Tuesday, May 21, 2013

5/15 - 5/18 Road Tripping with Joe...Driftless Adventure (Part 1)

I was in desperate need of a real fishing trip , you know the type , one where you pack up the vehicle and leave all of your day to day problems in the rear view mirror for a few days. I'd been trying to make a Spring trip up to the Driftless for the last couple years but something always seemed to come up , so this year when a five day stretch presented itself with nothing on the calendar, plans were made. I've made the journey North to fish the "Driftless Area" for the past four years now and it's quickly become one of my favorite destinations to spend a few days off the grid chasing small wild trout.
A couple of weeks before the trip I threw out a couple of invitations to see if anyone had any interest in joining me , while the interest was there the logistics just didn't work out this trip. No problem...my favorite fishing partner is always ready to take off on a trip , he's the only one I know who never seems to have anything better to do than hop in the truck and go fishing (other than myself).
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Wednesday morning we headed out before the sun made an appearance , passing through downtown KC just as the city was waking up and smelling the coffee on another hump-day.
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It was a good feeling knowing that as everyone else filtered into the city for another work day I was making my way out of the concrete jungle headed for a town with two stop signs and a population of about twenty-five. The perfect escape....
We pulled into the campground just shortly after noon and quickly got checked in and started setting up camp. After the eight hour drive it felt good just to be on my feet and doing something. Camp setup was quick and painless and by the time it was finished up we had worked up an appetite. A quick sandwich and an ice cold barley pop to wash it down with and I was feeling almost human again. With the work detail out of the way there was nothing left to do but start enjoying the weekend , I popped the top off another cold one and plopped my backside down in a chair not ten feet from the stream outside of my tent door. Joe was already in his "happy place" , rolling around on the lush green grass with a look on his face like life couldn't be any better.
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I knocked the frost off a couple more while rigging up the rods and getting the gear ready and then decided it was high time to hit the water and see if any of the locals wanted to play.
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We didn't want to venture too far away after the long road trip so we headed over to one of the streams within five miles of camp to spend the rest of the afternoon. Having only been up in this area during late August or September I was amazed at how much more accessible the streams were this time of year. The same areas that were normally weed choked and almost impenetrable by late summer were wide open now.
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At first thought this seemed like a godsend , until I got streamside and realized that those wary little wild trout in that crystal clear water now had a much better vantage point to see you coming. It was still a good tradeoff though , you had to be a little more careful when approaching a pool holding fish but at least it didn't require a can of bug spray and a machete just to get there.
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During my trip up last August these creeks were feeling the effects of the ongoing drought just like everywhere else in the midwest so I was glad to see them running full again. Some of them are only two sidewalk widths wide under normal conditions so you can just imagine what they looked like on a dry year. It didn't take much time to be rewarded for the long drive as the first wild driftless brown came to hand.
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On average these fish aren't big , I like to think that they're sized just right for the small creeks they call home , but what they lack in size they make up for in beauty and attitude. I just never get tired of looking at those butter colored bodies covered in detail with even more brilliant black and red spots.
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Joe and I hiked about a mile or so of stream and caught numerous browns and even a brookie or two before deciding to call it a day and head back to camp for the evening.
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It'd been a long day already and the thought of dinner and a relaxing evening sitting around a fire with a beverage or two was sounding pretty good about now.
With a couple hours of daylight still left I got the evenings meal started on the grill and then kicked back and watched the water meander by in front of camp.
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Something about pitching a tent on moving water just can't be beat , the relaxing sounds of the creek and it's inhabitants seem to surround you and make you forget about all of the annoying sounds you left behind ,like cell phones and television and bitchy people! After a good dinner we settled back around the fire for an hour or so and watched the stars begin to make an appearance in the evening sky , not a bad start to the trip...not too bad at all.
Thursday I woke up early after a long peaceful nights rest , man if I had a creek outside my bedroom window my sleeping problems would be over! The sun was still trying to work it's way over the surrounding hills and mother nature was waking up with all of her usual brilliance as we crawled out of the tent .
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After listening to the creek all night I decided to grab a rod and take a walk upstream and see if we couldn't catch a fish or two before cooking up some breakfast. Joe and I crossed right in front of the tent and made our way up to a pool that has been good to me in previous years. Thankfully some things never change and I was into a nice little brookie on my second or third cast. In the half hour fished before we headed back to camp I caught a couple of brookies , a few rainbows and a small brown. I really think every day should be required to start off this way!!
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For breakfast I whipped up a quick sandwich that would put Mickey D's out of the breakfast business if it ever hit the market and then we loaded up the truck and headed out to spend the day at one of my favorite waters in the area.
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It was a sunny , warm day with temps supposed to top out in the middle 80's later that afternoon. While I started off the day in a pair of waist high waders , after lunch I took the opportunity to do the first wet wading of the year and man was it enjoyable.
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Something about the feeling of cool , clear water on your legs just makes it all that much more enjoyable. This particular stream is one of the better catch and release waters in the state and I always enjoy fishing it.
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With the easier access due to the missing bankside vegetation we were able to hit a few new spots and see some different water that I hadn't fished before. The fish were cooperating nicely again today , the fly of choice seeming to be a caddis pupa imitation that I like to tie.
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Surprisingly I saw very little topwater action , with the warm sunny day I half expected to see some good caddis hatches and fish rising to the feast. I fished a small (size #12) stimi as the point fly for awhile with the pupa as a dropper and managed to pick up a couple of fish on the dry but the real action was obviously happening on the bottom of the stream. There are numerous access points on this creek and we spent the majority of the day exploring them all at a leisurely pace. A few of my old favorites were good to us again on this day but a couple of the new spots we found may just make their way to the top of the list after this trip.
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I think we encountered two other fishermen during our days travels , meaning we saw a car in the parking lot , I never walked past another person on the stream all day. Just one of the many things I love about this area compared to the often more crowded Ozark waters I frequent. We headed back to camp about 6:00 , hot and a little tired but feeling totally satisfied after a great day of fishing. The remainder of the evening consisted of the standard fare...a good meal ,a little hair of the dog and a big campfire to sit around while gazing up at the stars.
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Tell me whats not to like about that??

