I wrote this last year, but it seemed relevant right now as the Steelhead fishing is starting to pick up hot and heavy.
The buzzing sound in my head just didn’t seem to want to go away. It was as though I was in the middle of a fire drill back in grade school. It took a minute for my body to realize that there was no fire drill, but the buzzing of my alarm clock as it hit the pre-set time of 3:30am. I don’t know what happened first, my feet hitting the ground running or my hand snatching up the alarm to silence its continuous buzzing.
Today we were on a mission to chase some steelhead on a local Lake Michigan tributary. The fish are in the streams pretty thick, but with the recent melt off and rains the flows and water clarity were going to make today’s adventure just that, an adventure.
With the gear in the truck, a lunch packed, and all the bait at the read, I was off to meet up with my two good fishing companions. Mr. Ed Schmitt and Mr. Travis Brasfield. Both are dyed in the wool fishermen and share the same passion that I have for chasing any species of fish that may swim.
As I pulled up, Ed and Travis were busy readying their gear. It seemed like a flash and all the gear was stored in the bed of my truck and we were loaded up and off to the streams. Ed, in his usual manner, hollered “shotgun” and we all got a good chuckle. When you are fishing with your friends, the fishing seems to become almost secondary to the companionship.
The Lake Michigan tributaries were our destination and after some deliberation our first spot was chosen. The spot is a long wide hole that has several underwater features that often hold fish. This area has a funnel down area at the end that turns into a shallow riffle that drops down to a big washout and a deeper eddy. Our target today was the upper section.
We stepped out of the truck to tug and stretch into our waders and prepare our gear. The sound of the gurgling and rushing water could be heard over the droning of the automobile tires and exhausts from the local roadway nearby. Visions of my float drifting in the cool water and then suddenly disappearing kept appearing in the frontal lobe of my brain. Giddy as school children we descended down the steep bank and took up our battle positions.
Travis and I set up on the lower section of the hole while Ed moved a bit upstream to a less aggressive run. Float after float, bait after bait we all worked our areas. The water was a bit high and the clarity was less than desirable. My hopes of hooking into a good fish today seemed to dwindle a bit, but at that moment a fish rolled nearby giving me a better feeling of confidence.
Ed had moved up to the head of the pool and was working a concrete obstruction. His float made several drifts of the area before he decided to switch out his presentation from a spawn sac to a piece of shrimp. One drift with the new offering and his float disappeared. He buried the hook and he was in a battle with a nice hen chromer. Travis slowly slid the net under the fish and with care Ed removed the hook that was buried in a textbook position in the corner of her mouth. A couple pictures and off she swam to offer another angler the same pleasure.
We had fished this hole pretty thoroughly by this time and had only one fish to show for our efforts. The wind was gusting pretty good down the length of the stream and I realized that I had begun to shake. I thought it was excitement at first then I realized the cold had begun to seep into my clothes and my body was trying to tell me that it needed warmth. The truck was not far away and I made my way up to the vehicle to add another layer of clothing.
In my mind I was mapping out a plan of where we would head off to next. Access points, creek bends, and deep holes all were thought and weighed into the choice of a new area. However, I couldn’t give up on this area just yet. The fish were not attacking our floating offerings, but what if I was to tempt them with an in-line spinner I thought.
Picking up my second rod I hand picked an orange #2 spinner with a #3 silver blade that would provide some good flash and noise in the dirty water. Because of the higher water the current in the funnel area was stronger than usual and I knew that there were a few larger rocks and hiding areas that often hold fish that want to get out of the current.
Making cross current casts I let the spinner sweep downstream and into the funnel while I made a slow retrieve. I could feel the thump of the blades as the spinner made it’s way between the rocks and the current breaks. On my second cast as the spinner’s blades were thumping away the motion came to a sudden and violent stop. With a long sweep of the rod I firmly set the hook into a brute of a steelhead. The fish bulldogged me into the current and broke the surface. All I could see was the wide back and then a huge tail comes out of the water. Immediately I knew that this was no small fish.
Hollering to Ed and Travis that I was hooked up, they made their way down to watch as this battle between man and beast ensued. After what seemed like forever I was able to gain control of the fish and Ed slowly slipped the net under this monster of a steelhead.
I couldn’t help but stare in awe at the beauty of the coloration and size of this fish. The dark rosy red cheeks and deep red stripe down his side made me realize how much beauty there is in what Mother Nature has created. Lifting him out of the net and posing for a few pictures we made sure to allow him some adequate time to recover from the battle. I moved up to some slower water so that way he could make his way back to the depths of the pool.
The rest of the day did not produce anymore fish for us, however, between the company, the conversation, and just being outdoors the rest of the day was just as rewarding as catching that fish. Sometimes it’s not what you catch that can make the day fulfilling, but who you share it with