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4-12-03 - The Pike at A just after sunrise! Geez...I don't ever recall the sun being this bright?! Wait, we didn't really have any sunny days all winter!
Every river has its suckers....the Pike was full of them. In all fairness, I DO appreciate these rough-fish. Yes, they do get in the way when you're going for the steelies, BUT they are beautiful in their own right and do put up a fair fight...especially when accidentally snagged. I may take a day and make it a "Sucker Day"...we hear of double digit Steelhead days; how about Triple Digit Sucker Days! And folks, they DO take a fly when presented properly!
A study of the Sucker.
Gorgeous scenery.

No big surprise...just more suckers. I can clearly see two, with probably a half dozen more visible in the image.

Updated Root River weir totals!

There she is. Now all you old farts can stop giving me grief over my "Steelhead virginity".

And she swims again to grace someone else's line with her presence.

Oak Creek is WAY WAY WAY down. And you think it was small before?!

4-12-03 - Today I've lost my virginity....my STEELHEAD VIRGINITY!

Rivers Fished: Root River, Pike River, Milwaukee River
Fish Caught: 1
Outing Date: 4-12-03
Weather: Sun all day!
Air Temp: 40's to 60's!
Water Temp: All tribs starting cold (below 38F), but warming up by afternoon (temps up to 44F)
Water Level: Root - Not Bad, Pike - coming down, Oak Creek - LOW.
Water Color: Root River -> pretty clear (for the Root), Pike -> Clarity is improving, Oak Creek -> pretty clear.
Fish Species: Steelhead & Suckers
Pattern Fished: EVERYTHING IN THE BOOK!
Pattern Color: varied
Fishing Quality: For me, 5-STARS! In general...eh...OK I guess...

Alright....writing Saturday's & Sunday's reports after 30 hours of driving + fishing...so bear with me! Might not be the most eloquent writer this evening...as it's already 1:00 am Monday morning!

So bottom line everything including the star's alignment was FINALLY in our favor.

First stop on Saturday was the Pike. I had a few places I wanted to check out, so I hopped in at A & 13th at 7:15 am. Polarized glasses did NOTHING; the glare on the water was unbelievable...like there were 2 suns instead of one. A quick temp check showed 37F...not quite there but PRETTY GOOD compared to what we saw last weekend.

I moved around fishing upstream from A until about 9:45...the water was STILL 37F. Suckers were EVERYWHERE, thrashing about and spawning. I guess they do not apply to the magic 38F rule! I landed several, some fair and some not, and decided to get a nice shot just to show you all what we're dealing with. Notice now there are TWO species of suckers in the river. First, there are the solid tan colored ones (I believe White Suckers) but now these stripped ones have also shown up (I think "Redhorse"?). Anyway, I do have to say that it's nice to land 2-4lb fish on a fly rod, even if they are only the 'lowly" sucker. They do have a neat look to them, and really...there are guys who purposely fly-fish for carp now...why not suckers?! They do provide entertainment when the Steelhead are off or away!

I moved to the Root, arriving at Lincoln Park at 10:15. I didn't fish at this point...the place was a zoo. Probably 50 cars. I DID take a look at the weir board and have brought you the updated numbers (see the picture at right). A quick temp check showed 38F!

Well, my plan, especially after seeing the weir numbers, was to go back upstream to Colonial. Solitude was not really going to happen, but there WAS enough space to get out and fish. The water level here was UP so the fish weren't in the same spots they normally would be (that is IF they were there). I tossed an Estaz + Spey combo, needed several clam shots to get it down in the current. Water was just TOO SWIFT in most places...and anglers weren't staying long. That told me that this wasn't the place to be right now...

So at 11:15 I headed down to Lincoln Park. Roughly 1/2 the cars were gone, but there were STILL several anglers at each good spot on the Root. I worked several areas with the Manhattan Beach Spey, but the fish were non-visible and for the most part, not on the bite. I did see one fish briefly hooked up with right below the sanctuary, but that was it. After a bit of frustration I just walked a little bit and watched a guy flailing about with his rod. I noticed he was totally trying to muscle the casts and wasn't holding his rod even CLOSE to properly. I wanted to save this guy some embarrassment so I got down and asked if he'd like me to show him a thing or two. By the time I left he was casting much more smoothly and wasn't backcasting (all he needed was a good roll cast). Best case scenario maybe he even got a steelie...worst case scenario he no longer looked like a total idiot trying to get a bit 'o chrome.

By the time I left Lincoln Park at 12:15, the water temps were up to 40F. I was heading to Oak Creek; stopped along the way for a quick bite while I was on the road. I arrived around 1:00 to find NO ONE really out there other than a guy or two fishing immediately below the dam. I had the creek to myself. Water temps were a relatively balmy 42F! Well, after a short look around I started walking downstream and came upon 2 fish redding up. I scouted below but found no additional males (the water was low and pretty clear so as long as you had Polarized glasses, spotting fish was EASY).

