Archive for the ‘Crawford County’ Tag
September is one of the best months to chase trout in Wisconsin’s Driftless creeks. Nights are cool and water temps are prime for fish activity. Lots of terrestrials are active in their riparian habitats, and fish hormones are starting to crank up in anticipation of spawning season. All this means good fishing!
Stephen Rose and I headed out of Madison to Crawford County to camp out overnight near a Kickapoo tributary. Hennessy Hammmocks fit the bill nicely for roadside camping because you don’t need a flat spot on the ground, just a couple of stout trees and away you go. Camping in the trees and dreaming of fish. How could you do any better?
The cicadas sung me to sleep and the sun woke me the next morning. We packed up our sleeping gear, put on waders, drank a little coffee and walked a hundred yards to the creek. A fog hung over the creek and it made me feel as though the underwater world and the world we inhabit above the water were melting into one, as if the fish could have swum up out of the water and into the mist lying between the banks.
I tied on a foam cricket and got after it, landing a couple of twelve inch brown trout, and Stephen had similar luck on hoppers. The fishing remained good throughout the morning, but we found fewer and fewer fish willing to rise, so we switched over to nymphs and continued to have success.
If you’ve been putting off a trip to the trout stream, now’s the time to get out there. The season ends at the end of the month, so take advantage while you can!
A glorious spring-fed creek in WIsconsin’s Driftless Region
Success with a foam cricket in early September on a Kickapoo River tributary
Stephen Rose fishes hoppers in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin
Pink flowers line the stream in September
A bruiser Brown Trout from a Wisconsin Driftless stream
Stephen Rose casting to a lie on a Kickapoo tributary
I’ve been a guided client a few times in my life. I never thought much about how the guide felt during the experience. A guide’s job is to shepherd you through an activity that they know a great deal about, not only teaching you how to do it, but also going a step further to make sure that you are actually having some success while under their tutelage.
What I mean by this is, if you haven’t done something before, you will obviously need to learn a bit about it before you can do it, unless you’re bungee jumping, I suppose. Not much learning there, I wouldn’t think.
Bungee jumping is an easy thing to do successfully, even if you’ve never strapped in to a bungee cord before. The “guide” who shepherds you through the bungee jumping process does arguably half the job of a fishing guide or mountaineering guide.
A newly-made fly fisherman, learning to cast to a dinner plate-sized target.
A fishing guide must show the client how to approach the water, how to cast, where to cast, what to use, how to adjust, and on and on, all the while working his damnedest to find the fish and get them to take the fly so the client can feel successful.
Last November when Stephen Rose and I went up to the Brule and hired Tim Pearson as a guide to show us how to fish for Steelhead, I was generally satisfied to understand the what and the how. I was hoping to catch a fish, but it wasn’t something I expected. If I were to learn the ways of fishing for Steelhead I knew I could return year after year and put that knowledge to use to have success.
But Tim had a serious look of relief when both Stephen and I had each caught a fish. And now I understand why.
A cold water spring dumping out of the hillside in Iowa County, Wisconsin
Showing Eric the ways of spring creek fly fishing on Saturday, I was happy with the job I did teaching him the “how”. I believe he could go out and gear up, hit the water, and make casts to likely holding lies. And if you do that enough, you’ll catch a fish.
I really, really wish I could have gotten a fish onto Eric’s line, but it didn’t happen. I’ve heard stories of clients who were angry with their guides when the didn’t feel like they got their quota of fish. I can’t imagine how I’d handle a client who acted that way, but I know that’s what paying clients expect from a day out with a fishing guide. That’s a big reason for hiring the guide.
Eric was a model client, and I really appreciated that. There was not a hint of blame from him, indeed just the opposite. He showed an appreciation and new knowledge for the challenges of spring creek fly fishing. Eric can do what he pleases with the skills and knowledge he picked up on Saturday. Hopefully the skunking won’t deter him from trying for trout another day.
As for me, I can’t say I’m longing for another chance to be a guide. It was a pleasant day out with a new friend, but I can see how a fisherman who turns his hobby into a job by becoming a guide might start to have mixed feelings about fishing. I plan to get out and teach others to fish, and hopefully more often than not, we’ll get some fish on that line of theirs.
