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
Trout Food on the West Branch of Pine River 
Wulff and Pink Squirrel dropper seemed to work well at the west branch of Pine River, Willow Creek and Honey Creek

I awoke wanting to fish Willow Creek. The book I had been reading the night before, "The Stream Of Time", had made a positive reference to this creek. Willow is relatively near my home in Sauk County. However, I'd previously dismissed it as a silty looking mess.

I pulled into a parking area next to a bridge and got geared up. I'm still learning this fly flipping for trout business. One should think ahead about things like: "If I get a fish on, how am I going to land it?" Stuff like that. I approached the bank and was pleased to see what looked like a deep hole on the outside of a bend in the creek. Why not a "hail mary" cast off the top of this bank?

I stripped some line to start a cast. Wanting to get enough line out to load my 3wt rod, I flipped my fly just pass the edge of the bank and it floated down somewhere out of sight. Now I just need to lift it up and start feeding some line for a real cast. I lifted and it snagged. The sang wiggled frantically. Now it was my turn to be frantic. Its a fish! But it was 8 feet down a bank and there was no apparent way to get down there. I attempted to gingerly side step down the bank and immediately lost my footing and slid on my side down the bank stopping just short of the water. Ok good. Lifted the rod and the fly popped off the fish and into the air behind me. Damn.

Now I wanted to go somewhere else. I stepped into the side of the bank and it gave way. I was up to my shoulders in the creek. My legs were floating up due to the air in my waders and the current in this little nook was surprisingly strong. I dug into the bank with my fingers trying to get a grip and slipped back in twice, submerging my chest pack each time. Finally, started getting out of the water by digging and dragging myself through the thistles up the bank.

Location of happy fun mud thistle slide into creek
Dramatic Re-enactment 
My camera, that was in the chest pack, stopped working for a while. But started working again a day later. This has happened twice to my camera. I love you Canon SD880!

With my waders violated by water from the top for the first time, I humbly found a safer place to get into the creek. Several casts later, I caught a nice fish.
13" brown caught around the bend from where I fell in
I would catch several more fish, a few of which were in the 12-13" range.

Willow Creek
I friend of mine had recently caught a "fish of a lifetime" in Honey Creek. Its in his freezer as I write this waiting to get mounted.

Honey Creek is in western Sauk County and is even more ignored than Willow. This would be my first time at this creek. Going to the access area recommend by my friend, I was discouraged by the stream's narrowness at first. But after a hike down stream, I could see old improvements that were still there. I started in a woodsy area that was ultimately very shallow. Once in the clearing where the improvements started, I started catching many chubs, or whatever they were. Dozens of them. Then I caught a few small browns near narrow riffles. I finally caught a keeper sized fish of about 12 inches. Oddly I also caught a tiny bluegill. I was told that trout here mingle with warm water species. The Honey flows south, connecting with other branches before emptying into the Wisconsin River.

I was fishing the same dropper rig I'd been swinging all day. A Royal Wulff with an Pink Squirrel. Something happened thats never happened to me before. I was retrieving a small brown on the Squirrel, when another small brown splashed on to the Wulff! I easily netted them both and was laughing but salty that my camera was in its "non working" phase due to the accident earlier.

Honey Creek public access 
Habitat improvements of yesteryear
Honey Creek
Getting home earlier than usual allotted me the time to try something fancy with the trout. I butterfly cut them, stuffed them with butter, garlic, onions, red peppers and dill. Salt and peppered them. Used cooking twine to close them and slipped lemon slices under the twine. Then I baked them with a liberal amount of canola oil. Pleased with the results.
Baked Vegetable and Herb Stuffed Trout


  1. Nice post, FPD. I never knew about the potential in Honey Creek. Sounds like a hidden treasure to check out sometime.

    I really enjoyed my first try on Willow. The sand bottom in the stretch I fish made the wade easy and I was able to avoid the tall banks...made for a slow go upstream, but it was worth it.

    DTA tream

  2. Thanks mad tom. I'm glad you made it through Willow unscathed. It's fun to fish the next valley to the west too, in case you haven't tried it yet.