10-04-03 - Smackin' Steel and much more!
Waters Fished: Milwaukee River
Fish Caught: 4 personally
Outing Date: 10-04-03
Air Temp: Cool, seemed to be 50's max
Water Temp: 54F
Water Level: extremely low
Water Color: slightly stained, pretty clear
Fish Species: Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Assorted Eggs and Wolley Buggers
Pattern Color: Chartreuse, Reds and Oranges worked best.
Fishing Quality: A FINE FINE DAY!
So I got to the Milwaukee rather EARLY for a change..well,
early in my book. Jim and LeeAnn had been out for at least an hour
already when I showed up at 9:30 AM; Tim had perhaps even been out
EARLIER?! Well, the quickly filled me in as I ran into L first;
she had landed a nice Chinook and then, as she put it, "fell
into the river." Well, not so much "fell" as slipped
and sat down, but when you're only in hippers, that gets you awful
wet! She was totally shaking and shivering; I think it was only
40F outside when I arrived. After sitting in the car for 20-30 minutes
she came back out but didn't fish again for the remainder of the
Meanwhile, I couldn't find Tim, so I fished with
Jim for a short while and moved upstream to find my own little solitude...as
much as you can find in Estabrook anyway. I managed one hookup that
came back tail hooked...got a bit of a bath but let the small Chinook
Tim came up and then some crazy guy literally sat
in right between us...I think if I saw two guys fishing, talking
to each other, and we maybe left 20 feet between us, then perhaps
that's as close as we wanted to be to another angler. Oh well, we
didn't fish very long, instead opting to go downstream and fish
again with Jim.
Believe it or not, I have the pictures to prove
it, this lucky guy fishing not too far away pulled out a gorgeous
male Coho just coming into spawning dress...and it was GOOD SIZE,
and TOTALLY FAIR on a silver spoon. Sweet catch Josh; thanks for
letting me share it with everyone on the site!
Well, I had gone through numerous flies and at
the moment (around 12:15 PM), was fishing a chartreuse glo bug that
has a red "blood spot" on the top. Casting upstream into
the pool, just like everyone else, with maybe one splitshot to get
it down. Well, all of a sudden my line just started ripping upstream...a
quick hookset and the fight was on.
The first jump gave it away...I shouted "STEELHEAD"
and from what they tell me, every single guy fishing the pool turned
to look at me LOL! Tim did a great job of landing it; we got the
tape measure out, a 24" female.
Bart showed up just as I left to get lunch, and
when we got back on we were all fishin' the pool in a rotation of
sorts. Tim and I moved downstream for a while, and watch from afar
as Bart pulled out his first male Chinook of the day.
I had one good, definitely FAIR hookup downstream
with a Chin that had a huge chartreuse and orange spinner lodged
in it's dorsal...almost got it but my line got tangled in that huge
treble hook in the back of the fish, and snapped. Darn, I wanted
to add that spinner to my collection of Milwaukee River Lures (which
now stands at a crankbait and 3 spoons!)
Well, we ended up back upstream and Tim hooks up.
He says "Oh this is a BIG one" and we watched for a long
time...no one's fishing 'cause this Salmon is totally taking Tim
for a ride.
About 32 minutes, at least 4 appearances of Tim's
backing, 1 Jimmy Houston Hand Shank and several netting attempts,
Bart landed this sweet Buck Chinook for Tim. Totally fair, the thing
snapped at a TINY nymph! It was very big...we weren't sure but almost
as big as my stunner last week. Tim feel's it's definitely his largest
lifetime fish. Out came the tape measure again, 37" length
and 19" girth. I probably took a dozen shots of him with that
fish, which he could barely hold after that fight! I will tell you
now this beast would stand as the biggest fish of the day!
Fishing was slow for the entire midday period,
and by about 4:30 Jim was beat and L was feeling under-the-water....er
weather, so they hit the road and we moved way downstream in Estabrook.
By my count there were at least 15 hardcore anglers just on the
pool at any given time, and Tim had counted 28 at the falls during
Downstream we got lucky with maybe only a dozen
folks milling about. We quickly took the courteous route and moved
downstream from all of them. The best part, we found TONS of bedding
Chinooks, many still rather fresh (only saw maybe 15 carcasses and
1 or 2 crusty fish).
Now, I totally admit that at first, there was nothing
going on except a bunch of foul hooking. As the three of us worked
downstream it wasn't uncommon for 2 of us to be hooked up at any
given time. Granted, yes, all foul. Which kinda sucked.
I'm guessing after about an hour, around 5:30 PM,
things just changed. I was the first to hook up, and as I brought
her in I could see a lot of head shaking going on and could not
see my fly! I thought for sure this would be just another foul once
I landed her.
Surprise Surprise, Eureka! "It's FAIR!"
I shouted, "She inhaled it!". Smack in the lower jaw,
just in front of the tongue. Sweet! My first FEMALE Chinook, EVER!
