Jay Ford Thurston

Jay Ford Thurston

If you are new to the Driftless Region, you may be wondering how do I find out about where to fish trout? There are a lot of streams here, but which ones are best for catching trout?

A friend of mine, Chris Young, from the Chicago Region often comes with his Trout Unlimited Chapter to fish our streams. And Chris told me, “Those who haven’t fished here before often drive around and look for empty vehicles along trout streams and that give them a clue on where to fish trout.” The only problem with that is, you are going to be fishing behind some anglers instead of in front of them. And that is not good. So bank that statistic and use it the next time you are in the area if no one is fishing the stream.

Trout Unlimited chapters is the largest conservation organization for habitat improvement for trout. Chris Young, was up here with his chapter, building lunker stuctures, with the Blackhawk Chapter of Wisconsin, on Hornby Hollow Creek. And when you are involved in increasing the habitat for trout you get a new appreciation on where to catch trout. And also, the dignity that trout have as they locate under a structure that you built. As you are holding that trout it is telling you, “Release me, I will be there to temp another angler to catch me.” As you open your hand and watch the trout swim back under the lunker structure. You smile with satisfaction.

Trout Unlimited has chapters all across the United States. They even have a chapter in Texas where there is only one stream with trout. Many of the Trout Unlimited Chapters have meetings every month.

Often at these meetings they have someone with knowledge about trout fishing to inform you on how to catch trout. Coulee Region Chapter recently had Matt Wagner, owner of the Driftless Angler, In Viroqua, speaking of how to tempt trout to hit on a fly during the cold winter months. In cold water trout aren’t going to hit a large fly. So Matt suggested using a small nymph fly that you could drag by the mouth of a trout. He suggested it is a fly the trout could take in the cold water of the early season.

I fish with a lot of fly fishermen and many of them give me some of their favorite flies to use. Some of those flies are small nymphs for the early season. Next year I will use them to catch trout in the cold months of January and February.

One of the places I have found some good information is at a tavern close to a good trout stream. The owner of the tavern has listened to a lot of anglers talking about catching big trout in the local stream. On a hot summer day, about 25 years ago, when I was fishing the Rush River, which I rate as the best trout stream in Wisconsin. I stopped at a small tavern south of El Paso, Wisconsin. The owner was an elderly guy and he asked me, “Are you trout fishing?”

“Yes,” I said. “But with the sun coming out it’s not very good right now.”

He looked at me and said, “Well, you know, with the Rush River being a great trout steam its fished heavy just about every day. And sure, I have fished it a great deal, but I didn’t catch my biggest brown in the Rush.”

So I thought, why not ask? “Where did you catch that big trout?”

“Just like today. It was an afternoon in August, when I was fishing a small stream that flows into the Rush. Nobody was fishing Lost Creek that time of year. And, I got on a very big trout from that little steam, it measured 26 inches.”

“Well, you know when we get the warm weather in July, some big trout do go upstream to cooler water. Maybe that is why you caught him in Lost Creek?

“Exactly right?” he said.

I was determined to fish Lost Creek that evening. I went back to the campground, and fixed an early meal. I had a detailed map of the Pierce County and knew exactly where the last road crossed Lost Creek above the Rush River. I parked next to the bridge and fished upstream. I managed to catch two trout of 13 inches. Then the sun went over the ridge as I approached a pool for the little stream. There was a big log that went across the middle of the stream and it looked like a good place for a big trout to live.

I cast my spinner so it would go under the log on the retrieve. The trout hit hard and took out line. Fortunately, the only place where he had cover was the big log that rested on the water. So I played him back and forth and he stirred up mud and the hole was getting difficult to see. As my wrist was getting sore the trout came up to the top of the water and I netter it. I measure him on my rod where I had a ruler to 24 inches. He filled my ruler. I held him in the water as he regained his strength, when I opened my hand he swam toward the big log.

So how do you find out about good trout streams to fish? Join Trout Unlimited. Or, go to the Driftless Angler in Viroqua and talk to Matt Wagner. He will tell you what fly is working best. Or, talk to the owner of a tavern near a good trout stream.

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

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