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10-18-03 - After a morning upstream in the unproductive water and then taking time to report a hit & run, I decided to head downstream and caught this battle going on as I walked the bridge!
The first fair King of the day, a nice buck who obviously has been bashing his nose into everything.
Followed up with this great hen who came to hand 3 times over 20 minutes before finally getting landed ;)
Ha ha! Gotta love when the see something this tiny and crush it.
The Milwaukee is LOW. Don't be fooled. This is a flow of 40 CFS or so.
FAT's clients with the morning's catch. Jeff (or Geoff) is on the left, I spent some time with him downriver. Sorry guys, I remember there's a Jay (J.?) and maybe a Jim or John in the mix? I suck with me and I'll fix it up!
Evidence of fish running (and spawning) on Oak.
"Stupid" Steelhead couldn't resist the TUCKER NYMPH baby! Sweet Fish, Sweet Fly, Life is good!
Another shot of the male steelie and the nymph he thought he might just eat.
Dusk at the Pike River Mouth on Lake Michigan...lots of anglers.

10-18-03 - It's tough but if you keep looking you'll find plenty of fish.

Waters Fished: Pike River, Milwaukee River
Fish Caught: 3 fair
Outing Date: 10-18-03
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: 70's at the peak?
Water Temp: didn't take it
Water Level: very low
Water Color: clarity improving
Fish Species: Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Brown Trout, Steelhead, PINK SALMON(?!?) and other little trout???
Pattern Fished: Fat's Nuclear Serendipity, Tucker Nymph, Various Speys & Egg Sucking Leaches.
Pattern Color: the full spectrum of naturals and fluorescents.
Fishing Quality: "Improved Fair" (i.e. still "Fair" but somehow maybe a touch better than last week).

As you all well know by now, I NEVER get up early...well...almost never. The only person who can consistently get me up before dawn is FAT (Rich Brown). After 2 days of little sleep, Friday evening I found it EASY to get to bed around 10:00. My plan? Well, I had to meet up with Rich over the weekend anyway, so why not head out early and meet him on the rivers?

A well placed "wake up call" from the FATMAN was all it took to get me up around 5:30 am. After the requisite shower, toothbrushing and wake up juice (Mountain Dew) I got on the road to Milwaukee. I pulled in around 6:30 am. I also knew John Kruger would again be out. I checked 3 or 4 of our access spots without finding Team PB or the FAT Crew, so I decided by 7:00 am it was time to fish.

Things have a way of being funny; I assumed after the rain a couple days prior that fresh fish would be fact I KNEW they were in based on reports from several angling buddies during the week. I figured by this point they'd be stacked at the dam. I was wrong.

Instead most of what was at the dam was older Kings. Most were extremely dark to boot. Anglers were already stacking up as thick as the fish, a boy scout crew was out, and well I just didn't have the patience. By about 8:00 am I was ready to leave. So I headed downstream.

For some reason I found FAT parked at the southernmost lot in Estabrook; while I normally don't park here I did on this occasion. This is where things get interesting.

Let me start by saying that on my past few outings I have omitted the "negative" aspects of the Milwaukee trips, however I now feel I shouldn't have. First there was an incident with a snagger on 9-25-03, which in a nutshell involves a guy keeping a tail hooked fish. I first shout over "you know you have to let that fish go" and he strings it up. After helping my angling crew land a fish I confront the angler, basically saying "I'm not tryin' to be a jerk, but if you didn't know you can't keep foul hooked fish. I know your not a snagger, so I'm not going to call you in...". Well, I'll omit his sarcastic and belligerent remarks; suffice it to say that he let his 2nd foul hooked fish go 'cause I was standing right there. When I moved upstream, my bro and Phil saw him string up another snagged fish while I wasn't looking. I know this guy wanted to kick my ass but he knew I was out with 4 other friends at the time!

The next omitted story occurred just last week on 10-11-03. We're leaving the dam area up the one lane road...I'm just about at the top when a white Cady roars onto the road with just enough room to get his car off the main drive. Now, I'm already at the top of this road and Bart is right behind me. Instead of backing out like any sane person would have done, the driver sits there. Then he flashes his brights. Then he starts revving his engine, inching ever closer to my car. I'm literally just WAITING for him to tap me. Well, I shout out the window "Hey look, this is a one lane road, I've got cars behind me and I'm not about to drive backwards all the way down." This pisses him off further, followed by more engine revving and bringing his car even closer to mine. WTF?! Eventually this guy realizes I'm not moving (I can't anyway) and he backs out. I didn't wait around to see if I got the bird or anything else.

