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3-20-04 - The Pike was lookin' pretty normal.
We came across a female and a couple bucks on a redd actively pre-spawn.
I gave Dan numerous opportunities at these aggressive fish, but they were also ultra-spooky in the bright sunlight.
Nope, didn't get this one on the Pike. John Paul netted this hen for me on the Root! Note the left maxillary clip; after going over the finclips for Lake Michigan this is definitely a Chamber's Creek strain.
WHOAAA...almost lost her!
(Copyright 2004 John Paul)
Still don't know how JP cut the head off on this one too!
(Copyright 2004 John Paul)
I put her back so someone could catch her again...
(Copyright 2004 John Paul)
...And 10 casts later JP brought her back to shore...yes, I was laughing. Figured we didn't get the rod shot the first time, but remembered this second time. She went back to get caught, again!
I spent my time plyin the slower seams towards shore where I had been doing so well earlier.
I came back upstream just in time to capture an epic battle between FAT's client Craig and a steelie...
FAT makes the mad dash as this fish changed it's mind about which way to swim...
BOOOYAAA, FAT nets this fish in an explosion of sunlit spray!
HOLY STEELHEAD FATMAN & CRAIG!
Craig says this is the biggest steelhead of his life....and he's landed MANY steelhead.
This taping shows 34", but notice the "bend" in the fish up by the shoulder? I'm sayin' 36" at least...
Left side of this stunning buck's face.
And now his right. Compare to the picture above and notice that this is a right maxillary clip. I went back over the finclips for both WI and Lake Michigan; without a doubt this hog is a SKAMINIA strain steelhead stocked in 1999 or 2002 (I'm going with 1999).
Yes, Craig kept this trophy fish (can't blame him one bit)! Just another look at this stunning Skaminia.
After a lot of celebrating we're back on the water for the afternoon bite.
As Tom Bender and I were walkin' back up I stopped to take this picture and Tom asked if I was gonna "bust his chops" online. Not so much, but I am going use this example to say I saw a lot of folks wading in the BEST spots where fish hold. I cannot tell you how many times I've hooked into an unseen fish RIGHT WHERE THIS GUY HAS PLANTED HIS FEET. Get a guide if you need to; learn to read the water, and DON'T wade into the prime holding spots!
Tom and I ended our day down in Colonial with 0 action to show for all our good efforts.

3-20-04 - 12 hour Steelhead Slammin' MARATHON!

Waters Fished: Pike River, Root River
Fish Caught: 1
Outing Date: 3-20-04
Weather: Sun!
Air Temp: All over the place - 35F early, all the way to 60F and then back down again!
Water Temp: Pike, 42F in the AM; Root 42 - 44 F
Water Level: Pike 25 CFS, Root 150 CFS (a slight bump following more snowmelt).
Water Color: Pike was pretty clear, Root seemed more muddied up; probably down to 1 foot vis.
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Mostly Larger Egg Patterns but I threw the gamut
Pattern Color: Pink & Red still producing hookups
Fishing Quality: First weekend day good enough to be called "Alright".

I don't even know where to begin; I put in 12 solid hours on the water (well, maybe spent a couple midday hours chatting by the water)!

It all started out around 4:30 when my best friend, Dan Wenk, called and woke me up. He was in from Missouri and one of the things on his "to-do" list was to give the steelies another shot after last-year's less than productive broken-rod incident.

Another traffic stop for the Bitchin' Camaro's perpetual blind right eye and I arrived at the Pike right in time to get straight onto the water. We got to the dam and fished it HARD; tons of suckers, and I had one steelie on most likely foul. NOTHING else going on. I later learned that FAT was having an decent morning with a couple clients only a 2 minute walk downriver!

Around 8:00 AM we opted to head out, grab some chow etc., but on the way out we came across the "gift from God"; 1 hen and 3 bucks on a redd. The problem? The sun was already beatin' down bright; I got on my knees and literally crept up towards them to see what was up. Wenk walks right up next to me and the fish ROCKET off the redd.

So basically we spend way too much time spooking and respooking these fish. We leave for chow and such, and actually come back to try again. But by now it's 9:30 and the sun is even brighter; the fish are that much more spooky. Basically we sat and watched them; we both got in a couple casts, I may have had a take, but more or less I decided that was it. A couple quick looks around other access points turned up squat; water was 42F, fish were on the redds, I didn't feel confident in the Pike today, so Wenk and I parted ways and I headed up to the Root. As far as I'm concerned, the Pike's first run is probably over; FAT came across the same thing we had; tons of Steelies spawning. After that they drop back; they could be back in the lake in a matter of hours.

