Thursday, April 8, 2010

Milwaukee Area Steelhead Report : Early April 2010

As the days get longer and the water warms we must unfortunately bid farewell to what has been an amazing spring steelhead season, while there is still a couple weeks left of good fishing and possibly a week or so more of leftovers we have to be thankful that we had such a banner spring. I remember last year freezing my knuckles and bearing into the wind while trying to throw casts into stained, turbulent waters from a string of massive March rains. This year I broke sweat in my tee shirt more than once. I casted to clear pools swirling with silver, hard hitting fish while the sun rose and the air temperatures broke sixty before I could see my shadow finding its way along the stones by the river bed.

While large rivers are likely to be blown out by this string of vicious storms we had this week look for the small tributaries to pay dividends in the last late runner steelhead to make their short shots up into the rapids to spawn. Suckers should be mixed in now from every stream from the state line, well north of Milwaukee.

I have recently neglected to write about my fishing experience I had with two fine gentlemen who I have only recently had the privilege of knowing, and today I intend to share our story.. I took co-worker Scott and his son Ryan, who happens to be my age, up to Milwaukee for a day of river hopping and casting.

We started out at a spot that is secret to a friend or two that showed it to me; so to them I am bound not to divulge it's whereabouts, I will tell you its pools were packed with eager fish that dropped back to larger, deeper, darker pools as dawn turned into mid-morning. At first light I managed a lovely hen from an eddy behind a large boulder in a deep pool. I tightly swung leech is all it took to start the tango.

Ryan (left) and myself (right) with my first hen of the day. What a gorgeous fish.

Ryan (who I should mention casts like silk, Ryan is a trout fisherman and has never Steelhead fished before, or used an eight weight) proudly banked this mean looking male Steelhead from a small but deep pool near where I picked mine off. The fish fought hard and was bound and determined to put its nose into the opposite bank, as we were releasing this fish we thought it would be advantageous to the well being of the fish for me to assist in a quick net job. The fish posed kindly for a photo or two and took a dip into the rapids where it recovered quickly. Nice work Ryan.
Scott standing proud with Ryan and his first Steelhead, and its a large one to boot!

From that first spot we found ourself on the banks of the Menominee, where Scott tagged his first Steelhead ever, only to have it give the hook back to him after a few seconds of fight, many of us have danced that short dance before and I'm sure all of you out there can feel Scott's pain when he saw the mammoth trout spit the hook back in his direction after such a short fight.

Ryan and I, upstream of Scott found a pod of no less than two to three hundred suckers... It was like nothing I've ever seen so we edited our presentations for some fun in the sun with suckers, we rolled the smallest nymphs I had in my steelhead box along the bottom with split shot above to keep it below the downward facing mouths of the Suckers. we landed something like 13 of these 1-3 pound fish who I must say are a blast on the fly rod. They are hard fighting little monsters. All were of course released after a short fight.

From here we moved on to the big, hard flowing Milwaukee. I hooked what would be the biggest Steelhead of the day, a dime bright fish I would put somewhere near 12 pounds. It jumped no less than two feet out of the water in the huge run I was fighting her, when she jumped I saw my egg pattern zip out of her mouth and I nearly took it in the face, fortunately I ducked just in time and it flew by my head. Oh well. I promptly hooked and landed a disappointing sucker upstream and called my Milwaukee River experience finished.

From Milwaukee we took a ride down to Oak Creek where, to my surprise, we found very few people, and quite a few fish! I bagged a large, bright red with a nice green back, male fish who ran me all over 2 pools and the rapids in between before I unhooked him near the bank. He jumped 5 times, uncharacteristic of a spring steelhead, lots of fun. I later hooked a female who I lost after a minute or two. Finally at the end of the day while Ryan and I were working a pod of fish in a deeper, we hooked a female, brought her to the bank, she was loosing eggs as we unhooked her so we decided a photo was not as important as letting her get back to it.

All in all, 4 locations, all with at least one fish of one species or another landed by at least one angler. We fished for 12 hours straight and had some sun on our arms and faces to show for it. Not bad. Not bad at all.

I think I may have converted a couple of trout fisherman to Steelhead fishermen that day. Although I should use a different word than converted because they, as I, certainly enjoy a wily trout on the end of my line any day.

Great to fish with you guys, I can't wait to take you out for another day of Steelhead fishing in Wisconsin.


  1. Awesome Fishing Adventure. 12 hours straight of fishing is what i'm talking about. With that much action i would consider it a success. tight lines.

  2. Just recently discovered your blog and really enjoyed reading some of your posts. Great writing and crystal clear pictures! I noticed you do most of your fly fishing in Wisconsin. Are there any parts of northern IL that you would recommend for fly fishing?