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4-28-05 - A great Kamloops started the afternoon off only MINUTES into fishing!

4-28-05 - Best day of Steelheading this year!

Waters Fished: Pike River, Silver Lake
Fish Caught: 6/11
Outing Date: 4-28-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: 70's?
Water Temp: 59.5F
Water Level: Pike - 17 CFS
Water Color: Clear
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Egg Patterns
Pattern Color: Orange was the best color but others in the family worked too.
Fishing Quality: Excellent

Days like these just go to show you that you simply cannot predict when you'll have an excellent day of steelheading.

Case in point - I've left the Riverwoods Mobile at 11:00 AM after Dan fixed the misfire (yeah, the Bitchin' Camaro is getting old...it's been in the shop on and off for the last month). I'm driving north towards Wisconsin. I've been wanting to get out for steelhead since last week's showing, yet for the most part I've been homebound. I have until 7:00 PM when I teach...so where do I go?

Well, I arrived around noon at one of our honey holes on the Pike River. I knew it was a gamble but I also figured that NO ONE is probably out chasing steelhead today, let alone that most folks have probably given up at least a week or two ago. I hadn't even noticed until just now, but there had been a small spike in flow to 25 CFS coinciding with a full moon. In theory these are good conditions to be fishing after.

Sure enough, I walk to the tailout and at first, see nothing. This isn't all that surprising...usually by this time of day the fish are holding in a deep pool upstream. As I step into the water my eye catches movement...I turn to see a small steelie seeking the cover of deeper water. Alrighty, so there are fish here.

I scan the water and then I see movement downstream on the gravel. I know there are fish, but I take my time in getting to them, checking and covering the water between me and the thrashing fish...I'd hate to spook something I overlooked while walking to the obvious fish.

Well...nothing stopped me in my progress and in the span of a minute I had arrived at a pair of fish. They weren't actively spawning, but there was clearly a male and female. The male sat to the outside of the female. This quite possibly would be my only chance at fish, so I cast beyond the pair and drifted by them. On the 2nd drift the male turned hard and charged my bright orange egg as it drifted by. FISH ON and FISH LANDED! A right pectoral clip denoted this first fish as a male Kamloops strain.

The commotion of my first fish gave away the locations of SEVERAL MORE steelhead in the pockets of the gravel run. For the next hour and a half it was a steelhead free-for-all.

Another buck! That's #2!
#3 is barely over being a smolt! It has an adipose clip only...hmm.
A close-up of the "cute" and totally insane jack.
Another small buck that slashed out at an egg. That's #4 - a Ganaraska as denoted by the left ventral clip.
Buck #5 - perfect in every respect.

When I had hooked the first buck, the hen had moved into a concealed location in a deep pocket upstream from her lie. I knew at minimum that she was somewhere in this fast hole, so I started drifting. Surprise surprise, I hooked up and in short order landed my 2nd steelhead. NOT the hen, but another small buck.

Knowing there was still a hen in the pocket, I again drifted. Imagine covering a pool that's hip deep and at best the size of a double bed. I literally covered it inch by inch, and as I worked my way to the shallow & fast flowing riffle at the head, I hooked up with another fish, this time bright! It took off tailwalking and cartwheeling but was quickly subdued...a small chrome buck. SWEET! As I let it go I heard a voice cry out, "You're putting it BACK?!"

Turns out a local Kenosha Officer had driven up and had been watching me fish. We chatted for a bit, I explained WHY I was releasing the fish, and he wished me luck. It was a nice little break in the action.

As all of this had been going on, I was keeping an ever watchful eye on a fish I had spotted in the next deep pocket downstream. It hadn't moved - this was going to be a GREAT day.

Now, the HEN...she was STILL tucked away somewhere in the first pocket. I'd catch a glimpse of her in the small windows that would sometimes pass by on the water's surface. The fish downstream could wait, there was still a chrome hen right in front of me...somewhere.

Another series of drifts and I hooked up yet again! As the fish broke the surface in a mad, violent thrash, I saw that I had ANOTHER BUCK! It ran downstream, then up, all the while shaking it's head furiously in an attempt to throw my hooks. NO DICE for that buck...I landed him and put him back upstream. In fact, it's worth mentioning that when releasing each steelhead landed from the pocket, they were ALL placed upstream a bit. I figured I didn't want to simply harass the same fish over and over. Land 'em once, and let them go upstream in the pool.

You can imagine my surprise when I returned to the pocket and again hooked up. Well, I DID get to 11 total hookups for the afternoon by losing a few, but that's besides the point. Steelhead #5 hit every bit as hard as the first four and gave me another fantastic fight.

OK, so you're wondering...when does this action stop? Well remember that hen? She was STILL in the pocket. And what as this? She was starting to work here way downstream to the tail, and there right next to her was ANOTHER BUCK?!

Surely you wouldn't believe it if I didn't have the pictures to prove it, but AGAIN it only took a few drifts to get the right presentation and the buck was on...and off. Another few drifts and AGAIN he struck...and snapped off. Then the female struck and came off. I checked my hooks and sure enough...they were dull.

Steelhead #6, another Buck Kamloops Strain. Was this the same fish as my first today?

I opted for a retie with some new shades of orange & red while letting the pair settle down. 10 minutes later I was back in the game with a fresh leader, fresh tippet and SHARP flies. The buck was easy to spot anywhere in the pool as he was trailing a bright orange egg (my lead fly, the dropper firmly embedded in his jaw). Just a couple drifts and the male WHACKED my flies again. Somewhere in the fight he lost my other set of flies, but who cares! Upon landing him I confirmed his identity as a Kamloops. Another one?!?! Part of me would like to think this was the same vicious Kamloops I had landed at the beginning, while the other part will definitely count both Kamloops as two different fish. Comparing the pictures was inconclusive - I didn't shoot both fish on the same side!

And STILL the hen is in there somewhere. Only an hour and 15 minutes have past. For the next 30 minutes or so I struggled to find where she was hiding. I'd see her glide downstream into another hole, then come right back up into the pocket.

Eventually she struck again from the gut of the pocket. As luck would have it, the chromest fish in the hole snapped me off and got away. The "buck magnet" left the pocket water for the security of the deep pool upstream. I was pretty satisfied having already landed 6 steelies for the day, so I turned my attention to the fish that had been waiting patiently downstream.

Another Hen, this one crusty, shows up out of thin water.

Where the heck did that fish go?!?! I won't know for sure...it had been there the whole time I was fishing the pocket and when I was finally ready to fish for it...well...I think complaining about this small misfortune would be downright greedy. I did search for a bit and as I was getting ready to leave, sighted an older hen in the small run that connected the pocket with the tailout of the pool. I gave her a few casts, but this crusty fish wasn't all that interested in feeding. 2:00 PM, only 2 hours after I had started, I called it a day on the Pike. While driving to Como, I was already planning tomorrow's outing! I stopped at some other access points to the Pike...found fish at some but honestly, I was completely satisfied for the day already.

Check out how clear the water is! Downstream from A...no new redds. Right there at the Y bridge, a big buck steelie wallows in the pool.

But believe it or not, I actually went fishing again on my way down to teach that evening. Rich Brown had organized a small church fishing outing that afternoon at Silver Lake - they'd be chasing panfish, specifically large bluegills.

Dutton is thrilled to have landed a bluegill. This was the average bluegill size today! A quick look out over Silver Lake.

Well, I guess this instance proves that there's definitely no way to predict or count on good fishing. Despite incredibly good info, all we could find at Silver Lake were TINY TINY gills in the 3" range!!! Granted, for an evening pit-stop it was fun!

  MP 

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