First Trip to the Driftless by Jeff Hoffmann

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Jeff Hoffmann

I made it up to SW Wisconsin for my first trip of the 2013 Early Season on Saturday 3/9 and Sunday 3/10. Air temperatures reached 35-36 degrees both days, so not unbearably cold, but the constant rain and sleet made it feel more like a steelheading trip. I have one word for anyone thinking of heading up right now: layers.

Fishing Saturday morning was slow, but in the afternoon things picked up considerably. Water temp in the morning was 39 degrees and a bit over 40 in the afternoon, but I don’t think that was a big factor. I think it had more to do with where I was fishing. A venerable local fly recipe was just the trick (many of you can guess what it was). It was easy to drop nymphs right on trout heads, as the tiny splashes of flies hitting the surface blended with the rain drops, and the water was a bit stained to boot. Many beautiful browns to hand.

Went snowshoeing with the Missus Sunday morning, then set out to fish again around 1:30 p.m. (after losing an hour to the time change, dammit). Nearly killed myself on an iced-over gravel road only to discover blown out streams, then it really started to rain. Fortunately I knew of a stretch of water I thought would still be fishable despite the conditions. Judging by the many cars that came by the spot after I had already claimed it (including a certain Subaru three times), a number of other anglers had the same thought.

I couldn’t buy a bite at first, but then I decided to walk as far as other fishermen’s footsteps in the deep snow went, then start fishing upstream from there. Sure enough, the untouched water (I didn’t have to go that far, of course) was immediately productive, and this time a tiny crustaceous imitation caught all the trout I could manage out of the deeper holes. Water temperature 41 degrees. I saw little black stoneflies against the white snow around 4:00 and switched to a dark soft hackle that caught the largest fish of the trip. Also got a Brookie!

We were stunned by the flooding on the sides of the road driving home Monday down route 14. The weekend’s constant precipitation had finally slackened a bit after a snow storm Sunday night, but many fields and back yards already resembled lakes. Black Earth creek was completely out of its banks in places.

All in all a great trip, and so far I haven’t even come down with a cold from braving the elements. Should be a great year for fishing the Driftless!

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