Monday, December 19, 2011


I really love fly fishing for trout.  I know it's cliché, but most of the time what I love about it isn't necessarily catching fish.  There are so many other aspects to the sport that can make a slow day on the stream a fulfilling experience.  I feel so lucky for the opportunities I've found over the past couple years to immerse myself into fly fishing and everything related to it.

The Wisconsin inland trout season begins in March and ends in September.  That closing time always comes at a point when the trout I'm catching start getting larger and more numerous.  I've been fly fishing for just two solid seasons now, but the end of September suddenly represents a halt to my favorite pastime for another six months.  I think it's good for the trout in this state to have a break from fishing pressures, and there are several neighboring states with year-round trout seasons I could easily travel to, but I've found relief from a fishless fall by chasing Brule River steelhead.

The fall of 2010 was my first attempt at steelhead fishing, and I luckily had a couple good friends to tag along with and borrow gear from, since my trusty 5-wt is no match for a lake run rainbow.  Steelhead, like muskie, are considered to be fish of a thousand casts, so I naturally prepared myself to be skunked that trip.  Like most fishing trips, it was easy to enjoy other aspects of the experience other than landing a fish.  I actually hooked a steelhead on my first day, but it broke me off within a few seconds.  I continued to have visions of that fleeting silver jump for the next twelve months.  Like they say, it's the fish lost that you remember most.

I made it up to the Brule twice this past fall.  Steelhead weather is supposed to be crummy---cold and overcast---but this trip was characterized by bluebird skies and eighty-degree weather.  
Mouth of the Brule River
To make the situation worse, the river was low and clear.  I again prepared myself for a fishless weekend and thought of it as a chance to practice my roll casting.  At about mid afternoon on the first day, I returned to a stretch of river my partners were fishing and waded in upstream from them.  I picked out a nice run and got a couple swings of my fly in when a silver body suddenly porpoised out of the water across from me.  My adrenaline kicked in, which gave me a bad case of the shakes, but I swung my fly in front of the fish's position a few times.  On the second or third swing, I felt the bend in my rod and saw the silver flash as my first steelhead performed a couple aerobatics and headed downstream.  In the end, it was small on the steelhead scale but a steelhead nonetheless.  Although I went without a bite the rest of the weekend, I was a pretty happy camper.

My final trip to the Brule occurred a month later.  The water was still low and clear but at least the seasonal temperatures had returned.  I continued to go fishless, but that hardly dampened the spirit of the trip, which was filled with good companions and good ol' Northern Wisconsin scenery.

Although the steelhead season is now also closed, there's just three short months to get through before the inland season opens once again.  Until then, I'll fill my seasonal void with musings about past seasons and attempts to master new fly patterns.


  1. I am very envious of that canvas wall tent with wood stove chimney you've got there. That really extends the camping season I'll bet. Nice steelhead too! I just caught my first this November on the Brule and man was it a blast!

  2. That tent belongs to one of my fishing partners. It's been a site for sore eyes many times after spending an entire day waist deep in cold water. The wood burning stove keeps it warm and cozy inside. Congrats on your first steelhead!