Spring Swinging

Hit the Milwaukee with Adam a few weeks back and we experienced something out of the ordinary…great fishing.  Even though the water was high, cold, and slowly rising all day from snow melt, the Steelhead were in and on the grab…bigly.  Water clarity was great and very few anglers were on the water giving us plenty of room to work the runs.  We were swinging large flies on full sinking tips and had about a dozen grabs throughout the day.  Adam was able to bring 2 fish to hand but we lost a lot of pinned fish…two of which were 30″ fish.  I was also spotting Steelhead in the runs and seeing the odd fish roll.

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29″ Fresh Chromer on the line

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One of the joys of urban fishing

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At the end of the day we talked to a DNR survey guy and heard some interesting news of great interest to Steelheaders.  It seems the DNR is in the early stages or raising Skamania Steelhead out of the Kettle Moraine Unit and hopefully 4 or 5 years from now we will see our first Summer Run of fish.  We have encountered Indiana strays before but it is a rare occurrence.  Hopefully the Eastabrook Dam removal will be done by then too.  All we need is a fish ladder at Kletzsch and this fishery will really start to blossom.  The DNR guy also said the stocking of German Browns will be discontinued due to lack of funding.  Not sure if he just meant river stocking.  The German strain are much prettier in my opinion and run earlier, but the Seeforellen reach spawning maturity later in life which makes them larger when you first encounter them in the river and they also tend to run later in the Fall.

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I don’t approve of tagging public buildings at parks but at least this one is funny

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A few days later I took my newly wed friends Grant and Joan out to try and catch their first Steelhead.  It didn’t take long for Joan to catch her first Steelhead on her first time out…go figure.  She even got a nice leap and some up close and personal mayhem as the fresh Chromer splished and splashed.  Rivers are high now with all the recent precipitation but when they come back down there should be more good fishing.

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Categories: fly fishing, Lake Run Trout, Milwaukee river, steelhead, Uncategorized, Wisconsin Fishing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Paradise Lost and Something Found

A little late picking up on this story, but if you haven’t already heard the sad news, here it is.  A dam failure June 20th, 2015 caused Paradise Springs in Eagle, WI to drain.  Most trout escaped through a cracked hole in the dam and wound up in the creek flowing from it.  Some probably even made it to the bigger class III stream further downstream.  Some were trapped in shallow pools inside the pond.  I was getting ready for a trip to PS this Saturday when I read the news.  The dam reconstruction project will cost $300,000 and getting the funding hasn’t been easy.  If you’ve ever cured your Winter Fishing Blues here and would like to again some day, why not donate a few bucks to the cause.

http://www.saveparadisesprings.com/

This prompted me to try and find another Winter option near by when my clock is short.  My expectations were incredibly low but my curiosity was soaring after doing some research.  When I got within a few miles of the stream it started  to feel like a miniature Driftless.  Smaller winding hills with small valleys draining water.  I arrived in the Afternoon and mainly hiked.  The springy headwaters were vast and created as much beauty as danger.  Spring water was trickling out of slopes everywhere.  Sandy rocky bottoms with debris quickly gave way to silt and mire which was very dangerous.  Not the place to be after a half mile hike from the road by yourself.  I even found quicksand.  I also found spring water gushing through a sandy bottom at one of the many spring sources.

Spring water bubbling up through the sand

Spring water bubbling up through the sand

Trying to cross this springy feeder was a bad idea. It tried to swallow me whole.

Trying to cross this springy feeder was a bad idea. It tried to swallow me whole.

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All the springs combined to make a shallow spring pond

The stream would eventually trickle from the other side of the pond and create the stream.  It was evident much rehab work was done here and I started seeing small browns.

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This creek was pretty small but had many small pockets with under cut banks in the 4  ft range.  There was a bit of bush whacking involved and there were no big pools.  The problem here is the water quality far surpasses the actual habitat in terms of cover, holes, and structure.  I think this would prove to be a fun technical dry fly creek in the Spring but I don’t see it making it into my fishing routine.  I’d rather drive an extra hour and be in much better trout habitat.  Not the Winter Blues option that I’d hoped for but refreshing to know there is cold flowing spring water an hour from home with signs of life.

