My friends and I just got back from the Brule. We fished from Saturday the 11th through Wednesday the 15th and had exactly one steelhead on the line for approximately 10 seconds before it broke off on Monday afternoon.
We were expecting a good bit of rain Monday into Tuesday but it never happened. The weather system went to the east and completely missed the Brule. I’m not sure if this rain would have been a difference-maker but it would have at least given us some hope after completely striking out on Saturday and Sunday.
We talked to many fishermen using every rig along every bit of the river and far and away the story was that the fishing was spotty. There was one peach of a man who called us “buggy whippers”. He said “I’ve got to show you guys something” which turned out to be his centerpin rig with a crappie jig head loaded with a red worm. He had claimed to have brought four steelhead to hand that day using this method and was certain that our “buggy whipping” would not yield a damn thing. I guess we proved him right. Oh well.
We also met a very nice man out walking near Mays Ledges with his wife and dog. He said the key to steelheading when the fishing is spotty is to “hunt” for them. If there’s no action in a particular spot, move along and hunt for them.
Perhaps the funniest part of the trip was a conspiracy theory in the Kro-Bar that the Lamprey Weir gate was completely closed, preventing fish from moving upstream. We posited this question to many people we met and they all shrugged their shoulders as to whether or not it could be true. We went to McNeil’s and walked upstream to the weir to confirm with our own eyes that the fish passage was indeed open. We didn’t see any fish pushing upriver there though.
In the same stretch of river where I had our one fish on for ten seconds we saw big fish slapping the surface every 10 or 20 minutes, sometimes just a rod length away from where we stood in the water. They were in there, but not interested in feeding. And this was a prime spot at a prime time of the day (at dusk) with the sky cloudy and drizzling. Beautiful dead drifts right through the heart of the run did not entice them in the least. On one drift I felt a tug and set the hook but came up with nothing but a single silver fish scale about a quarter-inch in diameter.
We had a great time camping, watching playoff baseball in the evenings with Amy at the Kro-Bar, shooting our bows at a target 30 yards out at Rush Lake, and enjoying the beautiful colors and weather. We also fished during prime periods of the day and put in a lot of time on the water in ideal spots. Our Spey casting session at the mouth was perhaps a highlight of the trip, even though we didn’t sniff a fish there.
Better luck to all you guys out there fishing now or planning to fish this fall!
Sunrise on the Brule River
Gregg drifting a fly through the Brule
Hunting for Steelhead on the Brule
Wringing out after a long morning on the Brule
Warming by the fire along the Brule
My good friend Brian Rybarik is the happy groom, marrying Courtney Klaus tomorrow in a private, wooded ceremony.
Good luck to you both, Brian and Courtney!
Brian Rybarik at his bachelor party, nicknamed the “Bri-Deca-Pentathlon”
Well, my friend Stephen Rose is back. Last Monday his heart stopped for at least twenty minutes. He was in a coma for a few days. When he woke he was not responsive. And then, suddenly, he was.
It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever endured, but the day I saw him give a faint smile, my heart hoped for more. A day later a few words. And yesterday, unmistakable, unequivocal, unambiguous Stephen.
Mid-morning I went to Stephen’s bedside before going back to work, and told him that I would see him again later. I had no idea what his response would be. I didn’t even know if he’d recognized me.
Me: “Stephen, buddy, I’ll see you later. Okay?”
Stephen: “Well… Will there be beer later?”
Me: “Oh yeah man. There’ll be beer later. Good malty, hoppy beer. And maybe some bourbon too!”
At the suggestion of bourbon Stephen’s eyes got wide as saucers, and my heart soared.
As of last night Stephen had squeezed both of his hands and moved one leg. Wonderful signs for a man whose body has been so fully utilized and applied toward action and creation.
Stephen’s friend and mine, Chris R, retold a discussion he and Stephen’s younger son Joe had had yesterday evening. Chris said to Joe, “Well Joe, it looks like you’ve had a pretty good day.” To which Joe responded, “Yeah, I guess so.” [pause] “And my dad’s getting better too!”
Make no mistake, I’m elated and euphoric that my friend is alive. I had started imagining a life without him and it was a very tough pill to swallow. But I see the road ahead for Stephen and his family and it may not be a smooth one. To use a metaphor, it may look a lot more like the rough trails that line the Brule River than a road.
And I have to imagine Stephen is not at all excited to wake up after his workout last Monday to find himself in a hospital bed. While we’re all standing around cheering for his reawakening, he’s saying to himself, “What the fuck…?”
Stephen, I love you buddy, along with many many others. I, we, are ready to help. Whatever the future brings you’ve taught us all to cherish what’s really important, to not take it for granted. I pray (yes, I said pray) that the rest of your life will be seasoned with the realization that for a moment, you were not of this earth, and that we really, truly get one shot at life.
But for now, one day at a time. Okay?
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Stephen Rose and I woke up early, met at the JFT Fishmobile parked on the street between our houses, and headed out to Richland County Sunday morning. We may have gotten out there a bit early because the bite didn’t really turn on until about 11am. I’ll never get those few hours of sleep back! Damnit.
Oh well. When the bite was less than ideal we spent some time on the bank chatting, snacking on good snacks, and talking about the evolution of sparrows. I like fishing alone, but fishing alone has nothing on fishing with a person who’s company you enjoy, who can relate to your stories and troubles, and who is completely bonkers about catching trout in spring-fed creeks. Call it a bromance if you like. Go ahead. I take no offense. I would even say if you don’t have a partner in crime out there in leisure-land you’re missing a big part of the equation. I feel very fortunate to have a great fishing buddy and friend in Stephen.
Stephen had been out to this particular stream three times prior this spring and was confident another visit would yield good results. and boy, did it!
We fished mostly dries once the fish started becoming active. Stephen was clued into it when a fish hit his biostrike indicator (best stuff ever, btw). There wasn’t a strong hatch going on, but never-the-less the fish were looking up. We took turns on a few pools and pulled out fish after fish on caddis and BWO patterns drifted or skated through pools. Needless to say, it was a blast.
And another thing. I continue to be amazed at the options available to trout anglers in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region. We spent from 6am to 1pm fishing a stretch of prime water and didn’t see a soul. Incredible.
Enjoy the pictures!
Tom casting to a honey of a hole.
Switching from wet to dry mode.
There it is…
Boys, it just dudn’t get any better’n this.
I just love trout. Don’t you?
A wonderful, wild, hungry creature.
It’s hard to beat a day like this.