Impromptu Driftless Trip
At the last minute I decided on an impromptu trip up to the Driftless last week. My parents and my fathers cousins were camping on the Minnesota side and I decided what the heck, why not go as I had a few days and school hasn't really picked up yet. So I drove the 8 hours to camp with the family and fish for a few days.
My father fished a few streams prior to my arrival but didn't have any success or for that matter even see any trout. Sunday when I arrived, we fished a stream about an hour away from our campsite and saw a few tiny trout but weren't able to get any interested. Faced with limited knowledge of the streams in Minnesota and unable to find any great resources, people to talk to, a very limited time frame, and difficulty deciphering the Minnesota trout maps; monday we choose to head to Iowa side of the Driftless to fish streams we were already familiar with.
Monday morning we started out at Trout Run, just outside of Decorah. We fished for only about an hour or so before it began to rain and we decided to move on the French Creek--my favorite stream in the Driftless. However, I did manage one Brown on a Hare's Ear.
Brown Trout. Tungsten Bead Head Hares Ear.
Finding the French was a challenge, or rather, finding the particular segment of the French that I wanted to fish was a challenge. For those not familiar, the roads on the Iowa Trout Map are not marked, so its a bit of a guessing game. This is complicated during a storm with limited visibility. I was kicking myself for not marking it on my Garmin, a habit I will carry out diligently going forward. During our search, time ran out for my Dad and he had to head back home.
For months now, one of my goals has been to catch a Brown from the French. These fish are all wild and notoriously spookish, further the French is completely catch and release so some of these fish get to some size. Well I am happy to report I caught my French Creek Brown. Albeit in a severe downpour, though I would like to think that just lent to the epic nature of the hunt. He wasn't big, but I couldn't care less. He was a French Brown and I caught him. The segment I fished I wasn't familiar with, and was much narrower and further upstream from where I had last visited. When I left to find the another segment, I encountered several flooded roads, dared myself through some and turned around at others and eventually, though reluctantly, turned south to get out of the storm and find more peaceful waters.
I first went to the Paint, a rather large stream system east of the French but after walking it for an hour and seeing only one trout I decided to head back to Decorah as it was getting late, and I was very wet and tired. I returned to Trout Run for the remaining 20 minutes of daylight and was able to catch three average Rainbows on a Hares Ear.
An absolute downpour the entire time I fished the French.
Not a big guy, but I was very happy to catch him. French Brown. Lightning Bug Nymph.
One of the many flooded roads I encountered as a result of the storm. This one I did cross.
The next day I started by fishing two other streams I adore: the North Bear and Waterloo. I started on the North Bear which was running very clear with lots of fish visible and some that were quite large. In particular was a large, easily 4 lb+ Brown, guarding an underwater boulder from pesky Rainbows. However, no matter what I drifted, stripped, or taunted him with he neither moved for responded to my valiant efforts. Disappointed, I moved on and eventually caught two Rainbows on a Pine Squirrel Leech.
Rainbow on a Pine Squirrel Leech.
Another view of the North Bear.
While much more opaque than the French or North Bear, the Waterloo was still onerous to fish due to very low water. I was also nearing the end of my trip and this may have made me a bit impatient but I only caught one Brown while on the Waterloo. That aside it was a nice fish and the scenery is some of the best in the Driftless.
At times I need to remind myself that I am still in Iowa.
Nice Waterloo Brown. Hares Ear.
On the drive home I stopped at Twin Springs in Decorah and fished for a half hour catching five small Rainbows, on a pink soft hackle. I wish I would have used it earlier and am curious what the results would have been.
Pink Soft Hackle Fly.
Water was low and overall fishing was a tad slower than I would have liked, but I had a great time and am very lucky to have had this be my fourth trip to the Driftless in one year. Truly this is one of my favorite places to fish. In retrospect I wish I could have spent more time at the French and would have focused my angling a bit more on streamers as the trout seemed somewhat reluctant on nymphs and dry flies. That being said I had a lovely trip and cannot wait to come back.