5-25-03 - "Bart's Day" - Western WI Trout
Rivers Fished: Kickapoo River (West Fork), Timber
Fish Caught: 3
Outing Date: 5-25-03
Air Temp: 60's & 70's
Water Temp: W.B. Kickapoo - 65F, Timber Coule 64F
Water Level: N/A
Water Color: Crystal
Fish Species: Brook Trout, Brown Trout
Pattern Fished: Brassie
Pattern Color: Copper
Fishing Quality: FIVE STAR!
This was "Bart's Day"; Chromeseeker had
been saying for weeks that he had to get out west to check out the
inland trout fishing which is still pretty new to him (he's only
recently started fishing dries). Bart had done a lot of research
and had 3 specific areas he wanted to fish; since he was all jazzed
I said "Lead the Way" and let him plan things out.
First stop after hours of driving was going to
be Knapp Creek. Unfortunately, Bart had forgotten to bring any kind
of MAP of the area. So we're driving along and we speed past a sign
that reads something like "Knapp Creek Lower Station"
or something to that effect...quick U turns and we think we've found
We park, look around, and all we see is something
flowing with about the same rate as my kitchen sink. Below the culvert
is a small pool..no more than 6" deep! Not giving up just yet,
especially since we had seen other springs where the headwaters
are large and deep, we tried to go upstream along a makeshift road
through the grass. By the time we got to the to off the hills we
reached the end of the road...no big pond...nothing.
Of course, CS wasn't EXACTLY sure where the creek
was...somewhere around the Richland / Crawford county boarder by
the Wisconsin River. So we drove a bit further west and drove over
a second EXTREMELY MUDDY creek. Considerably larger! Unfortunately,
it was flowing into YOHOO colored water; turns out that whatever
creek it was it was flowing into the Wisconsin River (which seemed
to be VERY HIGH and extremely dirty). Up and down two dirt roads
later we STILL had not found Trout water of any kind; later on we
would find out that we hadn't ever actually FOUND Knapp Creek. To
top it off, there is Knapp Creek and Knapps Creek both in the general
region, so even if we found one we may not have found the RIGHT
Eventually we found the Kickapoo River, pretty
much by luck. We had been stopping all along the way at every shop
that sold bait looking for a copy of the Trout Regs (and MAPS).
I briefly fished the 60F 1' visibility water while Bart went into
town and FINALLY found a map. We headed north to the Fly Only section
of the West Branch of the Kickapoo.
We got there about 2:00, let me tell you THIS is
my kind of water. Roughly the same size as the Pike River. The best
part? As we got out of the cars and looked over from the bridge
we could clearly see several trout sitting in the current. PERFECT!
I wasted NO TIME getting into the water..I opted
upstream of the bridge and Bart & M went downstream. Looking
at the rocks showed a ton of bright gray scudlike crustaceans...unusual
looking things though that had a "swimmer" out of each
side...kinda like Daphnia but they were different. Also found a
spawning pair of sculpins (not sure what species but the male was
black with gold bars; gorgeous) when I picked up a rock; carefully
set the rock and eggs down in the exact same position it was in
One of the stranger things I noticed; I took a
temperature reading and got 65F! Not quite sure how upstream can
be warmer than downstream, but there ya have it. Perhaps the East
Branch of the Kickapoo runs colder? Or maybe I just got some water
that was recirculating in the sun...thus abnormally warm.
Anyways, within minutes I hooked into my first
ever WILD WISCONSIN BROWN on a small silver nymph (about size #16);
the closest thing I had to those little scud-type things. Actually
put up a GOOD FIGHT for a fish of it's size (roughly 8-9");
it even jumped once. The coloration was just GORGEOUS...far more
pretty than the brown I caught in Paradise Springs the day before.
I continued to move upstream and fished beneath
a log jam; lost the small silver nymph so I switched to a brassie.
Hooked up with #2 but he quickly got off and dashed back underneath
the log. Shortly thereafter I got hookup #3, a nice brown about
12". Jumped twice and REFUSED to come ashore....as I was about
to reach down and pick him up the tension left my line; he squired
and did his own C & R. Well at least I got pictures of him while
he was on my line!
I showed Bart where the fish were holding and he
moved upstream to fish the next riffle. M had moved up to the first
riffle; I came down to see what was up. Shortly after settling in
downstream she got her first ever fish on a fly rod! Again, put
up a great fight for such a small fish!
I moved back upstream to "the spot" and
got yet another hookup..but again the fish was off in short order.
I must admit I was being careful as this was my only brassie left..didn't
want to lose it. I spent most of my time carefully working the fly
just up front of the log...taking care to swing it through the current
and just barely underneath but not too deep...still I managed a
couple snags that I had to work very patiently to get off. 2 lb.
test isn't exactly STRONG line.
