4-01-03 - April FOOL's Day.
Rivers Fished: Root River, Pike River, Lake Michigan
(at the Pike Mouth), Milwaukee River
Fish Caught: 0 Steelies Landed
Outing Date: 4-01-03
Air Temp: started in the 40's, worked up to the 60's, maybe even
70's, and back down to 36 by nightfall?!?!
Water Temp: Most were in the 40's now.
Water Level: Up just a little from recent rains.
Water Color: Root River -> clearing up but still cloudy, Pike
-> relatively clear, Milwaukee -> stained.
Fish Species: Steelhead, Smolts, Smallmouth Bass, Suckers, Crawdads,
sticks, logs, rocks, and other anglers.
Pattern Fished: What fly DIDN'T we fish today?
Pattern Color: We ran the gambit
Fishing Quality: A bit improved. Fly anglers still losing out big-time.
Be forewarned, this was one totally thrilling and
GOOFY day of fishing; 13 or so hours minus travel time and not a
single steelie landed. Fishing April Fool's Day is probably bad
luck...I just didn't know about it until now! Fishing April Fool's
Day with several of your buddies for 13 hours also has the unintended
side effect of creating a LONG, wait no, HUGE, Rambling Report!
Let me preface with my weekend. My weekends are
normally spent at our family's home in WI and I happen to do my
laundry there. Well, I have 2 identical bags of clothes; one generally
holds extra clean laundry and the other is for transporting the
laundry. Anyways, I pulled the ultimate "fool" move and
brought the CLEAN laundry with me. Thus, I'd have no clean clothes
all week! The only solution I could find was to go back to WI Monday
night; no way I'm going to break my neck driving home Tuesday morning,
so I called for an emergency day off (ha...don't have clean laundry..have
to do it tomorrow...can't work...). What a great excuse for fishing!
So we worked it out, I was to leave for WI Monday
night..and once everyone found out I was fishing Tuesday the plan
quickly got pushed from a leisurely afternoon of fishing maybe to
a hard-core 4:30 am start...FAT has a way of doing that do you.
Monday was also spent trying to convince my best friend Dan (aka.
Wenker) that he NEEDED to go fishing on Tuesday. It ended up taking
a kidnapping to get him to come...he could thank me later.
As you all know by now...I am a night owl...NOT
a morning person. If you're a night owl, you know there's only TWO
ways to get up at 3:30 in the morning for anything:
1. Pull the all nighter.
2. Drink till ya pass out and make sure you have
multiple alarmclocks and a buddy and a backup wake-up-call in the
For some STUPID reason Dan & I chose the later
method. We unilaterally decided that 3:30 am would be TOO early
for any borderline sane person to do, so we opted for 4:00 am. Only
God knows how we got on the road to the Root by 4:20 am!
The "CREW" for today's outing: The original
plan was for Tbender, FAT and myself to meet at Lincoln Park at
the Root at 4:30 am. We tried to convince Gumbo to come out but
he had prior obligations. I also tried to get PeterM to come out
but work couldn't be ignored. Later in the day we were to meet up
with Smoke17, and if all went as planned I'd get to wish Guppy a
Happy New Year in person!
About 5:30 we FINALLY made it to Racine to find
that we were the ONLY SOULS AROUND! No sign of the FAT Mobile. No
sign of Tbender. I was thinking, "How the heck did we beat
everyone here..or wait...they must have moved!" Lincoln Park
was totally deserted...I figured we suit up while I tried to find
out what was going on. Tbender showed up and after giving it some
thought, we decided (against FAT's better advice) to try Island
Park First (thought maybe he had moved down there).
We hit the water about 6:00 am; Island was a relative
bust (not TOO surprisingly); Tbender was the lone hookup with a
smolt or two. Water temps were still 38F! We worked the bends and
deeper edges...I saw what I thought was a steelie moving upstream
and my heart skipped a beat...then two beats (had to give myself
a quick thorax thump to get it going). Regained my composure only
to figure out that it wasn't a fish...it was some sort of hairy
aquatic mammal. A Platypus? A Muskrat? No...this animal got 2 feet
away from me before even realizing I was there...he turned tail
and swam! A Beaver! The Island Park Beaver...patron of the steelheader
who knows how to fish log jams! As I had NEVER seen a Beaver on
the Root before...this was already shaping up to be a weird day.
6:30 rolled around and my phone kicked in; it was
FAT! I figured he was calling to tell us that he was further downstream
and had already slammed 15! That would've been a great April Fool's
joke! However, this one's even better...he overslept! Wait, that's
MY JOB! Well, he was only joining us for a FUN day...not a FAT outing...so
although his presence was missed, all is forgiven and FAT still
rocks! He WAS like, "What are you doing in Island Park?! I
told you to go to Lincoln Park!"
