It’s become something of an annual tradition that Greg, Josh, and I will get together for a trout outing near La Crosse during the early season. We missed last year because of various family “stuff” going on, and were smart enough this year to book our gathering late in the early season to avoid the frigid temps we’ve dealt with in past years. Typically, we’re chomping at the bit to get out as soon as possible after a long winter, though actually enjoying our outing has finally trumped getting out early and freezing our asses off.
Friday – Mormon Coulee Creek
After our traditional meal at Buzzard Billy’s Flying Carp Cafe (yes, that’s a real thing) we hit one of my favorite waters in the La Crosse Area – Mormon Coulee Creek. Fishing was tough and the wind was high. Greg caught a few fish, but Josh and I were skunked on the first stretch.
Next, we hit up a spot on private land where I asked the landowner for permission to fish her property, and she graciously agreed. Thank you, ma’am, whoever you are. As Bob Uecker would say, I was able to “get off the schneid” by catching a couple of browns. Nothing huge, but it was just nice to feel the fish darting frantically at the end of my line.
Saturday – Bohemian Valley Creek
Saturday morning we stopped at a spot on Bohemian Valley Creek where I was introduced to fly fishing by Greg. It is a spot I have frequented over the years and know the holes pretty well. Despite that, it was still tough fishing for Josh and me at first. Lo and behold, it seems like the key was the fly selection. Once again, the simple but deadly Blacksmith was the key as Greg (per usual) outfished us.
After switching flies, I was able to land a couple of Browns and Greg got the nicest fish of the weekend with a 13 or 14″ (I forget which) brown.
Saturday – West Fork of the Kickapoo River
Per my request, Greg and Josh agreed to try some water that none of us had fished yet. Though we’ve all fished the West Fork, Greg noted a specific spot that he wanted to try but never had. This spot was quite a bit further upstream than I had fished before, but the water looked promising.
I think we were all most pleased that we decided to explore a bit, as this spot proved to be quite fruitful. Early on Greg caught three brookies, I caught a brookie and a few browns, and Josh caught a few browns. The brookies were quite a pleasant surprise, and it was nice to get Josh out of the skunked category.
After fishing this stretch, Greg decided to hang up the waders for the day. But, given that Josh and I don’t get out nearly as much as we’d like now that we have little kids hanging off of us at home all of the time, we weren’t yet ready to retire for the day. So, we headed further downstream on the West Fork.
Big trout chasing lampreys
Josh was surprised (and perhaps disgusted) to see a number of small lampreys swimming along the streambed in the West Fork while we were still fishing with Greg. Having gone through the panic of seeing lampreys in the stream many years ago, we were able to calm Josh by explaining that they were actually a native species. The West Fork is one of the rivers that is home to the American Brook Lamprey – a non-parasitic lamprey that lives most of its life in a larval stage in the substrate and only really shows itself as an adult for a short time to spawn and die.
So, though I wasn’t shocked to see even more lampreys as we moved further downstream, I was quite shocked as Josh explained a sight he had seen in the middle of a run. And, not long after he explained it to me, I witnessed it for myself. Much like I’d seen before where a predatory fish chases baitfish to the surface of the water, large browns were doing the same to these small lampreys. Knowing that there were trout big enough to down a 4-6 inch lamprey was adrenaline-inducing.
However, neither of us were packing a lamprey pattern in our fly box (has anyone ever?). But, Josh tied on the closest streamer he could find, walked upstream, and began to swing the fly through the run. I personally witnessed at least a half-dozen strong attacks, a couple including a trout coming fully out of the water to hit the streamer, but he just couldn’t hook up. It was neat, exciting, but ultimately a bit fruitless.
All-in-all it was a glorious couple days of fishing. Man, I can’t wait to get out again.