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4-29-05 - Back to the Pike River.
A couple small rainbow smolts were all that hit!
Headed to a different access point to see if I could find better conditions.
Well, the creek chubs were biting.
Beautiful spring green is just starting to poke up from the soil.
On the Root, Brown Trout Smolts were out en-masse.
Just downstream from Spring Street.
More brown trout smolts.
Phew - hard work pays off with a female Kamloops (the pectoral on the other side is clipped off).
Your final spring steelhead run totals from the Root River Weir.
The right side of the dam has the stoplogs removed.
The left half still has the stoplogs in place.
Just another view so you can see the difference with and without stoplogs. Note that ALL the gates are down (flat on the river bottom) at this time.
The regulation sign at the Bong Children's Pond.
Bong's Children's Pond is a featureless body of water.
Didn't see any fish activity at Bong Pond.
Palmer Creek in Kenosha County always looks good.
Tons of small minnows sat in this small bend pool.
Palmer Creek continues to wind through grass before dumping into the Fox River.
FAT shows up at the Como House with his Ford Ranger loaded to the gills.
Todd Olsen and Ron Caimi converse while dinner is prepared in Dorchester, IA.
Pizza PIES! Talk about a good dinner!

4-29-05 - Late Spring Steel and some Scouting

Waters Fished: Pike River, Root River, Bong Children's Pond, Palmer Creek
Fish Caught: 1
Outing Date: 4-29-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: 40's?
Water Temp: Pike River 44F to 48F, Root River 52F
Water Level: Pike River - 16 CFS, Root River - 55 CFS
Water Color: Pike was gin clear, Root was the clearest I've seen it this year - 3'+ visibility
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Egg Patterns, Yarn Patterns
Pattern Color: Red Yarn produced
Fishing Quality: Fair

I arrived back at the Pike around 5:30 AM and found Gerry Greene already there, hooked into a fish when I stepped in. The downside, it came to shore fouled on the gillplate. Such is fishing.

Gerry had come out with the spotlight and hadn't sighted a thing. We both looked around for a while and worked the deep spots, even moving up into the pool where it was evident that fish were holding. For some reason, yesterday's bountiful fish population simply vanished.

After landing a couple small steelhead smolts and fouling a tiny steelhead, Gerry had to call it a day and head to work. I took a stream temperature - 44F! If you remember, yesterday was 59.5F (just shy of the 60F mark on my thermometer). That's basically a 16 degree temperature drop in only 16 hours or so. NO WONDER the fishing had shut down.

I wasn't about to take a steelhead skunk just yet...there's still plenty of fish around and the cold water would keep 'em in. But where?

I bumped upstream and fished...the water was slightly warmer at 48F. However, there was NO evidence of any recent steelhead spawning activity...no fresh redds, heck no readily discernible old redds either. While drifting a honey hole (one of those holes that almost always has a fish or two at the bottom) I managed to hook up...with a chub.

The scenery on the Pike was great; I was surrounded by lush green leaves starting to unfurl for the summer. All the same, I wasn't here for scenery. I was here for steelhead, and the steelhead were notably absent. It was time to make a change...time to hit the Root!

I remembered a recent Root River fishing Report. Although now relatively out-of-date, the last report from the 18th noted that fish were holding in downstream locations and received little to no pressure. Considering that my Pike River luck had been on more "downstream" gravel spots, I took this current experience from another river, and, combined with the most recent info I had from the Root, decided to stick with the more "downstream" locations.

I arrived at the Root to find much better conditions. The water was still stained but CLARITY had dramatically improved. In most spots you can now see the bottom...all you need is a keen eye and some patience to visually locate fish or, for that matter, determine that the stretch of water you're looking at isn't holding anything. Water temps were much better too...52F.

In all stretches of water there were rises. Apparently the heavy stocking of smolts has begun. Both brown trout smolts and rainbow trout smolts were present although the Browns seemed to be more eager to hit, and thus more pesky.

While working a deep depression I connected with a rather LARGE smolt..heck it was practically Iowa Trout size. As I released him I noticed movement in the bottom of the hole...there indeed were steelhead around!

I drifted and drifted for what felt like an eternity. NOTHING. I couldn't see where the fish was lying so I had to drift blindly and cover water. Only after I noticed the wake of a large fish moving upstream through the shallow head of this hole did I move on.

Downstream I worked the fast water, hoping perhaps that a steelie or two were using the riffled surface as a visual screen for protection. No such luck...the only thing holding here were more smolts!

I got out of the water and started walking the bank. As I walked downstream, I cast periodically although I wasn't sighting anything. As I worked a depression in front of a boulder, I spooked a pair of fish that had been sitting, unseen, approximately 4-5 feet downstream of the very same boulder. I made a mental note of where they had been sitting and pressed on.

After sighting a few more steelhead in a deeper pool under a tree, I went back to see what that pair was up to. Sure enough, they had moved back. I watched as they stayed parallel to each other whether holding or moving. I could tell my presence was making them nervous - they'd hold briefly, then move up, the move down, then retreat to the bend pool, only to return a minute later.

I though the situation through and decided to make long casts to the pair. My line landing didn't scatter them...it was definitely the large shape of my body looming above that was causing panic. I stood still and kept casting.

My first take was all too abrupt and unexpected...in my experience it's far less likely that steelhead will bite when nervous. All the same, the hen on the near side did bite. I reared back on the rod as my eye noticed the unmistakable "chewing" motion of her mouth. Instead of connecting, my line and flies came shooting back over my head. Simply put, I hadn't been quick enough. She had definitely taken...the chewing I saw was her spitting my egg back out (watch you're aquarium fish feeding sometime, you'll notice how they reject food items).

