In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold described Central Wisconsin as the “Sand Counties,” a fitting name. The landscape is flat to gently rolling with extremely sandy soil. There is not an area defined as the sand counties but Marquette, Waushara, Adams, and parts of Columbia, Portage, Waupaca, and Sauk counties are usually given this designation. The area around the cities of Westfield, Wautoma, and Wild Rose is the heart of the sand counties, particularly for the fly fisherman.
These streams run deep and gin clear over sand bottoms. To the untrained eye, these streams tend to be devoid of fish holding structure. However, stream structures are heavily used, deep holes are common particularly along the outside of a bend, and deadfalls and root wads can hold a lot of fish. This area is where stream structures were first devised. (For more information see Robert Hunt’s book, Trout Stream Therapy ) The water quality of these streams is excellent and helps support incredible natural reproduction. Wild Brook Trout are the most common fish but natural reproducing browns and even some rainbows can be found.
The Mecan River is quite typical of these streams. It arises at Mecan springs and starts small, bordered by trees. By the time it reaches the village of Dakota, it is wider but still wooded with few gravely bottomed riffles. Downstream a little bit, it is even wider, less wooded along the banks, and deeper, with a silt/sand bottoms with some muck along the margins. Upper reaches support wild Brookies, lower areas contain wild Browns and maybe a few wild Rainbows.
Other well known streams in this region are the Tomorrow/Waupaca River and the Little Wolf River.
Light tackle, small flies, and long leaders are the norm for fishing this area. Short rods are also a good choice because many of these streams are bordered by tress and brush, making casting quite tight. In lower reaches of these streams a longer and heavier rod may be a better choice as large mayflies (Hex) and bigger fish are common and streamers are a good choice when there isn’t a hatch.
The burrowing mayflies such as the Hex or Ephorons can be spectacular on stream sections containing muck and soft sandy bottoms.
Hatches of the Central Wisconsin region…
- Mayflies: Hendricksons, Sulphurs, Ephorons and Hex (Hexagenia limbata) can be spectacular hatches on many of these streams. Brown Drakes, Light Cahills and Blue Wing Olives (under the right conditions) can also be important.
- Caddisflies: Black Caddis in the spring, Sand Sedge (yellow body), Green Caddis (Green Rock Worm & Grannon), Little Sister Sedge,
- Terrestrials: Hoppers, crickets, ants, and beetles.
See the Hatch charts for more details…
Heart of the sand counties.
Tomorrow / Waupaca River
Not yesterday’s river.
Little Wolf River
Small version of the big wolf.