So what do these two stories have to do with today? Well, as I'm re-gearing up by Fat's truck a couple anglers with spinning gear hop into a beat up maroon van. They pull out fast and back straight into a green pickup; there's a loud crunch and the guys pull up a couple feet and get out. They look at the truck, see me watching them, and say "I didn't see that truck".

I reply, "Yeah, I know, I've done that before too..." thinking of the time I backed into my office-mate's car. Well, they look at the pickup and then hop back into the van and take off. Meanwhile I take the precaution of getting their plate # as they leave, and only after they've left do I check out the pickup, which is clearly damaged.

So I first call it in the Milwaukee Police; they refer me to Shorewood, I wait an hour while the Police show up, take the info and make a report, and finally by 9:00 am I'm back on the river. Considering that there have been additional incidents this fall (see the "Stoned on the Milwaukee" post on WFF), folks for your own safety on the Milwaukee carry the following numbers in your cell phone:

Milwaukee 5th District Police Office - (414) 935-7253
Shorewood Police - (414) 847-2610
WDNR Tipline - (800) 847-9367 / (800-TIP-WDNR)

Anyway, back to the fishin', right?! I met up with FAT and the three clients he had out that morning. They had done fairly well, having good luck with small orange/red egg patterns and black wolley buggers. Meanwhile I was determined to stick with Fat's Nuclear Serendipity, and it paid off big-time. My first hookup was within just a few minutes, a nice albeit starting-to-crust buck. Soon thereafter I walked downstream a bit more and hooked into a fresher hen! I brought her to shore and had her by the tail once...but she got really agitated then and actually started fighting. After another 10 minutes, tailed her again and lost her again. She spent probably another 10 minutes dogging in the current, refusing to come to shore. Finally, on the third tailing I got a good grip and landed her.

We got off the river, cleaned up and chatted for a bit, finally parting ways after noon. I took my time to get some food, some fuel, and make my way down the shore. Next stop, Oak Creek.

As you all have probably figured out by reading my past Oak Creek Reports, it is a hit or miss creek. My last couple trips have been misses, but you have to stick with it.

Well today I got lucky in a way. I pull up to see only one car there around 1:30 pm and he's fishin the first hole. GREAT (from the standpoint of not having to deal with crowds). BAD (from the standpoint of fish expectations). I started my usual scouting walk downstream; didn't see ANY signs of fish life. This was probably going to be just another nature walk and a quick drive further south.

And then I saw it; a fresh redd. "Interesting...". Granted the water was already very low, so the fish that made this bed have likely moved downstream, back into the lake, or have been snagged or caught out.

I started to walk a bit slower; the water was back to "crystal" and being so low I knew I'd spook most anything I found. I paused by a pool below the redd to watch. The water was glass...slack...not a single ripple or boil. Nothing. After a minute the pools surface undulated ever so slightly...the slow shift in the surface that causes a single wave to gently rock back and forth between the banks. The telltale sign. Fish are in this pool.

I slid up behind a large tree that borders the pool, crouched down and peaked out. I saw a rise at the back of the pool...a RISE? Hmm... I slowly crept down along the bank and found myself squatting at the midsection of the pool. I scanned starting where I had witnessed the rise. First I saw a small trout, maybe 12", definitely the silhouette of a trout. As I focused my attention along the far side of the pool I saw a salmon...looked like a smaller Chinook. I then noticed another smaller salmonid with a WHITE BELLY?! It was maybe only 12", but if you ask my opinion, after seeing several Pink Salmon in Canada last month I would bet the farm this was a female PINK SALMON! It could have been something else, maybe a sucker or a brookie, but after seeing the pinks through the water and noticing their unmistakable appearance, I am confident this was a stray Pink. Afterall, we do have Pink Salmon in the Lake; state records exist for both IN and IL as well.

I continued to scan the near side of the pool when I saw it; right in front of me sat the unmistakable red-cheeked face of a steelhead! WOW! Just sitting there in a dapple of sun in less than 12" of water...not doing a thing other than sitting..waiting. Then I saw a rush of water that gets pushed when a fish is moving fast...turned out it was a nicely colored up male coho! So far that means Chinook, Coho, Steelhead, and possibly a brook or brown and what looked to be a PINK salmon?! Wow, the mother of all pools, probably no longer than 20 feet and 3-4 feet in the deep gut, and all of these fish at my feet! I started to cast!

