1-24-05 - Wisconsin Winter Wonderland
Waters Fished: Pike River, Root River
Fish Caught: 0/2 (if you count smolts)
Outing Date: 1-24-05
Air Temp: 40's?
Water Temp: Frozen :)
Water Level: Low...Root seems EXTREMELY low but still flowing at
least 20-30 cfs.
Water Color: Root was clear, visibility 3-4'.
Fish Species: Smolts of undetermined species!
Pattern Fished: Spawn Sacs on the pin
Pattern Color: White Mesh
Fishing Quality: more like "scouting" than fishing.
I found myself driving from Lake Como to Chicago
in the early afternoon; a week of web-work lays ahead of me but
none of it is really ready to get started yet. Instead of heading
south on 94, I instinctively went under the bridge and headed north!
15 minutes later I was at one of the first bridge
crossings upstream on the Pike River. I figured that the best place
to search for any open water would be downstream of the confluence
of Pike Creek and Pike River...despite the spring influence the
Pike has, I found the river completely frozen over!
Determined to find open water, I left the Pike
in favor of the Root. Something told me that I'd find open water.
If I could find open water over the deeper holes, I might just get
lucky and find some steelhead!
I pulled into Quarry Park around 2:30 PM. The park
had been plowed as a single lane circle...no parking spots so I
did my best to pull off to the side in case someone else came down.
I looked around at the snow between myself and the Root River...it
was the most pristine, untouched snow I've seen this year. More
importantly, it told me that I was the first one here, at least
since Friday, so if I found fish they'd be unmolested!
After peaking through the woods and determining
there was some open water, I geared up with my centerpin
and made my way down the hill. I wasn't going to mess around with
fly gear today...the water was assuredly hovering around 32F with
all the ice...my only real hope was to cave and drift bait.
Talk about a winter wonderland...it was simply
gorgeous. The sun was out, the air was deceivingly warm, I put away
my gloves and rigged up. It's time to go FISHIN!
Despite my best efforts, the fish, if present,
eluded me. I worked the entire pool below the shelf...somewhere
in there I was confident there's a steelhead, but I never found
him. I paid close attention to drifting slowly along the edges of
the shelf ice - no luck. I adjusted float height, no luck. I worked
unlikely spots...surprise...no luck.
Somewhere around 3:45 PM I opted to head downstream,
just to see what was going on. In Lincoln Park, there was only one
slit of open water directly below the weir. A good spot perhaps
as the open water was above some bank hides. For some reason I wasn't
confident in the spot, so I kept moving. Brose Park - iced over.
Island Park - not an open spot to be found.
After talking with Chromeseeker on the phone, we
concurred on hunches and I headed upstream to Horlick Dam. Again,
untouched, pristine snow laid before me at the access points! I
made my way carefully down the bank through snow that was, at times,
Upon landing in the river, I immediately noticed
how LOW it was. It was "LOW", I mean real low, spots that
are normally knee deep were ankle deep. Despite being low, it seemed
that there was still quite a bit of water moving downstream...easily
20 or 30 CFS but perhaps as much as 50? Strange.
I looked downstream and noticed that upper Quarry
Park was relatively ice free. As I've never personally even HOOKED
a fish at the dam, I instead waded downstream to my honey hole.
Now, it's not a sure hole like some of my other ones (which were
ice over today) but it's a consistent spot. If there were any fish
upstream, this was a good place to spend time.
Darnit, foiled again...nothing! As the light started
to fade...sunset was approaching, I waded back upstream towards
the dam face. In my hurry, I decided to step out of the crystal
clear, shallow water, and try to get around a fallen tree on the
"shore". Well, lesson learned - STAY IN THE WATER. I totally
bought it on shore, falling through some ice that was covered in
snow, landing all contorted on the ground....and it all happened
in slow motion. Just one of those times that you know you're going
down and there's nothing you can do to stop it!
After regaining my composure and retrieving my
line from the brush, I went back into the water and finally got
to the edge of the deep hole at the dam face. This had been a productive
spot in late December, so perhaps I'd have luck?
First things first, the hole was covered with a
huge, semi-truck sized sheet of ice. Surprisingly, it wasn't attached
to anything - I could simply push it out into the stream with my
foot for a while until it eventually returned back to where I stood.
I really, really wanted to just send this huge chunk of ice downstream,
but a rock was blocking the ice sheet.
Meanwhile, I'm still not having any luck until
my float enthusiastically disappears at the edge of the ice sheet.
I come back on the rod hard and watch the water where my float was...the
float comes flying out at me and a small, less than 6" silver
flash disappears back into deeper water. Smolt!
Now it's getting full on dark..the sunset has definitely
happened, my time is limited! As the ice sheet comes floating back
to me I don't kick it away, but instead start stomping on it, breaking
off pieces which I then feed downstream. Thankfully I'm standing
in less than 6" of water so I know I'm not going to suddenly
find myself up to my neck in ice cold water (and drowning).
Another Smolt gets my heart pounding for a second,
and then as the darkness grows I realize this day is done. I've
broken up the ice sheet pretty well, but now it's all collected
immediately downstream. Not wanting to be stuck wading out through
chunks of ice in the darkness, I figure that 0/2 on smolts is still
0/2 on fish...not what I was hoping for but between the beauty of
the day and the simple fact that I'm out paying my dues, I chalk
this one up as great day on the water.
Well, at least I had a great day on the water.
After leaving, I stopped at the Shell Station at 94 and 20...pumped
my gas and went inside to pay. The woman behind the counter swipes
my card and says "it's been declined". What? That can't
be, I checked the balance yesterday. So she runs it again, this
time as debit. Declined again! WTF?!
I take the card and go to their ATM to check my
balance...did I forget something and accidentally screw up my account?
Well, when the reciept comes out of the ATM, there's no balance,
instead it reads "Bank Unavailable". I relax a bit, thinking
that it's a problem with my bank. We wait a minute and she runs
the card again...DECLINED.
So now I'm embarrased, heck the only time I've
even bounced a check was when my employer forgot to sign our paychecks
and I didn't notice it when depositing! So I get on the phone with
US Bank...surprise surprise...there's been a straight $500 charge
towards my card from some company I've never heard of. So now I'm
on hold, and the woman behind the counter offers her sympathy. Apparently
she used to work in a credit card fraud department, and as she puts
it, "This is usually how most folks find out that there's been
fraudulent use on their card." GREAT (yes, that's sarcastic).
Well an hour on hold and 4 women later I find out
not only is there one charge, but a myriad of others for items as
little as $1. Whoever had my card number completely wiped my account
out. And the worst part, this has all happened while I've been fishing!
US Bank has been trying to get ahold of me at home (which I disconnected
when getting the cell phone) and at work (where I no longer work!)
all day. The've known about this going on even before I found out.
Thankfully, US BANK was great. They even figured
out how to allow the gas station to charge the gas, while I was
on the phone, and then lock my account back up! Talk about great
customer service (except for the wait). And now that I'm home, I
find that I even have notifications from companies who suspected
my card was being used fraudulently. This saga isn't over, but man,
what else really could go wrong? I've been reduced to eating Peanut
Butter and Jelly! At least the fishin' is good!