Friday, December 30, 2011


Resolutions: a commitment that a person makes to one or more lasting personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit.

With every year that passes, people all around the world make resolutions for change. It’s almost a call to action to set out and make this next year better then the past. I have never been a big fan of these “new year’s resolutions”. I have always thought if there’s something I want different in my life now, why wait?

Brian with a nice wisconsin steelhead
This week, something out of the ordinary happened. I was contacted on my email by another local outdoor writer who expressed a sincere interest in producing some quality content for the Illinois Wisconsin Fishing blog. The thought of expanding the author pool has crossed my mind a few times. I have never actually acted on that thought other than trying to twist Damien’s arm for some more driftless and harbor reports. As I mulled the idea over and over in my head, I became halfway flattered and halfway sick. This blog over the past two years has become my fourth child and the thought of putting it up for adoption was scary. My fears were put to rest after having a chance to really look at this mystery mans work. He brings to the table a diverse fishing spectrum chasing almost everything that swims. His thoughts come across very well written and his videos are off the hook. Then I had the opportunity to talk to him… and what I found is an individual who is very motivated to share his outdoor experience with all who are willing to read. We share many similar goals and have very close family dynamics.  With all that being said, it’s my pleasure to introduce Brian Schiller as a new writer for the blog. Welcome to the team and I’m very excited about the new opportunities your presence will bring to the table.

another driftless trout addict
Anyone who has ever written a blog or produced an online website that frequently updates its content knows it takes a certain type of person to stick with it. I've seen many bloggers come out strong but quickly their interest wanes. This isn't a paid job and these chosen few who stick with it must have a strong passion for sharing with others about the outdoor diversity found in our backyards. I’m confident that we now have two of these “chosen few” to take this site into 2012.

Here is our short list of goals-

  • expanded coverage of new water and different species
  • upgraded photo quality with my new cannon t3i
  • new videos
  • more flies (recipes and instructional videos)
  • new product reviews
  • finally convincing Damien to write a few posts
  • hunting?
May your 2012 be filled with many wonderful moments, good health, and good fortune. Thanks for reading!
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

black prince

Noted as one of the worlds oldest steelhead flies, originating from the Umpqua River System.

thread- black
tail- red hackle
rib- tinsel
   rear- 1/3 yellow wool
   front- 2/3 black wool
wing- black bear
hackle- black

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

a cool salmon sketch

turned this photo into a sketch
I think I could have cleaned the edges up a little better but I think you get the point...

Here's the youtube video I followed-
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

early winter harbor trout

early winter milwaukee harbor steelhead
It’s a pretty simple equation, the longer we go without cold enough weather to create any ice, the longer we can take advantage of the open water harbor fishing opportunities. Some anglers like Damien have been hanging around Southeast Wisconsin’s harbors all fall. On a bad day you might not get a single bite or maybe just a few. On a good day harbor fishing you just might get double digit opportunities to hook a monster.

Damien swears by tiny tube jigs in the one and a half inch white variety. He will normally hang these under a slip bobber at a depth around six feet. Constant twitching or the occasional pull of the bobber is all it takes to attract some attention from big cruising trout. He insists on an instant hook set saying “that trout are notorious for spitting the baits in under five seconds”.

So, normally the ice fishing season is well underway by now… For those who have the itch to get out and catch some fish, try your hand at some harbor trout to pass the time.

a real milwaukee harbor monster steelhead

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

estaz egg

It is a super simple tie for anyone and its deadly. This is our go to egg pattern, works especially well in stained or cloudy water.

hook- size 8 mustad egg hook
body- med chenille in pink, chartreuse, or orange are most popular
tail- few strands of yarn

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

an icy milwaukee river

Made it out to the Milwaukee River this weekend. Flows were perfect but the ice and slush being washed down the river certainly made fly fishing tough. The good pools were covered in slush and completely unfishable. The faster runs kept the water churned up enough to not collect the slush like the big pools. My fly always seemed to get caught on a piece of ice and never could make it down to bottom. On frequent roll casts a chunk of ice would come flying forward attached to the fly. It didn’t take long for me to give in and head with Damien to the harbor.

