Driftless Trout Anglers

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Gurth  
#1 Posted : Monday, June 4, 2018 2:00:04 PM(UTC)
Gurth
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DISCLAIMER – the rivers that I name in this report are all well known and obvious. I gave them nicknames so that Googs wouldn't pick them up.

DISCLAIMER 2 - The photos kind of suck as I really am not liking the life proof case I got with my new phone in terms of photo quality.


Took a trip up Nort this past weekend with a fellow trout diehard to fish a big river that runs through a popular tourist town.

Left Thursday at dawn with the plan to hit a couple of brookie streams near Eau Claire on the way up and then fish the big one on Friday and then play it by ear on Saturday and Sunday.

The first brookie stream was east of Blooomah and as with many northern streams, it was drop dead gorgeous.

Also… as with many northern streams… density did not seem to be very high. There were way more great looking lies than willing fish.

Managed almost a dozen small brookies like these beauties…


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And this fine fish…


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My buddy who was streamer fishing a different part of the stream had similar results although he got two of the solid/big brookies.

One of his nice brookies...


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Looked at the stream that goes through Blooomah and decided we were good on little brookies and the odd big one and went to the antlered stream west of EC coz I had read that it was possibly the “finest brown trout stream in western Wisconsin.”

Not sure what they mean by “western” Wisconsin, but I didn’t find a whole lot of decent brown trout and nothing with any real size to it. Got maybe a dozen browns probably with an average size of 9 inches. I believe I got a tiny brookie too.

Don’t know what my buddy got, but nothing big or even decent.

Not impressed with the antlered stream although it looked like phenomenal water.

And yeah, I realize that it might have just been an off day and all that. Whatevs. Produce while I’m there or you suck forever.

Off to the cabin!


The next morning, we were up at first light and off to the reason for the trip.


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Had never laid eyes on it as I grew up vacationing in Eagle River and had never been in this part of the state. Couldn’t believe how BIG it was. Seemingly 50 yards wide in many spots and really cooking along.


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For a moment we both thought, how do you even fish this?


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Then it became obviously apparent that you just break it down into smaller sections and look for the usual spots that trout would be hanging out.

We were also surprised at how warm the water was. Honestly felt like bath water compared to what we’re used to.

Once we got up from our entry off Agtalder, we started to get browns.

The cookie cutter brown on this river seemed to be about 14 inches and we got a bunch. Love these fun-sized browns!


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Got a few small ones too…


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Action was steady although there were dead zones along the way where it was obvious that there would be no fish and eventually we just walked through these without much casting.

Another thing… the current. Lawdy, it was relentless and STRONG. Almost every step was an effort.

Apparently, they’ve had a lot of rain up there and the river is high right now – we didn’t find that out till later when we were in the fly shop talking to Larry.

Anyway… there was a stretch that was many hundreds of yards long and probably 50 yards wide and a uniform 1.5 feet deep with a sandy bottom and you’d think it would be an easy stroll.

Not at all. The current was still strong and it was a Bataan Death March battle of wills between us and the river to get to the end of it where the promise of more bends and runs awaited. It honestly felt like it would never end and that we were snails trying to get to a horizon that was always a long way off.

Fished up to Seal-ee and then had to walk along the highway all the way back to our start point. Was a good five miles round trip and almost 2.5 miles in the water against that current.

This is not a place for the faint of heart to try and fish. You’d better be in shape, have good balance AND have the will to fight that current and the rolling boulder fields as there is no respite and there is no way to walk the banks.

There were several spots where the current was so strong that we had to back out and try a different line.

Anyway…

What a cool place and unique trouting experience for me. Thanks for the suggestion Siggy!


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First time on such incredibly big trout water. We didn’t find any of the giants that this river is known for. Best we got were a few 17-18 inchers.


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No matter though as the fishing was good (by Driftless standards) and the real star of the show was the river itself and the natural wonder that surrounded us. Just being in that place was incredible and I definitely hope (plan) to go back sometime.

We each landed about 20 browns and if either of us were alone, you could extrapolate a 40 fish day. Pretty solid for sure and had the river to ourselves too – didn’t see another soul.

Oh yeah and I got this right at the end of the stretch…


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Love me some diversity!

Went and got lunch and stopped by the fly shop to look for a different destination as neither of us wanted to fight that current anymore that day.

Turns out we got talked into trying another stretch further upstream. Felt a whole lot better after some grub and seems there’s really nothing else up there in the immediate vicinity to hit that’s better than the big river.

Didn’t find as many trout, but glad we did another part as I don’t feel like we left anything undone.

I got a few more browns and a couple more northerns and my buddy got a few more browns.


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Went and got some fish fry (found a place with haddock!) and a beer or three and headed to the cabin.


Next day had rain in the forecast for the western half of the state, so we made the bad decision to drive east and try a couple Sand County streams.

Hit the Plovah and the Day After Today rivers and both were crowded with other anglers and short on fish worth catching.


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Even had a group of 5 kayakers float through a stretch I was fishing who managed to bump into every boulder in the stream. Right after they went through, it started piss pounding rain.

Grrrr…

At least I can cross two more rivers off the list as potential day trip destinations.

Even if there are good fish in them or better spots than we hit, the number of other people on them was a big turnoff for me. I’m so spoiled where I fish as almost every spot I target is empty when I get there.

Probably only got 20 fish between us in the Sand Counties with only one 14-15 incher (the first one below) that my buddy got as the biggie of the day.


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Went home as we were both good on this trip and really wanted to get back to Driftless fishing if we were gonna go out on Sunday.

What a turd of a day to end the trip with though. Worst trouting day I’ve had sans winter fishing in a long time.

