7-25-04 - The Wisconsin Weed Whacker Incident
Waters Fished: Tainter Creek, Brennon & Tim's
Secret Brook, the North and South Forks of the Bad Axe River, Hornby
Fish Caught: Several (honestly didn't keep track)
Outing Date: 7-25-04
Weather: mostly sunny
Air Temp: 70's
Water Temp: South Fork of the Bad Axe was too hot - 70F!
Water Level: slightly up due to recent rains
Water Color: All streams just a touch off color but mostly clear
Fish Species: Brown Trout, Brook Trout
Pattern Fished: mostly tossed a Tucker Nymph
Pattern Color: per pattern
Fishing Quality: mostly DOA, secret stream was productive &
the rest were challenging at the very least!
We got up EARLY by MP standards (6:30) and somehow
managed to get on the road from Iowa to Wisconsin. Randy and I had
plans to meet up with Bart, Jacek, and Len
Harris. We pulled in late to Star Valley, but Bart and Jacek
got there 30 minutes early. Hmm...where's Len?
After gearing up we headed on into Tainter Creek.
The water was murky and stung when you stepped in...that is to say
it was COLD! Bart and Jacek had gone out earlier and managed a couple
browns, but on this second go no one got anything. 9:20 I had to
drive all the way out to Viroqua to find a restroom...I arrived
back around 10:40 to find that Bart and Jacek had gone to town for
lunch +! Randy arguably put in the most time on Tainter, and he
too came up empty (well, I personally got a chub).
Got ahold of Len at some point in the day to find
out that something had come up and he wasn't going to be able to
join us; he wasn't guiding us so it's not like he missed an appointment
or something...this was just going to be a friendly outing and he
ended up not being able to make it. We're already working on some
dates in August...I will make it out with the "Trout Hunter"
this year...I want to document Len doing what he does best...catching
We all had a problem...lack of trout, so it was
decided that I'd take the crew over to Brennon and Tim's secret
stream. The water was down a bit, clarity still so-so...not crystal.
At first there was no action. I moved downstream and my first 12
casts in a plunge below a riffle were ALL takes. I landed 4 fish
right then and there...all brookies and all quickly released. We
all continued to move downstream...I can't say how Randy and Bart
faired but I picked up two more...plus one that hit my indicator
and fouled himself! All brookies between 6-13", all with stunning
coloration. Back upstream Jacek landed a nice brooke as well!
It then occurred to me that we were in the region
that John Kruger
calls his inland trout stomping grounds. I fired off a call and
maybe an hour later, John met up with us at the Secret Brook. Some
lunch and Mountain Dew took care of the midday hunger while we caught
up on the news...turns out John's 2004 Hudson Bay Expedition went
well but got cut short...by the arrival of his third offspring (congrats
We were all still in the "need more trout"
mood so John suggested we head over to the North Fork of the Bad
Axe River. Another new stream? Sounds good to me! We got in at Esofea
Park....there was some nice deep pockets reminiscent of the North
Bear in IA...interesting stream!
John set up and almost immediately lost a trout...figures.
For some reasons I like to flip on the video when I'm fishin' with
John, and it always results in video of lost bites, no action etc.
John did pick up a nice chub...easily 5" :) Yes, John and I
enjoy giving each other some sh*t.
So John has been fishing this stream for 15 years;
he knows it well and has permissions to pretty much fish anywhere
along it. He suggested that we go downstream from Esofea, knowing
there are a couple deep holes there.
We all got in on the hike...wading through the
stream it narrowed significantly, sped up, and became enveloped
by the trees. It was more like walking through a tunnel..reminding
me of Bluff Creek and other local streams. No deep water here...just
split and fast run. Coming up to a beaver pond the water widened
and slowed, but didn't really gain much depth. Randy had passed
us and was downstream...he spooked up a nice trout that basically
burried itself in the beaver dam. No luck getting that one!
From here the river again widened further, this
time gradually getting deeper and siltier. As we continued downstream
we got to waste deep water...then it came back up but was replaced
by DEEP muck...the kind you could get sucked into and not get out.
We managed to get unstuck, went around and got
back in on a deep pool. The water didn't seem to flow here...those
drifting nymphs had NO luck. Randy was stripping streamers...he
picked up a NICE brook trout. But that was pretty much all the action
in this spot.
