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
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 in...in 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
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
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 pink...it 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
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