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4-25-04 - I come back from my bathroom break to find T-Bone fighting this pig!

The mouth of the Lester River.

People everywhere chasin' spooky fish. Caught two of the guys from thehawgtrough.com in this picture without even realizing it; Tim watchin' on (yellow) as Jason battles a fish.

Got my skunk off in no time; this hen slammed the TUCKER NYMPH!

A hearty "BOOO YAAAHHH" to my Red Hat Counterparts; that's 1 for the Tucker and 0 for the Jubb Jubb.

We stopped at the Mouth of the Talmadge.

Basically, the Talmadge consists of one big pool before a set of barrier falls; there were already a few guys here so we moved on.

Wanting to see more scenery, we moved upstream of the Scenic Highway on the Sucker...it was stunning.

Another shot for those of you who don't have the patience of the panoramas.

Many falls ensure that fish numbers (and anglers) would be less...

T-bone talks to another friendly angler to see what's goin' on...

Almost end of the line, and another opportunity for some stunning views..

View this 360-degree Panorama in the 3D viewer. (16.69 MB)

T-bone (Brennon) works the fast water where we've typically been finding our fish...

End of the line; the Sucker's barrier falls just downstream of the main highway.

Another 3D viewer for this 180-degree Panoramic view of the barrier falls. (13.7 MB)

Back to the beach...and catchin' fish!

A bit beat up but this little buck has already been spawned by the hatchery..at least that's what the yellow tag is supposed to mean...still working on clarifying that.

A closeup of this dark little looper.

Whamo, this big buck Kamloops nailed orange...

This is what I came for!

Lots of guys preferred to sightfish in the shallow stretch upstream...

Talk about Brennon's DUMB LUCK; look closely and you'll see the bend of this hook around the NET, NOWHERE near the mouth of this looper. Turns out the teeth were totally tangled up in the yarn!

Can't argue with catchin' a fish FAIR without even sticking the hook in its gums!

Be spent some time reviving this one, but it's all worth it as the perfect end to a perfect weekend on the North Shore.

4-25-04 - The Land of the Red Hats, The North Shore, MINNESOTA (Part II)

Waters Fished: Lester River, Talmadge River, Sucker Creek
Fish Caught: 3/16
Outing Date: 4-25-04
Weather: Rain in the AM, going to mostly cloudy in the afternoon
Air Temp: 32F rising to mid 40's
Water Temp: Lester River 42F, Sucker Creek 46F
Water Level: Streams continuing to drop
Water Color: Lester stained but visibility of 2'+, Talmadge Muddy, Sucker Stained but still clear!
Fish Species: Kamloops Rainbow Trout & Manistee Steelhead (stocked & wild)
Pattern Fished: tiny eggs, Tucker Nymph, Dull Surprise
Pattern Color: Chartreuse & Orange were top producers.
Fishing Quality: Still Outstanding

So last night Brennon and I find ourselves driving around the North Shore, on down to Duluth, looking for a place to eat and sleep. EVERYTHING is booked solid...or if it's not it's an expensive place ($89, $100, etc..). We get to the turn to head into WI...I joke that we might just end up at the Brule Motel and well, we might as well fish the Brule then!

Thankfully we find a cheap room ($48) at the Stockade Motel; not too shabby of a place considering that the rooms are big and it has the "smoker smell". No ALARM CLOCK THOUGH?! Dinner winds up consisting of a McDonald's McRib.

8:00 AM we're up and it's raining outside; top that off with the weather channel telling us it's 32F and Brennon and I are in NO hurry to go fishing. Instead we watch a Redfish tournament on one of the sports/outdoors channel.

After a good McD's breakfast (no Steak Egg & Cheese Bagle though?!) we find a cheapo rainslicker ($1.50 blue poncho) for Brennon and we get to the Lester about 10:00 AM. There weren't tons of people out, but it wasn't exactly like we had the place to ourselves.

