Jay Ford Thurston

Jay Ford Thurston

When I decide to fish a new area I always want to know where I will enter the steam and where I will exit the steam. And, sometimes I carry a compass along to use on my way back to the pickup.

We do have some areas where the stream goes through a forest and when I finish fishing I want to be sure I know where I am at. Because if the stream makes a sudden turn, and the sun isn’t out, you could walk a long ways to get back to your pick-up. One of those places is Rush Creek in Crawford County. I would often go into the woods and meet the creek about where it made a turn from going north to going west. And, without a compass on a cloudy day, it would be easy to miss where I wanted to fish back upstream. That is still a remote area and if I fished it today It would be with a compass.

Another place where I took a compass was along Weister Creek. After fishing for three hours I needed a compass to tell me where I should quit walking along the side of a corn field and cross the creek to fine my pick-up. This area has had habitat improvement and the trees are gone. And I was told, “A hiking path will be along the creek.” So a compass is no longer needed because I could see my pick-up when I quit fishing.

When we lived in northern Wisconsin I always had a compass along. I fished up the East Fork of the Flag River and then I fished up the West Fork of the river. When I decided I would cut across through the woods to fish the East Fork. I kept walking and finally I was heading north and came out where the two stream split. I sat down for a break and knew it was a lot further than I expected between the two steams. So the next time I was fishing there I had a map with me and I knew the West Fork make a great move the left and I could not walk between the two streams. So if you are in a remote area be sure you have a map of the creek along to guide you.

When I was in high school Dad and I fished the Little Roche a-Cri Creek in Adams County. I decided to fish up steam while my Dad fished downstream. Dad told me, “Now when you want to head down the creek to find me. Be sure you can see the creek all the way back down until you find me. I don’t want you to get lost.

So that is what I did after I caught five nice brook trout. And from then on I knew I could fish alone as long as I knew where the creek was flowing.

I worked for the forest service in Montana when I was a sophomore in college. And one evening, during a thunderstorm, a forest tower lookout called in a lighting strike. The forest ranger asked me and another man to check it out and see if the strike caused a fire. So there we were after dark, with a back pack on, heading up a trail in the forest toward the tree that was hit by lightning. After walking for an hour I told the young man that I was going to go down in the valley, and walk along a trout stream, and see if I could smell any smoke. And, I would call to him every 15 minutes to be sure we were both going in the correct direction. I knew he was a little worried about walking in the woods, where he might run into a bear or a moose, looking for a lightning strike. So it was up to me to see if the smoke settled into the valley. After an hour of that experienced I came back to the trail and told the other guy that I could not smell any smoke so I was sure the fire was out.

The next morning I told the forest ranger what we had done. And, he said, “That was a smart thing to do, to walk down in the valley, because the smoke will settled down in the evening.”

Another fisherman and I were fishing a small steam that flows into Tainter Creek. We came to a spruce tree near the bank of the river and there was a bed for an animal under the tree. I told the other fisherman that it looks like two deer must have beaded down together. The next time I saw Bruce Ristow I asked him if a bear was around the upper Tainter Creek? “Oh yes,” he said, “A bear was seen up there recently.” A bear doesn’t leave tracks like a deer does. They have padded feet. And, they only leave tracks in the soft mud by a trout steam.

But as long as you are making some noise you will scare a bear away. The only time you don’t want to meet a bear is when it has two or three cubs along. I was about to fish in the Flambeau River State Forest. I was walking down an old logging trail toward the river when I saw a black bear stand up and look at me. I quit walking and watched as she chased her three cubs up a pine tree next to the trail. I decided she could have it her way and I left to fish another creek. Never get between a bear and her cubs.

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Jay Ford Thurston is the Broadcaster’s trout fishing columnist. He can be contacted at trout@mwt.net.


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