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4-22-06 - Early morning on the Pike River

4-22-06 - A First Steelhead Crystallizes...

Waters Fished: Pike River, Root River, Oak Creek
Fish Caught: 1 + several lost
Outing Date: 4-22-06
Weather: Partly Cloudy with random scatter showers
Air Temp: low 60's
Water Temp: cool
Water Level: Pike approx. 20 cfs, Root approx. 175 cfs, Oak Creek approx. 20 cfs.
Water Color: Pike was clear, Root visibility < 6", Oak Creek was pretty clear
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: ORANGE EGGS all the way!
Pattern Color: ORANGE

I'm back! After over a month of no fishing, over 2.5 months of no new reports, and 2 months of website SERVER Fiascos, things are back up and running as they should be! For all the loyal readers, this one's for you - thanks for all your patience!

I woke up late - Renee had turned the alarm clock OFF sometime during the night! What was supposed to be a 5:00 AM start was looking more like 6! I called Bob & Crystal to let them know I was running late - no big worries, we ended up meeting at the Starbucks in Kenosha just east of 94 on 50. Bob was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed...somewhat expected considering that he is Bob Brown of "Gumbo's Fishing Conditions" website - while he's been out of the WI/IL area for a couple years now, it's all the MORE reason to be excited to finally get back on the water!

Never the less, I could tell that Crystal had no qualms about taking a little extra time this morning to wake up! It had been a year since her last father/daughter steelhead trip with Rich Brown, and if I recall correctly while she got to fight a fish it never ended up coming to fruition. Lack of success is usually NOT a great motivater when it comes to the casual fisherwoman!

I guess I had driven north REALLY fast, because by 6:00 AM we were already hiking down to our first morning spot on the Pike. When we got on the water, as per Bob's request, my focus was to put Crystal on fish. Bob would be relatively on his own today! Sure enough, we found fish. Crystal's cast was rusty, and this is by no means an easy place to get around, but still she managed to put several good drifts in front of a couple fish who casually floated downstream from the pool above. In short order we hooked up...Cystal learned the first rule of steelheading - never let slack get into the line when fighting the fish. Just as quickly as it had started, it was over.

Crystal and Bob work a deep cut that was definitely holding fish.

Bob Brown swings speys through the tailout.

First catch of the day, a Root River Rock Bass.

By 7:00 AM the sun was already cutting through the trees sharply, and the trio or quartet of fish we had started with had moved off into the deep pool. Fishing here, for the day, was over. Time to move north to the Root.

We headed to Colonial Park - the Root has now dropped of substantially from the rains earlier in the week, and had most likely warmed a bit too. My hope was that the fish that had pushed up to Horlick were now in more of a spawning mood and would be on the gravel.

Even if they were there, we never saw them. Downstream from the gravel we fished Crystal and I both got a clear look at a relatively fresh fish that was porpoising in the deeper water below. We changed focus and while mostly working on Crystal's roll cast, we DID manage a brief hookup. Again, slack got into the line and the fish got off. Meanwhile, Bob was swinging a large Black Heron spey downstream and gave us all a bit of excitement when he too hooked up. It looked like it was dogging him slowly...perhaps a dropback? Well, he had it right in front of him and we still couldn't see it...that's about the time he realized it wasn't a fish at all, but a "Rock Bass" ;)

Enough of this...we need "better" fishin. After a filling all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the Iron Skillet on 20 (just west of 94) we made our way further north to Oak Creek.

So far we had only seen ONE other angler all morning...upon arriving at Oak Creek the first thing I noticed were MANY people fishing the pond above the dam. Funny thing...but I seem to recall that ALL the urban ponds (including the Oak Creek Mill Pond) are CLOSED to fishing right now unless you're under 16 OR disabled.

CHAOS at Oak Creek - FISH ON!

A beautiful steelhead comes to net.

Crystal shows her first steelhead some love.

Crystal's interpretation of her first steelhead experience!

Bob is back working promising water.

Later that afternoon, we head downstream to check out the bank hides.

There's a fish in this picture, somewhere. Can you see it?

There were a couple anglers actually out for Steelhead, but most were young kids fishing the dam pool. We set up on a productive bend and shortly found a pair of fish for Crystal to work. Again, I put her in a challenging spot.

We spent probably an hour chasing these fish, missing several strikes before getting a solid hookup. I ran downstream to prepare for a netjob and tried to get a few action shots without even looking through the camera.

I honestly can't say how it all went down 'cause it all happened so fast....lots of shouting to keep tension on the fish at all times. Crystal played it like you should, and the end result was a great steelhead in the net! First steelhead for a Brown! While the initial release was less than stellar, Crystal got the fish revived so it could live to fight another day!