Just then it hits me...bathroom break...and the closest place to go is back in Duluth at the Holiday gas station. I KNEW this was gonna happen....when I get back I get my stuff out of the trunk and grab the net...as I walk down B is fighting a fish and I run up to help him out. Brennon breaks the day's skunk like a toothpick between his fingers with a beautiful FAT Looper!

As I watch what's going on in the water, a couple guys are out fishin' and hooking up occasionally. One of them ends up on the Bridge...they're talking about going to the Sucker but the fish sitting right below them in the Lester keep begging for one more shot. They end up fishing for them "spotter style" with shout-outs from above as to the location of the fish...my point being that the fish weren't really holding too long in any one spot before moving or chasing each other around. Periodically they'd come around by Brennon or me....

For some reason I felt it wasn't an egg day, and my guess was correct. I tried the Dull Surprise and got a couple fair hits (lots of head thrashin) before losing the fly. Next up, the TUCKER NYMPH and immediately, first cast I tied into another FAT fish!

We got it landed an Brennon took a couple pictures..pictures of my gloating...brought the Tucker Nymph and it totally worked in the Red Hat's home waters....I think that's 4 or 5 steelies now who have fallen for the Tucker!

As the day continued to get brighter the fishing on the Lester slowed dramatically, and then the Kids showed up. Must have been around noon; the most "offensive" were a couple of kids who were out with their dad tossing lead the size of medium rocks....every time it landed it made a huge splash...heck one almost nailed Brennon! The kids were about as close to snagging as you could be, with their Dad sitting on the bridge telling them where to cast, how far to reel in and then he'd shout "STOP"...not sure what that was all about. Brennon and I decided it was time to move on, ending our time at the Lester having gone 1/4 (MP) and 1/2 (B).

On our way upstream we decided to stop at the Talmadge and look around. Neil had described it to Brennon and myself but we hadn't seen it; it truly is a "one-pool" stream...you have the mouth, a big deep pool that you can't sightfish, and then right across the road the barrier falls! We probably would have fished it had there not been four people already there.

On to the Sucker, and we decided to do a bit of early afternoon exploring...we can get into position for the evening's fresh fish later. On Saturday we had run across a guy who said that the fishing upstream was pretty good; lots of sightable fish. That was all the incentive we needed to check it out.

We geared up and hiked in; on our way down the hill a guy was coming up and gave us the suggestion to watch the mud, it was really slippery on the hills. Definitely a good warning; I am shocked that neither Brennon or I took a spill.

Upstream from the Scenic Highway we found the railroad tressel...after that the stream briefly splits and then rejoins upstream in a large pool at a 90 degree turn to the left. Just around this turn is a good-sized falls. Brennon got up there right away while I sat and shot a few rounds of Panoramas.

I had to hike a bit back down from my perched location to cross in some knee-deep runs and make my way up to Brennon...by this time Brennon decided to keep moving and climbed up the falls. Shortly thereafter I too made the move; above the falls we found a medium sized deep run, on the far side the river split and came back together. Then, continuing up, was another deep cut in a bend, this time heading to the right. Mostly sandy bottom here; it looked REALLY fishy though, so both Brennon and I gave it a fair amount of time before continuing to move.

The river then winds again to the left, maybe 45 degrees, another riffle and then another bend to the right, again about 45 degrees. Brennon ran into another angler who was working his way down...apparently he had "rolled a few" but not landed anything upstream. Brennon and I didn't let this info stop us; we were both interested in seeing the barrier falls and the hike was rather enjoyable.

Going around these two aforementioned bends we found classic pool/riffle structure...well the pools were rather small so maybe it's better described as pocketwater. The scenery was just gorgeous.

Sighting fish? Didn't see a single thing! As we made our way up this fast section of water we found two anglers camped out in what looked to be the deeper, more likely pockets you'd find fish. Brennon got back to fishing; I got back to taking Panoramas.!

The Barrier Falls were honestly not terribly impressive, but they did signify the end of the line for andronomous salmonids, and the end of our hike. As you might expect, there was an angler camped on the pool, same thing I'd do, so I came back down and suggested to Brennon that it was time to head downstream!