While Bart, Jacek and Randy continued to pound
the pool, John and I started moving downstream. Most was VERY shallow,
maybe 6" deep. The stream formed an island surrounded by quick
running chutes...downstream was a bend and both John and I paid
our dues here. Meanwhile Bart, Jacek and Randy continued to pound
We found a dead sucker in a hole...no trout. Time
to keep moving I guess. The stream again formed an island...downstream
we could see something rising. The island was overgrown with waist
high grass; we figured the best approach was on the island, using
the grass to mask our presence from the active fish below.
John took first crack while I worked the tail of
a riffle. Each cast John made was extended just a few more inches...methodically
covering all the water. If he could, John would take a fish here
on the dry. If not, I had the backup all set with a Tucker Nymph.
We both noticed that the quiet, peaceful afternoon
became a bit more noisy...someone was doing some gardening or something.
No biggie, we kept on fishing.
The noise started getting louder....still yardwork
is not something I'd be surprised to find someone doing on a Sunday
Then it grew louder still and I started looking
around, curious to see who was doing what.
THEN I noticed a man walking across the grass,
revving an industrial weed whacker. It sounded like a chainsaw;
I recalled that feeling you get when holding a powertool like that...vibrating
your entire upper torso...revving it is fun.
It still hadn't occurred to met that this guy wasn't
weed whacking. In fact I can't pointpoint when, but it took probably
longer than it should have to sink in that this guy was walking
straight towards John and I.
That's when I figured out that this guy was pissed.
Apparently he didn't like the fact that we were fishing in the stream.
He walked right up to us still revving the weed whacker. I don't
think there's any laws against harassing anglers in WI (although
I've seen them in other states). Heck, we fish the Root and Pike,
some guy who wants to weed whack right next to us isn't going to
bother me. I figure he's standing on his land, if he wants to weed
whack go right ahead...I'll catch trout right in front of him.
He did proceed to weedwhack the streambank, swinging
the whacker wildly through the tall grass on the bank not more than
10 feet away from me. He was looking straight at us. The look in
his eyes made one thing perfectly clear...he didn't want us there.
It's nice to want things I guess...we were just moving through anyway
and we'd be downstream soon enough.
Apparently though this guy isn't familiar with
the fact that navigable water is PUBLICLY accessible...and all it
takes to define water as navigable is 1 day per year where you could
float a kayak through it. I could've kayaked the river today, so
I had no doubt that we were in the clear. We waded in from upstream,
we did not cross his property to access the stream.
I should mention maybe at this point that John
has been obtaining permission to fish FROM THIS PROPERTY every spring
for 15 years. Apparently John's permission was being revoked!
When the guy raised up the weed whacker and pointed
it at us, that's when things got outta control. I wasn't thinking
clearly...I raised my hand like a traffic cop in the universal "stop"
gesture...I think he thought I was WAVING or something. This activity
had drawn the attention of our other buddies...Bart and Jacek came
walking from upstream while Randy waded down.
This man was clearly beyond perturbed....I can't
quote all of what was said because we were all talking at once...this
all happened in the span of like 2 seconds. I was shouting "Navigable
Water Rights". John was still a bit more composed...he might
have said, "that's not necessary" or something to that
Meanwhile this guy is running at the mouth. "You
all are trespassing. You should be glad I didn't call the police...do
you know what the FINE IS FOR TRESPASSING?"
John quipped back "We're not trespassing"..and
was cut off.
"You're a liar...I saw you trespass. I watched
you all from up over there".
I managed to get in something the effect of "It's
navigable water, it's public, we have a right to be here".
This totally pushed him over the edge...keep in
mind the weed whacker has been idling the entire time. The madman
fired it up again, and lunged towards me into the stream.
If I hadn't been freaked out by this I would've
been laughing my ass of when he tripped and fell into the stream!
He prevented a full-bodied faceplant with the business end of the
whacker...which crunched into the water and gravel below. Man I
TOTALLY wish I had a picture of it. Righting himself with his weedwhacker
cane, he again raised the it, gave it gas and swung it in front
of us...it was now maybe 2 feet from my face. John and I were both
backing up...not so slowly.
"Well, then I'm going to weed whack in the
stream"...he lunged right between us, swinging the whacker
madly over a boulder that had maybe 4 or 5 tall bits of grass on
John moved downstream, the rest of us moved up.
