Don’t let the sun fool you; it was cold. Even with the sun the air temps topped out at about 50 degrees. But the bright sun moved the water temps from the high 40s to the low 50s, enough to activate the hendricksons and the fish. But there was sun just two of the five days we fished. There are few pictures from the other days when it was cold, windy, rainy, snowy, windy, and cold. Generally raw and unpleasant, especially in May.
From another perspective:
You know you are in the Northwoods when the fireplace is the lone beacon of warmth in May. When the rising trout are mostly big. When their food is mostly little. When a series of snow squalls alternate with blue skies five times in an afternoon hour. When your hands are raw and cracking and bleeding. When you don’t care and fish anyway. When your friends, like the colors on a grey day full of light diffused, are oh so color-enhanced. When the fish bite and the wind bites. That is when you know you are in the Northwoods, and when a bit of the Northwoods is in you.
While some areas and rivers of Wisconsin are well known and celebrated by trout anglers for their outstanding fisheries, others remain overlooked, or possibly just forgotten. This weekend, my friend Barry and I ventured north to close out the early trout season on a stream that would certainly fall under the category of overlooked.
The early portion of our wade was spent clumsily negotiating through an obstacle course of deadfall and unruly brush. As our optimism began to wane, the river finally opened up enough to cast and the trout began to cooperate. For our hard work and trouble we were rewarded with the welcome thump of a gluttonous brown rolling on my streamer. We found even the smaller trout in this river system to be spirited fighters, giving a good account of themselves before coming to hand.
It was enjoyable to fish a good beat that, apparently, most others have overlooked. I can only hope that the stream remains a Wisconsin sleeper until my next visit.
It is amazing that by the middle of April the nicest days I fished this season were in January, in northern Michigan. It was 50 degrees then, and I’m not sure that I have been out on the water in weather that warm since. Last weekend in the Driftless was cold, rainy, windy, and cold. As much as you love being out there and fishing, it is tough staring down nasty weather every weekend. The catching has been pretty good throughout, but the honeymoon is over. A couple of months ago, 40 degrees seemed like a heat wave. Now, I’m ready for some warmth.
The streams in the Driftless were in good shape last weekend. The smaller ones were clear, and the bigger ones were slightly stained, but eminently fishable. I expect the same conditions this weekend, even with all the rain today and tomorrow. The fishing should be good, even if the weather is not.
If anyone has any ideas why an isolated section of a stream would go from clear(ish) to totally opaque milky white in a matter of minutes please let me know. It was bizarre, like someone crashed a milk truck into the creek while we were fishing.
I saw something I had never seen before last weekend in the Driftless. Joe caught a very respectable, very fat, 15″ brown. After landing him we noticed something protruding from his mouth aside from the fly. I’m amazed he could eat something that big in the first place, and more amazed that he wanted to have a second course before the first course was done.
Spring is here according to the calendar, but not the thermometer. If you want to brave sub-freezing temperatures and fight ice in your guides, there are fish to be caught. Brian and I made a day trip last Saturday to an area of Wisconsin that I have driven through many times, but never thought to fish. The air temperature was hovering around 17 degrees while we were wadering up and topped out at 29. The water felt warm in comparison. The stream bed was silt and sand, the banks and woods were covered in knee deep snow, and the casting was very tight. Like, cast made into overhanging tree, fly violently freed into a bush on the other side of the stream, fly ripped out of bush directly into a pile of deadfall back on the other side of the stream, dejected, finally wade over to untangle everything and while you are there might as well remove the ice from every guide and your fly line and leader. Once we figured out how to get the fly into the water, we caught some nice fish. I don’t relish fishing in the freezing cold, but the trout did not seem to mind. And maybe that is all that matters.
While the air temperatures and the constant ice on my line and guides made it feel more like the middle of winter, spring is here and so are the steelhead. Usually the Root River is ideal for prospecting with a nymph rig. On Sunday the flow was above 400 and nymphing was a possibility but swinging flies just made more sense. There were surprisingly very few anglers on the river, and the few who braved the elements seemed to have some success. The water temperature was hovering right around freezing and the fish, while present, were a bit slow and probably waiting for a warmup (like we all are). It was nice to be on the water and learn a bit more about my two-handed rod.
Last year we drove up in a snowstorm. This year the thermometer in my car ranged between 6 and 11 degrees once we got into Wisconsin Friday night. It was cold. All weekend. I think there was about a 30 minute period on Saturday without ice in my guides. Sunday was somewhat warmer. It was sunny all weekend, which made things a little more comfortable. The snowpack wasn’t too deep, and the stream temperatures varied from 37 to 42 degrees. Fish were caught, but the catching was not on fire. The fishing was good, good in that is was nice to be out there walking the streams again. The cold aside, it was a beautiful weekend to be back in the Driftless. The fishing will only continue to improve as the spring progresses, and I plan on getting up there again soon to take advantage.
A bunch of us hit the harbors Saturday hoping that the good bite would continue with the unseasonably warm weather. Of course, the only fish landed was after dark after we we had been fishing for a couple of hours and were about to pull the plug and hit the Brat Stop on the way home.
Michigan seems to have gotten some appreciable rain over the weekend. Had I not been so badly crushed emotionally by the fishing over there this fall, I would consider taking one more swing at it.
It has been a tough fall. I have been fishing every weekend for steelhead, musky, or trout, and as I am sure you have noticed from the lack of posts, have very little to show for the effort. Certainly the low water levels and lack of rain have made things difficult, but even when conditions seemed decent, the fish were not biting. You know things aren’t great when David, in Nashville, has caught as many steelhead as the rest of our fishing group combined, zero. Itching for some sort of action, we followed our friend Brian to one of the lakefront harbors, and finally found some fish willing to eat.