Sunday, June 29, 2014

COULEE SPRING CREEKS...MICHIGAN HATCHES...SUMMER STEELHEAD

                                                                ( 27 1/2" Driftless WI spring creek trout
                                                                           taken Wednesday)
Had the extreme pleasure of visiting my good client and friend, Dr. Jack Flaherty from Chicago, and his lovely farm  in the Amish country of Wisconsin's amazing Driftless spring creek country. Though I fished the Driftless limestone spring creeks of Minnesota and Iowa, it was my first visit to the mind boggling natural spring coulee riches this vast Wisconsin chain of rolling hills and meadows have to offer.

Jack's lovely wife Kathy just passed away from cancer a month ago and it hit all of us very hard. I spent many a day with Kathy who was becoming an avid steelheader- I will miss her very much. I was so glad to see her one more time in May when she came up with Dr Jack , weak from the Chemo but with serene spirit. Jack loved these spring creeks and was a kind host to show me his 'decompression farm' from the hectic ER hospital shifts and hustle and bustle of Chicago.
 (Ruland's Coulee)
I am simply awestruck by the natural beauty of these steep hills and valleys ( the French called them 'coulees'), with gorgeous farms with grazing cattle, sheep and horses. It is a mini Switzerland and tons of Amish farms and cheese/farmer co-op outlets abound- a' farm to table' chef's dream come true. These ice cold limestone spring creeks come out of the hard dolomite limestone caverns at 46-57F year round and are managed by the WDNR for wild brown and brook trout. This area did not get the flattening glacial upheavals that the lower Great Lakes did and have all the limestone/dolomite cliffs mountains and valleys that are not present in lower MI/IN/IL and eastern Wisconsin. There are hundreds if not thousands of miles of pure limestone spring creeks with most of them blue ribbon wild trout waters managed for catch&release...totally amazing!. 
Each valley /coulee has a spring creek and you can literally spend a lifetime exploring this vast mind boggling resource of this endless trout Mecca. I believe God created these creeks for himself to fish!  The tremendous stream structural improvements done by Chicago and Wisconsin Trout Unlimited chapters for the last half a century is obvious everywhere. Cattle grazing is contained and stiles/fences are carefully managed . WDNR strict September 30th closure is not liked by many, but this staunch regulation protects the spawning year class fish and the results are obvious everywhere with the mind boggling wild trout per square hectare numbers. These creeks fish like the Letort and Falling Springs back 40 years ago. I spent every weekend on the Limestone Springs of PA when I was in the hotel business back in the 80's in Washington DC. It is here I fell in love with their complexity. These creeks also brought my romantic feelings out as they look alot like the upper Wiscoy Creek in the Allegany foothills of southern New York , and similar to the Wieprza and her small tributaries in certain sections on my Dad's farm in Poland, both creeks I fished as a boy and honed my skills and observance of trout behavior. 

The absolute highlight and lifetime event of this trip was my first WI Coulee trout- it was a massive 27 1/2 inch brown I stalked for over an hour after I noticed the fish midging in pure daylight of a hot afternoon.The fish succumbed to my new creation, the WMD ( weapons of midge destruction) pupae I tied at the ranch that morning. It is the second largest spring creek trout of my life ( actually about the same size as my first), taken at Skelly's farm meadow on the Falling Spring Run , and another similar sized one in Virginia on Mossy Creek- both in the 80's.
( my beast!...I'm still shaking from it days later!)
The great thing about these spring creeks is that the prime time of year is just starting...Tricos in the morning and terrestrial hoppers/ants /crickets in the afternoon- that is the best time to fish these springs and have large A/A browns cruising about for a hopper sandwich- they can get a little dumb then when their kill artist response is on full alert......I'll be back in September!- I am counting down the days!

MICHIGAN REPORT: The Muskegon is at a good flow and fishing very well since the trout have packed down so many drakes and Isos over the weeks , their bellies are gorged and now on the hunt for more food sources. The stocked trout will put a serious bend in your 4/5 weights and are starting to target the caddis hatches. Some Cahill Stenos at dark- still a few drakes and Isos- but caddis will now be the mainstay for the rest of the year.Lat evening's guide trip saw my couple having fun with the numbers of fish and quality that can excite many novice anglers- great summer to get kids and spouses into fly fishing with so many trout about. Water is still cool and "FINALLY"...they fixed the turbines and are no longer top spilling off the dam. This will keep water temperatures down all summer since there is still plenty of cold water in reservoirs and the cool water bubbler gets turned on in July. It will be a great summer and fall- last year the Trico hatches really started to kick in. Back to air temps in the mid/low 70's this week. Hex action is yet to explode on the PM due to rain/high water and the bitter cold spring. Up on the Au Sable , Hex action is at peak. The smaller streams of the White/Tamarack etc. are full of water and fishing amazing since they were flooded and unfishable all spring.

SUMMER SKAMANIA STEELHEAD


Lake Michigan is still ice cold- 40F in the center. I came over both the Muskegon and Manitowoc ferries this week and the lake was one huge foggy arctic cold zone. The summer run will start any day now and July thru September should see excellent returns with lots of cold water in both lake and rivers and good flows. Last year's big girthed fish- approaching the 20 mark, was hopefully an indication of what is to come. Also their appetite for beetles and mysis shrimp was a great learning experience. I still have some good dates available  for guiding on the St. Joe and IN spring creeks.