Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Driftless Liaisons

On the Friday evening of April 11th my friend Kyle Schaefer and I traveled south like a glacier heading strait for the heart of the Driftless Area.  And unlike the glaciers before us we wouldn't be stopping at the the edge of the Driftless because we were intent on making our  mark.

We would finally get to meet our mutual friend Trapper in person who we both became acquainted with through the internet trout fishing forum DriftlessTroutAnglers.com.  Known as DTA for short Driftless Trout Anglers is like the wild west of internet trout fishing forums where the only rule is that there is no rules although you might ruffle a few feathers if you blow the lid off someone else's secret stream.

Arriving at Trapper's place shortly after dark it was really nice to finally meet the man behind the legend.  We talked about trout fishing and Trapper gave us some advice on where we should start fishing the next morning.  He also informed us of a good place to set up camp for the night.

I had talked with Kyle on the way down about what it would take for me to earn the nickname, "The Kickapoo Kid".  Trapper informed me that his cousin Rodger Widner held that nickname until he changed it to West Fork later in life.  It got me to thinking of what other Driftlessy sounding nicknames I could give myself and the best I have been able to come up with so far is, "The Tainter Creek Terror" or possibly the "Tainter Terror" for short.  I have yet to fish Tainter Creek but I already know what my nickname is going to be if I end up pulling a 30 inch Brown Trout from its depths.

I'm glad I have a quality sleeping bag because it got pretty cold in Kyle's tent early Saturday morning.  I remember waking up at some point and tightening the draw string of the mummy style bag around my face.  That allowed me a couple more hours of sleep and sometime around 6:30 we broke camp and set out to fish the first spot that Trapper told us about.

We decided to split up upon arriving at our first destination.  Here is a photo I took while walking to my section.

 The water held a slight stain but was definitely fishable.  Some would call it a perfect stain.
I decided to start out with a size 8 streamer that slightly resembled a Conehead Muddler.
 After dragging and popping it through this pool a couple of times I struck my first Driftless Gold.

Well actually Brown but Gold sounds cooler than Brown.
I caught another small Brown Trout on my little Muddlery looking streamer before becoming bored with it and switching to other streamers that didn't produce.  In my mind I think, "Well I have caught fish on this streamer, now I should see if any of the other streamers I have work to catch fish".

Once I caught up to Kyle he informed me that he had already caught 8 or 9 small to medium sized trout.  It was a good way to start the day.

We made a quick stop at another place that looked fishy and all I had to do to catch this small brown was dip my fly in the creek.   We were only there for a couple minutes when we saw lightening strike in the distance.   We decided to drive around for a bit until the rain stopped.
 With Trappers help and another short rain free window we found ourselves catching trout on another beautiful Driftless area stream.  The rain would soon start up again forcing us to make another plan.
 With all the red and green this map kind of reminds me of Christmas.
 Here is Kyle texting Trapper for our next set of coordinates.  Don't worry we were parked at the time of the texting.
 The next couple hours were spent driving around searching for water that was clear enough to fish.  Once we finally found clear water it was a little too clear and small for our liking so I suggested that we drive downstream to find the right mix of water clarity and stream size.  Upon arriving at our chosen location Kyle took off like a man on a mission.  I figured he was intent on creating some space between us so that we would both have a good stretch of water to ourselves.

It had been a long day and even though I had caught a few fish I had already been severely out fished by Kyle.  I wasn't too down about it though because fishing is one of the few things that can still be fun even when you are failing miserably at it.  I was pounding a nice run when all the sudden I saw Kyle coming back upstream looking out of breath and disheveled.  He was mumbling something about catching a 21 inch brown and he had photos on his cell phone to prove it.

Here are the photos Kyle took of his trophy as well as the photo of the olive colored streamer he tied that he caught it on.
Kyle brought me to the spot where he achieved Driftless Immortality and had no problem telling me what I had been doing wrong when I asked him for advice about improving my technique.  It turns out I wasn't pausing long enough between strips.  Here is a quick video of the "Schaefer Streamer Stripping Technique".

Our evening fish was cut short when hail started falling from the sky.  We made our way to Trappers where I was delighted to see friend and fellow trout blogger Dan Braun of Brauntrutta.com.  The evening was made even more enjoyable when Seth (aka BigRiverBum) and his girlfriend stopped by to join in on the trout fishing discussion.  Before we left for the night we made plans to fish with Dan and Trapper on Sunday.  Trapper instructed us to check a few different streams from the road in the morning to see what was blown and what wasn't.

To our utmost dismay every stream we checked was running about as brown as chocolate milk.

When we made it to Trappers we relayed what we had seen in our survey.  That's when Trapper decided to give Driftless Trout Fishing Icon Len Harris a call to see if he had any idea of what streams might be running clear.  When Trapper put Len on speakerphone for all of us to hear it was the first time I had heard Len's voice live but this guys been entertaining me with his stories and dazzling me with his stunning photos for years.  If trophy trout hunting in the Driftless was NFL Football I'm sure Len Harris would have more Superbowl Rings than anybody.  Always willing to help out his fellow anglers Len suggested a place or two that he thought might be worth a try.

We weren't in a huge hurry to start fishing so we decided to do a little bit of sightseeing in the Driftless.  We begged Trapper to guide us to the dam in Gays Mills where Len has posted so many photos of himself holding trophy Northern Pike.

I have known for a while that this bench existed but it was finally nice to see it for myself.
 The mighty Kickapoo River.

It was finally time to get fishing.  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

The End

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