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10-01-05 - Kings, Glorious Kings...

Waters Fished: Pike River
Fish Caught: 2 personally
Outing Date: 10-1-05
Weather: Clear
Air Temp: Mid 70's
Water Temp: 66F
Water Level: 10 CFS
Water Color: muddy, visibility less than 1'
Fish Species: King Salmon, Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Eggs Eggs Eggs, Buggers etc..
Pattern Color: Chartreuse, Red, Orange

First, I got some bitchin...The Bitchin' Camaro is havin' issues…the brakes are seizing! It's Saturday - after a late evening of fishing we're in no big hurry come 10:00 AM. Renee and I both drove, so I figured we could at least get the car in SOMEWHERE to get the brakes taken care of. My favorite guy, Dan at the Riverwoods Mobile, doesn't do this kind of work on Saturdays AND it's a long drive. Mike of Mike's Automotive in Lake Geneva happens to be out for the duck opener. Guess I'll have to try a chain.

OK, so my personal advice, avoid MIDAS. At least the one in Kenosha. Dan had looked at the Camaro less than 2 weeks ago and checked the brakes, told me what I was in for and gave me a price. MIDAS tried to stick it to me to the tune of $650; haven't checked Kelly Blue Book lately but I somehow don't think a '99 Camaro with $2000 in body damage and 175k in mileage is worth all that much more than a $650 brake job. Heck, all I needed right then and there was one replacement caliper and two pads. They wouldn't budge…the automaton behind the counter kept repeating the same lines over and over…we don't install pads on unsafe rotors etc. Strange, they let me just drive out in a car that was more unsafe than had they bothered to do the work I requested.

So what does this all have to do with fishin? Well, I wasted a good 2-3 hours of quality fishin' time dealing with all the BS. Don't tell me my rotors can't be cut when my family mechanic of 20+ years is more than comfortable with cutting them. Don't try to sell me 2 new calipers when I only NEED one. Yeah, sure, I'm sure there's SOME merit to their company policies and practices…maybe there's some actual SCIENCE behind replacing BOTH calipers. However, this IS the Bitchin' Camaro with 175K in mileage…it's not like it's the flagship in my fleet or anything! I could ramble on regarding the other customer's woes, including the woman who came in to basically complain about a case of discrimination but I don't think the guy behind the counter even had a clue what she was trying to get across. Bottom line - stick to your trusted mechanics and if you go to the Kenosha Midas, keep my experience in mind.

Resume engine braking for now! Renee and I finally made it to the Pike River around 2:30 PM and found Jim, Leanne, Tommy and Kenny all on a pod of fish. Being the Johny-Come-Lately's we were immediately set up downstream on some active fish. We owe Jim and Leanne a bit of thanks for sharing the fruits of their earlier labor.

10-01-05 - Renee lands her first King of the season!

Renee had some difficulty at first…this IS tight quarters, which meant that most of the time only half your leader was in the water..heck most of the time your flyline wasn't even out of the guides. The addition of a strike indicator helped and in short order Renee landed the first fish! GEEZE…I think she's REALLY starting to get the hang of it!

Meanwhile I found myself stuck on rocks, stuck in the trees, generally just stuck fishin' in places other than the river. I guess a 9'6" rod is a bit much for this stream ;) Oh well…after a while Renee took sympathy on my and let me fish the spot I had put her on…as she called it, the "Honey Hole". Geeze, she's even rubbing the jargon in!

I lost a couple as did Renee. I suggested maybe we head downstream. There's a big plunge down there - I was convinced we'd find more fish waiting for dusk to make a break for upstream. The move indeed paid off - I lost another fish all too briefly connected. Darn headshakes. Meanwhile, Renee was down at the tailout and flats and kept going on about a massive, no, "ginormous fish" down there. She convinced me to go give him a shot as he had been recalcitrant to strike her flies. Of course, when I got down there I saw NOTHING. Yes, I admit it, I kinda thought she was seeing things but her eyes have gotten pretty good. Turns out JIM had fished down there earlier in the day and he too had seen this behemoth. Later that evening at dinner, I asked Jim and Renee to show me on the table exactly how large this fish was. Without looking at each other, they both examined the table and then placed their fingers along the edge. Then they looked up as I took a guage - their fingers were dead on matched across the table. If I had to guestimate, I'd say they were well past 36"…more like 42" or so.

Well indeed, as it is so often, location was key. Renee was generous enough to allow me another crack at the honey hole. I could clearly make out a few visible shapes in the fast water…Kings that were stacked and planning their ascent of the riffles just as soon as they could figure it out. PRIME targets. A few well placed flips (I truly hesitate to use the word "cast" to describe these presentations) and I tied up!!! Renee grabbed the camera!

The SHOW IS ON! Lots of headshakes, a blistering run downstream. Then a turn, followed by 3 back-to-back full on aerial assaults at least a couple feet in low earth orbit as the fish charged upstream. Honestly AMAZING considering that it's very rare for a fair hooked fish to go balisticly airborne. More summersaults underwater lead to a brief entanglement with the point fly which only further enraged this massive fish. He rolled on the surface, now again far downstream. More thrashing and bolting runs followed. After realizing he was about to beach on the far bank, he again turned. Another couple minutes of deep dogfighting ensued before he came within net distance. Renee took a jab and missed which caused this King to try one more run. Time to put the engine brakes on THIS fish…I swooped him around, got him turned back upstream and again broke the surface of the water with his head. This time my "Net Boy" didn't let me down. Wow…as she held the fish out of the water the metal handle of the net visibly strained downwards.

