Archive for the ‘Brook Trout’ Category

Stephen and Son Had Luck Yesterday   5 comments

Stephen Rose and his son Heron (named for a bird that Stephen admires, but also named for Hank Aaron, Stephen’s childhood baseball hero) went out to the Driftless yesterday with a spinning rod and some #9 Panther Martins and got after it, with encouraging success.

They found the stream they were fishing loaded with Brook Trout, and the Brook Trout were much further down in the system than they tend to be during the warm months. It is our suspicion that they’re comfortable lower downstream right now because water temps are still cool enough for them to feel comfortable.

The fish in the photo below has some health issues. Not sure what it is, but it looks like fin rot to me. Has anyone seen this before in trout they’ve caught?

At any rate, It’s gratifying to me to see a young fisherman like Heron get out there with his dad and catch fish, especially on a day that snow fell from the sky. Way to go guys!

 

A nice-sized Driftless Brook Trout, suffering from fin rot, me thinks.

A nice-sized Driftless Brook Trout, suffering from fin rot, me thinks.

 

Heron and Stephen after a successful outing in the Driftless of Wisconsin

Heron and Stephen after a successful outing in the Driftless of Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

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Milwaukee River Trip   4 comments

Stephen Rose and I visited the Milwaukee River yesterday afternoon. Look at that picture down there. Isn’t that a beautiful place? That could just a well be the West Fork of the Chippewa River in Vilas County. But it’s not. It’s in Milwaukee.

Stephen and I have talked frequently about what it means to have “non-invasive” non-native fish in our water system. I found out that the village of Grafton, which had a referendum on what to do with the dam in their community, voted to keep the dam in place, but to put in a fish way to allow fish passage up and down the river. The DNR, later on, determined that it would be a bad idea to allow fish to migrate upstream of Grafton because of the risk of invasive species like Asian Carp invading the upper Milwaukee River system. At some level I agree that it would be good, if Asian Carp were to make their way into the Great Lakes, for them to be prevented from invading the upper Milwaukee River. But I also think it would be a good thing for Brook Trout to be able to migrate from spawning areas in the Northern Kettle Moraine creeks all the way out to Lake Michigan and back. We’re not going to get anywhere in reintroducing native Coaster Brook Trout into the Lake Michigan Tribs if they can’t get from the lake up to the creeks at the upper reaches of watersheds like the Milwaukee River.

So, how do we all determine what’s best? How is the presence of large, non-native predatory salmonids in the Great Lakes appropriate? Salmon and Steelhead are certainly admirable creatures. Their migrations are awe-inspiring and spectacular. But how does their presence negatively affect the native Bass, Pike, Suckers, and Whitefish, not to mention Brook Trout and Lake Trout, both of which are also native?

These questions are larger than me. Many people don’t even care, or don’t even know. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe we humans are programmed to reshape our world to our liking, and introducing Salmon and Steelhead into the Great Lakes is just part of our role in the world.

Anyway, a couple of boys were fishing along the bank and were slinging lures at Salmon. They didn’t know what they were doing. They weren’t having any luck. One ended up snagging one in front if its tail and was having trouble getting it to hand. I asked if I could lend a hand, and waded over to collect the fish, pull the hook out, and give it to the boy for his buddy to take a picture. He was genuinely in awe of the creature, a large, toothy fish half his height in length.

He asked if I’d caught any and I said no, I hadn’t. He wished me luck and as I left he expressed his love for the Milwaukee River. So, did that Salmon get him to fall in love with the river? It probably had a lot to do with it. And that, to me, seems like a good thing. If people care about a place because of their experiences there, it makes sense to provide them with cool things to experience in that place. It’s hard to fall in love with a polluted and fishless river. But a clean, swift moving river full of big fish will draw a lot of visitors to it. Those visitors will want to see that the river is taken care of. So maybe introducing Salmon and Steelhead is overall a positive. It’s hard for me to say. Perhaps you have some ideas? I’d love to hear what you all have to say.

 

Milwaukee River, October 25, 2013

Milwaukee River, October 25, 2013

Field and Stream touts Wisconsin’s Driftless Trout Fishing   Leave a comment

Uh oh. The cat has been let out of the bag.

Well, maybe not to the degree a front page spread in the New York Times would garner. But Field and Stream, no slouch in the outdoor sporting world, has a short missive on fishing Wisconsin’s Driftless.

The descriptions all sound accurate to me. The technical nature of fishing small spring-fed creeks, the hassles of casting a fly to a spot surrounded by willow saplings, the challenge of navigating country roads past gruff and grim farmers to find pools of 8″ fish, all separate the small stream anglers from those who’d prefer to sit on their bass boats and suck Miller Lite all day.

Let’s face it. There a large helping of “fu-king around” that goes into a day of fishing in the Driftless. It can be hot, buggy, dirty, mucky, and unfulfilling. But if you figure it out, it can be that thing you find it hard to stop daydreaming about.

