10-14-05 - King Salmon - like clockwork, we're
close to Peak!
Waters Fished: Milwaukee River
Fish Caught: 15 between 5 of us.
Outing Date: 10-14-05
Air Temp: 49, rising to 73!
Water Temp: 58F
Water Level: low, 85 cfs
Water Color: stained, visibility 1-2 feet
Fish Species: King Salmon, Coho Salmon
Pattern Fished: Small Egg Patterns
Pattern Color: Red & Chartreuse as usual just kicked butt.
This is one hellava day - a FULL day on the river,
first a morning guide with Clarence and Gary Robe. Then the first
of two 4 hour trips with Jeff and Tadd. If I dare say so, things
just KEEP getting better. There's over 50 pictures in this report
alone, if that gives you an idea ;)
Another 6:00 AM start time (you'd think I'm getting
used to being up at 6:00 AM but you'd be WRONG). One look up at
the sky confirmed it was indeed still night - it's amazing how many
more stars you can see even in MILWAUKEE when compared to what we
can see in Chicago! By the time we were geared up and ready to go,
it was time to fish!
Clarence hooked up almost IMMEDIATELY. As I suspected,
the fish continued to be scattered throughout the river...some spawning
in less than a foot of water. As the pre-dawn light started showing
up, Gary hooked up, landed his first of the day. As usual it went
back, just long enough for me to turn downstream and again see Clarence
Most of the morning was simply hookup after hookup.
As the light came up, the fish again started moving to the deeper
pockets, pools, and shade. However, it seems that the biological
clocks are ticking - unlike prior days the fish remained more active
and continued to strike with vengeance.
I spent most of the morning running upstream and
downstream, either getting in position to land a fish OR taking
pictures. These guys definitely got the hang of it quick, each hooking
up dozens of times over the course of the morning. Clarence had
two LONG fights, each time he got walked downstream at least 50
When our official "guide" time was over, I again picked
up my rod just in time to catch a flash of red moving upstream.
COHO! My FAVORITE!
As you probably know, Coho are relatively "easy" fish
in so much as they're more aggressive in striking (and usually more
likely to strike). They arguably put up a fight that's every bit
as nerve-racking as a King...and yet they seldom pass the 5lb. mark.
So, all it took was a few well placed drifts as the fish rested
in a seam - a nice 90 degree turn towards the flies and the battle
was on! In short order, one OBESE female Coho was brought to shore.
On the upside, Clarence and Gary got to see their first Coho. On
the downside, the battle pretty much wore the fish out. After only
a couple quick pics, the fish no longer had the "downturned
eyes" a healthy fish usually has when being held....instead
a vacant stare looked back.
I'm guessing that the battle upstream, followed by the battle with
me, was simply too much for this fish. After several minutes of
attempting to revive it, I called it. The fish literally just stopped
moving it's gills while I cradled it in the current. Thankfully,
Clarence and Gary were more than willing to try a fresher fish from
the tribs...hopefully she made a splendid dinner.
We all continued fishing until around 11:30 AM...more hookups but
overall the action was slower. I had brought out the 8wt. Bamboo
to "risk it" against some Kings - afterall, that's what
Ron and I built these for! Turns out it handled a good sized King
just fine...that's 2 new species landed on the cane!!! I was hoping
Ron could make it up for the runs this year to give our creations
a whirl, but alas that will have to wait until 2006 I think!
Totally worn out from an extended morning of relatively nonstop
action, Gary, Clarence and I called it a day. I took some time to
find food and then sat down in the Camaro with the laptop. Kinda
got some shuteye, but mostly just worked on the pictures from earlier
in the morning. When Jeff and Tadd arrived 45 minutes early, I was
kinda awake and at least had something really COOL to show them
while I got ready. Kinda neat in some respects, they got to see
what the morning had been like before they set foot on the water!
As we walked down to the water, I did my best to temper over-expectations.
Afterall, usually the best bite (for Kings) is the first 2 hours
of legal fishin' time and the last hour of legal fishing time. Early
afternoon is historically not the best.
Well, the fish were right where we left them before noon - Tadd
forgot to put on the wading boots, so while he ran up to the car
to switch I got Jeff on the water and gave him the basics. To my
surprise, before Tadd even got back Jeff landed his first king of
Now, Tadd, let me tell you up front, I am in NO way picking on
you :) It was not only Tadd's first time Salmon Fishing, but only
his 2nd day ever holding a fly rod, actually ANY kind of fishing
rod. I spent MOST of my time working with Tadd while Jeff kinda
went off on his own. Right off the bat, while demonstrating some
basic techniques, I hooked up with another COHO and handed Tadd
the rod. Fish off.
Another pleasant surprise, "Birdman" Jay and his crew
were in town from Missouri! It's always nice to know the folks who
are fishing upstream from you. At one point, Jay tied into something
fierce and got taken for a slosh downstream through our drifts.
Now THAT's what Kings are supposed to do. If you're not getting
your ass handed to you once in a while, it's really not that fun.
Every once in a while Jeff would hookup, sometimes land a fish,
bring it in and call me down for the pictures..otherwise I continued
to work with Tadd. At the time I worried I was over instructing
him. I was kinda starting to doubt if putting someone who's basically
NEVER fished on the water during the PEAK of a King Salmon run is
a good idea...afterall...there's FISH EVERYWHERE and to not catch
something MUST be frustrating. I don't think anyone ever said King
Salmon were an EASY fish to legally catch either. Heck, I'll remind
you all right now that I went my entire FIRST SEASON without landing
a legal King.
Well, turns out Tadd is a teacher and Tadd has MOUNDS of patience.
He went through SEVERAL hookups...most lost to not keeping enough
tension on the line. But then the last hour of legal fishing time
hit and things underwent the usual CHANGE. The fish started moving,
fighting increased. How would our day turn out?
Tadd struck the rod HARD and held on as a King started running
downstream. I got out of the way and started "barking"
instructions. Yeah, I felt bad about it but shouting during the
chaos of the fight was WORKING. After the first minute the fish
was still ON and well, I think everything CLICKED in Tadd's mind.
After a GREAT fight, Tadd brought in his first King Salmon of his
life, a mean looking buck. The look on Tadd's face is priceless.
We fished right up until the very end. Jeff had come back upstream
to hang closer as quittin' time approached...of course he hooked
up with a fish that took him for another long walk downstream! What
else can I really say here - today was a fantastic day on the water,
EVERYONE got fish, and better still, Jeff, Tadd and I would be right
back at it in less than 12 hours!