Trout season in Wisconsin and Minnesota closed a couple weeks back, so to fish this weekend, a trip to Iowa was in order. After an easy online purchase of an Iowa license Saturday night, and a search for some maps, I was ready to head out of Wisconsin on a warm Sunday morning. And the drive early Sunday morning was especially nice, with some really intense fall colors.
I looked for Clear Creek last year, and never found it. It’s just west of New Albin, Iowa near the Minnesota border, and last year I had a map that didn’t have the names of the roads on it. This year I armed myself with a couple of additional maps, including some printed off the Internet, and I found it right away. Clear Creek is a tiny stream that flows south from the Minnesota border for about three and a half miles before it joins up with the Upper Iowa River. I stopped at several points along the stream, and all the spots I looked at were tight with brush and trees, and I wasn’t in the mood for bush-whacking and rescuing flies from the People of the Trees, so I didn’t fish.
Clear Creek flows through a small valley with just a handful of farms and houses, so you get a wonderful feeling of remoteness here. The Iowa DNR says this stream holds wild browns, so I’m looking forward to fishing it next spring before green-up when it will be much less of a challenge.
French Creek is directly south of Clear Creek by just a few miles, but on the other side of the Upper Iowa, and an old friend. It holds wild browns and brookies, and used to be stocked with rainbows, but I haven’t caught a rainbow there in perhaps a dozen years. From a few years back, I have fond memories of sitting on a grassy spot for perhaps a half hour just a few feet away from a pair of spawning brook trout. They were so intent on each other and their gravel redd that they completely ignored me, even though I could have reached out and touched them.
More often than not, I like to fish French in the pasture, just before it enters into the Upper Iowa, and where I’ve never seen anyone else fish it. This downstream portion is pretty much brush and tree free, because the grazing Angus cows keep it clear, so it’s a bit easier walking and fishing. The upstream portion is more rugged, full of trees and bushes.
I fished four or five holes and runs for maybe two hours, and caught the biggest fish of the year on my second cast. This fish was a brown just shy of 15″, with just a hint of a hooked jaw. (I think if I would have stepped on him he would have measured 15″, but unsquished, he was an honest 14 1/2″.) I caught four other browns-all over 12″-and all appeared to be wild and very healthy. I called it a day when the cows started hemming me in. I didn’t see any bulls, but I get the willies when there are too many cows to easily identify individually.
After fishing the French I headed down to Decorah for a quick bite to eat, and then went to the fish hatchery just south of town. There I found dozens of folks walking the trail, touring the hatchery, and fishing for just-stocked rainbows in Trout Run. I rigged up a rod and quickly caught three rainbows, which I donated to a grateful family of four, who said they were going to start smoking them as soon as they got home.
Then a pleasant ride home through more fall colors while listening to a Packers blow-out on the radio. A very nice day.
Enjoy the pics!