Ok, OK, 6:45 we packed it up and moved; on our
way out I saw the most peculiar thing....a Canada Goose that landed
(not gracefully) in a TREE. April Fool's on us yet again!
A few cars had now shown up. First out of the car
and on the stream was Wenker (Dan, hereafter known as Wenker). He
walks up to the bend just below the weir and says, "I see a
fish". Cool! "You saw it, you fish it" was my response.
"Well don't just stand there, get in the river" I screamed!
A female was redding in the shallows...this was what I had been
waiting for since FEBRUARY!
Now I probably should mention that Dan hasn't had
a fly rod in his hands since last October, and even then had only
used one for 4-5 days in Montana and 2 Days on the Root during the
Chinook Runs (at which time he broke his first rod!) Chromeseeker
had suggested that we try the white PM
Wiggler in my Fly Pattern's section, so I had Dan all tied up
As Dan approached, his first few casts puddled
in the water. He got the feeling back and started throwing straight...all
the while with me barking instructions from up high on the bank.
"Dude, get out farther! Dude, slow down on that cast....don't
muscle it! You're still 10 feet away. You see those two rocks...cast
there. Dude, you're still too far away. Don't muscle the cast! Slow
DOWN! Wait, stop. Let your line settle! Now pick it up and cast
it. You're STILL 10 feet away from the fish!" Talk about pressure
after only 4.5 hours of sleep and probably a slight hangover!
While standing, I spotted a second female, so I
moved down to her! Tbender took up behind me, looking for secondary
males, I cast to the female and swung to any males that could be
holding immediately below. All the while Wenker was still plugging
away...good cast...bad cast...wrong cast...good cast. Out of nowhere,
in Dan's own words, "I was standing there casting and then
I noticed this huge fish like 3 feet away from me. I looked back
up and saw her snap and I knew I had a bite. I was like 'wait, which
Dan instinctively pulled back high on his rod and
had good line tension. I screamed to lower his rod..and he went
horizontal. I screamed that 45 degrees would be better and he got
it right. However, had a LOT of slack line out, and he lost his
grip on the line. All of a sudden the thrashing stops and he starts
grabbing in line! There's orange BPS Fly Line flying around everywhere,
as the fish is still on and Wenker is furiously picking up slack.
Somehow, in all this, he still had the fish on for a good 45 seconds
before it came off. She simply returned to her redd! April Fool's.
Meanwhile I continued to toss everything in the
book at the female I had sighted; MP's Jewel Spey, MP's White Marabou,
MP's Antron Bug, Estaz Eggs, you NAME it. She just wouldn't take...total
Another angler moved in to the unfilled "slot"
in our game; no one was taking Dan's males below the female. And
wouldn't you know it, on a small double egg pattern in red he got
a nice 5 lb buck.
And during that time, Dan somehow broke his second
rod when casting. I'm not sure HOW he did that...but there ya go.
Wenker + the Root + Fly Rods just don't work I guess. Since the
rod was BRAND NEW, hopefully BPS will replace it.
I instructed him to go to my car and grab my backup,
and Tbender and I switched up and I took over working Wenker's hen
while Tbender took mine over. I actually managed a SNAP from her
on another "white" pattern, MP's
Jewel. She was on for mere seconds before spitting the hook
and again returning to her redd. After several more casts, I tail
snagged her and said "That's it, I'm not fishing to a fish
that's not biting anymore". The three of us moved down low
by the footbridges and were going to try a different route.
Well, by this point Wenker was drifting a Green
Estaz, I had Orange on, and Tbender opted for some sort of Wolley.
This area provided Wenker with some casting practice...and overall
we slowly worked back up to the bend by the weir. I had cast and
drifted every run, hole, pocket and pool, but no hookups were had.
By the time we got back up there, several more anglers were around,
and my first lockjawed female had been taken. Wenker's female was
still there, and another angler had seen a second fish move up by
her. This was my last ditch effort; I swung several times but was
unable to pinpoint their location due to tons of easterly sun (she
wasn't fanning by then). 9:30 am we had enough of the Root.
For roughly the next 2 hours, we fished a location
and trib that will remain nameless. I will say that we did sight
some steelies in one section, but they were EXTREMELY skittish...took
off like bullets the SECOND we arrived. The water was much warmer
than the Root at 42F. Unfortunately, bright sun in the solid morning
hours are probably NEVER conducive to good fishing.
Tbender had never been to the Pike, but had seen
all my reports and was anxious to see it, so at 11:30 we started
at A & 13th. We checked all the gravel...even waded just into
the Country Club and stared at the gravel in the hopes we'd see
some splashing. Unfortunately, Wenker was in hip boots, so the trek
upstream would be tough and potentially 'cause an incident with
security / the police, so I opted NOT to put him through that ordeal.
An upstream wade for another day.
