Driftless Area in Review>>
Fishing big rivers, streams, and trout parks are great for awhile. Your home waters are usually your favorite but sometimes a break is nice, thats where the Driftless comes in.
If you like chucking and swinging large streamers in big water for massive fish, the Driftless Area may not be the place for you. Don't count on picturesque floats in drift boats either. But if you're itching for a change of pace, a challenge, and a little different scenery, this is a trip you need to take a serious look at.
The Driftless Area is a section of land that envelops parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Northwest corner of Illinois. It was geologically created during the ice ages when glaciers pushed down for the north. These glaciers smoothed out the plains around it but missed the Driftless Area. This created a mini version of the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks in the middle of mostly farm ground. The hilly, bluff country is chucked full of crystal clear streams that make up the miles and miles of fishable trout water within the area. Brooks, Rainbows, and Brown trout all call the Driftless home and all make for a reinvigorating trout fishing trip.
For the most part the ice cold, crystal clear water ranges from four to twelve feet wide. However some rivers grow to provide larger water for those who seek it. In Minnesota the South Branch of the Root River, The Root River, The Whitewater River, and the lower end of the South Fork of the Root River make up the majority of the larger water. Camp Creek, Duschee Creek, Forestville Creek, Kedron Creek, and many more make up the smaller streams.
Fishing wise the smaller water seems to fish better than the bigger rivers. The small streams are narrow and deep for the most part, whereas the larger rivers can be wide and shallow with the occasional long, slow stretch. The swift deep water provided by the smaller creeks is definitely where the fish want to be in the heat of the summer.
How to fish and where to fish is a refreshing change from the usual Midwest trout streams and rivers in Missouri and Arkansas. The Minnesota DNR provides public easements to hundreds of miles of fishable trout water in the area. In fact a lot of fishing is on "private" farm ground and pasture land. It provides a fun change fishing the small deep seams of Camp and Duschee Creek that wind through pastures and corn fields instead of woods and brush. The challenge of not spooking fish, or getting the perfect drift along an undercut bank adds to the experience.
However while the landscape and size differ from Missouri and Arkansas the most prominent flies are relatively the same. The main deep water set up is used often in the Ozarks. It consists of a scud on the bottom, however instead of a size eighteen or twenty a larger size fourteen is best. Above that about eight inches is either a red ant or a Pink Squirrel (a Driftless classic). And above that about six inches is a size eight split shot combined with a size four or BB split shot. Toping it off is an appropriate sized strike indicator. The entire ensemble is about three to four feet long depending on the depth of the pool or rifle being fished.
Dry fly action during late July is minimal because it is so late in the summer so most of the major hatches that occur in the spring or early parts of June have already taken place. But it is possible to wrangle some fish on hoppers in the middle to late afternoon. Or trick them into slurping some dries such as Griffith's Gnats, Renegades, Blue Winged Olives, and Elk Hair Caddis flies in the evening. Nearly all the fish looking up can be spooky which adds another degree of difficulty to fishing these narrow creeks.
This fishing is definitely not for novice casters. It is critical to perfect casts, mends, and drifts, especially when fishing dry flies. Trees and weeds plague back-casts and hook sets alike. Underwater grass and moss that line the bank in some stretches of the creeks make drag-free drifts and mending extremely difficult. Furthermore one cast is all that the spookier fish will take sometimes. But all these factors play into the challenge that makes this place unique.
The Driftless Area offers a great chance for anglers to mix things up from their usual home waters. Or for anyone who is looking for a unique challenge that few other places can offer. It also provides a fresh change of scenery as you fish through fields and pastures opposed to trees, mountains, and towering bluffs. The gorgeous fish, landscape, and water combined with the array of challenges and options make this a fantastic trip for any trout fisherman