Archive for the ‘Kickapoo River Valley’ Category

A Whopper south of Westby   14 comments

My son Bode (Bo-Dee) and I took an overnight trip to the Driftless on Friday and Saturday and enjoyed ourselves very much. We set out after I got home from work Friday, picking up some provisions in Viroqua before heading to Avalanche to camp.

On the way we passed a few Amish buggies pulled by horses, and some Amish farms where we were greeted by waves and smiles as we zoomed by in our car. Bode had never seen any Amish buggies or farms before and was curious to know what it was all about. I explained it as best I could and he was fairly fascinated, as a boy who likes to make what he can by his own hand, at the lifestyle and talents of the Amish.

We enjoyed a quiet night camping in Avalanche and woke up at six on Saturday to go fishing. Bode was using a spinner while I walked along with him, fly rod in hand. We got to the next plunge pool upstream, the water still churning brown from days of rain. He made several nice casts to the top of the pool when suddenly his line tightened. He initially thought he had snagged something but then began cranking the reel. His line danced, but in the way Andre the Giant might dance, more deeply rooted than ephemeral.

Bode, having had very few large fish on the end of his line previously, cranked and cranked his reel until the spinner was an inch from his rod tip. The fish revealed itself in the surface film and we both let out a hoot.

This fish was one that many fishermen don’t get the chance to catch in a Driftless stream, and Bode had gotten one a few days past his twelfth birthday, in the first half hour of fishing.

Wow! Way to go Bode!

 

Bode with a 21" male Brown Trout, caught in a Vernon County spring creek.

Bode with a 21″ male Brown Trout, caught in a Vernon County spring creek.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013 Early Opener   4 comments

Well, John and Stephen and I had a leisurely start to the day on Saturday and got ourselves up to Billings Creek near La Farge (French for “The Farge”) in Vernon County mid-morning. The stretch we’ve fished before made for difficult fishing. John got a couple of browns to hook up on a Marabou Leech and actually lost one as it skittered away under an ice shelf. That was the theme of Billings Creek on Saturday, those ice shelves. In some areas, like the deeper pools, there was ice clear across the creek.

The scenery was stunning, with that beautiful fresh snow and sunshine, so that’s what holds prominence in my mind at the moment. The fishing was difficult and the icy lines and even icier guides made for some tedium. But the beauty of the day made it hard to feel too sorry for myself.

After a couple hours and some hot chili we decided to bug out and go down to Camp Creek near Viola. The water there was much more inviting, with no ice and lots of visuals on fish. The water was very clear and the fish were spooky as always. Camp Creek is all about stealth, whether it’s via the long upstream cast or getting down on hands and knees to do some Czech nymphing. I saw two riseforms, so there were trout eating some kind of bug on the surface. Nothing big enough to see though. I finally caught my trout on a small Pheasant Tail nymph trailing behind a streamer, and I held it up in the sunshine and admired it for a moment, happy to be a trout fisherman again.

We all returned to the city happy and tired, hoping to see spring break out sometime soon, when new plans will be made for seeking trout.

I hope those of you who went out to fish the opener enjoyed the great weather and had some success too. Best wishes in 2013!

 

Billings Creek, Vernon County, Wisc

Billings Creek, Vernon County, Wisc

 

 

Stephen Rose at Billings Creek

Stephen Rose at Billings Creek

 

John Jackels works Billings Creek

John Jackels works Billings Creek

 

March 2, 2013 on Billings Creek

March 2, 2013 on Billings Creek

 

A great bend pool on Billings Creek, frozen over...

A great bend pool on Billings Creek, frozen over…

 

Check out that horseshoe tree!

Check out that horseshoe tree!

 

Look at how clear Camp Creek is behind my head

Look at how clear Camp Creek is behind my head

 

 

The spot where a hawk and a rodent met.

The spot where a hawk and a rodent met.

 

John Jackels at Camp Creek

John Jackels at Camp Creek

 

 

 

A Beautiful Day Out   Leave a comment

On Saturday I went out fishing with a fellow New Morning Nursery School dad, Eric. Eric had never been out trout fishing and the last time he cast a fly rod was in the Appleton West H.S gym back in the early 90’s. Interestingly, Eric and I both attended the College of Engineering at UW-Madison during the same period, but never crossed paths.

