March 29, 2014
Air Temp: 37 deg (9:30a), 46 deg (3:30p)
Water Temp: 39 deg, 42 deg, 44 deg (various streams)
Water Clarity: Stained (most streams)
The recent rainfall we received earlier in the week put a bit of alarm into my weekend plans. I began seeing posts pop up on the Driftless Trout Angler message boards stating that many streams appeared blown out and that they wouldn’t be fishable for days, so everybody stay home. At first I figured it was a bit of angler humor– yeah, SURE, I bet every single stream is blown out, you’d like it if I stayed home!– but after reading multiple posts from multiple people in the Richland Center area and west, the worry crept in a bit.
I decided rather than chance that drive to instead haul it out to the Dodgeville area. At the very least it would give me a chance to listen to “Whaddaya Know?” and “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” on public radio in their entirety as I tooled around looking for clean water.
Turns out I did listen to a good portion of both shows, but also got some fishin’ in. The streams didn’t look bad at all. In fact, from what I could tell water levels looked fairly normal with a little staining. Surprisingly light fishing pressure: saw a half dozen guys on Big Springs concentrated near the vineyard, and a few cars parked along Sixmile Branch, and that was it. (I wonder what I would have witnessed if I made it out to Big Springs or the Blue?)
I bounced around a lot from stream-to-stream, checking out some new stretches of water, returning to some old, and testing my newly built 6’6″ 3-weight glass rod. I bought the blank last year from Mountain Brook Rods out of PA, and it has a sweet honey-yellow color that reminds me of raw bamboo. I did it up with black and red wraps and it looks pretty vintage-cool. I actually used 4-weight floating line today and it turned our rather well. It has a nice, slow action that reminds me fishing isn’t about moving fast.
I checked out a portion of Big Rock Branch and that not really impressed. Don’t think I’ll be heading back there this season. I did manage to land a real whopper on my new rod… although as I hauled the feisty critter to the water’s surface something didn’t look right…
Creek chub. The next cast I land another about half the size. Well, at least somebody likes my Fuzzy Buffalo nymphs.
What a frustrating little stretch of water. There are certainly some trout-y looking pools, but damned if there were any trout in them. Water temps here were sub-40s, so maybe I’m just here too early. But with plenty of other water in the area, I can’t imaging trying my luck here in the near future.
The other major stream I hit is The Stream That Shall Remain Nameless. (Note: I’d hate to do that to you, but after careful consideration I’ve decided that I shouldn’t give away everything. Not that there is anything secret about this stream: it’s on DNR maps, it’s in the online DNR database, it’s clearly labeled in my gazetteer, and several public highways intersect it. It’s probably not even the best fishing stream in the area. But I enjoy it, and maybe someday you will too (or you already have!), and you’ll enjoy it more because you came upon it yourself.)
I’ve fished this stream before, and I find it interesting because its character changes so dramatically from headwaters-to-downstream. The headwaters are skinny and tight and offer lots of very technical-to-damn-near-impossible casting situations to spooky brook trout that school up twenty-to-thirty deep in holes not much larger than a bathtub. I found this section of water late last season, blew up a bunch of the holes by barreling through the water, and learned a lot about the necessity of stealth and ninja-ry(?) in small stream fishing.
This stream also offered one of the most outstanding moments of my 2013 season: I came upon one of these small pools that held about two dozen trout, the largest being a pair of twelve(ish)-inchers. Some fallen branches acted as cover directly above the hole, and the gin-clear water and sunny day had me crawling along my stomach, beneath a low-lying tree just to the left of the pool to try and set up a bow-and-arrow cast. As I got into position the fish scattered, and I figured that I had been caught. But no… instead, the two large (I assume male) trout suddenly had it out for one another. They danced around one another, dashing back and forth through the pool, slashing at each-other’s fins and gills. It was quite unlike anything I had ever witnessed before; like I was dropped into a Mutual of Omaha reel in media res.
To borrow a technical term: it was badass.
I can’t say I fared much better today than I did last season, but I came away with greater respect for this stretch of water. I have a more unorthodox fishing strategy in mind for next time…
Now, if you go further downstream on this particular stretch of water you encounter a different beast: wider, waist-deep water with even deeper holes that can hold some bigger browns. This is the place where you look at the vast open expanse before you and declare, “Match the Hatch? F*** the Hatch!” and tie on some nasty streamer and power-cast it to the banks. This time it was a variant of my Technicolor bucktail streamer that got the job done.
Hopefully you had a chance to enjoy this first true “Spring” day, fishing or otherwise!
Some other sights from the day: