The Driftless Area is in the North. Sometimes I forget that. But just because Iowa is south of Minnesota and the Minnesota and Wisconsin sections are not in the Iron Range doesn’t mean it doesn’t get cold here. And because we are up north, we get all four seasons without hesitation.
Spring is wet with stained streams and low streamside growth yielding good conditions for hungry trout and rusty anglers.
But it doesn’t take too long for the brush to kick up; by early summer, you can easily wet-wade. And in your approach to the stream, you trudge through dew-covered grasses that drenches your legs. The nettles aren’t too high yet, but give it a couple weeks. In the height of summer, the untended valleys are showing you what they are made of. Like elephants in the grass, you are blindly pushing your way from oxbow to oxbow trying to find a wade-able or cast-able section.
When August/September comes and things begin to dry out, the grasses begin to give way and hoppers kick up into streams. Dare I say, is there anything much better than the 8p, low light, magic hour on a trout stream in August when it is just dark enough for fish to get courageous and terrestrials are tumbling into the water?
As fall rolls in, the banks get more manageable. The grasses are falling down and casting is getting easier again. The browns are getting hungry and the weather is cool and refreshing.
As for winter? It is a true winter in the Driftless. Your guides are freezing. Your hands are cracking. Water is gin-clear. Fish are hungry but spook easily. Though you have less stream pressure and easier casting, winter truly tests the stealthy angler. And you never know when the wind will die down and a brief hatch will emerge.
Each season has its challenges, and each has its joys. And therein lies the beauty. Each season is unique. Fishing is fun because of the challenges. Living in the Driftless is a lucky thing. You don’t have to fly a plane to find a new experience. You just have to walk a little further downstream or wait until the next season arrives.