I've been a fan of Len Harris' writing & photography for some time. I think we first crossed paths on a fishing message board 3 or 4 years ago, and I was taken aback not only by his writing, but the beautiful area he called home. Since then we've become friends from afar, shooting emails back and forth from time to time to talk trout, blogging, and some of the great looking food Len cooks up.
I recently asked Len if he would write a short guest post introducing my readers to the place he loves dearly, The Driftless Area of Wisconsin. I was thrilled when he graciously accepted my invitation, so I'm happy to present his guest post to you now.
Hello from Wisconsin's fabled driftless area. If you don't know the area, it is in the southwest corner of Wisconsin. Driftless comes from the lack of a glacier in the last ice age. The glacier typically leaves drift or remnants of its handy work after it leaves. No glacier means rolling hills and hidden valleys Every little valley has a trout stream in it and the streams are loaded with trout.
Wisconsin's native species is the brook trout. All other trout are either hybrids or species brought from
Europe or from the local hatchery. A big brookie here is anything over 13 inches. My favorite species
here are the brown trout that were imported from Europe. A big brown here is anything over 20 inches.
I am a throwback angler. I use any legal means to trout fish. I also like to keep trout. I practice responsible
harvest and selective harvest. If you find me fly fishing i typically have a woolly bugger on. If you find me
beating the bushes and searching for my next big brown fix, I typically have a size 9 panther martin on.
I guided for 5 years but stopped doing that 3 years ago. Guiding was "ok" but the watching others fishing
wore on me. I equate it to going to a gold mine without a shovel.
Along the way to fishing I love to take photos of anything that gets close enough for me to photograph.
I also like to write stories about the people I meet along the way. The stories vary from fishing with Coach Bobby Knight to taking a family of young boys under my wing to teach them trout fishing. My stories are simplistic and are written in a campfire story writing style. I always say if you find a twenty-five dollar word in my story..."I didn't write it."
I'd encourage everyone to check out Len's blog "The Stream of Time." He posts regularly, and is not the type of angler that holds back when it comes to sharing his knowledge of the region. An accomplished author who has had many of his stories published in several prominent magazines, Len has also written a book of stories under the same name, which will be released later this summer. I look forward to adding it to my collection.
No real blog post of substance today. However, a couple small social items of note....
First, what a great response to the Len Harris guest blog post. It's quickly become the 6th most popular post in my blog's 3 year history. Part of the popularity surely has to do with Len's reputation...while the rest I'm certain comes directly from Trout Unlimited's pickup on Facebook.
Second, I've been playing around on that new Google+ thing for the past few days. Facebook killer??? Beats me, but it's pretty cool once you figure out what's going on. Had a video chat (called a "Hangout") with Kyle, Matt, & Tyler last night...heck, even Owl stopped by for a spell rather than packing for his big trip. Was pretty fun even though Matt's wife kept chiming in from the background & Tyler's video cam was totally boycotting the entire event. :) Should be a nice compliment to the ever growing social media menu once the bugs are worked out.
If you're curious about Google+ and want to give it a try but can't get in...email me your Gmail email address and I'll send you an invite (if it lets me, it's finicky)...but you'll need to find my email address on your own. It's on the blog somewhere, if you want it bad enough, you can figure it out. (Hint, it's not a Gmail email address)
Otherwise, think I'm going to take the time this weekend to catch up on what everyone else has been doing in blogdom. I haven't been a great poster lately, and I've unfortunately been an even worse reader. I can tell from scanning the post titles in the blogroll over on the right that a lot of cool stuff has been going on...so I guesss I'll see you in your "comments."
As with all trilogies, the final installment may very well be the weakest, but I tried to save the best for last...the fishing portion of the Wisconsin trip! (For installments one & two, click HERE & HERE)
Very abbreviated fishing. As I mentioned in the first post, it was cold, windy, and wet, and I only fished for a half hour in Coon Creek, right down the road from where a group of us were meeting for dinner.
Even with the short time and circumstances, the trout were cooperative. I managed two fish on my standard-issue "Road Kone" kebari. The dead drift wasn't working, however, a slightly upstream pulse of the fly seemed to get the fish moving. Even for all the pressure that Coon Creek receives, I thought these were some nice fish.
Saturday was a little bit of a mixed bag. It was still a little bit chilly, plus the Midwest Tenkara Fest was in full swing. There were a few gaps in the presentations that allowed time to sneak down to Coon Creek yet again throughout the day. Again, the same technique prevailed, a pulsed "Road Kone" seemed to get the fish to play. Here were two of the nicer fish, although you can tell the second one has clearly been in some battles.
I might have caught more on Coon Creek, but that pesky"Tenkara Gandalf" was out casting magical spells at fish all day.