Shortly after my arrival a young gentleman, Dustin, age 12, showed up and started fishing the pool. Ok, I can let that slide, he didn't ask...just whipped out the spinning gear and started tossing a piece of yarn on a hook with lots of lead. Meanwhile I got my first strike and caught the riser...a creek chub ;) All this lead hitting the water wasn't going to do, and well Dustin was intrigued by the flies. I ended up giving him a Egg Sucking Leach, had him remove most of the lead, and we proceeded to work the pool together. I got another hit from that small fish that I think was a didn't fight like a sucker and I watched it hit the fly; unfortunately it ran deep and with a few headshakes came off. "Air Fish" as Rich would say. There goes my opportunity to properly ID that fish!

Well over the next couple hours we fished; by my count there was 1 unidentified 12" trout, 1 steelhead, 1 "Pink", 2 Cohos and 3 Kings in the pool. Dustin and I switched places a couple times. I found myself at the tail of the pool and looking to the far side, there it was, the steelhead. It had settled down and was calmly holding on the far side of the pool.

My first well-placed cast swung the Tucker Nymph about 6" in front of his face...granted it was a VERY SLOW SWING as there was almost no current. The steelhead made the move...coming forward and opening that white mouth all the way! A strong sweep of the rod intended to set the hook didn't connect. DAMN! I had pulled the fly probably right out of the mouth before he even had the opportunity to clamp down! In one fluid motion a follow-up roll cast again put my fly just a bit further upstream. Again I swung it across his face and he came forward. Another snap but I did not move. The steelhead continued to swim forward and as soon as I noticed my leader start to cut through the water heading upstream I set the hook.

Oh my God was it ON! This steelhead realized that this Nymph was not lunch, but instead a messenger of certain doom. Steelhead fight like no other...he got on my drag, moved up and down the pool, thrashed wildly at the surface but alas, did not give me any acrobatic leaps. Once again I should listen to my own advice; always carry a net. I had been so pessimistic about this outing that I had left it in the car!

After tailing this gorgeous buck and getting him to shore we admired his beauty. A passerby witnessed this battle from the other side of the stream and congratulated me as well. Pictures pictures pictures of this stunning fish!

Dustin was now a full blown fly convert LOL! Shortly thereafter, he too hooked up, and all too quickly brought a nice steelhead or chrome coho to shore. My heart sank as he heaved the fish in too soon, only to watch it thrash the ESL from it's mouth and dive back into the pool. Dustin was thrilled (he was looking for a keeper to take home and thankfully already knew you can't keep foul hooked fish). While I really wish I could have snapped a shot with Dustin and his chrome beauty (steelhead, coho, it was gone so quick I really can't say for sure). I think all the same he'll remember this fish for a long time.

Well shortly after all this hordes of people showed up. Maybe that passerby had placed a call or two 'cause by the time I left there were something like 20 cars parked in the area. After seeing this I decided it was time to move on and try the Pike.

Upstream on the Pike was a disappointment. No fish sighted except for one very crusty king. There were MANY vehicles parked at A & 13th; I'm again assuming that they're all upstream at the Dam. No point in going up there, especially since fresh fish would probably be scattered about. I'm assuming just a bunch of goofballs hammering crusty kings in the one pool. Not what I came out for today.

So I headed to the mouth of the Pike, intent on nailing some browns and cohos to round out my day. Opted to cast the lake in my hip boots; for future reference full blown waders are better, I came home soaked. I fished until about sunset; George showed up and just as he did I got a hammering "THUMP THUMP THUMP" hit, the kind that pulls your rod tip to the water. Did it on a no name spey pattern I concocted earlier this week, consisting of hot orange hackle wings, white SLF body, silver tinsel ribbing, black hackle with hot pink mallard collar. Anyway, whatever fish slammed this spey really did not like it...those were hard pounding hits most reminiscent of a big brown, and well he got off. I did see other browns taken, so I'm assuming that's what I lost. Well, we watch the sun set as browns and kings porpoised in the outflow of the Pike River. George unintentionally snagged 3 shad-type fish (I have a picture and will try to figure out precisely what they were). Overall I had one more hit that faded all too quickly to end my evening.


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