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SWTU & Vermont Creek   1 comment

I am posting this in hopes of stirring any and all to get out there and help fix up the stream that provided the fish from Tom’s last post.

These are a real nice bunch of folks doing great work on behalf of the rest of us.

Thanks to all who might entertain joining in the fun.

I was told there will be 8 sawyers available so alot of work could be accomplished and the picnic might lead to a brand new network of secrets!

Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited

All members of Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited and the local community are invited to join us for a streamside workday event and picnic. Help out at the workday, join us for a tasty picnic, or both!

Please sign up for the workday with Steve Wald at 608-836-3338 or at sewald101@gmail.com.

What: An SWTU workday on Vermont Creek followed by a picnic.

When: Saturday, April 28th. The work will be done from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM and the picnic will be from 12:00 – 2:00 PM.

Where:
Workday – Vermont Creek @ Danz Dr in Black Earth
Picnic – Veteran’s Memorial Park

Directions:
Workday – From Highway 14/State Street in Black Earth, head south on Highway 78/Mills Street for a quarter mile and then turn west on to Webb Street. Take a right on Warner Street and then another right on to Danz Drive.

Picnic – From From Highway 14/State Street in Black Earth, head south on Highway 78/Mills Street for a half mile. The park is on the east side of the street.

What to Bring:
Please bring your own water for the work day, as well as sunscreen and bug spray for the ticks. Plan to bring work gloves as well as loppers and hand saws.

Everyone needs to sign a release form for the work day. Volunteers under 17 will need a parent or guardian signature.

Cancellation:
Visit the calendar at swtu.org to check the event status in case of bad weather.

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Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited | P.O. Box 14352 | Madison | WI | 53708-4352

Posted April 26, 2012 by Stephen in Vermont Creek

“Owning” a Piece of the Driftless Pt. 2   Leave a comment

This is Tom’s long lost fishing cohort Stephen making an effort to reinsert himself into this blog space for a time.

Tom suggested we take up this debate as it is an interesting difference between he and myself and we thought it worth exploring in a more public way.

In our wanderings for trout we have had opportunity to put our eyes on parts of this state that have been rumor to me for most of my life. I relied on these rumors to help describe myself as a Wisconsin man, born, raised……….an avid and understanding outdoorsman. This is more myth than I’d like to admit. Despite my long appreciation of all of our natural abundance I can’t say that I’ve really fostered this virtue the way I might have.

I began my relationship with the landscape very young as a “nature boy”. Given license by my peers meant hauling them into the woods and playing indian brave, hunting, fishing, making forts, or climbing trees to insane heights. I remember very well the moments when we were playing some kind of war game deep in a local wood but feeling a strange contentment about not being found. Somehow I just didn’t feel alone. I worked hard to simply become part of the landscape. To disappear into it. It was a tremendous comfort.

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At one point I was given an opportunity to visit a rarified landscape over and over and that is when I began to really have a dream about a lasting commitment to a place. I defy anyone to show me up in my intimacy with Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County, Wisconsin. I spent 11 days per summer there and each time I built on a legacy that shapes who I am. This repetition is important for a number of reasons.

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First, even at a young age, I developed a love for the peculiarities of, not just any place, but the genius of a specific location. I witnessed small and wholesale changes, happened on ever expanding discoveries, and immersed myself in knowing every turn in the trail and the perfect vantage point from which to witness a particular species or event. If I did not know the name of something I at least knew it without benefit of words. To put it simply, Whitefish Dunes State Park and I were no longer strangers. We were friends and I felt need to protect and preserve this relationship even at a young age.

This would never have been possible without repetition and it is something I will always be grateful for.

I have visited places all over the world, some of them fairly exotic and certainly unique. I am very grateful for having had this opportunity also. But I can’t say I really know those places and they certainly don’t know me very well. We were strangers and we never really got past a greeting before I was off and moving again. The Atlas mountains of North Africa don’t remember me and whatever I do recall is circumspect at best. It’s a story I tell as a very unreliable narrator.

Visiting a place only once, not unlike being told a story by someone else, leaves you unscathed by responsibility. It’s a one night stand, a dalliance, and for the landscape, you are most assuredly an intruder. Just another tourist taking romantic pictures of something they’ll never know.

Mankind traipsing all over the planet and planting it’s flag, saying, “We’ve been here”, gets old.

For me, it is no longer enough to have simply set foot in a place. I need to hold and maintain a discourse.

