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9-4-05 - Renee makes some beautiful casts on Waterloo Creek.

A little wild brown starts out my day on the Waterloo.

A 2nd Dink...my title as "Dinker King" remains safe.

These smaller browns were holding in faster water on the Waterloo.

Our first look at the Wapsi River.

Another look downstream on the Wapsi.

Interestingly, the water ran clear below this small beaver dam on the Wapsi River.

Renee sets up on a couple wily trout on Turtle Creek.

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
Weather: Sunny
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 in business.

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 wild browns.

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 River.

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!

My first Turtle Creek Brown Trout is fat and healthy.

It went back in to live another day.

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!

Arguably my largest Iowa Trout this year, a colorful stocker rainbow that's obviously been in the stream a while.

This Rainbow finally revives and swims off.

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.

The first glance of Spring Creek.

Just out of view to the right is another streamside home on Spring Creek.

Once again, just behind the trees at the right are several houses that rest on the banks of Spring Creek.

One more look at Spring Creek.

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.

Back to Bigalk Creek...there was a stile allowing some new access downstream - I'll have to check it out another time.

Renee's patience is tested by several trout on the far bank.

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 her offerings.

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.

Renee works a skittish pod of rainbows along a rocky outcrop on Bigalk Creek.

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.

A beautiful view of Bigalk.
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)

My first Bigalk Rainbow comes as the light is already fading...
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)

I made many casts in tight quarters as the sun set over Bigalk Creek.
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)

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!

  MP 

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