January 22, 2014

A Swing And A Miss

Went out of the house for the first time in over a week to see how my back and knee would hold up.

I put a brace on my knee.

Was a short trip outside and pain meds were required later and a nap.  I contacted my back surgeon and he told me my knee  was the culprit and to be patient and to see how things go after knee replacement with my back.

Trout fishing this year is looking even farther away.

Lake La Farge

In 1962, the U.S. Congress authorized construction of a flood control dam on the Kickapoo River at La Farge, Wisconsin. 1,780 acre reservoir “Lake La Farge” The idea had been floated around since the 1930s.  Floated is the key word here.

Many folks saw the lake as a money making venture.  Many purchased land for resorts and possible recreational land on the proposed shores of the new lake.  These people were incredibly short sited along with congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Acquisition of the property with compensation at market value started in 1969, and ultimately 140 farms were purchased most unwillingly from local property owners. About 9000 acres of private property was appropriated.

In 1971, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers broke ground on an earthen dam at La Farge.
 In 1975, with the dam partially in place and half of the affected highway rebuilt, a failed cost-benefit analysis led the Corps of Engineers to halt the project. Over $18 million had been spent by the time the dam project stopped.

 The federal government pulled the funding because the lake they wanted to build would have had too much algae and engineers felt it wouldn’t help Soliders Grove or Gays Mills because those waters come more thru Reads Creek. Viola and La Farge would have had benefit from the dam. 
Environmental impact statements showed many flaws in the plan.  One was a potential breech and disastrous out come to communities down stream.
The million dollar control tower stands in effigy to poor planning and short sightedness. 

 On December 28, 2000 the deed was recorded at the Vernon County Courthouse, officially transferring 7,369 acres to state ownership. The land was made in to a wildlife reserve. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve is an 8,569 acre tract of land located between the villages of La Farge and Ontario in southwestern Wisconsin. A 1200-acre portion of the land has been returned to the Ho-Chunk Indian Nation, the original inhabitants of the Kickapoo Valley.

 The dam at gays mills at flood stage after a small rain. Imagine what the giant one at Lake La Farge would have looked like?

I can remember going to sleep and water only being a little out of the banks and waking up and sitting up in bed and my feet were 8 inches in water. We lived very close to the Kickapoo River. A dam breech during those crazy floods as of late would have breech the dam at Lake La Farge and washed every community in its path in to the Wisconsin River.

I went in to the Army in 1977 and was stationed at Yakima, Washington.  The dam project was halted in 1975. I saw the flood of 1979 on the world news on television 1,400 miles away and terrified of what happened to my mother who still lived 33 steps from the Kickapoo River. Calls home were to no avail. All phone lines were out.  I eventually got a hold of the Red Cross and verified my family was ok.

 I was stranded in Washington State in 1979 with no contact with home and feared the worse. My mother was one of the first people to be relocated from Gays Mills by the government.  They lived in flood trailer park for a while and now she has a nice home on Blue Bird Lane.  My mother and father purchased our home in 1958 for 5,000 dollars and my mother was give 51,000 for it after the flood of 1979.

Our last recent 2 floods that were called 100 year floods. They were the largest floods on record for the area.  Can you imagine what Lake La Farge would have looked like and the communities downstream?
Would you have bet your life on this control tower to keep you safe from a massive breech of that dam?

 The Kickapoo River flood plain was fertile and the people that founded Gays Mills and Soliders Grove obviously didn't think past the ends of their noses.

 Here is Gays Mills now where it has been relocated north of the original site .

 Soliders Grove was built for the local logging industry.  The dam at Gays Mills was a mill and had zero flood control use.  Soliders Grove built a flood control dike and moved their town before Gays Mills wised up.

 The drought of 1988 had the water in the Kickapoo below the dam at gays mills was the lowest I had ever seen it.  Imagine Lake La Farge would not have wanted to give up any of its water because of their resorts on the shores up there and because of that could have made the Kickapoo near Gays Mills a trickle and in turn destroying all the trout water in Crawford County.

I fish in the Kickapoo River lots yearly in Gays Mills.  The trout streams of the area are a large part of my life.  These days "Lake La Farge" would not even be considered.  It really is a shame all those folks lost their land.  
Here is old Gays Mills disappearing in to the sunset. The federal government has purchase many businesses and homes and had them demolished.  There are a few who stayed.  There are also a few that had their homes raised with federal money to be less affected by future floods. 


Gleaned some information for this story from newspapers and non-copyrighted information on the internet.  Interviewed many folks and lived the entire situation as a resident of the Kickapoo Valley.

January 21, 2014

The Tube Hole

The photo was taken opening morning.  The year I guess 1996.

The year prior I had fished way down stream where this small stream flowed in to the Kickapoo River.  I caught a couple fair browns so I decided to fish it upstream.  I knocked on quite a few doors.

