Hard to reach blue lines can make for excellent tenkara water
It is not like we record these conversations for posterity, but I think it went something like this: “Hey Matt, I found a pretty little creek that I think will be loaded with brook trout and sees almost zero fishing pressure. You interested?”. Not surprisingly, Matt responded in the affirmative. He always does.
Druid Creek had actually been on my radar for several years. While we mostly fish the Driftless region in Wisconsin, some of our best times are had along a stretch of billion-year-old worn down mountains not too far from our base of operations. Little creeks trace the divides on these ancient hills. Some of them are little more than a seasonal trickle, others have wiped out bridges during spring flooding. So far, everyone of them we have explored has held fish. Native brook trout are the usual inhabitants, but we have also found browns and warm water species. The problem with Druid creek is the access. It largely runs through private land, and while the creek itself is in the public domain, getting to it proved vexing. Ultimately, I found a creative and legal solution. Not all of our creek gambles pay off, but this one did!
Wisconsin expanded the trout season two years ago. Now, the adventurous fisherman can hit the trout streams in January as opposed to the “old” opening day in early March. Frankly, there aren’t many days in a Wisconsin January that I want to be on a trout stream, but it is nice to know you can. This February, we have unseasonably warm weather, to put it mildly. When the outside air temp went over 60, we knew we had to fish. Fishing without even a jacket in February is unheard of around here. After assuaging Matt’s concerns about the access (trust me, it was weird but totally legal), we waded through a shallow run up to the first likely pool. We were both fishing the UNC. I had on a small darker Pheasant nymph and a hybrid line of my own design, Matt was fishing #4 level line and a Pink Squirrel. Matt’s second or third cast produced a small but brilliantly colored brookie. “Yeah, that’s my prediction for this creek, Matt, lots of small but beautiful brookies” was my take on the first fish of the day. On his next cast, he pulled in about an 8 incher, which is a good size brook trout on any of the creeks in the region and completely shot to hell my theory of the creek. We traded shots on that pool, me catching tiny trout and Matt catching the larger ones.
A little wild native brook trout of Druid Creek
We worked our upstream to canyon section that was stunningly gorgeous. While we both tend to be very fishing focused, we paused just to take it all in. The sun was shining, the wind was calm, the air felt clean and creek tumbled over the rocks as it has done for thousands of years. We marveled at the geologic strata visible in the canyon and felt a sense of wonder that in the vastness of time and the universe, here we were standing in this pretty little canyon on such a perfect day. Then we caught some more fish.
The stream was definitely pocket water, which I happen to love. Prospecting for brookies in pocket water is how my love of tenkara started, though admittedly it has taken me places well beyond that initial conception. We finished our tour of the canyon fishing a deep, carved out hole next to a large boulder. We picked up a few fish with lightly weighted nymphs, but we knew we were not probing the bottom. We both had our Classic rods in our packs, rigged for "regular" sized Driftless creeks, and since unconventional tenkara is what we often do - it was time to shake things up by targeting a deeper zone of this unusually deep pool.
We used tight-line techniques to scour the bottom with the streamer and Matt's current favorite prospecting pattern, a heavier and larger nymph called the Nosedive. Slow dead-drifts and the occasional twitch pulled up several more fish from a pool that had stopped producing on our usual small stream approach. Lesson learned - don't be afraid to switch up your tools and techniques if a section of water presents different opportunities or challenges than the rest of the creek!
We packed it in after that - It was really one of those situations that you just can’t improve on.
So, now that weather is starting to warm, grab your tenkara rod and chase down some little blue lines. Your soul will thank you.