It strikes me as odd how a little change in scenery changes everything else. Everything else being how one fishes (what else is there?).
My wife and I moved into our first house about a month ago in Prairie du Sac. It’s about twenty minutes north of our previous home in Middleton. One of the first things I did once we learned our offer was accepted was to bust out the trusty gazetteer, open a Word document, and begin making a list of every piece of trout water within a hour’s drive of our new home. What a difference twenty minutes make: out was Gordon Creek and Mount Vernon and most of southern Dane county; in went Bear and Willow Creek, as well as Rowan and Rocky Run. Black Earth Creek is still there, but in my humble opinion all of the above waters are currently much better fisheries (until somebody can figure out the population crash issues, or until the DNR dumps in some more rainbows). Big plus: five blocks from the lower Wisconsin River. Bummer: even further from my beloved Platteville smallie streams (like that will stop me, anyway).
What has become a major boon for us is the proximity we now find ourselves to some of southern Wisconsin’s most awesome natural resources and public places. We’re within a half hour’s drive of Devil’s Lake and it’s magnificent purple bluffs and the rocky spires of Natural Bridge State Park; the hidden beauty of Parfrey’s Glen is short drive away, and one can connect Devil’s Lake to the glen through a hike along the Ice Age Trail (while living in West Bend I took many day hikes along the segment of the Ice Age Trail that wound it’s way through town, so it’s nearness to us once again brings a piece of southeastern Wisconsin back to us). A large swath of land west of the Devil’s Lake is publicly accessible land under the protection of the Nature Conservancy. Just south of Beelzebub’s Watering Hole (I imagine someone must have called it this as one point) is the remnants of the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, now co-owned by the DNR, the Ho-Chunk, and the Nature Conservancy; once the Badger Army land is developed for recreational purposes I believe this area will have one of the largest continuous stretches of public lands in Wisconsin this side of Chequamegon National Forest.
It’s simply incredible is what it is.
Let’s not forget fishing. For long before humans found their way into the Baraboo Range there have been pockets of native brook trout surviving in the thin, skinny waterways that tumble down the quartzite hills toward the Wisconsin River. These high-gradient streams would seem more at home in the Appalachian mountains than southern Wisconsin, and yet here they flow cold and clear and accepting of a fish that has been greatly reduced or extirpated across much of its original habitat in this state. They’re not big bruiser browns or aggressive smallies or even feisty bluegills, but I dare anyone to say that brookies aren’t the most precious jewels of freshwater.
I think it’s only appropriate we find ourselves in a place known as Prairie du Sac: founded by English-Yankee settlers, named for the people that first lived here, using the language of the first Europeans to ply its waters in search of furs for trade. No single name better encapsulates the history of this state, in my mind.
We left the “good land” of Milwaukee and ventured to the fair prairie of the Sauk. It is a good place to call home.