Archive for the ‘Trout Unlimited’ 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



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






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.








National Recognition of Wisconsin’s Trout Resources   Leave a comment

The July Edition of “Wisconsin Trout” arrived in my mailbox yesterday and the cover article relates to the TU National meeting for 2013 taking place in Wisconsin. I think the secret is getting out about the incredible trout fishery we have here in Wisconsin. Shhhh.

There’s another good write-up by WITU State Council Chair Kim McCarthy about his trip to Canada to fish, during which he reflects on how good we’ve got it in Southwest Wisconsin.



Wi Trout Unlimited July 2012 Page 1

Wi Trout Unlimited July 2012 Page 1


Wi Trout Unlimited July 2012 Page 3

Wi Trout Unlimited July 2012 Page 3




Success on Black Earth Creek   2 comments

After striking out on Sunday I decided to swing 180-degrees and go from fishing streams I don’t know to fishing those I know well (or better, anyway). My home stream, as it is for many around here, is Black Earth Creek. Many people frown on it because “there was that fish kill awhile back” and “it gets so much pressure from Madison fishermen”. While those things are true, it is still a lovely stream with lots of fish that is fishable for me over lunch or before or after work.

Monday I drove 15 minutes to a spot on Black Earth Creek and caught a couple of nice Brown Trout, whereas on Sunday I drove an hour and didn’t see any fish.

Black Earth Creek in its broad valley

Black Earth Creek in its broad valley


I haven’t yet fished every stretch of this river, so I have some exploring left to do, which will help my neophilic tendencies. There are a few nice tributary streams as well that are proximal to my location that don’t see as many fishermen, and I plan to increase my knowledge of those streams as well.

The spot I fished was basically “in town” and it sees lots of fishing pressure. Even so, I caught fish. This, to me, says a lot about the health of the Black Earth Creek system.

The guys at On The Creek provided an audience during this hookup.

The guys at On The Creek provided an audience during this hookup.


Speaking with Todd Opsal at On the Creek Fly Shop, I found out the section between Hwy P and Hwy KP is going to get some special attention in the next few years from the DNR and Trout Unlimited. Many moons ago this section was channelized and dammed to serve industrial purposes. The project in the works will put the stream back into its original stream bed, with lots of meanders and natural gradient. It will be used as a national example of stream restoration practices and will only serve to increase the fecundity of Black Earth Creek, and we’ll all have more fish to catch and lovelier places to catch them.


Tight Line! Channelized section of Black Earth Creek.

Tight Line! Channelized section of Black Earth Creek.


I plan to keep up the blog posts as a sort of journal this season, so hopefully I’ll be taking many more pics of fish and nice places as the weeks go by.

Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited Work Day   3 comments

The Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited chapter organized a work day Saturday morning on a stream in Dane County. Stephen Rose and I went out to lend a hand. There were 34 volunteers clearing Buckthorn, Box Elder, and Honeysuckle away from the stream corridor, and in 3 hours we cleaned out over 1,000 feet of streambank. This section of the stream went from a choked up mess to a wonderful place to chase after trout and take in the beauty of a spring creek.

(Click on the picture below to see 13 more pictures from the cleanup day)

SWTU Cleanup - Photo Copyright James Beecher, 2012

SWTU Cleanup - Photo Copyright James Beecher, 2012


Kurt Welke, the Fisheries Manager for the South Central Region of Wisconsin, was on hand and working hard. He set aside some larger tree trunk sections that would be placed in a section of the stream that was wide, shallow, and silty. He said that the trunks would be used to alter the flow of the water to create faster flow, which would scour away the silt, deepen the stream, and oxygenate the water.

SWTU will be holding two more maintenance/cleanup projects this spring. One on March 17th and one in April. If you’re interested check out the chapter’s website at, or contact Conservation Committee Chairman Steve Wald ( for more information.

It feels really good to help transform an unusable section of stream into a beautiful trout fishing destination. Each section of stream we improve provides another trout fishing destination for all of us to enjoy. Come on out March 17th and help improve your trout fishery!

Len Harris Interview on WRCO Radio   Leave a comment

Driftless Trout Fishing Luminary Len Harris, who writes on his blog The Stream of Time, was interviewed recently on WRCO  in Richland Center, talking trout. The interview is excellent! Check it out.

