The Beginning of My Driftless Wisconsin Exploration

Even before my recent trip to British Columbia which resulted in big fish on streamers and bountiful drive flyfishing, I think I have developed a natural expectation to always find fish each time I go fishing, even if it is a new stream it unfamiliar area.

I think the same held true when I went out fishing for a couple hours on Tuesday morning. I had a little bit of time to spare forgetting my son to his doctors appointment, so I found a stream on the map that was designated as class one waters meaning that it is capable of sustaining populations of naturally reproducing trout without the need for stocking, and I headed out the door. Much to my chagrin I found myself cornered into a valley where a bridge was out walking my way towards the stream about another 15 miles down the road.

There was a stream that had been meandering along the road as I drove through the cornfield blanketed valleys. It didn’t look like a large stream, but presumably there were fish. I just had trouble finding access points. Eventually the stream went under the road and I noticed an old beat up sign on the telephone pole stating “public fishing grounds.” That was the sign I was looking for. I charged around through tall weeds in raspberry tickets to find a stream slightly murky and shallow. The water was cold and there were definite signs of stream improvement projects, but this look like a section of stream that had been forgotten and possibly had a little too much cattle traffic.
I found another section and walked through the designated access point over the fence and pessimistically explored this text stream through the farm field. There were a few small runs but the depth of the water and pour clarity increased my doubt that I’ll be catching any fish in the stream. I waved to the farmers he drove past smiling. With his grin because he knew my efforts were in vain?
As it starts to get hotter and closer to noon, I knew it was time to go. I also started thinking how I don’t really have the right to have such high expectations for myself when heading out fishing on an unknown stream in a location that is, though not foreign to me, still new. The Wisconsin area of the driftless region is somewhere I’ve never fished before. There are literally, hundreds of miles of streams in the counties that surround me. I will never explore them all. As such, my approach to new streams really must be that of a person seeking exploration and education of new waters as opposed to grip and grin glory.
Driving back, I had my tenkara rod and fanny pack in the trunk. I decided to just pull off the road anytime I could see new sections of the stream to see how the depth and clarity changed as I got further downstream. 
I pulled off at one bridge where there was a small damn creating a large pool downstream and a slow deep section of water upstream. The sun was high and the buzz of grasshoppers getting louder. After about five minutes of watching the water, I saw what may have been a rise.
A couple minutes later, with a heightened level of where Ness, I saw what definitely was a fish rise.I grab my gear out of the trunk and started charging through the grass that was easily up to my chest.

I pulled a respectably small brown trout out of the stream pretty quickly. Man did it feel good to catch my first Wisconsin trout.
I watched the stream a little while longer. There were ants and Beatles grasshoppers and caterpillars everywhere. This is hands-down terrestrial season. And then I saw a large arise about 30 or 40 feet upstream. I had a mini hopper tied on, my last one. 

That was then that I got to feel the addictive shockwave that makes fishing with a tenkara rod so fun. I landed a healthy 12″+ brown.
Now, it really was time to go. I had decided I’d beat the odds. I was fortunate to catch one fish on the day like that, but I caught two and one of them was pretty nice fish.

I went home and found the stream on the map. It is classified as a class to stream, meaning there are some naturally reproducing trout but the stream still requires some stocking. The section I had found was very slow and deep water. I imagine this section is a perfect one for naturally reproducing brown trout that like to slowly swim up and sit dry flies. The water is so slow moving that it definitely choirs 4X or 5X tippet. 
Driving home I decided I was going to make an honest effort to approach each stream with humility. As a Minnesotan transplanted to Wisconsin, I’m a foreigner in a strange land. Therefore, I’ve got to approach these Sconnie streams respectfully. They are a strange breed after all. 

Quick Trip to Lacrosse, Wisconsin

Our future home is the Mississippi River Valley area of Lacrosse, Wisconsin. We have been making quick trips over there to check out housing options. 
On today’s adventure we stopped in the Pearl Ice Cream Parlor for a sweet treat (it was amazing) and I noticed a friendly vehicle parked nearby with several trouty looking stickers. I think living in the heart of the Driftless Area is going to treat us well. 

The blog activity should pickup a little bit as well once we have more time to explore. Visitors welcome starting July 2016!

New Sections of a Familiar Stream

My brother and I shot out to a stream we had both fished before individually but never together. Neither of us had fished the section we explored that day. The wind kept any meaningful hatches from setting off, but we brought a few fish to hand and enjoyed scoping out new water. We are thinking this will be a phenomenal stream a little later in the year. 

January 1. Winter trout season opener.

I lost a glove, broke a net, caught some great fish, and discovered why wing trout fishing in southeast Minnesota and the driftless area is amazing. 
New Year’s Eve was spent quietly with my wife, Ryan Secrest, and a fly tying vise. 
New Year’s Day began 16deg with a biting wind and a 2 mile hike through the snow. 
I’m thankful for the easement and property owners who have left this land undeveloped. 
The fish were generous and willing to take nymphs and streamers. 
Now, the big question is, when I got back to get my glove I lost somewhere by the stream, do I bring a rod?

