The Iowa Driftless Chapter of Trout Unlimited will hold its 12th annual celebration of conservation and fundraiser Saturday, April 27, at the Elks Lodge in Decorah.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and its $20 for adults (children under 12 free). A buffet dinner by U2 BBQ will be served from 6-7 p.m. Other activities include a raffle drawing, live and silent auctions, rod building and fly tying.

Local authors and Driftless Chapter members Jeffery Skeate and Larry Reis will be on hand for a special book signing and to discuss what motivated them to write their books about fishing and enjoying the outdoors in the driftless area of Northeast Iowa.

Chris Wasta will share some of his fly-tying secrets, and chapter rod builder Sam Fox will have his unique, handmade rods on display.

The $20 admission ticket will provide important support for trout stream habitat improvement projects in Northeast Iowa. Each ticket purchased will be entered in the grand-prize raffle for a top-rated kayak that has been designed for fishing and enjoying rides on rivers, streams and lakes.

Trout Unlimited is a national organization involving about 150,000 members in 450 chapters across the U.S. The mission of TU is to conserve, protect and restore North America's cold-water streams and their watersheds.

Driftless Chapter

Decorah is the headquarters of one of those chapters, the "Driftless Chapter" of TU, which has a membership of 50. 

The word "driftless" is more common these days but is still a puzzling term to many. The word stems from a geologic non-event in which Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota and part of Southwest Wisconsin escaped the scouring of the last glacier that came through North America about 10,000 years ago. When the glacier retreated from other areas (most of the rest of the state), millions of small to large rocks and boulders were left behind. Geologists refer to this as "drift" and it can be seen piled in fence corners not too far west of here. By being spared the last scouring, the hills and valleys, rivers and streams are still here and are responsible for the natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

The Driftless Chapter has been in existence for about 15 years and works hand-in-hand with the DNR along with the local trout hatchery and personnel. The Chapter has donated thousands of hours and dollars to multiple trout-stream projects, which result in better habitat and thus better fishing.

Another function of the Driftless Chapter is education. The members are always willing to teach the fundamentals of fishing to young and old alike. Everyone is welcome to attend meetings and outings.

"Trout Unlimited is about trout fishing, but anyone who enjoys fishing with bait, spinner or fly is welcome to be a member and work toward the common goal: healthy habitat for trout," said Steve Matter of Decorah, a long-time TU member.

"TU is active in achieving the goal of good fishing. Members provide information to policy makers on the state and national level. They lobby for legislation that protects watersheds. They lobby for funding and laws that enable landowners to voluntarily sell land, or give easements to land, so that anglers can access the water," said Matter.

Seed Savers project

An example of the Driftless Chapter's work is a project currently under way to stabilize and enhance Pine Springs Creek that runs through Seed Savers Exchange north of Decorah.

"The wonderful new resource available at Seed Savers is a good example of cooperation between landowners, the DNR and Trout Unlimited," said Jim Edrington, facilities manager at Seed Savers. "It not only helps trout fishing, it improves the entire ecosystem of the area from ridge top to river bottom."

The Pine Springs Creek project helps protect the stream bank, speeds up the water flow which scrapes the bottom of the stream and that creates better trout spawning habitat, according to Edrington.

Seed Savers began stocking the stream with brook trout in 2004, but stocking is no longer own necessary since the trout are naturally reproducing.

"Some brown trout have also made their way into the creek and people can keep those, but the brook trout fishing is catch and release," said Edrington.

Partners in the Seed Savers project are the Natural Heritage Foundation, Maryanne Mott and Herman Warsh, Trout Unlimited, Greg Brown, the Iowa DNR and the NRCS.

Work on the project is done almost entirely by volunteers.

Edrington added anyone is welcome to come fish at the Creek or just enjoy it.

"I love to see fishermen out here, but it's fun to see the families who come out - with the kids playing in the water and grandma sitting on the shore reading a book," said Edrington.

For additional information about Trout Unlimited or Saturday's fundraiser contact Tom Murray at 563-382-8642 or Chris Wasta at 563-382-6245.