Two Big Turkeys Visting the Little Turkey River

Just a joke about the “creepy white van”…


Hello and welcome to the blog!  On Monday and Tuesday I camped and fished with buddy Steve at the Little Turkey River near Colesburg, Iowa.  This trout stream is very near the intersection of three counties:  Clayton, Delaware, and Dubuque.  It’s the closest, most scenic, and peaceful trout fishing crick  (Iowan for “creek”) to home… and it’s gem.  It’s also on state property.  One can primitive camp for free!


Our camping spot… with no neighbors. Note the grey blanket on the larger chair. There’s a reason!


Surrounded by high hills in all directions, this area often sees terrible flash floods; this spring’s high water did a lot of damage.  Some holes had widened and / or filled in.  A man-made crossing was washed out and the stocking truck could no longer plant fish at the upper end of the creek.


7 AM at one of the deeper holes


The picture above is one of a handful of holes that we fished.  A young man caught one fish before moving on.  Steve and I each pulled one out.  As we later found out. this hole had not been stocked for a week.

While fishing here, we saw various trucks pass through a gate and drive down the “no motorized vehicles” lane.  One was a large gravel truck.  Another carried digging equipment.  We figured they were repairing the flood damaged crossing.


The view from above — a nice pole and a new reel nearly lost!


About 11:30 the stocking truck pulled up where were at the lower end.  While fish were being added to the holes around us, Steve and I spoke with Eric, the guy from the Manchester trout hatchery.  About that time something tugged on my pole and yanked it off the high embankment (about a 4 foot drop – right side of the pics) and down to the edge of the water.  If the creek had not been so low the rod and reel might have been lost.  Eric was kind enough to walk along the bank and retrieve the pole.  What a nice guy!  (I’d have surely fallen in!)


Same hole at 2:30 PM   Got milk?


We continued to fish until about 2:00 or so.  The sky darkened and it thundered.  The fish went NUTS and bit like crazy.  I ended up with a limit of 5 trout.  Steve got 4.

By this time the water started to turn a milky white.  Apparently the crossing work was completed and gravel dumped into the creek.  Trout don’t like dirty water (in general) so we decided to wind things up before Steve could get his last fish.  In the meantime I could see black clouds on the far horizon.

Steve H and the log where we cleaned fish.


Steve spotted this log upstream.  As the storm approached, we knew time was short.  I suggested we clean the fish on the log while the trout were still on the stringer.  Then we could dunk them in the rapidly running water to get the blood out.

Cleaning them on a log is so much nicer than knealing on rocks!

By this time the lightning was cracking around us.  We were about 3 minutes from the car when it started to pour.  We sat in Steve’s car until the storm passed.  I went to the van and took a nap… About 5:00 I turned on the weather radio and learned that more nasty storms were headed our way but they came quicker than expected.  We had set up the lawn chairs and started cooking burgers over the screw-on gas burner, using a griddle.  Just as we were about to devour the food it began to rain yet again.

Steve put the cheese on the buns and we finished assembling the burgers in his car.  I didn’t have time to take a good picture of the food but to us it was delicious!


VT’s Camping  Burgers
1.5 pounds of 85% ground beef (as fresh as possible)
1 small bag of bacon bits
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (jar type is fine)
2 teaspoons of dehydrated onions
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt for the top of the burger
Plenty of slices of American cheese

Mix the all together the night before if possible.  Form into patties and cook on a griddle until med-well done.  Press down a few seconds to get a nice sear.. but don’t squeeze out the juices.  Melt a slice of cheese on the top of each patty and put a slice on the bottom bun.  Use premium buns such as brioche or “onion buns”.


After the rain subsided around 6:00 or so, Steve and I sat in the lawn chairs and talked for quite a while.  If you noticed the grey blanket over the bigger chair, the canvas was wet.  The blanket kept the rump dry!


The new crossing for the stocking trucks. The rocks and gravel have water over them – that’s normal – but hopefully will not wash out again any time soon.


On Tuesday morning Steve and I walked to the newly repaired stream crossing.  It looked great.  The old one used to be very narrow – less than half the width you see now.  If you notice the high riverbank on the right side, that’s what it looked like early Monday morning before they lowered the bank and added rock.  There’s a new hole where the rocks and gravel is slowing down the water.  I pulled a nice fish out of there!


A picture I posted to the “Iowa Trout Fishing” group on Facebook. These are the three caught today… They are stuffed with brown and wild rice, bacon bits, onions, butter, shitake mushrooms…

We had to leave by 9:30 this morning (because I had a medical appointment) but Steve and I still got a few trout.  By the time all was said and done, I brought home eight fish.  Steve had six.  We had a heck of a fun time and are already talking about doing it again.  I love this stream because it is so beautiful, peaceful, remote, and so close to home.  It was sad to see a favorite place damaged but at the same time, nice to see how quickly this treasure was restored.

Thanks for riding along on this little fishing trip with Steve and myself – the two big turkeys visiting the Little Turkey River.

Take care and safe and happy camping!

Brad, Jenny, and Duke
Jones County, Iowa

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

4 Responses to Two Big Turkeys Visting the Little Turkey River

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Well that was a nice trip even if it did rain. And lots of fish caught for furture eating. The three stuff ones look pretty good.
    That was nice of the guy to fetch your rod.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! I hope all is well out that way! We’ve got another major storm on the way for tomorrow. It means a lot of snow in extreme NE Iowa but we’ll be okay here. I wish it were as warm as out your way. The fish are about gone for now. There might be some more coming home next week. Have a great weekend!

  2. my_vantasy says:

    Good for you to be out camping! Camping is so popular in Ohio that it is hard to get a site without a lot of planning. State parks open reservations six months in advance, and they fill up quickly. I got the last site for July 26 weekend at Kelley’s Island up at Lake Erie. I love camping trips when you leave thinking about the next outing! Crazy, but I like a pop up storm when camping. The rain is calming. Bet the kitties were happy to see you, especially bringing home yummy fish. Keep enjoying yourself!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! I understand about the popularity situation. We’re lucky in Iowa because there are a lot of remote places where a person can primitive camp. If a person can dry camping with no electricity and no toilet, there are plenty of freebie locations. While money is tight, it’s nice saving every buck. Not only that, it’s getting darned annoying to deal with loud drunks, unruly heathen kids (like just came into McDonald’s a few minutes ago), etc. Oh, Lake Erie sounds great!

      We’re looking at a full day of storms starting tomorrow — up to 7 inches of snow in extreme NE Iowa where I like to fish (the 4 NE counties). Thankfully it’s just going to be rain this far south. Duke didn’t used to be a fan of trout but this last batch has him interested. It turned out yummy. Take care! Enjoy camping! 🙂