Just finished watching The Heart of the Driftless. It is a movie made about the spring creeks of the Driftless area of southwest Wisconsin. It’s called the Driftless area because it’s the only area of Wisconsin that was untouched by the glaciers during the last ice age. The area is wild and hilly and just full of natural springs and spring creeks.
The land management of this area has helped to produce streams that hold 3000 to 6000 trout per mile. Naturally reproducing brook and brown trout thrive in this perfect environment. This is a little known gem of the Midwest.
I really enjoyed the 60 minute film, but I have to complain that I wanted to throw my Tenkara gear in the car and head there ASAP. My wife might have something to say about that though.
As posted in a previous piece, last season I went out of my way to catch a wild brook trout near my house. This year I thought I would give it an early start. I tried many creeks and springs last year but couldn’t catch a single brookie. There was one stream I tried and knew that it should have brook trout, but I was only able to catch brown trout.
I know this river well too. Before I graduated, I spent six weeks taking benthic samples and doing stream side chemistry for a final school project. My project was studying the impact on the spring water as it traveled from its origin (a natural spring) through wild lands into farmed lands and through a developed area and finally to wild lands again. From my extensive research and data collecting that went into my project, I KNEW IT HAD TO HAVE BROOK TROUT. My plan was to fish it again this year, but maybe be better prepared.
I was going to use my 11″ Iwana Tenkara rod and shorten it using a new handle segment from Tenkara USA that would make the rod slightly over nine feet long. I went with 7x tippet material and smaller flies of size 18-20. Where I was going to fish this creek, it was about two to three feet wide by maybe one half to one foot deep. Stealth was going to be needed if I was going to catch anything.
The short hike to the creek had me encounter some wild turkeys doing their little strutting with their feathers all flared out. It was a wet morning and heavy mist clung to the ground. At about 20 yards from the creek I put my gear together and crawled closer for an observation.
I worked my way slowly up this small stretch of water. In summer time this section of water is often invisible to someone nearby. The grass almost completely covers it and the sound of running water is the only indication of its presence in the grassy meadow. Casting was a bit rough with the wind taking my line where it wished. In between gusts, I managed to get many good casts as I worked about 70 yards of fishable creek. I lost many flies to the grass, but wasn’t very concerned with that. The naturalist trout loving concerned person in me needed to know that brookies were still there. I hooked one fish and in my excitement I may have set the hook a little hard. A short dark shape flew over my head and luckily landed in the water behind me. I was afraid that had been my one chance, but I was happy the fish had landed in the water.
I fished that whole 70 yards slowly and methodically, but with no more success. Before giving up, I went back to the beginning and refished a few spots that I knew should have fish. I thought maybe I could have been more stealthy in a few of these spots. It paid off. In one of the bends had a slight under cut. Something struck my caddis, and it had some fight to it. With little water to work with, I fought to keep it out of the under cut. My heart thumped and thumped with excitement. Could this be my brookie? It was a brook trout and I used my net to corral it and keep it safe in the water.
In the flowing current in my net the little fish just hovered. In a time where it seems like all I hear about is earthquakes and people killing people and how global warming is a going to change everything. It was a good feeling to look down at this little fish and know that he was still there. I know that it is a bit strange, but I needed to know. I quickly took his picture and felt great pride in letting him swim away. Be safe little fish. Be safe.
A net, fly box, Tenkara rod, tippet spools, floatant, some indicators, a large spool with both level line and a braided line, and a shoulder bag with forceps and clippers.
This is my second season of trout fishing with a Tenkara fly rod. Some might ask what is Tenkara? So here’s a little something about it.
Tenkara is a style of fishing (like fly fishing) going back at least 200 years in Japan. Long rods, line, and flies are used in simple forms to catch fish. Notice that there is no mention of a reel to hold line in Tenkara fishing, and this line is a fixed length. It sounds like crazy talk to a western fly fisher, but in realty it means less gear and often more fish.
I love Tenkara, and it’s simplicity. It has revolutionized all my techniques of fly fishing (both with a western rod and Tenkara rod). I carry so little gear compared to my old outings and less flies. I use to carry four to five boxes, and now I carry one. My focus is more on getting the fly to the right spot than matching food sources exactly. With the fixed length line and the delicate presentation, it excels in the type of water that I like to fish (smaller streams).
When I was growing up, we had a cabin on a small lake. My father never fished, but that’s where I learned to fish- on our little pier and with a cane pole. It didn’t have monofilament attached to it. It had a fixed length string with a hook- sound familiar. Well, it wasn’t fly fishing back then, but it was easy. Just add a worm and I was ready to go. Tenkara has brought back this simplicity to me. Fly fishing is the only type of fishing that I do now a days, so in a world where everything is getting more complex, it was pure joy to find something moving the other direction.
Being simple isn’t it’s handicap. I honestly think that I catch more fish. When fishing with this set up, it’s easy to keep your line off the water. This further helps not to spook the fish and often the fish hook themselves.
So there is a little about Tenkara. As it stands now my western gear is gathering dust and the moths are moving in to my old vests. I’ve been out fishing eleven times this year and ten were with my Tenkara rod. You can almost hear my old Orvis rods crying.
To find out more:
http://www.tenkarausa.com/about.php is a great resource for the Tenkara angler. You’ll find tons of videos and how to information.
Where I live, I use to catch the occasional brook trout, but my dry spell for brookies has gone on to long. Last year, I went out of my way to fish the smallest and most secluded head waters in search of those dazzling beauties- fish with as much fight as color. I remember crawling and casting in a window so tight with such delicate gear that it seemed impossible. I did catch small trout, but they always were browns.
