Archive for the ‘Kickapoo River Valley’ Tag

Owning a Piece of the Driftless   3 comments

A friend of mine has a dream to own a plot of land in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. The land would ideally be at least 10 acres, it would abut a trout stream, and it would share a contiguous border with a large natural public space. It would be used for trout fishing, hunting (on the property and on surrounding public land), and for a getaway. Someday he may choose to reside there full time.

Driftless Land near the Kickapoo River, Wisconsin

Driftless Land near the Kickapoo River, Wisconsin

I’m all for visiting areas that I love. I go back to my favorite places over and over and over again. In some ways I feel like I own them. Everyone feels this way when you arrive at one of your favorite spots to find others enjoying it. The thought, “Hey, this is my spot!” comes into my head. My familiarity with a place and my affinity for a place conjure up a sense of ownership.

Water flowing through a seam in the earth, Driftless Wisconsin

Water flowing through a seam in the earth, Driftless Wisconsin

I have many favorite places and I like having the freedom to visit this variety of locales when the moment strikes. Ownership comes with obligation. There is a Buddhist quote that says “He who has cows is worried to see his cows; worried is the man of substance, and he who has no substance has no worries.” If I had a piece of land in the Driftless I would feel obligated to visit it, even if there were other streams, other counties, other forests I’d longed to see.

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Seeking trout in the Driftless, Wisconsin

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Seeking trout in the Driftless, Wisconsin

I own a tiny piece of land in Madison. It holds everything I need to live, and it houses my family and my dog. It is obligation enough for me to own this place. When it comes to getting away, I want to explore. I want to let my itchy feet roam. I want to sleep in the woods and take in a different view when I feel called to do so. I want to drive over that next ridge and down into that next valley to see what I can find. Let me wander!

And when the time to wander comes to an end on Sunday afternoon, I’ll point my car east and return to my home. But my mind will have memories of all the places I’ve seen, with their sounds and smells and experiences. In my mind and my soul I will have owned a piece of all of those places. How can it be better than that?

Autumn in the Driftless   Leave a comment

Here are some shots of the colors this fall in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. I hope you enjoy them.

 

The Kickapoo River, Crawford County, Wisconsin

The Kickapoo River, Crawford County, Wisconsin

 

 

The "Kick"apoo, Driftless, Wisconsin

The "Kick"apoo, Driftless, Wisconsin

 

 

Soybeans and Corn ready to harvest, Crawford County, Wisconsin

Soybeans and Corn ready to harvest, Crawford County, Wisconsin

 

 

The road leading home, Crawford County, Wisconsin

The road leading home, Crawford County, Wisconsin

 

 

 

More from the Best Day of Trout Fly Fishing Ever   3 comments

 

As you may have read, I went fishing on September 30th and had a good time. I think there are a few things I can attibute my success to.

  • Trout are starting to spawn, so hormones are cranked up, meaning fish are more aggressive.
  • After sticking with fly gear all season long (almost exclusively) my ability to cast with a fly rod has improved a lot, including roll casting.
  • I have learned that stealth is much more important when using fly gear (as opposed to spinning gear) because long-distance casting is much less an option with a fly rod.
  • Fly selection – with spinners it’s one of two options: a gold #9 Panther Martin, or a silver #9 Panther Martin. With flies, the options can be overwhelming. But if you have the wrong fly, you won’t catch fish.
Hormonal Fish, Correct Fly, Stealthy Approach all lead to a beautiful hookup

Hormonal Fish, Correct Fly, Stealthy Approach all lead to a beautiful hookup

 

A Crawford County Spring-Fed Trout Stream

A Crawford County Spring-Fed Trout Stream

 

Speaking of using the correct fly, I had hookups and strikes aplenty using a Hopper with a Copper John dropper. Mid-day, when I started fishing, every fish I caught was on the Copper John dropper, nothing on the Hopper. But as the sun started to get lower in the sky, the fish switched over to the Hopper and ignored the Copper John that was ticking along the streambed. I have no idea why this happened. I think I may have had a couple of double strikes, meaning one fish went for the Hopper and one went for the Copper John, at the same time. I never did get a double hookup though.

I also had zero hits on wooly buggers, Griffith’s Gnats, or any other patterns I tied on.

 

Hunger or Aggression? This Brown started a surface fly-eating trend.

Hunger or Aggression? This Brown started a surface fly-eating trend.

 

Driftless spring creek Brown on a Hopper fly.

Driftless spring creek Brown on a Hopper fly.

 

All this is to say that when things aren’t going right, it’s hard for a novice fly fisherman to figure out what to do. Is it the fish? The fly? Am I being too loud? Casting shadows? Wearing the wrong color hat?

