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
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
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
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.
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Although now relatively out-of-date, the last report from the 18th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"
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
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
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
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
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
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.