Falling for Iowa trout fishing – ‘What I like about trout fishing is the beauty,’ says one angler from Iowa.
Highlandville, Ia. — Shadows cast by steep tree-covered bluffs stretched across portions of Waterloo Creek, offering trout darker pools to occupy on the sun-drenched but cool October day.
Three anglers dodged cow pies and glanced over their shoulders at bawling cattle, then forward at the meandering stream as it flowed through the expanse of still-green pastures.
“You expect that when you are trout fishing in Iowa,” said Chad Carlson, 48, of Denison, as he skirted a cow with her calf.
Carlson, 36, and two of his friends, Mark McClellan, 31, of Roland and Rick Dawson, 47, of Indianola, were heading back to the trout streams after catching and releasing about 20 trout on North Bear Creek during the morning.
“The neat thing about trout fishing is you can see the fish, see the bait and see the strike,” Carlson said.
All three men fish with spinning rods, mostly using night crawlers as bait, but Brent Hagen of Denison, who couldn’t be with his friends last weekend, and Dawson also fly-fish. The fly-fishing, Dawson said, can take some time to learn and even longer to perfect.
His excitement showed, however, when he caught a trout in late afternoon, his first trout with his fly rod.
“I don’t use the fly rod all that much yet,” he said.
“What I like about trout fishing is the beauty,” he said scanning the landscape. “Just listen to the stream . . . it talks to you.”
McClellan echoed the thought. “I just like walking the streams, looking at the trees changing and the quiet,” he said.
He knelt along the stream near Highlandville — in northeast Iowa, wedged by the Minnesota and Wisconsin borders — to put another worm on his hook, then cast a few times, and nearly caught a trout.
“It was a little one, but it got away,” he said. “I like to pick rocky areas, a bend in the creek. The fish like to hang out there. It seems endless the number of places you can fish up here.”
The afternoon proved quiet, and the three anglers agreed that morning seemed to offer the best bite on any given day.
Hagen, 48, the friend who couldn’t be there, is considered a trout fishing mentor by Carlson, McClellan and Dawson.
In fact, his friends in the group call him the “trout professor.”
“I got started trout fishing up here with Brent in about 1984 or so,” Dawson said.
Hagen said in a phone interview later in the week: “I’ve been going since I was a sophomore in high school, 1973. Since then I have gone four or five times a year.”
The loosely organized group is unofficially called the Crawford County Trout Club because it originated with people who worked in the school system with Hagen in Denison and Crawford County. Now, the group includes 10 or so friends from across Iowa.
Hagen believes the trout fishing has caught on amongst his friends for several reasons.
“Trout fishing is especially simple,” Hagen said. “Just get a lightweight 6- or 7-foot spinning rod, some 4-pound test line, No. 6 or No. 8 hooks, a split shot (sinker), some night crawlers or some Meps spinners and you are set.”
He finds trout often are easy to catch, in part because many of the trout are stocked each week by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“You can take people who haven’t fished a lot, and have some success and fun, ” he said. “I like to take the spinner and prospect. If I don’t get a bite in 10 casts with a spinner, and if I know there are fish, I’ll switch to either a night crawler or Berkley Power Bait.”
The anglers ended up only catching about five trout on that Saturday afternoon before they headed back to camp. They kept only a few they would give to friends.
“We don’t usually eat them in camp, we like walleye better,” Carlson said.
So walleye caught earlier in the summer in Canada are what they prepared as the sun set, the temperature dropped and the campfire glowed.
By JULI PROBASCO-SOWERS
REGISTER STAFF WRITER