(For those of you who don't know, females are much less apt to snap).
And of course, all of the fish started biting.
Bart turns one and calls me over for a picture. Moster Buck, almost
as big as Tim's! I turned around to go back and work a male that
was CHASING my Red & Black Wolley Bugger but not biting. I maybe
got 3 or 4 casts in when Bart is shouting again...I turn around
and he lifts up another fish and says, "I could use another
picture!" Mutha efr!
Alright, another few pictures taken...and I think
Bart may have even landed his THIRD at this point. Whenever he got
it, I told him "Tough Luck, I'm working on this fish over here!"
So I DID get a male, but not the male that was
CHASING...he never bit. Instead, while drifting and again getting
a chase, another male came in, swiped at the original male and THEN
swiped at my fly! FISH ON! Got some great jumps out of this guy;
Tim came down for the net and I landed my 2nd chinook of the evening.
Bart left after his three, and Tim and I worked
it just a bit longer. I was still working the same male, who was
still chasing, until I fouled up on his dorsal and had to snap off.
No more red & black wolley buggers in my box! DARN!
Well, it took a few rotations of flies before I
got my last bite on a Chartreuse and Pink Goo fly...a not-so-fresh
female "gummed" the fly and gave up a pretty poor fight...pretty
much just had to walk upstream and beach her. Not good enough to
eat so we let her go.
Tim managed at least a couple fairs but somehow
didn't manage to land his fish. We remained until 6:30 PM, me trying
hard to get my last fish for a LIMIT day (it would have been my
first) and Tim just tryin' hard for that "one more".
Unfortunately just as quickly as the bite turned
on, it turned back off, and instead of getting more hits our drifts
ended up just becoming more foul hooks...tails or dorsals. Perhaps
drifting too close to the fish? Or perhaps not getting our drifts
"just right" as the light started to diminish?
Now, I already know that there are folks who think
salmon simply DON'T bite. I have TONS of evidence to the contrary.
I also know there are people reading this report who will say we
were LINING the salmon 'cause they don't bite when spawning, and
I'll say "hogwash" to that as well...the hooks weren't
in the right place to support an accusation of that. Most recently,
I've seen discussion on the boards about "lifting" which
basically, to me, sounds like the practice of getting such a good
drift that you literally DRIFT it into the fish's mouth and then
"lift" your rod, not really having to "set the hook".
Well, if that's the case, all our flies would have been hooked in
the upper jaw, right? And how the heck am I going to drift a size
#1 wolley bugger into the fish's mouth with such deadly accuracy?
I'm a good caster, but I'm not THAT good!
And then there's the folks who will read my report
above and suggest that we were out there snagging simply because
I've talked about the foul hooks today with some regularity. To
those folks; you're morons with nothing better to do with your time
than to pick on some guy who tells it like it is. Face the facts
folks, when fishing to fish that are packed in like the salmon are,
there are GOING TO BE FOULS. There are FOULS in baseball (GO CUBBIES!),
and there are FOULS in Salmon fishing. It's part of the game, especially
since you can't always see WHERE YOUR FLY IS when the salmon starts
moving and your line does to!
So it comes down to this...if you look at the way
the fish are hooked, they are all in different spots. If you were
out watching the behavior, we were getting a lot of chase from males.
Furthermore, most hits came after a slight "course adjustment"
by the fish being targeted. God I LOVE the fair hook and SCREW THOSE
FOLKS who think that me or my buddies are part of the "Army
of Snaggers" :)
The evidence, in my opinion, supports the hypothesis
(AKA FACT) that these fish ARE INDEED willing to put a fly into
their mouths, not the other way around. Why does all this matter?
Well, for one, it was recently proposed on TSS that some snaggers
justify their tactics by stating these fish "don't bite".
Plain out wrong. THESE FISH BITE, and sometimes even BITE HARD!
But more importantly, it takes NO SKILL to snag
a fish..it's not sporting. Taking the time to learn how these fish
behave and what tactics DO in fact produce legitimate hits is FAR
MORE REWARDING. Sure, it took me all day just to land 4 fair fish
whereas I could've hooked up with (AKA snagged) a THOUSAND. Now
I did see a couple fish landed as legitimate fair-hooks on spoons,
but overwhelmingly they DO NOT WORK nearly as well as a flies once
the fish come up into the streams...that's why all you guys tossing
spoons seem to be automatically labeled as "snaggers".
I'm not saying spoon fisherman ARE snaggers, nor am I going to widen
that to be the all inclusive "anglers using spinning gear"
are all out snagging. What I AM going to suggest is that hey, some
of you guys tossing spoons to the salmon in the streams, get a Bass
Pro Fly Rod combo and give it a shot, heck if you need help ask
me or any other fly angler on the river...you might be pleasantly
surprised if you take the time to learn
how to do it (it took me a YEAR to LAND my first fair king).
Enjoy the runs this fall everyone..and by the way,
pick up all that trash you see and put it in the trash...even if
it's not yours.