Opinion by Andy Vinnes
I recently fished the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin. Most trout fisherman don’t even know what the Driftless is or where it’s located. You always hear trout fisherman saying, “I want to go fish Colorado or Montana or California or Idaho or Utah…,” places that are well known trout areas. Honestly, I feel that the Driftless region is one of the best kept trout fishing secrets in the United States. I know after articles like this, it won’t be for long, but isn’t that the point? I want the serious, hard core trout fisherman to know about it, to experience it, to enjoy and appreciate what the area has to offer.
Maybe I’m wrong, I think of it like practicing catch and release, When I release a trout I always think about someone else catching it and enjoying the experience as much as I just did. So why wouldn’t we want other trout fisherman to know about the Driftless? Places like this can only remain secret for so long. Not to mention there are other benefits to it, like helping out the area’s economy via hotel stays, eating at local restaurants, or shopping bait stores, this obviously has a trickle-down effect.
I’d like to share my experience if I may. I couldn’t wait to fish a spot that I had been turned on to the previous year. This creek, or coulee as they are referred to, was a “secret spot” of an out of state fisherman that I met at a local watering hole, (OK, I was at a bar). Anyway, I got the impression that the only reason it was shared with me was because I was from out of state as well at the time and they felt I wouldn’t be back to fish it out or do much damage. This is what people refer to as a hot spot, and to this day I am grateful for the recommendation. I’m not sure if you know where this is leading or not, but I now had a hot spot of my own in Wisconsin.
At the time I lived in California and had plenty of good, if not great fishing spots in the eastern Sierra area, including Bishop, Mammoth, June Lake and up to Bridgeport and Twin Lakes. I’ve always shared my hot spots, maybe because I like to see our sport grow, or to just let others enjoy the outdoor experience. I never, ever felt that I needed to keep a spot to myself, because just as I found it, others would surely stumble upon it as well.
I’m sure we all have our honey holes or hot spots, and I would be willing to bet that you’re not the only one who has fished it or knows about it. You can just keep telling yourself that it’s yours, even though it’s not actually yours. Yes, some people will hike miles into the backcountry and find a hot spot, but this is not usually the case. If you want to call these spots yours and try to claim them, please be my guest.
The recent outing that I attended was to introduce people to tenkara fishing and the local area’s incredible trout fishing. I remember one of the things I read about the event prior to going was that people will help you or show you where to fish. Of course, I was told about some of the very well known, or common coulees in the area. Most were loaded with anglers due to the growing popularity of the area. Now had it not been for the friendly pointer I got, I would not be able to say I found a hot spot that I felt was mine, even though it clearly wasn’t mine. Isn’t it funny how people feel that a particular spot is theirs?
I began tenkara fishing only a few short years ago and I absolutely love it. I never western fly fished, but always enjoyed watching others do it. Over the last few years I have learned that most fly fisherman, western or tenkara, are very secretive when it comes to sharing information like hot spots, specific flies, or even how to fish a certain area. I actually formed my own opinion that most fly fisherman were assholes. Just an opinion.
I left a day early to try and fish some spots along the way and what an incredibly beautiful drive through the state of Wisconsin. I got the name of a couple creeks to try along the way that were of course very well-known spots, and I appreciated the suggestions very much. When I got in the general area my destination, which happened to be Coon Valley, I pulled out a map and just started picking out creeks I wanted to drive by and evaluate. It was just by chance that I found a nice one, the water was clearer than others which were muddied up or washed out due to recent heavy rains. I recall texting the name of this creek to someone in case they were looking for some good fishable water, of course I didn’t mind sharing.
I caught several nice fish that day on that stretch of beautiful water. The next day I recall speaking to an angler at the event and asking about how his fishing was going, and him saying something to the effect of “really good on one specific creek.” I asked him where and he said, “sorry, but this is one location that I don’t give out or share with others.” Understanding, I told him I had found a great spot yesterday and went on to say its name, because of course I don’t mind sharing. His eyes got wide and he looked at me as though I had just read his mind. He replied, “that’s it, that’s my current hot spot!” I of course was shocked that his secret was the same spot I stumbled upon the prior day.
I returned to that very same hot spot about an hour later and just slayed the fish, in fact landing the best Wisconsin brown trout I’ve caught so far. As I left to head back home I was not surprised at all to see him fishing just a couple hundred yards downstream.
So, is it really your hot spot or your honey hole? I believe all these spots have been someone else’s hot spot at some time or another. All I can say is I will continue to share my hot spots, because ultimately, they aren’t mine or yours, they are ours.
This article is the opinion of the author. However, we’d love to get your thoughts on the topic of angler responsibility in regard to “hot spotting” or location sharing in the comments of this post. Or if preferred, related Tenkara Angler social media.
Andy Vinnes is a retired law enforcement officer from California. Now residing in Wisconsin, he’s been tenkara fishing for over five years, but enjoys all types of fishing as time allows.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
Do you have a story to tell? A photo to share? A fly recipe that’s too good to keep secret? If you would like to contribute content to Tenkara Angler, click HERE for more details.