Stephen got out today, lucky dog!
Here’s what I did today…
Stephen got out today, lucky dog!
Here’s what I did today…
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.
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!
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?!
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.
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.
Tom with a pickerel frog found in the water of a small tributary of Mill Creek just north of the Trout Creek Fishery Area. This specimen was obviously in a state of torpor as it was found in just this position in approximately 6 to 12 inches of water. It didn’t move the entire time we had it out of the water.
The kids coming along is an essential part of what Tom and I are trying to do out on the streams. This image reminds me of when I was kid crawling through the sewers out in front of our house. But these coldwater streams are a huge, and beautiful, step up from those memories.
I like the image above as it reminds me of the psychological state you enter that I’ve heard called ‘flow’. Anybody whose been out there knows what I’m talking about. That lovely set of serpentine curves is very suggestive of good water.
Tom and I have been having fun putting this blog together and over the last 6 months we’ve visited alot of really cool websites and blogs with often amazing photography. I decided to horse around with the pics from this trip to see if we could make what was a rather gray day feel a bit ‘warmer’.
It’s hard to appreciate just how many (easily 500) turkeys we saw that day but if you have any worries about the turkey population I think this might help put that idea to rest.
I think this image, minus a slithering brook trout, about says it all for what I’m hoping to accomplish over the coming season. We may not pull off quite this arrangement but we’ll hope to get damn close!
By the way, we didn’t see much evidence of Mill Creek being ideal trout water. This part of the system is heavy with silt and the cutbacks are mostly filled in. The flowrate is probably not enough to support good fish numbers. I’d say that the DNR’s got a pretty good handle on the designation of this part of the Trout Creek system.
Bring on Saturday!
With schools closed and three young boys beating down the walls of my house, I decided to temp fate and drag them all out to the countryside to check out some spring creek scenery. I’ve fished Gordon Creek a handful of times, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to visit the upper reaches of the drainage. Fish were spotted and my boys had a good time playing by the water’s edge (or in the water depending on the wardrobe). The creek ran clear and looked about like it does any time of year. I suppose this is a nice thing about the headwaters of a spring-fed creek. It’s reliably consistent.
After half an hour on this upper section – the younger boys really wanted a campfire and a couple of hammocks hung, and this was not public land – we headed down the road a ways to a spot where this sort of thing would be possible. So, here we are enjoying s’mores and the bubbling of Gordon Creek. The water was chocolate milk and was running deep.
Getting out to our coldwater streams is a really big deal. But how to not ‘break the bank’ on our visits can often feel like a huge compromise. When you’ve waded enough of these streams you realize just what you don’t see when you stay in a readymade campground.
Someone bought me a cheap nylon camping hammock as a gift for my wedding. I had planned a bachelor’s river trip down the Flambeau River flowage with a dozen or so of my good friends. That was sixteen years ago and the hammock turned out to be the most revelatory part of the whole excursion. The first night we set up camp, I saw that the moon was bright in the sky and we had little worry about weather. So I strung up the hammock for fun.
But I felt so good in it I didn’t bother to set up my crummy tent and I slept better than I ever had before. I think I was the only one who felt great in the morning. (the beer may have played a role) From that moment on I’ve looked for ways to use the hammock as my primary way to get through the night outdoors.
Recently, Tom and I came across an article in the Times.
These guys were doing exactly what I always hoped to do. Why do we sit on our hands?
Anyway, Tom and I have invested in some pretty sweet hammock gear and we can’t wait to find an ideal tree to spend an evening this way. Up in the canopy with the stars.
I’m envious of this dude.
This kind of camping would allow you to get right down to the streams edge without disturbing so much as a leaf. You can string one of these arrangements in two minutes if your not expecting weather and fifteen if you do. And there’s a minimum of wet stuff to contend with in the morning. I’ve been through quite a few serious weather evenings in my hammocks and getting wet has never been as issue. Mostly, I’ve worried about everybody else who wasn’t in one.
This whole idea can be taken to some pretty cool extremes.
Enough of that. You get the idea. Tom and I hope to locate idealized trees for this activity all season long. There won’t be any campfires but who cares? We came to fish.
On the last day of the season last year, I elected to give the newly restored section of Kittleson Valley Creek in SW Dane county a try. The banks have been nicely cut back and lunker structures added with some really nice riffle runs and on either side of the restoration I’ve seen some pretty big browns. It’s not a big stretch but it has some premium spots for fly casters.
This spot may not be a good choice for the early season as I can imagine it getting some significant traffic right out of the gate. But if you can manage to escape work one day you might have a really sweet couple of hours working this water. You might not even need to get wet.
If anybody’s interested, Tom and I will be down at the On The Creek fly shop in Cross Plains tomorrow night tying some flies.
If your local, maybe we’ll see you out there?
Tipperary Creek is a beautiful place to visit. Stephen and I took our boys out to the vicinity of Dayton, Wisconsin and found a nice spot on public land to linger for a few hours. A campfire was made, a hammock was set up, a net was unfurled to explore underwater insect life, and we had ourselves a great afternoon.
It looked a little bit like this, except without the snow, fish, and awesome soundtrack…
But seriously, nothing beats getting out into the woods alongside a stream in the winter. That moving water is captivating. Combine it with a fire and a sunny day, and it may as well be summertime. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the rubber pants. Indispensable for getting into the stream to find critters. A kid’s gotta have his rubber pants.