I received a call on Sunday afternoon from a friend who suggested we skip work on Monday and go fish a Lake Michigan trib for steelhead. I emailed the boss and told him my plan... straight-up. No coughing, no flu like symptoms, just "I'm going fishing".
His response: "Sounds like fun, have a blast."
We met at 5:30 and blasted east. Overcast, drizzle, 48 degrees. Perfect.
This was my first visit to this particular river and I was keyed just to see it. First glimpse showed good flow, ever so slightly off color and dark kings everywhere...every riffle, run, pool, tailout. Not being to easily excited by the rotting, closed mouth giants, I focused my attention on the 2' to 4' deep, walking speed runs that I have come to associate with good steelhead water. I fouled a few chinook even swinging unweighted flies. I added a little weight and continued until...
Bump and tug, headshaking and some short but sturdy runs. After a minute or two I caught sight of the fish and was please to see the black spots of a nice brown. My pal netted it and we took a few snapshots to celebrate shaking my skunk.
The morning passed quickly, fishing blind in the deeper runs and trying to dodge the ubiquitous dark chinook. Nothing.
I turned my attention to a pod of dark, but not yet decaying, kings battling on the edge of where a pool ended and a riffle began. Though I had a fish follow my 4" long intruder, nothing happened. They'd chase, but not seize.
I switched back to a spey style fly in hopes of finding a steelhead with a little enthusiasm for my offering. I fished it unweighted with a floating line to (hopefully) avoid fouling any kings. At the head of a new run, 3 or 4 swings through, I saw a bright fish twist and flash 50' out. I placed my next cast to run my swing through the zone. The rest of this story is open for discussion. The fish when it was finally landed was a 18, 19 maybe 20 pound hen chinook. The fly swung past her unweighted and the fly stuck in the middle of her upper lip. She was by far the brightest chinook I saw that day and I was happy to have tussled with her. She gave 3 or 4 good runs and took a while to bring in close enough to net. I'm not a big believer in biting kings in the river. I've read that they can be teased and taunted into striking, but my earlier efforts at that technique failed. I'm not convinced that she "ate", but despite my best efforts at avoiding fouling, feeding or flossing these fish, the fly ended up in the eating end of this one...