Monday, October 26, 2009

Grant Park and Milwaukee Salmon Seeking : 10/25/209

To sum it up quickly, it was a day I won't soon forget chasing king salmon with Mike. The day started early, we gathered all our research from this week, reports, flow data, hunches and river experience and decided we would focus on the tributaries with the smallest water sheds, as they will have dropped fastest from the rain.

We started off at a small tributary between Chicago and Kenosha, we hiked a mile an a half through the woods and fields to make it to this tributary. Mike had decided he would rather wear his waders than carry them, and paid the price. His socks and even jeans were soaked through with blood by the time we reached the beach. His feet had blisters from all the wading last weekend. He soldiered on and didn't complain, like a real fisherman.

This first river (even though it was beautiful) didn't produce salmon, steelhead, or any signs of life what so ever. We hiked back after taking some photos in the early morning light in the tall grass and changing leaves and headed north.

We arrived at Oak Creek and witnessed the throng of anglers at the main hole, we started at my favorite bend down stream and it was not long until I hooked my first King of the day. I was casting an Egg Sucking Leech upstream and drifting it down towards myself through the rapids. I made a novice mistake, not stripping my line back in fast enough so as I set the hook it took most of the height of my rod to get the line tight. The fish rolled a couple times on top of the water near my feet and was lost to a poor hook set.

After meeting a local named Andrew and shooting the breeze with him for a while I walked downstream to Mike who had called me with the good news that he too had hooked (and landed) his first fly rod salmon of the day. I landed one from the same hole as he did, on my hand tied ESL, (photographs of the actual fly I caught it on and instruction on tying it are in the post below.

We were getting tired of small stream fishing with its canopy of branches reaching for our flies and small holes with too much fishing pressure so we pressed on to the Milwaukee River.

On the way to the Milwaukee I wanted to stop at the harbor to see if anything was happening.

The rest of the day was constant action, as we stopped at the harbor to see 2 people hook up on skein under a float in under 5 minutes. We parked the car, grabbed our float rods and our salmon skein from a couple of weekends ago which we had in the cooler just in case we tired of fly fishing.

We had more than 50 take downs, with a good number of them resulting in hook ups. I landed 2 browns and other than that, we only landed Kings.

The best story from the day was when Mike hooked up with what would turn out to be a 21.5 pound King Salmon. He was using 6 pound fluorocarbon line and had to use a very light touch to get the king near the net. Time after time the fish neared the wall only to sprint out to deeper waters, far beyond the reach of the net. A crowd gathered as we got glimpses of how large this fish really was, a huge tail would flip out of the water and the crowd would gasp.

Mike finally got it to the surface and I reached down with a borrowed net with a 12-15 foot long handle. As Mike pulled the fish to the surface I began slipping the net under the fish. Suddenly the line snapped and, in what reminded me of the sounds of a sporting event, the two dozen spectors let out a combined gasp and awwww as the salmon dissapeared below my net. I lept forward and leaned over the railing with all my speed and might, being careful not to lose balance. I extended my arms as far as I could and thrust the net below where the fish had slipped into the water. I quickly snapped the net back toward the surface and out it came, with Mike's tuna of a salmon sitting like a massive beast in the net. The crowd turned that awww into a booming cheer and everyone croweded around to pat mike on the back and examine his catch. We quickly got a scale on the salmon and let it take the dive back into Lake Michigan. A fish for my memory banks, I won't forget this one.

We were at the discharge across from the Alterra on the lake front. Every time the discharge would start flowing it was every man for himself. At one point just at dusk there were 5 fish on at once in that small space with 15 fishermen in it. Lines were flying everywhere, people were running and yelling and laughing and trying their best to reverse the tangle of salmon. Successfully I might add, as all 5 were netted after 30 minutes of chaos.

Thanks Mike for coming with me for a memorable day. We've done well this year, and now Coho and Steelhead are knocking on the door. What a place we live, what a fishery we have.

What a day... until next time, I'll see ya out there.

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