A few weeks ago a good friend and fishing buddy of mine landed his first Lake Michigan Trib trout. This was a never ending battle with him to get the job done, but he finally accomplished his goal. My friend Eric, is a smart guy. He reads a lot, he is college educated, and he is a school teacher. When it comes to fishing on the fly though it always seemed like he had a bit of trouble. I just could never understand why though. He had read every book you could think of on the fly fishing subject. You would almost think he could walk into the stream and land a trout where there weren't any trout because he read up on fly fishing so much. Not the case at all. I believe you can read as much as you want, but the the real challenge comes when actually going forth and doing it. This was the exact case with Eric I believe.
It was the fall of '09 when I first approached Eric on picking up fly fishing. I had showed him pics and told him stories of catching some nice King Salmon on a small river in Wisconsin. He was defiantly astonished when I told him I had landed a 17lbs. fish with a fly rod. I am sure you could tell it was a real gas when I told my stories of landing big fish on the fly. This intrigued him and his fishing past that he hadn't revisited since his childhood. So he did what any normal teacher and history major would do, pick up a book and start to research the subject of interest. This was soon followed up by a few trip to Cabelas to start purchasing some gear. This all started to turn into a challenging addiction.
Time to get the feet wet. We headed to the Root River in Racine,WI to try and catch the tail of the fall king run. I believe Eric might have connected once on these 2 or 3 trips, but ended after a 10 second head shake from the fish he sought after. I could see it was a bummer for him, but the enthusiasm was still there. We had spoke all winter about chasing the steelhead in spring and what a gas it would be. Spring came and we fished several times. I landed a few that spring but Eric once again came up empty handed. Although he did not land one, he had fought a tank of a steely that spring that ended up being a broken line at the end of the fight. I could now see his frustration flaring up like a bonfire out of control. I felt bad for the guy. He had worked his butt of for a fish, and he defiantly deserved it. That following fall I had missed most of the King run due to the hunting season, but I did manage to get out two or three times with Eric but still no fish for him.
We tried to fish the Spring run this year, but it seemed like nature just didn't want us too. Every time we made the trip North the stream conditions weren't rite. Either the river was raging or it was at a minimal trickle. Frustrating for the both of us to say the least. Needless to say this past Spring we both came home empty handed. This Fall, I again didn't get to hit the King run due to the fact I busy in the woods chasing and videoing Whitetail hunts across most of Illinois and Wisconsin, but the whole time I couldn't help myself to think I could be reeling in a monster King on my fly rod when the hunting was slow. I had encouraged Eric to make the run North him self a few times this fall, but with the busy lives we live he just couldn't make it up.
A few days before Christmas I had called Eric to wish him a Merry Christmas, and to see how life had been treating him. All was well with him, and as our normal phone conversations go the subject soon changed to fishing. We had talked about the fact that we may not get to ice fish this winter due to the warmer than normal temperatures that we have been having so far this year. So I went out on a limb and said you know we could always give the Root or The Milwaukee a shot. The was a slight pause and then a response of excitement. How about Monday? Eric had asked. I responded with a quick "I'm in!" We made our plans, and anxiously awaited Monday morning.
Monday morning finally came after a long holiday weekend. We packed the truck, fueled up with coffee, and headed to the Milwaukee River. As we arrived we noticed quite a few guys out in the water already so we figured the fishing should hopefully be good. We started working a few of our favorite runs and pools, but only saw one fish caught by noon. This was discouraging but we didn't want to give up yet.We headed South to the Root River in Racine, and it seemed like we hit the dead end there as well. We were about to throw in the towel for the day, but for some reason I had suggested a hole I had fished once or twice prior, during a King run a couple years back. Eric almost seemed like he had given up for the day already, but he figured why not. We started to fish the piers under a bridge, with Eric being on the upstream side of the bridge and myself being on the downstream side. A few casts in and it happened. Eric screamed," I got one"! I swiftly ran to the bank throwing my fly rod and grabbing a net as Eric worked the healthy Brown Trout to shore. I scooped him up in the net, and it was done. The pure look of amazement, accomplishment, and happiness was written all over Eric's face. We of course high fived, punched knuckles, and cheered for the event of the day and the amazing close to the year. We snapped some pics and sent the trout back to the hole he came from. I remember sitting there for a moment and thinking to my self, this is what fishing is all about. The continued effort put forth by Eric was never ending, but it just goes to show hard work pays off in the end. No matter how many times Eric got knocked down he kept getting up and continuing to fight. I, myself may have not caught a fish this day, but I felt great about the fact that Eric had finally out fished me. We ended the day on this high note. As we walked back to the truck I told Eric that he had beaten me in the game of fishing that day, and that I hoped he had many more victories to come in the new year ;) Tight Lines and Happy Fishing!
Eric Itzenthaler's First Root River Brown Trout
I apologize for the picture quality. All I had was my camera phone handy.