tiny in most places...

Near the top of the valley I crossed a small tributary. It wasn't on my map of classified trout streams, but it was somewhat clear and the pool near the bridge looked deep. I fished the bridge pool first, but caught nothing but a few small chubs.

Bridge pool wild brook and brown trout driftless wisconsin iowa county
...except for under the bridge
I moved downstream and realized the stream was tiny - below the bridge pool it was just 1-2 feet wide in most places. I didn't catch any fish in the few small pools I found here, so I decided to try the big pool one more time before leaving.

This time I tried to cast a bit farther under the bridge. I let my small wooly bugger sink for a few seconds then began slowly pulling it in. I felt a tug much stronger than one from a chub, and soon pulled in an extremely light-colored brook trout.

Small stream driftless Wisconsin brook trout iowa county
Almost colorless
Emboldened by my success, I decided to try again. A few casts later, I felt an even strong tug. A nice wild brown put up a great fight, at one point jumping a couple feet out of the water.

I kept going, and soon found the best fish of all. Unlike the previous brown, this one never came near the surface. It stayed deep and pulled hard, putting up a strong fight against my 2 weight. Luckily he had nowhere to go in the small pool, so I was able to net him. I don't know exactly how big he was, but I would estimate somewhere in the 14-16" range and very fat with a bit of a kype. Easy my personal best wild brown.

Small stream driftless Wisconsin brown trout iowa county

Though a great fish anywhere, it was even better catching it out of such a tiny stream.

Driftless scenery wisconsin rock outcrop

Friday, July 22, 2016

Freestone Brook Trout

I had a great outing to a small brook trout stream this past weekend, but I’ve been busy and haven’t had time to post about it until now.

I’ve spent most of my fishing time over the past few weeks exploring some of the nearby spring creeks. While these creeks can offer some great fishing, they’re pretty tough to fish this time of year. Streamside navigation is difficult, with my East Coast nemesis, poison ivy, being replaced by stinging nettles, wild parsnips, and 6’+ tall prairie grasses. The silty bottoms found in these streams make wading an even more unpleasant proposition.

With those difficulties in mind, I decided to set out for the stream I fished my first weekend here. There, at least, I knew I could probably land a few fish without waging constant battle against the local environment.This stream, unlike most nearby, is essentially a freestone, flowing down from the Baraboo Hills, the remnants of an ancient mountains range.

I decided to try a foam hopper, one of my go-to flies for freestone brookies, especially later in the summer. I wasn’t disappointed, and I soon began picking up fish in nearly every pool. This stream is quite small volume-wise, but it forms plenty of deep pools as it moves over the boulders in its path.

In one place I found a large pool alongside a giant boulder. The water moved slowly along the edge of the boulder, where it must have been at least 3 feet deep. I bounced my fly off the edge of the rock and watched as a dark shape emerged from the depths and grabbed it. I ended up landing 4 or 5 brookies out of this pool before the fish finally decided to stop biting.

After catching a good amount of fish I contemplated leaving, but I decided to try one last spot. It didn’t look like anything special, just a small plunge feeding a small pool about 5 feet wide. But when I cast my fly into the current tongue I was met with a surprise - a heavy and hard-fighting brookie.

I was amazed to find such a fish in this stream - ~10” and very fat - the only brookies I’ve caught that rival this one are salters.

It was a great day, and more than made up for my struggles on the spring creeks. We got 3-4” of rain over a period of about 2 hours last night here in Madison, so I think the local streams will be blown out this weekend, but I’m going to head west into the heart of the Driftless in search of clearer waters. If only we could send some of this water back to MA - I know you guys need it out there.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

First Wisconsin Explorations

I made my move to Wisconsin last week, and I was able to get my first fishing trip this week. On my way from Madison to Minneapolis to visit some friends,  I stopped to check out a small stream flowing through a small group of hills. Based on the pictures I'd seen of this stream, I thought it would be more like the freestone streams I'm used to than the spring creeks common here.

I found the flow low, but quite cold. Despite the freestone character of this stream, it must have some springs feeding it. I tied on a mini hopper, and it wasn't long before I got hits. I found brook trout in most pools, ranging from 5-10", but my hook up ratio was terrible. I only landed one fish in the hour and a half I fished. It was a beautiful brook trout though, and as my first trout after the move it's at least somewhat special.

I've also discovered that wild black raspberries grow prolifically here. There are some in MA, but I've never seen those yield nearly as many berries as the bushes here.

I'm now working full-time during the week, but there is a trout stream abutting my office, so hopefully I'll get some before or after work fishing in once I get settled.