In standard annual rite of passage fashion I strapped on the boots and donned the waders for celebratory purposes. It was birthday week here at the worldwide headquarters, and the gift that keeps on giving is a hearty round of chasing tail. For a second year in a row I was snubbed in the steelhead category of this event. The once annual tradition of trekking to the eastside for Lake Michigan chrome has gone by the wayside yet again. It rubs me the wrong way that I was unable to get back to lake run bliss, but I’m more than happy to concoct an alternative plan of attack. I’ve plotted and planned many new tours this season, and I had the best intentions of crossing another one off the bucket list. But for some reason I couldn’t leave things undone. I felt driven to go back to the first creek I explored for my Wisconsin opener.

This would not be an early morning affair like my previous review of the place I now lovingly refer to as Shit Creek. I took care of a few work-related issues, gave the mini-Adrifters™ a few hugs, filled my belly with foodstuffs and hit the road for a late morning arrival. The last time I set eyes on this stream I found it uncomfortably low. When I did find deeper holes they were covered in a thin layer of surface ice. It was a brief tour, the cold temps and poor conditions forced me to look elsewhere. Many anglers may chose move on to another watershed and never look back, but I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m not looking for the quick fix, but more of a long term engagement.

I pulled up to the bridge and immediately recognized an increase in flow from the ultra skinny water on my last visit. I got an extra shot of adrenaline from the thought of working more seasonal conditions. The positivity was short lived. Upon closer inspection Shit Creek sealed it’s nomenclature with a water clarity evocative of a frothy glass of ovaltine. Fuck. I stood in brief contempation as to my next move. Should I move on to greener pastures I asked myself? I’d set my sights on a particular set of spots about a mile upstream from the access and I just couldn’t shake the notion. In an instant I chose to forgo grandiose plans of victory. I would grind it out by tempting the skunk on Shit Creek.

 

 

I thought of a half dozen other places I could be catching fish in better conditions, but quickly put such nonsense to rest and concentrated on the task at hand. The mission was multifaceted. It wasn’t just about the Lewis and Clark factor. I enjoy testing my ability to catch fish in murky water, but I wasn’t convinced I could muster a bite in this mudslick. It’s not like this creek was blown out or running particularly high, it was just muddy as hell. This was one of the first truly warm days this spring with overnight temps still holding below freezing. It mattered little as I had misjudged this stream and it was mucked up in short order. I didn’t care. I was determined to go down swinging. Some may enjoy plucking dinks on micro dries, or majestically swinging their regal offerings, I enjoy testing my limits of what’s possible. I’m not stupid (debatable), I actually chose to slog through this muddy mess. As I worked my way methodically up the Milky Way, I began to change out flies at a rapid pace. I cycled through big streamers and smaller nymphs. Heavily weighted offerings and lighter attractors, dark, light, the kitchen sink. No stone was left unturned, and no fly served as the magic bullet. Shit Creek is an absolute fly monster intent on devouring my offering at a moment’s notice. The abundant woody debris wreaked havoc in true Poltergeist tree fashion. I probably lost more flies on this outing, than all of last year combined. Ouch.

 

 


I scoured the stream looking for the tiniest margin of clearer water. About three-quarters of the way to my curvy, spring fed target, I practically stepped on a quality Brookie in skinny water. This served to bolster my morale and convince me that what I was doing wasn’t complete madness, or was it? To be honest with you this was largely a fact finding mission. This journey served to confirm two things in my mind. Shit Creek held quality Brook Trout and a healthy roster of deeper, yet challenging holding lies. At one point I slipped a Shirley Temple into a laydown and was met with a solid take. I set the hook almost in disbelief. A stout Brook trout that I estimate to be in the fourteen inch category porpoised to the surface. The gorgeous coloration of the fish pierced the shitty mess that surrounded him. As I attempted to work the fish out of it’s evil abode it gave me a few headshakes and plunged back into the depths. A fitting conclusion. I continued upstream, but couldn’t manage any more participants. Eventually I decided to retreat in defeat and turn back towards the truck. As I trudged back down I must admit that an eagerness to take this place at face value and fish it under normal conditions grew from within. There are no immediate plans for a rematch, but never say never.

 

 

As I’ve mentioned previously, I never go fishing without a Plan B, and usually it goes much deeper than that. I earmarked the lower section of a stream that was a half hour drive from Shit Creek for second fiddle Brook Trout duties. I hopped in the car and ingested my makeshift dinner with hopes of better things ahead. It wasn’t realistic to think that this watershed was free and clear of runoff issues, but I’d hoped that the clarity would be marginally improved, and it was. I was renewed with the possibilities that clearer water presented and proceeded to work it like a part-time job. For the second time this week I was fishing one of the most promising spots of the early season. I probed and prodded every nook and cranny, and in a cruel twist of fate it seemed devoid of life. To add insult to injury the creek had muddied as I fished into dusk. At this point it was an exercise in futility. I put on a meaty streamer and began to blanket the area, but really I was just enjoying the surroundings. Every once in awhile I can mentally detach myself from the cruise control of everyday fishing. I had the luxury of reflecting on the day’s events, and by almost any measurable standard getting skunked is something to bemoan. But for me it only serves to fan the flames.  If I was to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. Sometimes you have to get back to the basics. I often quote my kids elementary school principal in these instances, “if it isn’t hard, you’re not learning.”  The reality is that my mission is complete, and I know what’s up Shit Creek.