the milwaukee river flowing ice and slush
At least it was scenic...
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

a mid november recap

salmon bones - all that is left from the run
I don't find myself having to play catch up here on my blog very often, well actually ever. This past November was of course filled with lots of hard work at the office, time with friends and family, Thanksgiving, black Friday shopping, launching a new website, and of course fishing. Despite all the things that go on in my sheltered little corner of the world, there is always time to wet a line. Fishing in general has been slow this month but consistent. Take a group of three guys out fishing, and one of them is guaranteed a fish but the question is who? Well lets take a look at the last few weeks and break it down a bit further.

a pretty root river steelhead stuffed with eggs
Trip #1- I fish the Root River alone for a peaceful morning searching out some trout. This was meant to be a scouting trip before meeting Neal and Paul on the same stretch of river the very next day. All morning goes by and without even a nibble, I decide to fish one last spot before calling it quits. Mending a pink estaz egg under heavy wood cover I get 2 hits from some very acrobatic trout. Steelhead to be exact. The tiny and more colorful of the 2 was the best looking colors I've seen on a fish ever and she was packed with roe. Her I harvested. The second was such a powerful and acrobatic fish that it took me out of the water airborne three separate occasions. I pulled the fish from the water and the adrenaline running through the fish was so intense that its muscles quivered over and over. Much respect for that battle so I turned it back. Awesome fight.

with much respect for its power, I turned this steelhead back

paul and his first trib brown trout
Trip #2- The very next day Paul, Neal, and I hit the same stretch of river anticipating some similar results. We found the conditions to be as tough as my previous day on the water. A whole lot of water was covered and finally Paul came up with a solid biter on an orange estaz. God, I love those flies. If there was one fly to use this fall... that has to be it. This fish was sitting in a fast water pool way down in the undercut. Paul has done a great job this year and has caught a brown, a steelie, a coho, and a king. Not bad for your first few month of learning the tribs. Well done buddy.

a whole lot of work went into this fish, he cost us 15 flies
Trip #3- Neal and Blake decide to work a pod of rising fish in the gnarliest spot ever imaginable. Two males were moving in and out of the pool with a giant fresh female sitting in its depth shaking eggs loose. The pool was tucked behind a tree trunk so very little water or current came directly though the center of the pool. The current was just tickling the edge of that pool but a large boulder just outside the pool obstructed a clean drift. Just over hanging the pool was a mess of tangles and branches just waiting to grab any fly that even came close. Believe me, many flies came close, too close. I alone retied 10 times not counting Neal. Stubborn as hell, we decided to stay. We tried adjusting angles and shortening leaders down to only a few feet. We added a ton of shot but even that couldn't get our flies into that tucked away pool. Neal, being the smart one, decided to drop the fly in from in front of the pool. It didn't take long before one of the males came up and slapped that estaz egg! What about the female you might ask? Sure he hooked her, but she proved to be too smart for us. Up and down the Root River she splashed giving Neal a serious run for his money. Just when you think you have it, you realize your not even close. That hen dogged him so hard under a stray branch and that was it. Snap went the line and airborn went the rod. At least he landed the male?

the one that gave us the eggs
Trip #4- Finding some fresh brown spawn has eluded us this fall. We have caught a more then usual amount of browns this year. The problem is the ones we are finding are either males or they have already been processed and are empty of eggs. This trip last weekend we decided to put ourselves in a better position and fish below the steelhead facility. No chance a fish down there has been processed. We took the cured steelhead spawn from trip #1 and floated some of the deeper pools in Lincoln Park with our fly rods, Just dragging bottom Neal got a great hit. He had just lifted the spawn over a rock when his indicator went down. Good decision on where to fish because we are now the proud owners of some fresh brown trout spawn that we are looking forward to dropping down some holes come this winter.

