Touring WI Driftless trout streams for end-of-season Tenkara
What better way to close down Wisconsin trout season, than to bum around camping and fishing the Driftless for three days? I loaded up the Jeep on Monday morning and hit the road, headed for new water in Crawford county...
Luckily the end of September, we'd caught some rain and the weather had cooled a bit, but conditions were still sunny, warm, and gusty when I hit the stream.
This new water looked good from the get-go. Rocky bank structure was common, and it held more center-channel rocks than most Driftless streams I've fished. The bite started slow, some tentative swipes at the #12 Pass Lake by some smaller fish, and then a few shiners caught, and then finally a 8 inch Brown on the hook. From there I ran into some absolutely phenomenal water! Probably some of the best structured runs I've seen in Wisconsin. The total for the day topped out around a dozen trout, and the fish I caught all ranged from 8-12 inches. But then there was also THIS guy...
This was a smart fish, it must have been on a hook before. It charged straight back downstream towards me and under the big rock - too close for comfort! I lifted the rod high to maintain line tension and moved left, trying to get a clear path so I could pull the fish from under the rock. But here is where the clever little devil did me in. Not only did he bunker up under the rock, he started swimming back and forth, sawing the tippet against the rock! It snapped Just as I got a clear shot at pulling him free. ARRRGGGGG! You win this time fish - but I know where you live and I'll be back next year!
Troll creek is a tributary that feeds the South Fork of the Bad Axe. There is an incredibly scenic pasture section that winds through a cozy valley, and I've been itching to fish it. The access is a bit tricky - there is no gate or style over the fence. After scoping things out, I decided I'd wade right up the stream bed.
There was a rope across the creek that looked like a white and red nylon rope, the kind you'd hang some laundry on. Probably just there as a visual to fool the cows, I figured. Because normally, the electric fences I've run into have been very well marked, or looked specifically like a traditional metal wire electric fence. So I wade my way to the rope, and go to lift it up so I can slip under...and that is when I learned that some electric fences look like nylon ropes - ZAP! I am not afraid to admit that I yelped like a yappy little chihuahua dog. You can see in the video that I had a few seconds of shock induced convulsions there too. Good times!
After the debacle with the electric fence, I decided I'd save that section for next year and head downstream to a section I know how to access. It's a twisty quarter-mile through a wooded ravine. I doubt very many people fish it because it can be a bit tight, but it is a scenic place to fish and their are some great lies to target. Casts to "classic" positions with depth and current near structure generated strikes, and in some cases, cautious approaches to pools allowed me to sight cast to fish that were on station. It was a short section with limited fishable terrain, but I managed to catch seven 8-13 inch fish in about an hour!
I headed for a section of the North Fork Bad Axe that has been really productive for me in the past. The water was cool, a little high, and a bit stained - which I figured would make for some great fishing. A very scenic but disappointing 2 hours later I was on my way back to the Jeep, and all I had brought to hand was shiners and chubs. There simply seemed to be no trout "home" in this section of the river. I spotted plenty of Redhorse Suckers, but excellent runs and structure failed to produce even a single "trouty" strike.
One of the great things about Wolf Creek that it kind of blows my mind is that it is super easy to access and close to civilization, but I think maybe six people fish it, two of which are Mike and me. I can only think of one trip where this creek didn't produce well, and I honestly can't remember the last time I pulled up and saw someone else parked in a pullout. It also just so happens to be the creek that I closed the season on last year. I feel a tradition coming on...
I jumped out and rigged up my last "Evil Squirrel" (a purple bodied nymph inspired by the legendary Driftless "Pink Squirrel" pattern invented by John Behtke) and hit the water. I was into little wild Brown trout almost instantly!
6-10 inch trout were feeding aggressively along the bottom. I spent the next two hours happily catching smaller wild fish to my heart's content, not to mention some creek chubs that were pushing 10 inches themselves! Drawing close to the end of easily fishable water, I caught one last Brown and decided to call it a season. Last season my game of "creek chub roulette" didn't end well and the last thing I caught was chub. This year, I wanted to make certain I "went out on a trout!"