4-12-03 - Today I've lost my virginity....my STEELHEAD
Rivers Fished: Root River, Pike River, Milwaukee
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
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
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
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!