Archive for August 2010
When Tom and I set out on Saturday morning we did so with real expectations. Our recent ventures to the Driftless area had reliably produced fish and we, or at least I, hadn’t considered what a tough day might look like.
Tom’s “secrets of success” are really good suggestions. I cannot recall a time in my life where I’ve eagerly anticipated a thunderstorm quite the way I am today. The extended period of dryness that the last two weeks of August brought us did alot to hinder good fishing opportunities.
To add to Tom’s ideas I would consider the value in thinking of a given stream in three dimensions. Streams are more than meets the eye. We all unconsciously recognize a stream’s length but for a stream to offer solid fishing opportunities it’s really width and depth in a given section that are providential. Too much or too little of one or both of these variables and the fish just aren’t there in great numbers. Many of the streams we fished on Saturday likely rely on surface run-off to produce ideal conditions. The springs assure cold water for stretches but the groundwater just doesn’t provide the surge of activity that a solid rain can. Fish very likely see rain as an opportunity to extend their feeding territory, even briefly.
Here’s a question I’ve begun to consider but which I’ve found little information on. Does anyone else find the urge to use their weighted streamers on spin casting gear? I see no reason why a large streamer is not very appropriately used in this manner using light tackle. We are almost exclusively using spinners right now which is really a minnow presentation. I’d like to think that some of the streamers that are leech or even worm mimics might be a recipe for success when the glossy spinner just isn’t working.
Stephen Rose and I went out to Richland County Saturday morning to fish for trout. Our first stop was the upper Pine River at Highway 80 and County Road C. It was about 6am, the sun was about 15 minutes below the horizon, and the sky was clear. Water temperature was 62 degrees and visibility was around 12″.
The first section of stream we fished was right along the road, and a few casts into the morning I pulled in a nice little Brown Trout. I didn’t even have to get my feet wet!
Tom Anderson-Brown with a Pine River Brown
Upstream there were plenty of nice features. Bends, riffles, eddies, undercut banks. Stephen pulled in the little guy below on the outside of a bend.
Stephen Rose with a Pine River Brown Trout
We fished upstream amongst the beef cattle to a spot where the river became calm and straight and entered the woods. A few casts with no success and we headed back downstream to fish near the bridge under Highway 80.
I fished below the bridge hoping to find a big one in the hole there, but I ended up reeling in a 7″ Brown. Stephen, on the other hand, had more luck. He was standing under the bridge casting upstream. A long cast out of the shadow and a retrieve back into it got Stephen this 16.5″ beauty.
Stephen Rose with a 16.5" Pine River Brown
Another shot of the 16.5" Brownie
A little upstream of the Bridge is a tributary creek coming in to the Pine. Neither of us knew what it was at the time, but it turns out it was Melancthon Creek. Stephen and I had fished Melancthon on a trip earlier in the summer and had a great outing, landing lots of fish and some larger ones too. The section we fished then was downstream of County Highway CC and Highway 80. It was through the woods and drizzling. The water was up and the fishing was great.
The Melancthon Creek we came upon Saturday was different altogether. It was low and somewhat still and the fish were hunkered down. Amazing the difference stream conditions and weather can make on your success!
The lower reaches of Melancthon Creek
After that we headed on to the east toward Willow Creek. Along the way we crossed the Little Willow Creek at McAvoy Road and decided to get out of the car and take a look. The section off McAvoy was shaded by trees and running clear. A few casts yielded some interest from small fish but none were hooked. Looking at the satellite image of the area there appear to be some very appealing sections of Little Willow Creek downstream between Willow Creek and County Highway N. We plan to go back for a visit in the future.
The Little Willow Creek upstream of McAvoy Road
We continued on to Willow Creek and fished two sections. The first was just downstream of the little town of Loyd along Highway 58. The stream in this section meanders along limestone cliffs, so we thought we might find some nice holes. Success was had downstream of the limestone in the meanders and riffles. I caught two smaller fish below riffles there. Upstream next to the cliffs we each hooked into fish, but nothing substantial.
Stephen with a Willow Creek Brown
- Tom with a Willow Creek Brown
The locals were indifferent about our presence.
Willow River Donkeys
I love the look of a spring creek running along a limestone cliff.
We fished to the bridge in Loyd and headed back to the car with our tails between our legs. We drove up Highway 58 to Rustic View Road and fished a section we’d been to in the past. Last time we fished it the fish bit on every cast. This time it was as if there was nobody home.
We had hoped for better action in this nice section of stream but didn’t have much to speak of. The conclusion we came to was that the water was down a bit due to lack of rain and the weather was just too nice so the fish weren’t biting. On a day like this the best time to fish is early and late, and we fished Willow Creek in the middle of the day.
We decided to head back toward home and stop if we saw anything interesting along the way. We passed through Spring Green, Mazo, and Black Earth, and decided to pull off and try a section of Black Earth Creek downstream of Cross Plains where the river passes under Highway 14. This was an odd experience in that we were fishing a creek next to the mown yards of homes along County Highway KP. One homeowner was weed wacking near the bank of the creek as we fished our way upstream. It felt a little intrusive for us to be walking up the stream next to a man trimming his lawn, but we continued and I hooked into a little Brown Trout just below the footbridge near Sherwood Forest Lane.