Wasn’t gonna go out Sunday but by 3:00, got the itch and headed to a small trib somewhat close to my house. Had a wonderful 2 hour fish on a (now) almost overgrown, 3-foot wide sidewalk stream.


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Managed 7 or 8 browns and a couple of brookies.

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A few of the browns were flirting with 16 inches and it was fun to get them out of such tiny spots.


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Was able to wash the defeat and despair of the Sand County experience from my psyche and end the weekend on a high.

We really have it great in the Driftless and as much as I love seeing other types of water and challenging myself in these places, I always appreciate my home waters all the more when I get back to them.




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Edited by user Monday, June 4, 2018 2:03:41 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

Private correspondence at: jkschind "at" tds.net
thanks 2 users thanked Gurth for this useful post.
William Schlafer on 6/4/2018(UTC), Siggy1 on 6/5/2018(UTC)
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JGF  
#2 Posted : Monday, June 4, 2018 4:43:58 PM(UTC)
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Nice - thanks for sharing!
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Gurth on 6/4/2018(UTC)
William Schlafer  
#3 Posted : Monday, June 4, 2018 5:10:05 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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Originally Posted by: Gurth Go to Quoted Post


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We really have it great in the Driftless and as much as I love seeing other types of water and challenging myself in these places, I always appreciate my home waters all the more when I get back to them.



Great report Gurth. And a nice Brookie! I love those really dark mean looking ones.


A relative of mine once spent 10 days fishing all those famous northern Trout rivers. His experience mirrored yours: dangerous and tricky waters to wade, and you really need to spend a lot of time there to figure out where the higher concentrations of Trout live. We are spoiled with the abundance of Trout and accessible water here in the lower DA.


-Bill

“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
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Gurth on 6/4/2018(UTC)
NBrevitz  
#4 Posted : Monday, June 4, 2018 6:12:30 PM(UTC)
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That Brown Trout spot looks freakin sweet! I’m 95% sure I know where you were but DAMN does that look cool. Great report!
"I fish because I love to: Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness."
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Gurth on 6/4/2018(UTC)
Gurth  
#5 Posted : Monday, June 4, 2018 7:24:13 PM(UTC)
Gurth
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Originally Posted by: NBrevitz Go to Quoted Post
That Brown Trout spot looks freakin sweet! I’m 95% sure I know where you were but DAMN does that look cool. Great report!



Not trying to keep it a secret from any of you regulars who'd want to know.

Was suggested to me in a private message, so don't want to name it in a post.

It's well known though and I'm a little surprised you haven't already done it.


Was really cool. We were gushing about it during and after not believing that we were somewhere so wild and cool having never fished anything similar.

Definitely want to do more of those northern rivers - the big ones, not the alder choked, slow moving brookie streams... I've done plenty of those.



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Edited by user Monday, June 4, 2018 7:25:00 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

Private correspondence at: jkschind "at" tds.net
NBrevitz  
#6 Posted : Tuesday, June 5, 2018 8:25:34 AM(UTC)
NBrevitz
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Originally Posted by: Gurth Go to Quoted Post
Originally Posted by: NBrevitz Go to Quoted Post
That Brown Trout spot looks freakin sweet! I’m 95% sure I know where you were but DAMN does that look cool. Great report!



Not trying to keep it a secret from any of you regulars who'd want to know.

Was suggested to me in a private message, so don't want to name it in a post.

It's well known though and I'm a little surprised you haven't already done it.


Was really cool. We were gushing about it during and after not believing that we were somewhere so wild and cool having never fished anything similar.

Definitely want to do more of those northern rivers - the big ones, not the alder choked, slow moving brookie streams... I've done plenty of those.



.

I’m addicted to Brookies, otherwise I’d have fished it long ago. The tag alder and mosquito infested hellholes are a pain, but it makes me appreciate the fish that much more. That said, the big, fast rivers north of the border are just enchanting to me. Big native Brookies in their original habitat are otherworldly, and while I can appreciate fishing to big, wily Browns on bigger stuff very near my house (2 minutes from my GF’s dorm), they just don’t compare to a 15 inch Brookie that tried to pull the rod out of my hand. And finding fish of that size or bigger in the Driftless is how I bide my time between Ontario trips. Now that I think about it, I could swing a couple days next month...
That said, I’m overdo for a 24 inch Brown, so I’ll start mousing this summer for shits and grins.
BTW, next time you get up north, Pierce and Dunn are the counties to fish. Those creeks near Bloomer are fun, but tricky in terms of fish movement. A section full of fish in April may be empty in July. The Rush and Kinni are worth all the press they get, and most other streams can be very good as well.
"I fish because I love to: Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness."
Gurth  
#7 Posted : Tuesday, June 5, 2018 1:09:40 PM(UTC)
Gurth
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The streams we chose to hit were in large part due to being on our route although they've been in my queue for a couple years now. I'm glad I checked em out but doubt I'll ever return unless I somehow end up living in the area.

A lot of places I go to out of my home area are one and dones as I love seeing new places and fishing new streams and there are too many places to hit and I don't travel enough to do many repeats a couple hours or more from home.

That said, I will repeat the BIG river as it was pretty cool. I'll just choose new ancillary destinations next time.

Dunn and Pierce were a little too far off the route but I appreciate the advice and will get to those counties eventually.
Private correspondence at: jkschind "at" tds.net
Siggy1  
#8 Posted : Tuesday, June 5, 2018 8:42:05 PM(UTC)
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Good report Gurth and what a beaut of a brookie. Good to hear you had a nice trip up there, it really is a beautiful area up there. To bad you didn’t get into any hogs but there all a blast to catch in the end. That river can be pretty tough to fish and wade in that high water and fast current.
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Gurth on 6/5/2018(UTC)
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