Friday, April 2, 2010

fly fishing steelhead (root river, wi)

An unexpected after work trip; it’s rare I get co-founder Blake out of work at 3 pm. We came up with a quick game plan: a check of the flows suggests that the Root is our best bet. It’s a quick trip north on I-94 and I’m back at the house to gear up and change from a shirt and tie to a pair of shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt. Ahh…it’s like a super hero transformation from office guy to Neal the spawn sack slinger.
I take a quick drive from the home base and roll into the parking lot, the three cars ahead of me all from Illinois. I start putting my waders on and string up my rod. I finish putting the final touches, gravel guards and tying my laces. Blake finally rolls in - a few quick words we determine our next plan of attack. We make the easy hike to the first pool. Blake heads upstream to cast a bugger while I head down to sling some spawn. I try to offer Blake a few spawn sacks, but he refuses on account that he’s turned into a purest, refusing the live bait tactic. I, on the other hand, have no shame. The previous weekend out on the water, we were spanked by spawn slingers.

I begin to cast after cast at a promising brush pile that has created a very nice pool. ( I’ve caught fish here before so I have some confidence). Nothing…I am now frustrated, disappointed, and a bit perturbed. I decide to move, crossing the slow water in front of me. I climb up the opposite bank to gain a better vantage point. With my should- be guide’s eye, I look north towards quarry park. I spot some enemy activity, a tail in the fast water.

As I get closer peering and straining my eyes trying to cut the water, success! I see a bright flash from a hen cutting a red. My attitude has just changed. I feel a lot better with fish in front of me. After two well placed casts: BAAAAM, a hookup! Ahhh that feels good. The fight ensues; she doesn’t know she’s hooked. She’s headed upstream after some string stretching and some rod bending. She darts back and forth across the river; she tires and I can finally gain control of her. Steelhead rugby ensues. (I had told Blake to leave the net behind; that only ensures bad mojo). Finally after some close combat, we land her. With a careful tail grab, Blake assists in the score. She’s well over 30 inches, over 10 lbs: nice hen.

a nice hen steelhead
My hands are shaking a bit. I see now that the other fishermen are paying notice to the action. My vacant fast water is being invaded by the few other fishermen on the river. I quickly post up on that run and re-bait with another spawn sack. Noticing I’ve not stirred up the red, I see more fish flash and porpoise. With a few more surgical casts and BAAAAM, another hookup! Air born acrobatic flips, f—k slack line, she’s off.

Slightly disappointed, I flopped another spawn sack into perfect position. In an instant something pounded the orange colored spawn sack. That smack was a colored up spring buck. He jumps back and forth across the river, through log jams and over and under boulders. I adjust to this circus jumping fool enough to land him. After another rugby event, we land this buck. I put my hands on him, he’s spurting his steelhead juice. I notice the clipped tail fin. That confirms this fish has been through the weir. Good to know his legacy will live on. We snapped a few pics and sent this spring buck on his way.
spring buck steelhead

swim away to fight another day
With my confidence levels reaching an all time high, I slop another spawn sack on. First cast and BOOOOM, another hookup: another steelhead leaps into the unfamiliar air 2 times. It seemed like slow motion, a matter of seconds seemed like ages. But all for naught, she shakes the hook. That final hookup convinces the purest Blake to ask for a spawn sack. I turn to him and laughed, as I reach in my vest to get the terminal gear he needs. The sun is going down in a hurry, and that part of Racine is not a good place to be after dark. We turn our backs on this very productive piece of water and head for the truck. Very good day of after work fishing, one I will not soon forget. Get your strings stretched to all!

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