brown trout spawn

a ditch running some cold clean water into the Root
So, the last four trips we haven't left the Root one time. You can scan the pictures and say wow, impressive day but please understand that this is a culmination of 4 separate fishing trips. My sights have been fixed on getting back on the Milwaukee to wrap the season up. This week is bringing some arctic temperatures and if it hold like this I imagine it wont be long now till the hard water season kicks off. Stay tuned to see how we finish out this wonderful fall trib season and look forward to some winter ice fishing action with my best fishing partner Lucas. My 6 year old boy can't wait to get back on the water.

fishing just below the fish sanctuary on the Root River

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Monday, December 5, 2011

brown trout watercolor

Neal and I fished the Root River this weekend. It was cold and wet the entire day but we did manage to capitalize on our only bite. Neal was flinging some spawn on his fly rod in Lincoln Park, just barely bouncing bottom when this fish decided to take him for a ride.

brown trout watercolor 
I did my photo editing with gimp following this tutorial--

I think it made for a nice effect considering the original was blurry.
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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Root River Brown Trout

This was some footage from last weekends fishing outing. We found a pod of fish sitting in a very tough pool to get a fly into. Two very nice males were moving in and out of the pool with on giant female holding down the gravel. We must have lost about 15 flies to the branches that over hung that pool. Neal actually hooked this male from upstream just floating the fly repeatedly back into the pool.

So did we end up hooking that female? Sure did, after 3 hours of working her. She put up one hell of a fight and ended up taking Neal under a branch that promptly broke him off. It was a 10 pound hen that has to have some of the best colors I've ever seen on a Lake Michigan brown trout. Oh well...
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

the pike river

The Pike River is located halfway between Kenosha and Racine Wisconsin and most easily accessed from the highway E exit from I94. It very well could be the most finicky river in southeast Wisconsin. It is one of the few tribs in the state that doesn't actually flow into a harbor, its mouth empties straight into Lake Michigan. To make matters worse, the river has the tendency to silt its mouth completely shut, its not uncommon for the city to dredge the mouth open every fall to "induce" a run of fish. It's a smaller river and tends to quickly process rain. That means the water is quick to spike up the flows and it doesn't take long for the flows to drop back down to a normal level. Those reasons alone make predicting runs of salmon and trout from the big lake hard as hell to predict. Throw in the fact that there are no dams, it makes anticipating where fish are holding extremely difficult. With good flows there is no limit to how far the fish can run. You can fish a section of river with out the presence of a single fish and then move a mile in either direction and hit the mother load.

For some, those could be reasons to not consider this as a viable opportunity for lake run salmon and trout. For me, these are the reasons I love this river so much. It offers anglers the solitude that is lost on many of the other high traffic rivers locally. When the conditions are poor, this is hands down the most challenging river around. When everything seems to come together perfectly, there is no better experience.
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

pike river steelhead and cohos

the pike river took a late run of salmon this year
The Pike river has laid pretty dormant the first half of this fall. It never really got much of an early run of fish this year and its one of the rivers that flows have remained generally low so far. Well the last few weeks that previous scenario has changed. These last few soaking have really added a great volume to all the rivers in Southeast Wisconsin. While the larger rivers now are busting from their seems and extremely muddy, the smaller rivers are finally getting a chance to shine.

a fresh pike river coho

Fresh fish have finally made their way upriver on the Pike. While the coho salmon in other rivers have already turned I was grateful to find that the Pike had fish just a few days in from the lake. These coho haven’t yet developed their full spawning colors nor do they have any rotten body parts what so ever. Even better still, they are willing to come five feet to hit a fly. This type of aggression wont last long, so time is really of the essence when it comes to salmon fishing.  The longer salmon sit in the rivers, the more closed mouth they will be. The two cohos we caught both chased down black streamers and really crunched them good. My fish came up at least five feet to hit my fly and I will say that isn’t common. Both cohos came from the back side of the pools just above the fast water.

