Wisconsin: Driftless Area Or Head North? - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-02-2018, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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Wisconsin: Driftless Area Or Head North?

Hey folks,
I'll be heading to Milwaukee in a couple weeks and I'm using the excuse to explore the fishing in a new area. I'll have 4-5 days and have never set foot in the state. I really don't have much of an agenda or particular species in mind but I definitely shouldn't leave the state without catching a smallmouth on my switch rod (wonder if they'll eat a swung fly?) that currently sports a virtually new OPST Commando head. I also would not want to upset the spey pages gods by creating a thread that is totally irrelevant to spey. So there.

Anyway, I've been doing some reading and narrowed down my options at least to the Driftless Area or going way up north towards Michigan's upper peninsula. Both areas look like beautiful places to camp regardless of the fishing. I'm leaning towards the latter at the moment because it sounds like it might offer an experience more unique to the region. I have been fortunate to fish for trout in a lot of great places but I have not spent much time chasing smallmouths, pike, or walleye.

For those that have been there, where would you go if you had a few days to spend anywhere in the area?

Last edited by matthiasbadger; 08-02-2018 at 08:41 PM.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-03-2018, 10:18 AM
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If I were going to wisconsin I would head to hayward. It is the musky capitol of the world and although it may be a bit warm for musky in august, there is great smallmouth fishing in the rivers. There is a good shop in town with excellent guides. There is also good camping in the area. If weather is cool you might be able to go out and chase musky on the fly which is extremely exciting/challenging.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-03-2018, 01:01 PM
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I'm most familiar with the Hayward region. I've spent a good deal of time on the rivers in that general area. Pretty much all the northern Wisconsin rivers have good to great smallmouth fishing not to mention muskies.

I've never been on the Menominee but I know it's considered great smallmouth water. I assume the Peshtigo, Wolf and pretty much any decent sized river in the northeast of Wisco offers decent fishing for smallies. Most of the rivers in the northwest do.

You might want to look into renting a canoe, pontoon or kayak for a day to really be able to access the water and if you do that make sure you research whichever stretch you decide to fish. While the "rapids" on most rivers in Wisconsin are laughable by western standards they can present a challenge to a canoe and IIRC there is some real whitewater areas on the Menominee and a few other rivers that wouldn't be canoe friendly at all.

I know you can wade most of the northern rivers, especially when they are low and especially the smaller ones but most of the rivers I'm familiar with like the Chip, Namakagon, Flambeau and St. Croix are pretty rocky and not that easy to wade around in. I assume the northeastern rivers are for the most part similar.
I would bring a single hander as well

If you decide on the Hayward region feel free to PM me and I can give you a few specifics.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-03-2018, 01:08 PM
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Contact the Wisconsin Fly Fishing Company, headquarter in Eau Claire. Hunter Dorn runs it and is a very good smallmouth guide for NW Wisconsin. They have a FB page and a website.

Gene
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-03-2018, 02:06 PM
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I was on a job in Ashland, WI last year and a guy I work with lives in Woodruff. We spent some time driving around and I was blown away by the number of lakes and rivers everywhere. I would definitely go north and explore. Northern Wisconsin is beautiful.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-03-2018, 09:32 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice fellas.

After giving it more thought I think I'm gonna focus on the smallmouth basses. It just seems wrong to go to an area that is somewhat of a warmwater species mecca, or at least a smallmouth/pike/musky/etc. mecca, and not play around with those. It'd feel like going to the Yellowstone region and fishing for bass. I have little experience with smallmouths so it'll be exciting and different to me. I'm gonna try not to think about the bigger, toothier fellows because I won't have that much time and musky fishing strikes me as the type of thing that requires a lot of time and dedication. I've been on enough short steelhead/salmon trips in unfamiliar places to know how that can turn out. I'll have some gear to handle a pike just in case though.

So now that I pretty much ruled out trout fishing in the Driftless I have it narrowed down to...still too many potential rivers. But wherever I go it'll be somewhere where I can rent a canoe and enjoy some scenery. The Namekagon, Flambeau, and Hayward area sounds pretty cool. Hard to go wrong with any National Scenic Riverway. So that's one option. Then there's the area further east towards Iron Mountain. There are a lot of green blotches on the map around there. The guy at Tight Lines in DePere (very helpful, by the way) told me to look into the Sylvania Wilderness just over the border in Michigan if I want the backcountry canoe experience. If I stay east I might also poke around the big lake and its supposed flats fishing but that may be biting off more than I can chew.

I have some more reading and internet poking around to do, and ultimately I'll go wherever the fishing is better if one place in particular has better conditions. In the meantime, however, if anyone has any insight into either of those regions, I'm all ears.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-04-2018, 10:22 AM
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When I was up there I fished the st. croix and the chippewa. Both are within an hour of the flambeau and namekegon. I fished with a guide most of the time (we were after musky) so not sure which would be best for DIY if that is what you are looking for. I would call hayward fly fishing and talk to Larry. It is a good shop and can set you up with flies. I know there is canoe rental on the namekegon, so that may be a good option for DIY.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-04-2018, 11:57 AM
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Launch a canoe (or Yak) at the Namekegon River outlet from Lake Nemakegon ... Float to Hayward or Trego (depending on the time you have)

Some of the best Smallmouth fishing on the fly in the Midwest and a beauty river.