A Black Earth Creek Brown Trout
I can’t recommend you fish this section of the creek because it just feels weird, but we proved there are fish living here.
In the end it was an enjoyable day, even if it was a bit disappointing. We had gone to Richland County to catch either big fish or a lot of fish. The 16.5″ Brown that Stephen caught was certainly nice, but we had limited success.
As we fish more and in different places under different conditions we’re learning some of the secrets of success.
- Fish early or late when the weather is hot and sunny.
- Plan your excursions around weather systems. Look for clouds and maybe some drizzle or rain.
- Fishing after a storm can mean fish are looking to feast on food that’s been washed into the stream. Take advantage of these occassions.
- Find the right amount of turbidity. Too clear and the fish will see you coming. Too cloudy and the fish can’t see your lure. Somewhere in the middle is just right.
- Take a thermometer and take the temperature of the water. If it’s too warm the fish are sleeping.
Another thing I’ve resolved to do after this latest trip is to study satellite images of the area we plan to fish. We were upstream or downstream of some really good-looking sections of stream that we didn’t investigate because we weren’t aware that they looked so nice from outer space. It’s a bummer to figure that out after you’ve returned from a trip.
Get out there and fish!
Thanks Tom! Our very early, very raw experiences as “trout seekers” have become a continuous dialogue in my head which I look forward to sharing with readers. (I’m not sure who gains in that crude calculus.)
So, without pomp, I step into the silty unknown hopeful to hit smooth bottom.
I recognize some of the early pics and posts on this blog as something authors Jim Humphrey and Bill Shogren would recognize as the work of “two plus-ers” possibly even “four plus-ers”. I’m exactly certain that the brook trout I caught on Big Spring Creek is not a fifteen incher. This truth is all the more painful knowing that I’ve spent the better part of my adult life pulling a tape measure. Still, no apologies for the enthusiasm of two guys just trying to catch some fish and good company.
“The road is nicer than the inn.” ~ Cervantes
I’d like to introduce Stephen Rose, friend and fishing partner. Stephen will co-author the Seeking Trout Blog with me.
Stephen is an avid outdoorsman and has a degree in Biology. I’m looking forward to Stephen’s contributions to the Seeking Trout blog and I hope you enjoy and learn from his insights.
Welcome Stephen. Good to have you along!
My 4-year-old son Sawyer is the least interested in fishing. If we take the rowboat out on the lake he spends all his time swimming and playing in the water while the other kids fish. Tonight he spent the evening examining every perch, bluegill, and crappie I took off my 8-year-old’s line. He was very careful to sweep back the spiny dorsal fins and got a kick out of feeling the fish rush out of his hand as he lowered them into the water.
Towards the end of the evening, just as the sun went below the horizon, he decided to make a cast to try to catch a fish. In goes the lure and out comes the biggest Crappie anyone in our family has ever caught.
I’ll be interested to see if he swims or fishes on our next trip out.
Sawyer Anderson-Brown with a 10.5" Lake Wingra Crappie
I took a solo trip back to Vermont Creek this morning to see if fishing it earlier in the day would yield more success. My last trip there with my fishing partner Stephen was later in the day and we had very limited results.
I was up and out at 5:45am and on the creek at around 6:30. No luck for the first 1/2 hour, but I had my first fish of the morning on my #6 gold PM spinner at around 7am. Just a little brownie, probably 7″.
I kept at it, moving upstream through tall brush. This place is hard going in late summer with all the tall grass and brush. The stream is fairly narrow and the streambed is irregular (boulders mixed with soft silt), so walking in the water isn’t a picnic either.
A little ways upstream there was a nice small riffle with a pool below it. The pool had a plant hanging over it, making it difficult to get a good cast presented. I fired a cast up above the riffle then moved my rod tip over to the right to bring the lure down the riffle and underneath the overhanging plant. BAM! Fish on! This one was bigger and put up a nice fight. I brought him to hand, removed the hook, and readied the camera. Just before I got the shot he wiggled out and was gone. It was in the 11″ range. A pretty brown trout.
I worked upstream some more, thrashing my way through the tall brush. I found a nice bend in the creek and eased my way into the water to take a shot at it. My first cast sailed wide left and ended up in the Jewel Weed, but it came out without much trouble.
My second cast was an improbable one. The bend went around to the right, so I made a cast aiming for the left bank just above the bend. The lure went further right than I expected and ended up landing to the right and out of sight. But it was in the water. I started reeling in line and felt hit. An0ther nice fish on, a twin brother of the 11″ fish I’d caught previously.
11" Vermont Creek Brown
A bit more crashing and thrashing upstream, likely scaring away lots of fish (but I was trying my best to move quietly, honest).
I don’t remember the details of the next fish, but it was another beauty. This one was a little bigger and fought a little harder. I couldn’t believe I’d kept him on the line because the hook just slid out of his mouth when I got him to hand.
