Driftless Perspective

"This is a better fish!" he says as the hook set lifts the trout from the water.  I've learned to take fish size with a grain of salt as we wander the streams of the famous Driftless area.  The little trout was to be fair a bit bigger, but not really what I would call better.  I'm on the water with Tristan, author of the blog The Caddis Hypothesis and fishing manager at Orvis of Madison.  Getting a whirlwind tour of some of his favorite Driftless streams.  I am once again ill prepared for our trip.  I still never seem to have the right flies with me, and I'm sweating bullets due to an over analyzing of the mornings weather report.  It's currently 67 and sunny and I'm wearing neoprene waders, long underwear, and heavy wool boot socks.  Add to that the fact that I'm a moderate to heavy smoker and it's all I can due to keep up as we cover mile after mile of class A trout stream.
Another perfect cast to waiting brown trout.
     As we meander through countless riffles, pools, and undercut banks I get a lesson in trout habit, or lack of habitat.  "Did you know that the DNR projects a total disappearance of Brook Trout in the next 50 years?" he mentions, "That's the only native Salmonaide in WI and we might lose it before our grand kids get the chance to catch one."  The whole idea of losing a fish species in this state blew my mind.  Coming from a musky background all I am used to hearing about is how well the stocking programs are going.  That catch and release is affording many anglers the opportunity to catch a trophy fish.  Yet here we are on a beautiful little stream only an hour outside of Madison and I am being told that soon a native trout species might disappear from the end of our lines forever.  It still breaks my heart just thinking about it, want to know more click here.  However I'm not out here for brook trout, we are looking for wild browns.  
     Back at the car Tristan hits his maps and starts rattling off his suggestions for the next creek we should fish today.  Reeds, Hornsby Hollow, Bear, Springville, and many more I can't remember.  He is a walking encyclopedia of trout streams and information.  Best part is he doesn't even know it, so he is a pleasure to fish with.  Nothing is worse than fishing with a guy that "Knows Everything".  He makes casual recommendations on what fly to use and where I should make my cast.  Things that he believes will help ease the learning curve for a new trout angler such as myself, and it's helping.
     At the next stream we enter the water and go through that awkwardness that comes from both of us being anglers that mostly fish solo.  You know the who should cast new water first thing.  When I am guiding I don't fish so the client always gets the best shots.  When solo I just start fishing, oblivious to those around me.  Tristan kindly lets me cast into each pool first, once I snag or break my fly off in a tree (it's pretty technical casting) he moves up and catches the fish.  Why he isn't a guide I'll never know, but when he drops a fly in a riffle the fish pay attention.  Walking behind him as we move up stream he points out all the restoration that the local Trout Unlimited Chapter has done to improve the habitat.  Lunker bunkers, limestone embankments, and grading are being done on a phenomenal scale on creeks all over Wisconsin.  Shockingly, most of it is being done on the backs of an army of volunteers.  Anglers like you and me that want to see this resource survive.
     As of this writing I still haven't caught my wild brown trout.  However I am starting to get the hang of fly fishing, and my eyes have been opened up to a lot of great angling opportunities I didn't even know existed.  More so I guess I have been learning a lot more about fish habitat and the importance of observation when I get my chances on the water.  I'm pretty sure that soon enough I will catch my first wild brown trout.  Until then it's nice to know that people like Tristan and the folks at Trout Unlimited will be keeping tabs on the creeks, so that my grand kids will get a chance to catch one too.
Tristan with a beautiful Driftless brown trout.
     Tight Lines.




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