I have mentioned in this blog a few times before the idea of a “conversation” with a fish. And it is something I’ll reiterate here. When I present a fly to a trout I do so as a question. “Can I conjure you to have a discourse with me?” This discourse will likely be brief in duration and comes with little risk to me and much for the fish but it is the best way I can describe it.

The totality of my fishing adventures really looks like a need to interact. To ask questions and hope for answers.

Mankind has set up camp in virtually every spot on this planet and, by and large, have left much of it far worse off than they found it.

This is strong language I know. Some will quibble with these ideas but I welcome a “clash of ideas” as it can only hone my thoughts on this.

With that I’m officially kicking the can down the road.

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Posted February 3, 2012 by Stephen in Thoughts on Fishing, Wisconsin

Tagged with , ,

Of   3 comments

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Posted November 5, 2011 by Stephen in Wisconsin

First Timer   3 comments

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That’s my brother Tim gettin’ in for the first time.

We spent an overnight at the West Fork Sportsman’s Club in Avalanche and woke at dawn to work Knapp Creek, the West Fork of the Kick, and the Sea Breeze Creek. All are in close proximity and gave us some different flavors for a days fishing.

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We did well with Brookies on the Knapp, including a 12 incher , and I think Tim was really taken by the nature of a day knee deep as I know I am. I think I saw and felt those pangs for a trophy that we all sometimes get, of a big fish and some outlandish story to go with it. But I knew that wasn’t likely, or at least, is no longer what brings me out there.

“It ain’t about the fish”, as they say, and you won’t get any argument from me on that sentiment.

I’ve begun to see these streams as nothing more than lonesome highways where a guy can really get way back in the world where a rabbit wouldn’t go.

I mean, how else to see all this very marvelous, very privately owned land?

My fishing pole and rubber pants are license to see that which is otherwise forbidden. For some guys, maybe that’s a pole dancer, others still, it’s the big game on the tube, or throwing oneself into some extreme sports peril. I’ll take a cold running, spring fed stream, up against that stuff almost every time.

I wanted Tim to recognize that there is a world of opportunity out there which requires a relatively small investment in basic gear that provides a lifetime of superlative activity for those willing to give it a try.

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We left for Avalanche from Madison at about 6 or so and I’d readied us for an evening of hammock camping just off the road somewhere not far from the fish. It’s unfortunate there is so much human contrivance in the world that two guys can’t sling a couple sheets of nylon between two trees w/o feeling like they’re breaking the law. Sadly, we couldn’t find a spot that would keep us close to the car w/o feeling really conspicuous so we opted for the Sportsmans Club after giving up our search at about 10pm.

For all my resistance, the club camping facilities proved to be a very welcoming spot for two late comers and made camp set up a snap. Arriving late, we were told to seek out Trapper in the morning. I knew we’d be gone by 5:30 and bothering someone that early felt like an injustice greater than not paying the very fair $20.00 fee. (10 for overnight + 10 for a seasonal membership)

Trapper, let’s say I owe you one okay?

And thanks much for a great spot to hang your hat for an evening!

We’ll be back I’m certain and settle up then.

After 3 or 4 hours the next morning on the Brookie laden Knapp, we decided to seek out bigger water in hopes of finding some fat Brown trout.

I like to fish w/o other fisherman in sight (minus my mates of course) so the West Fork always looks a little too cozy from the road. Makes it feel too much like some kind of water park or something. I’m looking for the lonesome highway. Not Wisconsin Dells.

But we moved down the creek a ways and I discovered why people fish the West Fork. It’s freakin’ gorgeous! I am very thankful for every inch of effort on that stream and it made for some really fine fishing. Great activity in some long riffles, that are so fun to fish, and beautiful plunge pools and big bend pools so fishy you’re reluctant to ever leave them.

The Sea Breeze, I think that’s what it’s called, was a little trib that I thought might get less fishing pressure than the main branch and give us some solid afternoon opportunities.

We did well in this open prairie like little stream. It recalled many of the Dane County that are familiar to me.

I think Tim was chastened a bit by the day. His anticipation for big fish was natural. But in the end he clearly felt those other less knowable virtues that are what really bring us all back.

Can’t wait to get back there with my crew again sometime soon!

First Timer   2 comments

20110910-123232.jpg

That’s my brother Tim gettin’ in for the first time.

