9-18-04 - Can there be 4 great days of fishing
all in a row?
Waters Fished: Garden River
Fish Caught: 6 photographed, many more landed fair and tons lost!!
Outing Date: 9-17-04
Air Temp: at least upper 70's
Water Temp: Didn't take it, about 60F or so
Water Level: Normal
Water Color: Stained and clear
Fish Species: Pink Salmon, Chinook Salmon
Pattern Fished: EGGS of all types!
Pattern Color: Fluorescent Shades worked best
Fishing Quality: GREAT!
Matt Jennings woke me up at the butt crack. I emerged from the "big green" (tent) to a cold, frosty morning again. We were going to start the day off right with a prank on our buddy and chauffeur Jim Kercheval! Basically, it had come to our attention that all week Jim had really never fished more than about 10 feet in either direction from one spot at the tail of the island. A bit of friendly ribbing was definitely in order.
Matt had spent some time the night prior with cardboard and the charred end of a stick making up a little sign. We knew exactly where we'd be putting that sign. After it was in place, I sat up on the bank waiting for Jim to show up and watching Matt start tying into the Pinks.
It was a Saturday; overnight the camp had filled. Some other anglers were milling about, still waking up - one asked what the sign was all about and got a good chuckle when I explained it.
Jim took his sweet-ass TIME gettin' to the river; I must have sat, crouched on the shore, for at least a half hour. Apparently he had to warm up with what remained of the fire + some fresh coffee. Bright-eyed and ready for another day of fishin, Jim came down the bank, got into the stream, made it half way across and said, "Hey! What's that sign say eh?"
We all had a good laugh; Jim brought back the sign (which was now destined for the campfire) and got back to fishin' his spot! I went back up to camp, taking some pictures along the way. Another couple helpings of oatmeal brought me back online...not exactly EAGER to now duke it out for spots I could just walk up to alone in the days prior. So I now took my sweet time, kinda hangin' around camp, which was good because I was there when both Randy and Rich hooked up with some big ones!
Ok, finally I had the urge to go and get some of my OWN fish, so I geared up, headed down, and joined the combat fishin. Snagging was apparently "legal" if you ignored the regs that clearly state it to be ILLEGAL. I guess most of the weekend anglers were illiterate. While I had a fun time, I really wish the MNR had come BACK to check our licenses again (they had come on WED. AM)...I would have LOVED to point them in the direction of most of the anglers. Some of our group even took PICTURES of this activity...the conversations that were overheard were preposterous. I guess there's still a lot of folks who think salmon DON'T BITE while they're in the rivers, and literally "to catch them you just have to get up real close and then pull this across the fish...". At least the group I was with is used to the combat routine...we made the best of it, caught many fair fish, and had a good time doing so while waiting for lunch!
After lunch, I haven't forgotten that I'm still in search of a few good, clean, large Pinks to send off for molding; I convinced Randy, Matt J. and Jim K. to head upstream with me. Rather than make the obnoxious wade, we opted to head up on the road. Downstream had gotten pretty full of people, so we figured maybe, if we were lucky, the angling population would be limited. PLUS, I've never personally seen the ACTUAL waterfall upstream.
We walked through the forest and found ourselves on the sandy shore opposite the deep run Randy and Matt had worked in days prior. This time, there were at least 4 guys chasin' fish around. Upstream there was a guy or two on the riffles and bends...when the moved I headed straight up to try my luck.
No dice, few fish here...so we continued to press on. I took a lot of photos...the day was ideal for it. Prime spots were mostly taken, so I mostly just ended up taking a BUNCH of photos. Apparently, when we headed up, we left Matt downstream, and it turns out he landed a King (and no photographer around?!?!)
Well, what else can I say, I was busy takin' pictures of Jim fishin'. All three of my buddies worked any pocket they could find. We sighted a couple kings, and a pink here and there, but overall there were just NO FISH to be found. The early afternoon, while being relatively dead from a fishin' standpoint, ended up being this year's "awesome hike"! I'll close this part of the day with all the pictures.
We made it back to camp around 3:00 PM...most of our group was milling about...it was a HOT afternoon! I was still on the hunt for at least ONE decent Pink to send off. Rich was back from being FAR downstream...about 2 miles...and informed us that they had found what his boys called "PINK CITY". It was where I had been last year and fouled the only 2 salmon I touched all week. I knew the place; there was NO WAY I was going to walk down there. FAT volunteered the "Beat Down Bronco".
Our group of four became a group of 6 as the Freds joined us. We piled in, and "DAD" told us to be home by 6:30 or so. Somehow we all fit into that Bronco and made the treacherous drive to the access point.
When we got there, a few guys were sittin' around; we must have looked like one of those clown cars at the circus where people just keep comin' out of the vehicle! When it was all said and done, we geared up and headed down to the river. On the way someone made a remark about forgetting to tip the valet...wait there's no valet parking at the Garden River?! Ha Ha...there's lot of humor on a trip like this; definitely something for everyone's taste.
I really thought we'd have the place to ourselves, but surprise surprise there was at least a half dozen guys milling about working fish. I stayed upstream while 3 others from our group headed straight downstream; it's a long wade down to where they though Pink City was. I remembered making the wade back at least once or twice the year prior; I really wasn't up for it at that point in time, so I stuck around and talked with another angler fish Michigan who was really lookin' for Kings, but at this point was glad to have any fish (yes, the King Run this year is apparently late).
