Exploring a Honey Hole 40 Years Later

by | Jul 12, 2023 | fly fishing Wisconsin | 6 comments

Wisconsin-riversMy first Northland College roommate back in 1983 was Donn Ambrose and he was a Wisconsin native.  Donn spent most of his life growing up in a cabin with no electricity on the banks of a unique remote river here in the Northwoods.  Many times he treated me to his home water and we took his rowboat downstream from his house a mile to where the river opened into a small lake.  We caught pike and walleye all the way down and back and I once netted a big muskellunge for Donn.

 

Striker-RaftThose excursions to that mystical river were so long ago it’s incredible.  Reminiscing makes me to feel my age.  More than anything, I’ve wanted to return.

 

I figured the best way back would be through Donn, but I can’t find Donn.  Last year I began researching a way to get there on my own but this place is so remote the nearest boat launch accesses are miles away.  The launches are also only suitable for canoes.  Even if I were able to launch the Blue Bathtub, there are too many rapids and beaver-dam-tight spots for a drift boat.  But wait – Granny and I now own the Striker Raft!

 

fly-fishingAfter a couple reconnaissance missions last summer and another recently, today Granny and I launched the raft and went for it.  We left yesterday afternoon with both cars.  We did our shuttle last night and slept at the launch.  Not knowing how long the float would last or what predicaments we might meet, it was essential to get on the water early.  Camping on the spot made this possible.

 

mosquito-hellDue to swarms of hungry mosquitos, last night was one of my top five worst mosquito nights ever.  I made a tiny smoke smolder to help while we munched down a few hot dogs for dinner.  Ok, and two beers.  Then we climbed in the Explorer for the night along with about 50 mosquitos and tossed and turned while sweating and listening to buzzing in our ears.  Fun stuff let me tell ya!

 

Granny-CurrierThis morning we hoped cooler temperatures would sooth our itches and slow down the annoying perky blood suckers.  It wasn’t the case.  It was warm enough for shorts and t-shirts but instead we were completely bundled and sweating profusely in our raingear doused with deet.  None of our defenses completely worked and our hands and faces were swollen from bites.  Granny wasn’t happy but this wasn’t her first rodeo.

 

Regardless of mosquito misery, neither of us could argue with this morning’s beauty.  As the sun rose around 5:05 AM, we began our float.  It started with me rowing as fast as I could to get away from the bugs.  My furry helped but soon I relaxed and we drifted and enjoyed Yeti’s full of our usual French pressed coffee.

 

smalliesAfter Granny enjoyed her last slurp of coffee she grabbed my 9-weight Winston.  I had on a size 2/0 Man Bear Pig fly (MBP).  I’m addicted to this pattern lately because its big enough to entice a musky, small enough for a big smallmouth bass and absolutely perfect for pike.  All the above species flourish here so we were in the game.  It wasn’t long before our first contestant provided us an amazingly visual take.  It looked to me like a smallmouth but the fish appeared too big.

 

Granny-smallmouthThe spot on the river looked more like a peacock bass place in the Amazon than northern Wisconsin.  With the fish pulling hard Granny had my Winston bent deep the same way a peacock bends a rod.  It was all she could do to hang on.  The raft actually moved along with the fish because he was pulling us.  I back rowed some to help Granny keep the fish from the wood.  Eventually Granny won the battle and she lipped her career largest smallie.  Rather than toy around with a measurement we clicked off a few shots and released the beauty.  Perhaps 19” give or take an inch.

 

Man-Bear-Pig-flyGranny has been the queen of bass this year.  Most of hers have been largemouth but she’s got some monsters.  I love to see it and stayed on the oars.  She knocked back a few smaller sized smallies that weren’t slouches either along with two small pike.  And man did they love this MBP fly!

 

vintage-Jeff-Currier

Fishing maniac – WI 1983

We made it to the lake-like part of the river Donn introduced me too 40 years ago.  It was one of those magical moments.  Some fond memories returned instantly.  I remembered coming here in November once with Donn.  While we had no problem getting down river from his house, when we got to this spot we found that it had frozen overnight.  I kid you not, I was such a fishing maniac back then, I went to shore and grabbed an oversized birch log and busted apart enough ice off the lake that we could fish the musky hole.  Needless to say every musky likely fled to the Mississippi fearing for its life.  We got skunked.

 

fishingThe area has changed some in 40 years.  Over time oxbows or bays on rivers fill in with weeds and silt.  Here aquatic vegetation has grown thick where we once made casts.  It also seemed like the deepest holes I remember well were shallower.  Nevertheless, we gave every inch of what was left our best shot.  We landed a couple more small northern pike.  And the mosquitos and horseflies took a feeding break.  Finally we could take off the rain suits!

 

pikeDonn and I never ventured further downstream from this lake-ish spot of this river.  Where it gets normal flow again its shallow with protruding boulders.  There’s no way to get a hard bottom boat through.  The raft on the other hand wasn’t a problem.  While I walked it through the shallows, Granny wandered down to the next big hole and casted.  She beat the heck out of more small pike.

 

muskyThere were big musky here in the 80’s and like much of Wisconsin, I’ll bet there are more now than then.  It’s the way WI manages their fisheries these days.  While we didn’t find any big boys, I landed this little guy by chance.

 

Currier-smallmouth

We caught plenty more smallies and pike.  Our biggest pike was definitely 30”.  I too got a heck of a smallmouth.  In fact between us we got at least a dozen.  While the one Granny is pictured with earlier and this one were the biggest, there were a few others close to this.  I had a walleye almost to the net also on a jig fly.

 

live-the-dreamWe pulled off the river at 4 PM.  Nearly an 11 hour float!  It’s a good thing we started early.  It was one of our best days this summer and one we will repeat again.  However, due to difficulty arranging and the length of the float, it will likely be next summer.  That’s all for now.  Time for an evening at the Anglers to recover from these bug bites!

 

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

6 Comments

  1. James Fisher

    Looks like a great adventure, but I wouldn’t enjoy the mosquitoes! Interesting that you and Bruun have both written about them this week!
    Give Granny a hug.
    JJ

  2. Jeff

    Will do. It was miserable beyond my worst memories of ANYWHERE. I’ve been a few places! Yeah, I saw Paul wrote about mosquitoes. I’ll try and read it tonight. His writing helps mine immensely. The more Bruun I read the better!

  3. Tad

    Looks like a great time – minus the mosquito adventure.

    I hope you find your old college friend!

    Tad

  4. Jeff

    I think eventually Donn should hear about this post. Thanks Tad!

  5. Howie

    And this time you did not need to dine on peeper frogs for dinner!

  6. Jeff

    I still have a stomach ache from those tiny critters. They were nearly impossible to find too. All that noise, millions of them and we each could only catch one. ONE!!

Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

Contact Jeff

I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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