Got on the Root around 11:00 AM and opted to start my day playing around the Quarry access; as I walked in another angler was walking right behind me - we're both making a fast beeline downriver. Before getting too far, he stops me with a "MP"? John Paul introduces himself; he had just been out with FAT recently. He asks where I'm headed, I respond "Probably the same place you are".

Well that was definitely an insightful call; we both had the same urge to fish a particular stretch. It was definitely a good call; after pounding water for a bit I turned and cast back to the opposite shore. FISH ON!

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ the reel's handle brushes my left arm and it's fish off...and 2/3 of my fly line have been pulled off my reel in 1.4 seconds. Big Red Sparkle Poom egg. I gave the spot a minute to calm, and then cast back there again! FISH ON!

3 runs, each blisteringly fast, and a couple solid good jumps! THIS is the fight I've been waiting for...a true steelie battle with acrobatics and speed! Outstanding! John Paul got her in the net and we admired the prize...a "dime-bright" Chamber's Creek hen! 42F water is all it takes to get those steelies up and jumpin!

As I was taking pictures of the awesome fair-hook (big hot-pink egg right in the center of the tongue) I noticed this fish had been snagged up not too much earlier; another salmon-egg hook was embedded in her chin from the underside. I got out both hooks, got some pictures and sent her on her way.

10 casts later John Paul hooked up in the exact same spot where I had just gotten the hen. At first I joked that he probably caught the same fish I had....sure enough I stopped joking and started belly laughing when John Paul brought in the same exact hen I had just landed...definitely the same fish, right down to the hole in her chin from the extraneous hook I had pulled out. IF THIS DOESN'T MAKE THE CASE FOR CATCH AND RELEASE, YOU ARE A MORON.

Got the rod shot 'cause I had neglected to do that before (and now, looking at the pictures JP shot, I'm glad I took my 2nd opportunity to take those pictures). We sent her back to the river and after no more immediate hookups, headed downstream.

Not much else was happening as I worked along the shore in the deeper, slower seams, so I ended up heading back upstream. As I neared the first Golf Course Bridge, I noticed the characteristic stature of FAT...I knew he'd be on the Root later that day and well, there he was with his client.

I watched FAT pick up his cell phone...I knew he was callin' me, but I also know I don't get reception down there. Fat's got his phone to his ear when his client hooks up...you can tell something is said and I look down...time to get the camera burning some "digital film"! I shout upstream, "I've got pictures" and shoot away.

Up and down this fish runs, and FAT is chasin' it all over the place. It finally makes the turn for the riffles, but FAT is there playing goalie and gives this fish the wakeup call...you are now in Fat's NET! I've got the whole thing captured (although, looking back, I should have switched to the video mode)!

I make my way over to them as the bring this fish to shore...wow. WOW. I mean WOW. Introductions are more or less nods as I continue to shoot pictures...FAT brings out the catch and they pose. Fat's client is beaming and the whole time I'm sayin, "Man you have now idea how jealous I am" and, "Look at that double striper!"

Craig had just landed the largest steelhead of his LIFE and I got the whole thing on camera. Definitely FATE I guess. After the initial pics there was time for introductions, admiration of this gorgeous buck, his huge kype, the double red stripes and fire-engine-red cheeks. There was some measuring, more pictures, and more soaking in the moment. This was a trophy, a true trophy steelhead.

I ain't gonna lie, this fish was arguably the most photographed fish I've ever shot! FAT knows when to call it a day, and this was definitely it. We retired to Quarry parking lot for more pictures and celebration. As you can see, I took a LOT of pictures. Thank you Craig for letting me share your tale here. Now, FAT just started writing his own reports, but I don't know if he's saving them. This one is too good to let disappear, so I'm going to "quote" FAT up the wazoo and include (read totally plagiarize) his point of view here ;) Besides, look how many friggin' pictures I included of this fish...I need more text to go along with them! Well, Fat's account makes some great reading; you need to keep up on his new "Weekly Update" page!

