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2-24-05 - Welcome to Indiana's Tribs - as usual the day starts with a hike through the woods.

2-24-05 - INDIANA Curse BE DAMNED! I'm better than that!

Waters Fished: Little Calumet System
Fish Caught: 1/1
Outing Date: 2-24-05
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temp: upper 30's.
Water Temp: 38F
Water Level: Normal?
Water Color: brown, visibility around 2 feet
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Spawn
Pattern Color: Chartreuse Mesh
Fishing Quality: FINALLY I get an IN steelie. Otherwise, kinda slow.

It's my 16th official trip to fish Indiana. For those of you who are new to the reports, let me catch you up. In those past 15 trips I have only landed 1 fish, a small chrome Coho that looked more like a SNOOK! Oh, there was the nasty brown, and the other fish that got away, but all told that's basically 3 hookups in 15 trips - once every FIVE outings! Although technically the dink Coho broke my Indiana "SKUNK", it really didn't put the kybosh on the curse. In my mind, it's a love-hate relationship between me and the Indiana Tribs, with emphasis on the Indiana Trib HATE towards me and my angling prowess ;)

I have to say that due to my prior experiences, it takes a bit of prodding to get me back in the Indiana waters to give 'em YET another go. This time around, the prodding was on Dave's part. The plan was to leave Chicago at 5:00 AM to arrive at Creekside Outfitters at 6:00. We'd fish and then go over a few of my custom fly rods that Dave will have available for public review and purchase on a consignment basis.

For once I actually arrived relatively on time; heck for a moment I thought I beat Dave to the shop as I didn't see him inside. In usual Indiana outing fashion, things started with Dave asking if I could drive. Sure, but I'd have to clean out my passenger seat. After a few minutes of working on it, I had to rescind my offer to drive...there was simply not enough room for everything. Oh but it doesn't stop there...I ask Dave whether hippers or full waders were required for today. Dave suggested waders, and of course, where are mine? Sitting in WI. Hippers it would be.

Finally we get on the tribs around 1st light - as usual accessing the water involves a hike through the woods. We slide in and get rigged up; on the walk in I realized I had left the spawn that Josh gave me back in Dave's truck - Dave handed me a few chunks of skein and that should suffice for our couple hours of fishing.

Of course, despite numerous float dunkings, all I had to show for my efforts were bare hooks. I was simply burning through the skein that Dave gave me. Meanwhile, I watched as a fish jumped - I shouted downstream to Dave to point out the fish...a minute later I realized the silver fish jumping happened to be at the end of Dave's line! Of course, by the time I got my line in and started walking downstream, the silver beast threw the hook. And to think, Dave insists I'm not "cursed" in Indiana. Exhibit B- it rubs off on the folks I fish with (look back in my Indiana reports for Dave's BULLHEAD on the centerpin, better known as Exhibit A).

Dave is deadly with the pin...
Another shot from the distance; Dave working his float through a back eddie at the tailout of a pool. Seemed like it's the spot where the fish were holding this morning.

By this time I had burned through the skein and simply sat watching Dave fish. After a few miscommunications it was finally conveyed that I was out of bait - I got Dave's keys and huffed back to the truck. Spawn Sacs now in hand, I reentered the forest, stopping to take some pics along the way.

Now replenished with my ammo, I got back to the task of drifting. As Dave crossed the river, a fish jumped at the tailout of the large pool we were fishing. I pointed to the rings in the water and shouted "FISH" to Dave. He couldn't hear me, but the "porpoising motion" in my arm conveyed what I was talking about. Dave knew all to well, the tailout was where he had his other hookups for the morning.

With the rings still spreading and fading on the water's surface, I worked my float downstream and then into the eddie at the tailout. My float was barely visible; I'd have to periodically "check" it just to find it on the surface. While over 100 feet downstream, my float made the unmistakable movement of simply disappearing under the surface. I came back and set the hook hard...this was followed by the unmistakable feeling of headshakes!

I know I was shouting as the fish tried to escape. The fight was on and I was probably in control...the fish didn't turn on me but instead continued to swim straight upstream towards me. I worked my way through overhanging branches to a sandy patch of shore....in short order I beached a nicely colored buck in the 5lb class. FINALLY, my Indiana Steelhead CURSE is officially over. I tried to position the fish for the traditional "bank shot" but was startled as the fish flopped back into the water. Meanwhile, my line was tangled in brush on the bank.

Perhaps luck, or simply the desperation of not letting the fish get back into the water, I somehow managed to regain my grip on the fish. No sooner had I done so than I felt my tippet give way. If I had to, I would've tackled this fish with my entire body - there was simply NO WAY I was going to let it get back into the water without some documentation. Dave watched this entire saga unfold as he waded across stream, arriving with his camera ready for some pics.

While holding the fish, I noticed it had a left pectoral clip and an adipose clip. According to Dave, and backed up by what I've found online, Indiana does not fin clip any of their fish. So this one's definitely a stray from somewhere else - here's the possibilities. Dave's initial thought was that this is a Manistee-Strain Steelhead. However, none of the Michigan steelhead fin clips OR rainbow trout clips match this finclip pattern (ALP)...there are left pectoral clips but they are either "solo" or combined with a fin other than the adipose. I've ruled this out as a Michigan fish. If it's a WI fish, it's an ARLEE strain Rainbow Trout as denoted by the current Wisconsin Steelhead Fin Clips list. Illinois has fin clipped some Rainbow Trout and Steelhead - the last time the ALP clip was used by IL was 1997. No way this was an 8 year old fish. So based on what information I have found, this is quite possibly yet another ARLEE Rainbow that's decided to run a trib. Go figure...I drive over 2 hours away from my home tribs to catch a WISCONSIN steelhead (actually a Arlee Rainbow Trout Strain, technically NOT a steelhead) in an Indiana trib. Just my luck. Figures with the Indiana Curse and all...

SHAZAM! Finally, I've truly broken the Indiana Curse with a nice steelhead (likely a WI Arlee)! I owe this success entirely to Dave's persistent prodding and assistance!
(Copyright 2005 Dave Dyer).

2 quick shots later, Dave and I tried to untangle my camera for a couple pics on the Nikon. I had to release my grasp momentarily, and that was the moment the fish was waiting for. A couple quick flops and he was in the water. Knowing that we had 2 good pics already, I lacked the enthusiasm to dive back in and risk a bath to regain this fish. As he splashed off into the deep, I said to Dave "I think he's getting away" :)

We fished just a bit more before heading back to Creekside. Dave gave spinners a shot - no real luck there, and no more bites for either of us. Not bad considering we probably spent only an hour and a half on the water.

From what I saw, Indiana's runs are ready to explode as soon as we get a burst of warm weather. My buck was ripe and spewing milt. The water was 38F. While the Wisconsin Tribs likely have a couple more weeks before big numbers of fish start approaching, Indiana's water appears to be loaded with many fish eagerly awaiting spawning conditions. Dave's suggestion is that March is the prime month for Indiana Steelies - so maybe I'll be back sooner than you might otherwise expect!

  MP 

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