December 06, 2016

Are You Hungry Now?

hamburger and ground pork with regular rotel 4 jumbo eggs and prego Italian bread crumbs.

Butternut squash

smashed potatoes

December 05, 2016

Christmas Past

I was looking at Christmas Past photos this morning. It made me a little sad. Anna told me that she helped put up a Christmas tree at her boyfriend's house. She had no interest in helping Mom putting up ours. I guess 20 years old must be the age that little girls are fully grown up.


The first snow of the year came yesterday. Barb went out and enjoyed her new passion.  She hikes a lot these days.  The snow gives the world a clean and new feeling.  You can see and feel it in her photos.

I am really glad she has found a winter hobby.  She use to dread winter. 

Her photography skills are growing also.

First Snow Of The Season

 First snow of the year.
City of Richland Center blanketed in the first snow of the season.

December 04, 2016

Seasons On The Stream

Wisconsin small stream trout season opens the first Saturday of January yearly now.  It is an artificial only and catch and release only season through to the first Saturday in May. The May season opens to some harvest and use of live bait.  You must check the complex regulations these days to make sure you are legal.  That season ends on October 15th.

 Late summer view of hole. Vegetation high.

A well prepared angler varies their approaches to fishing with the seasons.  Trout hold in differing areas during different times of the year.  Some of the reasons for the differences is energy consumption and a gambit of other seasonal causes.

This angler was wading a little too aggressively and more than likely spooked the entire hole.

Alpha trout or the biggest will be at the head of the feed lane.  It may be in the fast broken water.  Subordinates or smaller trout will be all over hole, but not close to alpha. Cast into top most part of fast funnel. The alpha will be waiting part way down the skinny feed funnel. It is  best to hit fast water with your lure to hide the splash. When wading, wake control a large factor here. A wake sent upstream in a waterway is very unnatural. It is like shouting danger to the trout.  Stay out of water if you can.  Make your first cast count or you will get only small ones in this hole.

 A spring side view of the head of the hole.

With no weeds in the water and no leaves on the trees the trout feel exposed during winter fishing and are even more shy.

Bigger trout from the area are wintering at the bottom of the slow water near the fast water.  Not in fast water.  It requires too much energy spent to hold in fast water in cold water conditions.   Subordinate or smaller trout are chased out of the hole by bigger trout. It is best to hit the fast water to hide the splash. Cast into the  top of the feed funnel and make a slow retrieve so the presentation will get down to trout sitting on bottom just back from the end of the fast water. Use a larger fly/lure because trout prefer steak over salad during cold water conditions. Make sure to cast upstream a ways so you are not slapping the fly/lure right down on top of their heads.

 Trout are extra wary on sunny no vegetation winter outing. There are no leaves on the trees so more sunlight gets to the bottom and magnifies the trout's wariness. Trout have no eyelids and are hypersensitive to sun.  Don't slap the hole with line when casting.  Stay out of the water when attacking the hole. It will be a one fish "only" hole due to water clarity and zero vegetation in hole.  Any smart fish will spook when one is battled and drug through this clear non-vegetated hole.

This advice can be ignored when targeting brook trout.  They lack the savvy and instinctual wiles of a brown trout.  I have caught 30 brookies in one hole without stepping forward or back.

December 02, 2016

Keys To The Castle

I have fished for trout in my home waters for fifty-five years. The places I call home are the waters of the Wisconsin driftless area. Trout are my favorite species to chase. The trout of my waters have fluctuated over my more than a half century of fishing. Trout are instinctual creatures.  The big wily brown trout are my quarry.  They are portrayed as superior entities when in fact they have a brain the size of a pea. Do you want the keys to the castle?

I have seen many trends and fads come and go in the trout world.  This fancy rod and that special fly have cycled through a dozen times in my lifetime. Anglers come and go and so do the latest new fangled trends.  The constants in the trout world are the seasons and good old Mother Nature.  If you want a real leg up on those trout you should pay attention to the seasons and the changes they cause in the trout’s environment.

The weather in Wisconsin can be a harsh mistress.  The extremes are the norm here.  We could have twenty inches of snow on the ground and below zero temperatures and what seems like a blink of the eye in Wisconsin it changes.  The snow could melt and the next time you go fishing it could be radically different.  You need to roll with the seasonal changes and modify the way you fish and where you fish.


This frigid morning in January was shaping up to be a “skunk” outing.  My friend was cold and told me he had enough and wanted to head back to the vehicle.  I talked him out of heading back.  We had taken the stream temperatures earlier and we hadn’t found a one reading over thirty-six degrees.

The outdoor temperature was twenty-six degrees and not looking like it was going to warm up.  I had scouted this area prior and our fishing was going to get better I told him.

Do you see the log laying on the right side of the stream?  Just on the other side of the log is a tiny trickle feeding in.  This trickle is a tiny spring.  Springs run year round here at about forty-two degrees constant.  Where that spring fed in caused a six degree temperature swing just downstream.  That little trickle made the stream bearable for the trout.

