Sunday, March 28, 2010

fly fishing steelhead (root river, wi)

The weather was really starting to warm up the entire week leading up to the weekend. No rain all week and all the snow had been long gone for some time. River flows were very low on the Pike and Oak. The Milwaukee was running over 600cfs and didn’t sound like a very safe number to wade. Looked like the Root was the best based on the numbers.

Normal start time and was fishing island park as the sun rose around 6:40 am. Neal arrived just after me and we started working a nice bend and surrounding stretch river. Couple fingerling browns taken by Neal on a grey leach pattern. Ran into another nice angler who said fish were being taken above the weir but it was shoulder to shoulder fishing. We gave it about an hour and a half, with no fish spotted, before we decided to push north.

small enough to be bait!
Colonial park was packed. Lot was almost full and just barely found parking. We fished till just after lunch with only one hook-up. It was a steelie that threw my hook on his first jump. Talk about disappointing… my only hook-up for the day and it lasted all of 4 seconds.

tiny brown
Yes, there were defiantly people landing fish north of Lincoln park, I helped land 5 for strangers. My problem with the day was that it didn't seem peaceful fishing so jam packed on every run, riffle, and bend. It wasn’t just people concentrated in certain spots, they were everywhere. Just when you would carve out a nice little spot for yourself, here comes Billy Bob and his wife. They sidle up close to you and cast slip bobbers into the tail end of your drift. How many fish can you help them net before you start to feel just a tad upset? Well I’ll tell you... the answer is 2.

Saw no fish released. People must be hungry for steelhead stew. WHAT A SHAME!
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

fly fishing steelhead (lake michigan tributaries, wi)

The beginning of the spring steelhead run (at least for us). Local warm weather combined with four days of rain lead to a massive snow melt. All the rivers in the area reached near flood stages almost a week before we fished. By the time the weekend rolled around only a few of the rivers had stabilized. This made picking a location to fish very easy.

can you tell its the early part of the spring run?
By the time I pulled into the parking lot it was 7:00 and the sun was just starting to rise. Neal had been there long enough to find his way into his waders and boots and already had his rod assembled. I made an effort to get ready as quick as possible trying to avoid the puddles as I took my shoes off and put my waders on. Snow had been falling all morning and it was pretty windy as well. We condensed our gear into Neal’s truck and drove to our launch site.

7:15am We pull in, maybe 4 other cars in the lot. We decided to work our way south this morning. Above the first bend was a group of three guys floating spawn on slip bobbers so we pushed around the bend past the group. We saw some movement in the water but nothing surfaced. Here clarity was poor, water was deep, slow and looked more like chocolate milk. The wakes we saw tempted us into throwing flies into less then desirable water conditions. So with our backs to the wind we started casting. I had a black esl pattern tied on. I varied retrieves from a no drag drift to a fast paced strip retrieve. We worked our way down the river with me casting right behind Neal. We passed a couple of foot bridges and came to a sweet looking run. The water here was thinner and clearer so we stood for a couple minutes just to see if we could spot some fish. Nothing cooking. A couple guys came walking up river and offered a report of no fish caught or spotted down stream. At this point we decided to push back up to the first bend where we at least had seen some signs of life.

The group of spawn floaters had left so we started fishing their run from earlier. Just when it seemed like my toes were frozen a small buck pushed up in front of where Neal was fishing. I stopped casting and watched... just happy to see a fish in the water. Neal made some nice drifts to the fish. Fourth drift to the buck and the line came across the fish and he spooked. He’s gone quicker then he came. A little more then 2 hours and all I’d caught was a head cold.

9:45am. Time for breakfast and a break in a warm truck. Did you know that Wendy’s serves breakfast! Neal went for two of the bacon egg and cheese biscuits with an orange juice. I had a chicken on a biscuit, hash brown and black coffee. We came up with a new game plan over breakfast. No more wasting time fishing the slack, deep, poo-colored water. We were going on a nature walk and we weren’t stopping until we saw good water and sighted fish. After our thirty minute break I felt warm again.

