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
The opener is this Saturday. I plan to stay local for much of the season. I’ll take a few trips further afield, but I’m scheming to get intimately familiar with water that is within thirty minutes of home and work. An hour here and an hour there will make up the bulk of my fishing time this season.
My friend Stephen Rose on local water, Driftless, Wisconsin
Weekend trips this year are going to involve my three young sons and a few good campsites, and there will likely be more variety to my weekend Driftless Area stream time. Whatever it takes to keep it fun for my kids, that’s where I’m trying to aim. I want them to want to join me in trout country. I’m building relationships with them that I hope will grow into their love of the same places I love. If that takes campfires and marshmallows, lunches at the local burger joint, and a few hands of UNO at the campsite in the afternoon, I’m game.
Shep at Parfrey's Glen, 2009
I was recently called “the best parent when it comes to making things fun”. It was a compliment, but it was a statement made to temper criticism that followed. The criticism was that I acquiesce to my children when decisions about “what to do” have to be made. It’s not as if I let my children choose to do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it. I’m not a wet noodle that bends to their every demand. But I’ll admit, I fall into the role of joining them as boys in the activities we share. I want my kids to like me, to want to invite me along when I’m an old man.
Childhood is not only about “Protestant-Work-Ethic” character building via depravity and rigid time management. It is just as important, perhaps more important, for children to understand what they have to fall back on when they need some reprieve from the trying times that come from all directions in a person’s life.
Let's dig a hole in the backyard! (Madison, WI)
When I think back to my boyhood I don’t remember with fondness those things that adults had me do to “prepare me” for the real world. I remember spending time with my mom, dad, and sister, or my neighborhood buddies, doing things out in nature or around the neighborhood, exploring unfamiliar places, revisiting familiar ones. I remember my dad waking up on Saturday morning just in time to watch Looney Tunes with me and my sister, and I thought it was so cool that he took an interest in something I really liked! And I also remember the excitement of being invited to partake in activities that my parents liked too.
My dad, The Man. (Cedarburg, WI, 2011)
My dad had plenty of “advice” for me that I didn’t appreciate and still don’t take any stock in. However, he’s been more than open to trying things I’ve discovered on my own so that he can share experiences with me. That’s the approach I’m trying to take with my sons. Show them things I like. Try things that they like. Meet in the middle. Skip out on responsibilities once in a while for the sake of freedom and fun, to feel like you’ve got some say in your life. Not all the time, but rules can and should be bent once in a while. Like that time in 8th grade my parents took my sister and me out of school for a whole week to go skiing in Montana. There’s one I’ll never forget.
Yesterday Stephen Rose and I did some exploring with our kids and my dog. We went to eastern Iowa county to take a look at Smith-Conley Creek. We checked out a parcel of land Stephen was curious about. And then we went to Donald County Park, a place neither of us had ever visited, even though we’ve each lived in Dane County for over a decade.
Donald County Park is the piece of land that spawns Mt Vernon Creek, at the confluence of Frye’s Feeder and Deer Creek. There are some great hiking trails, beautiful views, and of course, trout.
We had a great time exploring and relaxing in the February sun, sheltered from the wind behind a rise in the Driftless. It’s a neat place to check out, and I’ll surely be back with my fly rod when the trout season is in swing.
Shep and Joe at Donald County Park, Dane County, Wisconsin
Joe and Stephen relaxing in a Hennessy hammock, Donald Park, Dane County, Wisconsin
Shep, Joe, Bode, and Stephen, Donald County Park, Dane County, Wisconsin
Frye's Feeder runs through Donald County Park, Dane County, Wisconsin
Maybea-Dog enjoying her free time, Donald County Park, Dane County, Wisconsin