Written by Craig Amacker, Fly Fishing Guru
Southwest Wisconsin got hit with a lot of rain the past few days but there’s still fishing to be had. Streams north of the Wisconsin River didn’t get hit as hard with rain so they’ll be in good shape - think Richland and Vernon counties. Also, pay attention to the Doppler Rader, and fish the area that got hit with the least amount of rain. Last week I fished 2 streams that were heavily stained to muddy, I traveled 2 valleys to the west and found a stream that was low and clear so not everywhere gets hit with the same amount of rain. Finally, concentrate on streams with steep narrow valleys after a big rain event because they clear faster.
Craig’s Tips for Fishing High Off-Colored Water
June is typically one of our best months for fly fishing in the area because there is a variety of fishing happening all at once. It’s hard to choose what to fish for - trout, panfish, smallmouth bass etc. If you have the luxury to fish multiple days a week, I highly suggest splitting your fishing between trout and warm water species - it keeps things interesting and allows you to take advantage of the diverse fisheries in our backyard. Bluegills are on their spawning beds right now and it’s an easy species to target before or after work to get your fishing fix in.
On the trout scene, there are sulfurs (light colored mayflies), blue wing olives (#20), tan caddis, yellow sallies, and midges hatching. The highlight of the mayfly hatches is the giant Hexagenia mayfly that hatches at night. This is the Thanksgiving Turkey for the trout and your best chance to catch a trophy brown trout on a dry fly. Find a stretch of stream with slow-moving water and lots of silt/muck beds. Also, arrive before dark to get your spot picked out and casts dialed in. Downstream casts give you the best control of your line and fly in the dark. Just like daytime dry fly fishing pick a rising fish and land your fly 2 feet above it to maximize your chances to feed the fish your fly. If you’re fishing the Hex hatch you’ll need to bring a headlamp, an Insect Shield shirt and Buff, bug dope, some 3X leader and tippet, and a few good Hex dry flies.
Another June dry fly opportunity that gets overlooked is the early terrestrial fishing. This is typically ants and beetles with a few crickets here and there. Just like grasshopper fishing, your best day to fish ants and beetles is warm, sunny, and windy. If you spot a fish that rises once and doesn’t come up again chances are it’s eating ants or beetles-throw either fly over the fish and it’ll most likely eat. This is also a good time to fish the pockets below the riffles with a dry/dropper with dry flies like the Hippie Stomper or Stimulator and a small bead head 18” below.
Smallmouth & Largemouth Bass
On the warm waterfront smallmouth and largemouth bass are done spawning and putting on the feed bag, and panfish are in various stages of spawning. Try to avoid bed fishing for the bass because there aren’t as many of them as panfish and we want to grow the next generation. Bluegills and crappies are another story because they’re extremely prolific and too many of them in the lake can stunt the growth of the fish. Panfish are good guilt-free hook and cook fish - just don’t take more than you’d eat in a meal because we want to enjoy the resource not waste it.
Locally the Madison lakes are great for bass, panfish, and occasional northern pike. Good shore fishing spots include Marshal Park, Governor Nelson State Park, Tenny Park (Lake Mendota), Squaw Bay, Turville Bay, Brittingham Bay, Olbrich Park (Lake Monona), Goodland Park, Babcock Park (Lake Waubesa), and Lake Kegonsa.
The Lower Wisconsin River is not only a great smallmouth bass fishery, but it has populations of walleye, white bass, northern pike, largemouth bass, catfish, and gar that willingly take flies. The smallmouth bass are done spawning and eating flies very willingly right now - I started to see and catch fish crashing baitfish on the surface last week. The bonus of this river is that it’s scenic, bald eagle sightings are common, and it’s only 30 minutes from home. If you like to canoe and kayak, this is a great resource because it allows you to combine paddling and fishing in the same trip.
Hex: Mercer’s Profile Hex Spinner, Deer Body Hex, Loco Hexigenia.
Other Mayflies: bear’s Para Sulfur #16-18, Sulfur Sparkle Dun #16-18, Sulfur Para Emerger #16, CDC Sparkle Dun #18-20
Caddis: X-Caddis Tan #16 and Olive #18, Elk Hair caddis Tan #16 and Olive #18, Simulator Yellow #14(yellow sallys)
Midges: Griffith’s Gnat #20-22, Sproat Midge cream #26, Sproat Midge Gray #22
Dry Dropper; Hippie Stomper Lime or Orange w/ Red Copper John #16-18
Dirty Water Flies: Girdle Bug, Prince Nymph #10-12/San Juan Worm combo, Squirmy Wormy, Cross Eyed Muddler Black, Jon’s Egg Sucking Leech Black/Chartreuse, Rubber Leg Crystal Bugger Black
Nymphs: Spring creek Scud Gray, Hunchback Scud Olive/UV Orange, Bead Head Hare’s Ear #14-16, Tungsten zebra Midge, Hot belly Pheasant Tail
Streamers: Leechinator #4-8, Squirrel Leech Olive, Bead Head Woolly Bugger #6-8, Dirty Hippy
Bass: Murdich Minnow, Meat Wagon, Clouser Minnow Silver Shiner #2,Crease Fly Silver/Blue, Umpqua Popper Mr. Minnow and Froggy Bottom, Charlies Gurgler Fire Tiger.
Panfish: Craig’s Bluegill Buster chart and White, Micro Popper Yellow and White.
Gear to be aware of the make your summer outings more pleasant!
Insect Shield hoodies and shirts from Simms and White Sierra, and Insect Shield Sun Gaiters and Sun Gloves from Buff and Simms - It’s a bumper crop of mosquitos this year and they’ve been vicious little buggers.
Camelback and High Sierra Hydration Packs: Stay hydrated and drink and fish at the same time and it gives you more staying power on hot days.
Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX Line: The most versatile taper in S.A.’s lineup that casts well on a variety of rods, has the new AST+ finish, lasts 82 % longer than its closest competitor. What it does for the angler is makes it easier to cast longer distances with fewer false casts so the fly stays in the water longer making it more likely to catch more fish. The line is maintenance free except for the dirtiest of water. I’ve been using one for 18 + months, still haven’t cleaned it and it shoots like a champ.