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5-03-03 - Spring is picking up in SE Wisconsin! Wildflowers started showing up this week!
The Pike River was clear. I've seen clearer than this, but this is pretty clear!
Put in a LOT of hiking today, taking in the scenery, enjoying the day. Not sighting any fish though!
Downstream below the new A bridge, you'll recognize this area from some of my fall shots.
Later on that afternoon I hit the Root at Quarry Park. Compare this shot to last week. Totally different!
Tons of water was coming over the Horlick Dam.
Made a brief trip downstream into the upper edge of Quarry Park.
I just love this shot of Bart landing a sucker!
Borderline fair-hooked too...on a Red-Butt Skunk!
As the evening approached we moved to Oak Creek. The scenery here is great.
WHAM! Bart hooked into big-time steel, a 10 lb buck. Unfortunately the first 5 shots or so I still had the lens-cap on!
"You gotta be kidding me?!" At least that's the cleaned up version of what CS had to say as his beached fish did it's own C & R. Just like what happened to me last week.
12 lb. Hen! 12 lb. Hen!
Bart came down...never heard my screams but he did get the cell call. He shot this and the next.
The gorgeous fish took an HOUR to revive. Notice how red my hands are...that's NOT sunburn. Pretty much ended my day, but what a great way to end it!
Night fishing at the Kenosha Harbor. Lots of fish jumping...none on the lines :(

5-03-03 - Largest Steelhead TO DATE!

Rivers Fished: Pike River, Root River, Oak Creek, Lake Michigan (Kenosha Harbor)
Fish Caught: 2, 1 by me
Outing Date: 5-3-03
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: Warm, 60's and possibly 70's for much of the day?
Water Temp: ?? - haven't replaced the thermometer yet.
Water Level: Pike was low, Root was very high, Oak Creek was pretty low but not fully back down.
Water Color: Tinged Green, visibility about 1 foot in the Pike and Oak Creek. Root was super muddy, visibility maybe 6"
Fish Species: Steelhead, Smallmouth, Carp, Suckers, Shad etc...
Pattern Fished: Black Heron, Grey Heron
Pattern Color: see the respective patterns.
Fishing Quality: Good

What a gorgeous day. Sunny, slight breeze. Not maybe the best FISHING day, but a great day to be out. I started right back where I left off...upstream on the Pike. Arrived at 11:15 AM and hiked for an hour...didn't see SQUAT!

That was a total bust, so I went down to A & 13th where I ran into 2 groups of anglers. Between the two groups they had seen ONE steelhead all morning. I went downstream briefly...basically long enough to take a photo of the great scenery and double check their findings. I got outta there at 12:30...no more wasting time on my beloved Pike if she wasn't going to give it up!

Chromeseeker would be on his way soon...meanwhile I moved up to the Root! Just after 1:00 PM I got to Quarry Park and got in! The water was flowing like mad; carp were literally getting blown downstream over the shelf! So I switched up to a sink tip line to swing my spey, a Black Heron, size 1/0! This definitely proved to be the combination...instead of working right in the outflow I worked the midsection of the pool.

My first hookup came after a while on a large fish that slowly made it's way through the pool, eventually coming free. I'm guessing it was one of the several carp I saw surfacing in the pool; it swam just like carp do when we catch them in the lake. Only a few swings later, as my fly came into shore, I hooked up with a small rocket. It jumped twice and came off...didn't get a really good look at it but my guess is that it was a smallmouth. It just didn't look like a steelhead.

Later on the creel-survey guy (I think his name is Andy but honestly I can't remember) came by and chatted...while I had my head turned talking to him I felt a tug...he saw it...and proclaimed it a steelhead with that "huge trout tail".

Meanwhile, Bart was on the Pike, even further upstream than I had gone, and managed to lose one hen. He wasn't very impressed with the fishing on the Pike either!

Later on, still in the same pool, I had 2 more hits..and again missed both. One was quick, and one was a lunker that could've been a Steelhead or Carp...again just lumbering through the pool and eventually getting off on a turn. The DNR Creel Survey guy came back again and was saying that all the fish were up at the dam..not to mention a few northerns that had been blown out.

As "Andy" and I walked out of Quarry around 3:45, we came up and saw Bart's car. Where was Bart??? I turned around and there he was, coming out behind us...they had just arrived. After brief discussion we went to Horlick Dam.

We got to the dam and found several anglers working the pools and riffles. The majority of angler pressure was directly underneath the bridge...I worked behind these anglers for a while and eventually cut around downstream to check out "upper Quarry Park". A bit of a breeze had picked up making casting a bit difficult. POP! My EAR! Talk about PAIN! I reached up to touch it, expecting to find a new piercing...nope. I looked at my hands for blood...nope. So I kept fishing.

