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4-21-05 - An early morning surprise, a stocker trout that made it's way over the dam and down into Oak Creek. Not what I was shooting for but I'll take it!

4-21-05 - I'll take a Team Fishin' Late Spring Chromers and a Lifetime First for two.

Waters Fished: Oak Creek
Fish Caught: 1 personally
Outing Date: 4-21-05
Weather: Stunning
Air Temp: 60's
Water Temp: 50F
Water Level: 20 CFS and falling rapidly
Water Color: Clear, slightly stained. Visibility approaching 3 feet.
Fish Species: Steelhead, Rainbow Trout
Pattern Fished: Egg Patterns
Pattern Color: Threw lots, no one main color surfaced
Fishing Quality: Good

Chris Froeter contacted me at least a week prior to our scheduled outing...he was looking for a Team Fish guided Steelhead trip on the tribs and was wondering if he was too late to get into some spring action. I told him it could be tough, but taking the gamble can pay off.

Well, due to scheduling we had to reschedule 2 or 3 times but finally we got a day that worked. The night before our trip we made the important phone call. Where should we go? The Root was a obvious safe choice, but if Chris was willing to gamble, we *could* take a chance and head to Oak Creek in search of fresher fish.

Chris made the final call...he's a gamblin' man. We met up at Oak Creek about 20 minutes prior to legal fishin' time. All I had to do was walk to the bridge with the spotlight...the gamble paid off big time. There were at least 3-4 fish in the stream..and frankly all you ever need to find is ONE.

Chris works a pair of fish in the fast water.

We got on the water immediately and waited a minute for legal fishin' time to commence...there was no way I was going to chance having another angler even notice there were fish unattended. While Chris worked the fast water for the 3 or 4 steelies that were chasing each other around, I worked the downstream bend and got my lucky skunk break, a stocker trout that had washed down from the Oak Creek Mill Pond upstream. Well, the urban ponds definitely have their trout this year!

As the morning progressed Chris worked the fish methodically and patiently. At one point another angler came along and started fishing to a fish I had been drifting to right in front of me. To top it off, he was blatantly trying to floss the fish - no one needs a 4" bunch of chartruese yarn at the end of their line unless they're purposely trying to floss. The sight of it made me sick. "Hell", I thought to myself, "if you're gonna go out and floss at least be discrete about it damnit".

A couple other anglers were out and about and yes, there were more fish present downstream. For once, the number of fish and the number of anglers on Oak Creek were actually well matched!

Chris and I worked the small group of fish for roughly the first 3 hours of our guide. He hooked up more than once - I even went into full-on "guide" mode and spotted from above, calling out the strikes as they occured and trying to communicate drift changes as needed. Truth be told, buddies would do that for each other as well...that's what the Team Fish is all about.

Well, Chris wanted to see more than one bend in the river and the fish were pretty well put down into the deeper water. He'd gotten his bites and come up empty. We walked downstream, I pointed out some of the traditional holding spots and explained why the fish stop there. As we went downstream, I saw movement in the shallow water and stopped us right there. A fresh fish was on the move, and if we played our cards right we might get lucky.

The steelhead moved up into a deep slot and held for a moment. Chris headed downstream, crossed, and got to fishing her from the far shore. He was lucky enough to hook up once or twice before she finally caught on and made the move to go upstream. I saw this move in our chessmatch and quickly countered by running down the bank to a spot where the stream flow bottlenecked. If she made the move, there'd be only one place for her to swim upstream to the next pool, and one way or another she'd have to get by me.

OH IT's ON BABY!
Talk about a strong fight on both parts.
There it is; Chris with his first of many steelies of a lifetime.

Well, she went for it...my first drift was refused. I had at best 2 or 3 more casts before I'd have to make the tough call...jump into the water ahead of her to keep her downstream where the fishing was easy. Would I have to do it?

NOPE - 2nd drift she hammered my fly...whether out of aggression or simply the fact that she was fresh (and probably still had the feed bag on) I won't know. What I do know is that she threw the hook and returned to her relatively secure resting spot downstream...right in front of Chris.

I returned to my overhead bankside viewing spot and slowly figured out where she was holding. This hen was far from being spooked - she moved several feet on more than one occasion to nip at Chris's Fly.