So many choices, and without experience or a guide, it’s difficult to know what to do. Luckily, once in a while you have the day you’ve been hoping for all year.

 

Yesterday was the Best Day I’ve Ever Had Fishing for Trout with Flies   3 comments

Yes, it’s true. I had the most success I’ve ever had fly fishing for trout yesterday.

I went and visited Todd Opsal at On The Creek Fly Shop before heading west to Crawford County, and he talked to me about a fly I’d never used before, the Copper John. Todd suggested I tie on a hopper surface fly with a Copper John dropper. So that’s what I did. My second cast yielded a fish.

 

Plum Creek Brown on a Copper John

Plum Creek Brown on a Copper John

 

As for where I fished, I wanted to try a couple of streams I haven’t fished previously. Using Google Maps and the DNR Trout Stream data, I found two streams that looked good. A year ago I called someone at the Crawford County Government Offices and asked if there were any county parks with camping there (there aren’t). I also got to talking with the man on the phone about trout fishing and he said “Plum Creek is the best trout stream in Crawford County”. For some reason that stuck in my brain. Well the stats do look good (5.2 miles of Class 1 Trout water, native Brook and Brown Trout, no stocking), and I imagine that had something to do with him claiming it was the best trout stream in the county.

 

The upper reaches of Plum Creek in Crawford County

The upper reaches of Plum Creek in Crawford County

 

I don’t know that you can blankly state a particular stream is the best out of all the streams in Crawford County. That place is an embarrassment of riches, with so many good trout streams you’d be hard pressed to fish them all. Even non-designated streams are full of trout!

Todd Opsal of On the Creek Fly Shop, whom I may have mentioned earlier having helped me with my fly choices, concurred that Plum Creek was a nice choice, and he had fished it once before and enjoyed it, and told me about a friend of his, Bill, who fished the lower section of the creek and got some nice biggerr fish.

My second choice was one I’ll leave off the books, but it’s near another creek I’ve fished that is full of fish, and it worked out nicely for me yesterday and, well, you know…

 

Another nice place to fish in Crawford County

Another nice place to fish in Crawford County

 

So, I fished a couple of great places, caught a lot of nice fish, and feel really good about it all. It’s hard to beat seeing a fish slam your hopper fly off the surface of the water seconds after it lands on the water with so much force it startles you.

 

The events leading up to this moment were a great deal of fun.

The events leading up to this moment were a great deal of fun.

 

 

The White Wooly Bugger, Fly-Fishing vs Spinning, and the Tributaries of the Kickapoo   3 comments

Last week Tom and I took a sort of ‘last hurrah’ expedition to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve to get in some fishin’ before I embarked on a new job which might impinge on our ability to get out there as often as we might wish.

It was a great idea and great trip.

The story of this occasion was the "white wooly bugger".

Due to scheduling beyond our control, we felt that this was an opportune moment to give our “hammock camping” ambitions another go ’round. We left Madison at 10:30pm and made camp around 12:30am under cover of a moonless but starry night not far from our intended fishing spots.

Tom in a justly famous "Hennessey Hammock" after a pleasant evening.

The hammocks proved their virtues yet again as we strung them in minutes and were comfortable through the night. (doubled sleeping bags comes highly recommended)

I want to discuss a beautiful discovery I had while we fished. I had no real plan or strategy eked out for how I might approach the streams but I figured that this early in the season a hatch would be light at best and that nymphing would be our most likely presentation.  I had tied a number of white wooly buggers on the old adage, “light flies, light day, dark flies, dark day”. I am almost not interested in color patterns in flies at the moment. I tend towards the idea that profile trumps color in most fishing situations. Attraction can be brought about with metallic light catching materials but roygbiv seems irrelevant from my experience. This narrows my need for all kinds of varied materials when tying flies and limits indecision speeding production.  I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks about this as I have yet to read anything about the simple idea of using white or black flies as the baseline for virtually all patterns.

Anyway, my first usage of the white wooly bugger was a revelation. Where with most flies I felt some need to tie on a float to aid in  recognizing strikes, the white wooly bugger was plainly visible beneath the surface and the need for a float was negated. I could now cast with much greater comfort as my leader and tippet unfurled in continuous arcs without the ‘hinge-like’ effect that I find when using a float. I could watch the travel of the white fly all the way to a fish’s mouth. It was terrific!

My new favorite fly pattern.

When I cast my last white wooly bugger onto a lovely wall only to have it get hung up in a deep bend I was almost ready to get wet to salvage it. I spent the rest of the day thinking of that damn fly. I could see it under the surface just begging me to make a mistake trying to retrieve it.

