From interactions on campus to the solitude of the river, professor Brent Notbohm reflects on his experiences with one of the Midwest’s most unique trout fisheries.
The Bois Brule River flows northward into Lake Superior from north of Solon Springs, Wis.
Notbohm, a professor and chair of the communicating arts department at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and a chair of the Minnesota Trout Unlimited state council’s board of directors, is one of these individuals who values and cherishes the Wisconsin steelhead season each year.
Originally from southwestern Wisconsin, Notbohm eventually found his way to the Brule River in 2006, pulling his first steelhead from the river’s sacred waters the same year. Now Notbohm fishes the river religiously, keeping a fishing chart which, he can study and reflect upon.
“Steelhead fishing is about adaptation,” Notbohm said. He uses a variety of different fly-fishing methods that he has found to work well during the fall season.
Unlike traditional trout fishing, where an angler covers a large amount of water in a short amount of time, steel headers tend to focus on only a few holes, where they carefully dissect each section, spending more time on each hole than one would in a typical trout stream.
“If you spend an hour on a hole and haven’t had luck, move,” Notbohm said, in response to anglers spending too much time on a hole, which is commonly known as “hole camping.”
Recently, landowners along the Brule River had closed off their property. Notbohm said, “The Brule is worth protecting because it’s all wild, there is no fish stocking taking place. It’s an escape. Fishermen need to respect landowners.”
According to the Wisconsin DNR’s website, the Bois Brule River is open to fish downstream of U.S. Highway 2 starting on the last Saturday in March, continuing through Nov. 15.
From U.S. Highway 2 up to County Highway B, the river is open to fish from the first Saturday in May through Sept. 20.
While the fall steelhead run is a popular time to fish the Bois Brule River, the spring also offers exceptional steelhead fishing, as many of the steelhead who migrate up the river in the fall spend the winter in the river, remaining there in the spring along with a fresh group of steelhead.
One popular fly that can be used to fish steelhead on the Bois Brule River are nymphs, which are tied to imitate the larva of the insects that live in the river.
Stoneflies are one of the most used nymphs on the Bois Brule River and have proven to be effective for not only catching steelhead, but brown trout as well.
If you can’t find Notbohm in his office, you might want to look for him on the Brule River State Forest, where he can oftentimes be found safely releasing the chrome-colored steelhead that have become a bucket list fish for many anglers throughout the Midwest, back into the chilly, clay-stained waters of the Bois Brule River.