The last stretch looked the best from the road.  I could even see fish activity and lots of it right at the large tube going under the road.  I couldn't find the land owner at home that fall.  I wanted to fish this stretch so I went back to the modest house.

I knocked and knocked with no one answering.  I walked out in to the farm yard and yelled to see if anyone would answer.  In the distance I heard music.  I walked to the sound.

The music was stream side about 70 yards upstream.  The closer I got the more bashful I got.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I finally walked up to the guy in stream.  He picked the deepest area of his tiny stream and he was taking a bath.  He had a bar of soap and shampoo and a towel.  He didn't seem bothered by me and I asked him for permission.  I was a local and got permission immediately.

I fished his whole stretch after he was done taking a bath and I caught fish after fish.  All were on the small side.  Some were down right tiny but every little indent had fish in it.

I exited at the tube.  I fished it for 20 minutes and caught a fish almost every cast. I remember sizing down my spinner from a 6 to a 2 here. The trout in there were ferocious and slamming my panther but the spinner was just too big for hook ups. That was the reason for downsizing spinners.  This was before I was a nut with a camera.  I wish I had a camera with me that day.  I caught about a 6 inch male brookie that had a kype so big you could hang it on a clothes line.  The browns from the hole had butter bellies and were small like the brookies.  I caught dozens of trout this day.  Not a one over 9 inches.

I fished the stretch one more time the next opener and I have never gone back.

After thought:
I have not been back there for a very long time.  You know what a thriving population of brookies and browns mean?   Writing this story made me think a return trip to this stretch to hunt for some tigers is in order.

Treat Your Landowner Well!

I introduced Coach Knight to the hole also.

 His weighted girdle bug scored a nice fish.
 This was back in 2007 I believe.

This permission was acquired from lots of door knocking.  I have been told "NO" many times but I returned the next year and was friendly and got a "YES".

This stretch has an older couple that like a trout for their table.  Each year in May opener I give them what they seek.  I even clean them in their yard with the garden hose and play with their numerous cats and feed them the left overs of the trout.

January 20, 2014

An Opener To Remember

Years fly by these days but I know this was an opener the spring after I discovered this hole.  I arrived a little too early this day and had to wait 2 hours to fish it before the shell ice came of of it.
There was fresh snow and the waiting for the shell ice to go off almost drove me crazy.  I was not comfortable casting in to the hole until almost 11am because of that ice.

This hole has all the markings of a perfect wintering hole.  A fast feed lane at the top and a serious step drop for the trout to hide under to ambush their prey.

I needed to wade out in to the still water at the back of the pool to get up far enough in the pool to cast above the fast water so my spinner splash didn't scare the residents of this hole.  I had fished the hole the year before and had excellent luck.

 The water was still so I needed to wade up not throwing a wake at the fish and scare them.  I slow waded about 15 minutes to cover 20 feet.  The water was maybe just below my knees after the wade.  The bottom was made of small rock.  This was a perfect bottom for invertebrates and minnows to thrive in.  The slow wade up was endless but I finally made it there.

I needed to go down side arm to get under the low hanging limbs at the top of the hole.  I had thought about these limbs the night before opener.  I had already practiced my side arm casts on the way to the hole.
My side arm casts practice had produced this hook jawed brown on a hole one below the bridge ruins.  This was an opener and I usually have a superstition about stopping when I catch a trout over 20 inches but today felt special.  A quick measure and photo of this 23 inch brown was completed and back he went in to his cut corner under the low hanging limbs.

Back to the bridge ruins hole.  This hole was special it had produced the year before.


My first cast was true and a hook up was immediate.
This 17 incher put up quite a battle.  One photo and a measure and he was let go downstream of the hole.

I positioned myself again and bang there was another.
This 19 inch female fought like a bigger fish but she made it to the net and for a photo and was let go down stream.

I typically let trout go 10-15 yards downstream of a big hole.  I don't want them to scurry back in there and tell the others with their body english they are upset.

Third cast nobody home.

Fourth cast was golden.
He measured 21 inches and was let go back in the main hole.  I quit opening day that year and went home.

Not a bad opener.....

About 30 casts and 4 trout measuring 17/19/21/23


January 19, 2014


Riding The Bench For Trout Opener

Wisconsin has a catch and release only season that opens the first Saturday in March each year.  I typically don't miss the opener but this year will be different.  I will be having knee surgery just before opening day.
The keys for early season opener are simple.  The early bird does NOT get the worm.  The water is typically too cold early and the trout are lethargic. Go out about 9:30am and be on water by 10am.
Many folks think that you need to throw little stuff at the fish on opener because that is what they are use to eating.  I will use an easy analogy for this one.  If you were fed salads all winter and a T-Bone steak was thrown your way...which would you go after?
Big flies are a must in early season and big spinners.  Low and slow is the motion.  Trout will be in wintering holes which are typically the deepest holes in the area.
I just looked at the calendar and I counted the days until opener.  There are 40 days until opener.
Good luck all.