Monday, October 25, 2010

Steelhead (Part 4)

Saturday morning, the Jen and I left home about 4:30am to chase steelhead up north.  It was pretty overcast, and windy, but the rain didn't start until 2pm.  We were on the water fishing by 8am, and generally enjoying the day.  Jen snagged one in the rear pectoral fin and it gave her a pretty good fight.  When it got close enough to net, about the same time that I spotted how it was hooked, the steelhead turned down river into the rapids and broke off. It was gone, with a very upset Jen on the other end!  On the ride up we had mentioned that we need to start landing more of these guys.  Guess we were foiled again.  We messed around on a few other spots throughout the day, and then drove down river to a different stretch of water.  About a half hour in, I hooked into a steelhead and it fought pretty good until it jumped out of the water and spit the egg fly out at me.  Seriously!  We really need to start landing these things!  The only things landed were three smolt I caught, and well....that's not exactly what we were looking for.

The three of us ended the day at the Twin Gables for supper, with a quick stop into the Kro.  But the long day got the best of us and we were sawing logs by 9:30pm, maybe it was 9pm.  Either way, it was way  early by our usual standards.

We arrived to our first choice anglers parking lot, but it was full, so we headed down river a couple spots and found a pretty empty parking lot that I expected to be full. So we wadered up and headed down to the river in the drizzle.  It pretty much rained constantly all day, classic steelhead weather.  We found Peter at the first place we went to.  He insisted Jen and I take a few casts so we of course did.  Peter laid out a bet that we would buy a shot for whoever caught the first steelhead.  Within ten minutes, the Jenorator hooked and lost a steelhead and then landed a very nice and chunky 22" brown trout.  Guess she won the bet!

About mid-day and a few spots later, the three of us were fishing a spot when two guys we saw earlier walked by.  Which meant that their fishing spot was open, so Peter hopped up to try his luck and he did pretty good.  He hooked into two steelhead with in minutes of each other, but wasn't able to land either.  Jen was no longer the only person on the board now.  :)  There was hope for the guys!  Which was nice, cause the spot we had just spent 45 minutes fishing and chatting with guy had ended the convesation with "I've never seen anyone land a steelhead here, and I've been coming up here since the fifties."  It would have been nice of him to mention that earlier, but I guess he liked company.  Anyway, maybe those two fish wouldn't have been there for Peter had we just skipped the steelhead-less hole and not chatted with the nice ol chap.

We moved on to another angler's lot,  Jen and I went to one spot, and Peter went to check out another favorite hole he wanted to fish.  I hooked one about a half hour in, but it wasn't able to get a good hook set and I lost it about ten seconds into the fight.  Didn't they get the memo?  We are supposed to be landing these things!  In the last two hours of light, I tried to coax another strike by calling the steelhead "chickenshits" and making various clucking sounds at the river in front of me.  Trying my best to taunt them, the Jenorator just shook her head at me and kept casting her fly.  I guess it didn't work, because I didn't get anymore action before dark.  They were too afraid to battle me I guess.

We hung up the wet waders, soggy clothes and changed into dry cloths, and the three of us met up with Mike, Rob, and Kurt in Iron River.  Mike took us over to Deep Lake Lodge for dinner, and we knew it would be a good place when they had the bartender yelling at the tv.  Yup, the Packer/Viking game was on, the bartender was openly biased.  Jen was happy. The menu was awesome too, if you are in the area, you must stop by and try them out.  The Blueberry ribs were very good, and everyone else's choice looked great as well.  Mike had the hot hand, he landed five of six steelhead!  Way to go Mike! Show off.  ;)

Egg flies still seemed to be what they were hitting on.  The water was clouding up pretty good and slowly rising.  I took a temperature reading of 44 degrees on Sunday.  The rain was much needed as the guy in town said it had been 22 days since the last rain.

Next week, we are going up again, and hopefully landing some steelhead for a change!  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fly tiers Steelhead Outing (Oct 16 &18)

We came, we fished, we've had better successes.  The higher numbers of fish that I had hoped for failed to produce for the club outing.  But that didn't stop the gang from having lots of fun on a great fall weekend!

Jen and I went against our normal pattern and after a late night at the Kro, and short night at the hotel, we found ourselves fishing a little after 7am.  Which proved to be a good for both of us, as most of our hookup's for the weekend happened before 10:30am.  Jen lost a nice one after a long battle, I made the choice to touch the leader and snap it to save the steelhead.  It had taken her into a tough spot between two trees into deeper water.  It was that or kill the steelie.  We were majorly disappointed, but soon after we had another strike, then we gave up the spot to a Andy and his friend.  We had our fun, so why not share it.

It wasn't till the five o'clock hour that I had tied into another steelie, but it made short work of me and the line went slack.  Damn it!  Oh well.  What were the taking this weekend you ask.  Pretty much the everything seem to be on yarn flies this time.  Earlier in the afternoon I pulled a bone headed move and walked off the plank bridge at one parking lot as I wasn't paying attention at all to where I was walking.  Now I have a nasty rug burn on my elbow from it as well as both my knees now sore and bruised.  Beautifull, that will match perfectly with the popped blister on my toe and broken eye glasses. 

