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.
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
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.
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!
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
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.