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Tom fishes a tailout while FAT helps Justin get acquainted with the fly rod.
Steele's first fish of the day...a nice fat Pike River Sucker!
Steele plies a plunge pool.
Tom, Steele and Justin take a moment to pose for my lens.
There are FISH HERE...we almost missed them!
Tom hooks up with his first steelhead.
(Copyright Justin, 2005)

Time for the net job!
(Copyright Justin, 2005)

Time to get the fish back in the water.
(Copyright Justin, 2005)
Justin takes his shot at the pod.
Justin moves downstream to try to connect with a slightly spooked buck.
The Root is a churning mess!
Back on the Pike...after landing 2 prior I finally get a fish pic...the hen that was holding the bucks in place.

4-05-05 - 3 SE WI guys give steelhead a try...

Waters Fished: Pike River, Root River
Fish Caught: 2 (technically 3/4)
Outing Date: 4-05-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: Cool, but warming rapidly into the 60's
Water Temp: N/A
Water Level: Pike - 35 CFS and slowly falling, Root - 200 CFS and falling
Water Color: Pike, relatively clear, Root dirty
Fish Species: Steelhead, Northern Pike
Pattern Fished: Egg Patterns
Pattern Color: You name it. Baby blue with a cheese dot for some reason was my hot, end-of-day pattern!
Fishing Quality: Pretty darn good

Yes, it's a guided trip today...Tom (who happens to be a Lake Geneva native) contacted me to take him and two of his buddies out for the day. As they put it, their experienced ranged from beginner to intermediate. After some discussion and phone calls, it was decided that an early morning trip was a must. Rich Brown (aka. FAT) of Fatman's Guide Service would join us for first few hours of the morning and I'd handle all three for the rest of the morning and afternoon. Was I up to it? 3 guys...that's a lot of people to guide!

We started off bright (or rather dark) and early meeting at the Lake Como house well before sunrise. We headed over to the Pike and met up with Rich Brown and Gerry Greene (who also happened to be out for the "pre-work" steelheadin').

Seeing as how Tom, Steele (not to be confused with Tom Steele, founder of The Steelhead Site) and Justin were all new to steelheading, we took advantage of our pre-dawn time to have Rich give his River Doctrine and Wilful presentations - in a nutshell FAT has his tactics well honed into a roughly 30 minute lesson. It was my feeling that this would be essential so each angler could be somewhat more self-sufficient than you'd normally need to be on a guided trip.

We got on the water, and I spent most of my time with Tom and Steele while Justin went one-on-one with the FATMAN. We found fish right off the bat, but they quickly spooked upstream into a nearby pool. Time to fish blind!

Despite our hopes, nothing happened other than the periodic landing of suckers! They were simply EVERYWHERE. Tom, Steele and I walked downstream and back up, happening to catch a glimpse of two male steelhead sparring in shallow riffle water. Tom and Steele made good use of some casting tactics I had provided, but in the end we came up short once again.

After this tough bit of fishin', we walked downstream to find Justin working the suckers as well...apparently the Pike might not be our steelhead Mecca?

Around 9:45 AM we were contemplating a move to a different river. As we walked downstream to the trucks, some movement in the river caught my eye - granted there was a lot of movement going on with all the suckers! There, amidst thousands of suckers, a small pod of 5 steelhead was attempting to spawn.

Knowing that steelhead tend to be skittish when in shallow water on bright days, we'd have to try for these fish one and a time. All bright clothing (i.e. white hats, orange hats etc.) that could be removed, was. My 3 angling companions decided that Tom would be the first to go for these fish.

Tom and Steele went about 100 yards downstream and crossed while Justin and I watched from the high bank above. There was much coaching, shouting "set the hook" and such, but these steelhead seemed to be just taking things at their own pace. As far as they were concerned, the steelhead had us on their time.

Finally Tom hooked up in a massive spray of water. A large buck thrashed around and gave Tom the type of battle we all search for. Justin took the camera, I crossed downstream and got into position to net the beast! Once it was finally subdued, only then would I realize that this fish was hooked on the gill plate, just shy of fair. So it goes sometimes...this buck was released to fight again.

After letting the fish calm, Justin felt it was Steele's turn. I gave Steele the essential pattern you should have anytime you find aggressive bucks...anything big and red. I returned to my perch above and again watched as Tom slowly worked downstream, ever inching closer to the pod of fish. His casts were right on the money...he had several follows and at least one take. After 45 minutes without connecting, I had to call it and let Justin have his shot.

Justin got in and opted to work the fish from downstream....in relatively short order he fouled up on the hen. Justin definitely got a taste of the steelhead battle as well. Now the fish were pretty stirred up, so we took a lunch break. While sitting at lunch, we decided that it would be best to go back and see if the fish had regrouped or if they were now done for the day.

Resting the fish for good 45 minutes definitely helped....we fished them again, at some point all 3 guys casting. More than anything, they were simply missing their strikes, which is entirely understandable. All of the takes were VERY subtle...the only thing that gave away a take was the "mouth flapping" going on every time a fly was in the zone. It comes with patience and experience.

Around 1:00 PM the guys had had enough. I had been coaching them every step of the way, but sometimes you just need to demonstrate. I turned to Tom and said, "Are you sure you're done?". He was. I asked him for the rod and disclaimed, "I'm not trying to show off here, I just want you guys all to see what I've been trying to explain". 3 drifts later, I tied into and lost one of the bucks as he catapulted himself and shook free at the tailout of the pool. Even I wasn't expecting such a great fight so quickly.

Part of what Tom and I had discussed was that they wanted to also see other rivers and access points. While their guide was technically over, I was just getting started fishing. We decided "what the heck" and drove up to the Root, stopping at the various access points. We ended our quick tour at Horlick Dam, where we watched steelhead try to jump. Several anglers were down there, fish were jumping, guys were hooking up. I watched as 2 NORTHERN PIKE were also landed. Things were really hoppin' at the Root.

After Tom, Steele and Justin departed I put in a good 2 hours with not so much as a single hookup. Apparently we had arrived right when the bite was on...and now that I was there it had shut down! I called Rich to let him know what was up...after discussing my options with him I decided to gamble. Back to the Pike!

The gamble paid off big time - I had roughly an hour left to fish upon arriving. There, right where we had left them a few hours prior, was the same pod of steelhead, still going about their business. Realizing that they weren't as skittish as I had originally anticipated, I got right to the business of catching a fish!

In short order I hooked up with a small buck who took me into my backing as he screamed downstream. Eventually I landed him long enough to unhook him and TRY to get a picture...no dice as he thrashed his way out of my grasp and disappeared in the water. Oh well.

5 minutes later, I hooked up again, and again was given the ride of a season as the small buck cartwheeled, tailwalked and ran downstream. Finally I landed him, and lo and behold here was the SAME BUCK I had just missed my photo op with less than 10 minutes ago. He had literally come back up the riffles, gotten right back where he was, and made the same stupid mistake again.

Well, you'd think I got the picture the second time around, but you'd be wrong. This buck, probably only 4-5lbs, proved to be more than I could handle....he got away again!

With dusk now rapidly approaching I got back to the pod and started drifting...blue eggs were the ticket (how strange is that!). I managed to hook up with ANOTHER steelhead and AGAIN got taken for a run downstream (yes, running in hip boots through a rocky riffle is LOADS of fun). One more time, I got the fish to the net, and THIS TIME I finally succeeded in getting the shot. PHEW!

  MP 

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