Len Harris

Len Harris at WRCO

 My favorite line from Len in this interview has got to be Len talking about fishing in cold weather. Asked if he’ll be out Saturday even if it’s cold out, Len says “I’m gonna be out there unless I’m in the hospital.”

Len, my sentiments exactly. Here’s to your health. Let’s hope you’re not in the hospital!

Why blog?   1 comment

So the last meeting of the Southern Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited has me considering why I elect to post my thoughts about this activity.

After all, I’m fairly new at this, who really cares what some greenie in Madison thinks about such a personal activity? Heaven knows there are others out there with greater experience and practical kinds of advice and counsel for would be trout seekers. There are also more savvy media users who might bring greater content to showcase their fishing exploits. I have little doubt of this truth.

But I have found that this blog does something that Facebook and Twitter just don’t offer me, namely, a strangely focused electronic environment that restricts those who have no interest in my musings from having to deal with them. At the same time, it provides me with an almost endless space to hold court with those who do, emphatically, share my interest. Here’s a little clip:

It’s nothing special really but it is reminder of why I’m out there. Make sure you can hear the sounds as this video is meaningless without the audio.

If the TU meeting was a microcosm of the trout angling population in Wisconsin then I can safely say that that demographic is definitely grayer than either Tom or myself. Perhaps this is sufficient reason itself to justify my musings as, from my perspective, the trout streams are inherently better protected by a larger number of fishermen paying fees to use them and my relative youth may speak to a group that is under-served. This is open to debate of course and I welcome any and all challenges to this idea as I am only too happy to get straightened out should I have the story wrong.

Finally, I would be lying if I did not admit to being a man of appetite, the thought of an occasional meal of native trout straight from a cold water stream is one more significant reason to exist. Bon appetit!

A gourmet reason to justify my stream wanderings.

Trout Unlimited Meeting Last Night   1 comment

Last night Stephen Rose and I attended our first Trout Unlimited meeting. The Southern Wisconsin TU Chapter meets monthly in the banquet hall at the Colliseum Bar in Madison. The reputation of Trout Unlimited precedes itself, and there are strong opinions about the influence and motivation of the organization.

We didn’t know what kind of atmosphere to expect. On the way to the meeting we jokingly agreed that if we saw anyone wearing an ascot ala Judge Smails in Caddyshack, we’d probably have to excuse ourselves and make our way downstairs to the bar for some stiff drinks.

Judge Smails

"Do you stand for *goodness*, or - for *badness*?" - Judge Smails

It turns out no one was wearing an ascot. Most were wearing flannel shirts and faded jeans. The faces in the crowd of 50 people were exactly what you’d expect to see in a bar on a Tuesday night in Wisconsin.

The meeting started out with a few items of business, mostly that winners of raffles from the last few meetings had yet to pick up their prizes of fly boxes or trout books. There was a request to sign up to man the booth at the upcoming Madison Fishing Expo, and a call for members to help with streambank improvement work on Mount Vernon, the West Branch of the Sugar, and Gordon Creeks on April 30. Bring your loppers, chainsaws, and work gloves!

Raffle tickets for the evenings “Bucket Raffle” were handed out. Up for grabs were fly boxes with a dozen hand-tied flies.

Then the presentation began. Four members had taken a trip up to Lake Creek, Alaska for a week of river fishing. The stories and photos were terrific and make me wish I was better at saving my money so that I could afford such a trip (which, according to the speakers, was very reasonably priced compared to other trips offered in Alaska).

Wilderness Place Lodge

Wilderness Place Lodge

The question I asked myself while looking at the slides was “Are they going to eat any of these fish?” and I was surprised and relieved when I saw them showing off giant salmon filets and talking about how delicious all the fish tasted. They also brought along two kegs of beer to keep them company. Sounds OK to me!

After the 45-minute presentation the bucket raffle got underway. Three winners were picked from a hat and they each took home a fly box with some flies.

Announcements for the next meeting were made (March’s meeting is an auction) and the crowd slowly dispersed.

The impression I got was that each of these people enjoyed trout, trout streams, fishing for and catching trout, and spreading the word that trout fishing is a great way to spend time outdoors.

I didn’t stand up and say “Would any of you have objections to me fishing with a chub tail at the April outing?”

I’m not sure how that would have gone over. But I’m going to continue to attend the meetings and become a member. I look forward to helping with stream work, learning how to tie new flies, and create new friendships within the trout fishing community.

I also look forward to fishing with that chub tail in April.