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9-15-05 - Rich gets the fire roarin' so we can all thaw out.

Jim, Bruce, Gerry, John, Chief, Matt and Mitch all warm up.

9-15-05 - Fat Fest, Day 2 - PINKTOPIA!

Waters Fished: Garden River, St. Mary's Rapids
Fish Caught: 3
Outing Date: 9-15-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: lows around 40, highs around 75
Water Temp: Garden 62F, St. Mary's 67F
Water Level: both low
Water Color: both very clear
Fish Species: Pink Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, King Salmon
Pattern Fished: Glo Bugs & Clouser Minnows
Pattern Color: Hot Orange; clousers in white/chart. and white/gray/black
Fishing Quality: Slow

It's a frigid morning on Thursday, Day 2 of "Fat Fest" on the Garden River. The "Indian fire starter" logs do the trick - in minutes we have a roaring fire, hot coffee, hot oatmeal, anything HOT you can think of to warm up. One look at the river tells you that even the river water is relatively HOT!

Having had my fill of fish on Wednesday, I wasn't in any terrible hurry to get on the water - let the other guys fish the honey hole and catch some fish! I spent much of the morning watching Rich, Matt, Mitch and Chief ply the riffles right above camp....definitely some fish to be had!

Gotta love the Garden in the early morning.

Mitch, Rich and Matt start the day off right with some Pink Salmon fishin'.

Mitch heads downstream to look for some lone stragglers.

Matt turns for his photo-op...

...and then gets the close-up from Rich.

Matt and Mitch LOOK at a deep pocket that often holds fish.

What's this? Chief hooks up!

That's right, this year's Pinks will really put a bend in your rod.

Check out the look on Chief's face. That way you'll know I'm not lying when I quote him as saying, "Dad, hurry up, my arms REALLY hurt. Seriously, it really hurts Dad. Land the fish, my arms REALLY HURT!"

As the day warmed up, we decided it was time to head down to "PINKTOPIA"! Now, there is a back story, bear with me. Apparently, when Rich & the heathens picked up FatMat and SkinnyMitch in Green Bay, a comment was uttered. Specifically, "Spewboy" Dutton Brown said to Matt, "I'm gonna kick your ass in PINKTOPIA"! Dutton was referring to a little part of the river we formerly knew as "Pink City". Where the heck he came up with PINKTOPIA is beyond all of us. Oh, and for the Fat Tribe, let's not forget "Chinese Restaurant"! Yeah, trips like this are bound to create some inside jokes...more on Chuck aka. Puker AKA Spewboy Dutton later...

So yeah, back to Pinktopia! 2 years ago, on my first trip to the Garden, "Pinktopia" was the only place we found fish during our entire trip. Pinktopia was the location of the infamous smackdown between myself and the Browns, where I had lead the "big fish" contest with a 5" Chub (quit snickering) up until the very last day.

In 2004, Pinktopia was THE place to go for BIG pinks...sure there were plenty of pinks running around upriver by camp but Pinktopia definitely held the hogs. Pinktopia is definitely a trek from camp...at least 2 or 3 river miles. You absolutely DO NOT want to walk there on dry land, especially the walk back, uphill, in waders.

Bruce rented a satellite phone for the week, just in case.

Bruce and David get our PINKTOPIA chariot ready.

Sean and Heath do it up right...I don't think there's anything wrong with drinkin' and ridin' a trailer.

Nothing like some PBR and a bumpy ride to get your day started right.

We owe Bruce big-time...if ever there was someone who came prepared for a wilderness camping experience it was Bruce & David. Not only did they bring the usual complement of gear, but a ATV, Satellite Phone and Laptop were added to the arsenal!

Bruce was more than happy to trade a well-tied spey fly for the ATV ride down to Pinktopia. Rich and a few others had gone down the day before and the report was grim. Not discouraged, I convinced Heath, Sean and Ari to make the ride down as well. John rounded out the package with one of his 7-mile 2-way radios...the deal was that if there were boatloads of fish I was to call up to to camp immediately!

Well, I waded at least a half mile each way down and back upon arriving at Pinktopia. Sean, Ari and Heath took their time getting downstream - I was more interested in moving fast to check the sweet spots and wasn't too concerned if I spooked up some fish in the process...heck spooked fish are proof enough for me.

Yeah, I made some pleas on the 2-way to come airlift us out of Pinktopia - it was a wasteland. Not one of us sighted anything while there; HIGHLY unusual based on my prior experiences. Not even BEAR TRACKS! As we left, we ran into two anglers from camp who had waded the entire way down - they had seen TWO fish.

Back upstream, I absolutely refused to go skunked for the day, so while most folks were taking a siesta I was busy thrashing the water to produce a back-to-back pair of Pinks. Phew...at least I broke the skunk.

Ari, Heath and Sean wonder if I've just been screwin' with them...yeah boys, this IS PINKTOPIA.

OK, seriously, PINKTOPIA!

Pinktopia is known for some breathtaking views.

Ah, the scenery!

Normally when I'm down here the gravel shows signs of bear activity.

This is about as far downstream as I've been on the Garden.

Heath gives some idea of scale as I head back upstream.

Ari, Sean and Heath all agree that Pinktopia is a bust...what next?

There we go, breakin' the skunk!

Bruce is looking for a few fish for the cooler, so I offer up a buck Pink.

Quite a nice sized fish!

Yeah, not nearly as sweet as last year's buck close-up, but man, talk about some fantastic color on the pinks!