10:15 am. We pulled back in to our access point and we took ten minutes to see if the buck moved back in the last pool we fished. No luck, so we were off on a nature hike. North we went up river through the trees. Thirty minutes of walking and we finally came to some nice looking water. We went down closer to get a better look. We were in luck, we got down to the bank and we sighted at least three nice fish sitting in the pools. There was some deeper water above the run and above the deeper section was a nice gravel bend. This was the best 100 yards of water we had seen yet.

Neal started working the pools and I took the deeper water just ahead of him. It took me 5 minutes to realize that there were fish everywhere. I made a switch to a purple esl with a bead head. On my second cast I stripped the fly and the rod just loaded up and I set the hook. The fight was on! After a few nice aerial displays we landed a nice hen right in the middle of the pool Neal was fishing. Photo time followed by a quick release.
working a fish
nice small hen steelie
I pushed up to the bend and Neal held down his same pool. The bend must have been holding close to ten fish. Right when I started casting I saw a nice hen surface in the deepest section of the bend. I worked it for some time with no success. About that time I saw a huge shadow push up to the head water of the pool. It appeared to be a giant buck. I saw him chasing smaller fish off the gravel bar. There must have been about three smaller fish he was chasing out of there. 15 minutes of perfect drifts passed him before I saw a silver flash in the water and the line just stopped. I’m hooked up again! This fish had a lot bigger shoulders and I played him very gingerly until he got tired. I worked the fish back down stream almost 50 yards during the battle which worked out great because my partner was able to put the bear claws on him. We hoisted him out of the water. What a fish!! Again a couple pictures and a quick release.

omg what a donkey!!
Neal came up to the bend which was still chalked full of fish and tied on a purple fly. It didn’t take long for my buddy to get his turn. The same pool I just scored my fish out of is now home to that giant female I saw when I first got up to the bend. He stayed out of sight and was rewarded with a vicious strike. Neal played the fish down stream just like I had done before and I helped this time landing his fish. What an awesome fish!
neal's turn at a trophy steelhead
The rest of the time we spent taking turns fishing that same bend. One would fish while the other sat up in the tree and watched the action from above. Even though we didn’t catch anything else that day we both got our share of fish. I also got to see a fish give chase to a fly Neal was stripping back. Even though the fish missed the fly, it was cool to see it charge and swipe at the fly.

as fair as fair hooked gets
We came up with a solid plan at breakfast and things seemed to fall into place after that. Stay mobile, fish the type of water your most comfortable with, and spot the fish. Sounds like a winner…
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

ice fishing (lake county forest preserve, il)

Rain and warm weather in the forecast for all next week. What is going to happen to all our beautiful ice? How many more trips do we have? These questions were on all of our minds. Neal, his girlfriend, his brother Luke (who shares a name with my son), and me were all meeting up around 9:00am to do some ice fishing on a local forest preserve lake. This was the latest start I can remember in a long time. I think Neal and his girlfriend were taking a car into the shop or something like that… Who could argue with a little more sleep?

Luke got there first and I’m not even sure what time he made it out there, but he had a mess of gills and perch already chilling on the ice! I set my tip-up’s out and got to work with my jigging rod armed with a silver/purple gill-pill tipped with a waxie. Neal made it out around 9:45 and got geared up.

It was a slower day for me but did manage to scratch some fish here and there. I will say that Luke was really dialed in that day. He had his portable 1-man frabil flip over and boy did he use that thing to his advantage. He kept mobile and used it to sight fish some gills right under his hole. He would tease the fish into sight and watched his waxie disappear. I’m not sure if he would have felt those bites or not? Whose to say, but it worked well for him and I was happy to just sit out in the sun and catch the occasional fish. It really is great to ice-fish when its warm enough to sit outside and be warm.

As far as the flags go, there were three. Flag one was a smaller 2 pound bass for Luke. Flag two was hit and run for Neal. There was a couple yards of line peeled off and a crippled minnow left behind. The third and last flag of our ice-fishing season was for Luke. Man was it a good one. He set the hook on a great big bass. Man was it a battle! Take some line in, then give some back. When he finally landed that fish I’d guess that it was every bit of 4 if not more. Check out his fish and his monogrammed sweatshirt!

a healthy lake county forest preserve bass
Every one else left but Luke stayed to get all the ice fishing he could get in before the end of the season. Well I guess that’s it for this ice-fishing season. You will be missed………
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