Wednesday, August 31, 2011

8/26 - 8/30 Iowa Driftless Region "Backroads and Bluelines"

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Thursday had to be one of the longest days ever for me...the truck was loaded , Kevin was set to meet me after work and as if that wasn't enough a stack of mapquest directions lay atop my desk as a reminder of the upcoming journey. To say my mind wasn't on work this day would be simply stating the obvious. Somehow I managed to endure and with a little prodding I was headed out the door at four o'clock (two hours early) , hell it's not like I was being even remotely productive anyway. Kevin was sitting in the driveway when I pulled up , his gear piled high and waiting to fill what little remaining space was available in the truck. After a small setback , changing a tire in the drive , we were finally ready to hit the road and get this trip started. I'm not sure who was more anxious...me to get back up to Iowa and see if it was as good as I remembered or Kevin to see some new water for the first time. Honestly we were both as excited as a couple schoolgirls getting ready for their first prom , it's a wonder we got away without forgetting something important in our haste but somehow we did. The drive was uneventful , which is always a good thing , and we pulled into the campground in Highlandville sometime around 1:00 am. It had been a long day for both of us but once we arrived the excitement of finally being there kicked in and immediate sleep was out of the question. We decided to pop the tops on a couple cold ones and set up camp as best we could using the truck headlights for illumination. Once the tents were up we pulled out a couple chairs and sat streamside , listening to the gurgling waters running past our campsite while we discussed the next days plan....it's times like this that a guy can't help but think to himself "life is good...very good!"
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The next morning we were up and around at about 6:00 , anxious to get our first real glimpse of the waters that had been filling our dreams for the last few weeks , sleep is highly overrated anyway! With a stream not ten steps away from the front door of our tents it was an obvious choice where to start the day. I don't think it had been five minutes before I saw Kevin hooking up with his first Iowa trout and not long after that his second fish came to hand , not a bad way to start off the trip. After landing a few fish each we took a break to get officially checked into our campsite and finish setting up.
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The good folks at the Highlandville Store and Campground were very accomodating and made our five night stay quite enjoyable. Campgrounds with facilities are few and far between in this part of Iowa. Primitive camping is allowed around most streams but be warned that they do mean primitive , as in NO facilities at all. Definitely a far cry from Missouri where primitive camping just means you have to walk an extra 40 yards down a paved walkway to the showerhouse and bathroom. Don't get me wrong , I'm not complaining about this lack of modern campgrounds as it's undoubtedly what keeps the number of fishermen so low in the area. I mean really...how can a guy be expected to enjoy his camping experience without being able to pull the 40 foot motorhome up on a concrete pad and hook up the satellite dish? In all seriousness though , it was a nice campground with full facilities and a well stocked small mercantile store right onsite for things like ice ,charcoal or that twelve pack you need the last night of the trip because the beer coolers run dry. The atmosphere of the campground was almost like a small community , with many of the peole being retirees who spend several weeks at a time there multiple times throughout the year. Being the only store around, you could meet half the towns population in there each morning sitting around a small table having their coffee and discussing the previous days events. I have to admit it was a welcome change from some of the large campgrounds and rowdy crowds you encounter at many Missouri parks.
If you've never been to the area before the first thing you realize is that there's way more quality water than you're gonna be able to fish during your stay , and this rings true no matter how long you plan on being there. Between the state owned land and the stream easements allowed by private landowners the amount of fisheable water is simply staggering.
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For someone like myself who's always wondering what's around the next bend in the river it can lead to some serious hikes. Luckily for me Kevin's the kind of fisherman who can be content sitting in one spot and figuring out the fish as opposed to looking for greener pastures so to say.
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If he wasn't we might still be on the upper Waterloo , probably across the Minnesota border by now , still searching for fish around that next corner!
We spent four full days on the streams in the area , fishing the Waterloo..North Bear..South Bear..South Pine and French Creeks. The waters were extremely varied , we fished all types from fast running streams to large pools backed up by beaver dams. All of these streams have different trout species in them to target which keeps things interesting. You can choose between wild browns , wild brookies or stocked rainbows and brookies and a couple places have a mixture of the above fish. For me the real draw are the wild browns that inhabit most creeks in the area , you'd be hard pressed to find a prettier fish anywhere in my eyes.
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We managed to sample all the state has to offer , catching both wild browns and brook trout as well as stocked bows and brookies in the stream next to camp.
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If the size of a fish is your only measurement of how good a trip was then this region might not be the place for you. It's not that there aren't large fish around ,there are , but the waters are mostly small which dictates the size of the fish to a certain extent. The fact that these are native streambred fish living in a beautiful setting trumps size for me. I've caught my share of big tailwater browns on the White river system and loved catching every one of em, but I'm at a point in my fishing where I'd take a day of catching small wild browns on a pristine stream over trophy browns on a crowded tailwater any day of the week.
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Needless to say this is my kind of place and I can't wait to make it back. Before the weekend was over we'd traveled countless miles of gravel roads and hiked numerous sections of streams in search of wild trout and been very successful in doing so. Add to that mix some good eats , copious amounts of cold beer and a good friend to share the whole experience with and you end up with one hell of a time.
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I could go on and on about the beautiful fish and scenic countryside dotted with classic spring creeks but as they say.."A pictures worth a thousand words" , and when you write like I do that may be an understatement. I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story , I think they do a better job of it than I ever could.....hope you enjoy.
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13 comments:

