Fly Fishing Wisconsin’s St. Croix River for Giant Smallmouth

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Let me just start off by saying that I consider myself a person who deeply believes and trust in God…in fact I am not sure what I would have been or how my life would have gone with this presence; so, that being said, I don’t say this easily or with mere jest…The St. Croix may very well be the ‘perfect’ smallmouth stream. OK, go ahead now and insert your idea of a perfect stream…and let me say this strongly…if you haven’t yet fished the St. Croix, prepare to change your mind.

I had only read about this system…and thus being so close my wife and I made the trip the 45 minutes over from Trego, Wisconsin. I put in at the CCC landing at 138.9 and would float to Riverside Landing at 131.7…where my wife would pick me back up 6 hours later (no cell phone service).
St Croix RiverThe first mile or so below CCC was slow moving and frankly it felt like being on a lake that was slowly moving along. Here is the one wrinkle that threw me off at first…the water is so black, so tannic that I couldn’t get a good bearing as to how deep the water was…until my right foot banged into a rock and quickly I could deduce that the water wasn’t as deep as I thought. I went to a lighter fly and started stripping a bit quicker; 3rd casts and I caught my first ever St. Croix smallie. Another 100 yards and bang, another. The next few miles was more of the same…a fish here and there, they were big. One was 17, the next 15 and so on…until I was almost at my takeout…

I made a long cast across slack water and could see my white fly, that was until it disappeared. I could see a bulge, nervous water just before the fly went missing and immediately upon strip setting I knew that I was into a big fish. I made my way up to my GoPro camera and the rest as they say…well, you can watch, but it sure was a lot of fun.

This river was more than just fish. It was lily pads in bloom. Dark black water…that was clear? It was birds, beaver, muskrat, eagles…the list goes on and on. As I said, God was with me on this stream and I sat back and casted over and over, the stream ambling its way downhill towards the takeout.

As soon as Vickie pulled up I gave her a look and of course she thought it was due to a big fish (and it was) but it wasn’t…if that makes sense. I will, God willing, be back, many times to make each and every mile of this special river. I hope you enjoy the action and the scenery.

Fly Fishing Wisconsin’s Namekagon River for Big Smallmouth

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On my most recent cross country trip to Oregon (last video on Glacier Park) my wife Vickie and I set our GPS for Hayward, Wisconsin and the home of the Namekagon River. If you have followed me for a while then you know that this is one of my most favorite haunts; a river that is as luring as it black/tannic waters.
Namekagon RiverHere is the bottom line, you aren’t going to catch hundreds of smallies on the Namekagon…but the fish you do catch, they might just be the best fish of your life. Evidenced by my very first smallmouth. Just a few minutes below my put in point at Groat Landing I made a cast across the pool and allowed my Sugar Creek Shiner to swing down and through the rapids. Without even thinking my rod hand went high and I had hooked up with my fist fish…a chunky 16 incher that would put up a fight worthy of a Mike Tyson bout….well, just watch the video (below).

My two days on the Namekagon were nothing short of spectacular; I fished and enjoyed three jaunts downstream towards Trego, which was our home base for camping. The river system is so well marked and there are so many points or landings that you can choose any mileage you would like to travel. Over my three trips I traveled about 15 miles and landed about as many big, chunky smallies.
Map of Namekagon River areaLastly, if you go…you must make the trip into Hayward and visit my buddy Larry at The Hayward Fly Fishing Company. Larry will put you on the right fly and if you need help, or a guide…he or one of the others will ‘drift’ you down the “Old black water” for smallmouth or musky come the fall. I must add this…I am in and out of lots of fly shops each year. Let’s be honest, some are of no help as they are self-serving and don’t want to share any ‘secrets’; Larry will tell it to you just like it is and will give you as much help as he possibly can.

Oh, and one more one more….make a trip a couple blocks from the fly shop and just a stone’s throw from the giant musky…and grab a piece of pie from the Norske Nook. This restaurant has great food and frankly, the pie is to die for! As for favorite pie…nope, won’t go there, love them all!

