Archive for the ‘Kickapoo River Valley’ Tag

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.

 

 

September Trout Fishing in the Driftless   3 comments

September is one of the best months to chase trout in Wisconsin’s Driftless creeks. Nights are cool and water temps are prime for fish activity. Lots of terrestrials are active in their riparian habitats, and fish hormones are starting to crank up in anticipation of spawning season. All this means good fishing!

Stephen Rose and I headed out of Madison to Crawford County to camp out overnight near a Kickapoo tributary. Hennessy Hammmocks fit the bill nicely for roadside camping because you don’t need a flat spot on the ground, just a couple of stout trees and away you go. Camping in the trees and dreaming of fish. How could you do any better?

The cicadas sung me to sleep and the sun woke me the next morning. We packed up our sleeping gear, put on waders, drank a little coffee and walked a hundred yards to the creek. A fog hung over the creek and it made me feel as though the underwater world and the world we inhabit above the water were melting into one, as if the fish could have swum up out of the water and into the mist lying between the banks.

I tied on a foam cricket and got after it, landing a couple of twelve inch brown trout, and Stephen had similar luck on hoppers. The fishing remained good throughout the morning, but we found fewer and fewer fish willing to rise, so we switched over to nymphs and continued to have success.

If you’ve been putting off a trip to the trout stream, now’s the time to get out there. The season ends at the end of the month, so take advantage while you can!

 

A glorious spring-fed creek in WIsconsin's Driftless Region

A glorious spring-fed creek in WIsconsin’s Driftless Region

 

Success with a foam cricket in early September on a Kickapoo River tributary

Success with a foam cricket in early September on a Kickapoo River tributary

 

Stephen Rose fishes hoppers in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin

Stephen Rose fishes hoppers in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin

 

Pink flowers line the stream in September

Pink flowers line the stream in September

 

A bruiser Brown Trout from a Wisconsin Driftless stream

A bruiser Brown Trout from a Wisconsin Driftless stream

 

Stephen Rose casting to a lie on a Kickapoo tributary

Stephen Rose casting to a lie on a Kickapoo tributary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Tough Summertime Fishing in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region   10 comments

Stephen Rose and I have been planning to take a trip to Vernon and Richland Counties for a few months now, and the stars aligned in our schedules to allow that trip to happen. We didn’t plan on Wisconsin being in the middle of a drought, though, and that made the fishing a bit tougher than we’d hoped.

We managed to catch a dozen fish between ourselves, but nothing with any real size. We saw a pike in Coon Creek and scouted a pair of 20-plus-inch fish as well, but the sun and biting flies got to be a bit much so we headed in to Borgen’s in Westby for some burgers, beers, and pie.

We caught our suppers each night, supplemented with venison brats and tabouli, and washed down with cold beers. We camped for free in Hennessy Hammocks and avoided a few bulls in their pastures without incident.

Stephen and I both agreed that we won’t be taking another extended trip to fish for trout until we get some more rain. Water levels are low and many streams are warm (though some are suprisingly cool, even well down their drainages). I was happy to see that even though we’ve been without rain, the streams appear healthy and the fish happy, and for the most part, the Driftless continues to show off its lushness.

Enjoy the photos for now, and looking forward, expect a few videos of our trip on the site too.

 

Coon Creek in Vernon County, Wisconsin

Coon Creek in Vernon County, Wisconsin

 

Scouting some big trout, Vernon County, Wisconsin

Scouting some big trout, Vernon County, Wisconsin

 

Stephen enjoying lunch at Borgen's, Westby, Wisconsin

Stephen enjoying lunch at Borgen’s, Westby, Wisconsin

 

Sharp Car...

Sharp Car…

 

Pecan Pie? Are you kidding me?! Borgen's in Westby, Wisconsin

Pecan Pie? Are you kidding me?! Borgen’s in Westby, Wisconsin

 

Coon Creek Brown near Coon Valley, Wiscsonsin

Coon Creek Brown near Coon Valley, Wiscsonsin

 

Preparing supper along Coon Creek, Wisconsin

Preparing supper along Coon Creek, Wisconsin

 

It always tastest better right out of the stream...

It always tastest better right out of the stream…

 

The Big Dipper above Wisconsin's Driftless

The Big Dipper above Wisconsin’s Driftless

 

 

Camp Creek Brown Trout, near Viola, Wisconsin

Camp Creek Brown Trout, near Viola, Wisconsin

 

 

 

This stretch of Camp Creek is kind of pretty, don't you think?

This stretch of Camp Creek is kind of pretty, don’t you think?

 

Stephen with a fish on, Camp Creek, Wisconsin

Stephen with a fish on, Camp Creek, Wisconsin

 

The Camp Creek Bandit.

The Camp Creek Bandit.

 

If the biting flies hadn't carried us away, we'd have stayed all day. Camp Creek, Wisconsin

If the biting flies hadn’t carried us away, we’d have stayed all day. Camp Creek, Wisconsin