After the Fest was over for the day, I drove up the road about 15 minutes to Bohemian Valley (it's well-known & posted, so I'm not spot burning) to take advantage of some of the final hours of sunlight. I had fished in the same spot last year, so I didn't want to waste too much time aimlessly searching for somewhere new to fish.
It's always odd to me fishing with cows looking on, but I didn't mind. I find it comforting to fish somewhere you're at least a little familiar with, and it definitely helped this time. I seem to recall struggling mightily with the long slick runs last go-round, however, this year I brought about a half dozen trout to hand, all pretty much carbon copies of the fish below.
Sunday was more Fest in the morning, however, for the most part the festivities broke up around 2 PM allowing everyone to go out and fish.
Using a tip from Len Harris, I journeyed a bit further away from the usual spots I had been fishing near Coon Valley to a pretty little semi-wooded stream about 45 minutes away that according to Len had "wild brookies & browns" in it.
For whatever the reason I didn't find the brookies, but I did find the browns and they were a blast to catch in some of the close quarters. They'd just explode out of seemingly nowhere.
Also interestingly, this was the one stream that the "Road Kone" came up empty. Instead, I had much more luck with some files I purchased from Three Rivers Tenkara at the Fest. I'm not sure what they're called, but I started calling them "Naples Bugs" and they certainly worked well when drifted along the micro edges and small in-stream rocks. Definitely need more Naples Bugs in my fly box.
The final day, and the one dedicated exclusively to sleeping-in and fishing all afternoon & evening. It was also the best day weather-wise of the extended weekend. After being downright cold most of the days, Monday was Sunny and 70 degrees. T-shirt weather!
Again, I decided to venture far from the area I had fished the first few days. I'm not going to tell you where I fished, but I freakin' hit the jackpot. While the fish weren't big, they were certainly plentiful. Brookies and browns galore! I think I caught a fish on 8 of my first 10 casts. That never happens. I stopped counting around 30, and believe me, I can tell you that never happens either!
Much like most of the other fish over the course of the weekend, the "Road Kone" was again the fly of choice. I ended up going through quite a few, not because I was losing them on rocks or in trees, but because the fish were mauling them. Ridiculous fun.
I could go on with more fish pictures, but I just stopped taking them after a while. And I'll tell you, not worrying about being skunked really allows one time to step back and admire the beauty of the region...and man, it's sooooo different than Florida.
Finally, in a bit of an ironic twist, while I flew all the way across the country to catch trout, the last fish to hand wasn't. It may have also been the smallest of the entire weekend. But no shame with my "tanago trophy" here.
A Look Back...
Reflecting on the weekend of fishing, I can't help but believe that some of the lessons on technique learned at the Midwest Tenkara Fest helped increase my success rate on the water.
Last year, which was my first trip to the Driftless, I felt totally lost in the meadow streams. They appeared so glassy, slow, and featureless. A far cry from the higher gradient streams I was accustomed to fishing. I caught a few fish, but to say I struggled wouldn't have been a lie.
However, this year, utilizing some lessons about short, meticulous, upstream drifts from Discover Tenkara, as well as the realization taken from Paul Vertrees' presentation that all of the features I'm accustomed to fishing are still in these streams, they just happen to be submerged underwater, something definitely "clicked."
I found that applying those tactics led to an increased catch rate, and are yet another example of why if you have an open mind, attending events like the Midwest Tenkara Fest can be extremely beneficial for your fishing. I know it was for me.
This awesome photo is courtesy of Len Harris, a Driftless area angler (and friend of the blog) who is known to tell a good story or two. In this case, Len didn't need to do much talking, but did share the following commentary:
"The silly thing hit my spinner with its mouthful already and it battled like normal. It did not seem to be hindered. I thought about taking the frog out of its mouth but I thought I might injure it because the inside of the fish's mouth the teeth are all pointed down the throat and I might tear it. It swam away just fine. I guess it was quite hungry."
Trout are amazing.
Kind of makes you think... if you were a trout, what favorite food might be found sticking out of your mouth when caught? As for me, well, I'm a glutton for pizza... or maybe tacos. I eat pretty much anything in taco form. That would certainly be a sight.
Poking around the innards of my blog last night I noticed I've accumulated 4,011 comments over the years. I don't know (or really care) if that's good or bad or anything like that...because honestly, numbers are numbers and can be interpreted however you want.
What I did decide to do was take a look back to see who the first comment was from. Any guesses?
Whenever I get retrospective about the blog, I often wonder what happened to Butch. He liked walking creeks, taking pictures of wildlife, and finding old Native American arrowheads. I enjoyed his blog a lot. Maybe Butch is still out there under a different alias and I just lost track, that happens from time to time.