We spent an overnight at the West Fork Sportsman’s Club in Avalanche and woke at dawn to work Knapp Creek, the West Fork of the Kick, and the Sea Breeze Creek. All are in close proximity and gave us some different flavors for a days fishing.

20110910-123757.jpg

We did well with Brookies on the Knapp, including a 12 incher , and I think Tim was really taken by the nature of a day knee deep as I know I am. I think I saw and felt those pangs for a trophy that we all sometimes get, of a big fish and some outlandish story to go with it. But I knew that wasn’t likely, or at least, is no longer what brings me out there.

“It ain’t about the fish”, as they say, and you won’t get any argument from me on that sentiment.

I’ve begun to see these streams as nothing more than lonesome highways where a guy can really get way back in the world where a rabbit wouldn’t go.

I mean, how else to see all this very marvelous, very privately owned land?

My fishing pole and rubber pants are license to see that which is otherwise forbidden. For some guys, maybe that’s a pole dancer, others still, it’s the big game on the tube, or throwing oneself into some extreme sports peril. I’ll take a cold running, spring fed stream, up against that stuff almost every time.

I wanted Tim to recognize that there is a world of opportunity out there which requires a relatively small investment in basic gear that provides a lifetime of superlative activity for those willing to give it a try.

20110910-060526.jpg

We left for Avalanche from Madison at about 6 or so and I’d readied us for an evening of hammock camping just off the road somewhere not far from the fish. It’s unfortunate there is so much human contrivance in the world that two guys can’t sling a couple sheets of nylon between two trees w/o feeling like they’re breaking the law. Sadly, we couldn’t find a spot that would keep us close to the car w/o feeling really conspicuous so we opted for the Sportsmans Club after giving up our search at about 10pm.

For all my resistance, the club camping facilities proved to be a very welcoming spot for two late comers and made camp set up a snap. Arriving late, we were told to seek out Trapper in the morning. I knew we’d be gone by 5:30 and bothering someone that early felt like an injustice greater than not paying the very fair $20.00 fee. (10 for overnight + 10 for a seasonal membership)

Trapper, let’s say I owe you one okay?

And thanks much for a great spot to hang your hat for an evening!

We’ll be back I’m certain and settle up then.

After 3 or 4 hours the next morning on the Brookie laden Knapp, we decided to seek out bigger water in hopes of finding some fat Brown trout.

I like to fish w/o other fisherman in sight (minus my mates of course) so the West Fork always looks a little too cozy from the road. Makes it feel too much like some kind of water park or something. I’m looking for the lonesome highway. Not Wisconsin Dells.

But we moved down the creek a ways and I discovered why people fish the West Fork. It’s freakin’ gorgeous! I am very thankful for every inch of effort on that stream and it made for some really fine fishing. Great activity in some long riffles, that are so fun to fish, and beautiful plunge pools and big bend pools so fishy you’re reluctant to ever leave them.

The Sea Breeze, I think that’s what it’s called, was a little trib that I thought might get less fishing pressure than the main branch and give us some solid afternoon opportunities.

We did well in this open prairie like little stream. It recalled many of the Dane County that are familiar to me.

I think Tim was chastened a bit by the day. His anticipation for big fish was natural. But in the end he clearly felt those other less knowable virtues that are what really bring us all back.

Can’t wait to get back there with my crew again sometime soon!

The White Wooly Bugger, Fly-Fishing vs Spinning, and the Tributaries of the Kickapoo   3 comments

Last week Tom and I took a sort of ‘last hurrah’ expedition to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve to get in some fishin’ before I embarked on a new job which might impinge on our ability to get out there as often as we might wish.

It was a great idea and great trip.

The story of this occasion was the "white wooly bugger".

Due to scheduling beyond our control, we felt that this was an opportune moment to give our “hammock camping” ambitions another go ’round. We left Madison at 10:30pm and made camp around 12:30am under cover of a moonless but starry night not far from our intended fishing spots.

Tom in a justly famous "Hennessey Hammock" after a pleasant evening.

