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3-24-04 - Look at the face on that STEELIE. I'm pretty sure this is a Chamber's Creek strain, as that's what they're spawning right now at the Root.

He taped out at 32"; I would have guess 14 lbs., the online calculators say 16.5, so we'll call him an even 15 lbs. Definitely beats otu that Ganaraska hen I landed last spring!
What is likely a Chamber's Creek hen...look how FAT she was. Easily a solid 8 lbs!

3-24-04 - After no steelies on the Pike in 2003, she has redeamed herself by coughing up my personal best steelhead to date.

Waters Fished: Pike River
Fish Caught: 2/5 fair + 1 foul
Outing Date: 3-24-04
Weather: RAIN!
Air Temp:40's
Water Temp: Did Not Take It!
Water Level: 20 cfs, started rising / getting muddy around 7:30 AM
Water Color: greenish/clear, 2 foot vis but mudding up as the morning progressed
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Steeley Stone, Sm. Red Eggs, Glo Moe, some funky streamer, red body, yellow tail, white wing, pink squirrel
Pattern Color: Red produced ALL hookups today
Fishing Quality: 5-Star I'm still giddy thinkin' about it!

4:15 AM there's a phone ringing somewhere...I scrounge around in my navy blue "pseudo rain coat" (my mom swears it's a rain jacket but it's like fleece)! "Hello?"

"Maaaatttt good moooooorrrrnniiinng"; it's FAT givin' me the friendly wakeup call. "I've been on the Root with the spotlight...already sighted 8 or 9 fish...are you awake?"

Yep, I'm awake...FAT & I had a plan; he had clients who wanted to be on the Root. Tim "The Encanter"; another Red-Hat Nemesis, had given me the hot tip on the secret spot that he and Brennon had found on the Pike. Tim had his best day ever on Tuesday. I would see how things were going to be the following day. If they sucked, we'd jet and make the quick drive to the Root.

I'll tell you now we never saw the fact I never took a temperature on the Pike. I was to meet up with Ken, whom I had met last week at FAT DAY's; he borrowed my 8wt to give it a shot. Well apparently he had really enjoyed that first fish on, as he had gone out and struck a sweet deal on a more-or-less brand new Sage! Today would be a good day!

So I'll tell it like this...I'm bleary-eyed and drivin' through rain and arrive at the Pike at 5:15....Ken has been there long enough for the Sheriff to come by not once, but TWICE, to ask what he was doing! Well, we geared up and by the time we got to the spot, it was legal to fish!

OH MY GOD THIS IS UN-FRICKIN-BELIEVABLE. I looked down this stretch of gravel, maybe 100 feet long, and everywhere there are fish, specifically STEELHEAD, on the beds. It was an ORGY of SALMONID SEX. I had to rub my eyes...surely I was not seeing this clearly...this had to be nothing but pods of suckers.

ABSOLUTELY NOT....EVERY SINGLE FISH HAD THE SHARP DEFINED TAIL and SIZE of a full blown STEELHEAD! Ok, I better stop with the ALL get the point. This was a sight-fisher's wet dream come true. This is BETTER than having Jessica Alba as your girlfriend (yeah, I have a soft spot for her). This was far better than what Tim had described the day prior.

I called Rich; they were on fish as well, tons of fish, so needless to say we would not be meeting up; in other words I bet just about every trib was like this today! The location didn't really matter as long as you were on the gravel for first light!

I will not bore you with the details because they're not BORING! Ken was excited (I think...he doesn't show it well!). I did my own little version of the FAT dance. I suggested to Ken the following; first he should try fishin' the tail right above the gravel and riffle - I honestly didn't want him getting over-excited and start fouling away on fish...I probably did that at least once when I started out. It's not like he had to fish the redds anyway...there were plenty of fish (one swam right into him).

I worked the redds...I first spooked a pair which simply swam up to hold where Ken was fishin. Alright, so now I know about how close I can get. The first thing I noticed was a rather crusty, dark fish. I figured at first it was a brown...but it was getting mauled by a steelhead. I worked these two aggressive males and had the crusty one on for a mear second..long enough to see that it was a nasty, patchy, almost jet black steelhead. EWE.

I had been tossing peach/pink and really not getting tons of fish on that more or less just head shook once and got off...alright I need to set harder. After watching the males going ballistic on each other I had the idea to try red...afterall they've got those big red patches on their gill will surely piss a few fish off.

The ticket came when I switched to a red 5mm pompom egg on a #12 caddis hook...third cast to a male and he turned towards me, and the fly. I LOVE watching a steelhead hit...this white mouth gapes fully open and snaps shut. Now I can't SEE this little 5mm fly, but I know where it should be, and I know this fish just snapped on something....set the hook and ask questions later.