After chatting for a while, and watching my buddies get farther and farther downstream, I really got convinced that I needed to keep movin. Off I went on the wade that I really never wanted to make, but if it would pay off with a couple larger, fresh male pinks then it would be worth it.
I stopped for a while when I found a pod of fish enjoying the shade, not really going anywhere other than occasionally chasing each other around. I worked it hard. Fish were active here...yes they were still on the bottom but they weren't all hunkered down like they had been the day prior when sitting in the glaring sunlight. I thought I had a chance here...perhaps this was the Pink City that Rich was referring to?
A fresh male answered the call and took my line off downstream. WHOO HOO...fish on! After a better than average fight, I brought to hand a NICE clean fresh male in full spawning dress. This was possibly a fish to keep. Unfortunately he did the wiggle dance and got free before I ever had a chance to make my final decision.
The boys downstream called up...they'd found it; PINK CITY! Eventually all 6 of us were there...pinks everywhere, but unlike those upstream, these averaged larger sizes and were cleaner, fresher fish. EXACTLY what we had been looking for.
We did what any SE WI Trib angler would do...pounded the sh*t out of this hole while all standing shoulder to shoulder. I admit it was hilarious to sit and combat fish with a bunch of friends while all around you was wide-open river. Perhaps it's not combat fishin' so much as simply GROUP fishin; it was a treat.
We all landed several fish; some of the nicest unfortunately came foul and were put back. Fred Jr. even landed one that would've made it, but he DROPPED IT back in! DOH! Meanwhile we were all getting frustrated with the drift...there was ONE stupid STICK in the bottom that was literally catching (and EATING) all our flies. All the while the casting activity got ever more frantic as the sun set...time was wearing out in our TROPHY HUNT!
Dusk approached and Matt J. was the one to LAND our fair trophy pink. A clutch catch all the way. As we started to wade back, we all walked up to the STICK and took our flies back. We maybe made it 10 feet upstream when someone suggested we go back and pull that stick OUT of the bottom as a sign of respect and consideration for the next angler this spot sees!
The wade back up was LONG...it probably took a solid 15 to 20 minutes against the current. Far better to remember to wade UPSTREAM on a big river like this and then head back downstream! Along the way Randy was bringing up the rear, walking in what was likely rather murky water, when he tripped and totally bought it. I heard the shout, wheeled around to see Randy go face-first into the Garden River...his hat being the only thing not to be completely submerged. We quickly made sure he was OK before LAUGHING our asses of.
After a long walk back, we worked our way up to the Bronco and PILED IN. Matt's fish sat on my lap and we made the ride back to camp, arriving probably around 7:00 PM or so. Somehow, dinner was ALREADY SERVED? ACK! Tonight's meal was TURKEY MINJON with WILD RICE! Randy got changed and the 6 of us dug into the tasty rice; 3 out of the 6 got their Turkey while the rest of us waited for another round to come off the grill.
Some folks, specifically mostly all of those who had already eaten, went back out for night fishin. Having done it several times now, I'm not going to say it has lost its appeal, but rather at that moment I was far more concerned with TURKEY MINJON than catchin' any more fish. Matt had provided me with precisely what I was looking for. After another great meal, I pretty much hit the sack.
Oh, you thought this report was over and done? FAR FROM IT! Somewhere around midnight I hear a voice and a flashlight outside of the tent. The zipper is pulled, followed by the flap, revealing two guys standing outside the tent with headlamps on. One is Jim, who says (as he HOLDS A FISH INTO THE TENT OVER MY HEAD) "Is this the kind of Pink you were lookin' for?!?!"
I am TOTALLY exhausted, I was literally just asleep, and here are Fred Jr. and Jim K. wakin' me up to show me fish they caught. I rubbed my eyes, took a quick look and said, "Yeah, those look nice, there's some plastic bags in the wooden box..." I put my head back down.
In about the span of time it took for you to read this, my eyes burst wide open..."HOLY SHIT hold on a second!" I then sat straight up and thought about what had just happened. Jim and Fred were standing outside my tent with two very fresh (and big) male Pink Salmon. After all of this registered in my still numb brain, I got my act together, went to the Bronco for the camera, and ran over the dirt hill to find Jim and Fred kinda standing around not sure what to do! FIRST THINGS FIRST - PICTURES boys! After the pics we labeled the fish and wrapped them up...2 more for molds! These were arguably the two best pinks we'd seen all trip! Now we could all return to bed...in only a matter of hours this trip would be coming to a close.
I didn't fish much on the morning of the 19th...4 days of solid fishin' was plenty. After breakfast, I got to the task of taking down everything...I figured I'd do my work now and then go fishin. Somehow, as I worked, everyone else came back off the water and started getting ready to go as well.
To my chagrin, by the time I had finished up with everything I started, it looked more and more like everyone was getting ready to go. Before I even realized it, those precious few hours in the morning were spent packing everything up. There would be no more fishin' time for MP on this trip.
What else can I say; this was my second year on this trip. Some recurring faces, some new ones. All of the guys who take this trip seem to be a cut above and a cut beyond - I hope this is a trip I get to make every year in those years to come. I'll end this report and put another Garden River trip "on the books" with some of my favorite bittersweet pics from the 19th.