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4-15-06 - Sunrise over Duluth, MN.

The traditional parade of anglers at the mouth of French Creek.

The mouth of Silver Creek.

4-15-06 - Back to Minnesota's North Shore

Waters Fished: French Creek, Silver Creek, Baptism River, Encampment River, Sucker Creek.
Fish Caught: a few
Outing Date: 4-29-06
Weather: Sunny, windy for most of the day, especially in exposed areas like high ridges or the lakefront.
Air Temp: highs in the 60's
Water Temp: N/A
Water Level: up
Water Color: Stained, visibility 1-2'
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Egg Patterns & Wolley Buggers
Pattern Color: Eggs in Oranges and Buggers in Red/Black

Last night EVERYONE showed up at Sugar Lake...we got to spend some time with Renee's Dad, as well as Brennon, Nick, Will and Emily. Sometime around 4:00 AM we all got on the road to head back to Duluth...as we came down into the city the sun was just above the horizon out across Lake Superior.

After stopping at the Holiday to get everything we needed for the morning, we headed east to make the first stop - the French River. As usual, there was a line of anglers at the mouth forming a gauntlet any fish would have to survive before finding safety in the river.

We made our way northeast along the shore, pausing at locations to figure out how much angling pressure was at each. Eventually we found ourselves at Silver Creek...the site of Randy Cochran's infamous battle with a big, unseen fish that lasted for what seemed like hours on May 1 of 2004.

We all geared up and got down on the water...it was heavily stained but in a patch of sunlight at the tailout I spotted a steelie. EXCELLENT! Time went by and we worked the pool...eventually Brennon made his way across to the other side and shortly thereafter he hooked up! It looked BIG - I made my way across and started taking pictures...had to bring the net with too.

T-BONE Hooks up!

T-BONE puts the hurt on that fish!

ROCK BASS!

Brennon pumped and reeled..line went out and line came in. The water was heavily stained...we couldn't see how big it was, but judging by the bend in the rod and the way it moved, it wasn't little! Brennon brought it in, almost to our feet, and we STILL couldn't see anything. I got closer, expecting to spook the fish and have it bolt off...maybe we'd get an indication of what we were dealing with.

But the line just sat there and didn't move. I gingerly grabbed the leader...no movement. I gently pulled ever so slightly on the leader and it moved towards me. I pulled a bit harder and it came closer still. AHA...this ain't no fish..it's a ROCK! We had a good laugh and got back to the serious business of fishing.

As morning continued, I felt the uncontrollable urge to head back to Two Harbors to use the facilities...I left my camera with Renee and hurried southwest. After a quick stop, I headed BACK to Silver Creek. Renee was excited.

It turns out Renee had hooked up and landed the first fish of the day while I was gone. Thankfully, they got some pictures to prove it too!

Emily works her way across to the fishy water...

Renee is the first to land a WILD STEELHEAD today!
(Copyright 2006 Renee)

Renee with her first wild steelhead.
(Copyright 2006 Nick)

After working the downstream runs all the way to the lake and not seeing another fish, we decided to take a quick group shot and then head upstream. In some faster moving water over gravel Brennon hooked up again..with a stick! I actually had one on just long enough to see the face, thrashing in the water, and the fish came off. @!#$@#$!

Nick, Will, Emily, Renee and Brennon - quite the north shore crew!

T-BONE aka. STICKBOY.

Nick works the tailout of a deep plunge on Silver Creek.

We pushed upstream to the first big falls...we arrived just as some other anglers were packing it up. We watched as one of them landed and released something small...maybe 12" or so at best, but definitely silver. HMM.

Brennon and Will check out the infamous pool where Randy hooked a beaver two years ago...

Brennon wonders what's up stream...

Renee and Emily check out an eddy at the falls.


What next...?

One more look at Silver Creek before we move on.

An hour or so of dredging the pockets and pools didn't produce anything for anyone. We found ourselves scratching our heads, not wanting to head back southwest to the more crowded streams. After a bit, we decided to head northeast to big water that in recent reports had been fishing well...the Baptism River.

Time to go hiking.

The Baptism River.

After stopping at a roadside restaurant for some grub (my first smelt fry...once is enough) we finally made our way to the windy parking spot along the Baptism River. Brennon knew were to go, so we followed as he lead us on a hike along the western shore.

While hiking along the river, we all watched as it roared past. I couldn't help but think it was a little HIGH...it definitely was stained if not outright muddy! We probably made it half way to our ultimate destination when we found ourselves at a lookout point above the river...from here we could easily see just how strong the currents were flowing..it was definitely higher than normal, covering the bankside grasses under water.

The Baptism is a'ragin'.

The flows just seemed a bit much, especially with some relatively inexperienced waders in our group (not to mention Renee and I who were only out in hip boots). We turned around and hiked back out..we'd have to find other water to fish. To me, the Baptism looked like a surefire place to go if you wanted to get re-baptised...aka. DROWN. None the less, 3 brave (or crazy) anglers were making their way down to the river as we came out. The flows didn't scare them, but honestly, I think they should have been at least a bit worried.

