By John Snyder
After a few weeks of planning, we kicked off our OBTU Summer Driftless Area fishing trip with an evening “pre-meeting” hosted by Jeremy Spaccapaniccia at the DuPage Fly Fishing Co. shop in Naperville where he is the store manager. As our weekend guide, Jeremy provided an overview of what to expect and supplies along with a cold beer.
Fishing the Driftless Area is more than just fishin’—it’s a real adventure to a somewhat wild and remote area of valleys, hollows, and hilltop hay farms that seems like another world in a different time. Abundant wildlife, birds, ripe blackberries and wildflowers abound along with local cheese purveyors and craft beer.
We kicked off our trip Saturday morning on June 30, meeting mid-morning at the Citgo station in Monfort, Wisconsin—about 20 miles west of Dodgeville on Highway 18, and a three-hour drive from Chicago’s western suburbs. We were in the southwestern portion of the Driftless Area with our focus on the Blue and Green Rivers and Castle Rock Creek. The primary fishable areas were secret pockets, hidden bends and undercut banks that stretched along the rolling valley floors.
Our Driftless Area fishing first-timers were Rich Tworek, Jim Moravak, Steve Schmidt, Mark Wandtke and Dave Dial along with his son Dave Jr. and grandson Noah.
We carpooled about five miles to the Cohaut farm on Castle Rock Creek to set up for some basic angling instruction and “fly fishing 101” tips. Careful not to hook a Holstein on the back cast, everyone tested and honed their flyrod casting skills before learning how avoid snagging flies in streamside foliage.
Jeremy and his associate Dan helped everyone get their rods and flies rigged. All just really took ownership and hit the water . . . occasionally followed by dairy cows and horses. It was quite hot, so all fished in shorts or long pants.
The water was muddy from recent local rains and therefore the fishing was slow, although Dave Dial did manage to land a few brown trout. Dave noted that this was the inaugural grandfather, son, grandson fishing trip ever they shared.
Following an H20 break and a sandwich, we set off over the ridge for the Green River—heading west through Fennimore and onto Green River Road and down past Wherly, Wisconsin (don’t blink our you will miss it!)
The difference in water quality was amazing with clear, cold and good flowage indicating a number of spring feeder streams.
We split up at three different bridges and all anglers found brown trout rising to small dries or emergers. This was really the first experience for most to see actual water conditions, and read water currents and holding spots for trout.
We finished up our Saturday fishing around 6:30 p.m. (we had to drag these guys off the water), and headed for the Fenway House Hotel in Fennimore. We were greeted by wonderful folks who were waiting cheerfully for us with cold beer, cheese and sausage and lots of local lore—including the locally preferred bug spray—Absorbine, Jr. Yep, the bug repellant preferred by farmers and locals and, of course, sold out at the local grocery store. The Fenway House Hotel gave us a bottle, and boy the stuff worked wonders for all of us. Jeff, Renee and Sheri run the Fenway House Hotel and they were really a joy. We recommend using this place again.
At dinner, I suggested breakfast at a local restaurant at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and was roundly voted down. Instead, we got an earlier start with coffee and donuts, boiled eggs and fruit at 7:30 a.m. and hit the water sooner. There was no slowing these new guys down!
Now experienced and aware of cows and trees and high streamside grasses, surgeons knots and 6/7x tippet , almost all caught at least one nice brown trout. Rich Tworek put on a #14 pink squirrel below the second bridge, mastered “high sticking” his line with a nymph, and landed a fat and beautiful 14” brown.
I drove back through a beautiful rolling hail storm about 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning after Rich caught his brown. I drove south through the old mining and tourist town of Mineral Point where I stopped at an art gallery and picked up a growler of Mineral Point Brewery ale.
Only a few know the best locations in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, like where exactly those three bridges are located on the Green River.
The best of friendships are often made on the water.
Tight lines and God Bless.