I intend to tie plenty more of these over the coming months. I’ll use lots of lead and a beadhead so I can get it down deep and not have to add split shot which I find disturbs the travel of my line just the way a float does. If you’ve got to have weight it’s nice to have it in just one place. As you can see by the picture, Tom has me beat cold in the fly-tying department. I tie to fish and I’m not ashamed of it. At least, not yet.

On a larger note, I’d like to bring up an idea I recently read about in TU’s periodical “Trout”. I highly recommend checkin’ this out as it was filled with superlative stories on the restoration work going on in our state and beyond.

Here’s the thing: “discovery is the soul of angling”.

That’s it. That is about as irreduceable an idea as I can summon about why I love this activity. It just ain’t about the fish.

Here’s Tom taking his time with his next move. This is a picture of a fisherman in process.
The Kickapoo Valley Reserve is such a god-awfully beautiful place that ‘seekingtrout’ is it’s own reward.

A fresh and blooming skunk cabbage. Maybe fresh isn't the right word.

A moment of astonishing drama in the woodland dun.

A clutch of amphibian eggs beneath the reflection of a leafless canopy. Spring peepers, Cricket frogs, and Green frogs sang in the ephemeral ponds adjacent to the streams.

Last, I wanted to offer a riff about , yes, fly-fishing. Tom and I found that last season we could catch about as many fish as we could want on an ideal day with spinning gear. We worked a stream with an almost ruthless vigor. Spinning is a fast, athletic, and very productive method of fishing. But isn’t ‘productivity’ what our everyday back at work is about? Isn’t fishing sort of a moment where productivity isn’t the underlying motivation?

We fly-fished for probably eight hours. We did not catch fish as we might of with spinning gear or so we supposed. But we did find that we fished with greater intention and sometimes with a kind of grace that spinning gear doesn’t offer. There is, deep down, a kind of brutality to spinning gear that we both could not fail to notice when we switched over to spinning in the latest part of the day. This was an experiment. We wanted to see what happened to our day by changing our method.

I think we both came away rather surprised by how much we missed the slow and quiet presentation of the fly despite catching more fish.

It is hard to not be astonished no matter how many times you bring a brookie to hand.

I haven’t posted in awhile. I kind of been in a funk with what to say recently. This latest trip has revitalized my interest. I can’t wait to get back out there.

Thanks.

Fly Fishing the Kickapoo Tribs   2 comments

On Wednesday, April 6th at about 10:30 pm, Stephen Rose and I bid farewell to our families and drove west to the Kickapoo Valley. We set up camp quickly and woke up to a frosty, bright morning. Our day was, in our short history of fishing for trout, one of the best yet.

The goal was to continue gaining experience fishing with fly tackle, with the hopes of having success connecting with trout. That goal was met, but there were so many other bonuses in the form of beautiful sights, sounds, and experiences. It was an incredible day!

Last Night's Hammocks in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve

Last Night's Hammocks in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve

 

Sun's Up!

Sun's Up!

 

Pre-fishing breakfast preparation

Pre-fishing breakfast preparation

 

A Driftless spring seep running down limestone

A Driftless spring seep running down limestone

 

Here's lookin' at you, fish.

Here's lookin' at you, fish.

 

Tom's Wooly fools a Driftless Trout

Tom's Wooly fools a Driftless Trout

 

Nicely!

Nicely!

 

This man is happy.

This man is happy.

 

Driftless Brown on a White Wooly Bugger

Driftless Brown on a White Wooly Bugger

 

Stephen Rose working a bend pool on a Kickapoo River Tributary

Stephen Rose working a bend pool on a Kickapoo River Tributary

 

Beautiful Meander in Wisconsin's Driftless

Beautiful Meander in Wisconsin's Driftless

 

Beaver Lunch

Beaver Lunch

 

Strike!

Strike!

 

Working the Wall

Working the Wall

 

Is this for real? Driftless Wisconsin Trout Water.

Is this for real? Driftless Wisconsin Trout Water.

 

Brown Trout, Wooly Bugger

Brown Trout, Wooly Bugger

 

Casting to a lie

Casting to a lie

 

A Stealthy Approach

A Stealthy Approach

 

Wow.

Wow.

 

The Garden of Eden?

The Garden of Eden?

 

Nice Fish!

Nice Fish!

 

Stephen Rose with at Driftless Wisconson Brown Trout

Stephen Rose with at Driftless Wisconson Brown Trout

 

Working a limestone wall

Working a limestone wall

 

Stephen Rose, Successful Fly Fisherman

Stephen Rose, Successful Fly Fisherman

 

Driftless Trout Stream

Driftless Trout Stream