Will and I headed out early Saturday morning from Chicago and arrived on-stream by 8:30 or so in Southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. We were fishing high in small tributary feeder of well known spring creek. We pushed up through skinny water and I was able to manage a small trout parr. It was an underwhelming catch to say the least and quickly began to reset my own expectations for the weekend.
We headed to the northern reaches of the region to meet up with Niall, Quentin and Spencer. They promised good caddis action with fish rising freely by mid afternoon. With a driving wind blowing at a steady 15-20 mph, we hunkered down in the lee side of ridge with a clear view of the creek just a stone’s throw away. We rigged our favorite caddis dries and then played the waiting game. The first rises were relatively muted and in the riffles, further camouflaging them.
I made my way down stream and hooked up with a good number of trout, though nothing too large. That being said, I’ve never encountered such hard fighting and colorful fish. The burnt golden color with bright red spotting and fin edging was impressive and spoke to the long history of wild trout management on this particular water. Will ran into similar success and after we’d had our fill we headed into town for a group dinner. 10 orders of prime rib later, we headed for Avalanche and pitched our tents at the West Fork Sportsman’s Club. If you haven’t checked this spot out, we highly recommend it. Great campsites, adjacent to some great fishing. The next day we woke up to a heavy frost and broke camp. After a quick breakfast in town we split up and headed out for the day, coffee in hand. We had hoped to fish an old favorite, an intimate water tucked away from roads. But someone had beaten us to the punch and so we had to scramble. It was this frustration that gave way to some of the finest dry fly fishing I’ve had in some time in the region. We decided to check out the lower reaches of this particular creek system. We had scouted in seasons past. The deep cuts and high banks, oxbow after oxbow were seared into our minds. This was some fishy looking water. We hadn’t found access though so we hoped to find a bridge that would provide an entry point to some great water. We did one better, finding a new easement that looked to provide a small but promising stretch of water. We were unprepared for what we found. Deep holes, tons of wood structure and a gravel bottom. It all seemed so out of place far from the DNR access points we’d used for years.
Despite the high sun, we prospected the first pools and buckets using streamers. Will got a grab from this fish after I had landed something I thought was respectable. We had only just begun. I rigged an elk hair caddis in a generous size 14, bigger than the natural, but a great bug on unfamiliar water in these conditions. We eventually came upon several long and deep productive runs. You could see the backs of large fish rolling on caddis. What a sight! Thankfully the wind had now shifted and was at our backs helping us belt out the long casts required to cover the run. I can’t wait to get back out there.