After hitting the highway Wednesday evening after work in Denver I finally made it back home to Minnesota around mid-day on Thursday. It was going to be a quick weekend of seeing some family and friends, though the main reason that I was back in the midwest was to fish in the 1 Fly competition in Viroqua Wisconsin. We had taken 3rd place during our first year in the competition back in 2017 and had won it last year in 2018. At the end of the event last I told my teammates that I would be back for the 2019 competition and I was able to keep to my word.
The weekend started off with a fishing trip with my dad to my home waters of southeastern Minnesota.
Minnesota – 3/29
Spring in the Driftless is something else. If you can catch the conditions right you can have incredible days of fishing. We found fair conditions on this morning with a moderate stain to the water and overcast skies. My dad was the first to get on the board not long after we arrived.
I was able to follow up shortly after and we continued to leap frog up the creek and were catching fish in most of the nicer runs and pools.
My dad had to be back in Rochester to work in the afternoon and I had plans to meet up with a few other guys so we fished until around 11:30am then headed back to the cars. I am always grateful to spend time on the water fishing with my dad; the man who fostered my love for being outside and fishing.
Iowa – 3/29
After the morning spent fishing with my dad I met up with David, Norm and Alec in Iowa. We planned to check out the lower end of a stream and see if we could find a couple bigger fish.
This creek had much less of a stain than the creek in Minnesota did but it didn’t take long before we started getting into a few fish. Mostly smaller browns and rainbows. Norm landed one fish pushing 15-16″ but that was about as big as we found. Once we fished up the stretch of water that we had planned to fish, Norm, David and I split ways with Alec and headed to Norms place outside of LaCrosse Wisconsin to prepare for the 1 Fly competition in the morning. After a few beers and games of ping pong we had our flies tied up and a game-plan ready for the competition.
Wisconsin | 1 Fly Competition – 3/30
The morning of the 1 Fly is always early and fast moving. We had to wake up at 5:30am to get to the American Legion in Viroqua, Wi by 6:30am to sign in and attend a welcoming/rules meeting. Coffee is drank, competitors meet the competition, and the early morning events end with a shotgun blast at 8am. Once the gun goes off everyone runs to their cars and speed off toward the places they plan to fish.
My partner Matt, our stream judge Mike, and I, arrived at our stream and started fishing around 8:15am. We were a little disappointed to see that there was already a truck parked at the parking area but we decided to fish on. The water was flowing high and almost perfectly clear. It was beautiful but we knew that we would have to be a little extra stealthy with the clarity today. We started fishing upstream and it took a little while before we started to move fish. It was as if the spot had already been fished. Eventually we were able to fool a few fish and get on the board.
A couple hours into the day I looked upstream and saw two high school aged kids walking downstream towards us. They had arrived at the creek a little earlier than us and had each caught a dozen or more fish on spinning gear. They told us how far up they went and after saying our goodbyes Matt and I hauled up to that spot and continued to fish upstream from there. It was a night and day difference! The fishing was HOT in the unfished stretch above.
At noon the sun was high in the sky and I was fishing the top end of a fast run when I saw a big yellow flash. I made another cast in the area and there was another big yellow flash going after the swinging streamer I had on but the fish missed again. On the third try instead of swinging the streamer I casted the fly above the fish and high stick dead drifted it right in-front of the fishes face and he absolutely smashed the fly. I let out a yell and Matt ran over to assist and land the fish. It was a hell of a fight on my 11′ 3wt rod. The battle ended with the biggest fish of the day (17″) in the net and a huge smile on all of our faces. It was an awesome moment to share with Matt and Mike!
After a quick measurement, a couple pictures, a release, and a few celebrations, Matt and I continued our fishing upstream. About an hour after all the excitement of my fish Matt let out a yell and as Mike and I ran up to him we could see that he had hooked into an even bigger fish. I threw my rod down and grabbed my net then jumped into the water to land the fish for Matt. The fish wasn’t going to let up that easy though and made a few runs up and down the deep hole that he called home before I was able to slip him into the net. This was the biggest trout that Matt had ever caught before and he was livid with excitement. He jumped down into the water with me and we bro hugged it out before looking down into the net to examine what exactly he had just caught. The fish ended up being a 21″ hook jaw male. Matt is one of the first guys I ever went fly fishing with and it was awesome to share the moment of catching his first 20″ trout with him.
We had about a little over an hour of fishing left before we had to start our nearly 3 mile hike out and make it back to the legion by 4:00pm. I kept after it trying to fish hard to the end while Matt took things easy. He deserved a little bit of a break after his fish! As time ran down we started our hike back and made it to the cars around 3:20pm. This gave us just enough time to take our waders off and have a quick snack/hydrate a little (I hadn’t touched my water since we started fishing). Back at the legion we met up with Norm and David and found out that they had also had a stellar day of fishing. We were feeling pretty good about where we would be sitting in the competition standings.
With everyone back at the legion I tried to make my rounds to hang out with some of my fishing buddies that were not on my team and make a point of meeting some new people. I really love the camaraderie of this event and look forward to it every year. The cause of the event (to raise money to help out the kids fly fishing camps in the Viroqua area for this upcoming summer) is also awesome and I am always happy to get new people introduced to the sport of fly fishing.
As the event was wrapping up it became time to announce the standings. We ended up taking second place this year to the Family Fly Fishers, a group of incredible anglers and amazingly nice people. After the announcement we began saying our goodbyes and making our way out the door. I hit the road for Rochester and made it back around 10:00pm. It was a long day!
I hope to make it back for the 1 Fly again next year.