3-01-03 - Just when it can't get any worse, it
does. But then it gets better!
Rivers Fished: Lake Michigan (Pike River Mouth),
Trail Creek (IN)
Fish Caught: 1 (not by me)
Outing Date: 3-01-03
Weather: Mostly Overcast w/a touch of snow
Air Temp: Hovering around 35F
Water Temp: 34F in the Pike Mouth, 36F in Trail Creek
Water Level: Ultra Low
Water Color: Pike's outflow was clear, lake is cloudy. Trail Creek
is Jade Green Stained much like the Little Calumet.
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Speys & Antrons in the lake, Assorted Nymphs
and such in Trail Creek. CS used spawn.
Pattern Color: Assorted
Fishing Quality: In the end we had a good day.
3-02-03 - So it all started at 6:30 am Saturday
morning. FAT Day on the Root River was canceled due to "NOW",
aka. No Open Water, AKA TOTALLY ICED OVER. Rich moved his meeting
to the Denny's in Racine at 20 & 31. While the plan was to get
there at 7:30, I didn't make it until about 8:00. Rich gave his
River Doctrine Presentation which is always a good refresher course.
I got to see some "recognizable" faces (IMTRYIN, I remember
the team fishing outing with you...was great to see you again) as
well as met some steelheaders who were new in my fold. There were
5 of us + Rich; it was a nice way to get up early and have breakfast
for a change!
Around 9:40 I finally headed out after seeing a
handmade spey and split bamboo rod (Jim, NICE WORK). Never being
one to let Ice and Cold stop me, I went to the one place I was sure
there would be open water to start the day; a quick jaunt south
to the mouth of the Pike River on Lake Michigan. I figured I'd toss
some speys into the lake in the hopes of catching some cruising
/ staging fish.
Upon arriving, things didn't look all that great.
There were TONS of Canada Geese, everywhere. On the walk down to
the beach I noticed the most interesting pattern in the sand; the
footprints of hundreds, no wait, THOUSANDS of Geese. As I got closer
things took a turn for the worse. Over the mounds of shore ice I
could see that Lake Michigan had FINALLY FROZEN OVER! GD! What am
I going to do now?! Well, I didn't give up and started climbing
the 6'+ mounds of ice, snow and sand. Upon reaching the summit,
I peered down to find that there was approximately 30 feet of open
water where the Pike was flowing into the lake. After a treacherous
jump down to the beach, I started swinging speys. A lot of gravel
was pushed out into the lake; it basically appeared that the open
water was all shallow, and around this gravel bar's edges/drop-off
the water got deep and cloudy (water in the lake) and shortly thereafter
it was icy.
I started by drifting all the way out underneath
the end of the open water into the lake, but after a few drifts
I snagged up both speys and had to retie. I took this opportunity
to rethink my approach and changed to the ANTRON BUG ;) I worked
the seams where the lake water and Pike water intermingled; it created
this whirling pattern of clear and cloudy water intermingling. It
also played tricks on your eyes; you could never tell whether it
was a fish or a shadow moving in the seams. The intermittent sun
didn't help either!
I tried this until about 10:30, at which point
I'd had enough and figured I'd head to the Waukegan Discharge. On
my way there, Chromeseeker called and said he'd gotten out of work
early and was headed to Indiana to see Dave @ Creekside and start
fishing the Little Calumet. Our plan was to hit Trail Creek later
in the day, so I skipped Waukegan and headed south!
Traffic was a total nightmare. After making 3 pitstops
(one for new waders, one for my IN license, and one for gas) I made
it into Indiana about 2:30! CS had been fishing the LC and hadn't
had much luck (lost one smaller fish). I waited for CS and he came
up and met me around 3:15. We headed to Trail Creek.
CS had fished Trail at least once before, so he
had an idea where he wanted to drop in. We got there around 3:45
- 4:00 and quickly got to the task of FISHING! The first thing that
struck me about Trail Creek was it's similarity to the waters of
the Little Calumet; same mucky-sand bottom, same water color, and
the same type of structure. Neither of these IN waters compare to
anything I've seen in WI thus far, and unlike WI the IN creeks are
still free of ice.
CS quickly moved downstream while I fished our
drop-in site. Met up with a younger angler who moved upstream to
the next pool. While fishing another guy came up and moved to fish
the pool with the other guy. I watched this obviously experienced
fly angler move in and on the first or second drift, hook up with
steel! A couple thrashes at the surface and the fish was off.
CS came back up and we headed a couple of pools
further upstream. At this point it's probably worth mentioning that
the smolts were taking our drifts with a bit of regularity. I had
switched up trying a couple different nymph patterns (Steelhead
Hammer, Bead-Head Prince). The smolts were annoying; with CS drifting
spawn he didn't get as many on the end of the hook, or at least
they seemed to come off easier. I always got these little guys well
into the mouth; had to be careful to quickly remove the fly without
damaging the fish and return it to the water. Definitely got plenty
of tugs on the line, but I'm willing to guess they were ALL smolts.
Well, CS and I opted to go back downstream from
the drop-in. On the way down I stopped and shared a smoke with the
fly angler who had hooked up earlier. He was tossing an egg pattern
and was moving upstream to try the areas we had come from. The young
angler had landed a nice colored-up buck drifting red spawn, so
I decided to re-rig and try a new pattern; a black w/red-body Antron
CS and I continued to work the stream as we moved
down from pool to pool, CS ahead drifting spawn and me following
bottom-bumping the red antron pattern. A couple bends down the river
the younger angler came down with a NICE prize; another large buck
Steelhead! The fly-angler came down and worked upstream from us.
After a while the fly angler moved back upstream,
and CS and I again decided to rework the areas we had fished as
night was approaching. CS moved upstream from me and started drifting
spawn were the other fly angler had just been fishing when WHAM,
FISH ON! I dropped my rig and started shooting pictures; check 'em
out. Bart brought in a nice, approximately 6 lb. chrome hen. This
fish had completely swallowed his spawn.
Bolstered by the fact that it was now about 5:30
and the bite was definitely on, I resumed my fishing by trying out
Peter's Antron Bug. 2 casts in I was totally snagged up and had
to break it off. I again switched, this time I figured I'd offer
a Steely Egg Sucking Stone Nymph. I continued to have phenomenal
success with the smolts (I stopped counting after over an hour prior).
As darkness approached, I again bastardized a cast and got the fly
nice and high in a tree. Frustrated and now having a hard time seeing
the water, CS and I decided it was time to head out.
To summarize, the day started out pretty shabby
but CS turned it around into a worthwhile trip. The two Indiana
Anglers I met on the river today really restored my belief that
98% of the Indiana anglers you meet are really GOOD folk. I didn't
hear a single complaint about our presence in this limited stretch
of river, these guys were totally cool. Wouldn't hesitate to share
the Tribs with them again!
Trail Creek was a nice place but I could see with
the limited access how it could easily become overcrowded. Litter
Conditions were BAD! Probably not the type of place to fish at any
time other than the dead of winter (such as now). Folks may again
accuse me of "Advertising" Indiana and again, I have to
disagree. The rivers ARE a good choice for the winter angler looking
to brave ice, snow, and frigid air temps in an effort to find open
water and winter steel, but I can think of MANY better places to
fish in WI as soon as the conditions are favorable. So my take is
that the IN creeks are a great haven for the DIE HARD winter steelheader.
So folks, guess what, unless there's a nice week
of nighttime temps above 32F WI is still POINTLESS to fish. It's
a great time of year still for tying flies and scouting; the plan
next week is to scout Oak Creek and hit the Trail again (this time
with a garbage bag in-tow)!