Archive for the ‘Driftless Region’ Category

Black Earth Creek Headwaters   1 comment

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

Black Earth Creek, upstream of the Zander Park bridge

 

The cool clear water of Black Earth Creek, running over the newly scoured streambed

The cool clear water of Black Earth Creek, running over the newly scoured streambed

 

 

On The Creek Closed?   7 comments

From the look of things, Todd Opsal has closed shop at On The Creek in Cross Plains. I’m sad to think that this is likely the case. I enjoyed visiting the shop, the only good fly shop in the area. Fontana has great flies but the atmosphere and personalities there are not as compelling as what Todd offered.

If anyone knows and cares to share what went down, I’d really like to know.

September Trout Fishing in the Driftless   3 comments

September is one of the best months to chase trout in Wisconsin’s Driftless creeks. Nights are cool and water temps are prime for fish activity. Lots of terrestrials are active in their riparian habitats, and fish hormones are starting to crank up in anticipation of spawning season. All this means good fishing!

Stephen Rose and I headed out of Madison to Crawford County to camp out overnight near a Kickapoo tributary. Hennessy Hammmocks fit the bill nicely for roadside camping because you don’t need a flat spot on the ground, just a couple of stout trees and away you go. Camping in the trees and dreaming of fish. How could you do any better?

The cicadas sung me to sleep and the sun woke me the next morning. We packed up our sleeping gear, put on waders, drank a little coffee and walked a hundred yards to the creek. A fog hung over the creek and it made me feel as though the underwater world and the world we inhabit above the water were melting into one, as if the fish could have swum up out of the water and into the mist lying between the banks.

I tied on a foam cricket and got after it, landing a couple of twelve inch brown trout, and Stephen had similar luck on hoppers. The fishing remained good throughout the morning, but we found fewer and fewer fish willing to rise, so we switched over to nymphs and continued to have success.

If you’ve been putting off a trip to the trout stream, now’s the time to get out there. The season ends at the end of the month, so take advantage while you can!

 

A glorious spring-fed creek in WIsconsin's Driftless Region

A glorious spring-fed creek in WIsconsin’s Driftless Region

 

Success with a foam cricket in early September on a Kickapoo River tributary

Success with a foam cricket in early September on a Kickapoo River tributary

 

Stephen Rose fishes hoppers in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin

Stephen Rose fishes hoppers in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin

 

Pink flowers line the stream in September

Pink flowers line the stream in September

 

A bruiser Brown Trout from a Wisconsin Driftless stream

A bruiser Brown Trout from a Wisconsin Driftless stream

 

Stephen Rose casting to a lie on a Kickapoo tributary

Stephen Rose casting to a lie on a Kickapoo tributary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Earth Creek Headwaters Get Fixed   Leave a comment

Olde Timey Times in Cross Plains

Olde Timey Times in Cross Plains

 

Long ago, when the photo above was new, there was a mill dam on Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains. The dam provided power of some kind to aid in the production of something. It was a beautiful thing. To make the dam work better the channel upstream was straightened out (channelized).

Some time later, perhaps after electrification came to Cross Plains, the dam was removed, but the creek remained straight.

On April 3rd the Village Board of Cross Plains awarded the job of “remeandering” this section of Black Earth Creek to a local construction company. In the short time between April and late June, the job is nearly done.

I went to Cross Plains today to take a look, and stopped in to chat with Todd Opsal at On the Creek. According to Todd, the new work being done on the creek will not only benefit existing fish, but will also significantly add to the spawning habitat in the creek headwaters. That’s a very good thing because more spawning means more trout.

The section upstream of the reworked section is now flowing faster, so a lot of the silt has rinsed away leaving behind sand and gravel streambed that fish and fishermen love.

I look forward to watching the stream take shape and getting after it once the fish return. It should be a real pleasure!

 

Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains - no longer a muddy channel

Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains – no longer a muddy channel

 

Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains - look at those lovely curves!

Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains – look at those lovely curves!

 

Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains - the right side is the old channelized streambed

Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains – the right side is the old channelized streambed

 

Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains - Looking downstream at the reclaimed streambed

Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains – Looking downstream at the reclaimed streambed

 

 

 

 

 

Memorable Monday   6 comments

On Memorial Day I was supposed to go fishing with my buddy Stephen Rose. But when I woke up at 5:30 and checked my phone, he had left a few text messages which said, in a somber tone, that he was feeling terrible and wouldn’t be making it out to fish. He must have felt very badly because this man has been on me about getting out to a trout stream. So, I was a little bummed to think I’d be going fishing alone, but I muddled through, got my coffee into the thermos, and hit the road.

Having new parameters from which to work (no fishing partner) I decided to try some new water out. I headed toward Dodgeville and didn’t know where I’d stop. I had forgotten my Gazetteer and trout maps, so I had to rely on my phone for help finding blue lines. Using your phone for this purpose doesn’t hold a candle next to a good Gazetteer and hard copies of county trout maps. I located a creek along Hwy Y in Iowa County. It turned out to be Mill Creek, but not the wonderful Mill Creek of Richland County. No, this was the Mill Creek of Iowa County.

 

Mill Creek, Iowa County, Wisconsin

Mill Creek, Iowa County, Wisconsin

 

I dropped in to the creek where it kisses the road on the southeast side and fished upstream for a couple of hours. The water looked trouty, and fish were nipping at my fly, but the fish weren’t trout, they were chubs. When you’re fishing for trout, especially in the “overly-affected” (read: “fancy”) fly fishing method of fishing for trout, a chub is like finding a long (or short, curly) hair in your hash browns. You kind of wrinkle your nose and curse under your breath and think to yourself, “where in hell are the trout?”

