In the “Driftless” area of Southwestern Wisconsin are incredibly beautiful terrain features caused by the glaciers in the last Ice Age. These moraines are 200-300 feet high and covered with green forests. Below in the valleys flow bubbling creeks, meandering through the meadows filled with wild flowers, white, yellow, pink and purples. Grazing along the creeks are herds of dairy cattle and sheep.
The creeks are full of native brook and brown trout, hiding under the banks and in the riffles, waiting for insects to land in the streams.
Annually I travel with a friend to fish these spring creeks with names like, Timber Coulee, Elk Creek and the Kickapoo River, named after Native Americans who first lived in the region. It is difficult fishing because of the high grass and brush along the creeks and the ease with which the fish can see an angler unless very careful. In the spring and fall there are hatches of insects that tell an angler what fly pattern to tie on the fly-line. In late summer the grasshoppers are the quarry for fish and fly for a fly fisherman. If there is a hatch going on a dry or surface fly can be used. Otherwise a wet fly or nymph is the bait.
It is the beauty of God’s creation, the valleys, skies and trout that attract me. As well, the slowed pace, typified by the Amish horse-drawn carriages and plows reflect a simpler and less frenetic time. There is a peacefulness of God that brings a spirit of restfulness to this pilgrimage.
Along the creeks, flowing from underground artesian springs is watercress and mint fresh for the munching and bringing back home for salads.
My 8’6” graphite 4-weight fly rod allows me to reach hidden and brush ensconced pools. I must cast up to 100 feet to reach a pool or riffle without the fish seeing me. This is accomplished by stripping line off my fly reel a little at a time while keeping the line aloft above me. This is a skill developed over decades of trial and teaching from my much more skilled sons who moved to Montana to be in the middle of the best fishing and hunting in the country. If you have seen the movie A River Runs Through It you will have seen a stunt man for Brad Pitt demonstrate perfect casting like my sons.
This spring our trip was punctuated by gorgeous sunny weather with enough morning overcast to keep the fish from easily seeing us. The fishing was difficult as there were few hatches. I was able to land several browns and brookies ranging in size between 10 and 15 inches. However, it was the 20-inch brown that got off that will create legend and story-telling opportunity.
We will return next year to find the big brown and worship the God of creation in His magnificent valleys and hills and spring creeks.