Bette and I enjoyed a Friday off from work yesterday. Bette’s not a flyfisher, and I’m not up for bike rides of longer lengths. So we decided to combine the two, kind of like hook and book outings (where she hikes and reads while I fish), but not quite. We loaded (a small portion of) my fishing gear into her Civic and strapped her bike to the rack and drove to Elroy, about an hour from La Crosse. We dropped her and her bike off at the trailhead of the 32-mile Elroy-Sparta bike trail. She’s always wanted to ride it, and yesterday she got her chance.
The trail is on an old railroad bed, and has three tunnels that you walk your bike through. Bette reports that the trail is beautiful, crossing many streams, and often sheltered from the wind by trees. She saw lots of birds, and even managed to record on video two sandhill cranes that were trumpeting their squawky, haunting call. Click to hear the cranes (you might need to turn up the volume on your device): IMG_0306
Meanwhile, I headed over to the West Fork, where I fished two stretches that I had never fished before. The undaunted courage that enables Josh and Jason to explore new fishing spots has rubbed off on me, apparently.
My first stop was at a newly improved stretch about a mile north of Highway 82. I just bought a new reel, so I was particularly anxious to get on the water to try it out. The water here is beautiful, and there are plenty of fish, including browns, brooks, creek chubs, and some large suckers. I caught one brown, one brook, a large sucker, a couple of creek chubs here, and something that looks like a creek chub but wasn’t, because it didn’t have the black dot on its upper lip like all creek chubs are supposed to have. I’ve included pics of the sucker and the chub-like critter, and if you know what either of them are, please drop me a comment.
When I got back to my car about an 90 minutes later, Bette had texted me that she was about half-way up the trail, and to take my time fishing. So I stuck my rod in the car and drove wader-clad to my next destination, which is about two miles north of Avalanche off of Bloomington road. I was here several weeks back with Josh and Jason, and we fished upstream because a couple guys had already staked out the downstream stretch. So today, I fished the downstream stretch and was rewarded with some nice browns in the 12-13″ range. Lots of suckers here as well. It’s kind of creepy to look into a deeper pool and see the bottom move, and then you realize that it’s a school of suckers. When I got back to where I parked the car, I fished the same spot that Jason and Josh and I had fished earlier and caught a half dozen brookies and a couple more browns.
On the way back to my car I walked through a brushy wooded area and flushed a very large deer. I stopped and watched as he leaped over logs to get away from me. The trees haven’t leafed out just yet, so I was able to watch him for quite a ways.
Back at the car, I got out of my fish costume and put my rod and reel away, and checked my phone. Bette had made it all the way to Sparta, and was sitting in the shade under the huge bicycle that Sparta is locally famous for. A half hour later we had her bike strapped onto the back of the car and headed home.
I must say that this worked out well. We’ll definitely have to repeat the hook and bike tour on other trails in Wisconsin, and perhaps the Root River trail in Minnesota, which is in the heart of Minnesota’s Driftless trout streams.