Part 2 coming soon.........


  1. I now officially hate you, and will remain anonymous. Joe is still cool though! The driftless is on my next fall wish list.

    1. All of my closest friends hate me , I just have that kind of endearing personality!
      I'm not naieve , I know Joe's the real star of this show...

  2. Ain't nothin' not to like about that. I got a taste of the driftless a few years ago when I lived in the midwest. You make me miss it all over again. Great trip tale, eager for part 2.

    1. Thanks Jim...It is some beautiful country up there , I wish I had those kind of small creeks running through my backyard.

  3. Nice to see two buddies enjoying what nature provides.
    The fish and food are awesome.

    1. Thanks Alan...You summed it up quite nicely , just a couple of buddies having a good time.

  4. i enjoyed reading what you enjoyed writing and taking pictures of. thanks!!

    1. No problem Sir , it was my pleasure...really.
      I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

  5. Hey Jeff, can I borrow Joe for a trip. He's better company than my bubby, the non-fishing dog. This looks like a wonderful trip and enough to get my juices flowing. Thanks for the great post.

  6. Howard...I have a feeling you and Joe would get along great , feel free to stop by and pick him up anytime.
    My pleasure Sir.

  7. sweet, solo trips are always fantastic and good for the mind. And you dont have to share the water with anyone else! that dog of yours sure has the good life.

  8. Excellent post! I cannot wait for my first trip up there. Hopefully, I can make it out there next week. You're making me feel like bad that I haven't gone there, yet. It's only a 3 hr drive for me.

    Thanks for sharing all of the awesome pictures! Especially, what you cook up...making me hungry!

    1. Thanks Justin. If it was only three hours I'd be there every other weekend! It really is well worth the trip.

  9. Driftless here I come. You post is just what I needed to make my blood boil with excitement for my Sunday departure to the Minnesota area. Your photos are the best and I am tying up your wet fly pattern. I could really use Joe as you say, it is hard to find a companion that matches your schedule.

    1. Have a great trip! Glad I could get you ready with a little preview of what you might see. Joe is definitely my most reliable partner.

  10. Yeah baby! Awesome post! Love to read about the entire experience. Beautiful fish! Joe is always a delight to watch! Your caddis pupa nymph looks like a solid pattern! Good eats, good brew, fly fishin with your buddy and catchin beautiful browns....only missing one thing! Great post!

    1. Thanks man....It is always one of my favorite trips ,just a great area. That nymph pattern always does me right.

  11. You are making me jealous reading this. I am hoping to get up there myself next month! Definitely is one of my favorite places to fish, and the serenity of not having to compete with other anglers is a huge plus. One question, when I go up there I have always stayed at a hotel, but this time I was wanting to camp. Where do you camp at?

    1. It's a hard place to beat , even if it is a little bit of a trip.
      I'll drop you an e-mail with the camping info soon as I get a chance.

    2. Thanks Jeff I appreciate that!