Daydreaming…..

I was just looking at google map’s satellite images and startled myself when I zoomed into a street view…. There are greener days ahead when my wet wading gear will live in the back of my car….. This first image is a well known stream with several miles of good water and easy access from my work. Some good fish in there. Browns down low. Brookies up high.

greener days

another stream

another stream1

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Seasons in the Driftless

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.

A tourist in my own backyard: a day with Rich Osthoff

Since moving back to the driftless, I wanted to spend a day on the water with a guide. I wanted formal instruction and to come ready to learn. I have many weaknesses and fly fishing. The things we are most uncomfortable with are often the things we do the least. It is a vicious cycle. Avoidance perpetuates the weakness. My weakness if wet flies and nymphs.

A driftless area guide, author and fly tier is Rich Osthoff. If you watch his youtube videos, you’ll see good size fish caught on primarily nymphming techniques.  This was the guy I needed to learn from. I scheduled an entire day with him. I saved on cost by doing a
“50/50” deal where he fished some of the day to. This worked out great because I was able to learn by watching in addition to doing. And lets face it. It is hard to fish for 10 hours straight.

At our first stop we ran into a friendly beekeeper. Nice guy who knew the area well. We were in for a hot day. 95 degrees, all sun, and big winds. Perfect for fishing 😉

The turtles were very active in early June and this day was no exception. Walked by this big snapper burring some eggs. Keep digging ma’am.

Rich showed me how he would approach his our first pool. We essentially used small nymphs (size 16-18) all day. It proved to be a wise decision.

After a couple missed fish from our first pool, we moved on.

We spent a lot of time reading water. Looking at structure and seams. Discussing casting techniques and tenkara. He fishes a “no line” technique a lot which would be similar to that with tenkara or czech nymphing. Again, this was great because when I tenkara, I almost always use dry flies, again because I’m uncomfortable with sub surface stuff.

It was early on at a long slow run when Rich gently lifted his size 16 zebra midge up before recasting that he hooked into a healthy driftless fish.

It was the biggest fish I’d seen caught all year in person. We ended up seeing several more of these hefty 20″ fish.

The day got hot but so did the fishing. I caught easily 40 fish during the day and vastly improved my subsurface game. I had one 15″ fish but the bigger ones were more shy in the bright sun.

At our last stop, when all was said and done, I washed off in the freezing waters pouring out of this spring. It amazes me to see how such clean cold water can flow freely in this place. Perfect way to cool off after a hot and sweaty day.

The drive home was relaxing. I pulled off once to quick fish another spot and watched some big fish rise to unseen insects.

If you every find yourself in the Driftless Area and are looking for a guide, Rich definitely knows his stuff, and I’m happy to recommend him (I’m receiving nothing for this endorsement and do it out of my own free will). And of course, you are always welcome to call me. I’m slowly cataloging the area for more and more spots to fish. So much water.

Early Adventures in Fly Fishing for Musky

It is pretty awesome when you move outside your fishing bubble and meet new people. You never know what you might learn. For instance, I learned I have a wadable stream not to far from where I live that supports a healthy musky population. I also learned how to tie articulated flies (which, by the way, big brown trout also seem to like). 
The musky season in Wisconsin runs May through December. I didn’t start my search until the last days of November. The last couple outings were in snowy cold weather. 
I essentially spent time looking for dark water. Deep pools where big musky might be waiting to ambush unsuspecting prey. 

Lots of bushwhacking and exploration over several short trips yielded no follows or fish seen. 

Dead Dear Run is one of my favorite spots on this new found stream. Named as such for obvious reasons. 

Lots of frozen guides and cold fingers until finally… finally…

I caught my first musky on the fly. He took it right at my feet. It was so fun to watch. No too big. Maybe a little over 25′ (though, naturally, he gets bigger every time I tell the story).

Big hunks of meat for these big toothy fish. 

Here is @normalicious showing off his o’pros dragonfly rod holder. they are handy in certain situations. I like when standing in a stream and tying on a new fly. Sometimes line get’s caught up in it, but in general, it is a nifty too to add to the arsenal. easy stocking stuffer too. 

One last outing this season. For real this time.

Last Saturday, I got in two more hours before season ended in Minnesota’s East Coast/Wisconsin’s West Coast.
Courtney, @SculpinArmy, and hopscotched our away from run to run, pool to pool and tree stump to tree stump.
The overcast skies and mild weather were comfortable conditions for swinging large flies made of buck tails and rabbit strips.
We found plenty of easer smaller trout. Nothing spectacular, but fun. I was getting ready to announce, “You know, it is just great to get out one more time.  It doesn’t matter if we catch any big ones…”
photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy

photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy

And that’s when I had a nice take. I was throwing an articulated streamer tied by Courtney. Light in color, fast in action.
19 inches of browned butter sauce and black peppercorn. 
photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy

photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy

Now that is how you end a season of fishing in the Driftless Area.

photo credit: Courtney Morris, @SculpinArmy


On the Stream, Work Attire and All

I had a long break this afternoon so I took an hour to explore the closest stream to the office. 15 minutes from my door I have fishable water. That is pretty darn awesome.

The stream I fished is called Johns Coulee and is a tributary of a larger area stream. There are plenty of small pools that could hold fish. There are also plenty of trees as the entire section is wooded. However at the right time of year one can easily find reasonable casting room at the pools. I fished this section of the stream because I thought the headwaters were likely to be back to normal water levels. We had almost 5 inches of rain and some areas with up to 10 inches last week. The water level looked good however I think most of the fish were pushed out of their pools with the high flow. 


It was clear the water had been out several feet at one time. I think this is an important stream for reproducing fish and as a fish refuge because of its consistently cool temperatures (58 degrees today) and good coverage. However I can’t imagine one having a productive afternoon fishing Johns coulee  Creek. It is a pretty stream.

It was great to be out on a cool early fall day. Great sun and strong brisk wind.  
The biggest problem I have now is picking the burrs out of my dress socks. 

8/9/16: Hopper Coulee Creek

I was able to get out for a few hours this week. I chose a stream that was well-known in the area and considered a class one stream.

There are a lot of access points along the stream at it is clear there have been plenty of stream improvement projects. 
I did notice that one of the landowners updated their fencing which blocked off one of the access points and made a section of the stream a little difficult to pass. 

Some of the signs were a little confusing indicating a possible harvest season but at the same time catching release only fishing. There was also a survey box asking about fish caught and kept. 

I must say, I didn’t realize the Black and Yellow Argiope lived in Wisconsin. The spiders are harmless but I must say the thought of accidentally walking face first into one of their webs is frightening.

I had a lot of luck casting hopper invitations. The grasshoppers are everywhere this time of year and even is the water temperature approached 65°, the fish were still seizing the opportunity to take my fly. 

It’s a beautiful time to be out on the water. The streams in the driftless area are easy to wet wade. 
What is amazing is that I probably only fished three quarters of a mile of the stream in the several hours I was out. There is just so much water to explore in my area, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do it all. But I’m up for the challenge:)