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Categories: Uncategorized, Wisconsin Fishing | Tags: | Leave a comment

Breathing New Life into a Local Favorite

These guys put together a nice video about a special place for fly anglers close to Chicago.  This river is undergoing a dam removal real soon that should overall improve the water quality, but it will definitely have a different personality as a free flowing river.  Opening well over a hundred miles of river including tributaries could increase the chance/rate of natural reproduction in many species.  It will be sad to put this place off for a season or two while sediment from behind the dam redistributes itself throughout the river, but if it means we will have a wild and free flowing river I wont complain.

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January Trout Fishing – Driftless Area

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With the warmer than normal weather we experienced last weekend some friends and I got out for a day of trout fishing in the driftless area.  Due to some rain and snow melt we encountered some situations that we all learned from which in turn will make us more successful in the future.  The first thing we came to notice was that the larger valleys did have more runoff muddying up the creeks and dropping water temps.  Even when we traveled upstream toward the headwaters.  We found the best water conditions in smaller drainages or creeks that flow from small reservoirs.  The second thing we noticed was that the larger flies we tried didn’t get as much attention as small nymphs.  We even saw a dozen rises throughout the day, and a fair number a midges fluttering around.  On one particular creek where the visibility was maybe only a couple inches I caught several fish on a size 18 stonefly nymph.  Most of us started the day with leeches and woolly buggers, but one by one we started switching to nymphs as we watched each others success.  Given the circumstances we did pretty good.  Catching trout on a foggy stream with some friends is a great way to spend a January afternoon.

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Categories: brown trout, Driftless Area, fly fishing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Winter Trout – Driftless Area

With all the holiday activity finally settling down I found some time to head west and fish some spring creeks in the Driftless Area.  Most of the spring creeks in Southwest Wisconsin stay free of ice through the winter months, and now that the early season begins the first Saturday in January we have 2 more months to chase trout in the dead of winter.  Sunday, I returned to a creek I fished last winter and had a very similar experience.  It started slow with maybe only 2 bites in the first hour or so, but when I got to a certain pool I had success with last year I was confident that something would happen.  I let my friend take the first few casts.  He stripped a white woolly bugger through the pool a few times with no trout showing interest.  I stepped in and dead drifted an olive bugger with a ray charles dropper.  I think it was my first drift and a small brown took the bugger.  Only a drift or two later and the indicator dropped again.  This time I set the hook and saw a large white belly roll in the bottom of the pool.  After a minute I scooped a 16-17 inch brown into the net (which also ate the olive bugger).  I believe it was a female that had spawned only a month or so ago based on the length and lack of girth.  The rest of the day brought a few more browns and one brook trout.  Enough to reset my winter fishing blues and keep me focused until my next day on the water.

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Categories: brown trout, Driftless Area, fly fishing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Boats & Beasts

I’ve been quiet on the blog front for awhile and a lot has happened since my last post.  I got married back in August and wedding planning took over my life for the better part of 3 months.  Truth be told, I probably spent more time planning my Bachelor’s Party.  I spent a lot of weekend labor hours landscaping some land with the help of friends but it turned out to be completely fruitless since we got over 5 inches of rain on my special day!!!  It was a shit show beyond belief but we definitely made the best of it.  At one point we were blasting shotgun rounds at watermelons from under a collapsing canopy with a wall of water flowing in front of our faces.  My computer situation has also deteriorated to say the least and I need an upgrade.  I can’t even do blog posts on my laptop anymore.  I purchased a GoPro Silver back in June to help move the blog in the direction we want…more good quality fishing videos…but without a decent computer, or a fucking spacebar for that matter, I can’t really do anything.

