Wolf River

Northern Wis

Kayaking trip down the Wolf River, fly fishing for Smallies.

Wolf River fly fishingCounty: Langlade County

DeLorme Page: 78 C-3, C-2, and B-1

Wisconsin Trout Regulations Page: 15

Another of Wisconsin’s more famous and historic trout river, only the Bois Brule rivals the Wolf in fame and history. The Wolf is like a Western freestone river in character. It is a popular rafting river if that helps explain how fast the water is.  If a fishing experience is what you are looking for, the Wolf River is the place to go.  The Wolf is one of few Wisconsin Trout Rivers or streams with a rich history. Cap Buettner, Ed Haaga and Bob Talasek were legends on the Wolf and their flies and tactics are still in use today. When anyone talks about the Wolf River water level, they refer to Cap’s scale. Ed’s Adams Hairwing is still used to imitate the larger Mayflies that hatch on the Wolf.  People like Wayne Anderson, and George Close who fished with Cap and Ed are part of the new guard.

The hatches are what fuel the fly fishing on the Wolf. Some are unique to the river and others are so thick that you won’t see anything like it in Wisconsin. The Cream Fly (Potomanthus myops and verticis) is only found in the Wolf River in Wisconsin. The Brown Drake is legendary and can be a blizzard hatch when all goes right.  Unfortunately, the Wolf relies on stocking because water temperature doesn’t allow for much natural reproduction. Holdover of stockers is good and large fish can be had.  Once they’ve been in the river for a year or two, they are no longer easy to catch.

Access to the river is often difficult and requiring long walks but this usually means a good bit of solitude for the fisherman willing to walk. There is a lot of DNR owned lands, when you are in the area pick up the Wolf River, Trout land Map which is available in many local stores. If you are not sure where to go, ask at a local fly shop or gas station.

The Wolf is a popular rafting river but fortunately there is a local ordinance that keeps rafts from launching before 8 AM and they must be of the water by 7 PM. There are charts posted in some places showing the latest time that a raft should get to a fishing access point. The rafts aren’t a problem for me because when I go to the Wolf it is to fish dry flies through hatches and the hatches occur late in the afternoon. Nymph and streamer fishing can be effective but I prefer to spend the day tying flies, fishing other area streams, and having a good lunch with friends while preparing for an evening of fishing.

The Wolf is big, powerful, and even dangerous. This is no place for the beginning wader; even people who have waded for years are scared by the power of the Wolf. Respect the Wolf, I do all my wading with a staff and am careful not to put myself in compromising positions.

Hatches: Hatches on the Wolf can be spectacular. Mayflies are the big hatches here; midges, Stonefly nymphs, and Caddis can be important but Mayflies are what people come to fish. A special mayfly on the Wolf River is the Cream Fly and is limited to only this river in Wisconsin. A Catskill Light Cahill tie will work, as will Parachutes and Wulffs.