This past weekend, two friends (ET and the Big Easy) and I traveled to the land of cheese in pursuit of the migratory fishes of Lake Michigan. Our home base was Racine, WI. Last year we made the same trip and although it was a great time, the lack of catching took its toll on our mindset going into this year.
I have been preparing myself for anything going into this trip. I spent time tying flies, researching online, watching flows, weather, and reports from up and down the Wisconsin lakefront. I had a good idea of what to expect, at least I thought I did, but nothing could have prepared me for what took place.
Out of the three of us, ET had the most success in previous years catching close to ten total salmon. The Big Easy never caught a salmon before, and I have been lucky enough with only one. We set out leaving the suburbs on Friday night, making a quick stop for groceries, and then off to get settled in before our first morning on the water.
After a 5:45 a.m. wake up and a few breakfast tacos (probably the best pregame breakfast ever) we were on our way to the Root River. With a speedy seven minute drive, quick overview of the situation, we parked and suited up. Before we knew it the three of us were drifting flies through some swift current breaks.
The river at this time was pretty crowded which is what we figured. The water was a little low and clear making us a little nervous, but at least we could see there were fish working upstream. The morning was quiet and after watching about ten fish snagged in the dorsal fin, dragged up to shore, and thrown on the stringer, we decided to check out some other familiar stretches of the river.
The first stretch we came across had the same type of fishing as our first so we walked the river looking to find good water that wasn't being disturbed by the snagging
fisherman. With nothing going on and the sun up above the
trees, we decided to break for lunch. It seemed that even though we hadn't
caught anything yet, the mood in the group was still upbeat since we saw fish
in the river system moving upstream.
After a few hours off the water to eat, relax, and collect ourselves, we headed back for the afternoon bite. We were hoping to beat the rush and get closer to the run where most of the fish were being snagged. By this time we all switched to a new fly pattern. ET and I were throwing esls, while the Big Easy was throwing bunny leeches. Unfortunately, there was a guy in a Minnesota Vikings stocking hat that was fishing right in the spot we were hoping to get and a guy and his kid snagging fish in the run we fished in that morning. All of a sudden the Vikings fan got on the phone and headed up the bank toward the cars. ET and I slowly slid down to where he was and started getting our drift on. The Big Easy had gone downstream and was slowly working his way back up toward us by now. The guy across from us and his kid were clearly snagging fish and keeping them. His kid even snagged a fish in the tail and ran through our pool to try to land it.
Now this was where the first day got exciting. The Vikings fan came back and I asked if he wanted his spot back. He replied with, "No thanks, I'm done fishing,” to which I responded, "Yea, it's hard to actually fish in an area like this with guys letting snagged fish thrash through your pool then chase after it." The guy looked at me and said, "Don't worry, he'll be gone in thirty seconds." I thought he had called the DNR which I had done earlier in the day on a different stretch of river. All of a sudden another guy appeared and asked the snagger to grab all his gear and fish and head over toward his side of the river. The guy refused until the Vikings fan pulled out his DNR badge and told the guy again. The guy, his kid, and his snagged catch were escorted to the top of the bank by two DNR officers. The spot filled up with fish soon after and it was up to us three to finally get into some fish.
Finally, ET hooked into a fish legally and did a great job fighting it into the shallow slack water for an easy net job. First fish was on the board.
Unfortunately, the three of us lost more fish than we landed that first day, and the Big Easy did not land his first, but we still had two and a half days of fishing ahead of us.
We headed back with some hope that this trip would be better than the last. With already two fish brought to net and still a lot of time on the water, we were looking forward to the following day. We had a good dinner of burgers and dogs on the grill, a few beers, and decided that we should try to get to that same spot early the next morning. We passed out with a positive outlook of the next day.