Fly fishing the Milwaukee River

Kristen MonroeThere are many lessons to learn while fly fishing the Milwaukee River, especially with two seasoned fisherman. Jim Tingey, a busy outdoor artist, took time out of his schedule to take me fishing. Tingey has met many friends throughout his career while volunteering to get kids involved in the outdoors. He invited his veteran fly-fishing friend Dick Dragiewicz to come along.  When I asked Dragiewicz how long he has been fly fishing, he said, “Longer than you’ve been alive.”  I am not sure if he thought I was really young, or if he really has been fly fishing for more than 35 years. We fished for seven hours in the West Bend area from three different locations while wearing waders on an 87-degree day. The trees acted like a canopy, protecting us from the hot sun while in the river. I always appreciate trees, but I love them on hot sunny days. The river appeared healthy with signs of freshwater clams and areas loaded with crayfish. There were hundreds. The river bottom appeared to be moving as the crayfish scattered with every step I took. As we started fishing, Dragiewicz tied a loop knot on my fly for me. That type of knot allowed the streamer to wiggle more freely than if I had used the improved clinch knot that would have been used had I been fishing alone.

Kristen Monroe and wildlife artist Jim Tingey prepare to fish the Milwaukee River. 
Tingey and I stood on a bridge and watched a hatch of smallmouth minnows. At least we think they were smallmouths. Tingey took off his hat and waved it like a flag, casting a shadow on the river from above. “See how the minnows react from the shadow? That instinct will stay with them as long as they are alive,” said Tingey. He could actually herd them into one area with his "hat shadow." Always move with stealth on a river. The fish can see you.

Dick Dragiewicz and Kristen Monroe move along the Milwaukee River on an 87-degree day in search of active fish.

Testing a new river is great fun. All I needed was a pair of waders, a fly rod, flies and the guts or curiosity to explore. All of the different spots we fished on the Milwaukee River were within a 20-minute drive. It’s amazing how different the same river can be in different areas. My next purchase will be a Wisconsin Gazetteer. That way I can map and keep track of all my adventures. The fishing spots are easy to forget, however the lessons I learned from my new friends will be remembered forever. We didn’t catch any record fish, but we caught several smallmouths and a few rock bass. Not a bad way to spend Saturday.
Check out Jim Tingey’s unique art

Categories: Blog Content, Social Media, Wisconsin – Kristen Monroe

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