Lost in Wisconsin: The Southwest

BEEP! BEEP! Ugh it is 3:00 a.m. and it feels like I just climbed into bed. Wait, I did just climb into bed a few hours ago but no matter it is time to get up and moving. You see, I have this addiction that I have to feed no matter the cost. I am addicted to fly fishing and the never ending quest for bigger, secluded, and more beautiful. Today, we venture to Southwest Wisconsin in search of Browns, Rainbows, and Brooks. This area is known as Driftless and is great destination for those interested in chasing trout.

Last night, my brother and I looked over the maps and set up a game plan, packed the truck, and got all the filming equipment squared away. This is one of the rare occasions when I have Will along to film for me. We have to make this day count and count in a big way and after one last glance over the gear we roll out of the driveway and start our adventure.

Deer Hair Diver

I love getting lost in Southwest Wisconsin. The roads wind and twist through the hillsides of corn, beans, alfalfa and dairy farms. If I wasn’t driving my brother’s Jeep, I would accelerate through the twists and turns like a rollercoaster. These open roads could bring out the racecar driver in anyone and there’s not another soul in sight.

We roll through several quaint little towns that look like they are postcards from Mayberry [from the wayback machine] before arriving at our destination. It is absolute perfection! There is no one else on the water except us. We start our hike towards the water through the thick vegetation. I notice that it is a little bit higher and more stained than normal. I am hoping water like this equates to more aggressive Browns.

Casting a crayfish pattern, (oh yeah I said it a crayfish pattern), into a tailout of a pool, I strip the line and on the lift, Bam! Fish on and she was a beauty. First fish to hand in less than ten minutes on the water and I knew it was going to be a special day.

We wade further and further from any sign of civilization and out of the reach of grip of industrialization to the first big and fast riffle that tumbles over some large rocks. Ninja drifting the crayfish pattern through the faster water being conscious to ensure the path of the fly hits the pockets produces another Brown that is quite a bit smaller than the first but beautiful just the same. Another Brown released back into the water and our adventure continues into the depths of the forest.

Deer Hair Diver
Deer Hair Diver

Fishing tailout, pool, run, riffle becomes my song and I land many more Browns before coming to the point of crossing the stream to the other side. We have arrived to my favorite section of this particular stream which tends to produce bigger browns. This section started out with a bang. Back to back Browns over twelve inches from the same run but exhaustion starts to set in and I am catching more tree branches than Browns. I decide that we should skip up ahead and go fish the next really big pool which I still have nightmares from losing the biggest Rainbow I have ever had pull my line tight.

Hiking through Goldenrod and Stinging Nettle that towers over us, we arrive to the monster pool. I throw cast after cast trying to will that big Rainbow to come up and smash my fly again, but all for nothing. Wrapping my line around the weeds one too many times and losing my last crayfish pattern forces me to submit and hike upstream with my head hung low.

As it approaches midday, we skip up to the last run of the section. I begin drifting my black streamer next to the rock banks when a big Brown latches on to my fly and takes me for a ride. Right under a log she went and when I reached toward her with my net, she darts right past my feet, through the riffle and into a deep pool. Trying to get her up from the depths so I can net her dislodged the fly from her mouth and she disappeared back into the darkness of the pool. I was heartbroken.

As we head up the hillside toward the nearest road and begin the journey back to the truck, I reflect on the sixteen Browns landed in less than five hours. I can’t help replaying the fight I lost over and over in my head. I’m anticipating the next adventure when I am once again lost in Wisconsin.