Congrats to Paul with another tributary first! He landed this chrome steelhead on a pink estaz egg drifted with absolutely no weight. There are some steelhead in the river right now (this proves it) but not in any large numbers or any concentrations. This fish hit in the tail out of a faster run. Great job again Paul, you handled the fish like you had caught plenty of steelhead in the past. Once the Root River or the Milwaukee River flows come back down I will continue my pursuit of a fall chromer before the end of the year.

paul with his first wisconsin steelhead!!
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

corporate brown trout

milwaukee river brown trout
During the fall while I work, mind begins to wander to places far more cold, wet, and trout like. I can picture the exact runs where the fish are holding. The constant buzz of the water numbs my brain. My fingers run through the streamer box knowing exactly where they will stop. The air smells fresh and clean on my lungs and drives my adrenaline harder and faster. I know where to put my first cast and when to insert the appropriate mends. The take comes quick but not quick enough to get the feeling that it was easy by any means. Even in my own mind, the fishing is never fast. With a quick snap, I put a bend to my rod. It takes the length of a deep breath before I can feel the throb of a fish throwing headshakes up the line.

Day dreaming sometimes just isn't enough. I'm very thankful that my job has allowed me more recently to have a little more freedom. The brown trout was caught from the Milwaukee River last week after work. I day dreamed about him all day and knew exactly what to do, once I got there, to catch him.
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

so you wanna catch a harbor brown trout?

a healthy fall run harbor brown trout
Even though I prefer fly fishing in the tribs this time of year, consistent fishing is also going on throughout Lake Michigan’s harbors. Now is about the time that the trout start to show up in decent numbers and anglers like Damien have a first crack at these fish before their instinct and rain push them into the rivers. Tubes and spawn seem to be a pretty common theme this time of year. For a more detailed explanation from Damien himself, be sure to check out this forum thread.

We were able to capture the last half of the battle on my cell phone so why don't you take a look.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

go get em steelhead fly

thread- pink
eyes- barbel eye white
tail- purple marabou with a few strands of crystal flash
body- wraps of pink thread alternated with purple saddle hackle

This is my adaptation of a popular bass pro shops steelhead fly. Not technically a hard fly to make but it is somewhat labor intensive. The eyes are easiest to secure first before you have all the hackle in the way. Figure eight loops around the eyes should secure it as long as you wrap it tight but I like to do several wraps around the underside of the eyes to ensure the eyes don't flip or slide. Then move to the tail securing the marabou and crystal flash. Next you are going to alternate sections of just plain thread and sections of hackle. I also like to pull the hackle towards the back and secure its direction with a few wraps of thread. This will guarantee that the body looks good with all the material pointing the same direction and will make the fly a tad bit more streamlined. Depending on the size of the hook, you will probably need somewhere between three to five separate pieces of hackle.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

wisconsins fall coho salmon

This fall Ive had a real tough time landing a lot of cohos. Sure I've caught tons of kings, but it still upsetting in some regards. I should be happy I caught 2 nice ones, right? Well, after the stellar coho fishing we experienced last year, I'm sure anything would pale in comparison.

blake(2) with by far the coolest fish of the year
The cohos enter the rivers shortly after the kings. While the numbers of the kings begin to dwindle the coho are just reaching their peak. Its an exciting feeling when you realize you have a fresh coho hooked rather then a half rotten king you come to expect. You can always tell by their violent head thrashings they are known for just after being hooked. Coho are capable of long and powerful runs but will normally tire after a few good ones. They are built a little more streamlined then kings and their body mass is pure muscle. They typically run smaller then kings but what they lack in size is made up for by their out of this world colors and acrobatics. They will go toe to toe with the larger kings for the best gravel to spawn on and their arrival into the rivers are always anticipated.

So what if I'm 2 for 7 on cohos this year, any man is a lucky man just to have landed one of these great fish! Here is the link to the post on my first coho this fall.

my second coho salmon this year

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Friday, October 28, 2011

egg sucking bunny leech

The egg sucking bunny leech is one of the best salmon or steelhead streamers around and its quite easy to tie as well. Lots of flexibility in color choices and the rabbit puts of a ton of movement in the water.

