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Fly Fishing the Driftless Intelligently

There is something different about this post...Let's see if you can pick up what it is.


The Driftless Area, also known as the Paleozoic Plateau, is a region in the Upper Midwest of the United States, including parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, that was not glaciated during the last Ice Age. This has resulted in a unique landscape, characterized by steep bluffs, deep valleys, and cold-water streams that are home to a variety of fish species, including brook trout and brown trout. Fly fishing in the Driftless Area can be an exciting and challenging experience due to the diverse and rugged terrain, and the diverse aquatic life.

An artistic Driftless map
An artistic Driftless map

Fly fishing in the Driftless Area typically involves wading in the streams and rivers, as the water is usually too shallow for boating. The most popular fly fishing methods are dry fly fishing, nymphing, and streamer fishing. Dry fly fishing involves using a dry fly, which is a type of fly that floats on the surface of the water, to mimic the natural insects that the fish feed on. Nymphing involves using a weighted fly, called a nymph, that sinks to the bottom of the stream, to mimic the aquatic insects that the fish feed on. Streamer fishing involves using a large, often brightly colored fly, that is meant to mimic small fish or other aquatic prey.

An early fall Driftless Area stream
An early fall Driftless Area stream

The best time to fly fish in the Driftless Area is in the spring and fall when the water is cool and the fish are actively feeding. The area is also known for its hatches of mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies, which can provide great opportunities for dry fly fishing.

In summary, fly fishing in the Driftless Area can be an exciting and challenging experience due to the diverse and rugged terrain, and the diverse aquatic life. The most popular fly fishing methods are dry fly fishing, nymphing, and streamer fishing, with best time to fish in spring and fall.

Driftless stream running along a bluff / rock outcropping.
Driftless stream running along a bluff / rock outcropping.

The Driftless Area is known for its diverse aquatic life, which includes a wide variety of insects that hatch throughout the year. These hatches can provide excellent opportunities for fly fishing, as the fish are actively feeding on the emerging insects. Some of the most notable hatches in the Driftless Area streams include:

  • Mayflies: The most common mayflies in the Driftless Area include the Blue-winged Olive, Hendrickson, and Sulphur. These hatches typically occur in the spring and fall and can provide excellent dry fly fishing opportunities.

  • Caddisflies: The most common caddisflies in the Driftless Area include the Little Black, Cinnamon, and Green Sedges. These hatches typically occur in the spring, summer, and fall and can provide excellent dry fly and nymph fishing opportunities.

  • Stoneflies: The most common stoneflies in the Driftless Area include the Little Brown Stonefly and the Yellow Sally. These hatches typically occur in the spring and early summer and can provide excellent dry fly and nymph fishing opportunities.

It's worth noting that the timing and duration of hatches can vary depending on the specific location, weather conditions, and water temperature. It's always a good idea to consult with local fly shops or guides for the most current information on the hatches in the Driftless Area streams.

Ephemeroptera dorothea - sulphur mayfly
Ephemeroptera dorothea - sulphur mayfly dun

The Driftless Area is known for its diverse aquatic life and hatches, which can provide excellent opportunities for fly fishing. Some of the most notable hatches in the Driftless Area streams include Mayflies, Caddisflies, and Stoneflies. The timing and duration of hatches can vary depending on the specific location, weather conditions, and water temperature. It's always a good idea to consult with local fly shops or guides for the most current information on the hatches in the Driftless Area streams.


A variety of flies can be effective for different species and seasons. However, there are some flies that are considered to be "go-to" choices for fly fishing in the Driftless Area, depending on the time of year and the type of fish you're targeting.

Artistic rendition of an Adams Dry Fly
Artistic rendition of an Adams Dry Fly

For dry fly fishing, some popular choices include:

  • Adams: A versatile dry fly that can imitate a variety of insects, including mayflies and caddisflies.

  • Elk Hair Caddis: A dry fly that imitates the adult stage of caddisflies, which are a common food source for trout.

  • Parachute Adams: A variation of the Adams that features a white post to help the fly stand out on the water's surface.

An artistic rendering of Sawyer's Pheasant Tail Nymph
An artistic rendering of Sawyer's Pheasant Tail Nymph

For nymphing, some popular choices include:

  • Pheasant Tail: A nymph that imitates the nymph stage of mayflies, which are a common food source for trout.

  • Prince Nymph: A versatile nymph that can imitate a variety of aquatic insects.

  • Hare's Ear: A nymph that imitates the nymph stage of caddisflies, which are a common food source for trout.

Artistic rendering of a Black Woolly Bugger fly pattern
Artistic rendering of a Black Woolly Bugger fly pattern

For streamer fishing, some popular choices include:

  • Wooly Bugger: A streamer fly that imitates small fish and leeches.

