I was out in the later afternoon from 3-5pm enjoying the sun and beautiful weather yesterday. I arrived and noticed a couple random caddis skittering around, saw a rising trout or two but opted to fish some deeper holes so I put on my sinking leader and a heavier streamer. I hiked upstream and missed the first two bumps I felt and landed the third, a small brown trout pushing 6-7inches. The water was running stain free, gin clear, hard to fish, you know how that goes. I targeted broken water and given my time frame I avoided anything shallow and flat. After a short hike I found myself surrounded by a heard of maybe 2 dozen cattle, no calves, a couple males but they didn’t appear aggressive to me and yet I had three females who would not leave me alone. At one point they were four or five feet from me as I stood my ground and kept creeping closer, they were giving me a weird vibe and I ended up backing up slowly and crossing the stream in waist high water just to avoid them. This is maybe the second or third time in ten plus years I’ve had any sort of issue with cattle, the last was a situation in Iowa that gave me a healthy respect for a heard of cattle I don’t know.

Moving on and upstream, past a fence line and the cattle I found what I was hoping to avoid…muddy boot prints. I was hoping this spot hadn’t been hit recently but no such luck. I honestly wondered if I was just behind the other angler, the prints appeared very fresh. I’m not sure if it’s the perception of someone else having fished the water recently and that perception projecting on my confidence but for a good bit very few brown trout were hooked or touched. I shook it off and switched tactics a bit, I fished the broken water down and in which resulted in a handful of smaller browns. The spring sun, green grasses, plants, wildflowers, no wonder I’m not the only one out here and when I think about it like that I guess I can’t be too disappointed.

Around 4pm I noticed a few small birds picking what appeared to be a #14 light colored mayfly out of the air. My first thought was of a light hendrickson, it would match the timing and the quantity was minimal which is pretty typical around here. I watched a couple really small brown trout rise to them but it was the birds picking them off in mid flight that caught my attention. I managed to net (trucker hat = bug net) what I believed to be the fly I was seeing and it turned out to be a bright orange/yellow crane fly. I scoured the rocks searching for the right mayfly nymph but after 10 minutes of flipping rocks in faster water and riffles I came up with a bunch of baetis, midge, caddis, a handful of stoneflies and what I believe to be march brown nymphs but nothing that would suggest light hendricksons. I was left wondering if they were in fact the mayfly I wanted them to be or if they were the craneflies. I probably should have temped the stream to compare to known hatching water temps for the light hendricksons.

I fished until it was time to head home to get dinner going for the kid and the wife. Lawn mowed, rode my bike for a bit, fished for two hours and got to spend the evening with family. This is about as close to perfect as it gets, I am a very fortunate guy. I should also note I spied a few trees for morels but found none near the stream. The guy I know who is an authority on the subject is predicting next week as the best week to find them in larger numbers. Just another good way to spend time outside in the driftless area.


  1. Ah, the curious cow reaction. I’ve had that happen to me a few times also. I love it when they follow you all the way back to your car. Best I can determine is they think you might be their farmer bringing them a tasty salt block, or maybe some feed supplement to go with their grass grazing.

    A few tips I learned growing up on my uncles farm: Never turn your back on any large animal. Never get between a heifer and her calves, and never get between a bull and his harem. Eye contact with a agitated animal is another big no-no. If they have their head down and are snorting, time to slowly move away. Get in the trees or the brush. Their vision doesn’t allow them to pick you out from cluttered backgrounds and they will eventually lose interest.

    Also, another good fishing tip is to fish downstream from cows that are either in, or crossing, the stream. They kick up a bunch of mud and sand, which contains food. The stained water will also make the fish more comfortable to come out from their hiding spots. Often there will be a Trout feeding frenzy downstream from cows. A good time to chuck a streamer or large fly pattern.

    Be safe!

    avatar Bill Schlafer

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