There is nothing better during the dog days of summer than to grab a rod and head off to your favorite stream in pursuit of Trout. Although I would much prefer to be in some of the high mountain streams in Montana, I do fairly well on my trips to the Driftless area of Wisconsin and some of the small creeks there. There are some things I have learned in other areas that serve me well whenever I am in pursuit of the tasty Trout of summer!
Remember that trout like cooler water and the hot summer sun can warm up a shallow stream to the point where the Trout may get a bit stressed out. The warmer water and anglers mucking up the stream can really do a number on the fishing. Trout prefer water temperatures of between 50 65 degrees (depending on the type of Trout as well) so you may think about fishing at higher elevations after a period of very high Temperatures. The streams at higher elevations may be a bit smaller but hey will also be a bit cooler as well. If you are fishing in an area that doesn’t vary much in altitude try and think like a Trout, where would you find the cooler water? Look for deep pools and holes in the bottom that may be a bit cooler than the shallower areas. Keep a thermometer in your vest for just such an occasion.
Time of day is also very important in pursuit of summer Trout. Not only is it a bit cooler during daybreak and dusk but also the fish tend to feed more voraciously at these times. So, if a nice vacation of sleeping in with breakfast in bed at your favorite bed and breakfast, forget it, you are here to fish! Think about what kinds of food the trout may be eating and then figure out what time of the morning these little Trout tasty treats are fluttering or hopping about. This plays out in the last hour of sunlight as well and is my personal favorite time to fish. Yeah, I am the guy that likes to sleep late! But if you get the chance to stand on the bank or wade a shallow pool when the Trout are rising to feed on a recently hatched insect population, I guarantee you that it is something you will never forget.
So what have we learned about summer Trout fishing? The key is to look for cooler water! Remember that you are not immune to the effects of the sun either and should take necessary precautions yourself, this means drink plenty of water and use an appropriate sun block, and for those of us who have grown just a tad taller than their hair, a cap and a high SPF lotion for our heads as well. You should also consider using the cool water as a climate control system as well; cool water and thin waders can keep you at optimum temps or even a pair of shorts and old sneakers will do if you don’t think hypothermia will kick in. Finally, a light shirt and breathable vest and you are ready for a summer Trout adventure.
This is time of year that I love! Turkey Season is in full swing, the weather is amazing in most parts of the country, and with the warmer temperatures, lots of little critters are beginning to hatch and provide food for the elusive trout. This is also the time of year I travel up to Southwestern Wisconsin, from my home in Miami, and visit my good friends and enjoy a combination trip of hunting Wild Turkey and wading Tainter Creek for Trout. Lets not forget to mention great company and home cooked meals. I am so fortunate to have a good friend who not only has a fair amount of Wild Turkey on his land, but a gold medal Trout stream, Tainter Creek, meandering right through his property as well.
Many of the streams I fish are located in what is known as the Driftless area and although this area extends into certain regions of the states adjoining Wisconsin, it is primarily located in the Southwestern region of Wisconsin. It is known for the river valleys incredible prairies and just about every other type of vista you could imagine, a glimpse of what this area was like before the glacial period. This area is what has incorrectly become known as Coulee Country, generally meaning high hilled valleys with many streams running through them. I love coming to this area, as even if I go home empty handed, (which I’ve never done!) it is just such a beautiful area to visit and accessible to so many hunters and anglers throughout the Midwest. This area gets a lot of weekend fly fisherman from the Chicago area, as well as Minnesota and Iowa. Although there are a great many very accomplished guides and outfitters for trout fishing the Driftless area, it is also a place you can explore on your own.
I enjoy exploring Tainter Creek for trout, it is a considerable long stream located in Crawford County near the city of Vernon. It’s important to know the regulations in this area as parts of many of these creeks and streams traverse public land and others go through private land. The Wisconsin DNR has done a fantastic job of improving the habitat and has worked well with land owners to put into place various features such as specific plant growth and soil management techniques along with what is known as “Lunker Structures,” which are simply long boards similar to a pallet which create shade and are an excellent habitat for trout.
The Brown Trout reigns supreme in this area and is actually an imported species brought to the United States from Germany as this species was most adaptable to the warmer waters and reduced oxygen levels. This fish averages about 12 to 18 inches but on occasion can reach up to 26 inches! The other abundant species is the Brook Trout which need more oxygenated waters and colder streams to live. On ultra-light tackle both these fish are amazing fighters. Look for Brook trout more towards the headwaters of the streams where conditions might provide a colder more oxygen rich habitat.
Now that you have arrived at a stream with potential, don’t hesitate to scout the area, but do so stealthfully, remember that these fish will be found primarily in shaded areas such and the deep pockets found where the moving shallower water drops into deeper pockets. It is vitally important that you use a good pair of polarized sunglasses, not only for protection from the sun but to better be able to see your quarry as well.
The tactics for success when fishing this area are relatively simple and similar to many other fine trout streams in the Driftless area, but we can go over some basics anyway. If fishing with dry flies for trout, cast upstream just above those pockets we have previously mentioned, or where you have seen fish rising and allow the fly to be carried downstream. Keep the slack out of the line to be able to strike if your fly is picked up. Remember that dry flies are imitating the grown up version of the insect, if you choose to fish nymphs you are imitating the underwater life stage, the larval stage of the insect to be more precise. This is the basic difference between fishing dry flies and nymphs. If fishing nymphs, fish downstream, let it sink and allow the moving nature of the stream to carry the fly downstream. If you are proficient casting with your fly rod, try to work the areas where fish is likely to lay in wait, such as Lunker structures and the areas carved out under the banks by the moving water. If you are a spin casting kind or person, then light line and spinners will work well, and to be honest, before I was taught to fly fish this was how I caught many Brown trout in the Driftless area of Wisconsin on Tainter Creek.
The bottom line here is that the Driftless area of Wisconsin not only holds a healthy population of Trout, but is an incredible trip filled with scenic vistas, a variety of wildlife and some of the nicest folks you could ever meet. If you’re coming up for some trout fishing from Chicago or other parts that this region draws, it might be advisable for your first trip to hire a guide when Trout fishing the Driftless area, as these outfitters and guides can save you a lot of time and energy and make this tip one you will remember for years.