Thursday, February 20, 2014

Our Lady Of The Wayside

Sometime during one of the last trout fishing seasons I decided my vehicle would no longer be a car, but a "TUV", or Trout Utility Vehicle. It really only took a couple of bumper stickers to make the transformation complete. However, within a couple of seasons the old TUV had 1000s of trout miles on it and I was due for a replacement. It is with great pleasure that I introduce the new Brauntrutta TUV:

It's red, it's a Jeep but most importantly its a 4x4. Within it's first couple of months at my command, I've confidently navigated though forest roads and snowy conditions that I would have avoided with my last vehicle. Does that mean it's invincible?

Last Sunday, it was time again to chase some trout. Iowan trout, because our season here in Wisconsin has not yet opened. Joining me would be Trapper and we had a plan. Based on some intel from an ally in western Wisconsin, we plotted a coarse to a pair of creeks I wrote about in a previous post which is located near the town of Waterville, IA. I'd actually visited these creeks a year and a half ago and didn't remember it being a memorable experience. But we have much confidence in our source and this was an area on that creek I hadn't tried the first time.

We easily negotiated the goofy highway 82 bridge across the Big Muddy, stopped at Harper's Ferry to re-up Trapper's Iowan fishing license and headed into the valley of the creek. GPS took us from state highway, to county road. Then it was time to turn left onto what looked like a snow mobile trail. Snow in Iowa at this time was above my knees in many places. What an opportunity to show off my 4x4 super powers!

The TUV swerved on its own as it found intermittent traction. The trail began to gain elevation and we became nervous. Trapper urged me to turn around and I was hesitant, until we started going down hill. I decided it was time to turn around only I couldn't. The shoulders of this mushy path looked inescapable, so I put it in reverse. Swerving backwards now, I struggled to see out the back window of my Jeep as it was now pointing up. We sunk into the right shoulder and stopped. Now we were very nervous. Trapper got out and tried to direct me. I rocked forward and back, finally escaping the shoulder and continued a slow reverse until we were able to turn around at a horse camping area.

All of this to say, we were not able to reach our intended destination, which I of coarse now want to visit more than ever.

It was now approaching noon and our rods still sat disassembled in their cases. Time for a new plan. We noticed a nice looking creek on our way to Harper's Ferry earlier that flowed past a beautiful looking church. It was devoid of ice and we remembered seeing another angler there. When we got back, he was gone but more importantly, we saw a fish rise at the pool just upstream from the bridge. Wanting to be sure, we drove upstream a short distance to the next bridge which crossed a feeder creek and peered over. A small lone rainbow hovered in the middle of a shallow sandy pool, uninterested in our presence (until Trapper kicked some snow over the bridge).

We drove back to the original bridge and parked in the church driveway, as instructed by our Iowan trout map. "Our Lady Of The Wayside" read a sign above a donation kiosk.

Although we saw a fish rise in that first pool, and despite Trapper's donation, we were unsuccessful at the first pool. We worked upstream and trudged though deep snow. There were plenty of choice looking holes. Some very deep, some with great cover. But no fish. Not one. No spooked squiggles fled as we started walking though holes to see what was up. After asking a few times if we were going back, Trapper decided to just follow me to the next bridge. We knew there was at least just one fish there.

We got there and Trap let me cast first. I used a pinkish leechy bugger-like fly tied a few days before and connected to a trout within a few casts. I noticed a shadow from the bridge covering most of the hole before the creek basically dead ended at a narrow trickle of a waterfall. Most of the water entered from under the ice to my left, the proper branch of the stream. There had to be more fish trapped here. I casted again and immediately hooked a chunkier rainbow.

At this point Trapper had enough of watching me fish and I stepped aside as he flung some sort of wet fly into the shadows. He promptly retrieved 2 more rainbows. After that, the jig was up. Even these dumb stocker bows shut down after enough molestation.

Greedily, we decided to give the hole a break and walk back to the TUV so we could drive back and give it another go. Our greed didn't pay off. Our Lady Of The Wayside would have none of our double-dipping. I cleaned my fish and we headed back to Milty's in Lansing for a late lunch.

With a couple of hours of daylight remaining after lunch we couldn't go far, so I proposed that we drag some streamers though a warm water discharge near a power plant along the Mississippi. I enjoy stark contrasts and this was indeed a stark contrast to picturesque trout country. I assembled my 7wt, tied on a heavy zonker-tailed streamer and fantasized about fighting a monster dog fish of Ryan Frick proportions.

Alas, I have yet to prove myself as a roughfisher and this would not be the day. Nor am I fond of temperatures dipping into the low teens as the sun disappeared behind the driftless ridge to the west. After a lousy 20 minutes of chucking and ducking we broke down our gear and headed back to Wisconsin.

As a epilogue to this prologue-less post, I must inform my fellow trout masticators of a recipe I found for pecan encrusted trout. The rainbows Trapper and I caught were not of the just-stocked variety. They've appeared to have spent a couple of years in the creek and their flesh was a tantalizing pink color. Pink meat in trout means tasty and they yielded good looking fillets.
Pecan encrusted trout is very easy to make. For 8 fillets, pulse a 1/2 cup of pecans, a garlic clove, 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary and a dash of cayenne (or chili powder, its all I had) in a food processor. Lay trout on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg whites and sprinkle on the pecan mixture. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake for 20 minutes.

At the risk of using the word sublime more than once in my blog site, this meal was SUBLIME. Thank you Our Lady Of The Wayside!


  1. Thanks Dan for the mention, I love the post! So damn funny! By the way, all the dogfish I catch are somewhere in or near Wisconsin! I've never had any real luck at that discharge either. Have you?

  2. Nope, just a random idea. Seemed promising. If I were a cold fish, I'd be like hells ya I'll hang out under those smoke stacks!

  3. Glad to see some trout warriors out there battling the elements. Nice "TUV" Dan. Wish I had one. I'm still cleaning out mud from the wheel wells of my Altima from my last off-road adventure.


  4. Nice to see that you finally dusted off the old keyboard since it had been a while since your last post. I was starting to wonder about you.

  5. Thanks Eddie and Bill. Yes, Eddie, this post was a good candidate for a "sorry I haven't been keep up" intro paragraph. Thought I would spare the readers the labor of reading that though ;)