9-04-05 - Strike 3 more off my Iowa List!
Waters Fished: Waterloo Creek, Wapsi River, Turtle
Creek, Spring Creek, Bigalk Creek
Fish Caught: 6
Outing Date: 9-03-05
Air Temp: mid 80's for the highs
Water Temp: N/A
Water Level: Varied - it rained all night
Water Color: Waterloo Dirty, Wapsi Mud, Turtle Clear, Spring Creek
Clear, Bigalk Creek Clear
Fish Species: Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout
Pattern Fished: Beadhead Nymphs (including the Tucker) & Hoppers
Pattern Color: Hoppers in Tan, Nymphs in Olive (Tucker is gray)
Fishing Quality: Good
So after a WET WET WET night, I was worried that
the Iowa Trout Streams would be WORTHLESS for the rest of our planned
time. 5" of rain in MN, not TOO TOO far away?! Our initial
plan was to head out and scout out some of the few remaining streams,
but in all likelihood that would be scuttled in favor of SE WI -
maybe the rain would bring up the local rivers for some Summer Skamanias?
Well, Renee and I were hardly ready to concede
defeat and make another long drive after coming all this way, so
I hatched a plan. We'd check a few local streams first, and depending
on their conditions we'd make "the call".
Back on the Waterloo - I've seen it turned to chocolate
milk before and honestly expected that this time around. Renee was
keen on fishing the hoppers, so the fly-only stretch was a great
place to start.
Imagine my delight when we got to the river to
find it definitely off color but NOT hopeless! Visibility in the
deep sections was easily 1-2 feet. Even more promising were the
rather consistent rises all up and down the stream. We were indeed
Rather than just bolt west, I figured we might
as well give the hoppers a shot and enjoy ourselves. We moved around
from access point to access point and met a few anglers from the
Des Moines area but ultimately didn't have much success. My only
luck came with a large tucker nymph in the fast water...2 small
OK, so there was hope. We made the call and headed
west to check out the Iowa Trout Streams in Mitchell County. Yeah,
it's a drive - about 1.5 hours from Dorchester. These are all temperature
sensitive streams, thus not stocked in June, July and August. So
the BEST time to visit them wouldn't be in the summer, but either
spring and fall. After a detour to Decorah to see that in fact these
streams were back to being stocked, the first stop was the Wapsi
Well, the Wapsi was muddy. RATS. Access wasn't
clearly marked either, and this definitely isn't a stream that sees
a lot of angling pressure - NO well beaten paths here.
We checked both bridges - at the lower bridge we
found a small beaver dam that was filtering out ALL of the sediment,
letting the downstream flow run clear. No trout here either. So
while it was a "pretty" stream, it was hardly the place
we wanted to fish.
Our next destination was Turtle Creek. Renee was
quick to point out that this stream not only sees the stocking of
"catchable" size trout, but like so many other streams
in Iowa it also receives Put-And-Grow stockings of fingerlings.
Honestly that kinda catches me off guard - I don't recall many of
the "temperature sensitive" streams getting stocked with
fingerlings for in-stream growout...???
Turtle Creek is SMALL...easily your typical, definable
"you can jump across it in most spots" kind of trout stream,
which should have you spring creek nuts going ape. Populations of
suckers were high. Vegetation in the stream was extremely prevalent.
Trout were spooky and casting was in all cases challenging.
So of course, Renee landed the first fish...I could
here only one of her many screams in the distance and didn't make
it there for the photo-op. Turns out she got a nice brown which
hit her hopper the second it landed on the water. If that ain't
good trout fishin, I don't know what is!
Unfortunately for Renee I found a better spot on
the opposite side of the stream - her access to the pool was limited
while I could cover the vast majority of it. I had at least 3 hits
right off the bat but failed to convert.
My fourth hit resulted in a solid hookset, immediately
followed by a SPLOOOSH that signifies a hefty fish on the other
end of the line. This one got on the drag. Still out of sight, I
battled to bring it upstream. After a couple minutes, the fish finally
tired and was brought to net. Not as HUGE as I initially thought,
but it was a VERY respectable stream-reared brown!
Not too long after, I invited Renee to try my spot.
For whatever reason, she declined, instead intent to work the risers
with her hopper. "Alright, suit yourself", I thought,
and continued casting. The hits just kept on coming. Instantaneous
reaction was required - most of the fish came off immediately.
Thankfully I nailed this one. Another big fish
back on the drag. It's admittedly RARE that you get a stream trout
on the reel in Iowa (or the rest of the Driftless Region). This
one took even LONGER to land despite my best efforts to bring it
in quickly. When it was done, my jaw was on the ground. It's been
probably 2 years since I last landed an Iowa Rainbow this big!
I made damn sure I revived this guy right - it
took a few minutes in the nonexistent flow but eventually he got
underway. Shortly thereafter I landed yet another stream-reared
brown...Turtle Creek turned out to be a gem if you were patient.
However, all that fishing came at a price - we
cooked in the early afternoon sun. Craving hydration and air conditioning,
Renee and I retired to her Saturn and made the drive to our last
"must do" location - Spring Creek.
We arrived at Spring Creek with secondhand tidbits
that had my imagination going. Sadly, I must report that Spring
Creek was less than the ideal spot. As we found at both other streams
in Mitchell County, Spring Creek's access was poorly marked at best,
and as you may know, part of the reason I like Iowa streams so much
is the fact that USUALLY the places that are publicly accessible
are clearly marked.
Spring Creek in particular stands out as failing
miserably in this regard. Situated smack in the middle of the tiny
town of Orchard, I never felt like I WASN'T in someone's back yard.
Sure, there were some well-worn paths along the stream, but it's
all private property AND again, it was entirely unclear as to whether
public access had actually been granted or not!
Yeah, I did see ONE trout, a fairly decent sized
stocker rainbow, but the last thing I want to do is to drive 6.5
hours west only to end up fishing to a lone stocker in someone's
backyard! Heck, the stream was really nice in one of the sections
too, having a boulder bottom. Overall though, thoroughly disappointed,
Renee and I opted to move on.
Considering how far west we were and that it was
only around 5:00 PM, we both wanted to fish. Some options were laid
out, and soon it was decided that our next stop would be Bigalk
Creek. Considering I've only fished this stream once before, I was
really excited to be back.
We drove past all the access points, delighted
to find that we had the stream to ourselves! I set Renee up on a
pool that held several fish on my last visit - this trip was no
different. I watched from the bridge above as she put in cast after
cast - unfortunately these fish were completely uninterested in
After trying for too long to coax a strike, we
decided to try another access point upstream. When we got there
we found two anglers fishing right at the road - we went upstream
to locate a small depression that again, last time, held MANY fish.
This time was no different and I let Renee have
first crack. It's a tight spot where you have to angle your cast
just right or you're in the trees. Again, to our disappointment,
the fish were more interested in self preservation than eating...within
a few casts the entire pool was spooked and running madly up and
downstream, looking for a place to hide.
As the sun set, we decided to head back to the
car and perhaps call it a day. On the way out, I asked Renee to
let me try one more spot. She took the camera.
As luck would have it, this last spot proved to
be the hot one today. Several fish were actively rising at the tail
of a pool....my first two fish made valiant escapes, jumping and
taildancing their way to freedom.
Determined to put a few more fish under my belt,
I stuck it out as the light dwindled. I finally managed to bring
in one, then a 2nd, before I couldn't see anything. The fish I managed
to land both opted to dig deep into the pool instead of going airborne.
Not a bad ending to this day of exploring...if
my tally is correct I now have only ONE remaining trout stream on
the map that I haven't fished and reported on! I'll get it before
the year's end, that's a promise!