... Bang the banks with a Mouse at night ... Big Browns and Smallies ... !!!

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www.meiserflyrods.com
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-04-2018, 02:03 PM
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I like the mouse idea... I'm currently in the midst of a mouse fetish for the last two months... :-)
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-04-2018, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhutchinson View Post
I'm gonna try not to think about the bigger, toothier fellows because I won't have that much time and musky fishing strikes me as the type of thing that requires a lot of time and dedication. I've been on enough short steelhead/salmon trips in unfamiliar places to know how that can turn out. I'll have some gear to handle a pike just in case though.
Muskies will hit poppers and divers and smaller streamers. One of the biggest muskies I've seen ate a medium sized popper. It was on for about 20 seconds on a 5wt before it seemed to finally figure out something was wrong and snapped the line.
The crazy thing about it was it basically just sipped the fly. We thought it was a huge smallie until it lazily swam up to the boat and we could see it. I don't think it realized it was hooked.

If you rig up a rod for throwing some kind of streamer for smallies it's worth setting it up so a muskie or northern won't cut you off.
Most poppers and divers won't function well with a heavy tippet so you kind of just have to go "Oh well.." when a big muskie decides to scare the crap out of you by whacking your fly...

Also, not all muskie flies have to be huge. There are some nice 4-6" flies you can throw that will definitely catch a muskies attention and also the bigger smallmouth.
If we aren't targeting smallies on top water we'll usually throw some mid sized streamer because it will weed out a bunch of the smaller fish which can sort of be a nuisance at times and also offer you the opportunity of getting into something TRULY large.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-05-2018, 09:07 AM
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I agree. I think people have gotten carried away with the size of musky flies. There is really no need to throw a 14 inch fly. I've had my best musky fishing on 6-7 inch flies. Musky fishing is a lot of repetitive casting and having a smaller flies makes it much more enjoyable.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-14-2018, 05:32 PM Thread Starter
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Figured I'd give you all an update. I appreciate everyone who took the time to give advice or opinions. I had to scrap the trip, unfortunately, due to work timelines. Pretty disappointing, and I think my level of disappointment correlates with how awesome the fishing in that area sounds. I'll definitely make the time for a fishing trip in the next couple months, though, and honestly I'm thinking I may just head up north to that area instead of the usual default options of going east to the Ozarks or west to Colorado. After all the reading and research on the great white north I can't get it off my mind. I tied a handful of Swingin' D's already anyway.
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-14-2018, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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Muskies will hit poppers and divers and smaller streamers. One of the biggest muskies I've seen ate a medium sized popper. It was on for about 20 seconds on a 5wt before it seemed to finally figure out something was wrong and snapped the line.
The crazy thing about it was it basically just sipped the fly. We thought it was a huge smallie until it lazily swam up to the boat and we could see it. I don't think it realized it was hooked.

If you rig up a rod for throwing some kind of streamer for smallies it's worth setting it up so a muskie or northern won't cut you off.
Most poppers and divers won't function well with a heavy tippet so you kind of just have to go "Oh well.." when a big muskie decides to scare the crap out of you by whacking your fly...

Also, not all muskie flies have to be huge. There are some nice 4-6" flies you can throw that will definitely catch a muskies attention and also the bigger smallmouth.
If we aren't targeting smallies on top water we'll usually throw some mid sized streamer because it will weed out a bunch of the smaller fish which can sort of be a nuisance at times and also offer you the opportunity of getting into something TRULY large.
Just out of curiosity, would you pretty much always put a section of wire or heavy fluoro in front of a streamer as a rule of thumb?
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-14-2018, 11:18 PM
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Just out of curiosity, would you pretty much always put a section of wire or heavy fluoro in front of a streamer as a rule of thumb?
In toothy critter country, yes.
If there are lots of small pike around (northerns to you midwesterners) they can actually be a nuisance by cutting off your flies frequently and large pike will do the same when you might actually like them to stay on.
If there are muskies around I typically use wire on streamers that are bigger than around a size 2 bugger.

I'm in Minnesota right now.
I'll be on the upper Mississippi tomorrow by Brainerd and then the Chippewa in Wisco. the next day
I'll have a rod set up with a popper or diver, another with a streamer in the 5-6" range and another with a big musky fly on. Both streamer rods will have Rio wire bite to the fly.

If I get a musky I'll post a pic here. I doubt I'll find one though I plan on doing nothing but throwing musky flies all day on the Chip. Fortunately the big smallies will hit huge muskie flies every now and then to keep it interesting if the muskies decide to not show at all.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-25-2018, 03:18 PM
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You may also want to try the Brule River on the Wisconsin/Michigan border. Has some great places to swing a fly.

If you do decide to go up that far, you could cross over into Michigan and head east on US-2 to Iron River.
Iron County is the only county in the U.S. that has 5 blue ribbon trout streams: Brule River, Cooks Run, Fence River, Iron River, and Paint River.
You can rent canoes or kayaks on the Paint, and the stretches I've fished are wide open.
Great brook trout fishing on the Iron River and Cooks Run. (5lb.+ brookie caught in town about 100 yards south of where the Iron River crosses US-2).

Always take an action figure fishing with you. It makes your catch look amazing!
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