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Jerry Davis: Travelers fly fish Wisconsin’s Trout Central

April 23, 2017 GMT

READSTOWN — Four fly-rodder fishermen from Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin agreed on one thing three years ago. They liked the Badger State’s small streams, getting lost in the whole scene of quietness and having fun reading the water.

It’s off to Wisconsin biannually for Jack Keller and Charlie Gallagher of Texas and Bill Teawell, of Virginia to meet John Ewen in Neenah and then striking out for what’s been dubbed Trout Central by Jay Thurston, a Viroqua, author and trout angler.

These anglers still know the region as the Driftless Area, though.

This quartet has never met Thurston, or John Bethke, of Westby and pink squirrel fly fame, but both connect with the men’s spring and autumn tours to Reads Creek and beyond.


“We’ve read Thurston’s trout fishing books and we have a traveling trophy going the man who catches (and releases) the most trout during the week,” Ewen said. “The prize, until the next trip is a ceramic squirrel painted pink in honor of the famous fly.”

The trout counted by the winner need not be caught with Bethke’s fly, but many are. Those flies were likely purchased from the fly-fishing shop in Viroqua, because Ewen is the only one in the bunch who ties flies.

During much of fishing week, the group stays at the Quiet Valley Cabins near Coon Valley and eats most meals in Chaseburg, Westby, Coon Valley or Viroqua. There are nearly daily stops at the Driftless Angler in Viroqua to get flied up and up-to-the-day information on trout activity.

When not fishing Wisconsin’s waters twice annually, these retired men might be found fishing in Colorado, South Dakota or Montana, but Wisconsin seems to hold a special lure due to very good trout fishing, local beauty and interesting microbrews. One of the men brings a bottle or two from his own wine cellar.

Breakfast is usually at the Tippy Top Inn in Chaseburg. Lunch is an apple, power bar and water and dinner (or supper locally) is whatever they are close to of their favorite restaurants in Trout Central.

For the three out-of-staters, an annual nonresident license has been the way to go because of the two weeks they spend in Wisconsin. They can license up through the state’s Department of Natural Resources web page.

The men have not tangled lines with local anglers or encountered any eccentric Coulee Region personalities, but were here during the 2016 1,000 year flood that kept them pretty much in their cabin for a period because Coon Creek flooded over the bridge and they had to wait it out.

“The owners at Quiet Valley prepared some food and brought it to our cabin. That was very nice and it was very good, too,” John said of the added hospitality.

There’s no shore lunch or frozen trout going out-of-state, because they don’t keep any, not even for a breakfast or snack.

“Our plan on the trout is to leave them for the next guy,” Ewen said. “We’re here for the sport of fishing.”

“We’re just a bunch of retired guys who fell in love with the Driftless Area,” Ewen said.