It’s always a bittersweet time as we approach the last few days of the Wisconsin Inland Trout Season because we want to get in that last outing and make it a good one. The weather and fronts/pressure changes however don’t know when trout season closes, and this year the last 2 days had high winds and strong cold fronts. This put the trout in a bit of a funk especially on October 15 with overnight lows in the upper 30’s, morning temps in the mid 40’s, and finally an afternoon high of 55 but the high winds made it feel colder.
Because of the hand we were dealt, we needed to focus on the special things like seeing 2 low flying bald eagles chasing each other while driving between streams, and brown, brook, and if we’re lucky a tiger trout in fall spawning colors. It’s these vivid colors that are the true season ending artistry that make these last outings memorable especially if you’re lucky enough to catch a tiger trout.
It all started for me on Tuesday October 13 after 7 days of the Sheboygan River “Salmon Rodeo” guiding clients to king salmon. I wanted to return to fly fishing normalcy so I went to one of my favorite southwest Wisconsin spring creeks in search of brookies and browns on hoppers. Only problem was the fish weren’t looking at hoppers, so I fished a small streamer and caught some browns and brookies some colorful some not. In the last hour of my fishing session I caught a beautiful 13” male brookie in fall spawning colors, and after photos I decided that was the perfect fish to end my personal season with. On October 15, I had one of my best angling clients and friends on stream and we had to work hard for the fish due to a strong cold front and pressure change. Back on the brook trout stream we fish streamers because 2 days earlier when it was warmer fish didn’t even look at hoppers. After sparse action, we switched to hoppers, I encouraged him to try another spot, and he caught a beautiful tiger trout in full spawning color. A tiger trout is a male brook trout/female brown trout hybrid that occurs by chance in nature making it a rare treasure and special fish. This fish was the highlight of the trip and the perfect fish for my friend to end the season with. Take what Mother Nature and the river give you, be persistent and optimistic, and you’ll be rewarded with a good fishing outing.
Last of all, I want to extend a huge heartfelt thank you to all clients both regular and new for their outpouring of support this season. The season started out with the deck stacked heavily against us due to COVID-19. But it turns out that fly fishing is the perfect social distancing hobby to enjoy outside with friends. I can’t thank you all enough for your generous and loyal support because this endeavor couldn’t happen without all of you. Lastly, I want to welcome all the new first-time fly fishers to fly fishing they all bring diversity, new energy, and a different prospective to the sport.
Fall is in the air-cooler temperatures, shorter days, some color on the hillsides, harvest season, awesome fishing, and the last month of Wisconsin trout season. The last 2 points are the most important on the fly fishing front. The October 15 Trout Season closure is a sense of urgency to get those last outings in before the season closes-weather’s perfect and fish are happy. The fishing is a combination of all good things-streamer fishing, hot mid-day grasshopper fishing, nymphing, and late afternoon-evening blue wing olive hatches. This is one of my favorite times of the year to be on the Driftless Area trout streams.
Depending what you like, you don’t have to fish a full day. If you like savage strikes on big dry flies, concentrate on hoppers between 10:30 and 4:00, if you like the small dry fly technical game concentrate on blue wing olive hatches between 4:00 and dark. Streamer fishing can be a morning or late afternoon/evening affair. This allows you to sleep in, have breakfast, do some yard work, take that hike with your spouse, and still enjoy a quality fishing outing. If you like all the fishing options, start in the morning, fish all day, and enjoy a good variety of fishing techniques.
The grasshopper fishing will be a continuation of August-mid September except now we’re fishing bigger sizes 10-12 and lighter colors yellow and tan. You also don’t need to start til 10:30 due to later sunrise, cooler overnight low temperatures, and cooler stream temperatures. If you arrive a bit late, no big deal but someone might be in the spot you want to fish. Streamer fishing will be best early-mid morning, 4:00 PM-dark on warm days; all day on overcast and cooler days. The trout are putting on the feed bag and big fish are showing themselves so don’t be afraid to fish bigger flies and 0X-2X tippet. You may catch the biggest brown trout of the season now. I got a monster brown trout 2 weeks ago when I was out checking water after heavy rains. I decided to fish for an hour under overcast skies and stained water and Wham it happened. Of course I left my camera in the car because I was “just fishing for an hour”-still have the memory though.
The late afternoon-evening blue wing olive hatches demand slow careful stalking, good observation, patience, magnifiers to thread size 20-22 flies, 5X-6X tippet, and good eyes. When you get into position pick the rising fish you want to target, and cast your fly 2 feet above the fish so you don’t lose control or sight of your small fly. Don’t cast if fish aren’t rising. This is slow, methodical, and technical fishing but if you take your time it will pay off in good dividends.
Fall is a special time of the year to be on the Driftless Region trout streams because air and stream temperatures are cooling down making the trout more aggressive. Although most people don’t think of fishing our small streams with streamers, it’s a very effective way to cover lots of water quickly and find/catch fish in the process. September-October 15 is a great time of the year to fish streamers because trout are actively feeding to pack on calories for winter and becoming more territorial for the upcoming spawning season. This is active fast paced fishing where we cover lots of water and get visual aggressive strikes. Even the fish that miss our flies are an eventful memory.
Madison Fly Fishing Company is doing guide trips that are 100% dedicated to streamer fishing now thru October 15. I’ll cover effective flies, leader systems, fishing techniques, and where to look for fish on these trips. If you’ve wanted to learn how to fish streamers on our spring creeks, but don’t know where to start, book a guide trip between now and October 15 to get in on the excitement.
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