Welcome to Adrift No. 1, now in High Definition! I’ve been appreciating how electronics manufacturers have been marketing digital cameras with “Full HD” the same way motels pitched COLOR TV 50 years ago. Enjoy!

It was with a full belly of Thanksgiving turkey that I set out on Friday morning in pursuit of the world-class brown trout that the Milwaukee River has to offer. I knew that “zombie” salmon may come into play at some point, but I’d concocted a strategy that I hoped would put me in position to find some fresh browns and steelhead.

Dam removal seems to be a hot button issue on many rivers throughout the land, and the Milwaukee River has been no stranger to the concept. The North Avenue dam was removed in 1997, which allows the migrants to move freely up to prime spawning grounds. I had considered skipping some of the prime river spots to concentrate on the Milwaukee harbor, but ultimately couldn’t pass up the prospect of one last river trip for my waning 2011 season. For whatever reason I had never fished around North Avenue, but upon researching the spot, I had come to the conclusion that the river necks down and could be covered in one swing with my single-handed rod. The theory is that I could easily put my fly in front of every sex-crazed fish adamant to leave the comfort of the inner harbor, running up river to “do their thang.” This area is heavy water, and only slightly wadable at current flows, I was in search of any current break or resting lie that I could find.

 

Part of my theory was correct. I stepped onto the bank just at “legal time” before the sun rises, only to spook a large fish out from under a laydown. The juices were flowing immediately. I had tied several varieties of egg patterns and streamers that were meant to “match the hatch” of the harbor shad. I opted to work downstream to the old dam location swinging and stripping large flies during low light, then work back upstream to North Ave dead drifting a variety patterns. The good news is that several large fish were sighted feverishly working there way upstream, the bad news for me is that they were not interested in my offerings, nor were they holding in the anticipated spots. I had the river to myself for the early part of the morning, which was a win for me, as I have an aversion to combat fishing. I enjoyed watching one fella launching crankbaits out into the fat part of the river downstream, landing a solid brown. When a few others started to arrive, I pulled up stakes in search of plan B.

 

The Estabrook Park area is a popular destination for those in search of lake-run bliss. It’s phenomenal water given it’s urban locale. I enjoy the stretch downstream from Capitol Drive. You can really open up and bomb your offering, as it’s wide and relatively shallow water. The problem is that everyone and their brother blankets this water. The unseasonably warm temps, combined with a holiday weekend, had it fishing like a McDonald’s drive thru.

What little time I had to partake in the fall run was coming to an end so I jumped in line and began covering water. The idea was to pull out the GoPro and start capturing more footage. I had done very little shooting in the morning, as I have the tendency to fish not photograph. The feeling of being boxed-in by anglers is not something I enjoy, which lead me to the conclusion, why not shoot the legions of anglers and the resident Zombies on the last leg of their journey? If on the odd chance I put my fly in front of a fish, it has likely had more than a few run-ins with snaggers, flossers, and the honest folks out enjoying the spring-like day. I’m sure there were fresh fish around there somewhere, I just wasn’t willing to fight to find them.

I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to Milwaukee trib fishing. I probably haven’t sought as much advice as I should have from locals or those more knowledgable than myself. The learning curve has been slow with my 1-4 days of fishing per year, loaded with trial and error (this session leaning towards the error side). I wouldn’t have it any other way, this is why you fish. It was still a great morning to be out, given the impending ice that is right around the corner. Heck, I even botched a net job for a guy on a big fish that made it’s way down into my run. It didn’t fit into my steelhead net, anymore than a muskie I tamed earlier this fall. Sure it would be great to post about a glorious accomplishment on the stream, but this was one of those days that keeps us coming back for more.