I may have muttered something like "ya know, if you didn't
want us fishin' here all you'd have to do was ask". Clearly,
even if I said that, it wouldn't have mattered.
The nut got out of the stream and started walking
down...staying on the bank parallel to John. I didn't have the slightest
clue what was going on...was John going to wade downstream all the
way off the property? Well, as I got back up to the bend, I watched
as John and this goofball got to the next bend below...I then watched
this guy help John up out of the stream. Interesting. We mused...would
we find John sliced up in a freezer?
So I made sure to stay in the stream ALL the way
up to the deep pool (which BTW is probably a good 8-10 feet)...used
my navigable water rights to pass this unsafe wade and got back
in....immediately above the apparent property line. We all went
back to fishin right there.
Eventually John came back up. I'm not going to
post a bunch of hearsay since I wasn't there, but I will relate
the gist of what John related to me. Once the guy calmed down a
bit they talked and John reminded him who he was...ya know...the
yellow land rover? Apparently the guy then remembered who John was,
giving some sort of apology and suggest that sometimes he gets a
bit carried away....NO SH*T. John even asked permission to get out
of the stream before doing so...since clearly the last permission
he had been granted was not really reliable anymore.
After a recap, John suggested that it'd probably
be a wise thing to go fish elsewhere and we did just that...back
up to Esofea. We enjoyed some shade under the bridge, let our nerves
calm down, and missed another couple fish. Now probably 4 in the
afternoon, Bart and Jacek decided to start heading home..maybe hit
Timber Coulee along the way. We made a last ditch stop upstream
of Esofea....in all this time John hadn't landed a trout! He got
the skunk off with a few brookies.
Where to next? The South Fork of the Bad Axe. I
can make this long story short...we waded a lot, spooked a few fish,
enjoyed some awesome scenery and caught nothing. The fish were there,
even the occasionally riser. They just wouldn't take ANYTHING we
Turns out the water was 70F....I thought it felt
rather comfortable! With daylight now fading we had to decide where
next...the key goal here is more trout.
John, familiar with the area, selected Hornby Coulee...a
tributary of the South Fork. His secret hope? With the warm water
downstream the big browns might have moved up.
Hornby was small and cold! On John's second cast
he landed a small brown...a promising start to our last stream.
The bugs were bad so a reapplication of repellent was in order.
After that, back to the stream. John and I would piggyback up? Piggyback?
Ha, John meant leapfrog.
I gotta say I really enjoyed this...it gave me
the opportunity to stop fishing and take some great pictures and
video. John went at it with a dry, while I kept the nymph and a
leech on. We chased risers and deep spots...when one of us was convinced
the run was done, OR if one of us fouled out (i.e. putting your
fly in the grasses) the other would move up and fish the next holding
I managed to lose 3 nice trout...I'd say all in
the 9-12" range. I can't say that John got another hit. Randy
had started in the opposite direction but came back to find us and
slid in on some risers in a riffle above our current position. We
continued to work the bend.
Well Randy capped off his day with 2 small browns,
the first (while I was still out of camera range) having in his
estimation more than 200 red spots per side...all the spots were
RED! John and I ended our evenings a bit less climactically...a
nice bend held lots of fish but after my initial take no further
action was encountered.
After that it was time to reflect on another strange
day in SW WI. I will let you know that a report was filed with the
Sherrif's Dept. regarding the weed whacker assault, so I guess for
now the matter has been handled and you can all sit back and laugh
about it (everyone I told over the phone did just that). So I'll
leave you with two things. First, a friendly warning that you should
probably consider the North Fork of the Bad Axe downstream from
Esofea OFF LIMITS for your own safety.
Secondly, I'll cap off this report with the pictures
from Monday Morning - aka. HAIRLESS MP day. My mom coughed up $200
for Team Ozark
Chronicles Raffle Tickets (benefiting Hooked
on a Cure and St. Judes) with one stipulation, she'd get to
cut my hair. The boys from www.TheHawgTrough.com added in another
$80 dollars in raffle ticket purchases if I'd shave the beard.
Well, I'm now completely devoid of hair on my face
and head (except they eyebrows...those are worth more than $10 guys!).
The hair? Sent off to Locks
Enjoy the pics, and know that you won't get any
blackmail outta me, not even with the Mullet.