head- bead
tail- marabou
body- rabbit strip

There's about six wraps of lead under the rabbit strip to give it the extra weight I wanted. You can vary the hook size and some crystal flash (if you choose).
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Monday, October 24, 2011

spawning coho salmon

Coho salmon spawning in the Lake Michigan tributaries in Wisconsin.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

wisconsin's late running king salmon

check out the eggs pouring out of her
Not all of the kings enter the rivers at the same time. They come in waves that are spurred on by the rain and increased stream flows. On a good wet year numerous waves of kings will be pushed up into the rivers all at different times. What that means for anglers is that you have a lot longer time frame to find fresh fish that are eager to bite.

fair hooked with the green estaz egg
King fishing is very easy in some regards but in others it could be some of the toughest fishing around. Keep in mind these fish are not in the rivers to feed, they are on a spawning mission. Yes, you can normally see the fish in the shallows or if your fishing a deeper pool frequently these giants will tend to surface which should give you confidence that your in the right place. What makes them difficult is it could take 100's of casts with a few different fly changes to get them to strike. I have found the best way to avoid snagging and getting fair hooked fish is to fight the temptation of watching your fly and focus your sights solely on your indicator. This method isn't fool proof but so far this fall I've only accidently fouled one fish that I couldn't shake the hook off and had to land.

neal's big male sheboygan river salmon
On our recent trip to the Sheboygan river we had our hopes set on catching a ton of coho but instead we found some eager late running king salmon. Neal's largest king of the trip wasn't ready to be landed even after a near ten minute fight. That fish was just heavy enough to not be able to move even though the fish was done fighting. Its own weight sitting in the current was almost enough to max out the eight pound test fishing line we use. With a little luck, he put enough pressure on the fish to turn its head. With the last burst of energy the fish had, it bolted out of the deep pool downstream and right into a shallow patch of gravel. What a great fight!

fighting a nice king on the sheboygan river
All our kings were caught on egg patterns and the estaz eggs reigned supreme. The estaz were tied in green, pink, and orange. My best king came from shallow gravel drifting a size 17 small trout egg. I'm shocked to say that the hook came back intact. I thought for sure it would have been straightened out of at least a little bit bent but light line and small hooks will force you to play a big fish pretty soft. Now that's what king trib fishing is all about.

sheboygan river salmon on a tiny #17 trout egg

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Monday, October 17, 2011

wisconsin's coho salmon are running

King salmon are still present in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan tribs but their numbers have seriously declined from the pinnacle of their run earlier this fall. Most of the early running kings have already spawned and since then, died. Their stinky corpses pile up in the slack water and it gives a good indication of just how far into their run we are. Late running kings are still present and some can still be quite fresh but look for them in smaller numbers.

With a good portion of the kings gone the cohos now have plenty of access to the spawning gravel. The mild rain we experienced last week was just enough to stimulate a run of fresh coho salmon into the Oak Creek in Milwaukee Wisconsin.The coho are active enough to chase a fly on a fast strip or move to hit a fly on a dead drift. Look for these salmon to be active for the next few weeks taking into consideration the flows.

This coho was taken on a heavily weighted streamer retrieved at a lightning speed. She hit from the darkness of a deep pool and her power was tremendous.She took two very impressive runs leaving me with some serious slack line when the fish came racing back towards me. But, it was my day, and I got the best of her. She was beached in just a few short (but adrenaline pumping) minutes. Neal made his way over just in time to squeeze in a photo.
an oak creek fresh female coho on the strip
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Monday, October 10, 2011

milwaukee river king salmon fishing

We’ve had only one good soaking of rain so far during this fall tributary fishing season and all the water has quickly run out from the smaller rivers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled we even got some rain this year after looking back at last years dry fall. But, I’m eagerly anticipating the next dose of heavy rain, maybe it can push some of these cohos that are currently staged in the harbors up into the river systems. Not every day of king fishing goes like this but we hit the timing just right. Some fish are spawned out and half zombie already but there are plenty of fresher fish that can still be convinced into eating.

Its not to often I fish with a large group of guys but this past Saturday I hit the water with four other guys. Blake(2) and his father Pete, Neal, and Paul all met me early for some king salmon action on the fly. It was an early morning and it looked that plenty of people all had similar intentions cause cars were lined along the local “hotspots”. We walked a good distance downstream to get away from the congregation of people. As we climbed down the steep bank the sun was barely over the horizon but it was evident that a good number of fish were present by the amount of swirls and splashes close to shore.