MY GOD WHAT an awesome fight. Instantly this buck starts rolling and thrashing....easily rolled over 10-20 times IMMEDIATELY after he felt the sting of the hook. Then he bolted downstream. It took a bit to get him in, but once I had him beached I stood and looked at a thing of beauty; my first colored-up buck. Arguably a "double striper" too! This was a big fish, not quite as big as Craigs on Saturday, but from the photographs we're looking at a 32" buck! Girth was 20". Calculates out to 16.5 lbs, and honestly that's probably about right...judging from my experience carrying bags of sand and gravel (back in the aqaurium trade) I'm gonna say more like 15 lbs.

So I keep at it. I lose another small buck. I land another buck that may have been fair, but he's antoher roller and he's tangled himself up so much in the line that the only hook in him is on his side (but initially I had head control). So anyway he's landed foul...back in the drink.

I then shifted downstream a bit and suggested to Ken that he come down a bit too and start working the head of the riffle. Below me I've got plenty more fish and I've left plenty upstream. Another angler showed up and headed to the pool below the riffle. I snap off on a tree and have to retie...this time I add on a streamer that someone sent floss body, white bucktail wing, yellow bucktail for tail. I add on another 5mm egg as a dropper. All of this in the low light and clear water is on 8lb. Pline Flourocarbo BTW! And another side note...I haven't seen a sucker yet!

The switch up works well! The huge HEN that's with the males decides this streamer has got to go, she mauls it and immediately runs downstream. A jump, another run, my drag is on fire! I let out a relatively pathetic "ALL RIGHT!" that really doesn't do the moment justice. More line is paying out as she hauls ass for Lake Michigan....I have to put the brakes on her and in the process she turns and runs straight for me.

The heart is pumping and she turns for another run...not as long as the first couple but just as fast. She turns to look upstream and stops, almost taunting me. I see this huge mouth wide open come out of the water as I'm lifting back on the rod with my right hand all the way at the end of that 10" extension. I can see the fly smack in the roof of her mouth, and then she turns to her right and bolts downstream. Somehow, I don't know how, everything just comes shooting back at me upstream. I'm expecting to have snapped off, my line now limp, but apparently this maneuver was just the right angle to pull the fly out of her mouth!

There are still MANY more fish to be had, so I keep working at it. On the far side of the stream I can see another trio of fish on a bed, and I turn to work them. Just a few casts in and BAM another solid hit and another fight....not a lot of jumps in the shallow water but tons of rollin, thrashing, and running! My drag really got a workout...protected my line perfectly...not one snap off. After many repeated attempts to tail this hen, I ended up beaching her, a couple beauty shots and bank in the drink she went.

And it's only 7:00 AM!!! I could EASILY pull my first "limit" of steelies if I work at it. However, at this point I turned to Ken, who hadn't made a sound. It dawns on me that he hasn't yet caught a fish. I don't even think he's HOOKED into a fish yet. I invite him to come down and we work a buck that's cruising along a small yet deep run. Ken still has the pink egg on that he started with...I don't think I saw anything in his box that was red. In retrospect I should've changed his fly! But he was stilll fishin' without lead...all it took for me to get down was a single #10 clamshot so we added that on and started drifting. I was able to coach standing slightly above; he was getting good drifts but just didn't connect. By 7:30 every last single fish had vacated the redds and was in either the upstream or the downstream I thought we should head back there.

We went up and Ken got to working on his cast. I was standing up high on the bank, which was now muddy and a trecherous decent. I was not going to fish until Ken hooked up...I really was hoping for his first fish of the day.

Unfortunately by 8:00 all that had happened was that a buck had porpoised at Ken's feet a couple times. The water was starting to turn muddy as well....not boding well for continued success with the eggs. I had been standing in the rain since 5:30 AM, and was now thoroughly soaked through both rain fact the rain had made it's way down to soak the entire upper 3/4 of my jeans...flowing INTO my hippers. The camera was soaked too, as was my hat, hair, glasses, you name it, I was wet, and starting to get cold.

8:15, I had to call it a day for me. Ken was gonna stay out longer, so I suggested he switch up to a darker and large wolley bugger or egg sucking leech and a bit more weight to get to the bottom of the pool. Still no hookups for Ken....which at this point was frustrating me a bit. Definitely not anything Ken was doing...he's got a good cast, took instruction well, I really look forward to fishin' with him again...would love to be there to get a picture of him and his first steelie!

As I was packin' up, Evenflow from TSS was just arriving to start his day. It's alway nice to meet someone who's friendly on the streams...he recognized the "Bitchin' Camaro" right away. From what I've read he had a pretty good day! Let's just say I will be squeezing in one more trip before Missouri!!!!


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