Rainbow Surprise

imageIt was a rainy morning on Chaffee Creek yesterday. Flow was up a little, but I wouldn’t say the creek was flooded.

With the overcast and drizzly conditions, I stuck to the silver bladed spinners that are my usual standby lures. I caught several respectable browns.

This stream seldom disappoints me. For small water, it’s produced some big browns in the past. It is best fished early in the season, though, because the banks get covered in long grass in the summer and the area gets pretty brushy. The hike back from the river is over swampy ground, and that’s also easier when the mud is still frozen.

I don’t remember catching a rainbow in Chaffee Creek before, so I was surprised when I hooked one yesterday. This was probably the nicest rainbow I’ve caught in a small stream in Wisconsin. I checked the DNR website afterward, and all three species of trout are found in Chaffee, but the predominant fish is brown trout.

I enjoyed the rainy morning of angling, and I’m looking forward to catching a brook trout here sometime to complete the triple play.


Lawrence Creek Brook Trout

Today ended up being a beautiful blue sky day. Maybe there is hope that spring will arrive after all.

Normally, because they lack eyelids and sunglasses, trout don’t like sunny days. But I tied on a black bladed spinner and went searching for brookies, hoping for the best.

I caught one on my third cast from a snowmobile bridge before I even jumped into the stream. That was a great start.

The sandhill cranes are coming back from their winter travels, and they provided the ongoing soundtrack for the morning’s fishing.

I also saw a belted kingfisher. She and I had similar objectives in mind, but decided to share the river out of professional courtesy.

I caught several more brook trout before climbing out of the water and hiking back through the woods. I hope this was my last trek through snow this spring. One more week above freezing should melt what’s left.

Lawrence Creek provides an outstanding setting. As usual, I had better luck in the untended sections than in the intensely rehabbed stretch.


Willow Creek

Yesterday, it turned out that bright, cold, and windy made for less than ideal fishing conditions. I was skunked on my third trip out for the year.

It always amazes me how even a gentle breeze can make it difficult to cast a lure that only weights 1/8 of an oz. I was cursing under my breath every time I had to climb up on the bank and pull a hook out of the shrubbery. The fact that it was below freezing and my rod kept icing up didn’t help, either.

The trout must have had some good hiding places in Willow Creek. I fished for a couple of hours and never even saw one! Even so, it is still great to be out fishing again, and I think there will be more trout to catch once the weather starts to warm up a little.

The Thaw

It felt cold and windy, but the temperature got up to 33 or 34 °F in the afternoon, so at least I didn’t have to melt ice off of the rod guides this trip.

The river was a little deeper than usual, and that made the wading a little tough. I didn’t let the water over the top of my waders, but I was on tippy toes in some sections. The lower pockects of my vest pack took on some ballast water.

The high water sent the trout into hiding. I didn’t see any fish, but had one bump on my lure before I finally caught a small brown.

Lots of work for one fish!


First of the Year

First OneThe early catch and release season opened last weekend, but it was still too cold for me and the fish. I was hoping that it would get above freezing this weekend, but yesterday I couldn’t wait any longer even though it was only 21° F at noon.

I was relieved to find there was open water in one of my favorite early season streams in Waudhara County. Swiftly moving trout water doesn’t normally freeze over around here, but with the extreme cold this winter all bets were off.

The sun was out bright and the sky was mostly blue. That, along with the cold temperatures, made the trout easily spooked and not inclined to take my spinner. I used my black-bladed version and managed several follows and a strike before I finally landed one.

The fishing was more work than usual because of the need to stop and melt the ice accumulating in the rod guides. After about every three casts, I had to melt that ice with my nice warm ungloved fingers.

I saw many large groups of trout, mostly running from the spinner. There were several big browns amoung the scaredy-cats, and I’m looking forward to some more interaction with them when it warms up later in the season.

The snow is still knee deep, so the hike back to the road was good exercize, especially after a mile of wading in a cold river.

Winter Stream

2013 Trout Year in Review

2013 was a good year for fishing. I broke my record for the number of trout angling trips. I got skunked 3 times, but that’s because I tried some new spots that were scenic, even if not prolific.

Highlights included some new rivers in Michigan that resulted in the biggest fish I ever landed with my ultralight set-up (a stray steelhead) and the 40 seconds of exhilaration I felt when I briefly played a king salmon on my 4-1/2 foot rod with 4# test.

I continued with exclusive use of my hand-made spinners, and introduced a black bladed version for bright days. I’ll be keeping a few of those dark spinners in my vest from now on.

Here are my updated statistics for trout, salmon, and grayling fishing: 

2006: 1 trip, 0 skunks, 1 fish
2007: 23 trips, 1 skunk, 80 fish
2008: 33 trips, 5 skunks, 135 fish
2009: 36 trips, 3 skunks, 167 fish
2010: 36 trips, 8 skunks, 168 fish
2011: 27 trips, 0 skunks, 216 fish
2012: 36 trips, 1 skunk, 253 fish
2013 38 trips, 3 skunks, 245 fish 

Here’s to an even better 2014! 

Happy New Year!

Wolf River

Every year I make it up to the Wolf River once or twice in the fall to take advantage of the extended catch and release season for that particular waterway. Yesterday, I tried a section north of Lily.

Wading the Wolf can keep you on your toes (literally). Not only are there deep holes, the slippery boulders help give meaning to what the guidebooks call “walking on greased cannonballs”. This is one river where I always make sure to have a collapsible wading staff with me at all times.

I fished about five hours and all I got to show for it was a couple of large chubs. For me, the fishing has gotten worse and worse here for the last few years. I’m starting to think that I’ve chosen the wrong strategy - as the fishing gets slower and slower, I’ve been heading further and further upstream. Maybe I’ll try again way downstream, perhaps just above the Menominee Reservation. But that might have to wait wait until next year. 

Variety in the Fox

Sunset is at 6:20 PM now, so it’s getting harder to fish after work. But I managed to make it down the hill to the Fox River before dark tonight, and I caught a bass, a rock bass, and a small northern pike. The home made chartreuse spinners did the trick in the twilight once again!

badger-toutman asked: Dan, do you ever fish for trout in the small stocked lakes during their extended season?

I haven’t done that yet, I’ve mostly fished in moving water. But it sounds like a fun way to extend the season. Without being too specific about actual locations (I don’t want to spoil anyone’s special spot) can you give me an idea of how to find a lake or pond worth trying? Would I have to float?

badger-toutman asked: Dan, what type of fishing vehicle do you like for getting to all those out of the way, headwaters streams?

I guess I’d have to say my feet. I drive a regular passenger car, and park it as soon as the going gets rough. Usually that means hoofing it for a quarter of a mile up to maybe two miles (unless I’m backpacking, when I’ll go further). For me a big part of the fun is getting out into the woods!