I continued to work the face of the fallen tree
and eventually got a larger fish to DART from underneath the log
and slam my fly. As soon as he had, he realized he was mistaken..this
wasn't food! I've never seen such little fish put up such valiant
fights...as I got him in closer I realized this was a very funky
brown trout. Wait, it's NOT a brown, it's a WILD BROOKIE! SCORE
Of course the pictures don't do it justice. What
a great fish! Tons of red in the ventral and anal fins with starkly
contrasting white leading edges. The spotting was a gorgeous display,
dominated by yellows and a good number of red spots circled in blue.
Outstanding considering this was also my first brook trout EVER!
Now if I could only find those 5 lb. coasters up in Canada!
I figured by this point that I was 3/5; Bart's
GF was 1/2 at this point, so Bart MUST have some good news. As he
came back downstream from the riffles, I asked how he was doing.
"NOTHING" he replied. Man, that's tough! I showed him
where all the fish were in my little area and offered for him to
take the spot, but he declined and instead took the riffles below
I must admit I was satisfied at this point, so
I moved back downstream to coach and watch. Bart finally found his
mojo and felt a take while bottom bouncing like we do for steelhead;
unfortunately he was slow and missed the hookset.
Several minutes went by and I could tell he was
truly frustrated. He kept working the run slowly but was honestly
losing concentration...you could hear it in his voice...a bit of
frustration was setting in. FINALLY he got un-skunked...man I'd
never seen CS so happy in the short time I've known him. He wa smiling
ear to ear but at the same time was groaning...a little brown barely
5" had saved his a$$ on the Kickapoo. We marveled at the stunning
and vivid coloration of this tiny jewel. With all the care and delicate
touch required Bart revived this baby as if it were a trophy 30
lb steelhead being released to pass on it's genes. Every Trout is
Bart had the itch to move, and I wasn't gonna argue...we
had passed another "fishy" looking area that he wanted
to check out, so we headed downstream a bit. Four guys were workin'
the specific area we wanted to look at, but one head turn downstream
revealed even NICER looking water.
We waded down but didn't spook anything up; I started
at the head of the riffles and slowly worked down; M chose to stick
to the riffles while Bart started at the base and then headed for
the far bank at the bend. God this was GREAT trout water. I had
to go larger and heavier to get my presentations down to where the
trout might be.
We only stayed briefly but I think we pounded the
area well; no bites to be had. All the while Bart was wet wading
in waders and I didn't even known it! He came sloshing out of the
water; I guess his wader repair had failed LOL! His pants looked
like water balloons, and sounded like them too!
We did a quick check of the upstream water but
the trout sighted were spooky. I think what sealed the deal was
when a Golden Retriever ran up and decided to use the pool as his
personal playground. Oh well, we were getting hungry! We booked
it at 5:00...not a bad time at all for only 3 hours in the river!
A stop in Westby for food was the ticket; I believe
it was the only restaurant in town and I must say the food was superb,
especially the mashed potatoes! A must have if you're a mashed potato
freak like I am!
We had yet another stop planned; Timber Coulee
Creek. Bart got us there quickly as it's just outside of Westby
and we started fishing around 6:30. The first access right by the
source was close to the Westby Gun & Rod Club...we took a quick
look and I decided we should head farther downstream. We drove by
the second angler access as well..still looking for ideal water.
The third access was the ticket...big enough and deep enough in
spots to hold fish.
I'm not going to bore you with ALL the details,
but I will say that for me, Timber Coulee was just a bit too small.
Smaller than Oak Creek...comparable maybe to Sauk Creek in Port
Washington. Too small.
The trout were around but were VERY spooky. Definitely
smart fish. As I was stalking the creek on my knees headed downstream
I was briefly startled by a Great Blue Heron stalking just as slowly
coming upstream on the opposite bank. I have NEVER been within 10
feet of a Great Blue Heron before! I think the gasp I took when
I noticed him alerted him to MY presence and he took off. WOW..impressive
I managed my first hookup on a decent sized trout
close to the road on a Mosquito fished just below the surface. Later
on, back to the Brassie and I got my second hit on a large trout
that was slurping with gusto underneath a tree. I did spend a LOT
of time on my knees or sitting on the edge waiting for the trout
to "unspook"; it usually took ONE CAST to put them off.
Talk about tough trout. I watched CS fish that same trout under
the tree and he faired no better than I had
Bart came further downstream and as darkness approached,
I moved back up. Again I fished the madman under the tree and AGAIN
I got a hookup but didn't really connect for more than a second.
Towards nightfall I fished the stretch by the road up and back,
but the fish were STILL not interested in any of the tiny offerings
I was making, wet OR dry.
Bart eventually came back up grinning ear-to-ear,
no longer PO'd. He had landed a 13" brown on a white caddis
larvae. CS will tell you now that he is an addict of the inland
wild trout after catching that one beautiful fish. By dark I was
pretty tired but CS still had some fight and finally figured out
what the fish wanted; a small light olive emerger. He had several
missed sips in the twilight but eventually (when he couldn't see
anymore) we convinced him it was time to call it a day...a GOOD
DAY that is.