The hike back out was a bit scary at times...lots of mud, no well defined path, but we did make it down to the highway. A quick stop at the car and then we continued downstream through the pines on the WELL worn path.

On the way down we ran into the three anglers we had been fishing with earlier at Lester; one of them stopped and said "Shouldn't you be on the Root?!". I kinda laughed, MP had been recognized yet again....wierd but I guess folks from all over the world watch this website (and if we had the traffic statistics turned ON I could tell you all how MANY people were watching and reading).

Anyway, turns out these were the guys from TheHawgTrough.com; we chatted just a bit 'cause there was fishin' to be had...I think they had OK luck downstream but were in search mode as we were.

Finally we made it down to the lakefront and I started pounding the traditional spots. Peach Eggs, Pink eggs and such were good producers yesterday, so I was back at them today.

It didn't take long to get my first hookup, and probably after 2 or 3 I landed my first fish...keep in mind that at this time, I'm STILL thinking that fish with the adipose+pec clip are steelhead as the THREE (3) DNR guys all told us. So I'm cursing the steelies, still looking for Loopers!

The action slowed for a bit and Brennon hadn't tied into anything while I had hooked several...I suggested that perhaps Brennon come up to where I was and I'd go down; I figured different flies on a different drift might elicit more hits from my spot.

Right when I get down there, I noticed a pod of fish holding at the tail....and I ask B, "Did you not see the 3 fish sitting right here?!"

"What fish?" was B's reply.

At this point the pod of fish included a hen that had moved up just below me and was flashing. Quarters were tight and I fouled up on her several times while drifting. Each time, I could plainly see I was foul, so rather than set the hook I'd lay my line flat, give a quick jerk/twitch and the fly would pop right off...the Hen didn't even seem to mind, which was great 'cause there were now 5-6 bucks piled up on her!

Well, things were slow for a while until another guy across from me nailed one...I took a close look at what he was using...small and bright orange. Whipped out the Estaz egg and tied it on.

FIRST CAST and BAM fish on...fish off. Another CAST, fish on...fish off. I don't know how many fish I lost fair at this point, and at what point I FINALLY tied in with the good solid hookset...

It was a good fight, again, you'll see a common theme running in these reports....Loopers DO fight well..they fight a lot like the SE WI Lake Run Browns. This guy gave me a run for my money, tons of thrashing jaw gaping head shakes at the surface. I'm sure he tried to get down into the lake, but we ended up getting him landed and I got a chance to admire the beauty of what I STILL thought was a steelhead! WHY AM I CURSED TO ONLY LAND STEELHEAD?!?!

So Brennon has still NOT hooked up, and I'm feeling his frustration...time to watch him and see what he's doing / not doing. Not to knock B, he's a fine angler, but he's making a mistake that I used to make in my drifts.

Earlier on I had been telling B about FAT's dropped lead rig (put the led on the tag between tippet and leader)...again FAT has great theories and this one seems to work really well...if the lead is not on your main line a) it can slide off the tag should it become hung up, b) it keeps your main line and fly out of the bottom rubble, c) it doesn't deaden the connection between you and the fly, instead acting like a pivot point and thus d) allows you to feel more of your subtle takes and stops.

B had the dropper thing down, but still wasn't hooking up. Again, the problem was in the drift, we were using almost identical flies at this point. Then I caught it, B had his fly line ON the water (which in this close situation he didn't need to do) and with the line on the water, he wasn't mending.

FAT never fishes with big chunks of lead on the fly; only enough to get the fly down and occasionally tap the bottom rocks. This does require though that you mend your line properly to keep the fly drifting slightly slower than the surface water, or if you're fishing in tight on a fairly long leader, you high-stick and keep the fly line out of the water, only leader in (makes it REALLY easy to get a good slow drift).

The second B got his fly line off the water he hooked up! Like a first cast kind of thing. As long as his fly line was on the water, the surface water had been pushing on the fly line, causing the flies to speed up and move faster downstream than the water was moving. This caused them to lift up well off the bottom and fly right over the fish's heads....the second he made it down with a good slow drift to the fish, a good solid fair hookup.

