Small stream Wisconsin’s trout season closes the same time and day every year.
This closing day seemed quite a bit like any other.
The weather was perfect.
It was a classic early fall day.
The temperatures were in the low 60s and the leaves were beginning to fall and cover the water.
The wind gusted at times and made our casts a little difficult.
We did not care.
It was the last day of the season and we wanted to soak in all of what nature had to offer.
closed season is five months here in Wisconsin and it gets really long
because of the harsh winters and the urge to get out and wet a line is
I met my buddy Aaron at a park near my home. Aaron drove all the way down to Southwestern Wisconsin from the Green Bay area to fish with me. Aaron had his cousin Cory along. We made our plan about two weeks ago. Aaron wanted to try for a big brown to put a punctuation mark on the end of the season. When we were finished chasing browns he wanted to try for some brookies in full spawning colors.
We started at my favorite stream. It is my favorite because it usually gives up some big browns in late September. It is a snaggy mess with many log jams and oxbows. This would be a perfect place I thought for a season ending “Monster” brown. Cory and Aaron had the same basic rig. They had 6’6” medium action spinning rigs with 8 pound mono for line. Both of them were tossing stick baits. I have never had much luck with those and usually don’t use them. Cory had on a size 9 rapala and Aaron was using a size 7 rapala in the Vampire colors.
I was using panther martins on this type of water. I have not used rapalas in this manner before and wasn’t confident on the use of the rapalas. The two guys were picking up some decent browns in the structure and I batted clean up and was doing well too. We had timed the fish to take the entire morning but our plans changed about halfway through the morning. A car had parked half way between ours and started fishing in front of us. We all three were a little angry but I told them I had other places where we could go. I am very polite when it comes to trout fishing etiquette. If I am infringing on some one else’s fishing area I leave. The two anglers cut us off but I decided that I would “not” be like them and be rude. We moved on to my second place.
The sun was already high in the sky and browns were hard to trick in the light conditions. Aaron managed to entice a large male brown in to coming out of it log jam and make a run at his rapala. It was a swing and a miss. There was no hook up. We decided lunch was in order. The bright sun meant it was time to chase brook trout after lunch.
After lunch we hooked up our fly rods and Aaron wanted to fish the stream I had recent luck on with brookies. Aaron had read the story in my blog about the 130 plus brookie afternoon and wanted a chance to do the same.
Two hours later we had our brook trout itch scratched. Between the three of us we landed 45 brookies on pheasant tail nymphs. The colors on the brookies were almost neon. Aaron lost big brookie of the day. It was about a 14 incher. It got in to some structure and broke him off.
It was 3:30pm and we still had some time to fish. Aaron wanted one more chance at a big brown. He asked me to lead him to the stream in the area with the biggest browns I knew of. We discussed our options. Aaron brought up the story from my blog that was about the 30 inch plus trout attacking and pushing another trout sideways. He told me that was the place he wanted to go. I
had not been there in over a year because of the hard trek to the area
and the constant rain in the area caused the main branch of the Kickapoo
River to be dirty and high most of the year. Aaron liked his chances there and off we went to where Camp Creek empties in to the Kickapoo River.
the way there I talked to Aaron about the rig he was going to use for
the “Monster”. I told him I thought he was under-gunned. I thought his 8 pound mono was too small of poundage to handle that big of a fish. Aaron
was confident in his skills with his rod and I believe he truly didn’t
believe me that a 30 inch plus brown could be possible in the Driftless
Area. I explained to him the one Joe Chadwick had
caught there went out into the main channel of the Kickapoo River and
it tired itself out. If the even bigger brown we
spotted there a year or so ago was there, the only chance Aaron had to
land this monster on 8 pound test was for it to go out in the main
channel on a prolonged battle.
Aaron tied on his size 7 vampire rapala. Cory and I decided we would spectate and I would be the net man if needed. We arrived at the area we wanted to fish. The sun was much lower in the sky and we felt good about Aaron’s chances. We went to the confluence of the stream and the Kickapoo River. We planned our final destination to be just downstream of where Camp Creek fed in to the Kickapoo.
We arrived at our site. The Kickapoo River was still up and dirty. Where Camp Creek emptied in there was a clean water halo in the main branch of the Kickapoo River. All three of us got excited when we saw that. When
trout get really big in these parts they live in the main branch of the
Kickapoo and they sometimes feed at the mouths and lay in the cooler
cleaner water where the streams empty in. The
clean water has more oxygen in it and it attracts bait fish and the
other side effect is it attracts monsters to eat those bait fish.
We had a little pow-wow before Aaron casted. We
decided he should cast upstream and into the dirty Kickapoo and bring
his rapala out of the dirty water into the clean water halo. Cory and I were kneeling in the tall grass to keep our profiles to a minimum. Aaron’s cast was perfect; he worked his rapala out of the dirty water into the clear. It was pounded immediately. The trout hit and jumped all in one motion. The trout cleared the water by a good 2.5 feet. It was no more than 10 yards in front of us. Everything seemed to go in slow motion. The “Enormous” brown was airborne and I can picture it in my mind as clear as a snapshot. The trout looked to be 30 plus inches and it was a male brown in full fall spawning colors. It was a bronze color and I could see its alligator teeth and its oversized pointed elongated snout.. I could not see the rapala. It had clearly engulfed it. The trout smacked down on the water and immediately ran upstream in to the main branch of the Kickapoo.
The battle was on. It ended quicker than it began. The line went limp and Aaron brought back an empty line. The line was not curly on the end. It was a clean break. The massive brown had either bit through the line or the line had a flaw in it.
We walked back to the vehicle. Aaron was beside himself. He had never had such a large trout on in his entire life. We discussed on the way to my vehicle how a trout that big actually existed in these waters. It
could have lived there at that stream and the Kick its entire life and
fed on minnows and any other small animals it wanted to. It could have been an escapee from someone's pond or it could have been a brooder released by the DNR. We were all certain on one thing. That male brown was the biggest small stream brown any of us has ever seen and maybe will ever see. Aaron called me three times from his cell phone on his way back to northern Wisconsin. He was babbling and was concerned about the trout having the rapala in its mouth. I asked him: “If you would have landed that trout would you have kept it?” He
didn’t hesitate with his answer. “Of course I would have.” “That trout
was 6-8 inches bigger than any small trout I have ever seen.” It didn’t comfort Aaron much. The season ended and Aaron had an experience that will haunt him for his entire life. You always remember the ones you lose more than the ones you land.