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.

There were a few vehicles parked at the first access area to the creek and a group of people in folding chairs hanging out nearby. Further down the road, a car was pulled into a grass parking area. I drove up to the next area to see a camper was set up near a picnic table with a shirtless man guarding the door. I only had a couple of hours to work with so I pulled back to the grass parking lot by the other car. Once in the parking area, I saw a fire ring smoking and some boots set atop the car. Must belong someone fishing somewhere.
The creek near the parking area
The creek flowed near the parking area and I took a look. It was VERY weedy but deep in parts with crystal clear water. I decided to hike downstream as long as I could stand it before cutting into a shady area with ragged path leading to it.

It was a nice looking hole and I could see fish rising, but there were branches hanging over the creek everywhere. Feeling confident, I switched on my GoPro and started sneaking down to the stream. I made it to my knees and crept closer until falling forward into a ditch hidden in the grass. I righted my self and made few casts before catching on to a branch behind me, giving it a yank and busting off both a hopper and a dropper fly. I turned the GoPro off and did not turn it back on.

I would eventually make it back to my car without touching a single fish. I had 2 real strikes, the second of which rewarded me with a full 4 seconds of having a fish on before it dove into the thick green weeds that dominated the stream bed. I spent lots of time removing them from both wet and dry flies. The creek also featured wading conditions that felt like walking through drying concrete. Add to that thick high vegetation on the banks and we have the excuses I would like to submit for my failure.

Happy water plants
A shallow area
Aesthetically pleasing but frustrating fishing
I finished off Saturday playing to about 12 people at an apple fest and retreated back to Wisconsin. I wanted to get back into some fish early tomorrow. Wisconsin would make me happy again. I set up camp at Esofea County Park, but not before stopping at Best Buy in La Crosse to replace my beloved and recently deceased Canon SD880. I've previously written of its resilience to my treatment. It has been resurrected from full submersion twice. It finally perished after I dropped it into Bear Creek in Sauk County. This time it would not turn back on. Anyway, the new camera is an Olympus TG-1 "tough" camera. Water proof to 40', shock proof, trout slime proof, etc. The photos up to this point in this post were taken with my Canon 50D DSLR, a pain and liability to carry along in the stream. All photos past this sentence are shot with the new Oly.

Timber Coulee 6:30 AM
The Coon Valley system is very close to Esofea and a very fun, beautiful place to fish. I made it to Timber Coulee, a creek within that system by 6 AM. A pool near a parking area I've been to before had fish rising all over it, though all my previous attempts to fish this hole failed to produce. I couldn't see what they were rising to, so I tried something under the water. I tied on my last pink squirrel and a strike indicator and began getting strikes, losing a couple of fish. Before long I connected with the first brown trout of the day, measuring about 11". I ended up losing the squirrel to something underwater and switched to a small black wooly bugger which prompted something a good deal bigger and better. A 16 inch brown followed by another smaller brown.

Timber Coulee
16 inch brown
Trout over 12" must return to Timber Coulee
Some love for the red 'bugger
Further upstream, as the sun rose, the action slowed down but for a couple of lost fish and one more eater caught with a red wooly bugger. I kept 3 fish which I took back to my camp to eat with a vengeance. It was about 10 AM when I got back and set up my stove, chair and the cooler from which to retrieve a can of Coors from. I sat there cooking my fish and simply enjoying the bluff and breeze. The weather seemed perfect this Sunday and I will not soon forget it.

A view of the Esofea Branch of the Bad Axe River near my camp site
Campsite at Esofea County Park
Eventually I packed up my tent and started heading back in the direction of home. I stopped at the west branch of the Pine River on the way to fish a stretch I was familiar with and that had yielded several chunky fish once during the early season. Being the first time I'd hiked back to this area during late summer, it surprised me to see the plants so overgrown and almost turned back after falling into one of the hidden drainages slicing down to the creek from the adjacent corn field. I pushed myself along to the starting point I had planned on and fished all the way back to the bridge. The water seemed low (or the silt seemed high). I caught only rough fish until one spot where a riffle had cut a small channel which then hit a bank and carved what I suspected to be a nice trout home.

Casting a big bead headed nymph purchased from a fly shop in Colorado I caught 4 trout, losing a nice looking fifth one. Of the trout caught, 2 were rainbows and 2 were browns.

West branch of Pine River
Rainbow 1
Water warped rainbow eye
Showing off the new grill
Narrow, missile-like brown
Rainbow 2
Odd pattern on rainbow 2.
A non-trout
A final small rainbow, caught by the bridge
The rest of the fishing for that stream was basically a walk back to the car, though much easier than walking on land. At the bridge, I fished a hole that usually gave up something and it did, a single small rainbow.

Happy to be back in Wisconsin and satisfied with my fishing for the weekend, I headed home to cook some more trout and check out my new camera's pictures.

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