THE RIVERS OF WINNESHEIK COUNTY
by Wayne Snyder
There are 19 spring fed trout streams that flow through the heart of Iowa's Driftless region. Winnesheik County boasts 10 of the best of them.
What makes Iowa's Driftless area what it is? - Sure, we know that the last North American glacial episode that ended 12,000 years ago just went right around this vast region leaving its high hills and sleepy ravines virtually untouched.
Some say the remains of a giant meteor impact crater rest on this very spot. There are bald eagles here, lot's of them, and a long list of rare birds you've probably never heard of before.
Beyond that there's something mystical about the region difficult to put your finger on. It's the kind of place you'll want to fish with a Mystic fly rod as I did.
“Many very experienced western guides who fished once in the Driftless never left.”
Winneshiek County's spectacular agricultural landscape attracts more trout anglers than any other region of the state. Why? Because its rivers hold fish that are big, plentiful and astoundingly beautiful.
Rivers with names like Coon, Bohemian, North Bear and Bigalk (pronounced bee-yalk).
All beautiful rivers with beautiful fish.
But of all of the trout streams in Iowa, there are only a few as beautiful as the upper mileage of Trout River. Here, scores of mature brook trout can be stalked and you might even be so lucky as to net a trophy wild brown.
And, although much of the land is private, there is plenty of public access and there are a couple of state sponsored “systems” that allow opportunities for fishing on private property. The access sites are easily found. Seek them.
“They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming.”
~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Many come for the chance of a Driftless “Grand Slam”— catching a brook, brown and rainbow trout in a single day — and it's entirely probable.
I've heard it said that there are many very experienced western guides who fished once in the Driftless and never left. I've also heard it said that the rivers of Iowa's Driftless area might just be paradise.
That all taken into account, I've certainly added the rivers of Winneshiek County to my list of fly-fishing meccas.