Fly Fishing Adventures

South Pine Creek, Iowa’s Home for Native Brook Trout

South Pine Creek, Iowa’s Home for Native Brook Trout


The Driftless region in Iowa is one of the best kept secrets in fly fishing.  The state has a ton of different cold water creeks, and through a well run stocking program by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, anglers have countless opportunities to hook into some amazing fish.  It frequently gets brought up by anglers not from the Driftless region that we are “only” catching stocked fish.  There are elements of truth here, but until you venture to some of these incredible water ways, you can not understand how amazing some of these fisheries really are.  Stocked or not stocked, most if not all of the brown trout found in Iowa are stocked as fingerlings, and grow up in the river.  Fish are not reproducing on their own in most streams, with a few exceptions.

South Pine Creek, located 1.5 miles SE of the town of Sattre, IA is different.  South Pine Creek is home to the only native strain of native brook trout, still reproducing naturally.  I’ve read several articles about this, and the lore of catching a wild brook trout in the state of Iowa intrigued me enough to carve out some time and give it a shot.



South Pine Creek is not for the faint of heart, the creek requires a bit of a hike.  As with most hikes, it seems like they are always uphill on the way back, which is exactly the case for South Pine Creek.  The DNR website says it’s about 1.5 miles from the parking area, which is pretty easy unless you take a half mile wrong turn.  Perfect, right?  I made my Pilgrimage in search of potentially the only strain of native fish, reproducing naturally in the entire state.  



I began my hike at around 8:30 on a Thursday morning at the beginning of June, and was pleased to find I was the only vehicle in the parking lot.  Even though, I may have liked a point in the right direction from someone who has fished this creek before.  When I left my Jeep, it was 72 and humid.  I began following the path down the hill as the DNR’s instructions stated.  After a small detour in what felt like the right direction, I was all the way at the bottom of the hill, through the woods, and  listening to the soothing sound of running water.  



I had stumbled on a nice looking pool that had a small run of fast water at the top end, this would be where I would start.  I still had my El Jefe 4 weight kit set up from the day before with a size 14 parachute Adams and a size 16 zebra midge 18 inches below.  



On my first cast, the Adams took a sideways turn under the ripples, and it was FISH ON.  I was incredibly happy to land a 9-10 inch brook trout.  This was incredibly rewarding to me.



These fish are native to Iowa, which is so cool to me.  I read on the DNR website that they did a study in 2011, checking size of fish in the creek, and the largest they found was 11 inches.  

I was able to land five more fish in this pool before deciding to go exploring a bit.  It was starting to get HOT, and I decided that it was Mission Accomplished for me, and time to head back to Des Moines...well almost time.  I decided to head back to the first pool and give it “one more cast,” and I was sure glad I did.  I  watched the parachute Adams take a quick dunk only to find something larger giving a heck of a fight.  After a bit, I brought a beautiful brook trout to net, which was around 14 inches in length.  Simply beautiful.  



I couldn’t be more pleased with this little adventure, even after the mile and a half hike straight up hill back to the Jeep.  If you are able to make this hike, this is an amazingly rewarding experience.  Let me know if you have any questions about the logistics and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.  Until next time, tight lines my friends.

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