11-19-05 - A full day, late Fall, on the "Famous"
Waters Fished: Root River
Fish Caught: 4 total
Outing Date: 11-19-05
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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!