9-26-04 - THIS is NIGHTTIME Fly Fishin, FATMAN style! - BTW, hit the harbor too!
Waters Fished: Milwaukee River, Kenosha Harbor, Pike River Mouth
Fish Caught: 0/3 personally
Outing Date: 9-26-04
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temp: 40's
Water Temp: Didn't take it
Water Level: low, 100 cfs
Water Color: dirty, visibility 1-2'
Fish Species: Chinook Salmon, Rock Bass
Pattern Fished: Eggs for everyone else; I swung wolly buggers and
Pattern Color: Peach Eggs were the ticket; my chartreuse bugger and purple leach worked well too.
Fishing Quality: Good
It all starts with a phone call from Rich Brown, aka the Fishin Fatman. He says he's going back out tonight with some clients...meeting them at 2:30 AM in Milwaukee.
All day I'm torn about going, not going etc. By midnight, after some rod building and dinner with Renee and my folks, I had kinda decided that I wouldn't be heading out. But then the phone rang at 1:38 AM, I was still up, so I answered it.
"Rich asked me to call you and tell you to wake up!"
"Hey Freda, I'm up, I haven't even gone to sleep" I replied....I guess Rich has his wife doing the dirty work now?!
"Hurry up and get over here...Rich is getting ready"...click....I was in the Bitchin' Camaro and on my way. The can of Mountain Dew I had would be my savior for the next hour of driving! My phone rang not more than 5 minutes after I left...
"I heard you leave"...it was Renee...I thought she was sleepin. "Drive safe, have fun and please be back before I wake up?". Alrighty, done deal...I had been planning on getting back between 6-7 AM anyway.
Got to FAT's, got on the road. Miraculously only a touch late, we met up with Gill, Austin, Steve and Casey...went straight to Estabrook Park and got rigged up. It must have been only 3:15 when we were hiking through the woods looking for our access spot.
Rich set up on a gravel bar and got the 4 guys spaced out in the
various pockets while sighting fish with the spotlight. It's not
like there were tons of fish...from a realistic standpoint the run
is still very, very weak. Experience would arguably go a long way
in going home WITH fish.
So this was Austin's first time ever...first time with a fly rod
in hand. Rich showed him how to do the first one...hooked it up
and handed him the rod, coaching him in the fine art of playing
a salmon. The look on Austin's face is all you need to know that
this is one satisfied customer...even at 4:00 AM.
I spent much of my morning taking pictures, listening to Steve state that after 30 casts I had to hook up with a fish for him ;) Thankfully, I'm not a guide, I'm just here to document and have fun...so we went off lookin' for fish and found the pool...right when I turned on the light there sat a chrome hen, not more than 4 feet from OUR feet. The light spooked her and moved her off, but she'd be back.
Meanwhile back upstream Gill hooked up with, and landed, a nice
dark buck! Big and feisty! Everytime someone in their group landed
a fish, the rest all rushed over to see it. Can't say I blame them
a bit, I rushed over too!
Arguably it was probably a benefit that the water was low; fish moving up had pretty much one course to run and they ALL ran the same path. Getting around the river was a cakewalk; it wasn't any deeper than your knees! One whole side of the river was literally "out of water".
As we moved up and down the river for fish, I noticed some guy step out of the forest along the bank and start walkin' over to the group. I shouted out but didn't recognized the voice that responded back. It wasn't until I got up in his face that I could see that Gerry Greene had made it out onto the river that morning. SWEET!
Oh, did I mention I found a pod of fish? Upstream at the tail of a pool, I had sat and watched in the moonlight when I saw something that just didn't look right. At the very head of the riffles, on of those first V's in the water wasn't stationary...it appeared to be moving.
I sat and watched...then I noticed rocks that appeared to be there..then they weren't...then they were. I crept upstream slowly and continued to pay attention. Here, at the very lip of the pool, I had found the MOTHERLOAD of Kings!
The first violent splash confirmed everything for me...there was a pod of kings that had traversed the riffles and stopped to rest. To top it off, there was one very apparent female who thrashed the gravel every 5 minutes or so, digging her redd.
It was ON. In no time Casey and Gill had come up to join me, I had already lost one fish fair who had gone airborn in the riffles and thrown the hook only MOMENTS after I tied into him.
It was however, Casey's turn to get luck, hooking into a massive king that actually got landed quite easily! More phoots on the gravel bar, then back to the riffle to get more of those kings!
I hooked up again, my line stopping abruptly and then shooting upstream. This time I got a NICE ride from a fresh fish determined to get away. At about 80 feet of line it it turned and I started taking up the slack as it approached. When I again regained full contact, the fish shot across the pool and up the far side, jumping and tailwalking. The only thing I could see was my glow stick indicator dancing violently in the air as this fish made one desperate attempt after another to throw my hook. On the fourth jump it managed to escape!
DRAT! MP is foiled again. To top it off, Gill was having a good morning...fishing to the right of the hen he tied into another king! This one took a LONG time to land, but in the end another massive buck got it's photo taken.
Sun started coming up...we could really see all the mist that clung to the river. The fog had been a problem all night, making sighting fish difficult, and wading was an imposing feat when you couldn't see where you were going.
As the first hints of dawn hit the river, everything became a madhouse. Fish started getting restless and started moving. One after another they'd come up the riffles and shoot off into the deeper water; these fish wanted nothing to do with the shallows! At least 6 fish ran up in 15 minutes.
I did manage one more hookup, again a male that was probably hanging around the bedding female. Unfortunately it was one of those hookups that I didn't even know I had until I lifted the rod....out came a head shaking and back came my indicator, leader and flies to land in a tangled mess around my legs.
Around 6:00 AM I started getting ready to go...but Casey had to hook up and of course, I had to stay and watch. Yes, another king came to the net after a LONG patient fight in which Casey saw his backing at least twice.
It's probably noteworthy to mention that 4 out of the 5 kings landed were dark, and both hens landed dropped their eggs immediately. Personally, I hope these are just the early runners, or this could spell another low water / no water short season run for our Kings. None of us are looking forward to a repeat of fall 2003.
I didn't make it home until about 8:00 AM, slept through much of the morning and well into the Chicago / Minnesota game. I gotta laugh...it was funny to have Renee (a MN native) in the home of 3 folks from Chicago with this game going. Obviously the majority doesn't always win!
Renee wanted to fish; who I am to argue...we headed back to Kenosha harbor around 6:30 PM. Again, we tried the usual spinning gear presentations...cleos, krocs, kastmasters (I'm still hunting harbor browns and could really care less about the kings there). We watched two kings landed by guys who were casting LARGE flatfish in white and blue. It must have been a tiring day, because by 8:30 PM we were BOTH ready to leave.
One last stop for a LONG day, we took a walk down the beach to see what was going on at the Pike Mouth (guys, there's a tip for ya, make your fishin' trips "romantic" and you're more likely to get your significant other to go along!) We walked up upon a guy who had just landed a nice King, already dark. It seemed again that the bait anglers were having the luck here. Important things to know...the mouth IS open; it's about 6" deep and maybe 4 feet wide. In theory between the full moon and a solid west wind this could push the more adventurous fish into the river, but it's not going to cause any kind of run!
That pretty much sums up the weekend. It's a shame that nightfishing ends in just a couple days...it might be the only real fair chance at kings unless we get some rain...so PRAY FOR IT!