My birthday was on Thursday. The tradition for my family has been to celebrate it in Milwaukee, as I have the coincidence of sharing a birthday with my mother-in-law. Typically I’ll have a few days to hit the Lake Michigan spring steelhead run. This year due to circumstances beyond my control, there will be no chrome on my birthday cake. The alternative was to make a run into the driftless to scout some new turf for browns and brookies. My Wisconsin gazetteer has too many spots marked that require further exploration.
While early morning isn’t prime this time of year, I opted to conduct a dawn assault on the lower section of a stream. We had a few showers roll through Minneapolis, but what I could gather from the river gauges, there hadn’t been too much damage to the creeks. I briefly sat streamside as the sun came up to reveal a slight case of chocolate milk from the precipitation. Damn. I made a long run to this stream in search of big fish, but today was not going to be ideal.
This stream clearly had been running low, and the rain just muddied it up. Finding quality/deep holes was a challenge, and the few I found produced a handful of solid browns, but not the big dogs I was hoping for. A little birdie told me that there were big brookies in this section, but to add insult to injury there were zero brookies to be found.
After bridge hopping several spots with little success I moved several miles upstream to a new section. I had just received landowner permission to fish this stretch earlier in the week. The stream in this area is much smaller and was running low and clear. I was still cold and the fish seemed to adopt the same attitude. They were extremely skittish and there was still no sign of any insect activity. As a matter of fact I saw no insect activity or risers the entire day on any of the three streams I fished.
Dead drifting nymph rigs and small streamers were somewhat ineffective. I could elicit strikes by swinging a monster rubber-legged nymph downstream and strip it violently upstream. I could roll multiple fish in subsequent casts with this technique, but it garnered the short strikes that were a reoccurring theme throughout the day.
After chasing average-sized fish I made a run back to Cave Creek to take a look at a big pool that I spied via Bing maps. It’s almost hard to remember the world before google maps and the Bird’s Eye feature on Bing. It’s almost cheating. The one thing that the technology can’t do is access the fishability of a spot. This deep emerald pool was gin clear, but devoid of current and fish. Cool spot if you’re rattlesnake hunting, but not so much for the fishing.
The Trimbelle River is my go to spot when time is limited. It’s easily accessible off of the highway with plenty of easement and reasonable sized browns. Unfortunately for me the fish had the same case of tight lips as the other streams. I went 0 for 10 in the swing and miss department in 45 minutes of fishing.
This day was unexpectedly similar to my traditional birthday steelhead fishing in the numbers department.
Happy birthday to me?