The evening was crazy with everyone back at the cabin, and with the addition of several visitors, there was a lot of excitement and conversations.  Chef Tony had been working on Supper since noon according to Rick and Rayanne, and it was pretty much the full Thanksgiving spread.  When I went to drop Jen off at the motel before going over to the Kro, I bumped into Peter. We shot the breeze for a bit, and shared the news of our groups general lack of success.  I also gave him some of my "secret" colored yarn for him to tie up some egg flies with, and wished him luck for the next days fishing.

I haven't heard yet how the fishing went for the gang on Sunday, but look forward to hopefully hearing some good news at this weeks club meeting.

Next up, a three day weekend on the river is coming up and hopefully some more stories to share.  Oh, and did I mention that a couple weeks ago that I caught a muskie on a fly rod?  Well, I did!!

Steelhead on! (Oct. 10th & 11th)

Beep beep beep, whack the snooze button!   Beep beep beep, whack the snooze button!   Two hours later of that, and we got up and raced out the door at 6:30am last Sunday.  We were out the night before celebrating at a friends wedding reception and may have been enjoying ourselves a little bit more then the anticipated 3 hours of sleep could have cured. 

Jen and I headed up North to chase steelhead for two days.  Jen was really antsy to get up there and to cure her steelhead fever, which I found really amusing.  She had the fever bad!

We got our trout pants on and were in the water by 10:30am.  It was warmer then it usually is as was noted by something I normally don’t run into while fishing for steelhead.  MOSQUITO'S!  Anyway, we headed to a spot we knew to try our luck and within two hours, the Jen-orator had hooked a steelhead.  I was one hole down from her chatting with Mother Fieker when we heard yelling through the woods from her direction. We ran up the trail to see what was going on and Jen was in mid fight with her opponent!  She worked it perfectly to the net and it was a NICE 26” Buck with all the dark red colors on the cheek and sides.  It was awesome!  We popped the flask for shot in celebration, and I had a cigar on her behalf, and it was only 12:30p! 

We simmered down and got back to business fishing.  Jen had a heck of day, as she had many more takes and battles, (eight in all) but wasn’t able to get them under control and landed.  I admit that by early evening I was getting green and agitated as I hadn’t had so much as a head-shake while she was getting all that action.  But about 5pm, I had a steelhead strike, I set the hook and it was landed after some serious racing in both directions up and down the river and several acrobatics in the air.  I was just along for the ride and had little control over where it wanted to be.  It was a 22" bright silver steelie.  I was feeling much better after that.  We fished a bit longer then went back to the truck just before dark.  As for what they were biting on, they were hitting nymphs and eggs pretty much equally.  We changed into some dry clothes at the Brule Motel, and then headed over to the "Other Place" bar and grill for supper and cocktails with Mother Fieker.

Sunday was a little different flavor.  Jen caught lots of snags, trees, and frustration.  She hadn't had single hit to add to her frustration.  I missed a couple, and then when fishing one of the tougher spots I know with a lot of snags, I hooked into a Steelhead.  And she like going downstream....Alot! Every time I reeled in the line to get it close, she would shoot down river again.  I ended up wading after it a good ways until I could get it beached.  Another fresh chrome, this one being about 24 inches and heavy. 

I really like fighting these guys!  We fished a bit more then called it half way through.  We had a good weekend and knew we'd be back again in four days with the club thinking the peak of the run is yet to come!  If only thier run lasted the whole year! 


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall fishing, closing one season and starting another!

Brookies, Browns, Muskies, and Steelhead, Oh My!

I left early morning and headed southeast to Vernon county to close out the inland trout season.  There was much uncertainty the night before at the Fly Angler trying to decide where to go since so many rivers have been impacted with all the rain, but I rolled my dice to see what I would find.  I rolled into Viroqua, WI and headed straight to the Driftless Angler fly shop for some local intel.  The guy at the shop was way helpful with where to go, where to avoid, and what the hot flies were.  Turns out the rivers North of town were cloudy to blown-out and the rivers south of town were clearing up really well. 

A total of twenty minutes spent at the shop and I was out the door to my first destination where I rigged up my 4wt bamboo rod for the occasion.  That day, with no exageration, I caught close to fifty brookies and browns.  Mostly all the fish were caught on nymphs.  The 15-20 wind pretty much blew out the Blue Wing Olives that were around and killed any hopes for a little dry fly action.  There was one rocket of a trout that shot out for the ant pattern I threw.  He managed to take my line over a big branch sticking out of the water, so when I crossed the stream to "save the trout" I blew a perfectly nice pool only to find that the trout attached my hook to the branch and had left before I got there.  The tricky little bastard conned me.  So not only was he not there to save, but now I had to wait a while for the fish to return to the pool.

