The best time is whenever you can book a trip with us. Our trout season runs from January to October 15. Spring is a great time to get out on the water. The days are cool, the plants are just beginning to grow, so you encounter fewer obstacles to get your line and fly caught on while you fish. We also love the fall with its cooler days and the trees turn all shades of red, orange and gold. The fish put on their spawning colors and light up the streams. In the heat of summer we often take a break from trout fishing to get into some smallmouth bass. They love the warm temperatures of summer!
You’ll find that many different flies work in the Driftless area. Your guide, PJ, ties most of the flies that are used. We fish with a variety of nymphs, dries and streamers. We use local favorites such as the Pink Squirrel and the Pass Lake as well as Rubber Legged Stimulators, Hippy Stomps and small Woolly Buggers. Fish are feeding most of the time below the surface, so a good selection of beadhead nymphs are recommended. Early season is a great time for streamer fishing. We have hatches of Blue Winged Olives, Sulphurs and Mayflies throughout the season. And don’t forget about late summer when the Hoppers are typically abundant here as well! You might also be lucky and catch the Trico hatch on an early late summer morning. If you want to work on techniques when we head out, just let us know and we can teach you to use a variety of flies and techniques to fish them.
We call Southwest Wisconsin home. We’re located in Westby, a small town in Vernon County, just a short drive from La Crosse. If you’re coming from Madison, we’re a 2 hour drive on Route 14. The Twin Cities (St. Paul/Minneapolis) is about 3 hours from here. And if you’re traveling from Chicago or the suburbs, it will take you between 4-5 hours.
We do recommend waders to improve your fishing experience, but you can fish without them. Stockingfoot waders and a good pair of wading boots will allow you to walk into the water safely. You can wade (depending on the time of year) in a good pair of water shoes (closed toed) and a pair of quick dry pants. The water in the Driftless does not get extremely deep, so you can easily use a pair of hip or waist high waders. Studs in your boots will add grip to the rock surfaces that you’ll encounter.
The basics include a rod, reel and line in a 3, 4 or 5 weight. Rod lengths of 7 ½ to 9 feet. Sunglasses are an essential piece of equipment. Polarized sunglasses are a must! You’ll see so much better in and around the water, which will greatly enhance your fishing experience. You’ll also need a forceps, nippers and a fly box of flies. When you book your trip with us, we’ll provide you with our complete gear list so you’re fully outfitted for your trip. We do have some gear for your use during a day of guiding, so no worries if you don’t have everything. We are not currently equipped to provide boots and waders.
Our go to rods are from the Orvis Recon and Helios 3 collections. We like the Helios 3F 3, 4 and 5 weights and the Recons. For smallmouth bass, the H3-7D is one of the best rods to get the job done. The 10-12 wt. rods will cast larger bugs for musky and northern pike. We use Orvis and Scientific Angler lines on all our equipment. Try fishing with some of our rods before making a purchase. We’ll help you make the choice that is right for you.
The Driftless area is home to Brown trout and native Brook Trout. You’ll find both in most of the streams that we fish. If you want to try your hand at catching some very large browns, you might want to try out night fishing, that’s when the big brown trout are active and aggressive. We also guide for smallmouth bass in the heat of summer, when it is too warm to fish for trout. We’ll also target musky and northern pike for those who want to cast larger flies for these large predators.
Not familiar with Southwest Wisconsin and where to stay? No problem. We have lodging available in a fully-renovated 1890’s Schoolhouse. ituated on 3.5 acres, our Schoolhouse has three bedrooms on the main floor and a full bath. Space is reserved for Clients and any family members that would like to tag along. The home has a wrap-around porch, a comfy basement seating area, tying desk, outdoor firepit and is situated on a ridge overlooking the hills and valleys of the Driftless area.
Vernon County is a beautiful place to explore. There are hiking trails at nearby Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center, Wildcat Mountain State Park or the Kickapoo Valley Nature Reserve. A great way to exercise or do a little birding in the great outdoors. The Driftless Folk School offers classes in outdoor/living skills. The local bike shop rents bikes or bring your own and explore the countryside on two wheels. Is shopping more their style? Viroqua and Westby have quaint shops including antiques, collectibles, quilting supplies and a fully stocked Yarn Store as well as coffee shops and restaurants. One can even take a tour of the local coffee roasting facility. The area is home to many Amish farms with local bakeries and furniture shops.
We welcome taking out young anglers! They can learn a lot on a guided trip that will make the experience fun. Depending on your child’s fishing knowledge and their physical ability to be out wading a stream, we recommend they be at least 9 or 10 years old. We can schedule a half day of fishing with kids, as some may not be able to wade for a full day outing. On a river float trip we would be using heavier gear (6 or 7 weight rods and over) so they would need to be able to handle bigger gear. We can work with you to get them out on a float trip. We have options for some half day floats, but most floats will be 8 hours long.
We have a FFI Certified Casting Instructor on staff. he is available for 1, 2 or 3 hour lessons and on the water instruction. We also offer "Beginner Trout Schools" and "Advanced On The Water Techniques," so there is something for all skill levels.
A drift boat is similar to a dory, a small flat-bottomed rowboat with a high bow and stern. This style of boat, with it’s flat, curved bottom (the rocker) is stable and allows the rower to maneuver it easily in rivers. The rower sits in the middle seat. We can accommodate 2 anglers in seats in the bow and stern. A drift boat is quite comfortable and ideal for fly fishing. Each angler has a casting brace and level footing to stand when fishing. We use a Stealthcraft drift boat, made in Baldwin, Michigan. It’s wide, easy to get into and move around in, stable and safe.
We’ll fish for about 8 hours, with a break for lunch. You’ll learn small stream casting and fishing techniques from a guide with local fishing knowledge. You can expect to learn about some of the local history and enjoy good conversation and storytelling. In addition to specific fishing techniques we’ll work on reading the water, fly placement, accuracy and wading safely.
We practice catch and release fishing throughout the season for all types of fish that we catch while guiding. You are allowed to keep fish during the Wisconsin general open season, when fishing on your own. Get all fishing regulations at dnr.wi.gov Find trout and trout fishing information on-line at: dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/trout We will release fish during your guide trip for others to enjoy catching.