I ran into Greg Saturday at work, and we made plans to head to Sheboygan for some steelhead fishin’. Greg used to guide part-time at On the Creek in Cross Plains, and he’s an avid trout bum, so I was surprised when he said he never caught a steelhead. I was planning on going there this week anyway, so why not have another rod in the water while I’m there?
Now, I ain’t no fisheries manager, but from what I understand a good run of steelhead needs two things: 1) cooler water temps; and 2) a nice soaking rain to bring up water levels. Cold weather we now have, but the rain that was supposed to blanket SE Wisconsin earlier in the week was barely enough to wet the grass. Despite this I had hope that a few fish may have squeezed their way upstream toward Esseligen Park.
There were a few guys out and about, but plenty of water left to explore. We work downstream a while swinging flies but came up empty. Eventually Greg foul hooked a chinook but quickly lost it. We eventually gave up this spot to the other anglers and tried another location further upstream.
Here we split up, Greg heading upstream and myself down. after working a section of water for a while with no results I moseyed upstream to see how Greg was doing. As soon as I got within earshot I heard him shout.
“I got a steelhead!”
Greg was working a nice slow pool at the tailout of some faster water, and the steelhead truck at the end of the swing on a spey fly. I could tell Greg was absolutely pumped up, repeatedly remarking on the strength and violence with which the fish struck. I could also tell he was majorly disappointed that I was there to help him land the fish or take a photo.
We headed back upstream a while, but eventually I hit my limit and remarked that I was going to head back downstream back toward the car. It was clear he wanted to keep fishing, so we moved back down to where I began several hours before, again swinging two-fly rigs through a promising stretch of water. I began to zone out, my fly cast almost working on automatic and my mind wandering. Greg’s voice snapped me back to the present: “Got another one!”
He rod was already doubled over. The steelhead thrashed at the surface before disappearing again. Greg’s drag was set properly, and now he was looking at a brutal bird’s nest of line and very little room to let the fish run. After several failed attempts on my part to net the fish (I’m not your first choice of ghillie), Greg finally beached the steelie for some celebratory photos.
So, this isn’t a photo of his very first steelhead. But it’s close enough.
Me, I got blanked. But it happens. Despite the opinions of some anglers I’ve spoken with, I don’t think the best of the steelhead run has even happened yet. Next week it’s either back to Sheboygan or down to the Milwaukee. More steelheadin’ awaits.