Written by Craig Amacker, Fontana Sports Fly Shop Manager
It’s now late fall and though most folks are busy hunting upland birds, waterfowl, small game, deer, attending the Packer and Badger football games, and prepping for ski season there’s still fishing to be done. Late fall is a neat time to be on the water because there are no biting insects, fewer anglers, some interesting fishing opportunities, and you get to see the outdoors transition into quiet, winter-mode.
The biggest game in town is the Lake Michigan tributary streams for coho salmon, lake-run brown trout, and steelhead. By this time the king run is over and those fish have spawned and died, coho salmon are still running providing fun fishing because these fish will move several feet to strike a fly, do some cartwheel jumps, and long runs even though they’re smaller than the kings. Their eggs provide food for the steelhead and brown trout so if you find a coho spawning bed, swing egg sucking leeches or drift egg patterns through the holes below it because you’ll catch migratory trout that folks fly thousands of miles and pay thousands of dollars to catch within 2 hours of home. You’ll need to pay attention to the stream flows on the www.usgs.gov page. To time your trip accordingly, you want water levels to be between 150 and 350 cubic feet per second; Flows in the 200-350 range bring in good numbers of fresh fish from the Lake. Anything over 400 cfs is high, fast, and very off colored so fishing won’t be as good. Wading can also be dangerous, especially with the water temperature at 48 degrees or colder.
The main story on the Madison Lakes and Lower Wisconsin River these days are musky and northern pike. A boat is needed to cover water safely and effectively, and also to maximize the potential of the fishery. You’ll need big flies, sinking lines, and leaders with either wire or 8 lb fluorocarbon tippet to prevent bite offs. There’s also some shore fishing for walleyes at night on the lakes-the breakwater at Tenny Park on Lake Mendota, the breakwater at Olbrich Park on Lake Monona, and the MG&E warm water outlets by the Elks Club and B.B. Clark Beach on Lake Monona, and the boat launch at Babcock Park on Lake Waubesa. Use baitfish patterns and Clouser Minnows with 10-16 lb leaders.
If you still need your spring creek trout fix, head to northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota, parts of the Driftless region, their season is open year around. Hatches this time of year will be midges and small blue wing olives #20-24. Streamer fishing will be excellent and nymphing will be good. Sproat midges sz 22-24, Matt’s Midge, Griffith’s gnats sz 20-22, Baetis Sparkle Duns #20-22, para Adams #20-22, and BW Baetis #22-24 takes care of you on top. Use the same nymph and streamer patterns that work for you here - the driftless area is the Driftless area.
Hot Flies salmon, Steelhead, and Lake-Run Browns:
Sheboygan Bunny in White and Purple/Pink, Egg Sucking Leech Pink/Purple and Black/Chartreuse, Cross-Eyed Muddler in black, olive, or ginger, black rubber legs nymph, chartreuse glo bug
Hot Flies Pike/Musky:
Bill’s Figure 8 Sucker, PMS Streamer
Hot Flies Walleye:
Clouser Deep Minnow Chartreuse/White #2, UFM Baitfish Olive/White sz 2/0, Umpqua Swimming Baitfish Shad, Murdich Slider(fish on a sink tip line)
Hot Flies Northeast Iowa/Southeast Minnesota Trout;
Sproat Midge Black and Gray sz 22, Griffith’s Gnat sz 20-22, Matt’s Midge sz 22, Parachute Adams sz 20-22, Baetis Sparkle Dun #20-22, BW Baetis #22-24, Pink Squirrel sz 12-14, Zebra Midge olive and copper/red and silver sz 18, tungsten Flashback Pheasant Tail sz 18, Rubber Leg crystal Bugger Olive and Black #6-8, Leechinator sz 4