Drifting In The Driftless

Drifting a nymph, a parachute adams, and stripping a hopper in the Driftless this past Sunday turned out to be one of the best trout producing trips I have ever taken.

About a week ago I received an email from another angler who frequently reports from south west Wisconsin. He let me know the wifey was out of town and he was going to be spending some time slinging flies. All summer I have been reading his reports while drooling all over my keyboard at his good fortune with the trout, so I gladly accepted his invitation. I didn’t even stop to check with the lady before accepting! That’s serious!

Saturday came and I ran all my required errands and tried to get home to bed so I could be up early. You know how it goes, it’s impossible to get a good night rest before a big fishing trip.  I think I got about two hours of shut eye before leaving my house at 12:45am Sunday morning. I met up with Jon and we parked the car streamside by 5:40am, just a bit before sunrise. The area was beautiful! There was a light fog over the land and every stretch was gorgeous.

Let me engage in a sidebar:
Hopefully I’m not the only one who thinks like this but I think I can probably relate to everyone when I say this. Whenever you’re fishing with another angler you’ve never met before there’s always uncertainties. ‘Is this guy going to be crazy and yell at me that I’m fishing wrong all day?’ ‘Is he going to be confrontational, awkward, nuts…etc?’ Ya know? Well I was glad Jon was a cool dude! It can change your entire day of fishing…and it was a great day!

Where was I…

Oh yeah…streamside with just enough time to set up the fly rods, and get geared up. Jon gave me a few pointers about the land and showed me a few examples of what he looks for. As this is all relatively new for me so I paid close attention to this advice. He put me on the first riffle and I casted a size 12 stonefly I had left over from my trips to Tennessee. Nymphs in general are my comfort zone and I noticed a lot of brown bugs all over the place so I kept my colors close.

Second cast, I saw the swirl, set the hook, but it was too late. Missed him. I stayed on the riffle for another 10 minutes partly to try for any other browns not spooked by the first commotion also I didn’t want to creep up too fast on Jon which was about 30 yards in front of me. 

Jon and I both moved spots inching our way downstream. I started finding I was missing strikes like crazy. I was missing 7 strikes before getting a solid hook set. Now let me say this…. I’ve been fishing for trash fish and bass all summer so my hook set was anything but delicate. (Needs some work) I was hook-setting like It was a 5lb bass taking a senko.

 I could tell you about every hole, but I won’t. There was 28 brown trout, 2 rainbows, and an ungodly amount of chubs landed. The chubs most of the time went sailing over my shoulder on the hook set…poor little guys.

One really cool event was my first good size brown on a dry fly (parachute adams). I tried non-stop in the Smokey Mountains but I couldn’t get anything on the dry fly. I’m hooked now…the catch on a dry is so much more fun than the typical nymph.

Blacks and browns in color selection were my best producers. Jons dad, who apparently is an amazing fly tyer, had tied my biggest producer similar to a prince nymph but with a brown body and a black bead head instead of the traditional gold.  

All in all I can’t believe the amount of trout that were visible in such a small stretch of water. My personal best was a rainbow tucked in the corner of a pool in the slack water next to the riffle. He was about 14 inches. Unfortunately I didn’t have a tape measure but I used my rod to size him up.

If you get the opportunity head to the Driftless you won’t be disappointed.  
Enjoy guys!


© 2012, BrookFieldAngler


  1. Justin Carfagnini9/11/2012 9:38 PM

    Thanks, for sharing this! I've been wanting to head up there, and have done a lot of research on the rivers/streams/creeks, but I am still hesitant. I am still contemplating going up there the weekend of the 21st....if my work schedule allows me to.

    Great pictures by the way! Beautiful trout! How long did you stay out fishing?

    1. Man make sure you go! You won't be disappointed. We hit it for 12 hours. 6-6.

    2. Justin Carfagnini9/12/2012 10:26 AM

      Nice!! That's a long day of fishing, but your pictures and report say that it was well worth it. I haven't decided which flow of water to hit yet. Decisions - Decisions - Decisions haha

  2. Nice post, Woz!! Congrats on the fish. I don't know if I'll be able to make the WI driftless season but I'm amped for the Iowa driftless in the winter

    1. Thanks man! I can't wait for the next excuse to get out there. Such a different element

  3. Sounds like a good time! Those are some nice fish. Good company always makes a fishing trip that much more enjoyable.

    1. Absolutely! Thanks yea It's always nice to have a new acquaintance work out so well! I have a great story of one that didn't but I'll save that story for another day haha

  4. Great pictures and sounds like a lovely trip. The Driftless if my favorite place to fish. I have always been on the Iowa side but here spectacular stories from the Wisconsin side.

    1. I think Iowa is going to be next on the list. Nick sounds amp'd up too so i just gotta trip his trigger so we can get out there.

  5. Brook
    What a great post you kept my attention throughout this read. I am glad you got to experience some takes on dries; they are always my start-off flies no matter where I am. True you cant beat the dry for awesome action, few have the kind of trip you just went on. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks Bill! Since then I've been tying more dry flys. I'm already itching to get back out there. Hopefully Iowa will produce just as well.


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