The Wausau West graduate and owner/guide of Black Earth Angling Co. touched on aspects of fly fishing while he was in the area in late February for a presentation to the Wisconsin Valley Trout Unlimited group. (Feb. 27, 2017)
Tim Johnson | USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

WAUSAU – Kyle Zempel received a fly rod among the gifts from well-wishers for his graduation from Wausau West just over a decade ago. Since then he has carried a fly rod with him to fish for trout on the Animas River in southwestern Colorado, bonefish in the Bahamas and peacock bass or payara —the vampire fish — deep into the jungles of Colombia.

He has traveled to 42 states, but his favorite fishing spot remains in his home state.

“If I had one day left and had to choose where to fish, I would choose the Wisconsin River for small mouth bass with a fly rod,” the 2006 West graduate said.

The lower Wisconsin River and the Driftless Wisconsin Area, located in the southwestern corner of the state, are the staple waters for Zempel, who is the owner, guide and photographer for Black Earth Angling Co. a fly-fishing guide service which he operates just outside of Black Earth.

“The most consistent and maybe the earliest hobby of mine has been fishing. I have always enjoyed it,” Zempel said. “My passion for fly fishing goes hand-in-hand with my passion of moving water. There is something about moving water that relaxes me and brings me peace.

“Fly fishing requires you to pay very close attention to your surroundings — what insects do you see, what is the substrate like, what is the temperature, the clarity (of the water) and the flow,” Zempel said. “When I step into a river with a fly rod in hand, all these thoughts go rushing through my head and I often find myself at…