  1. I've never fished iowa, but it looks just like many of the places i fish up here in wisconsin, beautiful trout and water!

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  2. Sounds like a GREAT trip!
    I'm closer to it than you are, but have only fished the area ONCE! I hope to do it again very soon. I might pick your brain as to where the brookies are. That species is still on my "to do" list.

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  3. Good Stuff my friend!
    The next trip is just around the bend.
    work sucks!

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  4. Awesome! There is something really unique about fishing those streams. It looks like the time on the water was as fun as the time spent with a good friend. Glad you were able to escape to the driftless.

    The pictures say it all...Cheers!

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  5. Blake - I'm jealous...wish I had that water in my backyard!!

    FishnDave - You need to get back up there!! Let me know I'd be happy to give you some stream info before you head out.

    Kevin- I'm ready to go right now!!

    Sanders - Thanks , it was just a great trip all the way around. Beautiful scenery..wild fish..and good friends , that works for me!!

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  6. Nice post. Great pics- they tell the story on their own. Looks like a pretty neat place to get lost.

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  7. Oh heck yah. Those are some great pics. I was waiting to hear how the trip went and it looks like it was one hell of a time. I love all the gravel roads and fishable water down there. Nice pics and fish. I fish all of those creeks when winter hits and now you got me excited to see the snow start to fall. Thanks for sharing. Tight Lines.

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  8. HighPlainsFlyFisherSeptember 1, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    Jay - Thanks...It's a pretty cool area to spend some time in for sure. Definitely isn't the stereotypical Iowa that most folks think of when they think about the state.

    Trout Magee - Thanks man! I bought a yearly license and plan to be back up that way before the years over. Maybe we could plan it right and hit the water together...I'll bring the beer.

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  9. Great trip and great pics. Trout in Iowa, who'da thunk it?

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  10. HighPlainsFlyFisherSeptember 2, 2011 at 6:32 AM

    Richard - You're exactly right , not many people associate the two together. That's part of what makes it such a special place. Thanks for reading...Jeff

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  11. With mapquest maps you're lucky to have found it and made back alive!

    Looks good, the more I read about that area (and even better - seeing these pictures) the more I know I'll have to take a week to go up there and poke around someday.

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  12. RS Breth - If you have the chance I'd definitely recommend making the trip , it's a beautiful area with some great fishing opportunities. Let me know if you plan something and need any info....Jeff

    Riverwalker34 - Thanks for the comments , glad you enjoyed the post....Jeff

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