Home » Fly Fishing the Driftless: Angler Research

Fly Fishing the Driftless: Angler Research

I’d like to think that I’m still relatively young. However, I am of an age where there are certain benchmarks  that separate me from the younger generation. When I was a teenager, and I wanted information on fly fishing tactics or a region, it meant a trip to the library. I’d have to find actual books in actual stacks, sit  down at a desk or check them out, and read. It was fun to  investigate. It required reading fishing books, browsing travel guides, and looking at physical maps.

Somewhere along the line, that changed. The internet made all of that information so incredibly accessible. Although a bit less involved than a trip to the library, the process has improved  thanks to the ease of use and the variety of resources.

This summer I am travelling to and fishing the Driftless. This area, occupying the  region where Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa meet, is geologically unique. One of the results is  a wealth of trout fishing, primarily in the smaller spring creeks that run through every valley. Even though I grew up in  the Midwest, I had  practically no frame of reference for what to expect.

Planning and preparing for any DIY fly fishing trip means figuring out nearly everything about a fishery and the surrounding area. Here are three important types of online resources. The specific links will help you if you’re interested in the Driftless, but the “genres” should be beneficial regardless of where you’re headed.

Fly Shops

The best way  that the internet equips contemporary anglers is the ability to tap into whatever information fly shops put online. A fly shop is going to be able to offer the most current and practical help out there. Reading a few sentences summing up the most recent fishing report is hardly a substitute for a conversation and the chance to buy a dozen flies, but it is a lot better than nothing.

Shops like Wisconsin’s Driftless Angler and Minnesota’s Driftless Fly  Fishing Company have the local know how. This transcends “what’s hatching,” providing anglers with access  points, lodging, and other applicable links.


Magazines have never had the kind of reputation among media outlets that they deserve. Countless times, I’ve heard fly fishers of all ages cite an article they read in a magazine as the reason they tried a new technique or traveled to a new location. The content is generally short, either giving a broad overview of a topic or conversely  focusing on something very specific.

Online access to stalwarts like Field & Stream (Why You Should Fish Wisconsin’s Driftless Area) is overlooked. Modern “eZines” such as Hatch (How to Do a Trout Town: Viroqua, Wisconsin) also offer a tremendous wealth of information.


I like podcasts. You don’t need a glove box full of cassettes, or even a visor laden with compact discs. Assuming you have data service or had the forethought to download some episodes, the world is at your smartphone. The medium can be very unique these days: an actual interview or documentary-style presentation. If you can find a podcast that deals with the destination you have in mind, it can provide you with some of the most valuable  details available.

Two of my favorite podcasts actually spurred me on in making the trip out to the Driftless. 2 Guys and A River really introduced me to the fishery last year with Fly Fishing the Wisconsin Driftless.  Tom Rosenbauer’s Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast had an exceptional interview with local Mat Wagner in the episode The Wonders of the Midwest’s Driftless Area.


There are other great resources out there, such as videos, message boards, and even tourist bureaus. I enjoy the process of researching. It is part of the culture of fly fishing that has changed over the years in the way that it looks, but is ultimately the same in what it accomplishes.


  1. Martin P Shelton says:

    Yep, just back from a four day trip to Decorah, Iowa. Use Tenkara rod because the presentation was much more appropriate for the stream. Two browns, two brookies on the two days on the water. Pine Creek on the Seed Exchange property. Absolutely no one out there. Extremely recommended.

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