Driftless Trout Anglers

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#1 Posted : Saturday, July 27, 2019 10:16:57 PM(UTC)
Rank: Midge

Joined: 7/27/2019(UTC)
Posts: 2
United States

Hi guys. I'm relatively new to fly fishing and the driftless area. So far I've only been nymphing on the Kinni and the Rush, and I want to start branching out and finding new locations. I have a 9' 5-wt rod, so I'm looking for new spots that have a little space for casting, at least until I get better at it in tight quarters.

Now I know better than to ask for fishing spots in particular. Instead I was hoping you guys could verify my approach to finding trout streams:

Right now I use the WI DNR's trout stream map to find Class I or Class II trout streams as a start (Pierce and St. Croix counties mostly). I then rule out streams that got too much rainfall. (If only all streams had USGS monitoring stations like the Kinni!) I'll then use Google Maps to see a satellite view and plan my routes upstream.

Unfortunately, I too often end up picking spots with unexpectedly deep water and/or too much brush, making it hard to navigate upstream or not get my flies caught on plants all the time! It's definitely frustrating as a beginner given that it takes me at least an hour to drive to a location. One time I drove all the way to a spot, only to be thwarted by deep water on one end and barbed wire on the other! It's also hard to tell to if I'm in a good spot until I get a decent ways upstream, and by then it's hard to drive somewhere else.

Is there a set of guidelines/tips I should be following for a beginner in my situation? (streams at least 15' wide, public easements, nearby walking trails..etc?) This forum has already provided me with a wealth of information, but any extra advice would be highly appreciated. Thank you!

#2 Posted : Saturday, July 27, 2019 11:13:26 PM(UTC)
Rank: Super Fly

Joined: 3/16/2013(UTC)
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Location: Lake Elmo, Mn

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The DNR Classification system is accurate more often than not, but I’ll tell you this. My best streams are mostly Class II. One is a Class III.

I’d find a stream you’re interested in, scout it on google maps, then find 4-5 more options in that area. Then go fish. Today, I had to go to option C because everything else was unfishable.
"I fish because I love to: Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness."
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BrodyHetland on 7/28/2019(UTC)
#3 Posted : Sunday, July 28, 2019 3:42:23 AM(UTC)
Rank: Dragon Fly

Joined: 11/7/2016(UTC)
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Location: Madison

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Welcome to your first year or two of trout fishing.

There's nothing for it but to go out and do it and go through it.

Sure... I'd be disappointed back then with a seemingly wasted day, but I always tried to look at it as crossing another one (spot or stream) off the list.

Also - I'd find good ones that would become part of my "inventory" of good spots.

Give it time and you'll have your own list of options and spots.

It's fun when you get to that point, but every once in a while I think it would be cool to go back to the days of not knowing much and finding all of those new spots.

Then again... it's nice being where I'm at too.
“Harvest eaters... release trophies.” -Gurth
Private correspondence at: jkschind "at" tds.net
thanks 1 user thanked Gurth for this useful post.
BrodyHetland on 7/28/2019(UTC)
MN Driftless  
#4 Posted : Sunday, July 28, 2019 11:33:33 AM(UTC)
MN Driftless
Rank: Midge

Joined: 5/15/2016(UTC)
Posts: 47
United States
Location: The Driftless

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Actually get out and walk some of the areas you want to fish. Early in the year is the logical time, but I'll second Google Maps to a point. I go west each year, and it has made some of my planning as it pertains to hiking and fishing (I don't drift boat) invaluable. Conversations with Fisheries personnel, in person, or on the phone, can also help.
#5 Posted : Sunday, July 28, 2019 1:07:15 PM(UTC)
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Location: MPLS by way of AK

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Why “I don’t drift boat”? That is quite limiting for many/most western fisheries.

I’ll second just get out, explore and fish. Put in some miles and time.
#6 Posted : Sunday, July 28, 2019 1:39:16 PM(UTC)
Rank: Midge

Joined: 3/20/2019(UTC)
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United States
Location: Minnesota

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We might not all agree on every stream rating, but the TroutRoutes app is really intended for questions like this and is honestly a good resource for Shane as he gets started scouting new streams. Has all the information the DNR maps has, including all of the marked parking spots and public land access.

At the end of the day though, getting out and exploring is the best answer, especially since those counties are pretty manageable.
#7 Posted : Sunday, July 28, 2019 2:43:59 PM(UTC)
Rank: Stone Fly

Joined: 4/16/2014(UTC)
Posts: 515
United States
Location: Madison, Wisconsin during the week and Lincolnshire, Illinois on weekends.

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In addition to the excellent advice above, I'd get a Wisconsin Gazetteer and a copy of "Map Guide to Improved Trout Waters of Wisconsin." I also print out (shout out to my company providing 11 x 17" paper for me to print out on, LOL!) the county trout stream maps from the WIS DNR.

Just to pile on, I'll add:
1 Be prepared to put on some miles both on your car and on foot.
2 Learn to roll cast. Sometimes, a rod/line combo simply will not allow you to do this well, but but usually you can learn to roll cast 25 feet out, and you seldom need more than that.
3 This time of the year is the toughest to learn the tricks, as most places are simply too overgrown. My best fishing has been January through March - not that I still don't fish the entire season.
Bob Williams, "Weiliwen"
William Schlafer  
#8 Posted : Sunday, July 28, 2019 3:40:43 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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Location: Sussex Wisconsin

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There's lots of great advice on this forum and you'll hear from plenty of others about the best streams to fish, when and how. However... your experience may differ from what Trout stream maps, books, and local experts tell you. What may end up working best for you may not necessarily be what the herd recommends.

As mentioned above, you need to get out there and put on the miles and figure some of it out for yourself. Stream access maps are helpful, but you may find that your favorite streams are those that others may not find all that attractive. A Class I rated stream only means that it has the necessary ingredients for natural reproduction of Trout - not that they're the best, or even most enjoyable places to fish, or are even accessible at all. Some of my favorite places to fish are not that highly regarded by others.

Exploring and figuring it out is half the fun. That discipline of obtaining that info will serve you better in the long run than chasing shortcuts.

That said, I'll also put in a recommendation to hire a local guide for an outing. In one afternoon you'll learn more about stream etiquette, rod and line technique and how to read the water and find Trout than you will in a whole season on your own. Worth-every-dollar.

Good luck!
“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
#9 Posted : Sunday, July 28, 2019 5:11:39 PM(UTC)
Rank: Midge

Joined: 5/16/2019(UTC)
Posts: 9
United States
Location: Pierce County

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I use On X Maps for all of my scouting. I do pay $100 a year for the premium version but I do out of state hunting and that is what i use it primarily for.

Here is a screen shot of a section of the Rush i fished yesterday. I used the app to see how far I walked (2.84 miles of river and TOO MANY miles back).


The little blue trout icons are all stream access points i've scouted and/or fished. I can click on each individual pin and enter in notes each time I fish it. It's worth every penny in my opinion.

My best advice is to not be nervous about trying new water. I have almost exclusively fished new water this year, and have had some banger days but a lot of "that sucked" days.

Like Gurth said, the more water you fish, the more spots you can X off your list. You could fish Pierce St. Croix and Dunn counties for years and leave MANY spots unfished. We are blessed with great waters.
#10 Posted : Sunday, July 28, 2019 7:12:02 PM(UTC)
Rank: Dragon Fly

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Location: Genoa

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Be young, single, and dumb lol

I put in 5 years of fishing where I'd go sunup to sundown 1-3 times a week

Find a buddy who can help and motivate you
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