The hammocks proved their virtues yet again as we strung them in minutes and were comfortable through the night. (doubled sleeping bags comes highly recommended)

I want to discuss a beautiful discovery I had while we fished. I had no real plan or strategy eked out for how I might approach the streams but I figured that this early in the season a hatch would be light at best and that nymphing would be our most likely presentation.  I had tied a number of white wooly buggers on the old adage, “light flies, light day, dark flies, dark day”. I am almost not interested in color patterns in flies at the moment. I tend towards the idea that profile trumps color in most fishing situations. Attraction can be brought about with metallic light catching materials but roygbiv seems irrelevant from my experience. This narrows my need for all kinds of varied materials when tying flies and limits indecision speeding production.  I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks about this as I have yet to read anything about the simple idea of using white or black flies as the baseline for virtually all patterns.

Anyway, my first usage of the white wooly bugger was a revelation. Where with most flies I felt some need to tie on a float to aid in  recognizing strikes, the white wooly bugger was plainly visible beneath the surface and the need for a float was negated. I could now cast with much greater comfort as my leader and tippet unfurled in continuous arcs without the ‘hinge-like’ effect that I find when using a float. I could watch the travel of the white fly all the way to a fish’s mouth. It was terrific!

My new favorite fly pattern.

When I cast my last white wooly bugger onto a lovely wall only to have it get hung up in a deep bend I was almost ready to get wet to salvage it. I spent the rest of the day thinking of that damn fly. I could see it under the surface just begging me to make a mistake trying to retrieve it.

I intend to tie plenty more of these over the coming months. I’ll use lots of lead and a beadhead so I can get it down deep and not have to add split shot which I find disturbs the travel of my line just the way a float does. If you’ve got to have weight it’s nice to have it in just one place. As you can see by the picture, Tom has me beat cold in the fly-tying department. I tie to fish and I’m not ashamed of it. At least, not yet.

On a larger note, I’d like to bring up an idea I recently read about in TU’s periodical “Trout”. I highly recommend checkin’ this out as it was filled with superlative stories on the restoration work going on in our state and beyond.

Here’s the thing: “discovery is the soul of angling”.

That’s it. That is about as irreduceable an idea as I can summon about why I love this activity. It just ain’t about the fish.

Here’s Tom taking his time with his next move. This is a picture of a fisherman in process.
The Kickapoo Valley Reserve is such a god-awfully beautiful place that ‘seekingtrout’ is it’s own reward.

A fresh and blooming skunk cabbage. Maybe fresh isn't the right word.

A moment of astonishing drama in the woodland dun.

A clutch of amphibian eggs beneath the reflection of a leafless canopy. Spring peepers, Cricket frogs, and Green frogs sang in the ephemeral ponds adjacent to the streams.

Last, I wanted to offer a riff about , yes, fly-fishing. Tom and I found that last season we could catch about as many fish as we could want on an ideal day with spinning gear. We worked a stream with an almost ruthless vigor. Spinning is a fast, athletic, and very productive method of fishing. But isn’t ‘productivity’ what our everyday back at work is about? Isn’t fishing sort of a moment where productivity isn’t the underlying motivation?

We fly-fished for probably eight hours. We did not catch fish as we might of with spinning gear or so we supposed. But we did find that we fished with greater intention and sometimes with a kind of grace that spinning gear doesn’t offer. There is, deep down, a kind of brutality to spinning gear that we both could not fail to notice when we switched over to spinning in the latest part of the day. This was an experiment. We wanted to see what happened to our day by changing our method.

I think we both came away rather surprised by how much we missed the slow and quiet presentation of the fly despite catching more fish.

It is hard to not be astonished no matter how many times you bring a brookie to hand.

I haven’t posted in awhile. I kind of been in a funk with what to say recently. This latest trip has revitalized my interest. I can’t wait to get back out there.

Thanks.

Why not here?   4 comments

The Fly Fishing film tour is fishporn on steroids. I am often left dumbstruck and incapable of moving forward with my day after the trailers. I don’t even know what will happen to me were I to actually sit through this entire event.

Still, I’m game for anything once. What I can’t understand is why Southern Wisconsin has not offered a venue for this activity? I’d really like to go and it would be a great opportunity to shoot the bull and throw back some beers.

I’ve decided to be proactive about it. I’ve made a survey which I’ll hope to get some feedback on. Fill it out if you’ve got a moment. With good numbers maybe we could convince this tour to come here.

At the very least watch this trailer. I understand Brian Horn is all I’ll say. For most of these movies, after I get my jaw placed back somewhere near my face I wonder what the heck it is these guys do that allows them this kind of liberty?

Anybody know anyone in Kamchatka?

Thanks.

Posted March 7, 2011 by Stephen in Fly Fishing Film Tour