Trout Fishing Wisconsin's Driftless

The driftless region of Wisconsin has more than 13,000 miles of trout streams running through it. Based upon our experiences with the area, we've created this page as a guide for visiting these waters.

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Along with using these maps we've made available, a great resource to check out is this book by Todd Hanson. While this page shows maps and directions to our favorite streams, his book gives great info about all trout streams in the Wisconsin Driftless. 

Noses Up Fly Fishing is brought to you by two brothers and their passion for chasing wild trout on spring creeks with dry flies. We created this site to share our knowledge, catalog our adventures, and tell a few white along the way. Thanks for joining!

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Best Places to Trout Fish in the Wisconsin Driftless

1. Trempealeau County Trout Streams

Top 3 trout streams in Trempealeau County Wisconsin:

Bear Creek

Dutch Creek

Salzwedel Coulee

(Click here for map of all streams in Trempealeau County)

 

2. Jackson County Trout Streams

Top 3 trout streams in Jackson County Wisconsin:

Cisna Creek

North Branch Trempealeau River

French Creek

(Click here for a map of all trout streams in Jackson County)

 

3. La Crosse County Trout Streams

Top 3 trout streams in La Crosse County Wisconsin:

Larson Coulee

Bostwick Creek

Little Burns Creek

(Click here for a map of all trout streams is La Crosse County)

 

4. Monroe County Trout Streams

Top 3 trout streams in Monroe County Wisconsin:

Farmers Valley Creek

Little LaCrosse River

Beaver Creek East

(Click here for a map of all trout streams in Monroe County)

 

5. Vernon County Trout Streams

Top 3 trout streams in Vernon County Wisconsin:

Reads Creek

Bad Axe River 

Bishop Branch

(Click here for a map of all Vernon County Trout Streams)

 

6. Crawford County Trout Streams

Top 3 trout streams in Crawford County Wisconsin:

 

7. Richland County Trout Streams

Top 3 trout streams in Richland County Wisconsin:

Ash Creek

Fox Hollow Creek

West Branch Mill Creek

(Click here for a map of all Richland County trout streams)

 

Recommended Gear for the Driftless

Here at Noses Up we sometimes mention products that we use and trust. If you end up purchasing some o fthese products, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps up keep this site up and running. Thanks!

Fly Rod: 2wt-5wt rods typically work best. Lighter rods make casting in smaller water much easier, but it can get windy in the Wisconson driftless. If I had to pick only one, I would go with a 4wt, but Bringing a 5wt 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.

Leaders: Trout in the driftless often sit 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 ( 4x-7x). For tips on hiding from trout, check out this article.

Our top tippet recommendation would be the Rio Suppleflex because of its ability to help with a drag free drift.

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.

We would recommend one that has a slim design that could be stored in your pocket or small pack.

Shoulder 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. To see other alternative to fly fishing vests click here.

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 favorites are the convertible style because they can easily be unzipped and turned into shorts.

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 boots by Chota 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'm usually wet wading in the driftless, I go through several pairs of them. Make sure to pack 2-3 pairs for each day you'll be fishing.

 

Wisconsin Stream Access Laws

According to the Wisconsin Act 16 passed on September 1 of 2001, members of the public may not enter any exposed shore area of a stream without the permission of the owner, unless it is necessary to exit the body of water to bypass an obstruction. These obstructions could be trees, rocks, shallow water for boaters, or deep water for wading trout anglers.

This is also known as the "keep your feet wet" rule, and dictates that anglers without landowner permission cannot enter a private exposed shore area unless it's from the water or a point of public access on the stream. ​

 

Wisconsin's Driftless Hatch Chart

Wisconsin'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 here are consistent and keep enough food on the water to provide for many dry fly fishing opportunities.  

 

Best Trout Flies for the Wisconsin Driftless

 

What species of trout are in the Driftless?

Brown Trout: Salmo trutta

Brown trout are not native to Wisconsin (no brown trout in the U.S. are native), meaning the trout there today got there by someone stocking them at one time. However, there are wild Brown trout in many of Wisconsin's driftless streams. Wild means they can naturally reproduce to a point that their species is sustainable without additional stockings.

Brook Trout: Salvelinus fontinalis

The majority of brook trout in Wisconsin's driftless are either wild or stocked. However, there are a few streams with native brook trout! This is a species that has made its home here since before the ice age!

Rainbow Trout: Oncorhynchus mykiss

There are very few if any wild Rainbow trout in the driftless. The conservation department stocks Rainbows in various streams each year to create more fishing opportunities for anglers

 
 

Wisconsin Driftless Trout Fishing FAQ's

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Minnesota also offers some fantastic trout fishing opportunities. Click here to go to our Minnesota Driftless page

A retreat to the Wisconsin driftless can be a breathtaking experience, as long as you know where to go and what to bring. Catching glimpses of dimples on the water while peering through the fog lifting off a small stream while the sun peaks above the horizon can be magical. We've put countless miles on our vehicles exploring all this region has to offer. To save you from spending your entire trip driving around or getting to the stream unprepared, we've created this resource to help out. We hope you enjoy fly fishing in the Wisconsin driftless as much as we have! 

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