A quick outing yields my first native Minnesota brookies

A couple weeks ago, I ran out in the middle of the day Saturday during nap time and squeezed in a couple hours of fishing on a small driftless region stream. It is a property stream that has had habitat improvement by the DNR and is located accessible through an easement by the landowners. 
Like many streams in the area, you need to hike for a while to get past the heave cow traffic and water that probably gets more pressure. The water was a bit low, but it still seemed to be running nicely. I brought my Hexagraph and was throwing mini hoppers. Hopper season is probably about done with the fall on our doorstep. I easily could have used the tenkara rod, and probably will in the future for streams this size. It is just so convenient, and easier to manage with tall field grass. 
The one purchase this summer (besides the Hexagraph) that I am very happy with is the pair of Simms wet wading stockings. They have been so great. I haven’t worn waders since moving back, because these have been so comfortable and the water hasn’t been too cold. 
They are well constructed and easy to clean.
A good option for wet wading. I bought mine with a gift card to Bass Pro Shops. 
I was pleasantly surprised to see this small waterfall. I’m not sure if this was habitat improvement by the DNR or natural. Either way, it was gorgeous. 
What was special about this trip was that I was able to land my first Minnesota Brookie. They are the only trout native to Minnesota, and I fell in love with them in Virginia. I caught two in the same pool including this handsome fella below. 
There are lots of spots like this stream, where, after a mile hike, you find yourself in a valley that seems very isolated. You can see an oxbow in the stream on the left hand side. It winds back and forth throughout this small valley. 
I’m hoping to get out and find some spaced like this in the winter. I think they would be gorgeous. 

The Root River State Trail

We were planning on heading up to my parent’s cabin for the weekend, but a last minute change in work schedule meant we stayed local. I’m glad we did. 
I’ve been wanting to take Sara and David down to Lanesboro for a while. The town is nested in a small river valley, in the 1970s Minnesota converted an old railway along the Root River to the Root River State Trail. It is long trail system (I think about 40 miles plus it connects to the Harmony-Preston trail?) with gorgeous views of valleys and the river. It passes several towns on it’s way to Houston. 
The plan has been to connect it to La Crescent, Minnesota which is on the Mississippi River. There, it would be able to connect to the 100+ miles of trails in starting in La Crosse Wisconsin. This would be so amazing. I found some a master plan presented in 2011 by the Department of Natural Resources that laid out the details for the 18 mile extension to La Crescent/La Crosse. It seems it all hinges upon unanimous land owner permission as well as funding. I’d imaging those are big hurdles, but it would be quite an amazing project. The 1st phase of the Wagon Wheel Trail (which is the connecting La Crescent portion to the Root River Trail was completed in May. There are 2 more phases to that and it seems the progress is quite slow, though, the few articles that I have found including a post on the City of La Crescent Facebook page seem optimistic. 

Anyway….. We rented bikes and a trailer at the Little General Store – it is first come, first served, but they have a large inventory and it doesn’t seem like they run out.  
Thankfully, David wasn’t threatened by being caged up in the chariot. 
I took some dangerous selfless along the way. I didn’t realize we wore matching shirts until now….. Apparently, we are that couple 🙂
This is a pretty bridge that crosses at the confluence of the South Branch Root and main Root River.  On another trip, we will hopefully canoe or kayak down this stretch. 
Mommy rocking the trailer!
We lucked out with 75+ weather and almost no clouds. A gorgeous day with the leaves just starting to change.
We walked around downtown a bit and stopped for ice cream. David hasn’t really tried it before, but it appears Superman is his favorite flavor. I can’t blame him 🙂
There are great amenities making Lanesboro a nice town to make a home base if one was thinking about a weekend trip or vacation to the area.
Downtown Lanesboro has art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops and more. Very cute. 
It is hard to beat that for a Saturday. All in all we spent about 2 hours biking which included a short break in Whalen, Mn. We probably biked about 10-12 miles total. We are lucky enough to live about an hour away from this awesome trail. We may have to do it all again if the opportunity arises. 

Fish with your Family

Saturday morning, we all jumped the car for a family outing. We decided to hike/fish a stream in a nearby valley. 
After looking at google maps, I had a high hopes there would be cows and farm equipment nearby that would be like a gold mine to my son. I was right. Mom had him most of the time in the carrier, but the last 1/2 hour was spent exploring. There were crickets, a frog, feathers, flowers, cows, tractors and rocks. it was a 19 month old’s dream. 
I caught plenty of chubs, but no trout. The pockets of fishable water were pretty stretched out, so the opportunities were limited. My goal was just to show David a fish and I did. He didn’t seem to impressed with the fish, but he liked the outing. Hopefully we will get out a couple more times before the season ends. 
For now, I’ve got an awesome new fishing buddy. Maybe I’ll have to buy him a tenkara USA Rhodo, so he can start learning the ropes. 
Sara shot this. I love it.