Saturday was a beautiful day. With Eric being new to trout fishing I decided to take him to a few of my favorite streams, where I was sure we’d be into fish. The first stream we visited, a tributary of the Kickapoo, had many many fish, but the water was low and clear and sneaking up on them was not easy. The second stream, a trib of the Blue River, was also very low and clear, and the fish were numerous there as well.

By the end of the day Eric had become a good caster. His roll cast is second to none, and his fly cast is much better than mine was after one day out. I hope to have taught him enough to allow him to carry on with fly fishing spring creeks if he chooses to.

What struck me was how much I rely on a long cast in conditions like these. Sneaking up on fish is well-nigh impossible, and the only way to fool them is to cast from such a distance as to make them think you’re not there. Of course a first-time fly caster can’t rely on a long cast, and so our luck was not good in catching fish. However, a few fish did bump Eric’s fly. I tried to convey to him that I’ve had many many outings with no fish to hand. Hopefully he believed me.

I intend to get out a few times this week to chase after trout. September is a special month to pursue trout, and I plan to take advantage of it.

 

A sizeable brown trout trolling the bridge pool of a Blue River tributary, Iowa County, Wisconsin

A sizeable brown trout trolling the bridge pool of a Blue River tributary, Iowa County, Wisconsin

 

 

Driving the Driftless   3 comments

Ride along with me and Stephen as we drive from Coon Creek toward Pine River through the Driftless.

Owning a Piece of the Driftless   3 comments

A friend of mine has a dream to own a plot of land in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. The land would ideally be at least 10 acres, it would abut a trout stream, and it would share a contiguous border with a large natural public space. It would be used for trout fishing, hunting (on the property and on surrounding public land), and for a getaway. Someday he may choose to reside there full time.

Driftless Land near the Kickapoo River, Wisconsin

Driftless Land near the Kickapoo River, Wisconsin

I’m all for visiting areas that I love. I go back to my favorite places over and over and over again. In some ways I feel like I own them. Everyone feels this way when you arrive at one of your favorite spots to find others enjoying it. The thought, “Hey, this is my spot!” comes into my head. My familiarity with a place and my affinity for a place conjure up a sense of ownership.

Water flowing through a seam in the earth, Driftless Wisconsin

Water flowing through a seam in the earth, Driftless Wisconsin

I have many favorite places and I like having the freedom to visit this variety of locales when the moment strikes. Ownership comes with obligation. There is a Buddhist quote that says “He who has cows is worried to see his cows; worried is the man of substance, and he who has no substance has no worries.” If I had a piece of land in the Driftless I would feel obligated to visit it, even if there were other streams, other counties, other forests I’d longed to see.

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Seeking trout in the Driftless, Wisconsin

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Seeking trout in the Driftless, Wisconsin

I own a tiny piece of land in Madison. It holds everything I need to live, and it houses my family and my dog. It is obligation enough for me to own this place. When it comes to getting away, I want to explore. I want to let my itchy feet roam. I want to sleep in the woods and take in a different view when I feel called to do so. I want to drive over that next ridge and down into that next valley to see what I can find. Let me wander!

And when the time to wander comes to an end on Sunday afternoon, I’ll point my car east and return to my home. But my mind will have memories of all the places I’ve seen, with their sounds and smells and experiences. In my mind and my soul I will have owned a piece of all of those places. How can it be better than that?

Autumn in the Driftless   Leave a comment

Here are some shots of the colors this fall in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. I hope you enjoy them.

 

The Kickapoo River, Crawford County, Wisconsin

The Kickapoo River, Crawford County, Wisconsin

 

 

The "Kick"apoo, Driftless, Wisconsin

The "Kick"apoo, Driftless, Wisconsin

 

 

Soybeans and Corn ready to harvest, Crawford County, Wisconsin

Soybeans and Corn ready to harvest, Crawford County, Wisconsin

 

 

The road leading home, Crawford County, Wisconsin

The road leading home, Crawford County, Wisconsin