Now that the Baptism had been ruled out, we started heading back towards Duluth. Along the way I wanted to stop at the Encampment River...it always looked pretty driving by and I thought it might make a great place to fish.

The Encampment River.

Looking upstream on the Encampment.

The first thing that I noticed upon rolling up was the no parking signs posted every 100 feet or so along both sides of the road. THEN I noticed the no trespassing signs at all four bridge easements. A gravel road heading south along the western shoreline was visible from the main highway, but here too the entire road was posted as no trespassing It was pretty clear to me that SOMEONE didn't want ANYONE fishing here. Rather than risk a ticket, an arrest or an altercation, we continued on our way back towards Duluth. At least I got a couple pictures this time.

Back on 'Ole Faithful...the Sucker.

Nick hooks up!

In the end we found ourselves back at Sucker Creek. Angling pressure was relatively LIGHT compared to what we saw when we drove by in the morning, so the crew headed down to the river and fished it hard for the rest of the day! The water was a touch clearer than yesterday and we could see a couple fish running around...not much but definitely more than we had seen anywhere else today.

There it is...my first steelie of the trip...also happens to be a wild fish!

Nick was the first to hook up but lost it. Shortly thereafter it finally happened for me...I tied up with a good fish that took me down to the lake...at the last possible moment I was able to beach the hen before she got out into the surf and had full run of Lake Superior. According to the Lake Superior ID system of finclips, this hen was NO looper, but a Steelie! As with most every steelhead I land, she went back into the water to live and fight another day.

After I'd landed my fish for the day, I coached Nick as I had last fall...it didn't take him long to hook up with a BIG steelhead that took him all the way to the lake. I was busy taking pictures, so Brennon stepped in and netted Nick's fish. Not too shabby for Nick's first day of steelheading.

Nick has tied into a fish!

He plays it well...

Brennon goes for the net...

SUCCESS!

Nick with his first steelhead, and it's a WILD ONE!

Check out that stunning wild north shore steelie!

Nick has to wade across to share the story with Will.

Will and Emily scheme their next casts.

Renee is having a great time.


WILL shouts "FISH ON"!

Lost it at the end...the priceless look of a steelheader beaten by the quarry.

It was also Will and Emily's first time on the water for steelhead - both have been flyfishing for inland trout for a while. Today would be Will's "lucky" day...as evening approached he hooked up. As with the rest of the fish we hooked in this stretch, it didn't take long for it to turn and run towards Lake Superior. Unfortunately Will didn't have quite ENOUGH luck...he only got a taste before the fish popped free. By this point Brennon and Nick had to head back to the Twin Cities...it was great to see 'ole Mountain Goat and Nick again and I was sorry to see them leave so soon!

Sunset was rapidly approaching. I came back up to see how Renee was doing - she looked at me and said "Find me a fish and I'll catch it". Sounded like a rather boastful statement at the time. Anyway, I scanned the water and sighted a fish right out in front...it didn't take too many drifts of the hot orange eggs for Renee to get a strike and set the hook.

It was a fierce battle, but luckily Renee managed to keep the fish from making the downstream run towards the lake (where too many fish find freedom early in the fight). A nice guy downstream offered up a beautiful and HUGE wooden net (I had left mine on the other shore). We managed to land Renee's fish, a HUGE buck by Lake Superior standards. I thanked the kind gentleman for the use of his net (and later learned that his name is Dan).

Renee hooks up!

Look at that fight!

Look at that massive KYPE - another STUNNING Steelie on the North Shore!


Emily works over a picky steelie we've found holding in the fading dusk light.

Dan didn't have his camera with, but I had him covered for his end of the day catch! I'm pretty sure that's the same fish Nick landed.

It was now definitely sunset and everyone around us had hooked up except Emily..time to see if I could get her into the action. Emily put my instruction to good use...straight out at midstream a fish or two were holding next to a bolder. I KNOW we hooked up with at least one of them, and missed strikes from both SEVERAL times. Emily kept on trying to the very end when we could no longer see ANYTHING!

Meanwhile Dan got luck downstream and landed a nice fish. His camera was somewhere ELSE; I was happy to snap a couple pics to email him. The really cool part, and I want you to pay attention here, is that I'm PRETTY sure that Dan's last minute steelhead is the same fish that NICK landed and released earlier in the afternoon. If that's not a good example of why you should practice C&R with ALL your steelies, I don't know whats' better. Then again, pay close attention to the markings on Renee's steelhead too..it'll make more sense "tomorrow".

One last interesting note...according to finclips (and lack thereof) every fish we landed today was a STEELHEAD...we didn't land any Kamloops strain rainbows...of course, Renee had to gripe that she didn't come up here for steelhead, she came for the "LOOPERS"! GEEEZE, she's starting to sound like a real (spoiled) fisherwoman ;) Probably the best part, she outfished ALL of us today.

  MP 

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