In true looper style the head thrashing began and B was off. No worries, B got it now. 2nd cast, fish on AGAIN! B tells me it was the same fish that again hit the orange egg. And yet somehow he FAILS to land this one too, again the looper throws the hook!

By this point it's 4:00 PM, do or die time as MP has a drive all the way back to SE WI ahead of him. 3rd cast.....

SPLASH and another looper fair...Brennon is totally on the ball with this one and the fight is good and long...running up and down and all around. More head thrashing, but Brennon stays connected and I take over net-b*tch duties for a change and carefully get B's fish landed.

I go in to help untangle the hook & leader and that's when I stop dead in my tracks....the fish is not HOOKED. He's not tangled up in the leader either. In fact, this fish was ONLY hanging on 'cause the YARN on the hook was FIRMLY caught in his teeth. UNFRICKIN BELIEVABLE, HOLY SH*T this fish was caught fair without even needing a HOOK! INSANE. I get a picture, you can actually see if you look closely that the BEND of the hook is tangled around the net, only the YARN was stuck in this fish's mouth.

Brennon had broken the Sucker River Curse at the clutch with the most amazing landing I think I've ever seen...fairing a fish without even hooking it, totally unbelievable. There were hearty high-fives all around and we got to taking pictures of Brennon this this prize. Brennon also fills me in that this buck is the same buck he had just lost twice...that fish wanted B's fly in the WORST possible way, so bad that he hit 3 times in a row on 3 consecutive casts.

B got to reviving the fish, I kept taking pictures; we both agreed this was the PERFECT way to end a PERFECT trip to the North Shore. I ended my day on Sucker going 2/12, Brennon was at least 1/3, life was good. We packed it up and got to talking with Tim from TheHawgTrough for a good hour and a half about Iowa, Brook Trout, and King Salmon down in SE WI. Turns out that I had nailed a shot of Jason playing a fish back on the Lester too. Finally around 5:30 PM we simply had to be on the road.

So the story doesn't exactly end here. All weekend I've been cursing the darn loopers...why can't I get a looper?! Oh well, 5 STEELIES for the weekend isn't anything to snub your nose at, but when we get to Neils house I hear the good news...Neil tells me that in fact I had been right earlier on...all steelies have maxillary clips...every single fish I've landed was EXACTLY what I came up for, Kamloops Rainbow Trout. HOW FRIGGIN' SWEET IS THAT?!

One last note; some of you may be wondering exactly what a Looper is...Here's my take on it. Looper=Kamloops Rainbow Trout. They are NOT steelhead, here's why; Steelhead are based on strains of Rainbow Trout that run up from the sea to spawn, that is they are andromonous. The Kamloops Rainbow Trout is a LAKE resident strain from British Columbia; in Superior it runs the rivers just like a steelhead, but tends to stay close to shore throughout the year and generally does not run as far up the river as a steelhead will go...hence why we found redding fish at the MOUTH of the Sucker!

Overall, the differences between a Looper and a Steelhead can be summed up like this: Loopers tend to be "thicker bodied", which I think accounts for the nature of the fight; Loopers tend to bulldog more...they fight a LOT like a lake run brown trout (and are built more like one too). Loopers tend NOT to jump, but instead do a lot of head thrashing. I think they fight this way at least due in part to their football-like body shape; it's hard for a fat fish to go airborne; sleek steelies have no problem getting the speed needed to achieve low earth orbit. Additionally, the loopers have more spots and the spots travel farther down the body, well below the lateral line. Looper HENS can color up just like the males, which I can't really say I've seen in a steelhead. Look at the fresh hens we caught this morning and compare the coloration with a fresh hen steelie, which will be totally silver. Our hens were some of the most gorgeous fish we've ever landed, and the Looper bucks had all the bright red coloration one would look for, but the best part was these were all pretty FRESH fish!

I hope you didn't get enough of the North Shore...it was so good that the moment I got home I started planning a trip for the following weekend!

  MP 

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