Fly Fishing Glacier National Park

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If there ever was a place where catching fish just didn’t matter…Glacier National Park is it! Just recently my wife Vickie and I did a serious loop of the United States; 7,131 miles in total from southern Indiana to Oregon, Washington and back. We hooked up with the Oregon Trail and Lewis and Clark in Missouri and over the next couple of weeks the trails intertwined as we moved across Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and then on into Oregon, Astoria to be exact.

It was an eye opening trip as each mile we would think about the folks who traversed our great country; Lewis and Clark (The Corp of Discovery) and the thousands that walked, rode and suffered their way across to Oregon via the Oregon Trail. At times we were literally standing in wagon ruts and on spots that The Corps had graced. If you haven’t made this journey then you owe it to yourself…you won’t ever forget it.
Fly Fishing Glacier National Park - Bowman LakeAlong the way I did fish some in Nebraska as I tried my luck at several of The Sandhill lakes along the way. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a success as my timing was not the best. However, the lakes and the scenery were exceptional. I also tried a day float down the North Platte River in Casper (where I lived my first 6 years of teaching). The North Platte was flowing at 4,000 cfs and besides the upbeat enthusiasm of the local fly shop…I am not sure there was going to be too many trout caught at such high flow rates.

After circling Olympic National Park we headed back east and in fact, dead-headed for Glacier and the ‘road to the sun’. If you haven’t ever driven the road over the top at Logan Pass, you must! It will be one experience that you simply can’t ever forget. Just the fact that they put a road where they did…and did so from 1911 to 1932, makes it even more mind shattering. Honestly, if there was one item on my list that I hadn’t yet done….and knew what the road was…this would be it.

We stayed in Glacier three days and on my second day I arose early, 4:15am early and left camp (it was 36 degrees). I headed north up the Camas Road, left the park and followed the outer road north to Polebridge, Montana where I was again entered back into the park. The next 6 miles was a one-way gravel, jarring, road that led me to Bowman Lake. It was there that nirvana took over…as I pulled in and in the pre-morning light pumped up my float tube, I couldn’t get my eyes off the view in front of me. “I get to fish this place…today, with no one else around?” Yep…that was indeed the case.

Now…don’t watch the video looking for a highlight reel of catches. I caught and landed two lake trout. And, I was damn proud of those two fish. There wasn’t a breath on the water and once the sun rose over the 8,000 foot peaks to my east, the sun bore straight down through the incredibly clear glacial water…and that put the trout down, way down.

Do, watch this video and just enjoy the scenery of one of our own incredible national parks. As I have already said, I spent the morning pinching myself and frankly didn’t pay much attention to the fly that was on the end of my fly line. If you ever get the chance to go…please pack your fly rod and float tube…you can thank me afterward.

One more note, I decided not to fish the streams in Glacier; very simple…the idea of meeting a grizzly head on in a confined area was just not worth it to me. OK, you can call me whatever you want to…but I have seen a griz up close and personal and frankly I don’t want to surprise a sow and cub or a hungry, attitudinal boar. My morning, in my float tube, kicking around Bowman Lake…well, it was perfect!

Fly Fishing, Friends and Smallmouth on Sugar Creek

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We don’t have trout, or not many, here in Indiana…thus the smallmouth is our stream fish and fills a big void for us fly-guys. While you can find smallmouth on many streams throughout the state, Sugar Creek is, in my opinion, the premier smallie stream. On this day my good friend Frank Terkhorn would float and fish about 6-7 miles and enjoy some incredible scenery along the way.

If you have followed my videos then you know that in the past, especially last year, I have had some truly incredible and memorable days afloat on Sugar Creek. On this day we didn’t find any huge fish, those in the 18-20 inch range…but we were able to land several 15 inchers along our drift. It was a day to enjoy the perfect weather and the scenery that is offered by Sugar Creek. On several occasions we were privileged by the company of several bald eagles as they fished themselves along the creek.