After the sun really stared to give off some good light, it became evident truly how many fish were in the river. Blake(2) was the first one to fair hook a fish on a hot glue egg pattern trailing a natural colored streamer and everyone was quick to follow suit. Being such a large group, it seemed like every 5 minutes someone was hooked up.

Of the five fish I hooked clean, here are the two I actually landed-

a spawned out milwaukee river salmon
my second milwaukee river salmon gave me the best fight of the year!
Paul got his very first king salmon on the fly! And then his second…

congrats paul on your first of many
You always hear about the steelies and browns coming up the river after the kings just to snack on the protein rich eggs. These smaller trout should be found hanging right in back of the salmon gorging themselves on their eggs. They should only stop to avoid a pissed off king that came racing back to chase them off their reds. A few short moments later that trout should be right back in the feeding position. We saw this play out right in front of our eyes over and over. This fish was the result from drifting a power egg across the back half of the spawning gravel.

a small milwaukee river steelhead with some awesome colors
I really loved just sitting on the bank under a shady tree hanging with a few guys talking fly fishing. Today wasn't all about the good fishing, but it sure helped. I don't think anyone left without a sore shoulder or feeling pretty beat up from chasing fish down the river but everyone made some new friends.

I’m looking forward to seeing what photos Blake(2) has on his camera and I will throw the link up as soon as he puts his post up.You can also find everyone of these guys over on the forums so be sure to stop over and drop em' a line.
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

southeast wisconsin tributary update

The water we had last week caused some quick swelling in the tribs but a lot of the smaller rivers have dropped very quickly. Even though the root had a tremendous push of fish in the last week, flows have fallen to under 30CFS leaving most of the fish in the rivers spooked. This weekend tons of people were out snagging fish and keeping them and the fish currently in the river don't stand a chance with their back half out the water. The root, oak, and pike need some more rain before considering them in good condition.

This weekend look to the bigger rivers like the Milwaukee and the Sheboygan to just be coming down to fishable flows. The action could be tremendous there this weekend.

Here's a nice brown Neal took on skein floated on a fly rod at the Root. Too bad that wasn't a driftless trout...

neal with a nice male root river brown
root river brown trout close up
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

kenosha harbor salmon

kenosha harbor
So it took a little bit but I’m happy to say I now have a Lake Michigan harbor salmon under my belt. Casting cranks with Wizzo the salmon wizard and Neal, we went 3-4 in just a few short hours. Kenosha harbor was jam packed with fish and there was a lot caught this weekend. We smacked them in the middle of the day throwing cranks and fire tiger was a great color choice. Reefrunners and deep diving thundersticks all took fish.
kenosha harbor salmon
There’s a whole lot more to learn about harbor salmon but that might have to be put on hold for now. This rain the last few days just seems to keep coming and there’s some solid evidence that fish are moving up into the rivers. With a little luck, I could be holding my fly rod knee deep in a river this weekend. Time to get started on some flies. Such a procrastinator….
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

here's some mid-week reading

Here's a little mid week reading to make the day go by quicker. Be sure to check out my friend Todd'd article on fishing for harbor browns. You can find his blog by clicking here!

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

racine wisconsin, catching harbor salmon

todd's salmon from our trip to racine harbor
To put it lightly, harbor fishing hasn’t been very good to me. The concept of catching salmon inside the harbors for someone who has never done it can seem quite overwhelming. Maybe the task isn’t quite as large as I make it out to be in my head, sometimes, but you certainly have to put in your time.

I’ve been out this year with some of the true greats in the sport. Mplant, Todd and Damien have all given me great info on location, tactics, and theory but even still I’m 0-2 on hookups. I’ve devoted 4 trips to the harbors so far and have well exceeded 30 hours of casting and floating skein for two meager hits. I have the feeling my time is coming soon and I don’t give up very easy so stay tuned for a more detailed report. Until then, been sure to check out Todd’s blog and Mplant on the message boards for some up to date harbor info.

