Nope, Not the Brule!

Each year part of my spring trout ritual is to explore.  Travel the back roads of Western Wisconsin trout country in search of the unknown, at least my own personal trout unknown. It is a pursuit, a quest, a connection. It is the chance to meet up with an old friend, shun responsibility, solve the world’s problems, be stupid and hope to catch a few trout.

IMG_4693The Driftless Area is a vast expanse of twisting gravel roads, snaking a million paths through the eroding limestone hills.  It is a region where rivers, streams and creeks spring fresh from the ground. Trout are abundant in “The Driftless” and understanding that we live on top of the largest concentrations of spring creeks in the world renders feelings of  good fortune and of responsibility. My gazetteer acts only as a guide to lure me off the main road. From there the roads I take are all by feel. GPS would only serve to distract me from finding my way. To look away from the roll and pitch of the land only to view the blue line on the little screen would disrespect the beauty beyond my windshield. It does not show me the eagle in the tree or the turkey in the field. It never points out the oldest oak in the county or allows me to find the cave opening where the fox lives. It does not see the deep pool under the slab bridge or the long run where lips of trout poke through the water’s surface. Being lost is a conscious decision. I never feel that way when I travel these roads. Quite the opposite in fact. After all, the compass in the truck can eventually lead me back to the Mississippi. I always know if I am East or West of the big river and to meet up with my friend Kurtis I just needed to get South before dark. Call me late but rarely am I lost.

IMG_4692As I zigged and zagged from Minnesota to Wisconsin crossing the Mississippi, water or ice was nearly always in view. South of La Crosse most of the ice gave way to clear flowing water. South the snow had mostly disappeared the week before. The trip down was not to fish, it was to explore. I left home 2 hours early specifically for that purpose. Maybe on the way back North and after fishing with Kurtis, I would fish a bit. My guess is that I have an addiction problem.


Green Cress Among All The Brown

I met up with Kurtis just before dark. There was the standard high fives and hugs, family chat and conversations about old friends. The motor home which would provide our shelter for the next 3 nights was parked. We headed off to sample the home cooking in town and to get a feel for the local watering holes for the night’s entertainment. The conversation would eventually turn to where we would fish the next day. I am the driver and Kurtis the navigator. I turn when and where he tells me. I never know where we are going until we get there. I am not exactly sure how he chooses where we will go but it makes no matter to me I know there will be fish there. This year it would be, take state highway X to county Road Y and then turn on Z street. Park at the bridge. We would both be amazed by what happened next.


Usually the pot of gold is found at the end of the rainbow. This year the rainbows would be in the pot of gold underneath the bridge and in the next two pools down stream. For two days we caught fish. Brooks, browns and rainbows. The treasure was the rainbows. A total of  9 with the smallest being 19″ and the largest just under 24″.  All in perfect condition. What are the chances?

IMG_4673Sometimes it is just dumb luck. Sometimes it is all skill. Sometimes it is fate. Sometimes it is choosing a different path.

IMG_4681Ya just never know.

IMG_4680This last one was my biggest. I was by myself. That is my 3 weight  Sage Z-axis. It was a hell of a fight. An instant after I snapped this picture that beast stood up, and with one flip of his tail swam back to his home. I’m glad he let me preserve the memory with no harm done. Thanks for picking the spot, navigator. I have been sworn to secrecy.