Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nearly driftless

"Depending on conditions" is a popular caveat around here - conditions being anything from fishing pressure to flow rate, clarity, hatch activity, road conditions, accessibility, et cetera. Oh and weather.

If you fish outside, you're aware of the role of weather. Especially if you are planning a trip, and especially if that trip is to a location with extreme weather, you better load up forecast.weather.gov. As a matter in fact, Liz and I witnessed the impact of extreme weather on our recent trip to the Driftless.

We were able to find fishable water by the end of our week-long trip, about six days after 7 to 8 inches of rain fell around Decorah, Iowa, causing flooding and dark-chocolate water. Our plans for lots of exploring were thwarted, wading wasn't easy, the water wasn't see-through, and the wind wasn't absent.

Most of the streams here are small and overgrown, but the water isn't tricky to read. The trout we found were small, but there is some natural reproduction and a few brood stockers. Rolling hills, lush greenery, and thick humidity distinguish the Driftless from the West, but the trout fishing is reminiscent.

Decorah is worth visiting, and the nearby fisheries are not necessarily the bland, cookie-cutter-stocker-filled waters about which you just read. We consulted a couple of friends who spoke highly of the area, and while there, stopped at the Highland General Store where a small box of film prints revealed big trout (the shop also had a selection of well-tied flies, fly lines, leaders, tippet, et cetera). Ethan and Jason at Northeast Iowa Flyfishing Guide Service kept us apprised about access laws and conditions - they are fishy folks who undoubtedly know where the big ones lie.

Between the trout, we camped at free public streamside sites ablaze with fireflies, met and caught up with family, dined at some old favorites, sampled the local drafts and even witnessed a brief aurora in southern Minnesota. Despite conditions, it was a fantastic trip.

Upon our return to Montana, we appear to have entered the nothing-but-90s-and-sun period of our season. Hopefully we haven't missed the day or two of fishable post-runoff pre-hoot-owl fishing (if that occurs this year) on some favorite rivers. Depending on conditions, we'll find out soon.


HighPlainsFlyFisher said...

I love that area. The Highlandville store is one of those old time places where you can meet half the town every morning over a cup of hot (free) coffee. While the streams right next to the store are stocked, there are several streams in the close vicinity that have wild browns and even some wild brookies to play with. Pretty country with some of the nicest people I've met anywhere in my travels.

Joshua Bergan said...

Agreed. That little shop is my new favorite store. They even broke up a package of butter so i could only buy what i needed - terrific people.