Frank and I travel together…but don’t often fish together. On this day we were within ‘ear-shot’ of each other; this allowed us to talk flies and fishing. It also allowed me to film Frank on a few of his fish. Having a friend along makes the day even more special and it is always special to share the events of the day with a buddy.

If you like the video…please give it a like. If you have a fly fishing question, e-mail me at flyfishingwithjeff@gmail.com .. if I use it as my question of the week then I will send you a FFWJ logo decal.

To get your free shipping and 10% off at NateKarnes.com use the promo code FFWJ when you check out….and please check out Nate’s incredible fly fishing artwork….he is for sure one of a kind!

Fly Fishing the Big Walnut for June Smallmouth

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Welcome back to another video with Fly Fishing With Jeff. Today I once again am on new water and quite frankly on a day when the weather was as near perfect as can be! The June smallmouth in today’s video range from 10 inches up to several in the 15-16 inch range; they were up in the water column and giving chase to the many baitfish that play a role in the ecosystem.

I am using my 3 weight Winston rod with floating line and a size 6, white, cone-headed baitfish pattern. As you watch the video pay attention to the fact that I am mostly casting back upstream which allows the fly to trickle, trundle and flow into what I like to call the ‘death-zone’…where hungry smallies race out and engulf the fly. This is a very effective way to find and even draw out the more finicky fish from their ambush points.

Just being out on such a spectacular day is worth so much. I love traipsing through the water amidst all the wildlife that calls the BW its home. I’d have a hard time having a bad day in such awesome environs. I have tried to do a bit of ‘coaching’ or instructing along the way in answer to many of the good and inquisitive questions that I field throughout the year. I hope that you can find value in the instruction and if you do…please give the video a-like. Remember to send any fly fishing questions to me via flyfishingwithjeff@gmail.com and you might just be my question of the week and get a FFWJ window decal.

Fly Fishing Sugar Creek – June of 2017

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Sugar Creek is, in my opinion, the Hoosier State’s best waterway…beautiful, remote and full of smallmouth that are willing to take a well presented fly. This year, 2017, has been a tough one thus far as we have battled high water for the first 6 weeks of the fishing season and in fact, it took us until the first week in June to find water that was conducive to casting a streamer.

On this trip I was fishing new water, from Deer Mill downstream. I must say I was impressed and will be back again when the water is good and I have a long day to hit all the various pieces of cover that hold smallies. We were under a high pressure and the fish weren’t in total chase mode; in fact the first hour of my drift left a fragrance of ‘skunk’ on the boat. Somewhere just short of the Shades State Park Canoe area I decided to switch to floating line and a fly with a little mid-weight and it was the difference. Over the course of the next 2-3 hours I filmed and landed several good fish…and much enjoyed the scenery along the way.

If you are a solo fly-guy and need a ride or a rental of a canoe or kayak…you can see the good folks at Clements for rental and shuttle. They are quite knowledgeable and helpful in getting you out on the water. Let me make one clear note at this point…you’d be better off to try and fish/float Sugar Creek on a weekday or possible early or late in the fishing season. If you try and drift the creek in the summer months, on a weekend, you will have to tolerate the MANY tubers and other recreational floaters while fishing.

I get lots of questions on gear and thus I have included a video section that better explains some of my choices for gear. Please excuse the blurry video in the first few minutes as my camera had drawn humidity…the rest of the video is sharp. My opinion is that you need a 6 weight for casting big streamers from a long ways off and white or silver baitfish patterns are high on the list of proven flies.

Either way…a trip down Sugar Creek is full of nature and quite possible will always leave you wanting more. My very best to you in your pursuit of a trophy smallmouth; remember that SC is a trophy stream and you are allowed to keep only one fish and it must be over 20 inches (but PLEASE don’t keep any of our precious locals!).