Click here- for the link to the trip I took with Todd

Click here- for a great forum thread written by the President of the Trout Mafia

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Friday, September 9, 2011

kenosha and racine harbor salmon

For a great report on harbor fishing for salmon, check out a post Damien threw up on the DTA

harbor salmon fishing in Wisconsin

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the super sugar river smallmouth

This was my final attempt at river fishing for smallmouth for the rest of the year. Instead of beating up some familiar water, I decided to explore something new. The Sugar River has always been a big question mark for me. Every time I pass over, I always wonder what type of good fishing I’m missing out on.

For those who aren’t familiar, the Sugar River is born in the hills of southwest Dane County in Wisconsin. From there, it flows just better than 90 miles to reach northern Illinois where it joins the Pecatonica. Both rivers converge just before meeting the Rock River in Rockton, Illinois. While technically the Sugar River is a trib of the Pecatonica, I would consider both to be tribs to the Rock. Its most sought after game fish are the pike, walleye, catfish, and the smallmouth bass. I’ve also heard rumors of big 20 inch browns coming from under the dams in the spring. That’s one rumor I would love to prove true early next year.

My plan was to start in Green County and hit every bridge pool and dam in the entire county. My first stop was a promising looking dam. The first thought that crossed my mind was to start with a tiny panther martin trout sized spinner. First thing in the morning I just like to get a fish or two on the board and then begin to upsize my baits. Fishing to and from the dam I caught 4 small bass and 2 small walleyes. Not a bad way to start the day.

a nice start to the day, a sugar river smallmouth bass
a small sugar river walleye in sight of the dam
From there, I fished the handful of bridges on the way down to the next dam. Instead of throwing a tiny spinner on spinning gear, I upsized to my bait caster setup with a white spinner bait. Thank God I did upsize my gear because the very next bass I caught was a toad and very well might be the best bass of the year. She was sitting on the inside of the bridge piling just where you would think she should be sitting. I roll casted up and under the bridge and took 3 cranks on my handle before the bait got thumped. The fish hit so hard it caught me by surprise. I quickly reared back and set the hook and all hell just broke loose. That fish dug so hard I had to back off the drag by 3 clicks. A few last minute aerial acrobatics and I pounced on her. Hands shaking I lifted the fish up and did the best I could to fit her completely in the picture.

a big sugar river smallmouth, possibly my best one yet
 After a few more fishless bridges and I arrived at my next dam. This dam funneled a lot of flowing water into a smaller opening. The result was white water being shot out down river. This water was very turbid and appeared deep as well. I felt like a jig and twister would be a good way to pick apart the seems, eddies, and deep pools. I switched back to spinning gear and went with a 1/8th ounce jig instead of my normal 1/16th. I tipped the jig with a white 3 inch grub which is smaller than the 4 inch grubs I have been using. I hoped these changes would get me bit here. After a few minutes of casting a very nice man and his wife walked down to see how I was doing. I explained that I was from out of town and just fishing for the day. As we talked further my jig fell to the bottom and there it sat for the entire length of our conversation. He finished with asking if I had caught any nice smallies. Just as I was about to answer, my light action rod bent in half.  Deadsticked on the bottom the fish crushed that jig. The fished used the heavy current to its advantage but finally gave in to the constant heavy pressure. As I scooped my second fat smallie from the Sugar, the crowd went wild. Not only was the original couple clapping but a few construction workers had meandered down to see the battle. I of course asked for a proper photo to be taken and the gentleman obliged.

another nice sugar river smallmouth bass
That last fish left me completely satisfied. With time to kill I went further into the back country hoping to explore a few of the Sugar’s tributaries. For a parting shot ill leave you with the photo of a pool I found a few miles below some classified trout water. This creek connects to the sugar and looks like a great spot for some pig browns come spring.

a nice pool on a trib to the sugar river
Peace out Wisconsin smallmouth, I will be back next year. I have a lot more water to cover on the rivers I have fallen in love with and a few new destinations that will remain nameless until then...

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