I spend a lot of time on Google Maps. Most guys my age worry about their boss walking up to them while they are adjusting their fantasy football lineups, but mine just sneak up on me zooming in on some small town in the middle of Wisconsin. They probably think I’m planning my next vacation to El Paso, not realizing it’s actually the unincorporated one in Wisconsin that has more trout in it than people…
The ability to catch fish is a benchmark of success for nearly every angler, but there is a smaller fraction of us that take nearly as much pride in amount of water we’ve fished and explored. Not only do we track of how many times we fish, but how many different streams and rivers we’ve cast a fly into. There is a thrill that comes with scouting and then wading new spots. Each section of water holds new surprises and offers new challenges, requiring the angler to apply the knowledge and techniques they’ve refined over hundreds of hours on the water.
Recent map scouting resulted in the discovery of a few streams I had yet to step foot into. The satellite view disclosed some nice bends and structure that had big fish potential and I knew I needed to check it out.
By 9:00am the next Saturday, my buddy Jake and I were stream side crushing a quick granola bar while putting on our waders and winter hats. Even though March was nearly over, winter decided to stick around and greeted us with a crisp 32-degree morning, reminiscent of late autumn. There were no footprints in the snow that still lingered, which we wondered was good or a bad sign? Either way, we were about to fish water that hadn’t been hit recently. After rigging up our 5 weight rods with long leaders and small, heavy streamers, we slid down the ditch and headed up unfamiliar waters.
It wasn’t long before our “low and slow” streamer fishing approach paid dividends. Nearly every spot that we expected to hold a fish did. Several made it to our nets, but some were lucky enough to evade them. We came across a few of those spots that look so good they make you nervous with anticipation and require extra attention. One of these produced my largest brown trout of the year—the slight twitch of my floating line, quickly turned into a well fought battle ending with a fish in the net and a classic fist pump.
After confirming this new stream held both good numbers and size, we debated turning back to explore some other streams in the area, but stuck with the “don’t leave fish to find fish” approach and kept moving up. This proved to be the correct decision and resulted in another stud fish, this time caught by Jake. The fish did all it could to free itself from Jake’s streamer and put a great bend in his glass rod, but we were able to make sure it made into the net. We exchanged high fives, took a few photos and let it swim back into the log-jam from which it came. My time spent on Google Maps had paid off. The taste of success was sweet and moods were high as we started the long trek back to the truck.
As we walked, I pulled out my phone to mark the spot, adding another gold star to the dozens already on my maps. As I did, I noticed something that made me laugh out loud—the stream we had just spent all morning fishing, wasn’t actually the stream we had intended to fish and thought we were on. In our tired morning state, we didn’t realize we had stopped at the wrong stream. Had we realized we were in the wrong spot, we would likely have moved on to our intended location. Instead we explored an under the radar stream and discovered a new spot, worthy of a star on our phones. Sometimes mistakes work out in your favor and fortunately for us, in this case it did.