Come 2010, things started going apesh*t in terms of comments and commentators, but man, if it isn't interesting looking back and seeing some names from the past.
If you've been blogging for more than a year or so, and you blog allows you to look back in "comment time," I suggest you do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes doing such. It makes for a very fun read.
I don't have a ton of fly fishing books, but I have probably accumulated more than my fair share over the last decade or so.
Artful Profiles of Trout, Char, & Salmon - Dave & Emily Whitlock
If possible, I try to get them signed by the author. It has nothing to do with enhancing the resale value, rather I think it makes that particular copy a bit more special. A cherished keepsake if you will. Even though the author's words are contained on the pages within, books are mass produced if not distributed digitally. One of many. To me, the signature creates more of a one-on-one connection, makes it unique. They don't even have to be "famous" authors or anglers, that's not the point.
In any event, some autographs you can still obtain in person, and some unfortunately you cannot. Personally, I kick myself sometimes on some of the opportunities I've missed out on due to poor planning. However, if you have a fly fishing book collection, you might be interested in an email sent out by the Rogue Angler in Oregon, that was promoting the autographed books they have for sale, including one signed by the recently deceased legend, "Lefty" Kreh that would certainly garner a special place on any angler's bookshelf. Oh, and Yvon Chouinard is no slacker either...
Now I'd note, I have no association with the Rogue Angler whatsoever. No monetary kickbacks for this post. I just thought it was a pretty cool opportunity to take advantage of, should my readers have any interest. Certainly caught my attention.
In any event, here are a few photos of the autographed/inscribed fishing books I own. I think they're pretty cool to look at each time you pick up the copy to re-read the contents once more.
A Fly Fishing Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park - Steve Schweitzer
Native to this Stream - Paul Weidknecht
Jack's Drift - J. Wilfred Cahill
tenkara the book - Daniel Galhardo
How To Fool Fish with Simple Flies - Dr. Paul Gaskell & John Pearson
The Stream of Time - Len Harris
Fishing, Ghosts, and My Mother's Gray Hair - Mark Kautz (If you've read my blog enough, you know this guy...)
Do you happen to enjoy getting your fly fishing books autographed or inscribed too? If so, I'd love to read in the comments below about which books are the treasures of your home library, and why they might be special to you.
Hurricane Irene is here. Although (as I'm typing this) I'm not in imminent danger, all of the streams are going to be blown out at least until midweek, not to mention what kind of havoc the high winds might have caused, so likely not a ton of fishing in store for me...at least until next weekend. Holed up in the house, will have some time on my hands, which gets me thinking about reading.
As a blogger, I love to read other people's blogs. I take at least a partial spin through my blogroll daily; there are so many talented writers and photographers out there, it's something I find really enjoyable.
There are also a ton of online magazines such as 'Catch Magazine,' 'Ten and Two,' 'Kype Magazine,' and 'This Is Fly' that are very good reads. That noted, it doesn't mean I don't like to do traditional reading in primarily magazine or book form as well.
Problem was, I was getting so many magazines either by my own doing or via gift subscriptions, they were really piling up. Reading them all wasn't necessarily the issue, but I just sort of wanted a streamlined way to keep them...not only close by...but for posterity. All that paper takes up space! Not to mention the inconvenience of juggling multiple books and magazines when traveling.
So I've started the migration to digital. I've got the Kindle app for both my Android phone and tablet and have downloaded Gierach's 'No Shortage of Good Days' and 'The Windknot' by John Galligan to start my "library." On top of that, with my Field & Stream subscription running out this month, I've transitioned that to digital as well, which is accessible on the tablet, PC, phone, you name it, via an account with Zinio.
While I'm getting the hang of this, I have to say I like it so far. Using the Android tablet vs. say an actual Kindle is nice because it's in color so you can still get the full impact of photography in magazines. I wouldn't imagine a book being much of a difference since it is primarily text. Unfortunately, many fly fishing magazines I enjoy aren't available digitally yet, so I can't quite get to paperless Nirvana yet.
There's just something about this region of southwest Wisconsin that amazes upon each and every pilgrimage. The rolling green hills, the cold spring creeks, the voracious trout; it's wonderfully unique and intoxicating.
Now I don't consider myself a very good trout angler. Once upon a time I was on the path to perhaps becoming one, but ever since moving to Florida, I just don't get to fish for trout frequently enough to really advance my skills.
That said, upon entering the Driftless, I always seem to punch above my weight class. The fishing can be just that good. It's the kind of place that satisfies, no matter one's skill level.
Two weeks ago I met up with a half dozen fixed-line friends for five days of camping, fishing, and camaraderie. Our base camp was in the Viroqua, Wisconsin area, ideal to launch off in any direction for a full day of fishing and fun. It was a trip I won't forget soon, and honestly there's no reason to want to.