The best time is whenever you can book a trip with us. The Wisconsin trout season runs from early 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, MN) are about 3 hours from here. And if you’re traveling from Chicago or the suburbs of northern Illinois, it will take you roughly 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 provide good stability as you wade in area streams. You can also wet wade in a pair of closed toed water shoes and quick dry pants. There are ample opportunities to wade in water that is not extremely deep, so hip or waist high waders can be used. Studs in your boots will add grip to the rock surfaces that you’ll encounter.
The basics include:
- 3, 4 or 5 weight rod, length 7 1/2 to 9 feet
- reel and line
- boots and waders
- Polarized sunglasses are a must! Sunglasses not only protect your eyes but you’ll see much better in and around the water, which will greatly enhance your fishing experience.
- Suitable clothing for the season
- Wisconsin Fishing License with a trout stamp
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. Let us know and we can help you with gear needs.
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 and Recons in 3, 4 and 5 weights. For smallmouth bass, the Helios 3D 7 weight is one of the best rods to get the job done. The 10-12 weight 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 streams filled with brown trout and native brook trout. If you want to catch some big browns, you might want to try night fishing, that’s when the bigger trout are active and aggressive. We guide for smallmouth bass in the heat of summer from the comfort of our drift boat. We’ll also target musky and northern pike for those who want to cast bigger 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. It's called the "Smith Schoolhouse" because it previously sat on property located at Smith Road and Route 14 just outside of Westby. The house is now situated on 3.5 acres on a ridge overlooking the Driftless area. It has three bedrooms and a full bath on the main floor. Space is reserved for clients and family members that would like to tag along. The home has a wrap-around porch, a comfy basement seating area, tying desk, a gas grill and outdoor fire pit to use during your visit.
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. The local bike shop rents bikes or bring your own and explore the countryside on two wheels. Viroqua and Westby have quaint shops, wineries and a local coffee roaster and cheese shop. The area is home to many Amish farms with local bakeries and furniture shops. Explore Vernon County.
We welcome taking out young anglers! Depending on your child’s ability, 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 up for a full day outing. On a river float trip we use heavier gear (6 & 7 weight rods.) We can work with you to get your child out on a float trip. We have options for some half day floats, but most floats will be 8 hours long.
We have an FFI Certified Casting Instructor on staff. She is available for 1 or 2 hour lessons and on the water instruction. We 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 with it’s flat, curved bottom (the rocker) is stable and allows the rower to maneuver the boat easily in rivers. It is comfortable and ideal for fly fishing. The rower/guide sits in the middle seat and can accommodate 2 anglers in seats in the bow and stern. 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, 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 & release fishing. You are allowed to keep fish during the Wisconsin general open season, when fishing on your own. Get all fishing regulations online from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. We will release fish during your guide trip with us for others to enjoy catching.