Ask an Angler: Trout Fishing in the Driftless Region

Ask a Driftless Angler

When taking a look at the unique and scenic region of southwestern Wisconsin, known as the Driftless Area, one can’t help but mention its legendary wooded bluffs, wealth of native wildlife, and expansive networks of freshwater streams.

You’ll discover what may seem like a never ending supply of backwater tributaries throughout areas near Boscobel, which calls Grant County home but borders both Richland and Crawford Counties, as well. Combined, the WI-DNR reports nearly 90 Class-1 and over 170 Class-2 and Class-3 trout streams in the area. But don’t simply take our word for it…ask a true Driftless Angler!

Meet Mat Wagner of Driftless Angler

For expert advice on trout fishing in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region, Mat Wagner is your man. As the owner of The Driftless Angler, a full-service fly shop and guide service, Mat has over 25 years of experience fishing the shallow streams of this area. His established local shop provides visitors with fly fishing gear and apparel, as well as lessons on how to best fish Wisconsin’s Driftless trout creeks.

We recently had the chance to catch up with Mat and pick his brain on what makes trout fishing in this part of the state truly special.

Q & A: Ask a Driftless Angler

Ask an Angler: Trout Fishing the Driftless
Photo by Driftless Angler

Q: How would you describe the Driftless Region for someone who’s never visited before?

Mat: Driftless Wisconsin is a trout fishing paradise. The unique geology and geography of the area give us some of the most fertile and abundant trout fisheries in the country.

Q: What makes trout fishing in the Driftless Region different than in other areas?

Mat: I would say the sheer number of creeks available to fish. We are lucky to have a true abundance of spring creeks that hold trout all season long.

Q: What types of terrain do you often come across when looking for the perfect fishing spot?

Mat: The creeks are mostly meandering meadow streams and are relatively easy to walk along and wade into.

Brown, Brook, & Tiger Trout Spotting
Brown, Brook, & Tiger Trout Spotting | Photo Credit: Driftless Angler

Q: What types of trout species can someone expect to catch here?

Mat: Brown trout are the predominant species (by far the most common), but there are native brook trout (or brookies) available, as well. A few creeks stock rainbow trout, and there is always the opportunity to catch a rare, wild tiger trout…so keep your eyes peeled.

Q: What types of bait or lures have you found to be most successful in the area?

Mat: Flies vary by season, but a few local favorite patterns are the pink squirrel, hippie stomper, and Milwaukee Leech. Some of the intrigue of fly fishing is learning through trial and error.

Q: Do you have a favorite trout fishing memory?

Mat: It’s hard to choose just one because I have many, but my favorite memories are always showing people from out of the area what fishing the Driftless is all about. Their notions of trout streams only being worthwhile if they flow from the mountains out west sure change quickly, when we’re able to put them on a great hatch out here!

Q: What advice do you have for those considering a trout fishing trip to the Driftless?

Mat: I would tell them to do just a little extra research. Make sure you can identify public water (which we have LOTS of), be friendly with landowners (you never know when you might get permission to fish a super-secret creek), and be aware of the few hazards in our area (like wild parsnip). Other than that, just know that getting to the creeks is simple, but fishing them might not be all the time.

Planning a Fishing Trip to the Driftless?

Planning a Trout Fishing Trip? Visit Boscobel & The Driftless Region!

With over 44,000-acres of public land surrounding the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, you’ll find plenty of well-stocked tributaries, creeks, and streams to wade into. Discover what makes this land truly special, and enjoy its beauty on your next trout fishing expedition.

To learn more ways to explore Boscobel – Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation destination – subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll receive expert advice & local insider tips on how to best enjoy your visit to the Driftless region!

*A special thank you to Mat Wagner & The Driftless Angler Fly Shop.