Occasionally someone who reads the blog—one of you, or the other—asks me for advice. I don’t what the Hell you’re thinking asking me to help you catch fish, because I’m just as lost as you are. However, I’m willing to give you my (un)qualified opinion on fly fishing in an ongoing series of short articles I’m calling Tippettes. (Get it?)
Late last year I plunked myself down over a series of weeknights and read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. While it was thoroughly engrossing, once I put it down the next book I picked up consisted of much lighter fare: a goofy comedy set in a modern-Western-theme Australian outback populated with anthropomorphic animals called Albert of Adelaide. Wounded Knee was just so complex on multiple levels—emotional, culturally, historically—that my brain needed to take it easy a little while before I returned to another historical nonfiction book.
That, in a sense, is how I feel about fishing hatchery rainbow trout and hunting for monster brood stock this time of year. These fish are not as wily as their wild counterparts, and some might scoff at the thought of spring stocking in our local streams, but it can’t be denied that these hatchery fish provide a temporary boost to fish conditions from late April through May. Consider these rainbows the fly fishing equivalent of the dime novel.
This can be a great time to introduce kids to the fun of fly fishing, or boost the confidence of the novice angler. Stocked ‘bows provided me with more than a few exciting days of dry fly fishing on Black Earth Creek in the season after we moved to the Madison area when I was still learning the stream.
It’s also a great opportunity to chase big, fat brood stock browns and rainbows. I’ve already talked to a few customers who have caught 17″+ fish in the last few weeks, and each year I hear stories of large rainbows being pulled from Black Earth Creek downstream of the village of Black Earth. Black Earth Creek is just one of several streams—including Gordon Creek and the Blue and Big Green rivers—annually stocked with 50-200 adult fish.
The Wisconsin DNR schedules stocking of fish just ahead of the regular trout opener on the first Saturday in May. Usually these hatchery fish begin showing up in streams in late April and will persist through the month of May, though the exact timing can vary. The DNR keeps a list of estimated stocking for each season, and you can also view historic stocking trends here.