I gave up near the end of the season. I took a road trip to a river well known for brook trout to satisfy my fix. With a family and a wife, road trips aren’t as easy to do as they once were. During my trip, I did catch a good number of wild brook trout and that made me happy. It didn’t resolve my need though.
So I continue my quest to catch a local brookie. My son has taken up rod now and is interested in fly fishing. I have taken him out a few times and he has caught fish. I hope that in his life too there will be brookies. For me if it comes to it, eventually I’ll road trip it. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that, but I hope and need those places that are home to brook trout.
A nice trout I took today on my home river. For 3 hrs of fishing, it was a 9 fish in net day. 8 Browns and 1 Rainbow. I missed tons more- including a large one that wrapped me on a branch.
By the way you can tell if a brown trout is wild or stocked by looking at his adipose fin (top back fin). If it has a deep red on it, it’s a fish that was produced in the wild. Also, every catch and release trout fisherman needs to really treat their catches well. After a long fight, don’t remove that fish from the water. That’s when they need the most oxygen from the water. Imagine running a race and giving it all you’ve got. When your done, you gasping for air. Now think of that fish. If at all possible , never have them out of the water for more than a few seconds.
Sorry just had to get that in there. Hope you enjoy the picture.
I rushed through my household tasks (cleaning the toilet, doing the laundry, planning out the evening meal, etc) today, so I could find a few hours to hit nature and the stream. The weather has been so nice of late in the Midwest that it scares me to death. Everyone around me is saying enjoy it, but with my environmental back ground, I’m scared to death. I think of those precious ecosystems like driftless area in Southwest Wisconsin with all those amazing trout streams, and I know what global warming will do to them.
Anyways, let me move away from that and focus on today. My gear was all in the trunk, so I just had to suit up in my waders. Living so close to a trout stream, it’s nice to be able to put my waders on at home, and just drive a few miles to my hearts second home (the river). So I did that and drove to the river. Arriving, I see the worse sight possible. Another car and out of state plates. “I’m going to get sloppy seconds,” I say to myself. It’s at moments like this that I have to remind myself to share. I ignore the other fisherman and move well upstream. Spying around, I see little action on the surface of the water, but it still looks beautiful to me.
Still feeling the frustration of not being able to fish where I want to fish, I quickly snag a tree and have to redo my setup. I take out more 5x tippet to attach to my braided Tenkara line and a new fly. When there is no surface action, I’m not afraid to go deep, so today I’m using a beaded headed Hare’s Ear nymph and strike indicator. I complete the re-rig and look up stream. It’s a slow moving bend and I know that it has to have trout. My first cast again doesn’t go to well, but then I settle in and place it perfectly for a nice drift. The indicator moves across the surface a and reaches the end of the curve. At the end, the indicator darts under. Fish on and a nice one. I feel slightly out matched controlling the fish on my 11″ Tenakara rod. It’s a tug of war kind of battle. The fish heads deep and I apply upward pressure. He goes this way and that way, and I try to counter his every move. He darts for a big submerged brush area. I try to counter with my rod , but he makes it in. I keep applying pressure and try to work him out. It works! I gain the advantage and slip my net in to scoop him. Safe in the netin the water, I slip my barbless hook out and measure him (14″). Then by some strange urge I look all around to find and the other fisherman to show off, but I see him in the distance packing it up at his car. Oh well, at least the river will be just for me.
Overall it was a good day to be on the water, I lost only two flies and netted about 9 fish in two and a half hours. Several were over 11″ and one pee wee was about 5″. The biggest was the first who was 14″. I did miss a giant, but I’m saving that for a special post.
Back around 1993 my future wife and I were checking out an Outdoor Sporting good store. They sold Backpacking, Camping, Water Sports goods, and they were also an Orvis Fly Fishing Dealer. I knew all about regular fishing, but had no clue about Fly Fishing. I was just moving from section to section until I ended up in the Fly Fishing section- not there for the fishing products. I had seen a hat.
It looked like a real adventurer’s hat- like an Indiana Jone’s hat or something like that. Back then money was a bit tight for me and this hat was well over the price of a normal hat. I was casually going to school and worked in a wood shop making knock down furniture and futon furniture. The hat really spoke to me, so I had to have it. As of late my future wife had been trying to get ideas for my up and coming birthday. She must have seen me in the fishing section and maybe a light sprung on. I probably showed her the great hat that I was determined to buy and I remember her asking me if I wanted a fishing rod for my birthday.
Well after a while and lots of explaining by a very friendly and helpful sales person, she bought me a 5 weight clear water 8 1/2″ Orvis fly rod. It came in two sections, so it’s case was just over 4′ long. Back then my major mode of transportation was a mountain bike and the bus. I remember taking that big tube home on the public transit system- both excited and unsure. And so a obsession was born and the ability to say it’s all your fault to my wife. All I knew for sure that day was that I looked good in my hat (and I still do today).
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my father’s death. He had passed away peacefully in his own home and his own bed- the way we should all go. Anyway, to wash a way the sorrow, I took the kids to school and headed to my home water for some fly fishing.
I put togther my 12′ Tenkara Fly Rod and slipped into the water. I slowly worked my way up stream. It was a beautiful morning and the river had finally calmed after days of running fast from rain run off. The river helped me and soothed me. The slow steady sounds of the water and life around me took the sorrow down stream from me. I caught many a fish and fought a large one who was determined not to see my net.
This will most likely be the rants, thoughts and everything else of a man confused, blessed and who knows what else. So far every day the sun has come up and will continue to come up. By heart I’m a little boy, but also am a father, a fly fisherman, a wood worker, an unemployed person, and many other things. I hope you tune in to read more of me.