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.
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
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!
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. @!#$@#$!
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.
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.
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
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 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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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.