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

I wanted to stop at Kooyumjian-Lost Creek County Park in Richland County to get some early fishing in before the fest, but was disappointed to find that this stretch of the upper Pine River was stagnant and beaver pond-ed up. So we continued on to Esofea to claim our camp site.

My research had concluded that Esofea-Rentz Memorial County Park would be an excellent base of operations. It did not disappoint! Besides being very well maintained and providing basic amenities for camper-camping and tent campers like us, it had the North Fork of the Bad Axe River running right through it. And it was brimming with trout! By mid-morning of course, there were plenty of other guests in the park that wanted to take their kiddos down to the stream with some worms to catch a fish, so we headed upstream to try. I had one on quickly with a size 14 "never sink" caddis, but it dove into the thick weeds prevalent in this area and dexterously exchanged himself with a clump of green muck. This happened twice to me on this stream that weekend. Never underestimate the audacity of a trout to do such a thing.

Getting hungry and thirsty, we decide it was time to go to the 'Fest. It rained like crazy on the way, but cleared up when we got to the park where the fest was being held. We stayed for a few hours eating brats, pork sandwiches and drinking Fat Tires and Coors. We caught the first musical act, "Fayme Rochelle & The Waxwings". They were exactly what we wanted to hear at a "trout fest" and they sounded amazing! The vendor tent was filled with trout awesomeness. Did some shopping and met some cool folks such as Jonathan Marquardt of Bad Axe Design, Larry (singer for Pegboy..a band our band in high school used to cover) of Flying Pig Performance Rods and Len Harris, author of The Stream Of Time, who's seen trout I can only imagine.

Inspired by the trout insanity, it was time to head out to a stream. We chose Timber Coulee. It wasn't crowded and we had no problem getting to the spot we wanted to be. I caught 3 fish, one of which was over 13 inches. After a couple of hours, we headed back to camp before the weather got bad.
13 1/2" Timber Coulee Brown Trout

The next morning, I got up and started casting through the glowing, morning fog into the creek bordering our campsite . A faint crackle emanated from the surrounding flora as droplets of water dripped through their branches. I didn't catch a fish until later in the morning. It makes me slightly sad that I couldn't catch one in luminous early morning fog; it would have been so dramatic.

Early morning fog on a branch of the Bad Axe River

We broke camp after a brief encounter with a young bird learning to fly and headed to Tainter Creek.

A young bird lands on Derek's tent

The spot we went to had been navigable in the spring. We made it far enough to see a pair of impressive beaver dams. We couldn't make it any further without a machete and explosives.

Beaver dams on Tainter Creek

Next we went to Sugar Creek. The sun was high now and we were starting to drown insects on our necks. I tricked one fish casting into a shadow on the bank upstream and to the right of me. That was it for us both. Defeated, we tried to plot another course when Derek realized he forgot his sandals at the Tainter Creek parking area.
Derek casting into Sugar Creek

We retrieved the sandals and headed to Kickapoo Inn for a late lunch. On the way I spotted an interesting bridge over what I've since learned was, again, Tainter Creek. Peering over the edge, Derek made some sort of profane guttural utterance. He motioned me to take a cautious look and pointed to a fish that appeared over a couple of feet long.

I've seen suckers in creeks like these, and my mind wants to rationalize that this was a rough fish not worthy of my shock. But it was shaped like a trout. Moved like a trout.

In any case, we decided to fish Reads Creek after we ate. It was nearby and maybe it had big fish too? The weather was now overcast. We started off a bridge on County JJ heading upstream. The noise from the highway was loud, but the creek was fun and looked good. Derek caught a trout after creeping under a concrete culvert beneath a private drive way. He casted just a few feet ahead of himself into a pool fed by a short riffle and bagged an 11" brown.

Brown Trout from Reads Creek

Brook Trout from Reads Creek

We bush-wacked back to the highway and hiked about 3/4 miles back to the car. At a wayside across the road from where we parked, we cleaned, cooked and ate a couple of trout we had kept. We used some butter, garlic, parsley and dill and cooked them wrapped in aluminum foil over my Coleman propane griddle. They were of course delicious.

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