This went on for a good long while. I even caught a six-inch shiner. I don’t know what’s wrong with Mill Creek. It looks lovely in the picture, doesn’t it?

So, with two hours of fishing behind me and two hours left, I decided to travel east and a little north to Trout Creek, thinking to myself “at least it isn’t named Chub Creek”.

I didn’t have real high hopes, though the stream looked very nice. But listen, this is Iowa County we’re talking about. How good could it be?

I walked downstream from the bridge past about thirty tight meanders. I got after it and started fishing with a woolly bugger (is it true they call them “boogers” out West?). I tried not to be noisy, but I feel like I was, on account of the sedimentary nature of the stream bank.

Anyway, I drifted the bugger a few times upstream, finishing the drift about even with where I was standing, but along the opposite bank. I began lifting my rod tip and felt a tug, then a whole lot of tug, followed by some really pissed off tugging. The water was a bit cloudy due to the wet weather, so I didn’t get a look right away, and after a minute I thought I might have foul-hooked an average trout, but then I tired it enough to get it to the surface and saw that it was a good size. Sweet! A trout, and a nice one too!

 

a Sixteen Inch Brown from Trout Creek

a Sixteen Inch Brown from Trout Creek

 

I smiled happily, thinking my trout-fishing outing has been a success, and moved up to the next likely bit of tailwater. A few nicely-placed casts later, Bam! Another good fish. How about that?!

 

Another sixteen inch Brown Trout from Trout Creek

Another sixteen inch Brown Trout from Trout Creek

 

I moved upstream again. I think I had to fish two or three bends and had to endure catching a ten-inch trout before my third dance with another sizeable fish. But low-and-behold, there was my third sixteen-inch Brown Trout in thirty minutes.

 

Big Trout number three, Trout Creek, Iowa County, WI

Big Trout number three, Trout Creek, Iowa County, WI

 

I’ve never had this kind of experience, catching three big trout in a little stream in such a short time. I’ve caught lots of “regular sized” trout in one outing, and I’ve had outings where I’ve had one bigger fish to hand, but never before have I zeroed in on what were likely the biggest trout in their holes on one stretch of stream over a narrow window of time.

Was it the weather? The water conditions? The big, juicy fly? I don’t know. I likely won’t repeat it for a long time. But I’ll certainly not forget this thirty minute window of time on Trout Creek that made for a very memorable Memorial Day.

 

A Cold and Gloomy Friday   3 comments

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.

Cheers!

 

Honeysuckle?

Honeysuckle?

 

Salmo Trutta!

Salmo Trutta!

 

 

 

Spring Green Prairie and Otter Creek   4 comments

Last weekend Stephen Rose and I took our boys on another close-to-home road trip to see if we could find some reptiles and amphibians. Our first stop was Spring Green Prairie, a dry hillside full of Prickly Pear Cactus and, if you’re lucky, Box Turtles and Bull Snakes.

We walked along carefully, trying to spy a living creature, but didn’t have any luck. It’s a wonderful place though, with a landscape unlike any other in Wisconsin. I highly recommend you go check it out.

Our second stop was Otter Creek in the Baraboo Hills, a sure bet for frogs, creek bugs and wonderful plants. And sure enough, we found lots of frogs, lots of creek bugs, and lots of plants. I wish I knew the names of most of the things I’ve taken pictures of below, but I don’t.

Maybe my friend Stephen, or perhaps one of you, would be kind enough to post a comment if you know the name of something you see in the pictures below.

Spring is springing and it’s a great time to get out and explore.

It’s the regular season trout opener today too. For those of you heading out, good luck!

 

 

Spring Green Prairie

Spring Green Prairie

 

A Boring Insect found in a dead tree

A Boring Insect found in a dead tree

 

Spring Green Prairie

Spring Green Prairie

 

Four boys in a cave, Spring Green Prairie

Four boys in a cave, Spring Green Prairie

 

The Wisconsin River Valley

The Wisconsin River Valley

 

Boys in a big landscape

Boys in a big landscape

 

Flowers at Spring Green Prairie

Flowers at Spring Green Prairie

 

Shepard at Spring Green Prairie

Shepard at Spring Green Prairie

 

Prickly Pear Cactus, Spring Green Prairie

Prickly Pear Cactus, Spring Green Prairie

 

Skunk Cabbage, Otter Creek

Skunk Cabbage, Otter Creek

 

Wildflowers at Otter Creek

Wildflowers at Otter Creek

 

Shepard at Otter Creek

Shepard at Otter Creek

 

Sawyer in rubber pants at Otter Creek

Sawyer in rubber pants at Otter Creek

 

A frog, a trout, and a tadpole walk into a bar...

A frog, a trout, and a tadpole walk into a bar…

 

The boys share their findings at Otter Creek

The boys share their findings at Otter Creek

 

A juvenile predaceous diving beetle?

A juvenile predaceous diving beetle?

 

A wildflower at Otter Creek

A wildflower at Otter Creek

 

Otter Creek in the Baraboo Hills

Otter Creek in the Baraboo Hills

 

Big frog, Little frog

Big frog, Little frog

 

Shepard checks out the "kick net" full of creek bugs at Otter Creek

Shepard checks out the “kick net” full of creek bugs at Otter Creek