 I have found many trickles during the early season when the grass is down that I cannot see even a month later due to weed growth.  It was like the Bahamas in that halo of the spring.  We caught seven trout in that tiny spot. Many feeders are not easily found during the summer.  They are covered up by weeds.  You can only discover them when the weeds are down in winter or early spring. I emphasize the word trickle here because they may be tiny and you will miss them if you are not looking for them.

My friend Andy and I fished this exact hole in September.  We both caught four trout each in this bend in September.  We couldn’t buy a bite in March.  What was different now?  First off the water temperatures were in the sixties in September and in the middle thirties in March. Trout lay in different areas during cold and warm conditions. 

 In Wisconsin winters the trout are in survival mode.  They need to find good lays where they don’t have to expend too much energy to hold in place and wait for food. The calories required to hold in place in this cold fast water is a negative formula for calories gained. This shallow fast current hole is great when the water temperatures are in the sixties and the trout can hide in the broken fast water.  In thirty degree water this holding place has no one home.  I would look for the deepest water either direction for two hundred yards.  This is where the trout would winter.

One picture says a thousand words.  It was twenty degrees below out this day. The water temperature at this spring head tells the tale. It measured at forty degrees.  I like to call these Bahamas causing the water temperatures to fluctuate. A thermometer is a must to get a leg up on these instinctual creatures. This spring is a glaring thermal. 

 Many anglers discount some thermals because they are not so obvious.  A swamp is nothing more than a spring spreading out and they have the same properties as a small stream emptying into a larger waterway.  There does not need to be an obvious entry point to these swamps causing thermals.  They can leech through the surrounding banks and make their way into your stream.

I am going to stay on thermals but switch seasons.  The temperature fluctuations you found to indicate where to find the wily trout in winter holds true in the dog days of summer.  I went with a Natural Resources crew to do a shocking. 

 The stretch we were to shock was a non-designated area way below typical trout water.  Even on a typical summer’s day in Wisconsin this waterway was almost too warm to fish in it.  Many anglers considered this “frog water” and dismissed it.  What a giant mistake they were making. 

 When water temperatures are near seventy degrees, it is recommended not to fish for trout.  It plain and simply puts too much stress on the fish and raises the mortality rates to an unacceptable risk for the trout.  Streams that are warmer have less dissolved oxygen in them.  Trout caught in water near seventy degrees have a hard time recovering from a battle due to the lack of oxygen.

I was in charge of the thermometer and Garmin on this trek into frog water with the fisheries folks.  Every thirty yards I was asked to take the temperature and write it down with the GPS coordinates. I was asked to submerge the thermometer at least halfway to the bottom to take the readings. I needed to hold the thermometer in place for ten seconds. I also was advised to make sure there was no secondary warming from my hands holding it.  The lead worker said the trout actually live in the lower half of water columns. The water temperatures hovered around seventy degrees at first.  We did not shock up trout in these areas.

We started to shock up some trout.  They were smaller fish.  I took the temperature and there was a slight change.  I looked around for a spring or a feeder creek.  There were none to be found. The fisheries staff told me to take more frequent measurements and log them. They were trying to prove a theory they had. I measured every ten yards on this stretch.  The temperatures continued to go down. The water temperatures were in the low sixties now and we were shocking numerous trout to the surface.  It was quite amazing how the numbers and sizes of the trout increased as the water got colder on this stretch.

We shocked up some true monsters from this waterway and then they just vanished.  The alpha or large predator trout had the lays in the coolest hides.  I could not see anything feeding in.  It was a true mystery to me.  There was a swamp about thirty yards from the stream.  It had no obvious entry points.  I followed my thermometer to its access point.  The swamp leeched into the stream and the only tell tale evidence was found with my thermometer.  

 The only visual evidence was softer banks that extended a couple of feet toward the swamps near the coldest points and these were my thermals.  I would not have discovered them without my thermometer. You can guess where the biggest brown were shock up correct?  Their noses were stuck right in the area where the trickles fed in.

I fish with many folks and they must grow weary of waiting for me to quit messing with my thermometer. Some stretches I fish regularly I leave my thermometer in my vest because of my historical data. My friend Dan Braun and I took a break during the midday of fishing due to water temperatures being too high and dangerous for the trout.  The outside temperature this day was eighty-eight degrees.  Dan took a temperature check at this spring head and it measured forty degrees. It is amazing to see a light bulb go on when another angler finally figures out why I am fiddling with my thermometer.

The next time you fire up your computer check out the thermometers for sale.  There are many new and trendy versions.  There are many kinds.  I believe a keep it simple purchase is in order.  A bungee cord to hook them to your vest is a must purchase. A durable thermometer with easy to read numbers is what I carry. 

 I have been drawn to marginal frog water for over half a century now in Wisconsin’s driftless area.  My photos of big browns don’t lie.