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11-19-05 - Pat starts off at Fat Bend.

11-19-05 - A full day, late Fall, on the "Famous" Root River

Waters Fished: Root River
Fish Caught: 4 total
Outing Date: 11-19-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: 30's, rising into 50's
Water Temp: 36-39F
Water Level: low, approx. 45 cfs.
Water Color: Dirty, visibility approx. 1'
Fish Species: Brown Trout, King Salmon, Steelhead, Coho Salmon
Pattern Fished: Various eggs and buggers
Pattern Color: Chartreuse, Hot Pink and Red produced.

5:45 AM...I pull up in Lincoln Park, get out at the weir and start looking around downstream. It's COLD...can't feel my hands and I've only been out a minute or two. FAT BEND is holding fish. The weir pool is holding fish. What I've seen? All Browns!

Pat is on his way, so I pull down right at the spot I want to start at. Shortly after 6:00 AM, he pulls in behind me and we start gearing up. I flash of the spotlight on his fish and he's ready to go....we just have to wait until around 6:26 or so!

We spent our first hour or so working Fat Bend in Lincoln Park. Within the first 10 or 15 casts I think the brown we originally targeted wised up and moved upstream through the riffles. Occasionally we'd see movement upstream, but for the most part, the bend cleared had cleared out.

Under the trees, side casting, and STILL no fish for Pat!

Time for Plan "B" - downstream in Island there were MANY redds but even the most typical spawning locations were DEVOID of fish. The 36F water has done what I feared most - the fish have all pushed off to deeper, slower, darker water!

Colonial Park looked packed upon arrival, but at least some of the cars must have belonged to joggers and bicyclists. Still, a fair amount of people were moving around, working the typical good spots, as well as those that LOOK good but don't hold squat usually!

Finally we got to a good hole that usually has some fish. Pat started drifting, and I wandered a bit looking at other likely spots. There, tucked up underneath a tree right at my feet, I spotted an ragged and worn yet unspawned hen brown, at least 20 lbs, completely oblivious to my presence. I touched her tail...no movement. Went for the bear style grab to hold her up and show Pat...foosh and she disappeared in a spray of water upstream into the pool Pat was fishing.

A little more time passed and I noticed another brown all to briefly give away his presence in a far back eddy. So there are definitely at least 2 fish here.

There's a hookup!

Pat's first brown of the day. We'll never know if it was a fair hookup or not, but it sure looked like it and well, it's Pat's first tributary fish!

That fish wasted NO time in getting outta there!

This was one fair right up until the very end - a stunning pig of a brown. Congrats Pat.

All ya had to do was put em in the water and they took off!

Around 8:45 AM it finally happened. I switched up a couple of the flies and tied on a Chartreuse & Hot Pink "Egg Sucking Yarn". That change, along with Pat's patience and persistence, paid off with a subtle hit (I'm not sure Pat even noticed it at first). The fish dug deep and stayed there. Pat had good control over the fish for the most part. We got a look at it, line leading down to the head - it was a NICE brown.

Eventually the fish figured out that circling in the deep pool wasn't going to work out...he raced towards the end of the pool. I was there, waiting with my net, and thankfully no mistakes were made. Wow...first brown in the net for the day!

My excitement turned to confusion when I realized this fish was no longer hooked in the mouth, but only in the tail. As you all might know, for any new trib client I discuss the merits of dropping the tip and giving a sharp tug back on a fouled fish (which usually just pops it off). I don't let clients fight fouled fish.

So I'm looking at this fish, knowing that I THOUGHT it was fair, in fact I'm pretty sure it was...the line was leading straight down to the mouth when Pat got it up to the surface the first time around. It definitely came to net fouled though. Knowing how tough a day it would be, and knowing that from my observation it appears to be a fair, legit hookup, I surmise that this fish most likely had rolled and tangled and thrown the initial fly. We'll never know 100% for sure, so I've given Pat the benefit of the doubt, based on my experience, and declared that we'd still take a picture of this STUNNING Buck Brown, around 9lb. and send it back to fight another day.

20 minutes later, the entire situation basically repeated itself. Another subtle take, another deep, rolling battle, and the fish finally decides to head downstream. As the fish comes to the surface, now perpendicular to the current, I can see the chartreuse and pink fly in what would have been the "inside corner" of the jaw.

The fish is only 6 or 7 feet away now, at the surface, throwing a headshake or two, when it completes it's 180 degree turn to bolt downstream. The chartreuse and pink mass of yarn "pops" away from the fish and jumps into the air and in an upstream direction, the fish still approaching, then the fish "stops" as if something grabbed it from behind! It's hooked in the tail! It takes only a second for it's path to converge with my net. In my head I'm swearing...it was fair right up until the last second.