And then it happened...Chris's time was up. Not my guiding time...heck no unless I have another client waiting I'll stick around as long as a client needs; I'm not a bean counter. No, the problem was that Chris needed to head into the office. I relayed the dilema and asked, "What time shall I set the snooze alarm for?" ;)

"15 minutes" he replied. Turns out he almost didn't need it...approximately 3 minutes in everything converged and resulted in a thundering hit followed by an erruption of water followed by lots of shouting!

The hen was all over the place, but at the same token confined her runs to the lenght of the slot where she had been holding. It easly took 5 or 10 minutes to land this boisterous chromer; when it was all said and done she bolted off as if we had been mearly a slight delay in her travel plans. Yup, the extra 15 minutes or so had payed off big time for Chris...this was his first Steelhead. I hope there are many more in his future.

After seeing Chris off, I returned to our initial pod of fish and really didn't find them. What to do? Well, I got back to walking the river looking for fish. It was great that Chris had gotten a steelie; now it was my turn.

I walked the entire creek and didn't sight anything other than the fish that were already sighted...and were being fished by other anglers. Would I go without a steelhead for today?

I turned around and headed back upstream...then I saw the rise. Whatever hit the surface had been subtle about it and was holding either along side or underneath one of the lunker structures in the river.

I approached, probaly not stealthfully enough, thinking that the fish was probably another stocker trout. Maybe if I could just plunk my fly down in there I'd hook up and have a little fun.

And now I found myself standing over the spot where I had seen the rings on the water moments before. I looked into the water expecting to see nothing..then expecting to dap my fly on the surface and see what happened next. Instead, there sat a large tan shape, covered in perfect black circles. Eureka, it was a steelhead, only a couple feet below me and completely unaware that I had walked up!

I dropped down my offering which consisted of a new pattern I had concocted which I'm calling, for now, the yarnback. Basically, the pattern was a small white egg with a "shellback" of yarn, purple below and black on top. Two drifts in this fresh hen bit and took off! She rolled and rolled and ended up fouling herself on the lead fly...so now I was fighting her sideways. I jumped into the stream to get a better position on landing this fish.

She'd make a violent run downstream, stop at the tailout of the pool, rest, then run violently upstream. This whole fight went for at least 30 minutes. Every time I got here within a few feet of the net she simply BOLTED.

At the end, she made one more desperate run downstream, turned, went airborne, and landed in a huge belly flop. When I finally had here in the net I found my lead fly in her belly and my dropper, the yarnback, in the roof of her mouth!

I took a couple quick pics and set to the task of reviving this fish. Two anglers walked past and commented on the nice looking fish...we chatted a bit about the tough revive but both felt confident she'd come back strong.

There's mine - talk about your fair hooks. Just a stunning fish - going to revive it. Still trying to revive it.

Well, after 45 minutes things were just not working right. She still labored to breath...if left untouched she'd sit on the bottom, fins spread wide, gasping, not moving. Even after 5 minutes of being untouched, resting, a fish will usually bolt when you try to pick it back up. This hen never did.

During the course of my attempts to revive this hen I considered that I might have to creel her...after 45 minutes she was actually turning darker around the face, a bad sign that things aren't going the way we'd want them to. I made the decision that rather than leave her for dead I would put her to good use. Once the decision to creel her was made, I kept her wet while taking color plate images (used for taxidermy) and a few more shots of her and the rod. This only took a minute or two. I loaded her into the net and started to make my way out of the stream. Within 15 seconds she stopped breathing. Creeling this fish was indeed the right decision. It's my hopes to have Rich Benedict mold her - everything about this hen was pristine, a true trophy fish. She also happened to be the first TRUE steelhead landed on the 8' 9" Bamboo Rod that Ron Caimi had built specifically for Salmon and Steelhead.

One more shot of this pristine steelhead. After 45 minutes of attempted revival, she was creeled and will hopefully be molded for reproduction taxidermy blanks.
Time for pictures of a stunning chrome hen, the first true steelhead on the Bamboo Rod. Folks who've already seen this picture have called this shot "Book Cover" quality. I'll settle for a magazine cover ;) One last look at Oak Creek.

It's somewhat sad to end this report on such a sour note...I would have much rather seen this hen go back strong to fight again. Unless I'm forgetting something, this was the only steelhead I creeled this spring out of MANY fine fish I battled. C&R by all means, and when necessary, sensible creeling.

  MP 

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