After some more time working spots we KNEW to hold fish, I eventually wanted Bob & Crystal to see more of the river. We hiked downstream, scanning the water for fish (now that Crystal was unskunked, it was Bob's turn). I spotted an admittedly crusty buck and suggested this was Bob's good chance to hook up. Bob, who takes a bit of a purist's approach to steelheading, declined. His first steelhead had to be just a wee bit "fresher". I can understand, but wasn't about to let this fish just "go" without getting harassed. Crystal was still tired from the battle upstream, so the duty of putting an effort towards our 2nd steelhead fell in my hands. All too soon, I had tangled up on this guy...of course it put up a terrific fight but as soon as I realized it was fouled I snapped it off.

Down around the next bend, we found a couple fresher redds and another fish which we spooked on approach. We made note of it's preferred lie so we could go for it on the way back.

We continued on downstream searching for fish but didn't sight anything else. Bob worked a deep run while Crystal and I watched. Departure time was close, so after no success in the bank hides we crept back upstream to try our hand at the fish we had sighted earlier.

Sure enough it was back, but it really wasn't trying to stick around. Bob was going to creep up on it, but while he was trying to cross the steelhead slide downstream until it was right in front of him! Bob made it out into the water, but the fish again pushed upstream back into the bend pool. After a few minutes of patiently waiting, Bob started putting drifts through the bend. Ultimately, the "end of the trip" time crunch got to us and we pressed on.

By this time the clouds came out and the fish showed up...we maybe went 100 yards upstream and there, in front of us was another fish holding in fast water. We only got a few casts before it slide downstream into a pool.

Alright, I guess the trip is done, Bob & Crystal have to go. Of course, at the next riffle we again spotted a fish! Bob got a couple casts in before it pushed into deeper water. We're about to get back out when ANOTHER FISH makes it's presence known by swimming right up to my feet. I followed it as far as I could, keeping an eye on it and encouraging Bob to come up. By the time Bob was upstream, the fish had vanished. Talk about a frustrating way to end their day...fish everywhere but NOW they have to leave!

It truly didn't stop there. As we got back up to our entrance point two MORE fish were holding in the bend. Crystal was done, and after offering up to Bob yet ANOTHER chance at fish, he declined and passed the torch to me. My first few drifts were spot on, but I tangled up on the buck and had him foul. I quickly popped the flies off and thought that was the end. NOPE! It came right back to it's originally holding spot. A few more drifts and AGAIN I was connected, this time it looked fair. The fish ran, my drag growled. Then the fish went airborne! YEEE HA! It landed with a splash and moments later jumped straight vertically, even higher than the first, and threw the hooks!

After Bob & Crystal packed up, we said our goodbyes and they headed for Chicago. Despite being totally exhausted, I knew I had a really good shot at some fish, and I wanted to leave with at least one under my belt. Heck, the fishing was starting to look good enough to be a multiple fish day!

Where there were 2 fish earlier, including the one that I had on and lost on the 2nd jump, there were now 4 fish, with two anglers drifting spawn over them. Downstream in a spot that always has fish but is VERY difficult to fish, I found 5 fish all to myself!

What better way to end the day? I tried this spot from the typical location and quickly found that while I could cast somewhat, my window to drift was narrow and I couldn't effectively cover ALL the fish holding water. It took some out of the box thinking, but I managed to try fishing this spot from a different stance - the payoff was great!

I can't tell you how many hookups I had...I had each fish on fair at least once. I slowly worked my way through the group before identifying a particular fish I wanted to try for....it was lighter and more "green" in color. 45 minutes of repeated drifting finally paid off with a solid fair hookup...a Silver Bolt of STEELIE erupted at the tailout and lunged for the air. It landed solidly in the shallow riffles below; for a moment I thought this would be easy!

The fish got over the stun from it's hard landing pretty quickly. It turned and bolted downstream towards wider, deeper waters. Not to be outdone by a fish I'd worked so hard for, I put the brakes on it and then eased up. The fish turned, bolted back upstream and BEACHED ITSELF! Now, technically, that's a landed fish! WHOO HOO!

I hurried downstream and stood a foot away from this fish, writing on the gravel, desperately trying to snake it's way back into the water. As I reached down to subdue it, darnit, it made it back into just enough water to BOLT AWAY AGAIN!

Mistakenly I raised my rod and put the hurt on the fish. It leapt, thrashed it's head and threw the hook. @@#$!!!#$@#$.

I actually got a brief second chance to dance with this beautiful chromer...after throwing the hook it settled into a pocket behind a rock that afforded a good chance to put in some more casts once it had calmed down. Perhaps my enthusiasm got the better of me...I should have rested the fish longer. It only took a few drifts of the bright orange eggs to remind the steelie of what it had just gone through...it didn't stick around to repeat the incident.

I lost a couple more fair fish before the pool I had worked was empty...everything had either been lost or made uncomfortable enough to move on. While I could have pressed onwards and brought back a fish picture of my own, I'd seen more than my fair share of steelhead action for the day.

  MP 

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