Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Long Distance Relationships

This fly doesn't work
I don't think long distance relationships are a good idea. But I've been in them and I'm sure you have too. I'm in one right now, with Iowa. Wisconsin simply became unavailable... until March 2013. With all the gasoline and travel time required for a long distance relationship, you feel the pressure to justify it.

My last trip to Iowa was rough. I brought my friend Len along hoping to watch him catch a bunch of hogs. This is what he does in Wisconsin. I took him to Bloody Run and started a ways upstream from the parking area to avoid high traffic. Ultimately we only caught a single brown trout to show for it.

We surrendered a bit before noon and drove over to Waterloo Creek where we had a tiny bit more luck. Len caught a miniature trout trifecta of rainbow, brown and brook trout. And I caught a couple more browns, keeping one brown trout for dinner. Before the final fish was caught however, I would miss about 8 strikes. Len, who was watching the show, jokingly suggested that my hook was missing. I checked, and it was broke off. Lesson learned.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Defecting To The Iowan Driftless

Bear Creek, downstream from the convergence of South and North Bear Creek
If you're a Wisconsin resident, the inland trout season is over. Maybe you're reading blogs or looking back at pictures from last season. Or maybe you're just trying to drink the sorrow away. Put the bottle and gun down. There are options. Devil's Lake State Park for instance has nearly year-round trout fishing.

However, if lake fishing ain't your bag, spring creeks amongst the coulees can be had just one state to the west, in Iowa.  The IDNR website has some decent mapping tools though I picked up a great printed map at the General Store in Highlandville.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Backpack Fly Fishing Colorado in a High Altitude Nutshell. Part IV

Lizard-like, heating myself back to life in the sun.
I woke up to my 4th day in the Flat Tops in the middle of the night freezing. This would be the norm most nights especially with a leaky sleeping pad. When the sky began to show light, I hiked into the valley to try and find a place to stand in the sunlight as soon as it became available. In a desperate move last night, I tried to wear some damp clothing, bad idea. Now I needed the sun.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thus Concludes The 2012 Wisconsin Inland Trout Season

Early trout. Note the dirty fingers and spinning rod
The 2012 season has just ended. My first full season of fly fishing for trout in the Driftless Area. I started around May of '11, dunking worms with spinning gear and slowing being introduced to this beautiful area by friends. I think the first trout I pulled out of the Driftless was from a canoe on the Kickapoo River with my friend Mike, a couple of years before that.

In June of '11, I purchased a fly rod and waders. On June 4th, I caught my first trout on a fly (a 10" brown trout from Camp Creek on a prince nymph). Fishing with the fly amplified my interest in fishing tenfold. Eventually, 2nd and 3rd rods were acquired, waders were replaced. Money got dumped into flies, leaders and all of the other gadgets and bobbles that would get stuffed into my chest pack, lost, broken and wedged into the crevices of my car.

First trout on a fly
My obsession snowballed such that by the time the 2012 season rolled around, I was as excited as a kid with a Nintendo 64 to start fishing again. Unlike in the past, the catch and release season would be enjoyed even without eating delicious trout. I managed to get out almost every weekend this season and often 2 to 3 times a week. Being only my second season, its not surprising that I broke many of my personal records. The most fish caught (didn't count but I'm sure of it), the biggest fish caught (19"), first tiger trout and the most time spent on the water. I fished several new streams this year but continue to feel overwhelmed by the many miles of streams and sections of streams left untouched. This is a good thing. There are streams I found last season that were excellent, but not returned to simply because I was too busy with closer streams. It's amazing to me that I've lived as long as I've had on the border of the Driftless Area but only just started exploring it within the last two years!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Iowa Sent Me Back To Wisconsin

A road to French Creek
The band was going to play a gig in Lansing, Iowa and another up the river in Minnesota the next day. Lansing is near trout water, so I planned to camp there and fish French Creek the next morning. After the night's festivities, I managed to crawl out of my tent at around 9 AM.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Backpack Fly Fishing Colorado in a High Altitude Nutshell. Part III

Morning on the Flat Tops
Despite a night of little sleep and shouting at perceived rodents scurrying along the outer sides of my tent, I felt unexpectedly refreshed in the morning. While impatiently waiting for the warm sun to appear, I bundled up and tried to spot any large wildlife that might be in the area. I returned without seeing anything and got started trying to catch my breakfast.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

In order to pay for fly fishing, I play bass in a band called The Soapbox Project. Sadly, this means I can't fish every moment of my free time and I could only dedicate Sunday and Monday to Driftless exploration. The band's fun though, so it's a pretty good situation overall.

I did my best to rise from sleeping after two days of shows and crashing Sunday morning at 4:00ish AM. I'm proud to report that I made it to Brown Beard's house not forgetting anything except the GoPro camera (sorry, no hot POV action in this post). We made it to our first stop, Melancthon Creek, before noon, first trying a bridge that had previously provided us some good trout. The heat and humidity was stifling. Unsurprisingly, the fishing was slow in the middle of the day. We caught 1 trout at the bridge and worked our way downstream to some rock walls where I'd lost a nice trout on a previous trip. The trout would not reappear for us and few others did.