On our way back up to the cars we were working the first bridge down river from the Quarry Pool and there were a couple of anglers by the bridge so we fished the “V” below. The water looked too good and there was an excellent seam. As luck would have it I looked down river, recognized the hippers and 10’6 Custom rod of MP. You gotta love technology… I jump on the cell phone and CRAIG starts working the riffle. A couple of rings and CRAIG says “I gotta fish….no it’s a snag……NO IT’S A BIG FISH”. Well as a guide I hear this all the time and I look in the river and can’t see anything. I put the cell phone away and get the net ready. MP see’s all of this and starts moving up river towards us snapping photos. This is another reason I love to fish with Matt. The fish makes a couple of runs before I get a good look at it and when I do I can see CRAIG’s a little impatient and is getting ready to muscle this fish."

Usually this isn’t a big deal for me. Usually… I’ve over lined my clients for the fish. To side track….with a 9’ 9wt rod you can easily land salmon that are 15lbs on a 10 lb leader. Let the Rod and Reel do the work they’re designed for…KEEP THE ROD TIP UP….and get the fish in a net……..it’s simple. CRAIG’s fish had me just a little worried. We started fishing in the middle of the day. The SUN was out bright and we were down sizing everything including our line and flies."

Problem number 1: CRAIG’s fishing a 6lb maxima ultragreen tippet. I like this stuff. GOOD STUFF…usually a little stronger than it’s rating but generally pretty close. This is.

Problem Number 2 is that I can see CRAIG’s seen this fish and is doing the “HOLY CRAP IF I DON’T LAND THIS FISH NOW. I’LL LOSE IT” and

Problem Number 3 the fish REALLY wants to move down river.

So just about the time CRAIG thinks he’s going start horsing this fish I do the guide thing and say “WE GOT ALL DAY TO LAND THIS FISH”. CRAIG visibly relaxes and we LAND THIS MONSTER!!! Holy Crap, we all start giggling and laughing. MP ‘s been shooting film the whole time and he’s right there for the TROPHY Photo. It was a classic “SMOKE ‘EM if you got ‘EM” moment and we capitalized on CRAIG’s success! I know when to call it a day and we ended the fishing on this HIGH note. WHAT A FREAKING FISH! I mention this only because CRAIG bought up this afterwards. We go FISHIN’ hoping to CATCH the fish and then we RUSH the CATCHING part. Stay focused….RELAX…and savor the moment!

- Richard R Brown, aka. "FAT" - www.fishinfatman.com

So after a good 30 minutes of sitting in the parking lot, "savoring the moment", Tom Bender shows up out of the blue...I knew he was planning on coming down and turns out he left me a VM that I had not received (I got NO reception down there in the Quarry). Talk about stars aligning today for me being in the right place at the right time. I think I probably totally sapped my "Steelie Karma" for this spring!

Bart was working downriver, had only had one as well, so I called him up after Tom filled us in on the Milwaukee conditions. We all "savored the moment" for at least another hour...eventually it was decided we'd give the lower Quarry another run through.

Well I don't know but Chromeseeker cut out early as a brisk wind kicked up from the west. Temperatures started to drop...I met back up with Tom who had hooked up in the same run that the PIG came from...but failed to land it. I thought Chromeseeker had headed down to Colonial; I was thinkin' it might be worth it as water temps were now 44F and I recalled all the spawning activity on the Pike...I was thinkin' gravel.

Tom and I show up and I've now reached Chromeseeker on the cell...he's in Kenosha! WTF?! Well, Tom and I put in more 'karma time' down in Colonial, turning nothing on but a good skunk (well, not a skunk for the day but definitely a skunk for the location). Must be the fish in the Root just aren't ready to spawn yet.

So Tom and I got to catch up for a bit (congrats again Tom) and then we parted ways around 5:30 PM. There's my 12 hour day! Heck, I was really beat and was 90% sure I'd go straight home to bed, but I thought maybe I should extend my day a bit longer down at Kenosha Harbor with Chromeseeker...nope...he had already turned in and by the time we were off the water he was back in Chicago!

There won't be a Sunday report 'cause I didn't fish...more rod building! Just didn't feel a need to try and top Saturday on a Sunday where the highs were 32F ;)

I may get in a few early morning trips, but next week, look for the Missouri Reports! Wenk fishes my home waters and now I'll go fish his!

  MP 

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