Eric executing a nice roll cast to waiting trout.
After spending another half-week in LA last week, I had a night at home on Thursday and then took off for Cedarburg with my two dogs and three sons to visit my folks. My dad’s cousing Lee Swenson was in town for a short visit from Palo Alto, CA. The last time I saw Lee was in 1993, when I was 15. I enjoyed spending time with him in San Francisco then, and had an equally nice time with him over the weekend. At age 68 he still backcountry skis on Telemark skis in the high Sierras and does a fair bit of mountaineering as well. Lee took a shine to my dog Louie. Lee grew up with a dog but hasn’t had one since, and he and Louie got along like old buddies.
Lee Swenson and Louie in Cedarburg, WI
Lee had visited Taliesin the day before we saw him, and he couldn’t say enough about the beauty of Southern Wisconsin. He said the farms were just the right size, there were healthy crops everywhere, and beautiful deciduous tree-covered hills everywhere you looked. I couldn’t agree more.
I took a little time Saturday morning to fish for Smallmouth on the Milwaukee River in Grafton, Wisconsin. The section I fished runs through Lime Kiln Park and used to be dammed up. But the dam came down last year and the river is vibrant and free-flowing. I landed a couple of 6″ bass, but enjoyed myself nonetheless in this scenic, healthy river just 15 minutes north of Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee River in Grafton, Wisconsin
This morning I took a little time to fish my home waters of Black Earth Creek. I landed a nice rainbow in this section along with one smaller brown. Both were on nymphs. I tried dries of many shapes and sizes but the fish were not rising this morning. The creek is really blooming with aquatic plants, making clean sub-aquatic drifts difficult. But the fish are there and the water is clear and lovely, so I can’t complain too much.
Black Earth Creek, Dane County, Wisconsin
I’m scheming to take a little trip in July to Crawford and Vernon Counties, Wisconsin’s trout mecca, in my opinion. My birthday is in July and I have a willing co-conspiritor in one Mr. Stephen Rose, so hopefully that will be etched in stone shortly. It is almost July, after all. I do believe I’ll catch an armload of fish on a few of my favorite Driftless streams when that trip comes to pass.
Here’s some video of me talking about a trip I was on this summer in Crawford County.
Here are some shots of the colors this fall in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. I hope you enjoy them.
The Kickapoo River, Crawford County, Wisconsin
The "Kick"apoo, Driftless, Wisconsin
Soybeans and Corn ready to harvest, Crawford County, Wisconsin
The road leading home, Crawford County, Wisconsin
As you may have read, I went fishing on September 30th and had a good time. I think there are a few things I can attibute my success to.
- Trout are starting to spawn, so hormones are cranked up, meaning fish are more aggressive.
- After sticking with fly gear all season long (almost exclusively) my ability to cast with a fly rod has improved a lot, including roll casting.
- I have learned that stealth is much more important when using fly gear (as opposed to spinning gear) because long-distance casting is much less an option with a fly rod.
- Fly selection – with spinners it’s one of two options: a gold #9 Panther Martin, or a silver #9 Panther Martin. With flies, the options can be overwhelming. But if you have the wrong fly, you won’t catch fish.
Hormonal Fish, Correct Fly, Stealthy Approach all lead to a beautiful hookup
A Crawford County Spring-Fed Trout Stream
Speaking of using the correct fly, I had hookups and strikes aplenty using a Hopper with a Copper John dropper. Mid-day, when I started fishing, every fish I caught was on the Copper John dropper, nothing on the Hopper. But as the sun started to get lower in the sky, the fish switched over to the Hopper and ignored the Copper John that was ticking along the streambed. I have no idea why this happened. I think I may have had a couple of double strikes, meaning one fish went for the Hopper and one went for the Copper John, at the same time. I never did get a double hookup though.
I also had zero hits on wooly buggers, Griffith’s Gnats, or any other patterns I tied on.
Hunger or Aggression? This Brown started a surface fly-eating trend.
Driftless spring creek Brown on a Hopper fly.
All this is to say that when things aren’t going right, it’s hard for a novice fly fisherman to figure out what to do. Is it the fish? The fly? Am I being too loud? Casting shadows? Wearing the wrong color hat?
