Trout Fishing Minnisota's Driftless
The driftless region of Minnesota has more than 700 miles of trout streams running through it's Southeastern corner. We've compiled our knowledge of the area to help serve as a reference for fishing these waters.
Along with the information we've provided in this article, another great resource is the book mentioned below. Click on the image for current Amazon pricing:
Recommended Gear for the Driftless
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Rod: Any 2wt-5wt will work well. Smaller rods make casting in skinny water much easier, but it can get windy in the driftless. Bringing a 5wt weight with you can save some frustration in windy conditions.
Our top pick would be the Echo Base Fly Rod Kit because of it's versatility and affordable price tag. For a full review of this rod kit, check out this article.
Fly box: You probably won't need to take more than one. Fill it with the patterns found here and you should have everything you need.
Our top pick would be the Aventik silicone super slim because of its thin design and high level of durability.
Leaders: Trout in the driftless are often sitting in shallow water. With a clear sky, this can made them overly skittish. Therefore, it's important to use long leaders (10-12ft) in many situations, with fine tippets ( 6x-7x). For tips on hiding from trout, check out this article.
Shoulder sling or hip pack: I prefer these over a vest because they allow for easier movement. Often times in the driftless, staying mobile and covering a lot of water is the best way to find fish.
Wading pants: I also prefer these over waders for the same reason, ease of movement. Walking the banks all day in heavy waders can get exhausting!
Our top pick would be these made from Columbia because they can easily be converted to shorts by simply unzipping them at the knees.
Wading boots: Tennis shoes will work, but properly fitting wading boots will provide greater ankle support for those days that a lot of hiking is required. The hybrid wading/hiking boots are my favorite.
We recommend these because of their comfort and durability.
Bug Spray: The mosquitoes and other bugs can get down right nasty during the spring and summer! I use the Simms BugStopper hoodie that works like a charm to keep those little blood suckers at bay.
Socks: Because I usually wet wade when fishing the driftless, I go through several pairs of them. Make sure to pack 2-3 pairs for each day you'll be fishing.
Minnesota's Driftless Hatch Chart
Minnesota's Driftless can offer some great hatches. While none compare to the famous Golden Stonefly, or Green Drake hatches in other parts of the country, the hatches in the spring and summer months are consistent and keep enough food on the water to provide for many dry fly fishing opportunities.
Best Trout Flies for the Minnesota Driftless
What species of trout are in the Driftless?
Brown Trout: Salmo trutta
Brown trout are not native to Minnesota (brown trout are not native to anywhere in the U.S.), meaning they arived there by stocking initiatives in the streams they now call home. However, there are wild Brown trout in some of Minnesota's driftless streams. Wild means they naturally reproduce to a point that their species is sustainable without needing additional stockings.
Brook Trout: Salvelinus fontinalis
The vast majority of Brook trout in Minnesota's driftless are either wild or stocked. Once native to the area, there have been confirmed native strains of Brook trout in other areas of the driftless region, but none confirmed in Minnesota yet.
Rainbow Trout: Oncorhynchus mykiss
The most common trout caught in the Minnesota driftless is the Rainbow trout. There're very few, if any, Rainbow Trout that reproduce in the Minnesota driftless streams. The conservation department stocks Rainbows in various streams each year to create more fishing opportunities for anglers.
When is the best time to fish for trout in the Wisconsin Driftless?Trout can be caught throughout the open season, but there are definitely seasons that are better than others. March-May: Springtime is probably the best to time fish. With hungry trout ready to make up for reduced feeding in the winter, and several mayflies beginning to hatch, Spring can bring a perfect storm for dry fly action. June-August: Summertime fly fishing in Wisconsin's driftless can be tough. With clear skies and bright sun, the first challenge is staying hidden from the trout. The second challenge is the slowing down of aquatic insect activity. When no mayflies or caddis are present, casting can be very effective and pure ecstacy when it works. September-October: Fall can be a great to time fish the driftless, but most of the trout will be focused on eating subsurface. This is the time of year that brown and brook trout spawn, so if you enjoy fishing egg patterns, this is the time to go. *Note, WATCH OUT FOR THE REDDS (trout spawing areas on the streambed). It is essential for the survival of the fish we love to be able to reproduce without being disturbed. October-December: Wintertime trout fishing can be slower than the rest of the year, but fishing presure is much lower, increasing the odds that you could have the stream all to yourself. We've found these three patterns to be the most effective in the driftless during the colder winter months.
When is the Wisconsin Driftless Trout Season?Early inland trout waters: 5 am on the first Saturday in January to the Friday preceding the First Saturday in May at midnight General Inland Season: First Saturday in May from 5:00 AM to October 15.
What fishing license do I need to trout fish in Wisconsin?To fish for trout in the Wisconsin Driftless, you'll need: 1. A Wisconsin fishing license. A resident license if you live in Wisconsin, or a non-resident license if you live in another state. Non-resident can be purchased as a 1 day, 4 day, 15 day, or annual license. 2. Wisconsin inland trout stamp. The only option for this is an annual stamp. They can both be purchased online by clicking here . You will need to create an account and fill out a little information about yourself. They can also be purchased in person. to find a list of Wisconsin hunting and fishing license sales centers.
Are barbless hooks required in the Wisconsin Driftless?At this time, there are no regulations stating that barbless hooks must be used. It is always best to check the most current rules and regulations.
Where can I find the most recent regulations for trout fishing in the Wisconsin Driftless?This resource published by the Wisconsin DNR provides the most up to date information on rules and regulations.
What do the different trout stream classifications mean?Class 1: 100% Wild Trout There are over 5,000 miles of class 1 streams, each having a sustained population of wild trout that are replenished through successful natural reproduction. Because it's not needed to maintain full capacity, they are not stocked with hatchery trout. Class 2: Some Wild Trout There are over 6000 miles of class 2 streams. These waters have some natural reproduction and year to year survival carryover, but not enough to sustain a stream to it's full capacity. Stocking of Brown, Rainbow, and Brook trout is utilized to supplement mother nature. Class 3: No Wild Trout There are over 1,500 miles of class 3 streams. These streams have limited trout habitat, no natural reproduction, and little to no annual survival carryover. Without annual stocking, they would be virtually troutless. Click here to see historical trout stocking summaries
Which airport to fly into?While driving to the drifltess can provide beautiful scenery, sometimes because of time and distance you may be better off flying. If so, there are several municipal airports in the area, but your best bet is the La Crosse Regional Airport because you can get there from almost anywhere with a few connecting flights, and they offer car rental service right there at the terminal.
Do I need four wheel drive to get around the Wisconsin Driftless?To access the streams, no, you will not need 4 wheel drive. However, if you are visiting in the winter months, 4 wheel drive would be essential to navigate the rolling hills if there happened to be snow on the ground.