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A few months ago I hit my breaking point with my inflatable pontoon and purchased a factory new 2016 Nucanoe Frontier 12.  I sprung for the stand-up casting bar, fiberglass extendable paddle, and transport cart which ran me about $1,900.  No longer will I have to assemble and inflate/deflate my watercraft.  No longer will I have to re-patch or purchase  bladders.  No longer will I be slowly sinking down a river in a constant state of peril because I lost the damn applicator which enables me to put air in my pontoon.  But that isn’t the only boat development.  After years of dreaming of being able to afford a nice boat my dreams have finally come true thanks to a career opportunity I was able to seal the deal on back in June.  I put a down payment on a 14′ Drift Boat made by Stealthcraft Boats in Baldwin, MI.  For me and my fishing friends, this is a game changer and the possibilities are endless next year. Between the 14′ Ransom by Stealthcraft and Nucanoe Frontier 12, I can effectively fish lots of different rivers and streams we frequent in the small to medium size range.  The Ransom should cut it in some medium/large rivers and small lakes too but probably not ideal.  I’ve recently experienced what a luxury it is to have someone at the oars keeping you in the zone to get solid presentations to work the nooks and crannies.  I miss A LOT of good water in the Nucanoe in rivers with more gradient and I don’t have time to be anchoring up at every holding lie.  I will still need the Nuke for hard to access skinny water, but the era of solo one man boats is about to end if I can get my drift boat in the water.  It will also be a vessel for family fun for years to come.  My wife and I could pack the boat up and float a river for a week no problem.

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This is the first year I made Musky a real priority.  Usually I start fishing the Lake Michigan tribs too soon in hopes of early lake run trout but the salmon army is still shamelessly pouring into the gravel runs to try their luck at impaling fish instead of taking them by sport.  In late October, I was lucky enough to have one of my Mom’s friends lend me their cabin in Vilas County, WI to do some serious Musky fishing.   I even had time to explore a UP Stream for Steelhead.  It was a great opportunity to get acquainted with my Nucanoe as well.  I had high hopes considering I was in the heart of rural Musky country where quality Musky lakes are a dime a dozen.  But boy did I get beat up bad!!!   I fished 3 different lakes and only had 2 follows to show for it.  One was 30″ and the other 36″.  I had a real chance at the 30″ but I blew it.  By the time I realized a Musky was charging my fly in the dark iron stained waters, I was already pulling my fly out of the water for the next cast.  It was a rookie maneuver not retrieving back to the boat and then some.  It was a real nightmare seeing the Musky try it’s damnedest to eat my fly but just barley unable to close the gap before I pulled it out of the water.  Despite my lack of success, I loved the water I saw on 2 of the 3 lakes and loved the people I met at the local bars.  Things are just simple and beautiful in that area and everyone is happy.  I’ll never forget the hauntingly beautiful foggy morning I was skunked on.

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An hour earlier, the fog was so thick I could barley see 25 ft in front of me

UP Steel is another mission of mine I haven’t gotten around to.  Anthony and I have been obsessing about exploring the UP in search of Wild Steelhead populations with little fishing pressure that don’t require us to drive through major urban centers like Chicago.  Vilas County sits on the border of the UP so I took a half day to check out a Steelhead Stream.  The UP streams are shrouded in mystery which is their major allure to me.  They really keep a tight lid on things and I’m not looking to spoil anything for anyone.  The stream I visited was tough, fast, technical, rugged, beautiful, and required grit just to get down to the stream.

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Some rugged UP terrain

I don’t need to tell you this trip was equal parts frustrating and blissful.  I had 3 1/2 days to fish quality Musky lakes and a UP Steelhead stream, and I couldn’t bring a fish to hand.  I just love to target fish that are expected to disappoint the angler until the last vestige of their dignity and confidence is stripped away.  Then, and only then, do they seem ready to eat.  My brain was wrapped into a figure eight by the time I left.

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The local tribs came to my rescue just in time this week.  I took a day off  to swing some flies on the Milwaukee with my Switch Rod and managed to pick up a Brown & Steelhead Buck.  The Brown was a little spent but the Steelhead was chrome fresh!!!  It freight trained my Bad Hair Day in faster riffley water, just shy of balls deep a few seconds before the hang down.  I’ll spare the clichés but it was a blast and a much needed boost in moral and confidence.

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This is what it’s all about

Categories: fly fishing, Lake Run Trout, Milwaukee river, skagit, steelhead, switch rods, Uncategorized, Wisconsin Fishing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment