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.
I fished in Milwaukee on Saturday with dozens of my closest friends. There are a lot of guys out there after salmon. I haven’t got the strategy figured out yet for catching migrating salmon legally. I’m suspicious that every salmon caught in the Milwaukee River is caught via a snag. I know this debate rages on forums like Lake-Link.com with some saying they are catching them in the mouth while others go on and on about witnessing fish harvested with treble hooks in the dorsal fin. It sure looked to me like the few hooks that found salmon were stuck in places well back from the mouth.
I’m hoping in the next several weeks the salmon have run their course, the weather gets nasty, and the Steelhead are all that’s left of the lake-run fish. I’ll be out there, with a lot fewer friends, swinging streamers for Steelhead.
Speaking of swinging, I got the hang of the Skagit cast to the degree that I made every fourth or fifth cast very adeptly. I have work to do to get power into my cast so I can get them to reach a little further. Right now I’m basically able to cast the shooting head and about ten feet of running line. I need to slow things down a bit on the forward cast I guess.
Salmon Fisherman on the Milwaukee River
Here’s why you shouldn’t harvest that 30-inch brown you pulled out of the Driftless. Why we don’t have slot limits in our trout streams is beyond me.
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
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
The cool clear water of Black Earth Creek, running over the newly scoured streambed