Look at that beast! It looks dark from this angle, but in reality it was still pretty fresh, a fantastic golden yellow color.

SWEET! Renee snapped a few pictures and I set to the task of reviving this fish. Now, the water temps are up at 66F, visibility is less than 6". This will take a while. As I'm working this fish back and forth in the stagnant side current, my phone rang. Jeff and Jay were finally in the area. Who are Jeff and Jay? Well, I'll be guiding Jeff in a couple weeks - Jay is Jeff's father. Technically my "client" for the day was Renee, but as always they were welcome to tag along and I'd at least give them a general direction.

I waited just long enough for Jeff and Jay to arrive so I could share with them the sight of a 20 lb. buck, still semi-fresh, just golden, not yet green or black. They were "late" - probably 5:00 or so already. Technically not much time to fish. After releasing the beast, we got acquainted and started rigging up.

Meanwhile, Leanne was back downstream and hooked up in the run I was just on! We're watching from above and Leanne is saying, "I fouled it!". She has barely any pressure on the fish. It was clear from above that this fish was DEFINITELY fair…after getting that news she turned on the heat a bit and handed the rod to Tommy!

I make a diving grab for Tommy's fish!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)

Turns out the fight was completely and utterly boring. The fish barely moved from the seam, content to just sit there and stand firm against Tommy's tugs. Finally he got the fish close enough for a reaching netjob. Ah, I think it all makes sense now…this fish looks VERY similar to the one I just put back!!!

Well, at this point I'm 1/6 and Renee is something like 1/5 or so. We've had a good day, but we've had to work for it. Jim, el capitan, has something like 6 landed, and Leanne has at least a couple herself. Guess we should have gotten out in the AM like they did instead of screwing around with Midas!

Another angler, Keith from Racine, had come down and joined the fishin' party. Earlier on we had watched him disconnect a fish or two. This time, while standing on shore, my attention was diverted by a giant splash. Keith had again hooked up. Renee was back fishin' the honey hole..paying attention but still flogging water. Keith's fish bolted upstream towards Renee. I shouted down, "Renee, you better stop fishing".

Renee had just enough time to take her line out of the water when all hell broke loose right in front of her. Keith's King had run out of room. When you're a fish and you run out of room, what do you do? Well, Keith's fish took the route less traveled by Kings…it took went towards the sky. From where I stood it looked like it almost got as high as Renee's head - she says a couple feet out of the water.

Of course, Kings don't have wings. Keith's fish bellyflopped practically ON Renee, showering her with the muck they're calling Pike River Water these days. It took a few more minutes, but eventually Keith brought a very nice buck to net. I can only guess as to why fair fish are going airborne when that's highly unusual for Kings. After thinking back on my years fishing the tribs, the only thing that comes to mind is that generally, on the rare chance a fair king actually jumps, it has been earlier in the season. Earlier in the season means fresher fish, warmer water, and higher metabolisms. Put all that together and it starts to make sense I guess. Regardless of the science, the last couple days of acrobatic kings have helped rekindle my love for this sometimes maligned species.

Jay and Jeff work a bend pool that's swirling with fish.

More or less we called it a day, so I spent a little time with Jay as it sounded like this was his ONLY opportunity to trib fish this fall. MAN, talk about not having enough time. As the light started to fade, fish swirled all around Jay and Jeff…it was only a matter of time I guess before someone hooked up. As this was NOT a guided trip or anything, I suggested that I'd go upstream and stand as a last barrier in the gauntlet for any fish they let pass upstream.

Of course, that line of thought never got followed….while standing with Jay I noticed movement upstream out of the corner of my eye. HMM. The fish now had my full and undivided attention as I swiftly waded upstream. Whatever it was, it hadn't made the final riffle yet. It's still in there somewhere.

I almost walked right by before I caught sight of my quarry. Nothing big, but easy pickins I guess. It only took a few drifts to get his attention…fish on. Fish downstream. Fish WAY downstream. What the heck is that?!?!

I clamped down (15lb tippet will let you do that when you're using a 9wt.) and looked at the rubble at my feet. There lay a fish, still breathing but at least 80% dead. I grabbed it by the tail and turned it to get a better view. What's this we have here…a steelhead? Indeed! Judging by the clips, a young Skamania. I placed it face first in the riffles only to watch it float downstream. Oh well…I guess he's a goner indeed.

A BONUS fish at twilight!

Renee appeared from the tangled growth along the bank, net in hand, offering assistance. I gladly accepted as I didn't want this fish to make it's way all the way back down to the bend where Jay was fishing…didn't want to stir things up. Talk about a quick net job…Renee is really getting the hang of this!

Turned out to be a smallish buck..probably 7 lb…definitely not a Jack but definitely not a 4 year fish either. There, square in the middle of the roof of his mouth was my orange egg. A definite, solid hookup to end the day. As I sit here typing, just after midnight the same day, my arms STILL ache. I don't know how Jay and Jeff faired for the last 30 minutes or so of fishable light, but I hope they got a taste for more…



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