I visited Black Earth Creek for an hour yesterday, aspiring to catch some trout on the last day of the inland waters trout season in Wisconsin. I knew it was a long shot though. The sun was out and the sky was blue, but moreover I was fishing in Cross Plains at Zander Park, a spot that just two months ago was being fully rejiggered by diesel-powered earthmovers and men in hard hats.
I saw another angler downstream of the now defunct On The Creek Fly Shop, so I started fishing the second pool in the “re-meandered” section. I saw a few little fish scatter as I moved along, drifting my nymph along. I moved up past the new bridge into the section of the stream that had not been reworked. Funny thing is though, it was getting reworked. With the gradient downstream restored to its more natural state, the speed of the water upstream has increased and now, instead of lots of muck and silt on the streambed, there are beautiful stones and patches of gravel. Water Cress grows along the banks, accompanied by Jewel Weed and Black-Eyed Susans.
Wading upstream, what used to be a chore in slogging through silt is now a pleasant and easy amble with solid footfalls. Trout will find plenty of places to drop their eggs and spawn, and hopefully multiply appreciably.
I look forward to visiting this spot next spring. As seasons come and go, the habitat will settle in, and so will the fish.
Black Earth Creek, upstream of the Zander Park bridge
The cool clear water of Black Earth Creek, running over the newly scoured streambed
I took a little time to get out to my home waters and I didn’t see a lot of action, but there were beautiful swallows swooping all around, the trees were flowering and smelling like honey, and the air breathed crisp and fresh.
I hope you can get out to catch some trout this weekend. I’m likely to be seen on the shores of Monona Bay, chasing down a hunch overheard by my ten-year-old son at school about big bass being caught at sunrise. Hopefully I can convince him that Sunday will be the better day to fish. Saturday morning looks like rain and cold. I’d prefer to read the paper and drink my coffee in that kind of weather. But it ain’t easy to make an eager kid wait.
I have a few days of vacation that’ll expire in May unless I use them up, so every time I glanced out the window at work yesterday morning I thought to myself, “Self, it is a beautiful, sunny day outside, and it would be nice to go fishing this afternoon, out in that beautiful sunshine.”
I notified the boss-man of my intentions, called up my fishing buddy Stephen, and walked out into that sunshine at the crack of noon to go chase fish.
Stephen and I started fishing on BEC in the upper part of the drainage, but found the water a bit high and dirty, though Stephen did have a strike on his nymph.
I suggested we move to Vermont Creek to see how that trib to BEC was looking. So away we went to a nice meadow section of Vermont Creek. The water was colored but not torrential, and I felt good about our chances.
I fished a deep pool just off the road while Stephen walked a couple hundred yards downstream to find some nice bends. I didn’t have any takers for a while, but I stuck with it, roll-casting to avoid the tangles that come with false-casting in 20 mph winds. If you’re not using the roll cast as a regular part of your game, I would like to recommend that you start. Here’s a video that describes the technique well.
OK, now that you’re up to speed on the roll cast, you can paint a picture in your head of me standing in a field with a five foot wide trout stream running through it, wind whipping from right to left, and me roll casting halfway up a pool into stained moving water.
After a few dozen casts my biostrike indicator twitched. I lifted the rod tip and felt a pull, stripping in line to take up a little slack. I tried to strip more line in to raise the fish, but it wouldn’t come up. I held the line against my rod grip with my right index finger while my left hand reeled in the loop of line between my reel and my right hand. I now had the fish “on my reel”, so I could play it using the drag clutch on my reel. And to my surprise, it ran away with some line, making my reel buzz. It didn’t run far, maybe only ten feet, back and forth in the deepest part of the pool. But what fun it is to get a fish on the line in a little creek that has the power to take some line off your spool!
I hollered at Stephen that I had a nice fish on!!! And he walked back upstream while I played the fish enough to get it to rise. It was a nice fish. Not a monster. Not a twenty-incher. But a nice fish, bigger than most you’ll catch day after day in little spring creeks.
I scooped it up and posed for a photo. The best trout I’ve held since last March. Hopefully there’ll be more, and if I dare to dream, hopefully there’ll be bigger too.
Vermont Creek Brown, Sixteen and one half inches
I made good on my decision to get out and fish often this September. Today was an ideal day to spend a little time on the water, with the overnight temps in the 40s, recent rain, and spawning instincts starting to kick in to gear.
A one hour break from work was just the thing, and I hit a big old pool (formerly a millpond spillway, according to local lore) where large trout have been encountered (again, according to local lore).
I decided to throw a Clouser Minnow for a while, letting it sink for a good-long while before stripping it back in erratically. After five minutes of enjoyable long-reach casting I had my fish on, and upon our initial exchange of pull and pull-back I believed it to be sizeable.
It was “respectable”. Which is all anyone can hope for when fishing at 11:30am on a cloudless day in a hole that sees many, many fishermen. I was and am happy to have caught anything, and my time away was satisfying and refreshing.
I have a plan to get out Thursday afternoon and evening with a good friend, and I hope we run into some fish, maybe a big one, or maybe a lot of “respectable” fish. At any rate, I continue to be a happy fisherman and I’m looking forward to more successful outings this September and beyond.
A fifteen-inch Black Earth Creek Brown Trout, Dane County, Wisconsin