Melancthon Creek

Friday, August 31, 2012

Backpack Fly Fishing Colorado in a High Altitude Nutshell. Part II

This is part 2 of a multipart series documenting my trip to Colorado this summer. Part 1 is here.

I awoke in the predawn to hear an odd scrapping sound outside my tent. The bunnies... I put on my headlamp and unzipped the the rainfly to see its eyes reflecting back at me from under the picnic table. It was dragging around a bit of foil I had used to cook the trout in. I couldn't have this thing dragging my garbage into the woods so I staggered out of the tent and shoed it away. It dropped the foil which I then deposited into the trunk of my car.
The little fuzzy punk with my foil

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Backpack Fly Fishing Colorado in a High Altitude Nutshell. Part I

This will be the first in a series of posts that document my trip to Colorado this summer. It's a lot of stuff so I'm doing it in parts.

This would be my third trip to the beautiful giant playground of a state we call Colorado. My second time driving as opposed to flying and my first time going by myself. Destination: Flat Tops Wilderness Area to backpack and fly fish. It made me somewhat nervous to be driving a 1997 Taurus with 120k miles on the odometer, but it would ultimately prove reliable. Thank you Taurus!

It makes me giddy to punch a location into my GPS that reads 1200 miles and 16 hours to my final destination. I laughed at myself when I said out loud "I'm driving to Colorado", while rounding the corners on highway 60 through the south western part of Wisconsin. Using Gas Buddy's website, I plotted a few stops along the way, saving some money on fuel.

Driving through Iowa and Nebraska on I-80 is a soul draining experience. Flat nothingness surrounds you interrupted by the occasional wind farm.

Many miles of blah ahead

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Then Came The Rain

I was pretty excited about my first visit to the fabled Rush River. The forecast called for 20% chance of scattered thunderstorms. Easy, it might rain some. Woke up at my campsite on the river at the Ellsworth Rod & Gun Club and tried a lower section of the river. It started raining almost as soon as I got into the river. I persevered  for over 2 hours in this, tripping on underwater boulders hidden in the Yoohoo colored water and making casts into likely holds with both dry and wet flies. No good. I returned to my car to change shirts and get on something that was actually waterproof.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Gentle Art Of Fly Fishing

I have to apologize, there's some course language in this video below. And I should also apologize to Brown Beard, my fishing partner featured in this video... but it just makes me laugh hard every time.

Sure we fly fishermen like to espouse the beauty and tranquil "art" of fly fishing. But like anything else worth pursuing, sometimes it makes you angry.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Float Tube

Fly rod not included
I've been interested in the idea of a float tube for some time now but needed the nudging of a friend who had one to finally take the plunge (into the tube). And for less than $200 with fins, it wasn't too bad of a risk. You can spend much more, but I decided on the Caddis...something. It's not the Caddis Navigator IV or Nevada Gold, but just Caddis, for $90. The Caddis fins at $48 seemed a bit over priced to me for what they are: fin shaped hard plastic with nylon straps that you need to tie on yourself. The fins fit over your wading boots unlike snorkeling fins, so they are kind of specialized. In hindsight, some research would have been apropos, but I wanted to get in the water tonight, dammit.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

3 Fish

A mysterious place at 4:30 AM
Last weekend's trout agenda was built around a simple set of instructions from a friend. If I arrive at the appointed hour, at a certain hole, with a certain fly, leader size and indicator depth, I would be rewarded trout in the 20" category. I would also need to enlist the help of a friend as cameraman and net holder person.

For the last detail, I enlisted Greg. A tough Norwegian with no waders, but aqua socks.

I put off going after the 20 incher until Sunday morning. Friday night, we got our first campsite in Rockbridge. We did some fishing in the last hour of useful light on Melancthon Creek, up Hwy 80.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Friday Evening and Saturday Morning In Richland and Sauk Counties

The weekend before my birthday, I decided that it was going to be a Trout Weekend. Get done with work on Friday, fish, camp, fish early, fish more, camp, well actually I had some commitments late Saturday so, "troutis-interruptus" I guess.

After securing my campsite at Pier Natural Bridge Park, I headed to a stretch of the Pine River - West Branch where I've enjoyed moderate success with chunky browns in the past.

I only had a couple of hours of daylight left but had some nice strikes, a few small browns and one 12" brown that became my dinner back at camp. I enjoy fishing with a friend but I also really enjoy fishing alone, and that would be my M.O. these 2 days. That night I cooked my trout simply with my Coleman propane grill and enjoyed the quiet park which I had mostly to myself. Spent the last minutes of consciousness reading in my tent.

View of bluffs from the first stop

Monday, June 18, 2012

Trout Fest Weekend In The Driftless Area

Got up early (that's 5 am for me) on Saturday morning to head out for a weekend of fishing, camping and Trout Fest, which happens annually in Coon Valley, Wisconsin. After answering a text message asking if I was really awake, I quickly got what I needed into the car and retrieved my usual trouting partner, Derek.

Pine River in Kooyumjian-Lost Creek County Park