A nice Vermont Creek Brown
Really beautiful colors on these fish, that’s for sure. It must be getting close to spawning time and these browns are trying to dress up their look a bit.
So, I made my way upstream some more but had no luck. The section of creek I fished was a lot of meanders but very few riffles. If you ask me, there’s nothing better than fishing riffle with a hole below it. I love the sound the water makes falling down the rocks. I love the feeling that there are just a ton of fish in that hole waiting for the riffle conveyor belt to deposit food to their mouths. And it seems to me it’s easier to catch multiple fish from a riffle hole than it is on bends and under banks. Perhaps the noise and vibration of a riffle makes sneaking up on the hole easier too.
Vermont Creek, at least the section I’ve explored, has little of this, and so I’ll likely be making my way to other streams with riffles and shade and streambeds that are easier to walk.
But hey, I put the fish back today, so there are at least four nice fish waiting to take your lure in Vermont Creek.
One more thing. I saw lots of Cooper’s Hawks, a hummingbird, and a nice Monarch Butterfly today on Vermont Creek. It’s a beautiful spot, no doubt, and well worth a visit.
Vermont Creek Monarch
Yesterday morning my fishing partner and I went out early to South Valley Road on Black Earth Creek to catch some trout on spinners. The day was overcast and cool, so we thought we were going to have a lot of success.
We arrived at the bridge early and it was still too dark to fish. After sitting for about 10 minutes the sky began to show signs of daylight. On with the rubber pants, gather up the rods, lures, and nets, and over the fence to the first big pool above the bridge.
All the signs of a great morning of fishing were there. Cloudy, cool but warming, water a bit stained with a temp of 59-degrees, and fish rising all over the place eating their breakfasts.
I was casting a #6 brook trout pattern and Stephen was casting a #9 silver spinner.
Panther Martin #9 Deluxe Silver/Red/Blue
Panther Martin #6 Brook Trout Spinner
We spent about 20 minutes working the pool and the riffle above it, expecting to catch fish after fish, but nothing doing. I had one fish, a 10″ brown, hit my lure right in front of me, but it bailed at the last minute.
So, on up the stream we went. There are a couple of bends above the pool that go through a grove of trees, but the depth is fairly consistent. There was a lot of vegetation growing from the streambed, long flowing aquatic grass that waved like snakes swimming through the water. The grass didn’t impede casting any, but it didn’t help either.
When we came out the other side of the grove without so much as a hint of fish we decided to try another spot. We drove back east on KP to Sherbel Road and got out at the bridge there. A man was worming off the bridge and said he’d seen a big fish rising just downstream. We got to talking about Gordon Creek and he said he’d caught a 28″, 8-pound trout a couple of decades ago from Gordon Creek. That must have been some fish.
Stephen and I worked upstream from the bridge and found some incredible holes but again, no sign of fish. When we got to the confluence of Black Earth Creek and Garfoot Creek we decided to turn right and head up this small tributary. It was bushwacking most of the way, but Stephen did manage to connect with a 12″ Brookie tucked in under a bank.
Stephen's Garfoot Brookie
More bushwacking and more good holes, but most of these holes were extremely tight and difficult to sneak up on for a good cast. We got to a farmer’s bridge and got out to walk back to the road alonside a pasture.
I’d seen Vermont Creek while driving down Highway 78 but had never given it much thought. It looks like a ditch when seen from the highway, but we decided to go check it out before we ran out of time for fishing that morning.
Here is what the DNR had to say about Vermont Creek in its Lower Wisconsin River Basin report from 2002:
Vermont Creek is 6 miles long and joins the Black Earth Creek just west of the Village of Black Earth. Many of the banks of the creek are lined with wetlands and wet meadows. The creek has been evaluated as a cold water stream that supports natural reproduction of brown trout. There are some ponded spring heads on the creek and sections of the creek have been channelized. Although a cursory habitat evaluation conducted on a headwater section of the creek during the summer of 2001 found the creek to have good in-stream habitat, habitat work is needed in the channelized portion of the stream. Erosion and other nonpoint sources of pollution from the surrounding watershed were noted, but not thought to be major problems.
Habitat restoration, sediment control, and reduction of nonpoint pollution would greatly enhance the water quality and fish habitat of this stream. Habitat improvement work should be completed in the WDNR owned section of the creek and serve as a pilot project. Access is available from road crossings and WDNR properties and easements.
In 2009 some habitat improvement (HI)work was done on Vermont Creek and this work is described in the Black Earth Creek Watershed Association Spring 2010 Report.
We started fishing Vermont Creek at the bridge on Highway KP. Very thick woods and deep sediment made getting through this section difficult. Do youself a favor and skip the woods here. Past the woods is the aforementioned HI work, a very pleasant section with meanders and riffles where Stephen pulled two Browns out and I managed a small Brown myself. By the time we started fishing this good section of water the sun was getting up in the sky and shining down into the creek, which kept the fish tucked under banks.
Next time we’ll start at Vermont Creek and skip Black Earth Creek altogether.