Trout group's volunteer, financial efforts crucial

Bob Riepenhoff, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The spring creeks of southwestern Wisconsin have a true friend in the Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

In recent years, according to Dave Fritz, past-president of the chapter, members have volunteered their labor and been instrumental in raising money that was combined with state and federal grants and private donations for these trout stream habitat improvement projects:

A $30,000 project done in 2002 on a one-mile stretch of the McPherson Creek, a tributary to the Platte River located near Ellenboro in Grant County.

"This is mainly a brown trout stream with a few brooks," said Fritz, of Montfort. "Right now, it's a Class 2 stream with some stocking and some natural reproduction. Our hope is that it will be Class 1 (with all natural reproduction) real soon."

Club members worked with employees of the Department of Natural Resources and the Grant County Conservation Department to install lunker structures - oak boards placed along the outside bends of streams to create overhanging cover; rip-rap - stream-side rocks used stabilize banks; and revetments - strategically-place logs that narrow and deepen the stream, increasing the flow.

A $35,000 project done in 2003 along a two-mile stretch of the Big Spring Creek on state-owned land north of Highland, off Highway Q, in Iowa County.

"That was a different project because it was designed to favor brook trout," Fritz said. "It's a naturally-reproducing brook trout stream. There are more strategically-placed rocks in the stream, so fish will hide under or up against those rocks."

Good works

A $40,000 project done last year on a two-mile stretch of the Blue River, north of Montfort on Highway I, in Iowa County.

In addition to lunker structures and rip-rap, Fritz said: "We installed cattle crossings because its a pasture. We're working with the landowner to tighten the stream, increase the flow and clean the gravel to improve natural reproduction."

The chapter also donated $2,500 for a summer intern to work with Chris Wright, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, to survey fish populations in the stretch before the project and after it is completed in October.

"Our long-term goal is to come back in another five years or so to evaluate how this is working," Fritz said.

One of the ways the 120-member chapter raises money for such projects its annual Spring Creek Fly Fishing Festival, a two-day festival focused on fly fishing for trout.

This year's event will run Saturday and next Sunday, Sept. 11 and 12, at the Kohout Campground on Castle Rock Creek on Highway Q, eleven miles north of Fennimore, in Grant County. The festival will run from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Saturday and will include demonstrations and instruction on fly casting, fly tying and bamboo rod making.

Fund-raising event

"The unique part about this event is, all the presenters are local guides and people that fish these streams regularly," Fritz said. "These spring creeks are such a unique fishing experience that people want to hear from the people who fish them."

Admission if free, although a $5 donation is suggested.

Also on Saturday, there will be food, a re-sale tent where club members donate fishing and fly-tying items for sale, plus raffles for fly fishing gear and guided fishing trips. Proceeds will be used by the chapter for trout habitat improvement projects.

Next Sunday, people will meet at the festival site at 10 a.m. for a car-pool tour of the Big Spring Creek and the Blue River habitat improvement projects.

"Fishing these streams can be tough," Fritz said of the southwestern Wisconsin spring creeks. "They're clear, flat, narrow and hard to cast to. You have to learn about them. But once you do, they'll get you. They're little gems that keep pulling you back."

Whether you're a hard-core fly fishing enthusiast, or someone who would like to become one, consider attending the Spring Creek Fly Fishing Festival. It's a great way to hone your fly fishing skills, while supporting trout habitat improvement at the same time.