The pain didn't go away and I got a bit light headed there...so I sloshed upstream and again touched my ear...this time blood. I thought, "Great, I ruptured my ear drum or something". I walked over to Bart and had him shout in my ear...I could still hear...a good sign. Made it up to the car and thankfully learned that I had just scratched my ear enough to get a bit of blood. So I went back down...napkin on my ear, and watched Bart fish. Chromeseeker went and got like 20 suckers and one belly-hooked shad! Even a couple fairs and pretty close to fairs on those suckers. But still no steelhead!

Suckers can be fun and all, but by 4:30 we had seen enough, so we discussed our options. Sauk Creek? Sheboygan? One thing for sure, I wanted to stop at Oak Creek. So we stopped for some food and made our way over. Upon our arrival at 5:30 we found a LOT of cars. Most people were holed up at the first pool just below the dam (as usual). Bart and I walked our way down...leap-frogging each other until one of us found fish.

As we walked down we passed a guy intently fishing a tiny hole. I figured he was waiting for any fish on the move...it was the perfect bottleneck in the river. I was the first to sight some in the languid pool below, and set upon swinging (now on the floating line) in the hopes of connecting. Eventually the guy just upstream from me gave up, and I had the area to myself. A couple people came by but I wasn't majorly concerned with spooked fish in the deep pool. By this point I had sighted 3 distinct fish in the pool. On a particularly bad backcast I treed my Black Heron, so I switched to a pattern I hadn't fished before, the Grey Heron.

Bart continued downstream...made it all the way to the beach and called me. I was hoping to hear that he had landed one...unfortunately what had happened was some bucket guy showed up and spooked them all...or maybe Bart said "snagged" them all...cell reception is not that great!

I left the pool and continued downstream, not really sighting much else. Bart showed up and we arrived back up at the pool. Bart came back up; again we sighted fishin the pool, so he worked the head of it for a while with me swinging speys through the tail. CS got kinda bored I think, and started walking upstream.

Then, just before 7:00 PM, he noticed the flash. A female was redding in that little pool the guy had been patiently working. Bart took a closer look and saw at least a couple males in with her! He set up, but quickly fouled his line. I took turns swinging the spey from above while he retied. Again, he cast a few and fouled up on some of the brush on the bank. So again, it was my turn to swing. When Bart got his line back in order he went upstream and quietly crossed to work them from the lower gravel bank.

After like the gazillionth drift, he switched to his patented secret egg pattern and WHOLLOPED a male. Splash-Splash-Splash like a Chinook makin' its way up 6" of water...this guy had no place to go! It would be like setting off a bottle rocket in your closet! I started shooting pictures...wait a second...why were they all showing up black on the screen?! NOOO!!! I had the lens-cap on! I ripped it off and went back to shooting...nabbed a few images towards the end of the fight.

Once Bart landed him we could clearly tell he was decent sized, probably around 10 lbs. I ran upstream to cross and shoot the victory picture. As I crossed, Chromeseeker had just unhooked him when the fish righted himself on the gravel and began thrashing. You'd be surprised how well a fish can swim when it's OUT OF THE WATER! Bart lunged after him but missed him..and the big guy effortlessly slid into the pool.

Unlike my loss last week, Bart took it a bit better, only uttering MAYBE one profanity. The look on his face says it all. He was a bit disappointed that I hadn't gotten more pictures..and we wouldn't know how the ones I got turned out until I got back home on Sunday. Folks, you're looking at the best one.

After this episode I headed upstream while Bart opted to try for more from the same pool. As I came upstream Bart's girlfriend was coming down on the other side...all excited because there were five fish holding. As I crossed to talk to her, I spooked ANOTHER out of the riffles!

So we walked upstream, and just as the bend was leaving my view I noticed Bart coming up the river. I wasn't going to wait around for him to arrive! Found the first pool, but couldn't find the fish. Back to blinding swinging the spey. No hits, but as I was sitting there I saw movement in the next pool up!

I slowly approached to find a few males all PO'd at each other, chasing each other around the tail of the pool. The subordinate males were getting pushed back into the riffles. All the while I was swinging from upstream, but they weren't interested. Every time one of the "lesser" males slid back into the tail of the pool the dominant one (who WASN'T the largest, but rather the most assertive) would turn and give chase.

After wasting 15 minutes on these males who STILL weren't on the bite, I turned and cast upstream...retrieving as my fly drifted towards me, keeping just enough tension on the line. Bart came by and went further upstream to fish with his GF in the pools above. Just as he was turning the bend, I felt my line stop. I was hung up. I tugged...rock solid. Tugged again..nothing. I was definitely on a rock. I gave a couple quick shakes attempting to free my fly, but this didn't work either. Rather than jump 6 feet down into the deep pool, spooking the fish and then having to wade over to free my fly, this called for the strategic snap off. I lowered my rod to below horizontal, pointing straight at the fly, at which point I'd normally retrieve the slack, and pull hard until the leader snaps off. But then I noticed the strangest thing...my slack wasn't moving downstream, it was traveling UPSTREAM! HOLY SH*T!

