Tuesday, April 26, 2011

my first trip to the driftless area

This is only my second year chasing inland trout in Wisconsin and I have to admit that I’ve become completely engrossed in this new fishing world. The satisfaction of the perfect drift, subtle takes, and self tied flies has become the pinnacle of fishing to me, so far... Last year I focused my trout efforts almost exclusively in Dane County which really was just enough to wet my whistle. I fished mostly in the heart of the summer and fought off heat exhaustion, overgrown weeds, and ticks with a thirst for blood. Even though I was a rookie with a few challenges to overcome, I still was able to put together a few meaningful trips last summer. I had a couple really good days where I caught lots of fish and some days I was lucky just to catch a few. Even worse, there were those humbling days where all I got was the skunk and a two plus hour ride home to reflect on my shortcomings.

It became apparent that the landscape and the stream quality only improved the further west I traveled. If it was a gamble to catch a trout within two hours of the house then why not expand the search for good trout water to four hours from the house? That put some of the state’s more famous trout streams in striking distance. Steelhead season has just recently ended but I made the switch to inland trout almost three weeks after Damien. He was sick of fighting the crowds on the local tribs long before me and has gotten a great deal of recon accomplished in just a few short weeks. It was great to go with him on my first trip west this season and he just seemed to point the car in the right direction. This was my first trip into the true “driftless” area and my best day ever catching over 30 trout. Check it out…

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

spring steelhead coming to a close

bobs early morning  colonial park steelhead

Bob and Shawn made it out on Saturday before the rain had too much time to make a major impact on the flows. They fished Colonial park in the early morning where Bob was able to hook up in the first 10 minutes. Fishing slowed until mid-day when they made the move to Island Park. Fish were stacked up in the slack water just north of Island and Shawn was able to capitalize on the concentration of fish. By the end of their fishing day flows had gone up tremendously and by sundown the river had blown out. I'm happy they got an early jump on the day.

shawns island park steelhead

I'm just wondering if the fish will still be in the river when the flows finally subside. My guess is that the season is finally coming to a close and I'm already starting to stock my box for stream trout. I've been working hard each night trying to get a few new flies in after the kids have gone to bed. I will be going driftless on Saturday with Damien and wanna make sure I'm prepared. 

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

the root river birthday

I spent the morning of my 30th birthday searching for chromers on the Root River. It isn’t often I’m off on a week day but I felt the occasion warranted the day off. I have never seen the river so quiet and was excited to exchange the normal, fast paced, weekend, combat fishing for some solitude. The Root was flowing at 118 CFS which was about 60 points down from last weekend. The water was also much clearer and warmer. It was a peaceful morning spent drifting tandem eggs through Colonial Park and really gave me a chance to reflect on the past 30 years. After 2 hours of peaceful reflection, I decided it was time to actually catch a fish. Colonial Park’s conditions had changed dramatically over the last week. Even the suckers had seemed to move out. It was a good time to check out some more river.

North at Quarry Park I fished the big pool right under the parking lot. I drifted just a single egg with plenty of shot to reach the bottom. That egg drifted that pool for close to 30 minutes without even a nibble. Enough drifting, I was ready to do some streamer fishing. It was time to tie on something big and ugly and work it frantically. Instead of pushing north towards the dam I dropped down to Island Park.

island park on root river
The gravel at Island Park looked great and was a perfect spot to try out my new streamer. It is a bead head white leach with a hot pink tail and lots of crystal flash. I tied it extra bulky to create maximum movement while being stripped on the retrieve. Upon entering the water, things just seemed more fishy. The first step towards my casting position spooked a pod of suckers up to the deeper pool ahead. I took position on the backside of the gravel smack dab in the middle of the river. From this vantage point I was able to cast upstream and fish the pools on either side of the gravel.

island park steelhead on root river
Strip, strip, strip, pause… Strip, strip, strip, pause… Strip, strip, strip, pause… Then came a violent strike just as I was about to start pulling more line. It’s the kind of strike that jars your arm while your just trying to hang on. I tightened my grip and set back on the rod. Fish on! Line came flying off my reel as the fish pushed towards the head of the pool at a lightning pace. A nice aerial display landed her in the pool on the opposite side of my gravel island. I gingerly fed her line as I played her up and down the pool. When it was time I put just enough pressure on the fish to break her plane and roll her over. A couple more seconds of hard pressure and she was beached on the gravel. A few quick photos and I turned my birthday present back into the water from which she came.

Oh how I love streamer fishing and have missed it this spring. There’s nothing in the world like that strike.

close up (steelhead)

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

early season fox chain of lakes report

The open water season on the fox chain of lakes is just starting to heat up! Randal sent over this shot from one of his recent fishing expeditions on the Fox Chain Of Lakes. Now is the perfect time to be fishing  the harbors and channels looking for big panfish and other species that have moved up. Don’t underestimate the power of slip bobbers and live bait…
fox chain of lakes crappie and walleye

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Monday, April 11, 2011

early april on the root river

Sunday, I made my way to Racine to fish the Root River with Bob and Shawn. Despite the reports I’ve seen on some of the local fishing forums, the Root is still holding a fair number of fish. Water levels for the last week have remained pretty consistent around 200 CFS. The last rain we had barely made an impact on the river’s flow and might have been just enough to stain the water, although clarity improved noticeably throughout the day. The sucker spawn is in full swing right now, and even though its nice to have some fast action, they still became quite a nuisance.

We fished the gravel and pocket water found throughout Colonial Park. Traffic on the river was light but there were still plenty who enjoyed a beautiful day on the river. Shawn and I each managed one fish but he actually came close to landing a couple more. Green was the hot color that resulted in most of the days hookups. My birthday is coming up this Friday and I’m optimistic that the river will still be holding fish on my day off!

What a blessing the weather was on Sunday, not only was it the first time we hit seventy degrees but we actually made eighty! This solidifies the thought in my mind that summer is right around the corner. With every new season come new angling opportunities and this summer I’m looking forward to broadening my horizons. Fly fishing carp and some river canoe trips are top of the list of things I’m looking to try.
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

root river spring steelhead

I fished the Root River on Saturday with Neal, Ryan, and Shawn. The upriver bends and pools throughout Colonial and Quarry parks were subject to tremendous angling pressure. There was a waiting line to just have the opportunity to fish some of the better water, and as one angler left the rest would inch in closer. We all shared a disappointing morning with just a few hook ups and zero fish for our group.

Shawn was able to make a second trip on Sunday and found the river almost vacant. He was able to get some retribution for the group landing 4 fish in just a few short hours. I wasn’t even out of bed when the pictures came across my phone. The early fish came on egg patterns and the fish later in the morning were hitting a small pink fly. Nice job bro!

root river spring steelhead (nice colors)

another nice root river steelhead
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Monday, April 4, 2011

reader submitted driftless trout report

Love your blog. Fished the driftless area this past week. Great outfitter, guide and time. I caught my first brown with my good friend Jim Tingey. You might like this video.


Fly Fishing from Todd Burleson on Vimeo.


Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences in the driftless area of Wisconsin. I appreciate the kind words and the thought. Congrats to you on your first brown trout and make sure to catch them in moderation, word on the street is that they can become quite addicting...!


Please send all reports, photos and videos to- illinoiswisconsinfishing@gmail.com
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Friday, April 1, 2011


friday storm system
I will be watching the flows constantly between now and tomorrow morning. Might be time to think of a back up plan?
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