So let the magazines tout the Driftless. The Driftless deserves it! More press means more attention spent on keeping it nice, on ensuring these beloved streams flourish.

 

Camp Creek on a summer morning

Camp Creek on a summer morning

 

 

 

Native “Coaster” Brook Trout in Milwaukee River   5 comments

I checked the Mequon-Thiensville Fishway Camera website this morning and got a big surprise. A picture of a native Coaster Brook Trout swimming upstream in the Milwaukee River.

This would not be so shocking to find in a tributary of Lake Superior, but I never imagined a Brook Trout would be swimming up the Milwaukee River. It goes to show that tearing down dams really does allow a river to support more wildlife.

If Grafton and West Bend would tear down their decrepit dams these Coasters would have a true shot at making their way up to Brook Trout spawning habitat in the Northern Kettle Moraine headwaters. Can you imagine the Milwaukee River being home to the only native anadromous salmonid? How cool would that be? Could West Bend become the Coaster Capital of the Midwest?

 

A Coaster Brook Trout swimming past the fishway camera in the Milwaukee River in Thiensville, WI

A Coaster Brook Trout swimming past the fishway camera in the Milwaukee River in Thiensville, WI

 

 

Brule River Sportsmen’s Club   Leave a comment

I’ve been reading the newsletters of the Brule River Sportsmen’s Club over the past few weeks and have learned a lot about their work to improve the Brule River fishery. One of the most incredible projects is the “Gravel Drops” they collaborated with the National Guard on years ago. The photos are really intriguing. Gravel, of course, is an important substrate for trout and salmon spawning and it allows the eggs a safe place to lie during maturation. Check out the pictures on their website. I think you’ll enjoy them.

I have also gleaned from the Club’s newsletters that they’re struggling a bit financially. This is a real shame, because their work has helped make the Brule a healthy fishery, giving all who fish it better opportunities to experience the tug of a wild Lake Superior Steelhead.

I am planning to send in my membership form with $20, and I’m also going to add a bit extra to help with the Habitat Fund. I’ll purchase a map and a cap as well and I encourage you to do the same, whether you’re an angler who loves the Brule, or just someone who loves the idea of the Brule.

 

National Guard and Brule River Sportsmen's Club members spread gravel at Mott's Ravine Bend in the Brule River. Click the photo to see the gallery.

National Guard and Brule River Sportsmen’s Club members spread gravel at Mott’s Ravine Bend in the Brule River in 1995. Click the photo to see the gallery.

 

 

Tainter and Knapp Creek in April   5 comments

On Friday Stephen and I took a drive out to the Kickapoo River Valley to fish the fine waters of Tainter Creek. This river is loaded with fish. Perhaps I shouldn’t kiss and tell, as they say, but seriously, if you don’t already know about Tainter Creek, well, you need to talk to more fishermen.

For those of you who are angry about my use of stream names in my trip reports, I’m sorry. But it’s nothing you couldn’t get from reading a few books, going to a few fly shops, and attending a TU meeting once in a blue moon. Isn’t it sort of like saying there are Musky in Lake Minoqua, or that there are Steelhead in the Brule?

But, I digress.

The thing about trout fishing is that it isn’t a given you’ll catch the trout. Stephen and I started the day looking down into a pool from a bridge over Tainter Creek, where we spied perhaps 250 fish. We fished that pool a few hours later and caught exactly two trout from it. Some days the fish are willing. Other days, they’re obstinate.

After a lunch in the car we fished upstream from the bridge and found more fish, only some of which were willing. The sections we fished on Friday were gorgeous, natural, healthy and thriving with life.

We wrapped up fishing toward late afternoon, found a camp, and then headed to Soldier’s Grove for some food. On the way we crested the ridge between the Tainter Creek Valley and the Kickapoo River Valley, and Stephen’s phone chimed. He checked it and found a message from John Jackels, who said he was in Readstown and hoping to find us. We had driven down the hill a ways and Stephen had lost his signal, so I backed up about an eighth mile to regain the summit, and we gave John a call. He was ten minutes north of Soldier’s Grove, and we were ten minutes west of it. How about that?!

I really wish Soldier’s Grove had a bar with some good food. Or maybe my problem is that I picked the wrong thing to eat. I had the fried fish (Haddock, I think), with “baby red” potatoes. John had the same thing. Stephen had the baked fish with garlic mashed potatoes. My fish was akin to eating breaded and deep fried eraser. The baby reds were really just Russet potatoes cut into chunks the size of baby red potatoes, deep fried and sprinkled with canned parmesan cheese. Stephen’s baked fish was like eating a piece of bone that had been boiled long enough to turn it into a gelatinous lump. His garlic mashed potatoes tasted like pizza.

I’m in a critical mood today. Sorry.

After dinner we got some coffee and eggs from the gas station to prepare breakfast on Saturday, then we headed back to the campsite, made a fire, shot the shit, and went to bed.