I brought my rod back up, setting the hook, and my drag started wizzing! KABOOM a huge steelhead tried to go into a low orbit, spinning as it traveled through the air before landing with a crash. After all of probably 2 or 3 powerful tail strokes the fish came airborn again...and again crashed back to earth. I looked up to see Bart just barely visible at the bend of the pool. With my drag burning (figuratively) I screamed, "BART! I'm gonna need some help here!". He didn't hear me! The fish made it to the top of the pool, turned and charged me. Large arbor my butt...I was reeling like a madman but still couldn't get up all the slack in the line. The fish sped past me and as the line tension returned, she went airborn again...still heading downstream. She got to the end of the pool, turned again, and CHARGED again. This time, with her coming upstream, I managed to just barely keep tension on the line. Another eruption of silver flesh and water followed, and again I screamed for Bart. I had NO CLUE how I was going to land this big fish from 6 feet above the surface of the water.

She worked her way up against the wall and hunkered down. I couldn't turn her. Eventually I got her to budge...I was definitely worried about snapping the line. I worked her away from the wall and she slowly came back to me...at this point somewhat exhausted. A couple guys had shown up to witness this battle...as she went back downstream of me she went somewhat sideways in the current, using it to pull more line out. I couldn't turn her head! That's not a good sign, that usually indicates a foul. I turned to the two guys downstream who were now right above the fish and asked if they could see where she was hooked. They asked if my fly was white, which it wasn't. From that info the decided they couldn't tell if it was fair or foul.

So she continued on her drift, clearly trying to work her way downstream. I had to go from hand to hand with the rod as I worked my way around the trees that stood along the wall. I had no clue how I was going to land this fish! Where could I beach her? Then she got really smart...and went down the riffles. She had two choices, to my right was a long shallow stretch followed by a drop into a deep pool. To my left was a short riffle which dropped into a deep pool that was covered by a fallen tree..with lots of branches in the water. She chose the later. I was freakin' out. I had to land this fish now...if she worked her way into a thicket she was gone for sure. I looked below me...a 6 foot drop onto about 3-6" of water over fist size rocks that made up a riffle. Me in rubber- soled hip boots because I didn't want to be bothered with all my breathable wader gear. I took the plunge.

Now I could tell you that I slipped on the rocks (which is a common occurrence on Oak Creek...lots of slime and the hip boots just don't grip well) but thankfully that didn't happen. I clambered down the riffle and pulled her out from under the stump, thankfully not entangled in any underwater obstructions. As I beached her I figured out what was up..she had wrapped the leader around her. She was clearly totally exhausted from the fight; didn't complain when I laid her out next to the rod for several hurried shots. This fish definitely wasn't pulling the "self-initiated C & R".

So I pulled out the cell phone and called Chromeseeker...he put it down saying, "I'll be there in 30 seconds!". He came running down the side of the river I had been fishing....at least that's what I recall. I don't know if he made the jump too...but I suspect he did..or at least crossed just a bit further downstream and ran back up. We figured out where the last bit of ambient sunlight was coming from, and he shot a few shots of ME with the fish briefly raised out of the water, along with several reviving shots. Bart borrowed my rod as he had left his upstream, and fished the pool I had been in while I sat and revived this gorgeous 12 lb. hen!

45 minutes later....I'm STILL REVIVING. I can't FEEL my hands. I'm thinking this fish is going in the smoker. Bart relieved me of these duties and spent another 15 minutes working with her, finally getting her let go as safely as we could. He watched her swim back down to hold in the calm water underneath the log. Not a bolting takeoff like we'd like, but hopefully she came out well.

So by late evening we decided to call it a night on the tribs. We had been talking about fishing Port Washington Harbor for Coasters, Bart was keen on hitting the Sheboygan if possible on Sunday morning, but after a lot of debate we opted to fish Kenosha Harbor and afterwards grab some Pizza and Beer! We got to the harbor around 9:30, Bart's girlfriend (what a sweetheart) went off to grab some coffee. By this point it was pretty cold, so the hot caffeine was a welcome addition. We set up floating both waxworms and spawn, and Bart tossed a two-toned spoon. Fish were definitely jumping and surfacing in the harbor...some quite large and some quite small...but NOTHING ended up on our lines. We called it a night at 10:30 'cause the kitchen at the Next Door Pub in Lake Geneva closed at 11:00 PM; foresight and a well-placed phone call ensured that we had a pizza waiting for us!

  MP 

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