Now I am the kind of guy who says, "Once I've sighted a fish, I WILL land it". I set to task tossing to the pair, using the technique I had learned and perfected on sighted Coho last fall. I had on 8 lb Pline flourocarbon...and here's a list as best as I can recall, from what I tried:

MP's Black Laced Spey (Orange), Black & Red Wolley Bugger, Gumbo's Kletzsch Clutch, Estaz Eggs in Green, Pink and Orange, a white marabou (spider) spey, MP's Antron Bug (Herring), MP's Jewel, Krystal Egg Sucking Leach (chartruese)

Well, that went on for a good 45 minutes. Toss 5 or 6 times, get no interest, switch up. Eventually a kid came down and said there was another group of fish just a bit upstream. I figured maybe they'd bite. So I was thinking it was another redding pair, but it turned out to be 2 or 3 males in a really small pool who were chasing each other around, along with a bunch of suckers. I tried a couple unnamed, large piss-them-off type flies but they were just too spooky. After another 15-30 minutes I gave up on these guys...they weren't going to cooperate. So I headed back to the pair.

They were still on the redds...the male was switching from side to side of the female who seemed pretty oblivious to him. I made a judgment call...switch leaders. I dropped to 4 lb. Pline Flourocoated. I again tried offering up MP's Antron. No dice. I tried another Krystal Egg Sucking Leech...no dice. I tried MP's Black-Laced Spey in Green...no dice. I tried a hot orange glo bug, size 12...DICE! The female came off about 6" and sipped it up...I HAD HER! She thrashed a lot, made a run to the deeper water, but honestly just like on the Pike there really isn't anywhere for a fish to go...thus she was brought to shore. Never even had to really take her out of the water, got my pics and then set her back...she revived in only 20 seconds or so and was on her way.

Meanwhile a young kid (maybe 5 years old) was coming downstream. He had a light spinning setup, bobber and dried up worm. I talked with him and his mom (possibly his dad too) for a while, showed him the male (who had set back up on the redd...presumably waiting for his mate to return?), showed him an improved clinch knot and helped get him set up with an offering (he actually had some flies so I selected this red & white deal), got a bit of weight on the line, and suggested that they try the males upstream. The kid really wanted to fish the male right in front of him...I felt kinda bad when I told him that he really wasn't set up to catch the fish (6" of water that's 20 feet away isn't something I'd ever expect any kid to hit consistently enough to catch a spooky fish). Well, hopefully he had some fun, maybe even luck, with those males.

In the meantime I worked my way downstream, sighting a good 10-20 more fresh steelies. They were ALL VERY SPOOKY...running for cover no matter how stealthy I was. People started showing up (it was like someone had a cell phone, saw me land the Steelhead and called 20 of their friends). I wasn't about to chase down those spooked fish, nor did I want to share such a small trib with a surprisingly high number of spincasters, so I left at 3:15.

Back to the Root at 4:30, fishing down in Island Park with Chromeseeker and his Girlfriend. CS was kinda ticked (in a good-heared sort of way) 'cause his girlfriend got her first steelie on a waxworm after only 3-4 casts! CS was still fishless for the day!

Well, things were kinda rough...winds were picking up and the air temperature was dropping. The DRN Creel Survey guys were out, and they came over and got a temp....44F was the official temp around 4:45. CS's GF's Steelhead was a Ganaraska...nice and fresh.

I wasn't fairing well from a casting point of view so at 6:15 I headed back to the Pike. Checked downstream and up, and by 7:00 I made my way back to A & 13th. Water had made it's way up to 42F and I headed up from A.

I waded slowly and methodically, taking my time to scan for fish. I normally expect fish to be in certain specific spots, but wasn't finding anything. I ALMOST missed them, but as I was coming across the river to fish a longer run I noticed a pair of fish on a redd off to the side.

Meanwhile just downstream a group of 3 teenagers had entered the river and were coming up. I shouted to them asking them to wade slowly, keep quite, as there were fish bedding up in the area. I pointed just upstream and suggested they might check there as I had often found fish in that little nook. At first these guys seemed like they didn't understand what I was asking, but they said "No Problem". I immediately set to task trying to coax one of the pair to take...when the three guys came sloshing up right behind me. Just my opinion, but they weren't making much of an effort to be quite. To make matters worse, as they passed they spooked BOTH of the fish off the redd.

Things like this are the downside to fishing the SE WI tribs...it's the anglers who just "don't get it" yet. I suspect that these kids may learn down the line when something like this happens to them.

So I took a moment to step back about 50 feet and settle down. I hoped that the steelies hadn't been soo spooked that they wouldn't come back on the redd. I literally inched my way back downstream to where I could clearly monitor the redd. Furthermore, by this point I had also gotten pretty tired, so I actually ended up lowering my profile by KNEELING in the water. It was only 6" or so where I was; it was pretty hard to sight the redd from that vantage point so I spent most of my time drifting the hot orange glo bug in the vicinity where I thought they might be. Between 7:30 and 8:00 the female made 2 more appearances...both very brief...but there were no takes. I'm still kinda bummed, because I truly would've had not only 1, but 2 Steelhead that day had this pair NOT been spooked.

So besides this being the day I got my first Steelhead, I also will remember this day 'cause I had a lot of time helping out less-experienced anglers. I suggest you all try it, you might even feel better than when you're landing fish!

  MP 

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