Now, no one in our camp is necessarily gullible enough to believe everything we're told; we ran into a guy who had been fishing the Soo and had left to come here in the hopes of something better. Naturally, we decided we should probably go to the Soo for the evening. I admittedly wavered until the very last minute...what the heck, it's been 2 years since I've fished St. Mary's Rapids.

So I ended up riding with Heath, Bruce and David to the Soo. Upon arriving and disembarking, Dutton stood behind the FATMOBILE holding a tupperware cylinder containing a green liquid. "What's in that?" someone asked.

"My PUKE!" Dutton replied with absolute glee. The tale was retold again and again. Apparently, somewhere between the dirt trails and solid pavement, Dutton had asked Rich to "get the lid...". "Off this" should have finished that sentence, but instead the remark was punctuated with something akin to that famous scene in The Exorcist. Immediate, raucous laughter apparently broke out. As Rich changed into clean clothes, he commented on the various items that didn't make it out "clean"...the GPS, the windshield, the dashboard, the seat, the seatBELT, the steering wheel, the steering column, Rich's shirt, his GLASSES etc. So now you know why Dutton, despite his wishes, is now known as "Puker"...at least for the remainder of the Canada trip.

The group walks the plank to St. Mary's Rapids.

First, you gotta wade and it's not exactly "comfortable".

Walking out to St. Mary's Rapids we met a couple locals who informed us that currently, the most prevalent fish in the river was the Atlantic Salmon. I sincerely doubted that info at the time, but have come to find through the Edison Sault Hydroplant Fishcam that in fact Atlantics ARE currently the most common fish at the moment. Seriously, SWEET, Kudos to Canidensus on TSS for posting that link!

After the wade across, we fanned out over the 3/4 mile by 1/2 mile stretch of water. Now, with my prior time spent on the Soo, talking with Guliani, I picked up on how the Soo is best fished. I DIDN't go out there and cast blindly, but rather patiently walked up and down looking for ANY indication that a fish was present. It took 45 minutes of stalking to find my prey.

Mitch and Matt hightail it downstream.

Heath and John come downstream along shore.

We all made it to the berm..time to spread out.

I keep a watchful eye on Gerry...he hasn't taken a digger yet this trip.

Looking back upstream...in many respects a river like this is best looked at as many little rivers all rolled up into one, otherwise you're just clueless.

It took an HOUR of patience to actually connect with the blue form below me in at least 4-6 feet of FAST moving water. As I drift, whatever it was sat tight to the bottom, occasionally moving left or right to snap something in the current but otherwise sticking tight to the holding spot.

BIG water like this hides LITTLE FISH!

SCHAZAM there it is, a "chromer" pink from St. Mary's Rapids on the Trout Camp Cane. The only thing finer would have been an Atlantic Salmon.

More lead, different flies, I kept changing until FINALLY I broke the combination. 5 #6 clam shots and a Black/Gray/White Clouser Minnow were the key. As my offering drifted deep from the head of the plunge, the blue form shot right, turning into a crescent. I set the hook!

HOLY SSSSHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTT!! My drag started roaring - I was helpless at first other than to watch this fish tear downstream, then headshake in DEEP ASS water. I shouted around and got Gerry's attention as well as Heath and Matt. As the fish tired, I got it up to the surface. Dark Brown Back, Black Spots, Silver Belly, pinkish stripe down the side and a fully spotted tail...we were all thinkin' STEELHEAD! HOW FREAKIN' sweet would that be?!

Granted, all along I had been secretly hoping for an Atlantic. Matt touched the tail as the fish skimmed the surface and caused another frenzied eruption. It took another minute or two of gingerly playing the fish to get it back in close, upon which Heath made the big grab and landed the fish. In the first 5 seconds, I'm sure one of us said "Yup, that is a steelhead alright", but as soon as I saw the tail I recognized the pattern and the identification was finalized....a beautiful, FAT, 20.5" fresh hen Pink Salmon. We took a few pictures of this beauty and I spent a good 10 minutes getting her to revive. 67F water temps in the Rapids? Yeah, that will make a revive tough after a fight like that. Well, one thing is for sure, Caimi's Bamboo Rods sure do carry that Bamboo Karma - that's my FIRST FISH EVER landed on St. Mary's Rapids!

When I was done reviving the fish, I turned and realized EVERYONE IS GONE?! What?! Yeah, it had been a couple hours and Mitch had been the only one to connect with a fish. I walked upstream to find MOST of our group already waiting on shore, while the last stranglers filed in and waded across. MOST of our group hadn't seen a thing; Rich was lucky enough to sight a couple kings as they fled the scene.

By the time we got back to the Garden it was DEFINITELY time for another round of DINNER! Afterall, PUKER has somehow managed to void his entire stomach of every last drop of Blue Gatorade on the ride back, so he's DEFINITELY hungry. Italian Beef AND Sausage...man Rich has really stepped it up a notch. Everyone huddled around Bruce's computer to see the 2004 Africa trip pictures.

Talk about a friggin' sweet sunset on the Garden River.

Everyone checks out Bruce's African Safari slideshow.

Gerry & John are plenty warm next to this campfire!


Just for Gerry - THE ANTS!

I can't feel a thing but it tastes SOO GOOD!

As things turned totally dark our fire grew. Gerry, the ant picture is for you (yes, apparently one of the dead logs we found was home to some rather LARGE ants, some with wings). How could I forget the TRIPLE CHOCOLATE CHERRY COBBLER?!?! I won't disclose the new secret ingredient, but I will say that Mitch went back for a 2nd and 3rd bite even after scorching off the entire lining of his mouth! Warnings that "Cobbler Expands When Ingested" were completely ignored by most everyone. Ah, this is what it's all about....Chinese Restaurant.

  MP 

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