When Fred Young, a gear maker, TU member and avid Driftless angler, pulled over and parked above the pastoral setting we were to fish, I couldn't help but notice that I could probably jump over the creek we were about to fish — and I'm not the most athletic of folks. I knew that the streams in the area were small, but I hadn't fully counted on them being this small.
We half-walked and half-slid down the dewy hill and casually approached the stream with what would have been a fatal lack of caution on a Western small stream. Fred had me fishing a nymph and Bill Thorn from Arkansas twitching a girdle bug. It took me all of four casts to bring a nice, healthy, colored-up brown of about seven inches to hand.
We worked upstream, taking turns fishing and giving the other angler a hard time. It was rarely more than five minutes before one of us caught a fish and we switched. I quickly switched to a small hopper as the fog burnt off and the fish started looking up. Fred seemed to know exactly where the fish would be — and after a while of him pointing out the spots to us, we started to figure it out.
We fished two streams, and crossed countless others on our drive to and from Madison. Two streams out of over two hundred improved trout streams in the Driftless area.
As we fished, Fred pointed out the great improvements that had been made to the streams — deeply undercut banks had been created by placing "boom covers" in strategic locations.
The streams had shocking changes in character — wide, froggy, mucky pools were followed by swift stretches of stream with no more than two feet of stream showing between the dramatically undercut banks. The fish often hung close to these banks, or were found at the head of a big pool. I caught my best fish of the day in a stretch of stream barely wider than the trout was long.
We didn't need light leaders, or long, stealthy presentations. One of the nicest fish that Bill caught came from no more than three feet from his waders. We spooked more fish than we caught, but we brought enough to hand that we were never bored.
I'd never fished anything like these streams, and that's what's great about these hosted fishing days. You get to see great water that's different from what you get to fish at home — and you get to do it with people who are passionate not only about fishing, but about conservation.