By 12:00 we arrived at the mouth of the Pike on
Lake Michigan. I always love being at the beach...and this was the
same time of day that 2 days ago I had seen the first Pike Steelhead
taken (see 3-30-03). Wenker was skeptical. I put him on the lagoon,
which Tbender opted for as well. I switched up to the DEADLY COMBO;
the Red & Black Wolley
Bugger with MP's Antron
Bug (the Herring Back version) as the dropper. I cast in the
lake...winds were out of the east at that particular moment in time,
but were weak so casting wasn't that bad.. a double haul and some
wading got you ample distance. Not to mention my second (and last)
hit of the day...a "tug tug tug" and then "no more
tugs". I suspect whatever it was went for the Antron, which
was a size 12 and thus not the easiest hook to set and keep in.
One thing is for sure, every time I have MP's Antron on the line
for more than a couple casts, at a time when fish should be there,
I get bumps. Well, I had promised the boys that we'd head to Milwaukee
in the afternoon, so at 1:15 we left the Pike empty-handed.
Smoke17 had indeed made it out, and was fishing
the Milwaukee for at least a couple hours before our arrival...he
was down in Estabrook so we headed there first. NICE BALMY 44F water!
It was flowing more, probably due to some rain. One steelie sat
on a stringer.
Let me tell you it was a madhouse, even in the
middle of a WEEKDAY. Anglers of all types were out...spawn, fly,
speycasters (he got a Smallmouth; congrats!). This was TBender's
home water, so he gave us the quick tour and we set to task. TBender
MOPPED UP! Not on steelies though, on suckers. They were everywhere,
loaded in the channels. I think he stopped counting after 10. Not
to mention he also took a Crayfish (Crawday) on a white ELS with
chartreuse head! Tbender has that bottom drift DOWN SOLID! April
Fools yet again!
Wenker went empty handed, while I myself fouled
on two, one butt-hooked and another in the back. Turned out Smoke
was on the opposite side of the river, so he braved the water and
crossed! That took some stones; I went up there and wasn't comfortable
at ALL! We chatted for a bit, show some fly patterns, and he was
off (and probably done for the day). I think his girlfriend had
fallen in the river and was getting pretty COLD as the wind was
picking up, and temperatures were dropping.
3:15 rolled around and we hadn't really found the
fish, so we moved upstream to Kletzsch. It was totally empty upstream
at the Dam, so we bottom bounced right by the dam. It took a TON
of led to get a fly down. Not my usual style of fishing, but it
was exciting to see a few Steelhead trying to jump the dam. Tbender
got a couple hookups, I got squat. So I figured I'd get my chrome
on digital film, if not on the end of my line! Check out the pictures!
That took almost more patience than FISHING for steel.
We had heard conflicting reports about the action
in lower Estabrook. Smoke17 had fished and seen nothing, but another
angler had seen "pods of fish on the redds". I was eager
for more sightfishing so at 5:00 we left Kletzsch to go downstream.
When we dropped in the water was down to 42F. Guppy
was workin' the channels with spawn but hadn't really seen any action.
Wenker stayed upstream, while Tbender and I picked "sides"
of the river and worked it. I was working my way towards my favorite
cut when a guy jumped out into the stream in front of me and set
up on the spot! And there WAS a redding female there. Not much I
can do about that, so I kept going downstream. April Fools on me!
I found PLENTY of freshly cut redds on my side,
but NO FISH! So I spent most of my time in a "searching"
pattern; covering the river with a swing. Tbender had some fun at
one point...thought he maybe got a Steelhead. NOPE! Another sucker!
The air temps continued to drop and light was falling
off, so we turned to go back upstream to Wenker, who had since moved
downstream. We managed our way out of the river by about 6:30 or
so and sat with Guppy and talked. While all this was happening the
guy who was STILL FISHING the little cut that I missed out on hooked
up...several times. Eventually we watched him land a Steelhead of
decent size....no clue as to whether he was accidentally snagging
or not BECAUSE it was like "Cast & Hookup...then fish off"
for several consecutive casts. In any event the fish landed was
released, which we were all happy to see. Air temps had dropped
CONSIDERABLY...my thermometer read 36F!
Cold an exhausted, we made it back to the cars
by 6:45. Wenker had been the object of constant ribbing all day,
as the NEWBIE had managed the best hookup of the day. So the totals
were Wenker 0-1, MP 0-2, and Tbender 0-4. The Steelhead were laughing
all the way to the redds. Granted they were still rather thin...from
my understanding it's just a trickle of fish. Some areas are seeing
Ganaraskas run up, but for the most part it still looks like more
colored up fish. FAT wasn't lying...you really have to be out at
the opening of the day to get fish that will bite, and it's generally
a SHORT WINDOW of opportunity each day. So techinically skunked,
I'll be back to dole out some payback this weekend ;)