  • Muddler Minnow: A streamer fly that imitates a variety of small fish and crayfish.

  • Sculpin: A streamer fly that imitates a small fish that is a common food source for larger fish.

It's worth noting that the best flies to use can vary depending on the specific location, time of year, and weather conditions. It's always a good idea to consult with local fly shops or guides for the most current information on the best flies to use in the Driftless Area.

A Driftless stream in the middle of summer
A Driftless stream in the middle of summer

The Driftless Area is home to many streams, rivers, and creeks that offer excellent fly fishing opportunities. Some popular places to go fly fishing in the Driftless Area include:

  • The Upper Mississippi River: This section of the river runs through the heart of the Driftless Area and is home to a variety of fish species, including brook trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. The river is known for its large hatches of mayflies and caddisflies and offers excellent dry fly fishing opportunities.

  • The Wisconsin River: This river runs through the southern part of the Driftless Area and offers excellent fly fishing opportunities for a variety of fish species, including brook trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. The river is known for its large hatches of mayflies and caddisflies and offers excellent dry fly fishing opportunities.

  • The Kickapoo River: This river runs through the western part of the Driftless Area and offers excellent fly fishing opportunities for a variety of fish species, including brook trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. The river is known for its large hatches of mayflies and caddisflies and offers excellent dry fly fishing opportunities.

  • The Black River: This river runs through the southeastern part of the Driftless Area and offers excellent fly fishing opportunities for a variety of fish species, including brook trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. The river is known for its large hatches of mayflies and caddisflies and offers excellent dry fly fishing opportunities.

  • The Root River: This river runs through the southeastern part of the Driftless Area and offers excellent fly fishing opportunities for a variety of fish species, including brook trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. The river is known for its large hatches of mayflies and caddisflies and offers excellent dry fly fishing opportunities.

It's worth noting that these are just a few examples of the many streams, rivers, and creeks that offer fly fishing opportunities in the Driftless Area. It's always a good idea to consult with local fly shops or guides for the most current information on the best places to go fly fishing in the Driftless Area.


Maybe I can be replaced...


Did you notice anything different about this post? I didn't write it, Open AI did. Maybe it did better than I can (I cleaned it up a bit to reduce repetition). Maybe you can write better - or at least differently - than I do. And maybe you want a space to do that?

Abstract art created by Open AI of a fly angler on a Driftless trout stream.
Abstract art created by Open AI of a fly angler on a Driftless trout stream.

I have a web space that I am happy to share - if you are willing to write for it or donate photos to it. This blog has been my voice, but it does not have to be just mine. When I conceived of this site, after COVID had hit and changed my world - and probably yours. I had hoped it would be much more interactive and a form a larger community. I think that, back to Wisconsin Fly Fishing Facebook page, it does a pretty good job of starting intelligent (not artificially intelligent, I think...) conversations there.

AI generated fly fishing image
These are, apparently, bamboo fly rods with fly fishing nets.

I do the site for fun - you could see if you think it is fun...potential topics are wide ranging as my posts have been. I obviously have a pretty Driftless-centric, science-geek point of view - that probably is not your view. Your voice and view will be yours. Have something you want to write about? Let me know. I would love to include more from anglers in different regions of Wisconsin or the Driftless or those that specialize in things other than trout. Or maybe you do not share my disdain of the dark arts - nymphing - and want to write about Euronymphing the Driftless or write about the draw of the sand counties or the Upper Peninsula. A book review, a favorite fly pattern, an "in praise of" post, a story about a memory or fishing mentor you would like saved for online posterity, or a post on musky, bass, panfish, Great Lakes tributaries, or somewhere else? Give it some thought...

Bamboo fly rods and wicker creels
This one is not AI - it is a Herb Haines photo - which beats the hell out of a an AI generated image.

Not sure you want to write? I get it! You can contribute your images. I would love to diversify the images on the page as AI does not seem like a great option, yet. I will give you full credit, of course.


Just do it before the machines replace us...

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4 Comments


Jimmy Fackert
Jimmy Fackert
Feb 20, 2023

Interesting! I originally thought it may have been a childs/teenagers paper, or possibly multiple edits merged into one. It definitely came across as trying to be very "neutral" in voice and opinion. I was worried my comment would be offensive until you shared where it came from. The first Adams representation is certainly artistic.

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What's different about this post is your guest writer doesn't know much about fly fishing in the driftless.

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john welter
john welter
Jan 18, 2023

Let me see. several guesses: (1) good survey for beginners to ff and the area; (2) Root River is either near racine and outside the driftless, or in SE Mn ; (3) the artist was on acid.

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The artistic renderings were interesting. Great concept for an article. Thanks Jason!

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