Pat remarked that he felt the hook dislodge right as the fish turned, I saw it happen mere feet away from me. Luck of the draw I guess...while technically landed as a "fouled" fish this one was 100% fair in my book. A round of photos were shot and again, the fish was sent back to fight another day. I know Pat was looking for one clean fish to bring back to his family, and well, it's difficult at best to try to explain to a CO that the fish "WAS FAIR, BEFORE we landed it".

Around 10:15 I had to call it a day with Pat...I was scheduled to meet up with two more guys at 11:00 AM. Only a touch disheartened that neither of our browns came into the net as legally fair fish, we both had a great morning and I stand by the fact that we've landed 2 "overall" legit fish, we've just had some bad luck during the course of our fights. Pat resolved to stay on the river at least a couple more hours and chase a SOLID, 100% IN THE MOUTH WHEN IT COMES TO SHORE type of fair fish and I applaud his determination.

Around 10:30 AM Ken and Harry were already at our meeting spot. Gerry Greene had been kind enough to let me know how things had gone during the morning upstream. Apparently, there was a king or two around. When I found Ken and Harry, you could tell they were a bit excited...apparently some of the guys at the dam had a couple cohos on stringers.

Harry's anxious for a King..."is that one"?

For Ken, this was a return trip after a 6 year sabbatical from the Root River. For Harry, his first time ever trib fishing. Ken pretty much knew what to do, so I sent him off on his own to cover water while I gave Harry some quick tutorials on the basic techniques we'd be employing. Harry quickly proved himself to be a proficient fly fisherman, so without delay we set out to cover water in search of a late-run King. The sun was out bright and high in the sky, yet the water had only inched up to 37F.

Both Harry and I had already passed the spot when Ken waved us back upstream...he had sighted our first fish. Indeed, there was a slightly crusty Jack King Salmon. Ken was really hoping that Harry would get his first King Salmon today, so this fish was "handed over" to Harry.

He got several casts in before the fish spooked, slid downstream, through the tailout, over a waterfall and disappeared in the pool below. Normally, I would have pursued this fish further. However, another angler was working the pool. Considering we had yet to get to the spot where Gerry had been fishing, we went downstream to try to catch up with Ken.

Ken is WAY downstream; Harry's working his way down.

Back to covering water...Harry was the next one to sight a fish. He made a few casts before losing track of it. What he was able to pass along was that the fish was "all red". In my book, that's a 100% sure sign that the fish in question was a Coho.

After catching up with Ken, we chased a few "fish" that turned out to be rocks before deciding we should head back to the area where Pat and I had done well in the morning. While crossing midstream, ready to make our exit, I literally almost stepped on a fish. It bolted downstream, my eyes now LOCKED IN on the fish. It's another Jack King, and this one is golden-yellow, basically fresh!

I urgently waved Harry and Ken downstream to where I stood, and made sure all three of us could see the fish. It hadn't left...this was it. Harry had a 2nd chance at his first king.

We've found Harry a perfect little king - he's makin' the drifts.

With at least 2 pairs of eyes on the fish at all times, I coached Harry cast-by-cast as the fish bobbed and weaved, looking for the best path back to deeper water. Harry's first hookup was a drift onto the tail...he "dropped and popped" and the king slid back behind a rock, more or less unphased by the brief sting.

The 2nd hookup was textbook except one problem. The fish came up headshaking and threw the egg from it's mouth. @#%!#$%!#$!

We stuck with the fish, and a third hookup occurred, another foulup, this time on the dorsal. Surprisingly, this time the drop and pop managed to snap off the rig. I hurried to retie but shortly thereafter we lost track of the fish as he made it to deeper water and disappeared from view. Knowing when to concede defeat, I suggested we continue on downstream to more productive water.

Ken runs his flies through a deep cut, hoping to pull one out of the logs.

There's John with his great looking brown!
(Copyright © 2005 John McClelland)

Harry is on the pool now, and Ken is again moving up with run-and-gun speed.

One last look at Ken before he disappears upstream for a few hours!

Ken's still looking for that first fair fish.

Four casts in, sight unseen, this fat Coho comes to shore for me on a Pink Marabou Spey.

Back in Colonial, I ran into two really NICE GUYS who witnessed Pat's 2nd brown. Turns out that Pat had left, but not before landing a 3rd brown for the day. Apparently Pat had released this fish too, which meant that by my count, there were now at least 5 browns in the pool, unless any had braved the cold riffles to leave upstream or down. Coming back to Colonial was definitely a smart move.

We took the long way back to Pat's pool, noticing anglers along the way. Upon arrival, much to my disappointment at the time, 2 angler were now working where Pat had been fishing earlier. Not wanting to "pull a Root River" and step right on in, we set up working typically "fair" water downstream. If there are browns up there, they should be here too.

