New Business Takes Advantage of Area Trout Streams


Wisconsin?!  Why the h*** would you
want to move there?”

     From the initial pitch to his wife and family, to sharing his idea with fellow anglers back in the Rockies, the reaction was always the same. Their wide-eyed stares said it all. What person in their right mind would leave the fishing out West and head to what they thought was a no-name town, in a no-name area of Wisconsin, to open a fly shop called the Driftless Angler? They were ready to check Mat Wagner into the asylum.
     After their initial shock, his family and friends listened as Mat calmly began to explain what an incredible fishery there was in the Drift Area. He explained about the thousands of miles of spring creek water, the close proximity of the creeks to town, the easy public access, the friendly landowners, the ability to leave the crowds and to fish water much more intimate and relaxing than anything they had seen on the steep slopes of the Rockies. After a while their jaws were picked up off the floor, their eyes were shrunk to normal size, and the conversation always ended with them saying, “Wow, that sounds like paradise; when can I come out and fish?”
     Our little corner of the world is geographically unique in that the last glaciers did not deposit their gravel and dirt, or their “drift.” This “driftless area” has been carved into the earth over a period of millions of years. The effects of this carving are evident in our valleys, coulees, breathtaking bluffs, and a hilly topography more reminiscent of the mountainous West. But what is most important to anglers is the formation of limestone spring creeks.
     Spring creeks are a very rare type of creek. They are formed when water underground seeps and bubbles up through cracks in the ground, carrying minerals from the rocks they pass through, in our case limestone. This limestone-enriched water, the same stuff that leaves that white residue on your faucets, is ideal for a productive trout stream. Amongst other things, it helps stabilize the ph of the water and provides essential minerals for growth of insects and arthropods. These factors lead to fat, healthy, and abundant trout.

Spring creeks, coming mostly from underground, also run at a constant temperature and flow, meaning less stress to a trout during its lifetime, again a benefit for fit and healthy trout. We are lucky enough to have more than 200 miles of this prime trout water here in Vernon County. It is a joke amongst many local fishing guides that you can throw a dart at a county map, and if it hits a creek, there are probably trout in it. Much of this water is easily accessible to the public thanks to many landowners and a hard-working DNR. This easy access is something unheard of most anywhere else in the United States.
     But there is another force beyond the phenomenal trout fishing opportunities that made the decision for Mat and his wife to put down roots here easier the value placed on family and community.
     The incredible fishing did make Vernon County a no-brainer choice as far as the fly shop and guide service business was concerned, but what impressed the Wagners most when visiting and moving here was how well people got along.
     Mat commented, ‘There is a true community in this area, one which supports local businesses and local resid ents unlike any other place we had ever known. We were hoping to find a nice place to settle, and with its caring and thoughtful citizens, safe cities, and beautiful scenery, Vernon County turned out to be our Utopia.”
     The Driftless Angler fly shop, outfitter, and guide service opened its doors on February 20 of this year.   Feel free to drop by at anytime, take a look around, and meet Mat and his family. They are always happy to welcome anglers of any skill level, from people who have fly fished their entire life to people who have never heard about fly fishing and are just curious. You will find some of the best information, knowledge, and equipment available. Their friendly and courteous staff and guides will point you in the right direction so that you too can take advantage of the premier fly-fishing opportunities throughout the area. The Driftless Angler looks forward to seeing you!


You can find the Drift Angler at 106 S. Main St. in Viroqua


You can also get more information by

  calling them at: 608-637-8779  e-mailing them at:  

  visiting their web site at


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