So many choices, and without experience or a guide, it’s difficult to know what to do. Luckily, once in a while you have the day you’ve been hoping for all year.
Yes, it’s true. I had the most success I’ve ever had fly fishing for trout yesterday.
I went and visited Todd Opsal at On The Creek Fly Shop before heading west to Crawford County, and he talked to me about a fly I’d never used before, the Copper John. Todd suggested I tie on a hopper surface fly with a Copper John dropper. So that’s what I did. My second cast yielded a fish.
Plum Creek Brown on a Copper John
As for where I fished, I wanted to try a couple of streams I haven’t fished previously. Using Google Maps and the DNR Trout Stream data, I found two streams that looked good. A year ago I called someone at the Crawford County Government Offices and asked if there were any county parks with camping there (there aren’t). I also got to talking with the man on the phone about trout fishing and he said “Plum Creek is the best trout stream in Crawford County”. For some reason that stuck in my brain. Well the stats do look good (5.2 miles of Class 1 Trout water, native Brook and Brown Trout, no stocking), and I imagine that had something to do with him claiming it was the best trout stream in the county.
The upper reaches of Plum Creek in Crawford County
I don’t know that you can blankly state a particular stream is the best out of all the streams in Crawford County. That place is an embarrassment of riches, with so many good trout streams you’d be hard pressed to fish them all. Even non-designated streams are full of trout!
Todd Opsal of On the Creek Fly Shop, whom I may have mentioned earlier having helped me with my fly choices, concurred that Plum Creek was a nice choice, and he had fished it once before and enjoyed it, and told me about a friend of his, Bill, who fished the lower section of the creek and got some nice biggerr fish.
My second choice was one I’ll leave off the books, but it’s near another creek I’ve fished that is full of fish, and it worked out nicely for me yesterday and, well, you know…
Another nice place to fish in Crawford County
So, I fished a couple of great places, caught a lot of nice fish, and feel really good about it all. It’s hard to beat seeing a fish slam your hopper fly off the surface of the water seconds after it lands on the water with so much force it startles you.
The events leading up to this moment were a great deal of fun.
I was going to write a blog post about transitioning your look from day to night, as seen elsewhere on wordpress (http://thestylevoyager.wordpress.com), but I don’t really know much about that aside from having your clothes on to then having them off. That’s just the way I roll.
Instead of all that, I think I’ll post some of my favorite pictures from my trip to Tainter, Reads, and Camp Creeks last weekend. I hope you enjoy them.
An excellent emerger pattern from On The Creek Fly Shop (thanks Nick!)
Read's Creek, Vernon County, Wisconsin
What's up, buttercup?
An emerging Horsetail
Name that flower - Seriously, I don't know what it is.
A Tiger Swallowtail
Whitetail Deer skull near Read's Creek
A Brown caught on a mangled, overused Pink Squirrel
Camp Creek, and some very happy cows
A Brown caught on a BWO dry pattern - I stalked this one for 30 minutes.
This is how I feel after a day of trout fishing
A dirt road in the Driftless
On Saturday I went to Crawford and Vernon Counties in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region. My eye was drawn to the beautiful old barns surrounded by hills and streams in the area. Driving around the Driftless you’ll see lots and lots of barns. Some are in good shape, many are not. The days of family farms have come and gone, and sadly what you see now in rural Wisconsin is a lot of poverty and abandon buildings. Farm houses and barns may still be standing, but they’re either not used or not maintained.
Crawford County Barn
These old buildings are wonderful to look at, and I can imagine the care that went in to running each of these farms 70 years ago. Many of the barns were built with lumber that was felled and milled right on site, and they’re made using traditional timber framing methods.
Tainter Creek Valley
I’ve heard it said that to make a similar structure today would cost $200,000. I wish I had the money and the resources to restore old barns because they really hold within them the rich history of the Driftless Region. Sadly, many of these structures cave in or are picked apart for their fine timbers.
Vernon County Barn
If you have deep pockets and agree with me that these buildings should be saved, send me your money and I’ll see that it’s taken care of.
Is this heaven?