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***Guiding Southwest WI Trout***

       Fly Fish Southwestern Wisconsin Trout

                          with Rich Osthoff

The Fishery. The scenic, unglaciated valleys of southwestern Wisconsin harbor dozens of cold, fertile spring creeks. These are my home waters that I began fishing with my father and grandfather as soon as I could walk. Habitat improvements and introductions of wild-strain fish are increasing the amount of productive water. Native brook trout are rebounding in a number of streams. Dozens of streams hold wild (naturally reproducing) brown trout. The fishing for adult browns in the 11- to 14-inch class is exceptional. Browns of 17-inches and larger are present and can be targeted with special strategies.                

Meeting Points.
Chicago, the Twin Cities, and Milwaukee are within a 2-to 4-hour drive of the Driftless Area. Viroqua sits 30 miles southeast of La Crosse and 1 1/2 hours west of Madison, providing quick access to many streams in Vernon, Richland, and Crawford counties. Having many streams to choose from gives us the flexibility to avoid other anglers and to pick streams that will fish relatively well for the given conditions. I usually rendezvous with anglers in Viroqua or Westby at the start of the day. We can also meet in Richland Center about an hour west of Madison.  Anglers generally follow me in their vehicle. When practical, we may use just my vehicle.  

Weekend or Weekday?
If weekends are more convenient for you, don’t hesitate to book weekend outings. I know good water off the beaten path. I do much of my own fishing on weekends and know how to avoid the crowds. To encourage weekend bookings I offer a 10% discount on any Saturday or Sunday.  

March & April. March and April are catch & release fishing. March and early April is a great time to book on short notice if the forecast is for daytime air temperatures of 45 degrees or higher, and most of the snow is out of the hills. Feel free to call me for current conditions. Blustery spring days see some excellent blue-wing olive hatches. April is a great month for fast action and targeting larger fish. Throughout April, invigorating water temps often make for aggressive trout from mid-morning right into evening. April also sees some excellent caddis and mayfly hatches. Trout fishing in area streams is closed on the Monday through Friday preceding the first Saturday in May (a 5-day closure). 

May & June. The general season opens the first Saturday in May. Most streams open to limited harvest. We’ll continue to practice catch & release regardless of the regulations where we’re fishing. In May midday water temps remain favorable, and caddis, mayfly, and cranefly hatches are common. May is a beautiful month with gentle weather, the hills in full bloom, few biting bugs, and very fine fishing. Early June brings some excellent hatches of sulphur mayflies. By mid June we transition to summer conditions.  

July & August.
Summer sees a drop in angling pressure, but there is good and interesting fishing to be had. Even on hot days favorable water temps prevail from until late morning on most streams, and trout often remain aggressive through midday on cool headwaters. Most years I take my best dry-fly fish of the season on hoppers or crickets in the summer months. Beetles abound. Nymphing generally remains strong. Some excellent morning hatches and spinner falls of small Trico mayflies occur. Summer trout often bunch up and specialized techniques, including micro-nymphing, produce surprising numbers of fish. Summer conditions prevail from mid June to September, so learning to fish the area effectively in summer will greatly expand your Driftless Area season and enjoyment.

September. September brings shorter days with cooler nights and a return to the springtime pattern of good midday fishing. Browns and brook trout adopt their spawning hues and move upstream in search of prime spawning habitat. Terrestrial fishing remains strong and blue-wing olive hatches reappear. September is a great time to fish the area (trout season runs through the last day of the month). 

My Guiding Philosophy. My primary role is to help you learn to fish the area effectively, and to advance your fly-fishing skills. Toward that end I prefer to carry a rod and do a limited amount of demonstration casting and presentation. Demonstrating various presentations helps you grasp them more quickly. Having a second rod along also gives you the flexibility to fish dry or subsurface without reconfiguring tippets or changing flies, and that often leads to you catching more fish while learning a wider variety of presentations. 
            We’ll adjust our presentations and overall strategy to the activity level of the fish and to the conditions at hand. On any given outing you’ll learn a lot about cracking a particular set of conditions. Depending on conditions (and your preference), you’ll have the opportunity to prospect with nymphs, streamers, or dry flies. Most days you’ll get an opportunity to match a hatch (mayflies, caddis flies, crane flies, or midges) with dry flies or emergers.
            The surest way to build your spring creek skills is to fish often. To encourage multi-day outings and repeat bookings, I offer a 10% discount for any date after your first date of the year (this discount does not apply to my Split-Fishing guiding option).                

Fishing Gear. I furnish all terminal tackle needed for fishing including, flies, shot, leaders, tippet and indicators. Many of my primary flies for the region are my own patterns. Feel free to bring and try any of your own flies or leaders. Most anglers use their own rods and reels, but you’re welcome to fish my outfits (my reels are set up for left-hand wind, which most right-hand casters prefer). I’ll bring several St. Croix rods in 4- and 5-weight models. I carry a digital camera. 

Wading Gear.
Bring your own wading gear. I suggest chest or waist-high waders—hip boots are easily ‘breached’ if you sink into soft bottom. Breathable waders are comfortable for walking in warm weather.  