I wasn't discouraged...if the steelies bite they'll generally bite again until you sting them. I gathered myself up and adjusted my cast. The fish on the far side moved of and hammered my fly. WHOOO HOOO!

I didn't even have to think about putting this fish on the drag...it shot downstream, rolling and thrashing in the deep pool below. For a moment, it rolled over into the lead fly and was fouled, but that fly popped out shortly thereafter and we were back fighting fair.

I had neglected to bring a net so I slowly walked the fish, still leaping and running, downstream to a small gravel bar where I could beach her. Yes, her. There I sat, admiring a stunning, fresh, female Kamloops. BOTH of the fish I had been casting to were FEMALES, which is interesting because I didn't expect the females to swim paired up like that.

Satisfied, I slid the looper back into the water and got my face splashed, as if to say "screw you buddy" as she bolted upstream. My attention turned to other things...the steelhead fix was had.

I moved upstream to scout out Lincoln Park and the wier. New and final numbers were posted on the tally board. I hear a lot of folks saying we had a pretty rotten spring this year. Perhaps that's true. Looking through the return data from 1994 to 2005, we've definitely had a poor return relative to year's past. Only 2 years saw fewer spring fish - Spring of 1998 with 382 and Spring of 2001 with 859 fish. 905 for 2005 isn't much better than 2001's return. Then again, consider these years; 2002 - 1303, 2003 - 1060, 2004 - 1028. Sure, the last 5 years haven't been like 10 years ago, i.e. 1996 saw 3169 spring steelies. I guess the bottom line is just to remind you all again to C&R your fish...it leaves more in the river for everyone to catch, especially during a "poor" run like this one supposedly was.

Well, for what it's worth, after sighting 3 more fish in Lincoln Park I moved on. I had a little time to kill before we'd be leaving for FAT's Iowa Trout School. On my way west I decided to check on something I'd heard about - supposedly there's an urban trout pond in the Bong State Recreation Area.

After going through the road construction I found my way into Richard Bong State Recreation Area. This is a fee area, so my State Parks sticker had me covered. No one was manning the entrance gate, I was already paid up so I just went on through after picking up a map of the park.

I guess finding the pond was easier than I expected...there were signs pointing the way! In short order I found myself parked maybe 50 feet from a small depression in the ground which was full of water. Bright yellow signs on the shore indicated this was indeed the urban fishing pond.

As the general season for the Urban Fishing Ponds is wouldn't be open for another 48 hours or so, all I could do was look around. No fish activity was noticed. Water clarity sucked as well (which is GOOD for the fishing sometimes). I CAN tell you that this pond most likely has fish, as I've seen the urban stocker trouts in old-timer's buckets and washed down into Oak Creek from that pond upstream.

While Bong Children's Pond looked like a great place to learn to fly fish, I don't think I'll be hurrying back. There's better urban ponds like Quarry Park Lake. I resumed my drive to Lake Como.

Ah, but there's another body of water that's been in the back of my mind all spring - Palmer Creek. I drive over it every time I head east or west between Lake Como and the Tribs. Palmer Creek is one of the few Trout Streams in Southeast Wisconsin. It's one of those places that I've heard of a few trout being caught, but have never even seen one myself. I figure the only way I'll ever find out is to keep giving it a shot and maybe I'll get lucky.

So, I made my way south and west to Palmer Creek. No one was out, although in the couple weeks past folks have been fishing in the area. I can't say whether they were fishing the creek or the surrounding ponds though, but I can say there was worm containers right by the Creek. The problem with that? Being trout water, fishing before May 1 with anything other than barbless flies wouldn't be legal.

Well, I worked Palmer Creek rather briefly. There's a nice little plunge pool that I've taken panfish from but never saw a trout. This time around proved no different...well except for the fact that I didn't hook up with even a dinker bluegill.

As I walked downstream, I noticed a school of minnows in one of the bends. While they were all too eager to hit my flies, nothing I had was small enough to fit in their mouths. After wasting a few minutes in amusement with this microscopic fish, I moved on.

It readily became apparent after looking into several bend pools that IF Palmer Creek was holding any fish right now, they were hiding well. After snapping a few pictures, I called it a day and headed for Lake Como.

It had been a great morning out on the water...that's all I can say. FAT showed up around 2:30 PM with his Ford Ranger loaded down. After lots of pushing, prodding and rearranging we got my gear stowed away and made the 3:45 minute drive from Lake Como to Dorchester, IA.

By the time we arrived around 7:00 PM, two of our school attendees had already gotten set up. Todd Olson of The Fly Guys guide service, just north in MN, had come down to hang out for the evening. It was great to get to see Todd twice in the same month!

Todd wasn't the only angler buddy of ours to show up - Ron Caimi of Trout Camp Rods had also made it up north. You may remember Ron as the awesome bamboo rod builder who donated a stunning rod for Team Ozark Chronicle's Trout Bum Raffle last summer. You should also now know that Ron is one of my first sponsor/partners for the Rambling Reports Guide Service as my exclusive Bamboo Rod supplier. You can rent Trout Camp Bamboo Fly Rods for both tributary fishing and inland trout.

Ever since seeing the Iowa Spring Creeks on my website, Ron had been dying to see what it was all about. He had this trip planned MONTHS ago. It was around a 8 hour drive from Waterloo, IL where he is based. Apparently, Ron did quite well on the Waterloo before our arrival. In my mind that little tidbit bode well for the weekend to come.

Once we were all set up and settled in, we got to the business of Friday night's feast - PIZZA PIES! After an intro to the fly school around the camp fire, we tucked in for a frosty night. Tomorrow 3 new fly fishers would pit wits against wily trout.

  MP 

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