The Driftless area of Wisconsin has a dizzying amount of fly fishable water with some of the best spring creek fishing in the world. Take a look at the Wisconsin DNR Trout Maps for more information on specific streams.
The Driftless Angler is located in Vernon county which boasts 65 classified trout streams (about 300 miles of trout water) including the Timber Coulee and West Fork of the Kickapoo. With hundreds of miles within our county a short drive from the shop, and hundreds of miles in our neighboring counties, we have more water than you can fish in a lifetime.
Our creeks are limestone spring creeks with cold clean water flowing out of the ground and creating the perfect habitat for aquatic insects, crustaceans, and trout. Consistent flows of cold water, great chemistry, and modern farming practices all come together to create a fishery with populations per mile close to that of some of the famous western waters.
Much of our water is public either through public access via bridge, or through conservation easement partnerships between private land owners and the Wisconsin DNR. You can access our waters at any public access point, and if you keep your feet in the water, you are on public lands.
Seasons and Hatches
The fertility of the Driftless Area spring creeks means incredible insect and crustacean life all season long. The opportunity to fish for rising trout is second to none here as there are strong hatches all season. In addition to the abundant mayflies and caddis, scuds and sowbugs cover the streambeds providing fish a constant food source even when there is no hatch to match. Leech patterns and streamers fished under stream improvements and in deeper pools can provide some of the best trout of the season under any water condition. The rolling meadow character of many of these streams means terrestrials give trout a consistent summer source of food.
Winter / Spring
March through May
Winter weather fades and water temperatures lose their chill. This is an excellent time to fish for big fish, which feed aggressively this time of year even in non-classified waters which can get a bit warm during the summer. There is still the chance of early wind, snow and rain which can be heavy at times. Keep in mind that these storms are often localized, meaning one stream may be blown out but a stream a couple of valleys over could be crystal clear. When the rains hit, you can also head up to the headwater tributary streams where the water usually runs clear.
The biggest hatches this time of year are the blue winged olives (Baetis) and (Brachycentrus) Black Caddis. These two insects hatch in large concentrated quantities and offer some of the best dry-fly fishing of the year. A caddis larva rolled along the bottom with a scud following can be deadly during the spring. There is a hatch of tiny black stoneflies in the first part of the early catch and release season Hendricksons in the middle and Sulphurs in the latter part round out the early season hatches to look for.
Summer / Fall
June through September
This is terrestrial time! Summer fishing is best (and most comfortable) from sun-up into the early morning and late afternoons until dusk. This is when the majority of the hatch activity takes place. During the mid-day sun, look for fish in shaded areas and undercut banks.
The major insect available in the summer time is the tiny olive (formerly Pseudocoleon) with some Cahills, Tan Caddis and Midges as well. Later on in the season, some Coulee region streams get a heavy hatch of Tricos; these tiny mayflies can provide some great fishing on summer mornings. Ants, beetles, crickets and hoppers are also very important and readily available sources of food in the summer, and can provide some excellent fishing even when trout do not seem to be interested in anything else.
In the later summer, when temperatures have cooled, some of the big brown trout concentrate in the headwater streams getting ready to spawn. This is an excellent time to catch a trophy fish! If you see any fish on beds, please leave them alone to produce another generation of catchable trout. Concentrate on the aggressive fish downstream.
Hendricksons: Early April to Mid June
Sulphurs: May to July
March Browns: May to July
Light Cahill: June to August
Hex: Mid June to Mid July
Blue Winged Olives: All seasons, especially heavy in spring
Tiny Olives: July to September
Tricos: July to September
Black Caddis: March to May
Tan Caddis: June to September
Tiny Black Stoneflies: April to May
Ants: May to September
Beetles: May to September
Crickets: May to September
Grasshoppers: June to September
Light Midges: June to September
Dark Midges: March to May
Scuds, Sowbugs, Leeches, Minnows: All seasons
Craneflies: May to July