The Reports

Reports by Date
Reports by River
Reports by Species

Services

Custom Rod Building
Guided Fishing Trips

Topics of Interest

Fly Patterns
Links
Digital Photography

Other Good Stuff!

Contact MP
Email List Subscription

3-28-05 - might as well try for early morning fish down on the Root...Karl drifts with the centerpin.
As the sun came up, we headed to the Pike and switched to the fly.
Karl works a deeper run....and shortly after this picture hooks up when a "rock" suddenly started swimming!

3-28-05 - Back on the water with Karl

Waters Fished: Root River, Pike River, Lake Michigan (Pike River Mouth)
Fish Caught: 1
Outing Date: 3-28-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: low 30's, rising to 50's
Water Temp: Root 40F, Pike 38F
Water Level: Root 200 CFS, Pike around 30 CFS
Water Color: both somewhat cloudy, visibility 1-2'
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Spawn, Egg Patterns
Pattern Color: Threw the gamut. Chartreuse produced
Fishing Quality: Tough

Karl Kaufman is BACK! After his first outing with me back on 3-15, he decided he hadn't quite gotten enough steel...who could blame him! We had a lot of fun back then...perhaps we'd get into more fish! Karl had 2 days to fish; remember it's key in spring steelheading...if you want to have those really good days you have to fish more than once a year!

We started our day at sunrise on the Root. Cold nights had been keeping the water temperatures low...the Root was only 40F. Karl was eager to get his hands back on the centerpin, so we drifted spawn for the first hour of the day, which had been the best time for most folks who'd been drifting spawn days prior.

Well, no luck for us on the centerpin and frankly, we were both ready to do some fly fishing (a mutual favorite for both of us). Off to the Pike, where I thought we'd find warmer water and possibly some fish on the redds.

Turns out the water was COLDER on the Pike (this smaller body of water will naturally cool faster). We headed downstream towards some commonly productive spots...while walking downstream along a pool something spooked from the tail and swam upstream towards us, leaving only the telltale V-shaped wake on the water's surface. DARNIT!

We continued hiking downstream, stopping to fish some pools while I watched downstream in the riffles, both heads and tails, hoping to see activity. We decided to keep moving, and while walking along the bank I noticed a large fish quite literally at our feet. "FUCK" I shouted - no sooner did I sight it than it bolted upstream for the pool we had just fished. I gritted my teeth...I had been watching that riffle and redd for 20 minutes and hadn't seen a thing...assuredly she had been there all along. This was not the kind of morning either of us had been hoping for.

After scouting easily a mile or river, we started fishing our way back up. Midway in our hike, we spent some time working on a cast that would help Karl get his line across stream in tight quarters. While "clearing" the pool - specifically trying to drift every inch of it in an organized manner - Karl's line tightened up. He pulled back gently on it, expecting one of many snags we had encountered. Imagine both our surprise when the rock he was snagged on started swimming upstream.

Karl was in for a great fight...this steelhead rolled and thrashed. At one point a fish jumped several feet upstream from where we *thought* Karl's fish should be...it couldn't have been Karl's fish...we both made a mental note, "there's more than one fish here".

I didn't have an easy landing spot but managed all the same to get into the water with the net...once it was all over Karl sat with a steelie in the 30" range...quite possibly the 2nd largest of his life. After quick photos and a somewhat difficult release of this spent and played-out female, we celebrated with a break and a smoke. The day had been made for both of us...eeking out a fish in difficult conditions. It was a moment to be relished.

That rock turned out to be a LONG, spent female steelhead. Finclips confirmed it to be a Skamania. Karl with a GREAT fish for the day. We methodically continued to work the deeper spots that sometimes have a fish or two.

Eventually we got back to task and continued fishing, working all the likely spots, including those where we had noticed activity earlier. After fishing ALL of the productive water in this mile long stretch, we moved to another backwoods section of the Pike...Karl was very interested in seeing more of the water and staying away from the crowds. Well, honestly, I don't recall bumping into ANY other anglers this day.

In our next stretch, much of the structure has again changed...seems to do that every year. A new log jam has formed, collecting loads of debris and trash. It's truly nasty. Thankfully this log jam isn't stopping any fish movement.