Of course, within minutes one of the guys upstream has hooked up with a fish. He lands it and puts it back...that's 7 browns in that pool now. I casually point out that the pool is definitely holding fish and that coming downstream was probably a really smart move. I joke, "That guy just landed one of our fish!"

A few minutes later, the guy who landed the fish gets close enough that I can make out who it is! JOHN?! Yeah, that IS John McClelland! Ah, all is forgiven...afterall I told him earlier in the day EXACTLY where we had been having good luck :) I have to give John a bit of friendly grief...had I known it was him I would've come up and shot some pictures (and would've brought Ken and Harry straight on up to drift the pool with him in traditional ROOT RIVER FASHION!). Yes, definitely crowd in your friends on the Root - that's what it's all about! Anyway, thankfully, I'm happy to report that John DID get a picture of his stunning buck brown. Congrats!

Shortly thereafter John and the angler he had met headed downstream to Lincoln Park. We slid on up, Harry working the pool and Ken working immediately upstream. After a little while, Ken said he was going to push further up. I told him to shout real loud if he found a group of fish OR if he caught something, and we'd do the same.

At least an hour went by with NO action on the end of Harry's line. A DEFINITE HEN STEELHEAD porpoised multiple times on the far seam, sending Harry dashing upstream to start drifting through the spot. Unfortunately it was fruitless. A quick check of the water around 2:45 showed that temps had now risen to 39F...we're above the magical 38F now (although I still feel it's really more like 40F that forms the "dividing line" between good and difficult fly fishing conditions).

The fish must have been moving just a little more...I watched Harry's line jump and shouted "SET!". Harry has a downright WICKED hookset - any fish he ties into is gonna KNOW IT. This one runs deep and stays deep. We don't get a single look at it until it's in the net...another buck brown. Unfortunately, it's fouled. Back it goes, no pic.

In what seems like just minutes later, Harry ties up again. The fish comes up to the surface - it's silver, a coho, and hooked in the belly. @#$@!! Harry tries the drop and pop on this one, but it just digs the hooks in deeper. We land it, admire it very briefly, and send it back again, no picture earned yet.

3:00 came around and I picked up my rod...I let Ken know well in advance that after our 4 hours I would literally "NEED" to get my line wet. No objections were raised.

Now I feel like a total schmuck - I headed upstream to fish an undercut in the shadows. On my fourth cast I hook up with a tiny, darkish looking fish. There's headshakes all over the place, but based on the size of this fish the fight is going to be over right here and now. I wonder out load "what the heck is THIS?!". Beached at shore, I find I've landed a very fresh coho, still ripe with eggs. Back in she goes!

Well, I'm done fishing for the day...back to Harry. Ken is GONE...he's at least a quarter mile upstream around the next bend or two, if not further. I have to remind Harry to keep his spirits up - with patience he WILL get that fair fish we're looking for. Harry keeps moving, methodically covering water. I keep moving too, looking, waiting and watching.

About 15 minutes later I spot 'em - 2 fish holding on a seam midstream, just upstream from the pool. I shout and wave Harry on up...he literally RUNS upstream. I point them out...they look like nothing more than dark spots, rocks, except that they're MOVING back and forth in the current.

Just like before, if I've sighted a fish we have an above average chance at a good fair take as we can make the perfect presentation. It only takes a dozen or so drifts for Harry to hook up with a fish that rears up and shows us right off the bat that it's fair, mouth gaping and thrashing, desperately trying to get rid of whatever is stinging it!

FINALLY, after a lot of patient and determined work, a SOLID hookup for Harry!

Harry's first Salmon - the same fat little Coho I landed 30 minutes ago!

It's nothing huge but the fight is great. Harry doesn't waste any time in subduing the fish and sliding it to shore. It's another COHO! Wait a second, it's the SAME COHO I just put back into the water 30 minutes ago! Well, that's just awesome...this Coho does nothing to dispel the fact that Cohos are arguably the most aggressive strikers of the four species that run our tribs! Harry deserves a huge congrats as well - it's his first Salmon, period, and it was definitely EARNED!

You could tell that Harry had a huge weight lifted off his shoulders. Ken came back down...with the hills around the stream it was already getting "dark" even though we still had an hour of legal fishin time. Ken had seen a few fish but otherwise was still fishless.

Unfortunately, that's pretty much how the story ends. As legal fishing time got shorter and shorter, Ken continued to ply the water right up until the very end. A few fish made their presence known when the passed through riffles, sprinting their way from holding spot to holding spot. Nothing panned out though. It didn't seem to bother Ken one bit though...afterall I think I'd be thrilled just to be out on the Root if I hadn't been there for the last 6 years!

  MP 

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