Bring a raincoat. Outerwear should be in muted tones. I suggest long-sleeved shirts and a hat that shades your face, neck and ears. In hot weather I frequently dip my sleeves and hat and wear a wet bandana around my neck. Polarized sunglasses help you see fish, bottom, and fish-holding structure, and they protect your eyes from flies.                

Before we meet you should purchase a current Wisconsin fishing license plus a trout stamp (you need the Inland Trout Stamp, not the Great Lakes Trout Stamp). Wisconsin has an automated licensing system so you can purchase any licensing option from any outlet (Wal-Mart and K-Mart issue licenses). When you purchase your license be sure to ask for a copy of the Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations and Guide (it maps all trout streams by regulation category, and is a handy reference).  

Rather than pad my guide fee with food charges, I have anglers bring their own food and drink. In turn I offer my guiding services at extremely affordable rates (I invite you to compare). Keeping meals quick and simple keeps us on the water during prime fishing times.  

Lodging and Camping.
Many of my fishing clients stay and dine at the Old Towne Motel in Westby (800) 605-0276. Viroqua and Richland Center have motels, restaurant, and fast food options. Richland Center and La Crosse also have motel and restaurant options. There are also cabin rentals and bed/breakfast operations that cater to anglers.
            I live about an hour from Viroqua, so when I guide on consecutive days, I usually tent camp at Sidie Hollow (a Vernon County park) just south of Viroqua (opens April 15). The park has large, grassy tent sites, RV sites, and restrooms with hot showers.

Planning. At the time you book your trip we’ll discuss your experience level and make a general plan. This is a good time to let me know if you’re looking for a specific type of fishing experience or wish to fish a specific stream. Shortly before an outing, we’ll confirm our meeting place and time.
            Generally, I prefer to select streams based on conditions. Often we’ll fish more than one stream in a day.

Guiding Deposits. A deposit of $50 is required to reserve each guiding date for you or your group. Mail the deposit (check or money order) to Rich Osthoff at the address below. Since I’m not currently taking credit cards, I may waive the deposit requirement if a date is booked on short notice.

Cancellation/Refund Policy
. If I cancel a date due to a personal conflict (extremely rare), I’ll notify you as far in advance as possible and I’ll refund your deposit.
            If you cancel a date, I will refund or credit your deposit if I’m able to book your original date with another angler, so please let me know quickly if a conflict develops for you.
            Anglers who elect to cancel at any time in advance of fishing for any reason do not incur any charges beyond the $50 deposit required to hold each date.
            If the angler cancels and I do not book another angler for that date, I reserve the right to retain the $50 deposit (this policy is primarily intended to discourage short-notice cancellations due to moderately inclement weather). If I’ve already traveled to the meeting area, or I’ve stayed overnight to meet the angler, then I’ve already invested time and incurred expenses, and I reserve the right to retain the deposit. In the event that you and I travel to the area and discover that overnight or early-morning rains have muddied area streams, our best bet is to check several streams for fishable water (if we don’t find fishable water, the anglers is not charged anything beyond the deposit). I’ve seen just this scenario work out great for the angler when we suddenly hit upon a fishable stream where the trout are gorging in response to the rain.
            If it is apparent a day or two in advance that weather or fishing conditions are likely to be poor, then it’s best to touch base (before you or I travel to the meeting area) and make a mutual decision whether to fish, cancel and refund your deposit, or schedule a different date.
            Keep in mind that moderate rain and some turbidity in the water typically make for aggressive trout and great fishing in this area (plus you’ll learn valuable dirty-water tactics). Don’t let a moderately rainy forecast keep you at home, especially if you’ve booked a multi-day trip. Even when the region takes a real gully washer, headwaters drop and clear quickly, and some streams usually escape the brunt of the storm. As area streams drop and clear in the wake of heavy rains, fishing is often excellent over an extended period.

Affordable Guiding Rates. Flexible Options. I offer attractive rates, plus additional discounts for weekends and repeat outings (I invite you to compare my rates to other area guides). I require only a 5-hour minimum outing; beyond that your outing is prorated very affordably by the hour. That gives you complete flexibility to adjust the length of your fishing day according to fish activity, weather, length of daylight, and personal considerations. If the fishing is too hot to walk away from, you have the option to extend your day. If you elect to fish only five hours, you won’t be charged for more. Our time begins at the appointed meeting time. Generally, we’ll want to select the prime fishing hours for the current season, but I’ll flex to accommodate your schedule.
Our spring creeks are best suited to guiding one or two anglers. For larger groups, contact me for rates.



5 HOURS (minimum)            175                             225

additional hours               $15/hour                  $20/hour


Guiding Discounts: (these discounts do not apply to my Split-Fishing Guiding option or Fishing Schools).
*10% Weekend Discount—for any Saturday or Sunday.
*10% Repeat Discount—for each date after your first date of the year. (A multi-angler party qualifies if any angler in the party has already fished with me that year).
*20% Combined Discount—Weekend and Repeat Discounts can be combined if both apply.

Payment in full, by cash or check, is due at end of fishing. Sorry, I’m not currently accepting credit cards.  

Reservations and Information contact:
Rich Osthoff
N6868 Sandstone Drive
Mauston, WI 53948        
                  Home Phone:
(608) 847-5192.   Cell Phone: (608) 547-9075.