Karl understands that sometimes success is simply due to hitting lots of water. A new log jam and tons of trash - and folks wondered why I wanted to do a cleanup on the PIKE river instead of the Root... Working more deep spots...

As we hiked upstream, I caught a glimpse of two fish on a redd in a rather unlikely spot (mostly sand bottom). Despite being very far downstream from them, perhaps we had not been quiet enough in our approach, as the moved upstream into a deep bend which was choked with logs. I suggested we continue upstream and our our way back, check to see if they were back at it.

Stretches of the Pike are simply beautiful..in places the high banks and sandy/muddy bottom remind me of the Indiana tributaries. Karl continues to work the deeper spots... While hiking, we spooked this pair and came back an hour later...they're back! First time the fish came back this year.

Sure enough, an hour later, we walked back to the redd and from far upstream, sighted the pair. It was now about 2:00 PM, bright sun shined down..this was going to be really tough. The largest problem....high banks and lots of trees would make distance casting impossible. Karl would have to get in close if he was going to even have a shot.

Karl goes downstream, avoiding the shore, and blocking his approach with the trees.
Time for Karl to figure out how to cast to these fish.
Karl opts to slide down the steep bank and start casting.
Will Karl get lucky?
This is the male we were chasing who gave us nothing but grief!

Karl was definitely game...I crouched upstream on the bank, blocked by a tuft of long grass but still able to see the pair. Karl walked back a good 50 feet from the bank and headed downstream...at the appropriate spot he too crouched, kept a large tree between him and the redd, and approached. Karl surely had his heart racing.

I watch as Karl slid around to the front of the tree and sat there...30 feet from the fish. Still an impossible cast. Karl carefully approached, at one point hands and knees, until at the edge. The pair was still there, completely undisturbed. Karl swung his legs around and slowly slid down the bank...he now stood less than 15 feet from the pair who were still OBLIVIOUS to his presence.

Several casts were made...eventually the female started feeling the pressure and swam upstream into deep water. Still, the male remained briefly - Karl got another shot or two before he vanished upstream. So far we'd crapped out, but I suggested we wait...this is the first time this year that spooked fish have returned to their redd. Spawning pressure must be building on these fish.

Sure enough, the male came back downstream looking for his mate. Another few casts were made but again, he disappeared, this time downstream. Somewhere in these tense moments I had made my way downstream to now be right above Karl on the bank, sitting motionless, waiting. 5 minutes went by...no fish....were we bested?

Karl came up on the bank and we rerigged...this is time for a big red streamer. Upon returning to the water, Karl fished the deep bend immediately downstream from the redd...while fishing the male literally swam up 2 feet BEHIND HIM and went upstream in search of his mate. NUTS!

Several more times the male returned and on one of his last appearances, Karl got his attention. Karl hand swung the big red streamer across, then down and was lifting his rod tip for the next cast. As the fly waked upstream, the male moved off the redd and made a beeline for the fly. He was now only 2 feet behind the fly and I started shouting "LEAVE IT IN THE WATER, LEAVE IT IN THE WATER"! The Steelhead was like a shark, sizing up the prey, just waiting for the perfect moment. Karl was already in mid-cast. In less than a second, the fly popped off the surface and landed across the stream...the male simply paused and then continued on upstream again.

Finally, despite many chances, after being a no-show for 15 minutes, we conceded this battle to the fish. I think Karl will likely tell you this was one of the most exciting, challenging moments in his steelhead career. I will remember it for a LONG TIME.

It was now definitely afternoon, we were approaching "tired". One last ditch effort was made down at the mouth of the Pike...despite reports of fish downstream we came up empty handed. Rather than fish ourselves to death, we took our victory and headed to Gander Mountain...Karl had decided he needed my latest centerpin. We might as well get it outfit while we were there. Tomorrow...oh you bet we'd get into another fish...or two...

On down to the Pike River's Mouth...perhaps there would be some fish moving up? A few other folks were out on this beautiful afternoon. The geese were out for a stroll as well.

  MP 

Copyright © 2002 - 2006