At the end of the day, I set up camp and then went to town for a great German beer at Chilito Lindo, the local Mexican restaurant, run by a frazzled Asian girl.  I know, odd three-way combination, but it all seemed to work out okay.  Especially since my order was messed up the least by the cooks.  They must have been new.  I returned to camp shortly after and fell asleep to the sound of the Amish horse and buggy traffic driving through town near the campground.

I woke up in the tent to mid 30's accompanied by pretty damp surroundings.  Nice!  I packed up the site then made breakfast of oatmeal and peanut butter sandwich in make-shift cheap plastic water bottle.  That didn't go too well, I don't recommend making oatmeal in cheap bottles.  It kinda shriveled up and didn't mix as well as I thought it would.  Lesson learned I guess.  Oh and the cheap spoons I commandeered the night before from the gas station doesn't work too hot either when they were heated up by the boiling water.

Anyway, I found and paid the nice lady for using the campground and for my new membership to the West Fork Sportsman's Club.  After shooting the breeze with her for a bit I headed fifteen minutes West to fish, where I caught a really beautiful fall brookie that made my trip that measured twelve inches in a very hard place to fish with crystal clear water on a pink squirrel.
I moved on to another river 45 minutes East towards home and had a blast catching a bunch of browns, picking one to two fish out of a pocket of water, then moving up river to the next pocket for one to two more.  I did this pattern of "run-n-gun" a good ways up the river till evening.  When I was at the bridge earlier deciding whether to fish up stream or down stream, I noticed two signs down stream.  The one closest to me stating that it was open to the public for fishing, and the one back further stating "Beware of Bull."  Some land owner had a sick sense of humor.  Since I wasn't armed with a meat grinder or hamburger bun for a Bull-encounter, I thought it best to fish the other side of the bridge upstream.  I jetted home at the end of the day completely happy.   I stopped in for dinner at the St. Paul Fly Tier's meeting at Schroeder's Bar & Grill and reported the great fishing I had enjoyed to some buddies.

After a less then satisfying day at work, I headed up to Peters cabin in Northern Wisconsin
met up within ten minutes of his arrival, we settled in, set up our fly tying vises and cocktails and tied Steelhead flies until late while catching up and swapping stories.

Peter made a great fisherman's breakfast with the added bonus of some good tea that I brewed up.  We were out the door an hour later to our meeting point with Wendy from the Hayward Fly Fishing Company for a day on the Flambeau River chasing muskies.

Peter spent a little time with his special technique of casting flies in the trees, but that didn't slow him down from catching three muskies.  Must be some secret there I don't yet understand.  I caught my first muskie ever.  It was about 32" on a 9wt rod with a big 6" black and orange puglisi fly.  I got to keep the fly in honor of the occasion too!  It was a fun fight and I could hardly believe that it was finally going to happen.  The next thing I knew we had it in the net in the boat and my camera was Peters hands.  Way cool!  The weather conditions were pretty unstable, there were spurts of rain and heavier wind gusts with the sun shining at the same time for most of the day.  Wendy is always fun to spend a day with, and did I mention that I caught my first muskie?!

We returned back to the cabin to pack up the muskie stuff that we used to catch my first muskie, then I converted some stuff over to for Sundays fishing trip to the Brule River for Steelhead.  Once that was done, we celebrated at the local supper club with some cocktails, local micro brews (appropriately named "Mouthy Muskie Light", and the "Crappie Flopper"), animated discussion of various subjects, including each of us writing down on napkins the species of fish we had caught this season.  It was a fun mojo thing.  Peter kinda kicked my ass in that department as my count was 13 different species this year and his count was 23 or 24 species.  For the record though, he did have a minnow marked down on his list.

We moved on back to the cabin and with a little inspiration from our celebrating, some "interesting" flies were tied and then we talked ourselves into retiring for the evening so that we would be ready for more fishing the next day.  And maybe spend some time dreaming of the Muskie that I caught.

With the fading smell of the muskie slime on my hands from my first muskie, we packed our stuff up and closed the cabin down as we were not returning.  We arrived in Brule, WI where we stopped first to look at a potential fishing cabin in town that was listed at an attractive enough price for me to actually think about it seriously.  It could pass for a nice fishing cabin, but it is in the middle of town, which could be both good and not so good.  After a quick inspection we headed to the river to try our luck fishing.
The morning started out slow, but it was beautiful.  We had seen a ton of turkeys everywhere we drove over the past two days and the fall colors were putting on a show for us.  It was perfect fall weather in Wisconsin.  We decided to drive to a different location which proved to be the right thing to do.  Peter landed a 22" chrome Steelhead mid morning on a caddis nymph and I had missed my first take of the season, which made me confident that I was doing something right and that they were in there.
The very few people we ran into said they hadn't had any luck, which wasn't encouraging, but
in the last hour of light of the day on the third stretch of the Brule further down river, I "got on the dance floor" as Peter put it.  I briefly caught and fought a Steelhead long enough for it to launch clear out of the river and spit my fly back at me. I am pretty sure he stuck up his middle fin at me too while laughing at me.  And that was pretty much the end of the action for the day.  We changed out of our waders at the local gas station and headed for home very happy with ourselves.