I’m not a morning person, which sometimes conflicts with my fishing plans. Today, however, started before sunrise as the wife and I got up around 5:30am to check out the total lunar eclipse. That last about five minutes because, hey, these things last for hours and who has time for that when salmon are on the run?
I head down to Milwaukee to see my folks and do some fishing. It’s a bit surreal taking the route along the lake and down to Estabrook Park, since I did it for so many years while schlepping through school but have hardly visited the area in the last two years. Looks pretty much the same. I park near the falls and got my first sight of the river this season.
Only six guys huddled up at the falls, all but one of them fly anglers. I’d call that slow for mid-week, especially considering the warmer weather. Looks like everyone was fishing light-colored (yellow, peachy) eggs. I tied on a tandem Egg Sucking Leech/Yarn Egg rig and sidled up to the falls, about fifty yards downstream from the main pack (I don’t know why so many people bottle themselves up right at the falls… I’ve had luck moving just a little further downstream, and it’s usually less congested). Cast, mend, mend, cast, mend, mend. Typical swinging-streamers-for-salmon stuff.
I can’t say I take the salmon run very seriously. I’ve never had much luck hooking fish, unless they’re fouled. Steelhead, sure, that’s doable: at least some of those fish winter over in the streams, which means they’re still actively looking for food throughout. Salmon are so whacked out on hormones that food is no longer a thing they do, so I firmly believe fair-playing a horny salmon is just as much luck as anything else.
Still, it was a good day on the river. The Milwaukee has an innate wildness that cannot be completely consumed by the city that surrounds it. A kingfisher cackled from its perch overlooking the falls. Bronzed kings breach the surface of the water for reasons only they know. A Great Blue Heron was hanging out on the opposite bank, apparently unfazed by a trio of anglers closing in on its location. Yellow leaves hung low on trees and choked the slow-moving eddies. People of all kinds were out: bait anglers, fly anglers, dog-walkers, and sketchy dudes skulking the dirt paths along the riverbank. It’s pretty much the complete urban fishing experience.
No fish though, but my expectations were low. For what it’s worth, I didn’t see a single fish landed among the dozen-or-so anglers out (I observed one fly guy at the falls who looked like he had one on; but after a moment the line went slack, and I suspect he simply got hung up on the bottom). The salmon run for me is more of a steelhead preseason: dialing in the techniques that will be more effective for steelies in a few weeks’ time.
It was a trip that also reminded me that, yes, the Milwaukee is also a decent smallmouth stream. I never fished it before during the summer season, but after going smallie-crazy this summer and returning now in the fall, I’m began to picture rocky stretches filled with hidden smallmouth. Yes, this will be a summer destination next year.
As long as I was in town I needed to make a pilgrimage to Leon’s Custard, a childhood staple. I’m not even sure if I knew what ice cream was as a kid, since we always had Leon’s custard in the house. A couple of Spanish Hamburgers (spicy Sloppy Joes) made a satisfying lunch.