Saturday dawned cold and breezy. We had breakfast on the road and headed downstream. We fished what I believe are some of the finest runs of trout water in the state. We all got several nice fish to hand and enjoyed the morning immensely.

We had lunch on the road and then hit a pretty section of Tainter where some “restoration” work had recently taken place.

I suppose after a few years these restored sections come back with vigor, but the section we visited was a ghost town. No fish spotted, and the habitat was much less varied than natural areas. It’s sort of like fishing a golf course. A thing that’s concerning about these projects is that, in the natural world, streams move and meander and find their way. The strategy used for restoration means the creek won’t move. It will stay in its channel for a good long while. Is this a problem? Does it exclude other species besides trout? I didn’t see a single creature moving around in this restored section, whereas the area we fished in the morning was full of birds and voles and stuff. I hope these restorations are being done in a way that considers all of this.

We wrapped up our trip on Knapp Creek, where we came upon a woman walking back along the road after a good day of fishing. Her face said it all. The fish were rising, she had said. We parked and dove in and, sure enough, rising fish! I got one out of a deep pool on a dry. It’s silvery body came from down deep and it shot out of the water straight through the fly. What a great catch!

Tired and happy, we made our way back home after a great trip to the Driftless.

All weekend, by the way, I had great success using a “black tadpole” streamer fly, shown in the fish pic below, with a “brassie” dropper. I got fish on both of these and I’m really a fan of this tandem rig. It seems the bashful fish are willing to go after the small brassie, while the outgoing (and usually, bigger) fish are all about gobbling up the black tadpole.

 

Breakfast on the road.

Breakfast on the road.

 

Tainter Creek Brook Trout caught on my own "black tadpole"

Tainter Creek Brook Trout caught on my own “black tadpole”

 

Stephen Rose casting on Tainter Creek

Stephen Rose casting on Tainter Creek

 

John Jackels on Tainter Creek

John Jackels on Tainter Creek

 

Stephen and John work out wind knots on Tainter.

Stephen and John work out wind knots on Tainter.

 

Lunch on the road.

Lunch on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Virtues of a Guide   1 comment

I’ve been a guided client a few times in my life. I never thought much about how the guide felt during the experience. A guide’s job is to shepherd you through an activity that they know a great deal about, not only teaching you how to do it, but also going a step further to make sure that you are actually having some success while under their tutelage.

What I mean by this is, if you haven’t done something before, you will obviously need to learn a bit about it before you can do it, unless you’re bungee jumping, I suppose. Not much learning there, I wouldn’t think.

Bungee jumping is an easy thing to do successfully, even if you’ve never strapped in to a bungee cord before. The “guide” who shepherds you through the bungee jumping process does arguably half the job of a fishing guide or mountaineering guide.

 

A newly-made fly fisherman, learning to cast to a dinner plate-sized target.

A newly-made fly fisherman, learning to cast to a dinner plate-sized target.

 

A fishing guide must show the client how to approach the water, how to cast, where to cast, what to use, how to adjust, and on and on, all the while working his damnedest to find the fish and get them to take the fly so the client can feel successful.

Last November when Stephen Rose and I went up to the Brule and hired Tim Pearson as a guide to show us how to fish for Steelhead, I was generally satisfied to understand the what and the how. I was hoping to catch a fish, but it wasn’t something I expected. If I were to learn the ways of fishing for Steelhead I knew I could return year after year and put that knowledge to use to have success.

But Tim had a serious look of relief when both Stephen and I had each caught a fish. And now I understand why.

 

A cold water spring dumping out of the hillside in Iowa County, Wisconsin

A cold water spring dumping out of the hillside in Iowa County, Wisconsin

 

Showing Eric the ways of spring creek fly fishing on Saturday, I was happy with the job I did teaching him the “how”. I believe he could go out and gear up, hit the water, and make casts to likely holding lies. And if you do that enough, you’ll catch a fish.

I really, really wish I could have gotten a fish onto Eric’s line, but it didn’t happen. I’ve heard stories of clients who were angry with their guides when the didn’t feel like they got their quota of fish. I can’t imagine how I’d handle a client who acted that way, but I know that’s what paying clients expect from a day out with a fishing guide. That’s a big reason for hiring the guide.

Eric was a model client, and I really appreciated that. There was not a hint of blame from him, indeed just the opposite. He showed an appreciation and new knowledge for the challenges of spring creek fly fishing. Eric can do what he pleases with the skills and knowledge he picked up on Saturday. Hopefully the skunking won’t deter him from trying for trout another day.

As for me, I can’t say I’m longing for another chance to be a guide. It was a pleasant day out with a new friend, but I can see how a fisherman who turns his hobby into a job by becoming a guide might start to have mixed feelings about fishing. I plan to get out and teach others to fish, and hopefully more often than not, we’ll get some fish on that line of theirs.

 

Eric executing a nice roll cast to waiting trout.

Eric executing a nice roll cast to waiting trout.